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Looking Back at the Hits and (Many) Misses of the 2006 NBA Draft

Toronto Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani

Andrea Bargnani Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Most NBA observers have called the NBA’s Class of 2009 a weak one; we can only hope it’s not as weak as the Class of 2006 has proven to be 3 years later.

The 2006 and 2009 NBA Drafts were both considered generally bereft of high-impact players destined for stardom. But while handing out draft grades for 2009’s picks is fun, much of that analysis can be thrown out the window for obvious reasons. So, instead, let’s take a look back at the ’06 draft now that we’ve had a full three seasons to see how the picks panned out.

I’m warning you though: it’s not pretty.

In alphabetical order:

Atlanta Hawks
– Shelden Williams, PF, 5th overall
– Solomon Jones, F, 33rd overall
Comments: At least a third of this year’s lottery picks can now safely be called “duds,” and the lethargic Williams is near the head of that class. Now riding the bench for the frontcourt-strapped Minnesota Timberwolves, Williams’ stay in Atlanta lasted just two seasons before he was traded to Sacramento as leftovers in the Mike Bibby deal. The 6-9 forward has career per-game averages of 4.7 points and 4.2 rebounds and will likely play his way out of the league shortly. Jones is still on the Hawks’ roster, playing in 63 games last season and averaging about 3 points and 2 boards in just under 11 minutes per.

Boston Celtics
– Rajon Rondo, PG, 21st overall
– Leon Powe, F, 49th overall
Comments: They probably couldn’t have predicted it on draft day, but Rondo has already developed into one of this draft’s top talents and one of the best young PGs in the league at the age of 23. With a well-earned championship ring on his finger from the Celtics ’08 title, the cat-quick guard from Kentucky took another step towards All-Star status in ’09, averaging 12 points, 8.2 assists, 5.2 boards, 1.9 steals, 50% FG, with five triple-doubles and 12 games of at least 10 rebounds as a 6-1 PG (including the playoffs). We’re not sure why Danny Ainge seems to have developed a complex this offseason when it comes to Rondo; the kid is already very good and will only get better.

Powe was another steal at 49th overall; in fact, if the draft was redone today he’d probably be a lottery pick given the misfortune of most players taken ahead of him. At 6-8 Powe is a bit undersized as a power forward and too bulky to keep up with small forwards, but he’s stocky, strong, and like the Knicks’ David Lee has a knack for getting himself in good position for rebounds, easy putbacks, and follow-up dunks. He also flaunts a surprisingly soft touch around the rim. In seven games as a starter last season, Powe averaged 14.3 points (57% FG), 8.1 boards, and 1.4 blocks in just under 26 minutes per.

Charlotte Bobcats
– Adam Morrison, F, 3rd overall
– Ryan Hollins, F, 50th overall
– Walter Herrmann, F, Undrafted
Comments: The most productive player of the Bobcats’ ’06 draft class wasn’t even drafted, as Herrmann and His Beautiful Hair averaged 9.2 points (52% FG), 3 boards, and 1 triple per during his rookie season. Compare that with Morrison’s per-game freshman averages of 11.8 points (37% FG), 3 boards, and 1 triple in over 10 minutes more a night. If you surveyed NBA GMs this summer and asked them all things equal who they’d rather sign between Morrison and Herrmann, I’m betting that at least 85% would pick Herrmann, who could have his sights set on a return to international ball, where he’ll get more PT.

Morrison will get a NBA championship ring as a “member” of the Los Angeles Lakers, and is scheduled to make $12 million more over the next two seasons of his rookie contract on top of the millions he’s already collected for being a bad NBA player. In other words, despite his status as one of the biggest lottery-pick busts of the decade, he still has plenty to be happy about. Well done, Adam.

Chicago Bulls
– Tyrus Thomas, F, 4th overall
– Thabo Sefolosha, G/F, 13th overall
Comments: Thomas has emerged as this draft’s biggest enigma: supremely athletic, shows flashes of Amare Stoudemire-like talent, but somewhat of a head case who struggles to bring it all together on a nightly basis. One night he’ll post a high double-double with 4 – 5 blocked shots thrown in, the next he’ll shoot 16% from the field and mope his way to the bench. He won’t turn 22 until August, and had the best overall season of his career last season (11 points, 6.4 boards, 1.2 steals, 1.9 blocks per), but don’t be surprised to hear his name pop up in offseason trade rumors… again.

