Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Still stinging from the '06 draft

On the last road trip, I walked among the crowd at the United Center in Chicago trying to gauge the opinion of Bulls fans regarding the 2006 draft night trade that sent Tyrus Thomas (the No. 4 pick) and Viktor Khryapa to Chicago for the LaMarcus Aldridge (the No. 2 pick). The plan was to write a feature similar to the piece I wrote the night before regarding the Timberwolves/Trail Blazers trade that ended with Brandon Roy playing in Portland and Randy Foye playing in Minnesota.

It seemed like a simple task. In Minnesota, every fan I talked to had some opinion of the Roy/Foye trade. I just assumed that Chicago fans, who have a reputation for being devoted if not knowledgeable, would have something to say about trading Thomas for Aldridge. Funny thing happened though: No one knew what I was talking about. I walked around the lower bowl of the United Center for 20 minutes asking fan after fan if they were familiar with the trade that brought Thomas to Chicago. Not a single person knew what I was talking about.

I tell Trail Blazers PR flack Collin Romer that I can't find anyone who knows anything about the trade. He comments that the hardcores sit up in the rafters and that I'd have a better chance getting a true fans opinion of the trade if I asked the common man in the nosebleeds. It seemed like a logical suggestion, so I took the stairs up to the top deck in search of some real Bulls fans so I can write my little story. What did I get for my trouble?

Nothing. I walked around the whole top level of the United Center, and not one of the 20 or so people I asked had the slightest idea what I was talking about. Some claimed they hadn't followed the team much since Jordan. Other gave a blank stare and returned to eating an $8 chili dog. One lady asked me if I could get her group better seats. But not a single, solitary person that that I asked who showed up that night knew of, let alone had an opinion of, the trade that changed the careers of LaMarcus Aldridge and Tyrus Thomas. I'll let you make the decision on what that says about the fans in Chi-town.

So why tell this long, drawn-out story? Today the Chicago-based Sam Smith answers a question, from a guy in San Diego no less, about whether the Bulls would have been better off taking a Trail Blazer:
It seems that the general consensus among the national media is that John Paxson should have drafted LaMarcus Aldridge instead of Tyrus Thomas. I couldn't disagree more. In hindsight, wouldn't Brandon Roy have been the better choice? It seems that a starting backcourt of Roy and Hinrich would have eliminated some major problems that the Bulls currently have, most notably, a big guard that can score as well as defend and an athlete that can take it to the hoop and get to the foul line on a consistent basis. --Tony M., San Diego

He was my choice then, but I have to admit Paxson gets more right than I do in the draft. The Bulls commitment then was to going big and it was hard to disagree. They desperately needed size. I recall the debate well. The fear was Aldridge was soft and too much a perimeter big man like Channing Frye. They decided to take a chance on talent and athleticism, which they hadn't before. I believe Paxson is kicking himself now for varying from his own formula and beliefs. I think he probably was influenced by people saying he'd been too conservative and you can't get a star like Stoudemire that way. That's who they hoped Thomas would be. We'll see if he gets more time, though now, yes, it does look like the wrong pick.

So I finally got the answer to my question, sort of.


NateDogg said...

If KP ran for mayor he'd have my vote. Casey, how do you think we'll fair in N.O. this evening? We're up in the series 2-1, but there is no way C. Paul is going to go 5-15 again, as he did in december. And we shot 48% field goals in the first loss in N.O. What is the key to a winning road trip? I'm thinking we need Joel to punish Chandler on the boards, get 20 a piece from Roy and L.A., and the rest will take care of itself.


mrblazer said...

Paxson needed a low post scorer with some size. In fact, he still does. How in the world did he come up with Thomas, a smallish tweener whom displayed virtually all the symptoms of a headcase? These GMs basically rate their boards by who they think has the highest value. Paxson wasn't the only one who thought Thomas was a 2-4 pick.

In fact, i'm sure Pritchard had him up there in terms of value around the league, even though he wanted nothing to do with him. If you're a GM stuck in a situation where you have a player sitting in your spot in terms of value that you don't like, you either trade up, down, or out. Paxson traded directly into the player he didn't need nor should have wanted.

Steve Patterson and John Nash, on the signings of Miles and Randolph, gave the arguement that even though those guys had head problems, no decent GM would just let them walk and get nothing. They felt they had to pay and give them those terrible contracts. They actually have a point.

However, how do you keep from ever creating an impossible position for yourself like that if you're a GM? It's really simple. Don't EVER draft or sign guys with character or work ethic issues, and don't EVER trade for them unless you intend to buy them out before they ever get your jersey on. The funny thing is that if Thomas actually starts to play better, it could turn out to be a nightmare for Paxson. I can already smell a long lucrative contract coming for a player he really doesn't want (just like Randolph, Miles, ect.).

Casey Holdahl said...

I think this is going to be a tough one to win Nate. The Hornets are playing their best ball of the season and for some reason the Blazers have had a hard time winning in NOLA recently. Add in that they're on their seventh game in 10 days, and I think you might see a tired squad tonight. Then again, this team almost always gives themselves a chance to win, so if they can keep it close, who knows?

Robert M Peachey said...

You should have asked me. I was at the Bulls game, and I know all about the trade. Then again, I am a Blazers fan ;)

Jaybo said...

I totally agree! The 2006 draft was great. However, the 2005 Blazer draft was a disaster for Portland; we could have had either Williams or Paul insteed we have Jack and Webster. Ouch!