This year's draft was pretty much last year's draft. A slick ESPN production, two obvious picks at the top, very few surprises, players all outfitted by personal stylists, their answers to all questions predictable and scripted. The crowd was mellower because the Evil Isiah wasn't around to fuel their anger and predraft drinking. I've said it before, but I miss the wacky suits, the off-the-cuff remarks from Charles Barkley, the confused interpreters, Dickie V's rants every time a high schooler was selected ahead of an ACC guy. Oh well, on to the show…
First, a quick comment on the evening's commentators:
Moderator Stuart Scott has become, over the years, one of my least favorite ESPN personalities. I say personality rather than announcer because that is what he is at this point. He's the king of name dropping, acting like every athlete is his buddy, even if he met them five minutes ago. Calling everyone "dawg" was tiresome five years ago, he still does it. Writes a tiresome "reader questions" column in ESPN Magazine that always reflects his mantra of "never ever say anything bad about someone in sports, they might not be your fake buddy anymore." That being said, he was fine tonight, except for one annoying theme that he kept coming back to: "people say the Pac-10 isn't a real basketball conference." Then he would give an update on how many of the top picks were from the conference.
The problem is, NO ONE SAYS THAT, except for Stuart Scott on draft night. Scott, a UNC grad, was basically doing the typical ACC basketball snob routine but in a sneaky, backhanded manner. Instead of simply saying "the Pac-10 had a great year, with six teams in the tournament, three teams in the Sweet 16, and they are dominating the draft," he has to lead with that BS about "not a real basketball conference."
I hate Stuart Scott.
Stephen A. Smith was given interview duty, which lessened the pain he normally inflicts upon the human eardrum. Instead of yelling in the camera for a three minute nonsensical rant, he would yell his 30 second question. Call me crazy, but I figure that someone knowledgeable about college basketball who is accustomed to having an actual human conversation would be a better choice for this job.
My suggestion: Bill Raftery , with a bottle of Jameson's, does a "welcome to the NBA" shot with each draftee. A win-win for both the players and the TV audience, particularly as the draft proceeds and a late first-rounder from The Congo tries to understand a question about his onions.
Jay Bilas was actually quite good and was far and away the most informed person on the panel. I'm actually annoyed that I can't bust on him for overusing the word of the night (remember the year of "long"?) or mercilessly ragging on a kid while his family sits 30 feet away. I hope it's not some insidious Duke influence warping my mind now that the Beloved Cardinal has a Blue Devil at the helm, but I can't think of anything he said worth arguing over.
A Van Gundy . I forget which is which, but I'm pretty sure this is the one who tried to stop a fight by humping Alonzo Mourning's leg some years ago. I find myself giving him credit for being smarter than he probably is simply because he so clearly wasn't hired for his looks.
Mark Jackson was there too, although I don't remember a single thing he said other than a couple references to how he used to do things and what he likes in a point guard.
1. Chicago Bulls - Derrick Rose, PG,
Can't argue this pick. With the first pick you don't want solid, you want a perennial all-star. Rose is an off the charts athlete who instantly becomes one of the best dribble-jump players in the NBA. Very few guys can match his vertical, very few can match his ball handling skills, can anyone match his combination of the two? A healthy Baron Davis perhaps, but Rose is better with the ball. Of 80 players tested this year, he was second in No Step Vertical, fourth in Max Vertical, and fourth in 3/4 Court Sprint. Very strong and blessed with a 6'8" Wingspan, he's potentially a lockdown defender. Only knock is he measured a bit shorter than advertised at 6'1.5", 6'2.5" in shoes, making him the shortest #1 pick since Iverson. Some concern that playing in his hometown of Chicago might not be the best thing to happen to him. Spending every waking hour trying to score free tickets for his boys probably won't help his game.
2. Miami Heat - Michael Beasley, PF, Kansas State
It's amazing how much effort has gone into bad mouthing the best player in college basketball. Yeah, I know, Hansbrough got all the hardware, but let's be serious. Absolutely nothing he can't do on the offensive end, but for weeks every article about him has been about how he likes to goof around and didn't kill himself in the pre-draft workouts. Here is my question for his agent: why did you even agree to have him workout? Everyone knows he's going to put up numbers in the NBA from day one, everyone knew he was going first or second, why fly around the country for those ridiculous 1-on-0 exhibitions? Beasley should have said "I'm going to enjoy being 19 for a month, see you in New York, I dare you not to pick me."
