King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

Devin Harris the hero! No, wait: Boris Diaw! Surprise ending puts Suns up 1-0. Plus: How good is the fourth pick?

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I had all kinds of scenarios running through my head as Game 1 of the Phoenix-Dallas series raced to its conclusion Wednesday night, but Boris Diaw beating Jerry Stackhouse for the game-winning jumper with 0.5 seconds left, negating a would-be game winner four seconds earlier by — Devin Harris? — was not among them.

And I’d even been paying attention as Diaw scored 32 points and Harris 28 before they hit those shots.

But the previous time down for each team, they’d tried going away from their stars. Down by one with about 45 seconds to play, Stackhouse — not Dirk Nowitzki or Jason Terry — had driven the lane and dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds for Dallas.

Then the Suns came down and Diaw — not Steve Nash or Shawn Marion — drove into the paint and missed the rim with a wild finger roll.

So much for that, I thought as the Mavs got the rebound with 22 seconds left. Time for Dirk Nowitzki to be a star.

Nowitzki set a screen for Terry up top, took the pass and, guarded by Marion, swung the ball to Stackhouse on the left wing. Stackhouse fired a cross-court pass to Harris, who was alone because Nash had left him to help inside. With Nash running at him, Harris hit a 15-foot jumper for the 118-117 lead with 4.8 to go.

After a timeout, the Suns inbounded in the frontcourt, but Nash made no move to get open. Instead Tim Thomas found Diaw in the right post. He dribbled once, faked to the inside, spun left toward the baseline, pump-faked to get Stackhouse in the air, then calmly rose up to hit the little 7-footer.

Nash had let himself get tied up by Harris at the top of the key and never moved. Marion was never anywhere near the play.

It was a surprise ending, and that’s the one thing you can expect from this series, which resumes Friday with Game 2: surprises.

Another thing you can expect is officiating that tests your ability to accept the inevitable with a zenlike calm. The crucial offensive foul on Harris as he drove past Nash with 55 seconds to go and the Mavs up 116-115 was the latest example.

A replay showed that for the briefest of moments, Harris grabbed Nash’s arm as he blew past him. OK, that’s probably a foul, but when’s the last time you saw it called? And why is far more serious grappling allowed at other times?



I have no opinion about whether Harris’ act should or shouldn’t be a foul, though I tend to lean toward the let-’em-play side of things. But is it too much to expect NBA officials to decide what is and isn’t a foul and call that standard with some degree of consistency, even taking into account that the speed of the game is going to lead to some bad calls?

Apparently so.

NBA draft: Portland’s No. 4 isn’t so bad [PERMALINK]

When NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik pulled the Portland Trail Blazers card out of the oversized envelope at No. 4 Tuesday, meaning the team with the worst record this regular season had dropped three spots in the draft lottery, ESPN’s cameras cut to Blazers president Steve Patterson, who looked appropriately disappointed.

With a rueful little smile, Patterson jotted something down, then put the cap back on his pen, put it down and looked up.

What was he writing there? “Fourth pick”? “We got No. 4″? Maybe just a big “4.”

Like maybe he wouldn’t be able to remember. Maybe Steve was afraid he’d get back to Portland and everyone would go, “So what’d we get?” and he’d have been all, “Oh, man, I forgot now. It wasn’t No. 1, I know that. It was like, I don’t know, fifth or sixth maybe. Fourth? Definitely not second.”

Dan Patrick stuck a microphone in his face and Patterson graciously pointed out that his team actually had better odds of ending up fourth than any other slot, and that you can get a pretty darn good player with the fourth pick.

As if to prove the point, sitting in the row behind him, representing the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, was 2006 Rookie of the Year Chris Paul, who was the fourth pick last year.

That’s the Chris Paul the Blazers could have drafted with the third pick last year if they hadn’t traded it to the Utah Jazz, who also didn’t draft Paul, instead taking Deron Williams, who was not the Rookie of the Year in a big way.

This drafting business is an inexact science, especially in a year like this one, when there’s no consensus No. 1 pick, no guy who, like LeBron James or Tim Duncan, looks like a franchise-changer. You can get a great player at No. 4 just as easily as at No. 1. Or, as Patterson didn’t say, you can screw up just as badly at No. 4 as you can at No. 1.

Just for fun, here’s a look at the fourth pick in each of the last 10 drafts, with the three players taken before them and a selection of those left on the board, plus my stupid comments.

1996
Stephon Marbury, Milwaukee
Top 3: Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim
Better than the No. 1 pick? No
Left on the board: Ray Allen, Antoine Walker, Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovik, Steve Nash, Jermaine O’Neal, Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Marbury has put together a solid career as a shoot-first point guard for a series of bad or mediocre teams, most recently the New York Knicks. He’s one of those guys who was overrated for so long that now he’s underrated. He never played for the Bucks, who traded him to Minnesota for the rights to Allen. Good trade, but not as good as a trade for Bryant, Nash or O’Neal would have been.

1997
Antonio Daniels, Vancouver
Top 3: Tim Duncan, Keith Van Horn, Chauncey Billups
Better than the No. 1 pick? No
Left on the board: Tracy McGrady, Derek Anderson, Bobby Jackson

Daniels is a journeyman point guard who played a year for the Grizzlies and has since played for San Antonio, Portland, Seattle and Washington, with his best years being the two he spent in Seattle before this year. It’s safe to say McGrady would have been the better pick.