If you’ve spent any time on ETB, you know we’re big fans of Sefolosha, who’ll now be competing with the Thunder’s first-round pick, James Harden, for minutes at SG. His production may never match our hype, but we’re confident this kid can be a plus player for a winning team and will be in the league for a long time.

Cleveland Cavaliers
– Shannon Brown, G, 25th overall
– Daniel Gibson, G, 42nd overall
– Ejike Ugboaja, F, 55th overall
Comments: Though he never found his way in Cleveland, Brown may have found a home with the Lakers after bouncing around between the Bulls and Bobcats. The 6-4 guard averaged a respectable 13 minutes per off Phil Jackson’s bench during LA’s most-recent championship run, though his total output in the Finals was just 1 rebound. Still, Jackson has singled Brown out as a player he likes, which bodes well for the 23-year-old’s future. He was often turned to instead of Jordan Farmar, who was taken one pick later in this draft and at one point was deemed the Lakers’ “Point Guard of the Future.”

Gibson took a backseat in the Cavaliers’ backcourt rotation this season after the arrivals of Mo Williams and Delonte West, but as a rookie played an instrumental role in the Cavs’ surprising march to the NBA Finals in 2007, including 31 points over the Detroit Pistons in his team’s Eastern Conference Fianls series-clinching win. Still only 23 years old, Gibson’s specialty is the three-pointer, though he tends to hit them more at crucial times than with consistent accuracy (41% from behind the arc on his career).

Dallas Mavericks
– Maurice Ager, G, 28th overall
– Jose Juan Barea, PG, Undrafted
Comments: Ager, now a member of the New Jersey Nets, has averaged 2 points, 0.6 rebounds, and 0.2 assists per in 78 games played; yep, he’s going places. Barea has proven to be a great find for Dallas and a solid backup at the point, averaging 7.8 points, 3.4 assists, and 2.2 boards in 79 games played last season, 15 of which he started.

Denver Nuggets
– No Picks
Comments: The Nuggets traded their only pick, 49th overall, to the Boston Celtics, who took Leon Powe, a solid, high-energy contributor off the bench who averaged 7.7 points and 5 boards on 52% shooting last season.

Detroit Pistons
– Cheikh Samb, C, 51st overall
– Will Blalock, G, 60th overall
Comments: After being traded to the Denver Nuggets as part of the Billups-Iverson deal, the 7-1 Samb saw action in 18 games last season between three teams (Denver, Los Angeles Clippers, New York) and might be headed overseas for good this summer. Blalock is now in Germany and enjoyed a starring role in this classic Pistons holiday video:

Looking back at the rest of the NBA’s ’06 draft stories, from Golden State to Washington, after the break…

Golden State Warriors
– Patrick O’Bryant, C, 9th overall
– Kosta Perovic, F, 38th overall
Comments: This pick was panned right off the bat, and with good reason: O’Bryant never checked in physically or mentally with the Warriors and was practically in Don Nelson’s doghouse from the moment David Stern announced his name on draft day. He averaged 1.7 points and 1.2 rebounds in 40 games played over his two years with Golden State, and is currently with the Raptors. Perovic, the tallest player in this draft at 7-2, played sparingly in seven games and is now in Spain.

Houston Rockets
– Steve Novak, F, 32nd overall
– Lior Eliyahu, F, 44th overall
Comments: Considering where many of this draft’s players are now, Novak was a relatively good pick at the top of the second round. He didn’t see much action in his two seasons with the Rockets, but has likely cemented a spot on someone’s roster for at least another three or four seasons after some nice showings last year for the Clippers, including a four-game stretch in which he averaged 17.7 points, including over 5 three-pointers per, on nearly 60% shooting.

