Plenty of Trades, but Only One Blake Griffin at 2009 NBA Draft

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Griffin (Seth Wenig - AP)
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Associated Press
Friday, June 26, 2009

NEW YORK, June 25 -- Blake Griffin was the consensus No. 1 pick. Shaquille O'Neal to the Cavaliers was the consensus blockbuster.

On a day of head-turning trades around the NBA, the Los Angeles Clippers started Thursday night's draft with the obvious choice: Griffin, the only player considered a sure thing in a class full of question marks.

Griffin was the consensus college player of the year after leading the nation with 14.4 rebounds per game while averaging 22.7 points last season for Oklahoma. The Clippers said they would take the forward with the just hours after they won the draft lottery last month, and never considered changing their minds.

"The fact is we're getting an incredible player, incredible person, an impeccable work ethic and a guy that we plan on having in L.A. for many years to come," Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said. "He's going to be a great, exciting fit for our ballclub."

The draft followed a day of big trades in the NBA.

The deal that sent O'Neal to play alongside LeBron James in Cleveland was completed earlier Thursday, and Eastern Conference champion Orlando acquired Vince Carter from the Nets in a swap completed shortly before the first pick was made.

San Antonio landed Richard Jefferson from Milwaukee on Tuesday, and more big names could be available this summer as teams are forced to slash payroll. The best way to improve quickly this year was through trades, because the draft was considered weaker than in recent years.

It lacked the star power of 2007, when Greg Oden and Kevin Durant battled it out for top-pick honors, or when Derrick Rose beat out Michael Beasley last year.

There was no debate this time. Dunleavy announced the Clippers' intentions shortly after his team's surprising lottery win, and they began a marketing campaign featuring the forward the next day.

The Clippers are hoping Griffin turns out better than their last No. 1 overall pick. They opened the 1998 draft by taking center Michael Olowokandi, a bust who is out of the league.

"Hopefully I can bring something they don't have," Griffin said. "I know they have a lot of great players but at the same time I'm excited about the opportunity and hopefully I can bring something to the table that they don't have or maybe they need."

With the second overall pick, the Memphis Grizzlies grabbed Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet, a dominant rebounder and shot blocker who doesn't have strong offensive skills.


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