NBA Draft Superlatives

Breaking down Thursday night's player draft from the WaMu Theater at MSG

June 29, 2007

By Bryan Armen Graham



Bryan is a basketball editor for and contributes on a regular weekly basis.
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With another draft in the books and the countdown to Portland's first championship since the Bill Walton years underway, here's a collection of superlatives, notes and arcana from Thursday night's meeting of the NBA minds in lower Manhattan.


By The Numbers


0: The number of times Milwaukee traveled to watch Yi Jianlian play or work out, according to the Chinese native who was selected by the Bucks with the No. 6 pick.




1: The number of times in draft history that a pair of freshmen were chosen with the top two selections after Portland nabbed Ohio State wunderkind Greg Oden with the top pick and Seattle grabbed Texas one-year wonder Kevin Durant at No. 2.


2: The number of players in Big Sky Conference history to be selected in the first round of the draft after Eastern Washington's Rodney Stuckey got the call from the Detroit Pistons with the No. 15 pick. The Knicks selected Montana swingman Micheal Ray Richardson with the fourth overall pick in 1978.


3: The number of Florida players selected during the first nine picks Thursday night, marking the first time in history that a trio of teammates got chosen in the Top 10.


4: The number of players from the Dominican Republic selected in draft history prior to Al Horford's selection with the No. 3 pick. Horford's father, Tito, was selected with the No. 39 pick in the 1988 draft and became the first Dominican-born player in league history. The other three were St. John's Felipe Lopez (No. 39, 1998) Manhattan's Luis Flores (No. 55, 2004) and Louisville's Francisco Garcia (No. 23, 2005).


5: The number of international players chosen in the first round, the lowest total since just three exports were selected in 1999.


6: The number of seniors chosen in the first round. A fourth-year player didn't get selected until Texas A&M point guard Acie Law IV went to Atlanta with the No. 11 pick. Last year, there were five seniors chosen in the lottery and eight in the first round.


7: The number of separate instances event staff had to eject one or more fans from the Theater, by my count, during the second round Thursday night. By the time NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver took the stage to call the last 30 picks, more than half of the 5,454 spectators and a healthy portion of the media contingent had dispersed. By 11:30 p.m., maybe one-third of the original crowd hung around and many of the remaining fans just stayed to take advantage of the prevailing silence and heckle the ESPN crew -- often singling out Stephen A. Smith. Kind of a disgusting display -- and that's coming from a guy who grew up watching the Eagles in the 700 level of Veterans Stadium.  


8: The number of selections from the ACC and the SEC, which tied for the most from any single conference. Last year, a total of 15 players from the Big East heard their names called -- representing an entire quarter of the draft.








Big East


Big Ten


Pac 10


Big 12




Atlantic 10


Big Sky










9: The number of conference players of the year who were selected, a list that included Durant (No. 2, Big 12), Jeff Green (No. 5, Big East), Arron Afflalo (No. 27, Pac-10), Morris Almond (No. 25, C-USA), Alando Tucker (No. 29, Big Ten), Nick Fazekas (No. 34, WAC), Derrick Byars (No. 42, SEC), Jared Jordan (No. 45, MAAC) and Stephane Lasme (No. 46, Atlantic 10).


10: The number of schools who have had five players selected in a single draft after Florida turned the trick last night. After Horford, Brewer and Noah got chosen in the lottery, Chris Richard (No. 41) and Taurean Green (No. 52) got the call during the second round. The other nine teams who turned the trick when the draft lasted a couple hundred picks included: UCLA (1969), Stephen F. Austin (1970), Minnesota (1973), UNLV (1978), North Carolina (1980), Indiana (1983), Oklahoma (1983), Kentucky (1984) and Connecticut (2006) -- but only the Huskies and Gators have sent five to the pros since the draft adopted its current two-round format.


27,500: The number of Asian-Americans in Milwaukee according to the Associated Press. Yi's handlers have stated their preference for the 6-foot-11 power forward to play in a large market with a sizable Asian population. The degree of that preference should be an interesting story to follow in the coming weeks.


143: The number of Chinese restaurants within 30 miles of downtown Milwaukee according to Citysearch, as compared to New York (2,659), Chicago (1,036) and Philadelphia (775). Good luck with that shrimp lo mein, big guy.


Biggest Wild Card: The Nets used their lone pick to select troubled Boston College center Sean Williams in the No. 17 spot, just five months after Al Skinner kicked the 6-foot-10, 235-pound native of Houston off the Eagles for repeat violations of team rules. Team president Rod Thorn was an assistant coach for the New York Nets during the mid-1970s when Skinner played for the ABA franchise and the two have a longstanding relationship. Thorn touched base with the BC coach in recent weeks to make sure the Nets knew what they were getting into.


