Over the course of the last nine months, I have watched somewhere in the region of 700 NCAA games. I have done this partly because of a deep-rooted affinity for Jay Bilas, but also in anticipation of the NBA Draft. Draft Night ranks somewhere near Christmas Day and Metanoia Day1 as the best day of the year, and the only thing that can rival Draft Night for excitement is Draft Day. If you’re a basketball nerd, you will know why this is the most exciting thing ever. And if you’re not a basketball nerd, you should stop reading right now, because it only gets worse from here.
Included in that 700 games are about 140 different teams. For reasons that perhaps a psychotherapist is better equipped to explain, it is my life’s pursuit to know about every player in male professional basketball.2 This is of course an impossible task, but if you can pigeon hole them early while they’re still amateurs, then you can get somewhere close to it. This, therefore, is where the NCAA proves invaluable. And given that you never know where the quality is going to come from, I tried to watch everyone.
(Lafayette versus Lehigh was a particularly low point, as were the two Morgan State versus South Carolina State games. I think one would have sufficed there. And while I still have Yale vs Princeton stored up and ready to watch, I’m not sure I can manage it.)
The reason I was able to watch all these games is because of the way ESPN have risen to power in the world of British basketball. For several months, ESPN was nothing but a competitively-priced amateur basketball cow. Multiple games a day, I imbibed that milk.
Past drafts, and therefore past draft diaries, have not seen me armed with the same level of full-frontal nerdity. There’s something innocent, affable and charming about heading into the draft with no knowledge of who or what you were about to see; it was a simpler and no less exciting of a time, for it presented an opportunity to learn. (And judge.) This year, however, with bookmarks and scribbled notes all over the show, the draft night began to move in new directions. Weirder directions at that.
One of the weirder directions was the late twist that saw me commentating on the event at Ball Don’t Lie’s live draft night blog thing. A transcript of that can be found here; however, since the remainder of this post is going to be based around everything I wrote in there, don’t read it just to see my comments. Keep it right here.3
There follows a ridiculously long-winded recap of the event. All jokes and thoughts are intended to be my own; if any appear duplicated from other sources, then this is a coincidence. (This includes not stealing from the BDL chat. I’m not THAT guy.) The piece is written largely in real time for some reason.
Pick 1: At 7pm ET, and 12am BST, the draft coverage gets underway. ESPN give themselves a generous half an hour to try and create tension in the first few picks. Will John Wall be taken number one? Will Evan Turner be taken second? And will the Nets go big with Derrick Favors at number three? The answers are yes, yes and yes, and anyone who can create a Twitter account or read an RSS feed knows it. The whole thing is more predictable than a film where Will Smith plays the good guy with an attitude, and more tepid than a three-week old coffee in a Norwegian fish factory. But we’re all here playing the game anyway.
Inevitably, the Wizards will be drafting John Wall. You know it, I know it, John Wall knows it, Sally Gunnell knows it. Nonetheless, the build-up continues in earnest. Tonight’s television line-up features ESPN’s go-to presenter Stu Scott, their go-to analyst Jon Barry, the genuinely amusing Jeff Van Gundy and the genuinely attractive Jay Bilas. In the interview section, and in line to quite frankly do a much better job than Stephen A. Smith for the second straight year, is Mark Jones. And taking the role of green room reporter is Heather Cox, who takes over from Lisa Salters (who wasn’t very good at it), who took over from Doris Burke (who was). Apparently there’s a squad rotation system in place. It’s not the best haired line-up in the world; Cox is sort of ginger, Scott and Jones have closely cropped hair, Barry has a closely shaven head for obvious reasons, Jay Bilas is just about clinging on to the remnants of a once-defiant hairline, and Van Gundy lost a similar battle about three decades ago. Nevertheless, they should suffice.
It takes a while, with proceedings held up somewhat by David Stern encouraging the crowd to boo at the mere mention of the word “Celtics.” The Wizards are being given five minutes to decide something they decided weeks ago, but the thin veneer of drama that draft night carries decrees that we must pretend an extra five minutes will help them make this bollock-breaking decision. We also have to wait as Stu Scott asks the panel whether John Wall is nervous, which he clearly isn’t, because he too has known this was going to happen for over a month. Time is filled by a breakdown of Wall’s game by Jay Bilas (who claims that Wall will benefit greatly “when he learns how to defend”, which is never the most soothing sentence to hear in a description of a #1 pick), and we are also treated a video clip of Kwame Brown being drafted first by the Wizards back in 2001, (a clip which is just too soon, and which will always be too soon to the team.) But no amount of procrastination can change the fact that eventually, Wall is picked.
Wall should pair up fairly well with Gilbert Arenas, and the Wizards should be a good full court team. Neither player is a great point guard in the half court, but in that regard they can help each other, and Wall should help Arenas rebuild his value (so that he may then be dealt.) Wall’s jump shot is not all there, but the form is solid, and thus it should be something he can easily develop. And while he has the tendency to drift defensively and doesn’t do a particularly good job of keeping opposing slashers out of the lane, he has the athleticism to make up for it and win possessions. His flaws are fixable, and his strengths are strong indeed.
Unfortunately, Washington made news earlier in the day as well by agreeing to acquire Kirk Hinrich and the Bulls’ first-rounder (17th overall) in exchange for essentially nothing at all. Washington will have lots of cap space this summer, and an unspoken understanding that no elite free agents will want to use it, so they’ve decided to use it via trade. It’s a decent strategy, but unfortunately, it’s not a decent trade. Kirk Hinrich might be worth his money to a competitive team looking for a final piece at guard (and with bad salary to send out in return), but Washington takes only the negatives of his deal with nothing more than a non-lottery first for compensation. Consider for a moment that Miami traded the #18 and Daequan Cook for the #32 only this week, and this trade pales in comparison. Hinrich is a much-loved individual, described in more depth here, but he’s not good enough to justify this.
It doesn’t change the Wall pick, but it does kill the jubilation. When you’ve got Kirk Hinrich, do you need John Wall any longer? Yes. Yes you do. More than ever, in fact.
(In describing the Cook trade during the build-up, Barry calls Cook a “good young player,” making him the first good young player to have shot 32% for a season since 1955.)
Rumours also abound via Greek media that Washington are about to sign Josh Childress to an offer sheet. If true, the Wizards’ cap room is now largely burned on a backcourt/wing squadron of Wall, Arenas, Hinrich, Childress and Nick Young, with no room left for Mike Miller and no need any more for Randy Foye, Shaun Livingston or Earl Boykins. (NB; I had assumed that Van Gundy would say “the big thing is what will they do with Earl Boykins” after Wall’s selection, without a hint of irony. Alas, he did not.) This isn’t a bad setup, but it means the majority of their cap room is now gone, and the frontcourt still barely exists. Hinrich can defend and thus fills a need, but he doesn’t fill it enough to justify his salary; the guy will be a backup earning over $8 million. Ernie Grunfeld simply just overvalued him.
Jon Barry wonders aloud whether Gilbert Arenas can guard opposing shooting guards. That’s an easy one, Jon: no he can’t. But he couldn’t guard opposing point guards either. More importantly, this is the #1 pick; your task is to get the best player in the draft, for now and for forever. You can work the rest out later. (And besides, they’re getting Kurt. He’s defended two guards for seven years.)
