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Archive for Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Commentary: Trades could spice up NBA Draft

O’Neal, Anthony, Artest headline list of possible deals for Thursday

June 24, 2008

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Maybe you're not into the NBA Draft.

Maybe you're the sort of fan who has no idea whether Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley should be taken with the first pick. Talking about athletes you have never seen play and whose names you can't pronounce - Serge Ibaka, Alexis Ajinca or Ante Tomic - doesn't grab you.

But what if a few other names are introduced to the conversation, such as Denver's Carmelo Anthony or Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal? What about Sacramento's Ron Artest, Toronto's T.J. Ford, Memphis' Mike Miller, Phoenix's Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa or Detroit's Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince? Is your interest piqued now?

The draft does more than refresh the league's talent pool. It's the excuse every team uses to spark trade discussions. It allows general managers to assess the market value for their players and lays the groundwork for trades that may not take place for months.

Think of the biggest trades that have taken place in the last year. Kevin Garnett to Boston. Jason Kidd to Dallas. Pau Gasol to LA. Shaquille O'Neal and Shawn Marion trading places. All of these players, with the exception of O'Neal, were the focus of intense speculation in the days leading up to last year's draft.

And consider the draft itself. Seattle's Kevin Durant deservedly won the Rookie of the Year award at the end of this season. But did he have a better season than Ray Allen in Boston or Jason Richardson in Charlotte? Those were two of several veteran players traded on draft night.

There will be more this year. The names of Diaw, Ford and Miller are coming up too much among general managers in the last few days for something not to happen.

Artest is something of a wild card. Jermaine O'Neal will be gone the moment the Pacers make a team comfortable with his injury history and salary. Detroit may not do anything by Thursday's draft, but the information it gathers over the next few days will facilitate a deal before the season starts. Anthony will stay put.

Here's something else to consider. General managers and personnel directors spoke very highly of the top players in this draft two to three months ago. O.J. Mayo. Jerryd Bayless. Russell Westbrook. Eric Gordon. Kevin Love. Brook Lopez. Everyone I talked to was excited about the possibility of getting one of those players in the 10 to 15 range.

Well, now those players are projected to go in the three to eight range.

A lot of combo guards - those who aren't a true point but don't have the size for shooting guard - should go early. The strength of this draft is arguably power forward. We'll know in two or three years. That's how long many scouts believe it will take for them to develop.

Given that assessment, given how the draft bar has been lowered in recent months, it only makes sense that more teams will seriously explore trades in the next few days.

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