NEW YORK — Andrea Bargnani went first. Then came the trades.
The Toronto Raptors selected Bargnani with the No. 1 pick Wednesday night in an unpredictable NBA draft that saw four of the top seven picks switch teams by the middle of the first round.
LaMarcus Aldridge of Texas went second to the Chicago Bulls, starting a flurry of trades that would also include the fourth, sixth and seventh picks.
Aldridge's rights were later dealt to Portland for the rights to Tyrus Thomas, who had been chosen fourth, and forward Viktor Khryapa.
"Right before they said my name, they said, 'They are going to call your name in a minute, but don't worry about it, they are going to trade you,' " Aldridge said.
The Trail Blazers weren't done dealing. They acquired the rights to Randy Foye, taken seventh by the Boston Celtics, along with Raef LaFrentz, Dan Dickau and cash for Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff and a 2008 second-round pick.
The Blazers then shipped Foye's rights to Minnesota for Brandon Roy, the Washington guard taken sixth by the Timberwolves.
"When I see the guys go 1, 2, 3, it was just nerve-racking," Foye said. "But then like two picks before, my agent and Brandon's agent were making eye contact and I didn't know what was going on at the time. And once I saw my agent's face light up, he was like, 'Yeah, Boston is going to take you.'
"And then, 'Portland is going to take you.' And then when they said Minnesota, I was like OK, good. Bring it on."
There were 15 trades, likely the product of a draft that lacked star power. High school players are no longer eligible, meaning Greg Oden, who surely would have been the No. 1 pick, is headed to Ohio State instead of the NBA.
The Raptors didn't think they needed a deal, confident that Bargnani, a 20-year-old forward from Italy, can live up to comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki.
"Everyone has strengths, weaknesses, etc.," general manager Bryan 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."
The 6-foot-10 Bargnani, the first European player taken first overall, has drawn the 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 from the University of Utah last year. Bargnani is the first No. 1 pick to not play college or high school basketball in the United States since Houston took Yao Ming in 2002.
"I hope to help the team as soon as possible," Bargnani said. "I'm a young player, I know that I will find a lot of tough moments because it's a new league and I'm used to playing in Europe."
Aldridge then went in a pick that came from New York 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 Knicks 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 Trail Blazers then selected LSU's Tyrus Thomas, who already knew he wasn't going there. Even while wearing a Blazers hat, he spoke of playing for Chicago.
"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.
The Houston Rockets took Rudy Gay at No. 8, the first of a record-tying four Connecticut players taken in the first round. The Golden State Warriors then grabbed center Patrick O'Bryant, whose stock rose after he led Bradley to the third round of the NCAA tournament.
|Colleges with most first-round selections in an NBA draft:|
|North Carolina 2005|