Wall walks up to the podium wearing Wizards colours, almost as if he knew this moment might happen. Mercifully, he does not do his patented dance; regrettably, nor does David Stern. Had he done so, I think we’d have to retire draft night.
A cut to a shot of the Wizards war room shows a host of officials who look strangely relieved that Wall fell to them. (More comedy needed in war room shots. Maybe stage a fight. Or have dancing elephants in the background.) A cut back to the studio sees John Wall’s first NBA interview involves a Ron Mercer name drop within the first sentence. Can’t bode well. Later, an on-screen caption requesting fan’s opinions on the trade shows a small percentage of fans spitefully gave the move an F grade. Money well spent on the vote there, lads.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari got his first airtime of the night and was booed lustily. It will not be his last appearance.
Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, whose tweets announced everything that was going to happen in the draft about 90 seconds before it did, reports that the Nets are trying to trade Yi Jianlian in package deals, but are not having much luck. Given the choice between trading for Yi Jianlian and not trading for Yi Jianlian, I too would probably chose not trading for Yi Jianlian.
Pick 2: Stern returns to the podium reasonably quickly to a hefty chorus of boos. He announces that the Sixers have done the equally obvious and taken Evan Turner.
There was some speculation that because of their roster set-up, the Sixers would not draft Turner. But that brief speculation overlooked the fact that Turner is the clear-cut second-best player in the draft. Without athleticism or a three-point jump shot, Turner is a half-court wizard, consistently able to break down half defences even when they are focused solely on him. Turner can find seams, pick gaps and dance slowly through defences that didn’t even look flawed, with a combination of body control and elite vision, just like an aging Scottie Pippen used to do. He can also play good defence on the perimeter even against players faster that he, be a primary ball-handler, rebound, and run halfcourt offence for others. Just like an aging Scottie Pippen used to do. Turner is not comparable to the prime Scottie Pippen, for prime Scottie Pippen was an incomparable player. However, Turner stacks up favourably. For this reason, he was the obvious and correct pick.
(Philadelphia’s only other draft candidate, if it was allowed, would have been Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard. It was leaked on draft day afternoon that Portland was firing him after the draft, giving him one last opportunity to do what he does best before pushing him out for someone they like more. In essence, it’s the ultimate Pritchslap.)
How Philadelphia balance their roster from here is not immediately obvious. Even with this huge infusion of talent, the situation is a mess. Andre Iguodala has been used as their primary half-court creator over the last two seasons, but really isn’t that good at it; unfortunately, he plays the same position as Turner. So too does Thaddeus Young, a man who would be an ideal backup combo forward in the role that Turk Nowitzki fits for Milwaukee (and that Jeff Green should do for Oklahoma City), but who has to share time there with equally effective backup Marreese Speights and the remains of Elton Brand. Bad trades have also seen the team stuck with Andres Nocioni and Jason Kapono as unnecessary small forward options; meanwhile, the only quality guards are Jrue Holiday and Louis Williams, neither of whom are really point guards, but whom also cannot really play together. It’s an unbalanced team further penalised by a bad salary situation, a lack of proper two guards, and a centre rotation of Spencer Hawes and Jason Smith that has all the defensive intensity of a playground punch-up.
They’ve caught an enormous break here, though.
Jay Bilas says that Turner, who used to go by the nickname Evan Turnover for this reason, needs to improve his turnovers. Does this mean that he needs to make less of them, or that he needs to be making them in more spectacular ways?
The best past is that Turner is now a member of the team that just hired Doug Collins. The man who has spent the last five years excitedly shouting Kevin Harlan’s first name now gets to coach a player called Evan. This should be good.
Why does Mark Jones have an old school Batman phone next to him during these interviews?
Pick 3: New Jersey picks Derrick Favors from Georgia Tech with the third pick, in another predictable and correct pick. Nobody on the panel calls Favors “Sexual” any point, which is a shame. And David Stern doesn’t do it either. But he does campily wave at someone from the podium before announcing the pick. David’s getting more relaxed in his old age.
New Jersey just picked the best power forward after a season featuring the worst power forward rotation of all time. I can’t prove that hyperbolic statement, of course, but it feels right. Kris Humphries was the team’s best power forward last year. Favours provides athleticism, size, potential, rebounding, and prolific shot-blocking. His jump shot is weak, his post skills unrefined, his turnovers huge and his free throw stroke poor. But the same was all true of a young Shawn Kemp. Did I just go there? I did. And Favors is only 18 still, the youngest American player in the draft, so you can’t tell me I’m wrong yet. (Yet.)
Favors was also undermined in college by a Georgia Tech team with talent, but with no balance, no point guard play, and some terrible coaching decisions. Playing alongside Gani Lawal, another post player with seniority on his side (and the perks that that brings anyone in the college game), Favors was often found to be trying to feed Lawal from the high post. This was patently ridiculous; Favors is not a perimeter player and should never be encouraged to be. But it happened. Let’s hope no such grave misuse befalls his NBA career.
Quote from Jon Barry: “I love Favors.” See, this is why we need to be calling him Sexual. “This draft just got more Sexual.” “David Stern with the Sexual handshake.” “Sexual with the facial.” “Sexual penetrates to the rim.” It writes itself, if you have the mind of a 16-year-old.
Barry also is keen to prove to us that he knows what he’s talking about when he says Favors should play some small forward; “I’m from Atlanta, I go to their games.” Well, I’m from England, and I watch the telly. And I disagree with you entirely. Favors probably is athletic enough to defend all small forwards in the NBA, or at least, have the physical tools to do so. But why would you want this? Why would you want to take his biggest advantage and nullify it like that?
Pick 4: With their first of five picks tonight, Minnesota selects Wesley Johnson from Syracuse. Stu Scott is straight in there with a painfully poignant fact; Johnson is five years older than Favors. Ouch.
Johnson produces the first bad shirt of the night, a yellow number with a white collar and cuffs. He also yields trousers made from an old lady’s picnic mat, and the whole ensemble has to be seen to believed.
What has been seen, cannot be unseen.
Johnson is a strange pick for the Timberwolves. They need a shooting guard – in fairness, there is not an elite one in this draft – and they need a big man to replace Al Jefferson upon his increasingly inevitable departure. But Johnson is neither of these things. He is a small forward, and the point is not really debatable. He has a fine jump shot and is athletic enough even at 6’7 to defend many two guards. But Johnson simply can’t dribble. The limit of his dribbling is uncontested dribbles on the fast break, or dribbling in one step to turn a three-pointer into a long two. Jay Bilas compares Johnson to Shawn Marion, but it’s only true if Shawn Marion played like Anthony Morrow on offence. And he obviously doesn’t. Johnson’s athleticism and help defence tendencies make him an intriguing defender and rebounder, but even there, he was prone to switching off and can be beaten off the dribble. He was a fine player for Syracuse – I’m from England, and I watch the telly – but he’s not a number four pick.
After last year’s draft, it’s refreshing to see David Kahn choose somebody who can’t dribble. It’s not advisable in a man slated to play guard, though. If Corey Brewer can play shooting guard full time, Johnson slides in nicely as a rebounder and athlete who is able to create his own (jump)shot; however, in spite of all his improvements last year, Brewer can’t really do this. And even if he could, it’s not optimal. And even if he could, do you really need him twice?
