Welcome to Part IV of Drafting a Centre -- or, They Don't Grow on Trees People, or, DeSagana Diop?!?!?!?!!,
Before starting, one note passed along by treeware colleague Doug Smith -- One of the reasons the Raptors and then GM Glen Grunwald were so enamoured of Alek Radojevic heading into the '99 draft was a predraft workout in which Zjelko Rebraca was apparently completely outplayed by Alek the Rad. The Raptors promptly cooled on Rebraca, whose rights they had acquired and who would go on to a couple decent years as a backup in Detroit (he's a Clipper now), and the rest is (rather gruesome) history.
Oh, and this email from Clippers fan Mark Freedman makes a good point worth noting:
"Teams can always pull out the retrospective-scope and say we should have taken this that or the other, but does the organization have the ability (scouts, coachs, support system, trainers, doctors, etc.) to nurture and grow a regular player into a "playa"? (snip) I think (the Raptors') problem is a core structure problem. They don't have real basketball guys make the decisions and sticking to an organizational plan. What type of team are they? What type of players do they look for? These are questions no one knows the answer to."
Yes Mark, and they make my head hurt just thinking of them. On to the latest chapter, with the drafts of '01 and '02:
4 Eddy Curry (Chicago) … Heart problem has his promising career in jeopardy
8 DeSagana Diop (Cleveland) … Biggest. Bust. Ever. (Bit harsh, with the likes of Radojevic, Weis and Fuller around.)
15 Steven Hunter (Orlando) … Career backup in Philly now, his third team, okay defender
18 Jason Collins (Houston) … Nets part-timer, good help defender
20 Brendan Haywood (Cleveland) … Has turned into decent journeyman starter in Washington
-26 Samuel Dalembert (Philadelphia) … Sixers starter, a banger who may have a bit more development to come offensively.
38 Mehmet Okur (Detroit – Jazz starter now, and a solid post contributor); 43 Eric Chenoweth (New York); 49 Ken Johnson (Miami); 50 Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje (Portland); 53 Jarron Collins (Utah – backs up Okur); 57 Alvin Jones (Philadelphia)
Notes: Two years in the making, this is where the centre is collapsing for the Raptors. Radojevic was gone, traded at midseason 00-01, and in the draft they took Michael Bradley at No. 16 – a college 4-5 without the speed, strength or finesse to fit as an NBA 4. Any of the three bigs taken after him would’ve been preferable – they’ve all turned into solid pros -- and there was some serious talk about Haywood in the Raptors front office, so this is not all revisionist thinking. But again, they were on the verge of re-signing Davis, and had gone out and signed Hakeem Olajuwon, which is where most revisionist historians figure it all went wrong. They didn’t know it, but a big donut was already developing in their roster – and there were plenty of options in this draft that would have covered it over.
Scorecard: Despite the presence of Diop, a high schooler who had done nothing to warrant his selection and never has since, there were some decent bigs to be grabbed in here during the latter stages of the first round. But few seemed to be paying attention. The Rockets, for instance, traded Collins AND Richard Jefferson on draft night for wingnut Eddie Griffin. Out of a dozen: Four starters, four second-round washouts, a couple of back ups, Curry and Diop. Over-all a pretty good (and pretty weird) year for centre types.
1 Yao Ming (Houston) … An obvious pick. Not a dominant player, but very good
18 Curtis Borchardt (Orlando) … Training-camp cut of Celtics last month
24 Nenad Krstic (New Jersey) … Still with Nets, improving at age 22. One of the few Euro bigs to look comfortable in the post
32 Robert Archibald (Memphis -- Former Raptor plays in Italy now); 34 Dan Gadzuric (Milwaukee -- Dutchman a decent 20-minute player); 37 David Anderson (Atlanta); 41 Mario Kasun (LA Clippers -- fringer in Orlando.); 43 Jason Jennings (Portland); 47 Jamal Sampson (Utah -- is already on his sixth NBA team); 49 Peter Fehse (Seattle).
Notes: Raptors free-falling in the middle now. Olajuwon was gone after one year. Stewart had been traded away for Lamond Murray, thus turning nothing into nothing, only smaller. Davis would be injured part of the season and fringer Jelani McCoy would get the most time at centre. Nate Huffman was a washout, playing 76 minutes total but remaining under their cap until the end of this current season. In the draft, they take a smallish PF at No. 27, Chris Jefferies, who is out of the NBA now. It's getting ugly.
Scorecard: Field of 10 includes two starters, one backup and the rest fringe question marks who don’t figure to make an NBA mark any time soon, if at all. Not the worst draft for centres, but not very good, either.