1998
Antawn Jamison, Toronto
Top 3: Michael Olowokandi, Mike Bibby, Raef LaFrentz
Better than the No. 1 pick? Yes. Everyone is
Left on the board: Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce

Nothing wrong with that pick when you consider that the Raptors turned around and traded Jamison to the Golden State Warriors for the rights to Carter, who put the franchise on the map before going south, literally and figuratively.

1999
Lamar Odom, L.A. Clippers
Top 3: Elton Brand, Steve Francis, Baron Davis
Better than the No. 1 pick? No
Left on the board: Richard Hamilton, Andre Miller, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, Corey Maggette, Ron Artest, Andrei Kirilenko, Manu Ginobili

Odom put in his time with the Clippers before going to Miami as a free agent. A decent player, but better players were on the board, including Ginobili, way at the end of the second round.

2000
Marcus Fizer, Chicago
Top 3: Kenyon Martin, Stromile Swift, Darius Miles
Better than the No. 1 pick? No
Left on the board: Mike Miller, Jamal Crawford, Hedo Turkoglu, Desmond Mason, Quentin Richardson, Speedy Claxton, Michael Redd

A bad pick in an uninspiring draft year. Only second-rounder Redd has really blossomed.

2001
Eddy Curry, Chicago
Top 3: Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol
Better than the No. 1 pick? Yes
Left on the board: Jason Richardson, Richard Jefferson, Zach Randolph, Tony Parker, Gilbert Arenas

Seeming indifference and more recently a heart condition have kept Curry, still only 23, from realizing his potential, though he’s been a terror at times in the offensive low post. Parker, at the end of the first round, and Arenas, in the second, show how inexact a science drafting can be.

2002
Drew Gooden, Memphis
Top 3: Yao Ming, Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavey
Better than the No. 1 pick? No
Left on the board: Amare Stoudemire, Caron Butler, Tayshaun Prince, Carlos Boozer

I thought this was a strange pick at the time but didn’t want to argue with Jerry West. I still think it’s a strange pick. Gooden’s a solid role-player, which means he’s hit what was pretty clearly his ceiling coming out of college. I’d have taken Butler at the time, but if I were an NBA executive I’d like to think I’d have known about Stoudemire. I also was apparently a rare observer who thought Prince was going to be a good NBA player, but I wouldn’t have taken him with the fourth pick.

2003
Chris Bosh, Toronto
Top 3: LeBron James, Darko Milicic, Carmelo Anthony
Better than the No. 1 pick? That’d be a no, but way better than the No. 2
Left on the board: Dwyane Wade

I was besotted with Wade at the time after he’d led Marquette to the Final Four, so I’d have taken him, but you can’t argue with Bosh, around whom Bryan Colangelo will try to rebuild the Raptors.

2004
Shaun Livingston, L.A. Clippers
Top 3: Dwight Howard, Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon
Better than the No. 1 pick? Not so far
Left on the board: Devin Harris, Al Jefferson

Too early to tell on this one. Livingston is still being groomed as the point guard of the post-Sam Cassell future. He’s only 20 and missed most of his rookie year with injuries. He’s a brilliant passer but a lousy shooter who may never be strong enough to be a good defender.

2005
Chris Paul, New Orleans
Top 3: Andrew Bogut, Marvin Williams, Deron Williams
Better than the No. 1 pick? Yes
Left on the board: A bunch of guys who are, so far, not as good as Chris Paul

Take heart, Blazers fans. Players as good as Paul, Bosh, Jamison and Marbury have gone at No. 4 in the last 10 years. Then again: Marcus Fizer.

Here are some mock drafts I’ve found around the Web that have been updated since the order was set:

Gregg Doyel and Tony Mejia, CBS.SportsLine.com; Sam Smith, Chicago Tribune; and InsideHoops.com
1. Toronto: LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Texas
2. Chicago: Tyrus Thomas, PF, LSU
3. Charlotte: Adam Morrisson, SF, Gonzaga
4. Portland: Brandon Roy, SG, Washington

Chad Ford, ESPN.com
1. Toronto: Andrea Bargnani, PF, Italy
2. Chicago: Tyrus Thomas, PF, LSU
3. Charlotte: Adam Morrisson, SF, Gonzaga
4. Portland: LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Texas

NBADraft.net
1. Toronto: LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Texas
2. Chicago: Andrea Bargnani, PF, Italy
3. Charlotte: Adam Morrisson, SF, Gonzaga
4. Portland: Tyrus Thomas, PF, LSU

Brendan McGovern, About.com
1. Toronto: Andrea Bargnani, PF, Italy
2. Chicago: LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Texas
3. Charlotte: Adam Morrisson, SF, Gonzaga
4. Portland: Brandon Roy, SG, Washington

CoolegeHoops.net
1. Toronto: Tyrus Thomas, PF, LSU
2. Chicago: Andrea Bargnani, PF, Italy
3. Charlotte: LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Texas
4. Portland: Rudy Gay, SF, Connecticut

Jonathan Givony, HoopsHype
1. Toronto: LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Texas
2. Chicago: Andrea Bargnani, PF, Italy
3. Charlotte: Adam Morrisson, SF, Gonzaga
4. Portland: Brandon Roy, SG, Washington

Previous column: Don’t be fooled by Game 1

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