After the four-point guard draft and the Al Jefferson/Kevin Love quandary comes this, the two-small forward problem. Minnesota’s line-up remains woefully unbalanced.
On an unrelated note, has anyone ever done less to earn more than Keith Van Horn? Lots of guys got big contracts they didn’t really deserve, but Van Horn did it twice. He even did it once when retired. Now that’s commitment. Johnson’s numbers made me think of this, but I’m not saying they’re comparable.
Pick 5: Now armed with a centre in Sam Dalembert, the Kings further bolster their front court by picking DeMarcus Cousins, also out of Kentucky. Cousins reacts to the news with a huge hug for his mother, and John Calipari is quickly in there to get one of his own. That man can find a camera, let me tell you.
Gotta say the trend for prefixing normal names with “De-” still doesn’t bore me. It particularly works with DeGreg Monroe and DeDarington Hobson.
Cousins bounds to the stage nattily attired in Kings colours – it’s almost like HE knew, too – and then proceeds to give the worst interview in the history of draft nights. Openly, brazenly and ill-advisedly, Cousins says “they think I’m a monster [but] I’m just a kid who likes to have fun.” We don’t think you’re a monster, DeMarcus. We just don’t think you’re very mature. And I think you just proved it.
(We can all equate. I was hideously immature at that age, too, and the jokes about Sexual Favors’s name above suggest that maybe I’m not quite there yet either. But if you’re in the NBA at that age, you have to mature incredibly fast. And if you can’t do that, you’re simply got to hide it. DeMarcus doesn’t.)
In vaguely related trivia, Cousins was the victim of my favourite dunk from last season, by Georgia wingman Travis Leslie;
Good dunks are all about the dismount. And that was a fine dismount.
Cousins is the right pick for Sacramento, for they needed a big man. There were of course a multitude of other big man options in this size-laden draft, but Cousins represents the best chance of stardom. He is better than Favors right now. He has NBA size, great strength, athleticism as well, soft hands, a deft touch, footwork, and the ability to score in the post going either left or right. Moreover, he is a prolific rebounder, who grabbed as-near-as-is 10 rebounds per game list year in only 23 minutes. That’s an unbelievably good rebounding rate, particularly in view of the 35-second shot clock that sees less possessions per game. Cousins ranked 28th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage last season, and ranked second offensively: the only player with significant minutes in the NBA last season to come close to Cousins’s 19.1% ORB% is the man he may replace in Sacramento, Jon Brockman (18.2%). DeJuan Blair (16.0%) is comparatively a mile behind.
(If you didn’t click that first link about defensive rebounding percentage, click it this time, and see first hand quite how unbelievable Kenneth Faried’s numbers are. He only plays in the Ohio Valley Conference, but look for him in next year’s draft, and expect to see that number again. 36.2% of defensive rebounds? The entire Warriors team barely gets that many.)
However, while he has the most star potential, Cousins also has the most bust potential. He backchats, sulks and argues with coaches, and can be brash and abrasive on the court. People around him seem to love him, but coaches – particularly the staid ways of NBA coaches – might not. Cousins has been subject to criticisms about his work ethic, laziness and maturity, and they are why he resides behind Favors on the draft board, even though he’s better than him right now.
Rebounding translates, as does size. Cousins is built like a cruise liner and has more than enough of both, and he could be a 20-point scorer as well. But to realise his potential, he’ll need to stop the sulking and the petulance. Almost everyone matures at some point in their playing career; Sacramento surely drafts him knowing that the leash must be short, yet the patience must be long. It won’t be especially smooth, but Cousins has the skill level to justify it.
Jay Bilas chimes in and states “Only DeMarcus can stop DeMarcus.” It’s a more succinct way of saying the same thing, but it negligently overlooks the very real threat of chrondomalacia. Easily the most underrated disease featuring an NBA player’s name.
Is Sexual Cousins a legally acceptable nickname?
John Calipari gets what he was looking for; significant airtime by way of an interview with Heather Cox. In that interview, Calipari claims that all criticisms of Cousins (specifically the ones above) are unfounded, before making an utterly ridiculous statement; “this is the biggest day in the history of Kentucky.” This is the same program that has the best winning percentage of all time (.760), was the first team to 2,000 wins against Drexel earlier this year, and that has won seven national championships, second only to UCLA’s 11. I guess what I’m really trying to say here is, stop it, John Calipari.
By the way, why are both Kentucky, Villanova, Northwestern and Arizona all allowed to be known as the Wildcats? One of them must be forced their name to the Thundercats. Or the Lolcats.
Carl Landry gets a shoutout from Barry, who calls him “underrated”. Carl Landry is awesome, so no cynicism here. However, he has about 18 months before he goes from being underrated to overrated. It’s an unfortunate necessity that this happens to all genuinely underrated players. You can only say it so much, and for Carl Landry, it is said entirely too often.
Pick 6: Speaking of the Warriors, they are up next, and draft Ekpe Udoh out of Baylor. Udoh is now on the same team as Anthony Randolph – for now, at least – which is somewhat interesting. If Randolph didn’t have such insane athleticism or the ability to explosively decompress, Udoh would be a valid comparison for him.
Udoh blocked more than four shots a game last year, but he is not just a blocks specialist. He is also a face-up power forward with offensive ability. Bilas quickly calls him a “rim protector” – which, yes – but there is more to Udoh than that. He scores, rebounds, runs, passes, defends the post, scores from the post, can drive the ball, and even has something of an outside jump shot (which the Warriors will surely hone in short order). And he does all this at 6’10.
Ekpe also demonstrates range on his hug, extending his arms out fully (to the presumed delight of Jay Bilas), in readiness for a belly-busting hug with David Stern. It is my undying wish that, one day, when an overexcited player goes to hug Stern, he rises to the challenge and goes to the bro-hug back. Maybe one day we will be able to create a scene at the NBA Draft that is as drizzled in latent homosexuality as when Rocky hugged Apollo for no reason in Rocky III. Maybe.
Stu Scott announces that Udoh’s middle name is “Friday,” and a mid-interview caption says that this is why he wears the number 13. As an aside, Ime Udoka’s middle name is Sunday. You know what to do, Golden State.
Udoh’s interview only lasts one bland question; apparently Mark Jones has somewhere to be tonight. Or maybe that completely unnecessary phone rang. I really wish they did post-pick interviews all the way down to #60. I also wish they had nine rounds.
Pick 7: Needing front court help, and thankfully knowing it, the Pistons draft Greg Monroe out of Georgetown. Which might mean that Bumpy Jonas isn’t starting at power forward next year.
Monroe isn’t a freshman like Sexual Favors or Sexual Cousins; he’s a junior who almost went back for more. He doesn’t have their production either; Monroe is an average rebounder for someone of his physical tools, does not like to post up, can’t do it particularly well when he does (unwilling and unable to use his right hand), doesn’t take it strong to the rim, and is without much of a jump shot. And while his assist numbers are extremely high, so are the turnover numbers. He’s good, though.
