After watching the first 12 picks go by during Thursday night’s NBA Draft in Madison Square Garden, the number 13 was lucky for Julian Wright.
“With the 13th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, the New Orleans Hornets select Julian Wright from Kansas.”
It was finally his turn. After Commissioner David Stern’s announcement, Ju Ju flashed that winning smile Jayhawk fans have become accustomed to the last two years. Then after hugging the members of his family in attendance, he proudly donned his new cap and walked to the podium.
There was plenty of speculation surrounding Julian and his alleged free fall heading into the draft, but Wright’s camp never doubted he’d be a lottery pick.
“I expected to be a lottery pick,” stated Wright. “I really felt I wouldn’t fall out of the lottery.”
“I had been led to believe he’d go a few picks earlier but today, in dealing with his agent (Rob Pelinka), I thought there was a good chance this could be the spot that Julian goes,” said KU head coach Bill Self who watched the draft with his family.
Wright did admit that he found out he would be a Hornet when the rest of us did – right after Philadelphia picked at number 12.
“After Philadelphia picked I really liked our chances with New Orleans,” Wright said.
“I believe that New Orleans realized they got a steal. They got a guy who has one of the best upsides in the draft at 13, so I’m sure they’re very happy about that,”concluded Self.
With the pick Wright becomes the fifth Kansas player taken in the first round since 2002, but he joins a New Orleans team in a bit of disarray.
The Hornets were hit with the injury bug for much of last season where 13 different players started at one time or another. Head coach Byron Scott has some work to do for New Orleans to return to the playoffs but he does have a solid foundation to build around in point guard Chris Paul.
At 6-8, the versatile Wright adds some athleticism to a lineup that may lose its best athlete and a solid contributor in Desmond Mason. Mason is a free agent and if he does leave, Wright will undoubtedly be part of the plan to replace the former Oklahoma State star. Remember, when Mason was drafted back in 2000 as the 17th pick, his shot was suspect, and he has improved leaps and bounds since his collegiate days. Julian could follow in his footsteps in that respect.
“I think with the ball in his hands, passing the ball, creating for others, I don’t know if there’s that many guys out there Julian’s age that can do any better than that. But Desmond is an unbelievable finisher, Julian will be a great finisher,” said Self comparing the two. “Right now, Desmond is just a better scorer but I would think from a playmaking standpoint, Julian can create for others about as well as anybody.”
Minus Mason, Paul would need another finisher and Julian would certainly be a strong candidate for the job. Playing with the former NBA Rookie of the Year is another part of Julian’s jump to the league that he’s looking forward to. In a teleconference after the draft Wright expressed his excitement about playing with a player of Paul’s caliber.
“If I were Julian, I’d be excited. You get to play with Chris Paul and a good, young, talented team, and going to a team where he can make an impact,” Self continued. “I think it’s a good fit for him.”