Fresh Faces at the Top
Rose, Beasley Lead a Host of Freshman Picks
Friday, June 27, 2008; Page E01
NEW YORK, June 26 -- Any concern Fatima Smith may have had that her son was going to be too nervous or anxious on the day he became an NBA player was put to rest when Michael Beasley and other draft prospects gathered for lunch with Commissioner David Stern on Thursday. Smith smiled as she shared the story of how Beasley dropped a little hot sauce in his 4-year-old sister's food.
With speculation swirling that he might slip out of the top two picks in the draft, Beasley was cracking jokes, laughing and picking on his younger siblings.
But several hours later, Beasley started to feel the heat.
For a five-minute span after the Chicago Bulls made Memphis point guard Derrick Rose the first point guard taken No. 1 overall since Allen Iverson in 1996, Beasley was uneasy, with numerous thoughts running through his head about where he would wind up. None of them was good.
"I was kind of expecting the worst," Beasley said, thinking that the Miami Heat would pass on him with the second pick. "I hear a lot of talk, four, three, four."
After Stern announced that the Heat had indeed selected Beasley with the No. 2 pick, he didn't smile. Expressionless, he just hugged Smith and other supporters at his table and walked up to greet Stern. Beasley had joked that he would fake out the commissioner and rub his hand behind his ear. But when he met him, Beasley reached out both hands for Stern, smiled for the camera, and held on tight. "I'm pretty happy about it," Beasley said. "Growing up in D.C., I've seen snow just about every year of my life and I think this is kind of time for a change."
The NBA draft truly welcomed the one-and-done era on Thursday, as five of the first seven picks were freshmen, a record. It also was the first time in draft history that the top three picks were freshmen, after the Minnesota Timberwolves chose Southern California guard O.J. Mayo third.
The Timberwolves then dealt Mayo's rights to Memphis for the rights to Kevin Love, the No. 5 pick, in an eight-player deal after the draft ended. Minnesota also will get Mike Miller, Jason Collins and Brian Cardinal, and sent Antoine Walker, Marko Jaric and Greg Buckner to Memphis.
A person with knowledge of the deal confirmed it to the Associated Press, speaking on the condition on anonymity because the trade had yet to be officially announced.
"We actually talked about this earlier," Beasley said of the freshman class. "We all grew up playing against each other and we all made a pact together that we would be here. Just to see it all fall into place and see it all happen is kind of crazy."
It was the second year in a row that a player from the runner-up from the national championship game was selected No. 1 overall and the Big 12 Conference player of the year was selected second. Last season, Ohio State center Greg Oden and Texas forward Kevin Durant were the first freshmen to go first and second in the draft.
Rose joins Iverson as the only point guards taken first overall in the lottery era. The Bulls drafted homegrown talent in Rose, who grew up on the South Side of Chicago and led Memphis to the national championship game in his only season. Rose, a playmaking point guard, has been compared to both Chris Paul of New Orleans and Utah's Deron Williams, and will join a team that was expected to compete for the playoffs but finished a disappointing 33-49, lucked out and won the lottery against incredible odds, and recently hired Vinny Del Negro as coach.
"It feels great to go in and compete," Rose said. "I'm just blessed to be in that position right now, because a lot of people aren't, and just knowing we're a few pieces away from really contending as a team, it just makes me happy."
Beasley brought three busloads of parents, players and coaches from the DC Assault AAU program that produced both him and reigning rookie of the year Durant. The group of more than 100 people chanted Beasley's name after he was selected. Durant was also in attendance, showing support for his former college teammate at Texas, D.J. Augustin -- who went ninth to Charlotte -- and Beasley, his former AAU teammate and friend. "Two guys from D.C., playing on the same [AAU] team, back-to-back number two picks, that's big time," Durant said "He's like my brother, I'm very happy for him."
After Mayo, Seattle chose UCLA sophomore point guard Russell Westbrook and Memphis took his college teammate, Love, fifth. The New York Knicks selected Italian forward Danilo Gallinari, whose father played with new coach Mike D'Antoni in Europe. Knicks fans in attendance booed lustily.
Rounding out the lottery, Indiana guard Eric Gordon went seventh to the Los Angeles Clippers, West Virginia guard Joe Alexander went eighth to Milwaukee, Charlotte selected Augustin ninth and Stanford center Brook Lopez went No. 10 to New Jersey. Indiana selected Jerryd Bayless No. 11, and Sacramento made the surprise selection of Rider center Jason Thompson at 12. Portland took Kansas guard Brandon Rush, later trading his rights to the Pacers for the rights to Bayless, and Golden State chose LSU forward Anthony Randolph.
The Wizards chose JaVale McGee from Nevada with the 18th pick. Lopez's twin brother, Robin, was taken 15th by Phoenix, making them the first brothers chosen in the first round of the same NBA draft.
In a draft that many executives expect to be slim on impact players but deep in overall talent, several teams made trades prior to the draft. The Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers agreed in principle on a blockbuster deal the day before, with six-time all-star Jermaine O'Neal being traded for T.J. Ford, center Rasho Nesterovic, the 17th pick and a player to be named later. The Raptors turned around and chose Georgetown center Roy Hibbert with the 17th pick.
The Charlotte Bobcats acquired the Denver Nuggets' No. 20 selection and drafted French forward Alexis Ajinca. The Nets also traded Richard Jefferson to the Bucks for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons. No picks were involved. The Trail Blazers also acquired Kansas forward Darrell Arthur (No. 27) from New Orleans for cash considerations.