Monroe’s face-up athletic driving and passing game in a 6’11 frame offends purists, but it’s fine in the modern NBA. To succeed, though, he’ll have to develop the complimentary jump shot. And if he does this, he’d best not fall in love with it. Monroe’s career arc could go one of two ways; he could be the next Lamar Odom, or the next Troy Murphy. The Odom route is likely, and the Murphy route is unwise. He also has to develop a right hand, which the other two did not do. As of right now, Monroe does not have one either. At all.
(Don’t pick me up on the dodgy wording in the phrasing there. You get the idea. Monroe can’t make shots with his right, and he avoids trying to do so accordingly. It won’t help.)
In his interview with Mark Jones, Greg Monroe has no eyes.
(Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed the large Russian caption in the top right hand corner of the screen. I watched the draft live on British television, and then later watched a Russian language re-run for the purposes of writing this post. Turns out it was quite an interesting experience; during the drafting of Derrick Favors, I learnt that the Russian phrase for “possible franchise player” was “possible franchise player.” True story. Also, the Russian broadcast did not cut away to outside VT, so when the original ESPN broadcast did, we instead just got visions of Stu Scott staring at the camera in silence for a minutes at a time. Possibly the most unsettling moment of my life to date.)
Before the next pick is made, Stu Scott interviews Flip Saunders, and directly asks of him “What does Gilbert have to do to get back in the team’s good graces?” If he remains untradeable, that might be all he needs.
There’s your next Shawn Marion, Jay Bilas. Not DeWesley Johnson. Manesh is hugely athletic and hugely “long”, with terrific defensive ability and versatility, and prolific rebounding. Nothing about his offensive game is polished or ever seems to be done on purpose, but his athleticism and hustle create him looks that he’s not too bad at finishing. And his poor jump shot only heightens the Marion comparison.
(Speaking of, how did Marion’s jump shot get so bad? It was never good, but the man who once hit 141 three-pointers in a season has hit only 13 in the last two years, over a span of 144 games, 4,855 minutes, and three franchises. It can’t all be because of his departure from Phoenix, because he started to lose it while he was still there. So how do we explain this?)
Manesh takes to the stage in a pair of glasses best described as….turble.
Things then brighten up immeasurably when Stu Scott informs us that “Al-Farouq” translates as “the chief has arrived.” And then in his interview with Mark Jones, Aminu refers to his incumbent Clippers team mates as “smart dudes.” In terms of peripheral draft night frivolity, Aminu has been the pick of the night so far. But by the same token, he’s also been the most questionable pick. If Aminu can find some ways to score and become more like Josh Smith, it might be all right, yet if he doesn’t, the Clippers might have just picked the next Anthony Bonner in the top ten. So here’s to a relentlessly good work ethic.
If that sounded harsh, consider that Jay Bilas was far blunter when he said Aminu “needs to improve his skill level.” That’s always a ball punch of a comment.
I get excited when I see Ric Bucher. Partly because of the hair, and partly because it means news. Well, it normally does. In this instance, however, Ric just talks about how Blake Griffin’s knee is getting healthier, and then shows a clip of Blake bouncing a tennis ball and shooting a foul shot. Still, some air time for Ric Bucher there, as well as for Fred Vinson, who was rebounding for Blake. Charge your glasses.
Pick 9: The first significant reach of the draft is made, as Utah drafts Gordon Hayward of Butler with the 9th pick. Gordon gets up, puts on a Jazz cap (all caps tonight have unbroken beaks for no reason at all), and kisses a hot blonde who looks about seven years his senior. And by that, I mean she looks about 20.
This presents an opportunity for the night’s first lookalike; Gordon Hayward in 30 years (when he’ll be 38 years old), and the guy who fell asleep at the wheel causing the Selby rail crash disaster, Gary Hart:
Hayward at #9 is a reach, but it’s not a baseless one. Adam Morrison is a comparison often batted around for Hayward, yet it’s a grossly unfair and highly inaccurate one. Hayward is a good athlete, not one of the calibre of Aminu, but a good one nonetheless. He can handle the ball and create off the dribble, finish around the basket and from mid-range, knows how to use screens (as does every Butler player), and has never received a technical foul for cowardice in the face of the enemy, unlike Morrison. Hayward is physical if not strong, athletic if not explosive, and experienced if still pre-pubescent. He is also a considerably better shooter than his 29% from three-point range last season indicates, and I implore you to trust me on that.
He’s not strong, and he’s only an average athlete. But on the team that rocked Matt Harpring for so long, this should be fine. If Harpring could help Gordon bulk up, even better.
Hayward was an avid tennis player in his youth, actually giving up basketball for a time to pursue the game, and his twin sister is also a keen tennis player. In the pre-game show, Stu Scott stated “If he kept up his tennis career, imagine where [Hayward] would be right now.” I’ll hazard a guess: it’s late June, so how about Wimbledon?
In his interview, Hayward talks about watching Jerry Sloan while growing up. You haven’t grown up, Gordon. Hayward’s hat also debuts the new Jazz logo, which is pretty sweet.
You know, I’d really like to hear Stern’s opinions on the picks as he’s making them.
Pick 10: Problematically, due to too much white hot Morgan State action, I never managed to get a Fresno State game, and thus know little about Indiana’s draft pick at #10, Paul George. (In my defence, I thought Morgan State was the name of a girl or something.) But what I do know about him is that:
a) Jay Bilas sees fit to crack off tonight’s first use of the phrase “upside potential” to describe him (good),
The rest, we must figure out later. Hopefully John and Ringo will get drafted later, too.
In his interview, Mark Jones asks Paul George one hell of a loaded question; “One scout reportedly said that in five years, you’ll be the best player in this draft class. Why do you think he said that?” Careful, Mark Jones. You’re very good at what you do, but that chair you’re sitting in has turnover numbers like Derrick Favors. Don’t take liberties.
Pick 11: New Orleans are on the clock, but not for long. A few minutes after they draft Cole Aldrich, and seconds after he finishes an interview in which he wears a Hornets hat and describes how nice it will be to play with Chris Paul, Ric Bucher comes on and announces that Aldrich is being traded, along with the dead weight salary of Morris Peterson, in exchange for the 21st and 26th picks in the draft. This means the Hornets can add two young pieces to better their team in both the short and long term, which also dodging the luxury tax, which will prevent them from having to gut their team any further. It’s ugly that it came to this, and Aldrich would have been particularly nice on the team that gave up the worst field goal percentage at the rim last year; however, in a vacuum, this is not a bad trade.
Mo Peterson is absolutely dead salary. He was a good defender and role player in his Toronto days, but he has been a complete washout for New Orleans. Now hurtling towards 33, Peterson’s athleticism has left him, taking much of his defensive ability with it, and his decent-but-not-great jump shot is all that exists of his offensive game. He is no longer a rotation-calibre player in the NBA, rightfully losing his starting spot to Marcus Thornton last season, and yet he’s being paid $6.2 million next season just to sit. After a trade kicker, this will mean the Thunder will be paying Peterson $6,665,000 next year to do nothing at all. That’s more than I earn in three years.
This is highly significant for Oklahoma City, too. Partly because they add a defensive big man and shot-blocker with actual centre size – although Serge Ibaka is great, he doesn’t have that – but also because they just burned up all their cap room to get it. If anyone harboured any belief that Oklahoma City could be in play for someone like David Lee, then you can pretty much write that dream off, barring a very difficult sign and trade. This was it for them. Unless I’m missing something, most of their offseason work was just done.
