Raptors take Bargnani with No. 1 pickBy BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer
June 28, 2006
NEW YORK (AP) -- The Toronto Raptors
selected Andrea Bargnani with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft Wednesday night, hoping the forward from Italy can live up to comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki
The 6-foot-10 forward, the first European player taken first overall, has drawn those comparisons to the Dallas Mavericks
' All-Star because of his outside shooting skills. Playing last season for Benetton Treviso in Italy's Lega A, Bargnani shot 37 percent from 3-point range.
He's the second straight foreign-born No. 1 pick after Milwaukee chose Andrew Bogut
of Australia last year after his sophomore year at the University of Utah. Bargnani is the first No. 1 pick to not play college or high school basketball in the United States since Houston took Yao Ming
"This is the best league in the world," Bargnani said. "I'm so proud to represent my country. I have no worries."
Bargnani's selection kicked off what figured to be an unpredictable draft. The 20-year-old Bargnani was far from a sure thing, but Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo decided he was the best choice in a draft that lacked star power.
"Everyone has strengths, weaknesses, etc.," Colangelo said. "But at the end of the day, it came down that we felt that Andrea Bargnani was really the best pick for the future of this organization going forward. It's not about today. It's about today and tomorrow and we think that Andrea is a player that's not only going to help us in the short run, but we think he's going to grow into a terrific star in this league."
Chicago chose Texas forward LaMarcus Aldridge with the second pick, one of the Bulls' two selections in the first round. Wearing a Longhorns-orange colored tie, Aldridge gave NBA commissioner David Stern a Texas hat when he arrived on stage.
The pick came from the Knicks in a preseason trade for Eddy Curry
, and the fans at the Theater at Madison Square Garden didn't have to wait for it to express their anger toward coach and team president Isiah Thomas.
Chants of "Fire Isiah!" started 15 minutes before the draft, and "Fire Thomas!" cries followed just before the pick. The fans might get their wish next year -- Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan warned Thomas on Monday that he has one year to turn around the franchise or he'll be out of a job.
Dolan wasn't spared, either: "Sell the Knicks!" chants also rang out before the draft started.
Gonzaga star Adam Morrison went to Charlotte at No. 3 with the Bobcats' first since pick Michael Jordan became a part owner of the team in charge of the basketball operations earlier this month. The mustachioed All-American led the nation in scoring as a junior with 28.1 points per game.
The Portland Trail Blazers
-- who were believed to want Morrison -- instead selected LSU forward Tyrus Thomas, last season's SEC freshman of the year. He led that league in blocked shots and was second in rebounding last season.
But rumors swirled that Chicago and Portland planned to swap picks, and Thomas already sounded as if he was on the Bulls -- even while wearing a Blazers hat.
"They're young, they like to run and coach (Scott) Skiles, I visited with him, and he's a great teacher and a motivator," Thomas said. "Just the organization as a whole, it has a bright future so I'm looking forward to doing some good things in Chicago." The Atlanta Hawks
also went for interior defense when they took Duke's Shelden Williams at No. 5. The Blue Devils' career leader in blocked shots was the ACC defensive player of the year in each of his last two seasons. Minnesota grabbed Washington guard Brandon Roy with the sixth pick, getting an excellent replacement for Rashad McCants
, who recently had microfracture surgery on his right knee.