NEW YORK -- The Grizzlies got rid of their two best players. The Bulls parted ways with Elton Brand.
Those two teams combined for just 38 victories last season, and it's hard to imagine them equaling that total next season.
On a day that included yet another trade (Milwaukee sent Lindsey Hunter to the Lakers for Greg Foster), folks around the NBA tried in vain to avoid making snap judgments. Among them:
- The Chicago Bulls are re-rebuilding. By drafting Eddy Curry and sending Brand to the Clippers for the draft rights to Tyson Chandler, the franchise that won six titles in the 1990s is looking an awful long way down the road. A front line of Chandler, Curry and Marcus Fizer might be scary in five or 10 years, but only if all three players live up to their potential.
- The Vancouver Grizzlies will have a drawing card when they move to Memphis now that Jason Williams has been acquired from Sacramento along with Nick Anderson. But a starting five of Williams, Michael Dickerson, Shane Battier, Lorenzen Wright and Bryant Reeves/Pau Gasol won't win many games. Even worse, the Grizzlies still owe the Pistons a first-round pick from the ill-fated Otis Thorpe trade made in August 1997.
- The Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Clippers should see immediate improvement. The Hawks still need a point guard but will have a starting frontcourt of Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Theo Ratliff and Toni Kukoc. The Clippers, who desperately needed an upgrade at power forward, could contend for a playoff spot if Brand continues to average 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Wednesday night's draft was marked by the selection of three high-school seniors among the top four picks.
The Washington Wizards chose Kwame Brown of Glynn Academy in Brunswick, Ga., with the overall No. 1 pick, and the Clippers took the 18-year-old Chandler of Dominguez H.S. in Compton, Calif. with the second pick before trading him to the Bulls. The Cleveland Cavaliers chose high school senior DeSagana Diop with the eighth pick.
Of the top 10 draft picks, there were four high schoolers, two college freshman, two sophomores and one player from Spain.
Battier, chosen sixth by the Grizzlies, was the only four-year senior.
"This is a phenomenon that happens once in a blue moon," Marty Blake, the longtime NBA director of scouting services, said in reference to four talented big men coming out of high school the same year. "There's no centers. Where are they? Then all of a sudden comes along these four 6-11 guys. That just doesn't happen."
Teams have until 11:59 p.m. Saturday to make more trades before an 18-day moratorium.
After that, the biggest question of the summer will be where Chris Webber winds up.
Webber, a free agent, can re-sign with Sacramento and get a seven-year contract worth $121 million (assuming the salary cap is no more than $42 million). The Houston Rockets, Bulls and Detroit Pistons will be able to offer Webber a six-year, $94.5 million deal.
If Webber returns to the Kings, he'll have a new point guard feeding him the ball.
The Kings concluded three turbulent years with Williams when they traded the flashy point guard to the Grizzlies for Mike Bibby in a four-man deal.
Nick Anderson was traded along with Williams to the Grizzlies. Brent Price, who played just six games for Vancouver last season, was sent to Sacramento.
Unhappy as his playing time and importance to the Kings decreased last season, Williams openly questioned his role with the team and suggested he wanted to be traded.
"The deal evolved during the course of the day, as things like this will during draft day," Kings vice president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie said.
No move, however, was more surprising than the one made by the Bulls, whose cumulative record over the past three seasons is 45-169.
Consider those 169 losses in this light: During Michael Jordan's 11 full seasons in Chicago, the team lost a total of 284 regular-season games. If the Bulls somehow manage to go 24-58 over the next two seasons, Tim Floyd - assuming he stays as head coach - will have taken just five seasons to surpass Jordan's loss total.
"I'm excited," Brand said. "The Clippers have a lot of great young talent, and I want to coincide with the talent and gel and keep getting better. It was very tough losing night after night, and I want to be on a team with a shot of improving."
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