The hopes of two rebuilding franchises

Rudy Gay, Brandon Roy Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Indiana Pacers
– Shawne Williams, F, 17th overall
– James White, F, 31st overall
Comments: Larry Bird is a knucklehead for taking a knucklehead like Williams, who did his best to burn every bridge possible in the Pacers organization almost from the moment he arrived. Along with exiled PG Jamaal Tinsley, Williams is one of the players most responsible for Bird & Co. taking steps to clean up their team’s bad reputation as “thugs.” The 6-9 tweener spent last season in Dallas, where he appeared in 15 games, shot 28% from the field, and averaged 2.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per.

White earned a NBA championship ring as a benchwarmer for the San Antonio Spurs in ’07, and enjoyed the best two-game stretch of his career during the team’s last two regular season games when Gregg Popovich rested his starters and gave White as many minutes as he could handle (about 40 per). During those two games, White averaged about 14 points, 4 boards, 1.5 assists, and 1.5 steals. He’s currently with the Houston Rockets.

Los Angeles Clippers
– Paul Davis, C, 34th overall
– Guillermo Diaz, G, 52nd overall
Comments: You know Davis as the stiff Dwyane Wade dunks on in one of his most recent Gatorade commercials. Davis had this to say about his appearance:

“I got a call from my agent wondering if I wanted to do a commercial with [Wade] and I said, ‘Yeah’,” Davis said. “He said, ‘The only thing is… you kind of, sort of, get dunked on.’ ” “I said, ‘Well how much is it for?’ And he told me and I said, ‘I’ll get dunked on for that.'”

Los Angeles Lakers
– Jordan Farmar, G, 26th overall
– J.R. Pinnock, G, 58th overall
Comments: Farmar is still very young, turning 23 years old in November. He’s made some big plays over the past two seasons for the Lakers during their back-to-back runs to the NBA Finals. Will he one day be the team’s unquestioned starter at the point? Hard to say, but I’m guessing no and I’m not sure how long the Lakers will be willing to wait on him to turn into “the guy.” We’ll see. After three seasons, Farmar has career per-game averages of 6.8 points (43% FG), 2.4 assists, and 1.8 boards in about 18 minutes per.

Memphis Grizzlies
– Rudy Gay, F, 8th overall
– Kyle Lowry, G, 24th overall
– Alexander Johnson, F, 45th overall
– Tarence Kinsey, G, Undrafted
Comments: We want to like Gay. We root for him. We know he’s in a tough situation playing for a bizarrely unfocused organization. Still, he let us down last season with every single one of his key per-game averages dropping below his promising sophomore output. We’re hoping the presence of Hasheem Thabeet in the middle, along with the continued development of O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley, and Marc Gasol will help ease the pressure. Gay has out-of-this-world athleticism and upper-tier talent, but he’s just not there yet.

Lowry is a solid point guard who probably deserved more minutes during his 2 1/2 seasons in Memphis than he got. He’s a nice fit for the Rockets, though they could certainly stand to get a little bigger at the point; Lowry and starter Aaron Brooks are both 6-0. In 28 regular-season games last year with Houston he averaged 7.6 points, 3.5 assists, 2.8 boards, and 0.8 steals.

Miami Heat
– Chris Quinn, PG, Undrafted
Comments: Though the Heat went through something like 127 players during their disastrous 15-67 season two years ago, give Quinn credit for making the most of the opportunity. He played in 60 games, averaging 7.8 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, 0.8 steals in about 22 minutes per. I wouldn’t be comfortable with him as a backup, but he’s a decent #3 PG who should be around for awhile.

Milwaukee Bucks
– David Noel, F, 39th overall
– Damir Markota, F, 59th overall
Comments: Noel played sparingly for one season in Milwaukee before being released, subsequently signed by the Los Angeles Clippers, then released again in ’08; he’s now in the Philippines. Markota had a brief D-League stint, but is likely playing European ball for good.

Minnesota Timberwolves
– Randy Foye, G, 7th overall
– Craig Smith, F, 36th overall
– Loukas Mavrokefalidis, C, 57th overall
Comments: The “Randy Foye Era” came to a close last week when he was traded to the Wizards in a package headlined by the fifth-overall pick in last week’s draft. Needless to say, he didn’t work out as hoped when swapped for Brandon Roy on draft day. Check out my colleague Andrew Thell’s must-read piece on Foye for more perspective.