Biggest Slip: Duke's Josh McRoberts to No. 37. The Indiana native would have been a lottery pick in last year's draft but slipped all the way to the second round in the wake of his team's underwhelming season.


Shrewd Moves


·          Philly traded Finnish point guard and No. 30 selection Petteri Koponen to Portland in exchange for No. 42 pick Derrick Byers from Vanderbilt, the SEC Player of the Year who has the ability to make an immediate impact. The Memphis native is kind of a poor man's Corey Brewer, a lengthy and versatile player who can defend a variety positions while scoring, rebounding, passing and handling the ball.


·          The Sonics got Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak and the rights to No. 5 pick Jeff Green from Boston for 32-year-old shooting guard Ray Allen and the rights to No. 35 pick Glen "Big Baby" Davis. If Seattle finds a way to re-sign Rashard Lewis, this team has a dangerous volume of 6-foot-9 players who can do a lot of things. The lineup of Luke Ridnour, Durant and Lewis on the wings with Green and Robert Swift in the post could be interesting to watch.


·          Aaron Gray to Chicago with the No. 49 pick piqued my interest. The seven-footer from Pittsburgh, who would have been a first-round pick after his junior year, saw his draft stock plummet over the past season. But he's going to a team whose need for a serviceable seven-footer who can command a double-team is pressing in the wake of their playoff failure. Sure, the Bulls got a big man who fits their up-tempo approach with Joakim Noah -- but Gray is a nice low-risk pick who could pan out and stick to the roster as a reserve.


·          New York dumped the obscenely bloated contract of Steve Francis in a trade that sent the point guard and Channing Frye to Portland in exchange for Zach Randolph, Dan Dickau and Fred Jones. But in addition to the fiscal and symbolic significance of dumping a pact that has two years and $33.6 million remaining, versatile post threat Zach Randolph could speed up the team's return to relevance.




·          Phoenix is stacked but why would the Suns exhaust a first-round pick on Alando Tucker. I know the Big Ten Player of the Year is a proven winner, but what's his NBA position?


·          Was Philly really so scared that Miami was going to take Colorado State's Jason Smith with the No. 20 pick that the team spent a second-round pick in 2009 and cash considerations to trade up one spot from No. 21?


·          What's up with Javaris Crittenton to the Lakers with the No. 19 pick? I know Jordan Farmar is too small to be the permanent answer at the point but what happened to Kevin Garnett? What's going to happen with Kobe? There are more questions than answers in SoCal on Friday morning.


The Five Most Prominent Undrafted Players


Almost one-sixth of the players in the NBA -- 67 out of 427 -- didn't get drafted, including standouts like Bruce Bowen, Andres Nocioni and Ben Wallace. Here are five of Thursday night's most prominent non-draftees, who are free to sign with any team in the league:


·          Zabian Dowdell, Virginia Tech: This was the biggest surprise of the night. An athletic point guard with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, adequate range and the physical tools to compete at the next level, Dowdell worked out for no less than 10 teams during the pre-draft circuit, including a visit to Seattle on Tuesday.


·          Kyle Visser, Wake Forest: Kind of a surprise that no team took a shot on a decent seven-foot center prospect who proved his mettle in the ACC post wars.


·          Trey Johnson, Jackson State: Johnson finished second in the country in scoring after leading the nation for most of the season but didn't hear his name called. After a promising showing at the Orlando pre-draft camp, many draftniks had pegged the 6-foot-5 swingman to go anywhere between the end of the first round and the middle of the second. There's a good chance his SWAC pedigree scared off prospective teams, but I'd be shocked if Johnson didn't get picked up over the next month or two.


·          Caleb Green, Oral Roberts: Green garnered national pub after collecting Player of the Year honors in the Mid-Content Conference for the third straight season. Only 14 other players in history have won three conference POY honors, a list that includes Louisiana State's Pete Maravich, Virginia's Ralph Sampson, N.C. State's David Thompson, St. John's Chris Mullin, Northeastern's Reggie Lewis and Nevada's Nick Fazekas. A number of draft sites had projected the 6-foot-7 combo forward as a second-round selection.


·          Ivan Radenovic, Arizona: The 6-foot-11 native of Serbia, who averaged 15.1 points and 7.6 rebounds in his senior season, was expected to get selected toward the back end of the second round.


A Few Sightings: Ohio State coach Thad Matta and Georgetown coach John Thompson III, who met one another on the sidelines in the national semifinals; NBA Draft regular and Do The Right Thing director Spike Lee.


Notable Absence: Florida coach Billy Donovan planned on making an appearance to support his five players who were selected but was a late scratch.


Line of the Night: "[No. 35 pick Glen Davis] is a weight-loser. He hasn't been able to keep it off -- kind of like Oprah in that regard." - ESPN commentator Jay Bilas