Was it worth it for Cole Aldrich? Probably. If Marcus Camby ever loses his athleticism – and despite his age and the decade of injuries, it seems he’ll always have some of it left – Aldrich would be his achromic equivalent. He is slow to react offensively, doesn’t like to post, and can only really do it if he’s turning into a right-handed hook shot. Yet in spite of his slowness offensively, Aldrich is quick defensively. He reads the game well, has the athleticism to get to the right spot, and is big enough to take any matchup. He can throw the outlet pass, too, and even make some jump shots in that really weird way of his (just like Camby does.) Nick Collison can play help defence, but is sometimes simply overmatched down low, and Nenad Krstic is overmatched even more so. With Aldrich in the fold, Oklahoma City scratches an itch.
It doesn’t look it, but it’s a good trade for New Orleans too. Even in spite of all their salary saving deals in recent season, they were destined to be quite a long way over the tax this year, with an insane amount of money tied up in not-very-good players. They’re not cheap; they spend a competitive amount of money. They just don’t spend it very well. In this deal, though, the Hornets just dodged the tax and gained assets in the process. That’s a first. Normally, it’s just the former. In that respect, it should be a good deal.
Right as Stu Scott says that Aldrich has never replaced a tooth that was knocked out when he was playing as it made him look tougher, Cole flashes a big toothy grin revealing a replacement gnasher right where Stu says there wasn’t one. Spending his rookie contract early and wisely.
The last two picks have seen a player with two first names drafted, followed by a man with two surnames. Two first names can work – Brandon Roy, Chris Paul, Mike James, etc – but what about two surnames? The precedent is not great, peaking at Anderson Varejao and dipping at Coleman Collins. What I’m really saying here is I’m worried about Darington Hobson. But not Cole Aldrich. He’ll be fine.
The brim on Aldrich’s hat is freaking enormous. And straighter than a Mafioso’s set square.
Pick 12: One pick later, Memphis picks the first two guard of the draft when they select Xavier Henry. Henry is also the best two guard in the draft, and the pick is a wise one; there was no point in reaching for a point guard when the best player available is the best at his position. That’s what they did last year with Hasheem Thabeet at #2 over Ricky Rubio, and it simply wasn’t defendable. Even more agonising is the fact that Henry would be a brilliant pairing alongside Rubio. Never mind now, though.
The moves seem to predicate, if not necessitate, O.J. Mayo moving to part-time point guard. I am not convinced of Mayo’s ability to do this, but it should at least be a defensive improvement; Henry is a good defensive player, and Mayo should benefit from a size advantage rather than a disadvantage. However, the pairing doesn’t figure to do much for Memphis’s lack of discipline on the court; the team has plenty of offensive firepower, but just don’t play that smart, due in large part to mediocre point guard play. Mayo does not look to be the controlled half-court unselfish and effective point guard that the team needs.
Stu Scott openly speculates “guess Rudy Gay’s not going back”, but I’d rather believe that he is, and that Henry will slide in next to him at two guard. If it does not happen, however, Henry and Sam Young will be a reasonably effective small forward combination. But if it does not happen, Memphis will soon be back in the high lottery.
Xavier Henry’s biggest weakness as a player is that he pronounces his first name Sharveeyay, which is just inaccurate. Xavier Henry’s biggest weakness as a draftee is in trying to match a blue Grizzlies hat with an apple green shirt, a combination that simply doesn’t work. He does give a good interview, though, and after the first couple of mumbled and unintelligible interviews (punctuated by Cousins’s faux pas), things have perked in that regard. Aldrich in particular was buoyant and interesting, although his comparison of Sherron Collins to Chris Paul was an unforgivable slip.
We might as well call Cole Aldrich “Old Ridge,” since DeKevin Harlan is destined to call him nothing else.
Recently fired Blazers executive Tom Penn is on hand tonight to provide salary cap insight. His eyebrows are dreamy, but unfortunately, his voice is sleepy. What Penn says is accurate and reasonably digestible to the average fan, yet not all of it is strictly necessary. For example, Penn is currently here to confirm that OKC isn’t trading for Morris Peterson the player, but for Mo Peterson the contract. I think that was assumed.
Pick 13: Needing to change their entire roster, their entire philosophy and their entire future, the Raptors make a start by picking Ed Davis out of North Carolina.
It’s a good pick. Davis hasn’t really done anything yet, which is why drafting him in the top 10 would have been excessive. However, once he slipped out of it, Davis became a desirable pick. He needs to bulk up and develop counter-moves in the post, as well as a mid-range jumper, but he rebounds and he blocks shots, exactly what Toronto’s non-existent interior defence needs. It’ll be a while before Ed Davis becomes a starter, but he will do one day.
Mark Davis quote: “Raptors looking to rebound…from a rough year.” Yeah, I see what you did there.
Patterson showed a three-point jump shot last season after not needing to own one before then. This will benefit him greatly. He is not a slasher or a ball-handler, but with efficient offence, good rebounding, post-up play, a strong right hand, a mid-range jumper, some developing range and sufficient defence at both forward spots, Houston might have just scored the next Donyell Marshall. At #14, that can only be good.
John Calipari is sure to get in the way of the camera, but he doesn’t obscure the highlight video of Patterson rocking a fine afro. This needs to come back.
Someone should cite some Wordsworth on a post-pick interview, just to see if the time/space continuum is shattered.
Jon Barry is disgusted at the lack of point guards drafted so far. Didn’t watch last year’s draft then, Jon?
Pick 15: Perhaps unexpectedly, but not baselessly, Milwaukee chooses Larry Sanders of VCU with the 15th pick. Sanders is largely unproven, for VCU played very little quality opposition in his time there. But he certainly has NBA height and athleticism. And he has a massive wingspan, which Jay Bilas is quick to mention.
Jay also says “Theo Ratliff” as a comparison. I’d go for Chris Andersen with more footwork or Keon Clark with less vodka, but the point is taken.
Larry isn’t here tonight. Of course he isn’t. He’s got a show to do.
Pick 16: Things get weird when Minnesota draft Luke Babbitt from Nevada with the 16th pick. The pick itself is not bad – a Luke Jackson-style player is fine in this range. But it’s another small forward for Minnesota, and that remains true even after Ric Bucher comes on to announce that Babbitt is being traded to Portland, along with Ryan Gomes, in exchange for Martell Webster.
You can’t draft someone at #16 better than Martell Webster? I bet I could. And is Martell Webster the best use for Ryan Gomes’s partially guaranteed salary? Surely not.
Babbitt chews gum throughout his interview and wears a blue shirt with a white collar. Inauspicious debut.
Jon Barry starts talking about what the Bulls need here in the draft with a pick we’ve already learnt that they’re going to be trading. Stu Scott even reminds him of this, but Barry is dogged.
Pick 17: When the pick is finally made, Stern is heard to say “listen to this” on his way to the podium, knowing full well that he’s going to whiff on the pronunciation. He does just that, announcing that Chicago (on behalf of Washington) have drafted Keveeeeen Sair Rarfarn.
