NEW YORK // The Los Angeles Clippers selected Blake Griffin with the first pick, grabbing the only player considered a sure thing in an NBA draft full of question marks. Griffin was the consensus US college player of the year after leading the nation with 14.4 rebounds per game while averaging 22.7 points last season for University of Oklahoma. "The fact is we're getting an incredible player, incredible person, an impeccable work ethic and a guy that we plan on having in LA for many years to come," the Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said.
The draft followed a day of big trades in the NBA. A deal that sent Shaquille O'Neal to Cleveland was followed by Orlando signing Vince Carter from New Jersey. The best way to improve quickly this year was through trades, because the draft was considered weaker than in recent years. The Memphis Grizzlies, armed with the second pick, took the University of Connecticut centre Hasheem Thabeet. The Tanzanian is a dominant rebounder and shot blocker but does not have strong offensive skills.