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Originally published June 27, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 27, 2008 at 4:16 PM


Sonics take UCLA's Russell Westbrook with the No. 4 draft pick

Bucking conventional wisdom, amid speculation that a trade was forthcoming, Sam Presti, a defensive-minded general manager, selected Russell Westbrook, a defensive-minded sophomore guard from UCLA, with the No. 4 pick.

Seattle Times staff reporter

4. Russell Westbrook

Pos: Guard. College: UCLA. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 187.

Age: 19, born Nov. 12, 1988 in Lawndale, Calif.

Scouting report: The Sonics like Kevin Durant at shooting guard, which will force Westbrook to make the difficult transition to point guard. He played two seasons at UCLA and led the Bruins in assists last season as an off guard. Westbrook shot just 33.8 percent on three-pointers, but it's his defense that distinguishes him from other guards in the draft. He was the Pac-10 defensive player of the year.

24. Serge Ibaka

Pos: F/C. Team: C.B. L'Hospitalet. Ht: 6-10. Wt: 220.

Age: 18, born Sept. 18, 1989 in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.

Scouting report: NBA scouts say Ibaka has an abundance of raw athletic ability. He possesses an outstanding vertical leap for a taller player and gets off the floor quickly. He has range on his jump shot. Will likely remain overseas and continue playing in a Spanish league. The Sonics have three French-speaking centers — Ibaka, Johan Petro and Mouhamed Sene.

29. D.J. White

Pos: F. College: Indiana. Ht: 6-9. Wt: 251.

Age: 21, born Aug. 31, 1986 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Scouting report: A prototype back-to-the-basket player. He thrives in the low post, but is also consistent with a midrange jumper. Played four seasons for Indiana and missed all but five games as a sophomore after breaking his left foot. White was a consensus second-team All-America pick and named Big Ten Player of the Year. As the roster stands, he'll compete with Nick Collison and Chris Wilcox for minutes at power forward.

50. DeVon Hardin

Pos: C. College: California. Ht: 6-11. Wt: 250.

Age: 21, born June 3, 1986 in Long Beach, Calif.

Scouting report: A four-year letterman who missed most of his junior season because of a stress fracture in his left foot. Averaged 9.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots in 30 games as a senior. NBA scouts say he runs the floor well and is athletic for a big man. Hardin will compete with Johan Petro for playing time at center.

Percy Allen

A surreal day for the Sonics, which included closing arguments in the team's trial against the city, took a series of unexpected twists and turns in Thursday's NBA draft.

Bucking conventional wisdom, amid speculation that a trade was forthcoming, Sam Presti, a defensive-minded general manager, selected Russell Westbrook, a defensive-minded sophomore guard from UCLA, with the No. 4 pick.

Reportedly the Sonics held trade discussions with Miami involving the No. 2 pick and the Los Angeles Clippers about the No. 7 pick. In the end, however, Presti waited until later in the draft to make a trade and stood pat with the team's top pick.

When NBA commissioner David Stern announced Westbrook's name, Sonics fans and draft analysts scratched their heads as the former UCLA Bruin strolled to the stage at New York's Theatre of Madison Square Garden to shake hands and pose for pictures with Stern.

"I felt that I might go four, but you never know because of trades and things like that," Westbrook said in a teleconference with media from Seattle and Oklahoma City. "I'm just sitting there waiting for my name to be called. And to go pretty early, I'm very happy."

With their second pick, No. 24 overall, the Sonics took Serge Ibaka, an 18-year-old, 6-foot-10 forward/center from the Congo. Ibaka, who played last season in Spain, will remain overseas next season.

The Sonics traded the No. 32 and No. 46 picks in the second round to the Detroit Pistons for D.J. White, a forward from Indiana who was taken 29th overall.

Presti took California center DeVon Hardin with the 50th pick and nabbed Kansas center Sasha Kaun 56th overall before trading him to Cleveland for cash considerations to conclude the draft.

When free agency begins Tuesday, guard Luke Ridnour is expected to dangle in the trade winds for the second consecutive year to clear a space in the rotation for Westbrook. Earl Watson, a former UCLA standout, will likely mentor his fellow Bruin and successor.

"I just saw Earl before I left L.A.," Westbrook said. "He was congratulating me and things like that. Earl is a real good guy. I know Earl will teach me some things. He was teaching me some things before the year."

When asked about the Sonics' uncertain future, Westbrook said: "I'm aware that the Sonics might play in a different city, but I don't think that's a big issue."

Seemingly, Presti doesn't have an issue with handing the reins of the team to an unproven floor leader.

Even though Westbrook led the Bruins with 4.3 assists per game, he was a primarily a shooting guard during his two seasons at UCLA.

Westbrook will move to point guard and will team with last season's draft picks — Kevin Durant, the rookie of the year, and Jeff Green, an all-rookie choice — as the building blocks for a team hoping to rebound from its worst season in franchise history.

"Russell Westbrook is, in our opinion, the best perimeter defender in the draft," Presti said. "We had him targeted from early in the year. He is a competitor, and he is the ultimate teammate. Obviously he comes from a winning background at UCLA."

Still the decision surprised many draft observers.

After the Chicago Bulls chose guard Derrick Rose with the No. 1 pick, the Miami Heat selected forward Michael Beasley and the Minnesota Timberwolves chose guard O.J. Mayo, the Sonics had their choice between Stanford center Brook Lopez, UCLA center Kevin Love, Indiana guard Eric Gordon and Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless.

"His competitors have tremendous respect for him," Presti said. "And his teammates have tremendous respect for him. That kind of character and defensive mentality are what we're attracted to."

The Sonics entered the draft with six picks and when it was over, they netted a future starting point guard in Westbrook, a reserve forward in White and a backup center in Hardin.

A year ago, Presti received kudos on draft day after dealing Ray Allen to Boston for Green. This year, the second-year GM was panned by several analysts.

"They might have some explaining to do," NBA analysts Mark Jackson said.

"It doesn't make sense," said college basketball analyst Dick Vitale. "Seattle will look back on this and realize they made a big, big mistake. Love would have been fantastic for them."

Westbrook, the Pac-10 defensive player of the year last season, distinguished himself as an exceptional lockdown defender during two seasons at UCLA. The 6-foot-3 guard has a 6-7 ¾ wingspan and a 36-inch vertical leap. He can defend both guard positions and the small-forward spot.

The Sonics ranked 27th in points allowed, and Westbrook should help improve the defense.

"I'm finally here," Westbrook said. "I got a chance to walk up to shake David Stern's hand. I've been thinking about that all of my childhood watching the NBA draft growing up, and now it's finally here."

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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