P.S. If he starts hitting the South Beach clubs every night all bets are off, but he just spent the year living in Manhattan with no problems so what's the big deal? Huh, what's that you say? There is a Manhattan in Kansas? Who came up with that name? Ok, is Miami really much different than Kansas, apart from the ocean, the weather, the food, the women, the nightlife, and the thongs? I think not.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves - O.J. Mayo, SG, USC (traded to Memphis)
Oh, where to start… Whenever a player goes from about sixth best in his conference to third in the draft based upon workouts I get suspicious. But as long as the nonsense about him being a point guard stops, he should be a fine pro. Actually, he was already a pro at USC, so talk about an easy transition. Sported his usual "urban preppy" look, complete with glasses. Cleary a blatant attempt at changing his image and marketing himself, let's hope he doesn't follow that other OJ from USC's whitification process too far. If he starts golfing and collecting knives… Traded to Memphis for Kevin Love and Mike Miller and some contract swapping late in the evening. Clearly a "frying pan into the fire" situation, I just don't see the master plan of becoming D-Wade working out given the Grizzlies' current leadership. But he does actually defend, so in an odd way maybe he disappoints the public as the third pick but ends up being worth it.
4. Seattle SuperSonics - Russell Westbrook, PG, UCLA
Gut reaction? You gotta be kidding me! (but replace the word kidding). A good game against Memphis and good workouts jumps the fourth option at UCLA to the fourth overall selection? I'm all for sleepers, but this reminds me of Roto rookies who bid their sleepers up to the same price as Albert Pujols. Westbrook's potential has been hyped up to the point where you expect all his physical measurements to be off the charts, but he didn't blow anyone away in the testing. He's supposed to have an incredible wingspan, but in fact he ranked 55th of the 72 guys who participated in most of the testing. Six guys shorter than him were longer, only four guys taller than him were shorter. So about average for his height. He is supposed to jump through the roof, but his No-Step Vert was 23rd, his Max Vert was 16th. Good, but nothing extraordinary. He was eighth in Lane Agility and 11th in the 3/4th Court Sprint, clearly his strengths. Since the conventional wisdom is he needs lots of work to be an effective PG and his outside shot is still a work in progress, how does he go fourth? Just because of his defense? ESPN's Chad Ford actually wrote that he likes the pick and that "overall, he has a chance to be a better version of Rajon Rondo." Is that really what you want with #4? A chance at a better Rondo?
5. Memphis Grizzlies - Kevin Love, PF, UCLA
(traded to Minnesota)
The next Bruin gives us the opposite extreme. All the skills are there, but no matter what he does Love is still just under 6'8" barefoot, 6'9.5" with shoes. His crash fitness and diet course actually resulted in better than expected physical testing, but Love will clearly give up a quickness edge to plenty of NBA PFs and a length edge to some PFs and all the centers. The best part of his game is his passing, but I haven't seen an NBA offense run through a post player since Walton's Blazers. The full court outlet passes look great on film, but how often do those really happen? Now paired with Al Jefferson in Minnesota, I can't help but think of the Knicks and their attempt at playing Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph together. They were last in the NBA with a pathetic 2.6 blocks per game as a team. Second to last was Minnesota, adding Love won't help the D a bit. He's been described as a mix between Wes Unseld and Bill Laimbeer, but Unseld had Elvin Hayes and Laimbeer had John Salley (not to mention Dennis Rodman). Too good to be a bust, but can't see him ever becoming a star either.
6. New York Knicks - Danilo Gallinari, SF, Italy
Everything I know I learned on youtube.com. Cleary has offensive skills, but no one ever uploads defensive highlights and it is doubtful he has many. Tony Kukoc seems like a similar player and he couldn't guard anyone either but it didn't matter because he was surrounded by tremendous defensive teammates like Jordan and Pippen. Unfortunately, the 2008 Knicks don't even play the same sport as Jordan's Bulls. But he's just 19, he's got an offensive minded head coach and a free pass for a year or two as the team rebuilds. Actually, let's call him Mike Dunleavy, but three years younger when his career starts and hopefully not taking eight years to be worth his contract. Now surrounded by the worst teammates in the NBA, look for Walsh and D'Antoni to keep a close eye on him until they can dump the Isiah holdovers.