The pick is booed lustily by the Madison Square Garden crowd, far more so than anything that has gone before. “I’ve never heard of you! BOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” Trust me, though. Seraphin can play. He’s a big strong old boy, and athletic to boot, who knows to stay in the post. He’s not quite as good as Ed Davis, which is why he was picked behind him, yet he is a highly comparable player. I’m English, and I’ve got a telly, so I can promise you this.
Jon Barry speculates as to whether Seraphin will come over straight away. Washington just took on the $19 million of Hinrich just to get him, Jon. He’d better bloody come straight over.
The next addition to that list is Eric Bledsoe, giving Oklahoma City two backup point guards called Eric. It seems like at least one too many.
Jay Bilas inevitably mentions Bledsoe’s wingspan, and calls him “shifty”. He raves about his finishing ability and defence, and tries to downplay Bledsoe’s average jump shot. (Last year, Bledsoe managed to prove that it’s possible to shoot 37% from three-point range without being a good shooter). But while Jay is concerned about Bledsoe’s point guard skill – and mercifully, the caption agrees with him – no one mentions that Bledsoe had more turnovers than assists last season. He didn’t play much point guard with the presence of Wall, who played almost all game every game, but in the NBA, Bledsoe going to have to play point guard whether he likes it or not. And he won’t.
Bledsoe doesn’t appear to be here, so the cameraman spends the airtime that would have been used on him on Kevin Durant instead. Durant downplays the affair by clearly spending much of that time texting, but behind him, John Calipari is literally throwing himself over a chair to get more air time. Depressingly, I am not making this up.
Ric Bucher chimes in with news of the trade between Minnesota and Portland, while simultaneously calling Stu Scott “Sue.” [The trade was not announced before, and Babbitt was assumed to be Minnesotese until now. But for the purposes of this recap, we went non-sequitur above.] It’s a baffling trade for Minnesota. Ryan Gomes is better than Martell Webster, but they have included the #16 as well. Furthermore, while I’m purely speculating here, Portland could turn Gomes’s favourable contract into Michael Beasley. That would mean Portland got Beasley and #16, when Minnesota got Martell Webster. Or they could just waive Gomes and have Luke Babbitt for much cheaper than Martell Webster. Either way, it makes no sense. Minnesota have really struggled since Fred Hoiberg left.
Pick 19: The Celtics are up next, and the panel are discussing everything they can think of Celtics related. Stu Scott prefixes this debate by asking Jeff Van Gundy which way he leans, which is funny if you’re six. Meanwhile, Jon Barry is catering to his own strengths, and has reverted to form by pointing out really obvious things about old NBA players. Did you know that Kevin Garnett will never be as good as he used to be? Jon Barry does.
Conversation then turns to Boston’s coach, Doc Rivers, who is considering retirement rather than re-signing. Does it not strike you as a bit odd that Doc Rivers, the longest-tenured Eastern Conference coach and one of the league’s best coaches, currently in charge of the team that came within 48 minutes of an NBA title, with one ring already to his name and a Coach of the Year award to boot, really is considering retirement at the age of 49 so that he can watch his children play sports?
As Bilas talks over David Stern’s announcement of the pick, the Celtics select Avery Bradley from Texas. The fact that Bradley is best as a point guard and yet averaged two assists per game is less than ideal; however, it’s still a good pick. Bradley is a legitimate defensive player, even of those both quicker and bigger than him, and is somewhat Kirk Hinrich-like in that regard. His set shot is also good for a player of his age, and has developed quickly. He can’t really do a whole lot off the dribble, nor create in the half-court, but on a team with Paul Pierce, this should be fine.
That said, I do have one question: does anyone need both Avery Bradley andTony Allen?
Bradley’s highlight montage shows him playing stifling defence on Arkansas’s Courtney Fortson. Fortson, too, is in this draft, yet he is destined to go undrafted. Would you draft a 5’11 point guard who shot 35% from the field and committed 5.1 turnovers per game? I probably would not. But he’s unrelentingly confident, as evident by the fact that he’s in the draft. So he’s got that going for him.
Bradley’s ‘Must Improve’ caption claims that he must improve his “shooting.” If you respect my opinion at any point, trust me when I say to you that Jay Bilas is more right than the caption guy. Stu Scott then tells a story about how Bradley learnt “time management” from Kevin Durant, which begs the question of why you never see “time management” on a draftee’s Must-Improve caption.
Pick 20: The San Antonio Spurs pick next, and Woj chimes in with the news that, were he healthy, Nemanja Bjelica would be their pick. Bjelica is one of the most overrated players in the draft. #20 is about 30 places too high. And besides, he just signed with Benetton Treviso for three years. (Although since the Spurs are renowned for their draft-and-stash tendencies, that probably doesn’t matter.)
More teams should play the long game with international players, but they don’t. While first-rounder’s contracts are bound by the terms of the rookie salary scale, the rules states that if a player does not sign in the NBA for over three years after being drafted in the first round, then they are no longer bound by the scale. Everyone knows this rule, but no one does anything about it, which is why we see players like Tiago Splitter and Nikola Pekovic fall so far every year. But the Spurs, who picked Splitter, have the self-confidence to work with the rule in mind. Most executives are on short-term contracts, which is why they make short-sighted moves; they’re trying to keep their jobs. But R.C. Buford of the Spurs surely knows of his job security, and drafts accordingly. And it’s for that reason, plus a healthy dollop of common sense, that the Spurs are able to draft so well. It’s a simple formula that so few others follow.
Anyway, sans Bjelica, the Spurs pick James Anderson, a swingman from Oklahoma State and inconsistent frontline seamer for the English cricket team. Anderson’s highlight montage is mainly of jump shots, as Bilas talks about how he’s “possibly the best shooter in the draft”, but while Jay speaks of Anderson’s considerable improvements at creating his own shot, Anderson’s caption says he “Must Improve: Creating own shot.” Must Improve: Caption synergy.
It probably benefits James Anderson to go to a place that will encourage him to turn into Bruce Bowen early, because being a defensive role player with a good jump shot seems like Anderson’s destiny. Anderson could get to the rim and the line in college, but only because of an athletic advantage he won’t now have in the NBA. He is not an offensive creator, he is not a ball-handler, and he can only drive right. Anderson tries defensively and has the athleticism to be irritating (which is about as good of a characteristic as any man can have defensively), but barring significant further improvements in his handle, he won’t be a big time scorer.
He should, however, be better than Keith Bogans. In fact, he must be better than Keith Bogans.
Ric Bucher announces that Eric Bledsoe’s draft rights are being traded to the L.A. Clippers for a future first-round draft pick. Now that Oklahoma City has managed to get a future top five pick for Bledsoe, the pick makes sense.
Jon Barry talks about what it’s like to be traded, and then Jay Bilas talks about what it’s like to be waived out of training camp. Barry didn’t look happy that Bilas stole his comedy moment. All of Jon Barry’s comments lead to the same conclusion: Jon Barry seems to think the league needs more Jon Barry-type players. I’m not convinced.
Pick 21: With one of the picks they got in exchange for Morris Peterson, New Orleans drafts Craig Brackins from Iowa State. Congratulations must immediately be extended to Brackins, who just got drafted ten places lower than he would have been if he’d stayed in last year’s draft.
The pick is greeted with boos, but right on cue Stu saves the booing with the news that Brackins is an avid skateboarder. Stu should sell that trivia sheet of his on eBay. I could probably stump up £50 for that.