Craig “The Rhino” Smith is somewhat of an ETB favorite. At 6-7 and generously listed at a beefy 250 pounds, Smith can outmuscle most and is capable of big games every now and again: in 15 games last March, Smith played about 20 nights per and averaged 12 points (60% FG) and 5.2 points. He’s not a starter, but a solid backup behind Al Jefferson.

New Jersey Nets
– Marcus Williams, G, 22nd overall
– Josh Boone, F, 23rd overall
– Hassan Adams, G, 54th
Comments: Williams was drafted as the potential long-term replacement for Jason Kidd, but never panned out after showing fleeting signs that he might actually fulfill that destiny. Williams’ NBA outlook can be summed as follows: he’s currently an All-Star in the Puerto Rican Basketball League for the Quebradillas Pirates. Woo.

Boone looked like he might earn big minutes last season after a solid sophomore effort in which he averaged 8.2 points and 7.3 boards on 55% shooting. He suffered an early-season injury, however, and never really seemed to get back on track as he fell behind rookies Ryan Anderson and Brook Lopez on the Nets’ depth chart. His future in Jersey is murky, but he’s a banger who can finish and will stick around for some time.

New Orleans Hornets
– Hilton Armstrong, F, 12th overall
– Cedric Simmons, F, 15th overall
– Marcus Vinicius, F, 43rd overall
Comments: Yuck. To date, Simmons and Armstrong have combined per-game career averages of 5.8 points and 4.6 rebounds. Combined. Simmons is currently languishing as an afterthought on the Sacramento Kings bench (along with lottery-pick bust Shelden Williams), while Armstrong is collecting dust in New Orleans; both won’t be around much longer.

New York Knicks
– Renaldo Balkman, F, 20th overall
– Mardy Collins, G, 29th overall
Comments: I always enjoyed watching Balkman during my partial-season ticket plan for Knicks games two seasons back (it was more to see the visiting teams, of course). He never got as much of a fair shake on those bad Knicks teams as he deserved, and unfortunately it seems like he’s the odd man out in Denver, too. I realize we’re talking about a career 4.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per guy here, but still… I’m a fan.

Collins looks like he’s 25 going on 40 and is currently backing up Baron Davis and Eric Gordon in Los Angeles.

Oklahoma City Thunder
– Mouhamed Sene, C, 10th overall
– Denham Brown, G, 40th overall
– Yotam Halperin, G, 53rd overall
Comments: “I’m diggin’ my grave, I’m diggin’ my grave. My road to Hell is surely paved, oh Lord, I’m diggin’ my grave.” – William Elliott Whitmore. Sene (sparingly) played in a total of 46 games over three essentially non-existent years with the franchise; I’ll be surprised if he makes a NBA roster this coming season. Brown plays for the D-League’s Iowa Energy.

Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge

Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Orlando Magic
– J.J. Redick, G, 11th overall
– James Augustine, F, 41st overall
Comments: For all the grief we give him, Redick is a threat from behind the arc and obviously an excellent free-throw shooter; as such, this specialist will likely have a spot on a NBA bench well into his 30s, which isn’t to say he’s a great basketball player. He’s not.

Philadelphia 76ers
– Rodney Carney, F, 16th overall
– Bobby Jones, F, 37th overall
– Edin Bavcic, F, 56th overall
Comments: After two ineffective seasons in Philadelphia, Carney was given somewhat of an extended audition last season with the Timberwolves to prove he belonged and that he was a victim of circumstance in Philly; that didn’t go too well. In 67 games, the 6-7 swingman averaged 7.2 points, 1.9 boards, 0.4 assists, and 41% shooting. He’s an unrestricted free agent this summer without many suitors. Jones has played for the 76ers, Nuggets, Grizzlies, Rockets, Heat, Spurs, and Kings, but is currently out of the league and likely D-League or Europe bound.

Phoenix Suns
Comments: The Suns traded the 21st overall pick to Boston, who selected Rajon Rondo, and the 27th pick to Portland, who took Sergio Rodriguez. Owner Robert Sarver was and is one cheap sonofabitch.