7. L.A. Clippers - Eric Gordon, SG, Indiana
Sweet stroke, excellent athlete, but I can't shake the image of him just tanking the second half of the season. Plus, it's the Clippers. What are the odds that he develops to his full potential playing for this miserable franchise? Two winning seasons in 24 years in Los Angeles, yet Elgin Baylor keeps on trucking along as GM (this will be his 23rd season). The list of NBA greats who failed miserably as executives is a long one, but Elgin has to rank right there at the top. Or bottom, more accurately (Jordan and McHale are playing catch up). Could become a star, but he strikes me as a player who needs a strong positive influence to reach his potential. Playing for a team that everyone can't wait to leave is unlikely to provide one.
8. Milwaukee Bucks - Joe Alexander, SF, West Virginia
The king of the combine testing capped off his meteoric rise from obscurity with this fairly shocking selection at #8. He started out just testing the draft waters, then dominated the pre-draft physical testing with the eighth best vertical, second best bench press, and second best sprint. This from a white dude raised in Taiwan! But allow me to point out that his numbers were good, not great at WV. He turns 22 in December, making him much older than everyone drafted so far. His outside shot is shaky and he doesn't yet have NBA three-point range. Physically he has up-the-wazoo potential, but I see a guy who isn't especially fluid or skilled with the ball and is a bit mechanical in his movements. Bucks traded for Richard Jefferson, I think that is actually Alexander's upside.
9. Charlotte Bobcats - D.J. Augustin, PG,
Michael Jordan picked him, so I predict bust. He's fast, he's slick with the ball, but he's tiny. Even with the infamous shoe height bonus he's under 6', plus he weighs just 172 and tied for last in the bench press. Personally I think Brook Lopez would have meshed nicely with Emeka Okafor, but I don't make the big bucks to sell shoes and play golf. Oops, I mean run a team.
10. New Jersey Nets - Brook Lopez, C, Stanford
Don't know much about this guy. The Lopi were the stars of the draft, as ESPN had them mic'ed (miked?) and they provided much entertainment. Brook wondered if he was going to be the NBA version of Brady Quinn and had to ask who the Nets' coach is. Interesting that in every interview I saw with him both before and after the draft he emphasized that he is trying to play more like his brother, will do the dirty work, defend, rebound, bring energy, etc. He made it sound like the Nets might as well have drafted Robin. Clearly someone advised him to go that route (lowering expectations?), but I really wish he'd simply stated "I'm the best scoring center in the draft." Nets fans are predisposed to not liking him because they grew frustrated with Jason Collins and they've also seen non-scoring bigs Josh Boone and Sean Williams drafted recently. Stanford loyalties aside, Brook could be an absolute steal here. He's just 19 and only played the equivalent of 1.5 seasons of college ball, yet the media has completely disregarded his upside as if he's a 23-year-old finished product. No matter what he does as a rookie the Nets are in for along miserable season as they shed salaries and kill time until the LeBron sweepstakes. But I still wouldn't mind being hooked up with tickets, big guy!
11. Indiana Pacers - Jerryd Bayless, PG, Arizona
(Traded to Portland)
I'm all for wingspan and how it helps in basketball, but Bayless going seven spots behind Westbrook simply because of a 4" difference strikes me as incredibly silly. I call this the Celtic Effect – NBA teams are known for jumping on the bandwagon of whatever is working at the moment, so the better defensive player goes way ahead of the far better offensive player. Don't look now, but the Blazers are assembling a powerhouse roster that hasn't even taken advantage of Paul Allen's deep pockets yet. If Greg Oden is healthy, an Oden, Roy, Aldridge, Bayless core with plenty of cap room sounds like a scary team a couple years down the road.