The real loser in the draft so far is Kansas State’s Curtis Kelly, who seems to be getting scored on in every highlight montage shown so far. If you only saw him tonight, you’d might think he sucked. He doesn’t, though, and look for him in next year’s draft.
Solomon Alabi should have been picked ahead of Brackins. Especially since it was the Hornets. If it’s possible to be a worse rebounding face-up power forward than David West, than Brackins might be it, and while I agree that Brackins at 21 represents decent value, we are talking about the team that gave up the league’s worst field goal percentage at the rim last year. When you have a problem like that, and with an undersized and unathletic frontcourt duo of David West and Emeka Okafor, you don’t need to draft a guy that Jay Bilas accurately describes as being “soft” and with “a questionable motor.”
Jeff Van Gundy has taken a few plays off. He might be dead.
Pick 22: Portland picks next, and Stu Scott can’t help but remind us that Kevin Pritchard is being fired after this. In fact, the firing is manipulated by Scott’s scriptwriter into making Pritchard seem like a victim, a martyr, a man who did no wrong and who merely cops the flack for the failings of others. But who was it that released the story of the firing early, so that it was out in time for the broadcast and overshadowed what Portland did? Paul Allen or Kevin Pritchard? I vote B. And frankly, we knew this was coming for about two months anyway. It’s not business, Sonny, it’s strictly personal.
In his last significant act, Pritchard drafts Elliot Williams. Rudy Fernandez just sulked some more, because his role as the athletic back-up two just got marginalised.
The Williams pick gives Jay Bilas the opportunity for another monologue. If all the on-camera personalities tonight are paid by the word, Jay need never work again. Additionally, in a change of operational procedure from the way draft night usually unfolds, tonight’s broadcast is being daubed with a series of long, slow camera zooms onto the draft board. In the case of Elliot Williams, we also get to see the fingers of the man whose job it is to put those things in. I wonder what he does the rest of the year.
For some reason, Aminu’s board is different to everybody else’s. It later turns out that this is because the one previously designated to his brother, Alade, which went unused in the 2009 draft, got recycled. No idea if the same happened with Sean, Shawne, Shelden, Scott and Shammond Williams.
Norm Nixon just got a sidebar shout-out.
Van Gundy returns from beyond the grave to express his bewilderment at the Trail Blazers’ upheaval, firing Pritchard and Penn, and changing their assistant coaching staff. Barry concurs with Jeff, stating that he doesn’t understand what more Portland wanted Pritchard to do, and Jay Bilas brings the discussion to a rousing defiant agreement. Here’s my question; why are the pair deliberately overlooking the fact that Pritchard and Penn were fired not for poor results, but because of a dissolution in the backroom politics? Is it because they:
a) do not know about it?
b) have been told not to mention it?, or
c) are choosing not to mention it because it would be a little bit weird to do when Penn is ostensibly their co-worker tonight?
Just another reason why I don’t think Tom Penn should have been here tonight. Draft night seems like a weird place to debut a new panellist.
Also, if you had to take Greg Oden instead of Kevin Durant when you already had Brandon Roy, as Jon Barry states, can we not use the same logic and say that the Bulls had to take Tyrus Thomas instead of Roy in 2006 because they already had Ben Gordon and Luol Deng, and just came off a season where P.J. Brown and Malik Allen shared the power forward minutes? Drafting for need in the top five picks does not make sense. If you have a top two overall pick, you are charged with the task of coming out with one of the best two players in the draft. The rest you can worry about later; that is your immediate aim. If you don’t do that, you have failed. Because of all Oden’s injuries, Portland seems to be being granted a mulligan for passing on the second-best young player of his generation. And while Oden’s injuries are of course a hugely significant factor in how badly things have worked out there, they also give the media a reason to deflect Kevin Pritchard criticism. They like that.
No one on the panel mentioned Greg Oden’s junk. Probably best.
Pick 23: Well, scratch Trevor Booker from my second-round steals list. Minnesota just took him at #23, to the dismay of the lone Timberwolves fan in the building, and much to the delight of Stu Scott, who gets to rave about the overdue (to him) drafting of a senior.
You can justify drafting Booker at #23. It’s a touch high, but his measurements don’t appear to have held back his draft stock as much as first thought, and although he is genuinely small for the power forward position, he produces. Booker is a finisher, and athlete, a post-up player and an improving face-up player, who defends with intensity (if not size) and rebounds enough. Jason Maxiell does fine in this league with much the same physical tools, and Booker should be OK too. But he could use some of Maxiell’s intensity.
For whatever reason, Booker didn’t have to suffer the indignity of a “Must Improve” caption. I guess the caption guy’s boss vetoed the obvious choice; “Must Improve: Height.”
Jon Barry talks of whether the Hawks can “reshine Joe Johnson.” It’s true, JJ did rather lose his shine in the playoffs. Barry then correctly points out that the Hawks played far too much isolation basketball, but he believes the cure for his is a post-up threat. For me, the cure is a new playbook. The Hawks didn’t NEED to play so much one on one basketball; Mike Woodson just made them do it. Get rid of that, and their offence should improve by default. Less switches on defence should help too.
Pick 24: Although Barry wants a post-up player, Atlanta take Damion James, an athletic combo forward who will resemble Josh Smith in six years. By which I mean, when Josh Smith is 31 years old, he will resemble the Damion James of now. James is not a small forward, even at 6’7, but he produces. And he’s athletic enough to keep doing so in the NBA. He free roams on defence, which is both a blessing and a curse, but he runs the court, rebounds prolifically, can drive the ball, and his jump shot doesn’t have terrible form. Doesn’t go in much, but it might do one day.
He also has a beard like a Mii character. And what I mean by that is that, for no obvious reason, there’s a gap between his hair and his beard adjacent to his ear. Whether he shaves it in or whether it just does not grow there, I do not know. But I do know that it does not work.
Jay Bilas gets through only half a sentence before talking about James’s wingspan.
Andy Katz chimes in with the news that Booker will not be staying with the Timberwolves. The Timberwolves will be trading his rights and the #56 pick to Washington for the #30 and #35; or, to put it in Andy Katz’s exact words, “the thirtieth and thirty five, Minnesota receives.” It’s probably a better move for Minnesota than it is for Washington, particularly in light of the fact that Booker was picked 23rd already, but we’re sure that David Kahn knows the maximum roster size, right?
Thinking about it, if I’d watched Sasha Pavlovic and Damian Wilkins try to be designated jump shooters for a year, I’d probably overpay for Martell Webster too.
Pick 25: Memphis drafts Dominique Jones, their second shooting guard of the draft. Orange Juice Mayonnaise really is moving to point guard, then. The pick is consummated by a camera shot of a Grizzlies fan, who shrugs like Nostradamus and openly mouths to the camera “I don’t know who that is.” Good times. I’ve felt that pain, brother.
Always willing to pass along some biological field notes, Bilas remarks that Jones is “not a run and jump athlete”, but can “get into your body, absorb a bump, and still score.” Oh, and he also points out his good wingspan.
Better still, “His father Norman is a plumber” is a sentence that hasn’t been used on an NBA Draft night broadcast since 1964.