Portland Trail Blazers
– LaMarcus Aldridge, F, 2nd overall
– Brandon Roy, G, 6th overall
– Sergio Rodriguez, PG, 27th overall
– Joel Freeland, F, 30th overall
Comments: This was the draft that put Portland back on the NBA map. Aldridge may never be considered a superstar, but he’s proven far more reliable and effective than Thomas, whom the Blazers traded to get Aldridge. Over his last two seasons, the 6-11 power forward has averaged 18 points (48% FG), 7.5 boards, 1 steal, and 1 block per while developing a nice chemistry with Roy.

I won’t spend too much time on Roy since the guy is obviously a stud, a leader, a clutch-shot maker, and the Blazers’ current franchise player. The 2007 Rookie of the Year, Roy was phenomenal in ’09, averaging 22.6 points (48% FG), 5.1 assists, 4.7 points, 1.1 steals, 1.1 triples, and 82% from the free-throw line while putting any lingering concerns about a potential hardcore foot problem behind him.

Sacramento Kings
– Quincy Douby, G, 19th overall
Comments: Drafted because of his sweet shooting stroke, Douby never lived up to the billing during three seasons in Sactown in which he averaged a combined 37% from the field in limited playing time. The Raptors called him up from the D-League late last season, but his NBA prospects remain dim at best.

San Antonio Spurs
Comments: Nothing to say here except that we’re still peeved that DeJuan Blair, a guy with lottery-pick talent, fell into this franchise’s lap in the middle of the second round in this year’s draft… and the franchise that won’t die stays on life support just a little bit longer.

Toronto Raptors
– Andrea Bargnani, F, 1st overall
– P.J. Tucker, F, 35th overall
– Jorge Garbajosa, F, Undrafted
Comments: The jury’s still out on Bargnani, one of the NBA’s least-marketable and least talked-about top picks of the last decade, along with Andrew Bogut and Kwame Brown. Three years into his NBA career, the Italian seven-footer will still be just 24 years old when the 2009-10 season tips off, but the Raptors and their fans are growing impatient to see whether or not Bargnani can elevate his game to an All-Star caliber level.

Last season was his best season, though, when he averaged a career-high 31:30 minutes per to the tune of 15.4 points (45% FG), 5.3 boards, 1.2 assists, 1.2 blocks, and 1.5 triples. The unique, Dirk Nowitzki-like skillset that made him this draft’s top pick is still very much there; improved consistency, conditioning, and toughness are the next crucial steps in this kid’s development.

Jorge Garbajosa, now back in Europe, is best known for having big balls of steel.

Utah Jazz
– Ronnie Brewer, G, 14th overall
– Dee Brown, G, 46th overall
– Paul Millsap, F, 47th overall
Comments: One of the best drafts along with the Trail Blazers. Brewer has been a revelation for Jerry Sloan, stepping into his starting lineup at the start of his sophomore season and doing a little bit of everything. Last year, the 6-7 guard averaged 13.7 points (51% FG), 3.7 boards, 2.2 assists, and 1.7 steals in about 32 minutes per. He knows his role and plays within himself.

Millsap was a big story last season, rattling off 19 straight double-doubles and endearing himself to Jazz fans and ownership as a hard-working bruiser who gets the job done without the drama of Carlos Boozer. Both are free agents this summer (Millsap restricted, Boozer unrestricted if he opts out), and it’ll likely be Millsap who’s prioritized. On the season, the 6-8 forward averaged 13.5 points, 8.6 boards, 1 steal, and 1 block… and would have likely done even more if not for Boozer’s late-season return and a nagging injury of his own.

Dee Brown has bounced around between the NBA (Utah, Washington, Phoenix) and the European leagues, which is where he’s at now.

Washington Wizards
– Oleksiy Pecherov, C, 18th overall
– Vladimir Veremeenko, F, 48th overall
Comments: The seven-foot Pecherov appeared in 68 games over his two seasons with the Wiz, averaging 3.6 points, 2.1 boards, and 0.1 blocks per. Traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves last week as part of the Randy Foye deal, there’s a decent chance Pecherov will stick with his new team given their almost unbelievable lack of size. Veremeenko, who was selected between Paul Millsap and Leon Powe, is in the Russian Super League now and until he’s done playing pro ball.


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