12. Sacramento Kings - Jason Thompson, PF, Rider
Since he was a key player on my fantasy team I actually went out of my way to see Thompson play a couple times last season. Very skilled, but he played in a league with no quality size anywhere and lacks elite athleticism. I was very interested in seeing his pre-draft camp numbers, but an injury kept him from the testing. An excellent passer, he is another guy who benefitted from a late growth spurt that left him with guard skills in a bigs body. Plays more like a Euro, without the three-point range. A stat for Stanford fans who remember the Siena loss: Thompson had not one but two 20-20 games against Siena last season. The Kings went against the conventional wisdom with all their picks actually, using their second round picks on two seniors (Singletary and Ewing) who have little chance of contributing in the league. Clearly a franchise going backwards.
13. Portland Trail Blazers - Brandon Rush, SG, Kansas (Traded to Indiana)
Is the 3rd Rush the charm? Baby brother tries to succeed where JaRon and Kareem failed. A twist to the story is that Kareem was a free agent Pacer and won't be re-signed because of Brandon being selected. Seems like as perfectly reasonable and safe selection, his all-around offensive game and quality defense should at least make him a rotation player. But he turns 23 in a week, a very bad indicator for anyone predicting greatness.
14. Golden State Warriors - Anthony Randolph, PF, LSU
If your baseball just fell through the storm grate, this is the guy you want to have around. 197 pounds at 6'10", while living in Louisiana? Does this guy never eat? The biggest all or nothing pick in the draft, he has a lot of Lamar Odom to his game. Suffers from the same problem as many other bigs with ball skills – he sometime does too many "guard things" just because he can, when he'd be more effective closer to the basket. Of course in the NBA he might get killed in the lane. On a positive personal note, the fact that I now outweigh a 6'10" NBA player by 15 pounds has sent me scampering back to the gym (as soon as I finish my calzone).
15. Phoenix Suns - Robin Lopez, C, Stanford
Finally, some real comedy! The sight of the draft was clearly Robin in a Suns cap, looking like Oscar Gamble in his afro prime. Even the most devout Cardinal fan has to be a little stunned at the guy who nearly broke the backboard a few times from his not-so-sweet "jump brick" turning into the 15th pick. Like someone said, you can't teach size, especially size that comes with energy, mobility and excellent defensive timing. Has to be giggling with joy over joining the Fun Suns with Nash, Shaq, Amare and the rest of the cast. A bigger, less stoned version of Joakim Noah.
16. Philadelphia Sixers - Marreese Speights, C,
My absolute #1 sleeper of the draft, a guy whose future is limited only by his desire to do the work. Loyal readers know I love big guys with good hands and this guy has sweet mitts! Not to mention nimble feet, long arms, and a nice shooting touch. Call me crazy, but I say he ends up one of the top four players in this draft. Or falls in love with Philly cheese steaks and becomes the next Hot Plate Williams.
17. Toronto Raptors - Roy Hibbert, C, Georgetown (picked for Indiana)
The range of opinions on Hibbert is as wide as his rump, ranging from "too slow to ever be a player" to "too big and skilled to not be a player." I'm honestly torn, as I've seen him have games that impressed me and other games where I forgot he was playing. What other player in the country had back-to-back games of 0 points and 5 fouls followed by 25 points and 13 boards? Ended his career with 16 miserable minutes in the loss to Davidson. His 3-3 season from beyond the arc ranks him 2nd in the country behind one dude who went 4-4, maybe he can be a three-point shooting specialist?
18. Washington Wizards - JaVale McGee, C,
Sort of a better version of Devon Hardin. Sure looks like a player, he's huge and ripped and just 20 years old. If he was a Euro, he'd be stashed overseas until he can develop enough skill to contribute. Instead, he'll make nice money to try to learn how to play. There were better options available, but the Wizards are swinging for the fences with Rob Deer.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers - J.J. Hickson, PF, North Carolina State
Like this pick for all the same reasons I like Speights, he's just a little smaller. NC State was a big disappointment last season and there was some resentment over him getting the "star frosh" treatment, but great potential for this part of the draft. Gotta lose the J.J. though.
20. Charlotte Bobcats - Alexis Ajinca, PF, France
He's from France and has the same name as my niece. Case closed.
