- The Washington Times - Friday, June 26, 2009

When asked early this week which opposing teams were poised to best improve themselves in Thursday’s NBA Draft, Washington Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld had a simple answer.

“The Clippers.”

Grunfeld let out a laugh over his painfully obvious — and safe — statement but went on to explain that time will tell who will emerge as the draft’s winners and losers.

“As with every draft, there are some very good players in this draft,” Grunfeld said. “But because many of these players are 19, 20 years old, it’s just going to take some time for them to develop. But teams will be able to get better through the draft.”

Indeed, with college freshmen and sophomores accounting for most of the players taken in the first round, there will be growing pains, and it’s too tough to call at this point. But for the fun of it, here’s the snap reaction:

Like what they did

• Los Angeles Clippers — The no-brainer of the night, the Clippers took the only sure thing in the draft in Griffin, who draws comparisons to Amare Stoudemire and should give an infusion of young, athletic energy to a front line that features an aging Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman, who is coming off of an injury, and the underachieving Zach Randolph.

• Minnesota Timberwolves — They dealt Randy Foye and Mike Miller to the Wizards for injury-prone center Etan Thomas, backup forward Darius Songaila and the seldom-used Oleksiy Pecherov so they could attain the fifth pick in the draft. They used the pick on Ricky Rubio - the player the Wizards wanted but didn’t think would be left on the board by then - who’s drawing comparisons to Pistol Pete.

• Oklahoma City Thunder — The Thunder surprised some when they took James Harden third overall, but Harden will fit perfectly with the young nucleus of swingmen Kevin Durant and Jeff Green and point guard Russell Westbrook. Harden is a lefty who can score in a variety of ways. They then completed their Five for the Future by swapping Rodrigue Beaubois for B.J. Mullens from Dallas. Mullens gives them the athletic shot-blocking center to defend the paint and develop along with Durant, Green, Westbrook and Harden.

• Philadelphia 76ers — UCLA point guard Jrue Holiday was projected by some to go among the top 10 but slid to 17, where Philadelphia snatched him up. Like many others in this draft, he’s young and will take his lumps, but in Holiday, coach Eddie Jordan has a great prospect to groom for running the Princeton offense. Holiday could become the best point guard in this class.

What were they thinking?

• Minnesota Timberwolves - Grabbing Rubio at No. 5? Great. Turning around and taking another point guard, Jonny Flynn, at No. 6 and then taking a third, Ty Lawson, at No. 18? As soon as they took Flynn, the thinking was, “OK, they’re about to trade this.” Still waiting. Then they took Lawson, and they did trade him to Denver, but for what? A future pick that Denver is owed by Charlotte. Say what?

The Wizards reportedly wanted to get the 18th pick in that trade for Mike Miller and Randy Foye, but Minnesota wouldn’t budge… because it wanted to trade it for a future pick? Hmm. The Timberwolves couldn’t package it with No. 28 to move up or get a veteran player?

• Indiana Pacers — Tyler Hansbrough at No. 13 seems like a reach. Many projected Hansbrough to drop to the late teens or early 20s. But Larry Bird did what he had to do. Hansbrough will provide some interior muscle, most likely off the bench. But a franchise cornerstone? Not likely.

It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out next season and the seasons to come. Who’s the big bust? Who’s the steal? It might be about four years before anyone knows.

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