Revisiting the 2006 NBA Draft
It's hard to blame the Toronto Raptors for taking a 7-footer with 3-point range and the ability to play three positions. That's what Andrea Bargnani presented as the No. 1 pick. There was no clear-cut top choice. The 2006 NBA Draft was filled with unproven early entries, a couple of seasoned seniors and raw big men looking for a big payday.
So the Raptors took the player they thought had the best upside. Hey, the NBA Draft is about development these days, right? Nobody in this supposed weak draft was supposed to be an All-Star anyway, right? No one told that to Brandon Roy, who was passed up by five teams and traded by another. Finally, the Portland Trail Blazers, still ringing from a reputation of bad guys, car racers and dog fighters, had a franchise player in their hands, and he was from nearby Seattle.
But who knew? Who knew Roy would turned into a brilliant shooting guard or that Adam Morrison would blow out his knee or that Patrick O'Bryant was a one-game wonder? Despite hundreds of scouts scurrying across the country to evaluate talent, the draft is still a major crap shoot and the 2006 version proved that.
It's not that Bargnani has been a bust, but he's definitely been slow to develop and the Raptors have been slow to improve because of that, costing coach Sam Mitchell his job. So if GM Bryan Colangelo had to do it all over again, of course he would take Roy, who would've teamed with Chris Bosh for a sparkling Canadian combo. Many scouts took Roy's game for granted, especially since he was hidden at the University of Washington. But he is unquestionably the best player of this draft and the Raptors don't pass this time.
The Chicago Bulls took LaMarcus Aldridge second and swapped him for Tyrus Thomas; the Bulls would repeat the first part again, but not the second. Aldridge has battled injuries early in his career but is now a cornerstone and force in the paint. The Bulls thought Thomas would be a defensive menace and that his athleticism would result in stardom, but he is just beginning to find his game. He's not a bust, but any GM would take Aldridge.
Michael Jordan had faith that Morrison was more than just hype, and with a 6-foot-9 frame, a mean streak and that mustache, the former Gonzaga standout had people fooled. But his lack of success is not all of his fault. He had three coaches in three years before being traded to the Lakers, he blew out his knee and was on a team with three other small forwards. So instead, Jordan takes the freakishly athletic Rudy Gay, who for some reason dropped to eighth in real life. Gay has been overshadowed in Memphis but is on the verge of All-Star status.
With Thomas still on the board, do the Trail Blazers take him? No, Kevin Pritchard opts for a raw but skilled Kentucky guard named Rajon Rondo, who fell to 21st to Phoenix. He is one of the better players of this draft and definitely the biggest surprise.
With the fifth pick, Roy was still on the board and would have been a perfect fit in Atlanta, but Billy Knight insisted on a pre-draft agreement with Shelden Williams and somehow thought it would work out. Roy just finished his second All-Star season in three years while Williams is nearly out of the league. So the Hawks settle on Arkansas swingman Ronnie Brewer to fit in with their crew of athletes.
Tyrus Thomas hasn't excelled but is getting better, even showing a perimeter jumper in the playoffs, so the Timberwolves nab him and pass on Randy Foye. The Celtics actually took Foye seventh and traded him to Minnesota, and this time they hold onto the Villanova guard, who has been mostly injured in his first three years. Since Gay is gone, the Houston Rockets decide to team Bargnani with Yao Ming at No. 8.
Now here comes the overhaul. The Golden State Warriors were completely fooled by O'Bryant's performance against Pittsburgh in the NCAA Tournament and thought he would be a quality center. It took Don Nelson less than a year to tire of Bryant's inexperience and work ethic. Ultimately, O'Bryant joined Todd Fuller, Joe Barry Carroll and Adonal Foyle as Golden State busts, so instead, the Warriors take a menacing rebounder from Louisiana Tech named Paul Millsap, who fell to Utah in the second round.
The Sonics one-upped the Warriors and took Senegalese center Mouhamed Sene, who made O'Bryant look like Bill Russell. Sene had a 7-foot-8 wingspan but little else and the Sonics panicked because management had little idea what to do with the pick. So on second thought, they take Boston College forward Craig Smith, who has turned into a nice player for the Timberwolves.
The Magic drafted J.J. Redick and it's hard to determine whether he has been a bust because the former Duke standout hasn't had enough playing time. GM Otis Smith goes after a more athletic player and equal shooter in Texas guard Daniel Gibson, who starred during Cleveland's NBA Finals fun in 2007.
The New Orleans Hornets had two of the next four picks and took Hilton Armstrong and Cedric Simmons, pretty much a waste. So the Hornets instead opt for Kyle Lowry to back up Chris Paul at 12. The Sixers, meanwhile, pass on Thabo Sefolosha, whom they selected in real life before trading him to Chicago, in favor of Redick.
Finally, the Jazz pass on overrated Kris Humphries and opt for hard-working Leon Powe from Cal. Powe scared teams with his knee problems but was a key player off the bench for the champion Celtics.
The way it was:
1) Andrea Bargnani – Toronto
2) LaMarcus Aldridge – Chicago
3) Adam Morrison – Charlotte
4) Tyrus Thomas – Portland
5) Shelden Williams – Atlanta
6) Brandon Roy – Minnesota
7) Randy Foye – Boston
8) Rudy Gay – Houston
9) Patrick O'Bryant – Golden State
10) Mouhamed Sene – Seattle
11) J.J. Redick – Orlando
12) Hilton Armstrong – New Orleans
13) Thabo Sefolosha – Philadelphia
14) Ronnie Brewer – Utah
The way it should have been:
1) Brandon Roy – Toronto
2) LaMarcus Aldridge –Chicago
3) Rudy Gay – Charlotte
4) Rajon Rondo – Portland
5) Ronnie Brewer – Atlanta
6) Tyrus Thomas – Minnesota
7) Randy Foye –Boston
8) Andrea Bargnani– Houston
9) Paul Millsap – Golden State
10) Craig Smith – Seattle
11) Daniel Gibson – Orlando
12) Kyle Lowry– New Orleans
13) J.J. Redick – Philadelphia
14) Leon Powe – Utah