21. New Jersey Nets - Ryan Anderson, PF, California
Plan B in case Yi doesn't pan out? In general I don't like big guys whose strength is outside shooting when it comes to NBA success, with very few exceptions. Another Euro-type, he can score but will be defensively challenged. Maybe he can follow in fellow Bear Jason Kidd's footsteps and turn this team around 360 degrees.
22. Orlando Magic - Courtney Lee, SG, Western Kentucky
Still another first round pick who sounds like a hot chick, I like this pick a lot. Good size for the position, no weaknesses, led his team to new heights. And not to be mean, but he takes J.J. Redick's spot for good measure. "Orlando made a great move picking J.J. Redick at No. 11" – Dick Vitale, 6/27/2006
23. Utah Jazz - Kosta Koufos, C, Ohio State
Shocking, the Jazz pick a big white guy! Whose name rhymes with "doufus" for good measure. But this is a pretty solid pick and I agree he could turn into another Mehmet Okur. And allow me to say here that Utah should be forced to give the Jazz name back to New Orleans. It bothers me every time I hear Utah and Jazz together.
24. Seattle SuperSonics - Serge Ibaka, PF, Congo
My favorite player ever from Congo. I'd like to use this space to say that someday there will be a shooting guard with no conscience named Roland Thompson and he will instantly become my favorite player.
26. San Antonio Spurs - George Hill, PG,
Let's here it for IUPUI! A favorite of underfunded Calcutta bidders, they finally have a guy drafted in the 1st round. Hill was another fantasy all-star and he impressed at the pre-draft camps on both ends. Not a true point and already 22 years old, which are clearly negatives. But he can play and he carries himself with confidence on the court. I like his chances and who can argue with the track record of the Spurs? Biggest obstacle is a name that belongs to a white, middle-aged tractor salesman.
27. New Orleans Hornets - Darrell Arthur, PF, Kansas (Traded to Memphis)
I was incredibly happy when Arthur was finally drafted. Not because I felt bad for him as the last of the Green Room invitees to be picked, but because I was sick of hearing about his kidney and how he was the best available player for the past hour. Every year there are a couple guys who are long, thin, and skilled. Some of them hit the weights, work hard and have a real desire to become the best player they can be. Others do just enough to keep collecting that monstrous NBA paycheck (e.g. Darius Miles). Coin toss.
28. Memphis Grizzlies - Donte Greene, SF, Syracuse
See the previous pick. Physically he has all-star potential, but his performance as a frosh was all over the map. Again, does throwing money at a kid spoil him or does the competition drive him? Syracuse has a terrible record of producing quality NBA players. Carmelo was an NBA player when he got there, all their other forwards have been massive underachievers in the pros. But at #28, what the hell.
29. Detroit Pistons - D.J. White, PF, Indiana (Traded to Seattle)
Thumbs up. Not a sexy pick, as he's both a senior and not much of a leaper, but he's tough and pretty skilled. Seems like the perfect type of player to pair with Kevin Durant. Seattle fans must be furious that their team's future is looking up just in time for the moving trucks.
30. Boston Celtics - J.R. Giddens, SG, New Mexico
The surprise pick of the first round, if Giddens didn't break down in tears upon hearing his name, he's not human. A long road from McDonald's AA to the Celtics, the 23-year-old with a history is worth a shot here just for the back story. And what better place to start than a championship team loaded with tough veterans.
Five guys in the first round who go by initials? Has to be a record...
Second round notables (actually just guys I was interested in):
37. Milwaukee - Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, SF, UCLA
Finally gone, I am so tired of looking up his name every time I write about UCLA
38. Charlotte - Kyle Weaver, G, WSU
Versatile player who can defend and possibly play three positions, has the makings of one of those good citizen role players who sticks around the league for a long time.
40. New Jersey - Chris Douglas-Roberts, G, Memphis
Did I miss something? All the real games don't count, just testing and drills? Talk about the ultimate no-lose pick, he even went behind Dorsey! Still another reason to root for the Nets.
Fading fast, so quickly onto other draftees:
Bill Walker, tough break, the first victim of the NBA making guys go to school.
Malik Hairston went 48th, peaked in high school?
DeVon Hardin might as well change his name to Jamal Sampson.
Maarty Leunen 54th to Houston, clone of Steve Novak to same team.
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