Pick 26: New Orleans gets this pick as the final part of the Cole Aldrich trade, and they nail this one. They choose Quincy Pondexter from Washington, a player who doesn’t help with the interior defence problem, but who does instantly become the team’s best small forward.
The small forward spot has been nothing but fail for the Hornets for years. The Peja Stojakovic signing was dreadful. James Posey woefully underperformed. Mo Peterson, even more so. Julian Wright has not done much. And the Bonzi Wells rental was unsuccessful. But with Pondexter on board, New Orleans may well have one position sorted out down the road. Now they need to take Peja’s expiring and properly, seriously, genuinely, truthfully, sincerely do something about the big men spots. And that means doing more than just trying to paper over the cracks with Sean Marks.4
New Orleans’s absolutely fantastic 2009 draft night salvaged many years of bad decision making. Their 2010 draft night might have done the same, but it won’t be because of Brackins.
In his draft capsule, Quincy Pondexter has a neck wider than his head.
After the Pondexter pick, the camera immediately cuts to Kevin Durant, who tried to pretend it wasn’t on him and showed no emotion at Pondexter’s selection. Kevin clearly has been able to remember and compute the information that the ESPN director has forgotten; this pick is being traded by the Thunder to the Hornets. But even with this visual reminder, the director still doesn’t remember the trade, and sends Heather Cox down there to interview Kevin. Heather seems to remember – rather than asking Durant anything about Pondexter, she speaks in more general terms about the Thunder’s movements, and ends on a Cole Aldrich question. Cox adds much-needed stability to an occasionally wild production team. It’s just unfortunate that such a lady has such a surname.
And really, ESPN. At some point, you’ve got to point out that Oklahoma City trading for Aldrich meant giving up on all their cap room. This is very significant, and don’t let the Presti love (which will soon compare to the Pritchard love) change that. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, but I am saying that it’s important. Far more important than all these draft board shots.
Speaking of, the draft boards shots seem to be intrinsically linked to Jeff Van Gundy’s airtime. When he’s talking, the camera cuts.
Jon Barry calls this the “NBA Positioning and Manouevering Draft.” A normal draft, then.
Pick 27: Alongside a caption that optimistically calls Josh Boone a “key reserve,” and fresh off of Keith Van Horn’s second shout-out of the night, the Nets draft Jordan Crawford out of Xavier. This gives David Stern yet another way to pronounce Xavier, apparently under the belief that there’s a silent E at the front. Big night for the word Xavier.
However, Andy Katz is immediately brought in to announce that Jordan is not staying. He is being traded to Atlanta, along with the 31st pick, for the rights to Damion James. This unites Jordan and Jamal Crawford, on a team still reeling from from the Josh Smith/Joe Smith dichotomy of last season, but it’s good value for Atlanta, who get a young and cheap replication of Jamal with a highly useful #31 pick to book. It’s a bit strange for the Nets, however, who need as much outside shooting, half-court creating and backcourt scoring as they can get. And while they are also in dire need of halfway-decent forward play, James isn’t entirely dissimilar to Terrence Williams, neither in playing style nor overall talent. I rate James, but this isn’t the best place for him.
Pick 28: Memphis has the Lakers’ pick here, as a part of the Pau Gasol trade. You know of the Pau Gasol trade, right? It was the trade that looked far worse than it was when it first happened, then began to show its true value once Marc Gasol came over and starred, but then looked really bad again when Pau made noticeable improvements after the age of 28. Anyway, Memphis finally got their last asset from the deal by choosing Greivis Vasquez.
Jon Barry called the Vasquez pick a few seconds before it happened, which stuns Stu Scott, who interrogates Barry for how he knew that. Stu either didn’t know, or pretended he didn’t see, that Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted the news just before Barry spoke of it. And Barry also has an earpiece in. We’re onto you, Jon Barry.
Unlike most of the players immediately preceding him, Vasquez is at the draft, and celebrates enthusiastically. He starts with an air punch and a yell, hugs everybody within 40 feet, bounds up the stage with a merry jig, and then gives David Stern a rib-rattling bear-hug. The whole scene is punctuated by the dance of the night from this random Maryland fan.
Vasquez then joins Mark Jones – who thought he was done interviewing for the night, and who can be seen still chewing on the remains of a pasty – and then proceeds to laud the strength of the Grizzlies roster; “Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo, the guy who just got drafted.” I really hope he meant himself. He then thanks God repeatedly, for apparently this was largely God’s work. Come on now, Greivis. Give yourself more credit.
All the hats tonight have a Jerry West logo inserted halfway in the team name. This is particularly unfortunate in the case of Vasquez, who is now wearing a hat that says “Griz lies.”
Memphis have now drafted three guards in the first round. I think this means Jamaal Tinsley isn’t going back.
The purple blobs under Vasquez’s eyes look like unwashed pizza wheels. And when he’s playing, they grow like asexually-reproducing pizza wheels. That’s all I have to say about that. It’s also more than Jay Bilas had to say; he didn’t even mention Greivis’s wingspan. Ouch.
Only two picks now remain until Adam Silver, the world’s worst handshaker, embarks on a handshaking spree. At that point, things will really kick into high gear.
Pick 29: Orlando picks next, and Stu Scott is clearly informed that the pick is ready to be made a full minute before David Stern appears on the podium. This leaves Stu hanging, and he has to think fast to fill the gap, stringing together rambling sentences such as “they’re there, they’re not quite there, but they’re almost there.” Fittingly, the Magic then draft someone who is not quite there when they select Daniel Orton, who will mirror Adonal Foyle’s production next season. (Foyle, Orlando’s third-string centre last year, missed the whole campaign with injury.)
It shouldn’t be news that the big man that averaged 3/3 almost fell to the second round. He’s not bad, but he’s not good yet either. The fact that his highlight montage showed a clip of a toe-on-the-line jump shot is indicative of the point; Orton just doesn’t have the body of work behind him. He improved throughout his freshman season, but all he has right now is size and potential. For that reason, on a team on the cusp of the ultimate prize, the pick is a baffling one. Surely Stanley Robinson is a better pick, and a logical and cheap replacement for Matt Barnes?
Daniel Orton’s caption states “Must Improve: Conditioning.” And points averages. And rebounds averages.
Pick 30: Before the draft, Timberwolves GM David Kahn stated “I don’t think I can really screw this one up.” Ever the contrarian, he then makes his second bad move of the night by using the pick obtained from Washington to draft Lazar Hayward, a 6’6 small forward from Marquette who has spent the last years playing centre, even though he’s shorter than 6’6. (Damn you, Buzz Williams.) Hayward is not a bad player, but he will be only the third-best rookie in 2010 named Hayward, behind Gordon and Jason Alias. He could be the next Adrian Griffin, but he is not a first-round talent.
More importantly, he’s not the right player for the Timberwolves. You’ve just drafted Wesley Johnson, you’ve just traded for Martell Webster, and you’ve already got Corey Brewer. Do you really need another small forward? Brewer is the best half-court creator and playmaker of those four, and that’s not an endorsement of Corey Brewer. Last year was the point guard draft; this year is the small forward draft. We can only hope that next year, Kahn finally realises the huge shooting guard hole. Either that, or he’s as big of a Wayne Ellington fan as I am. (Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I maintain that he is the next Voshon Lenard. And I base that on absolutely nothing.)
The first round ends on an interview with Stan Van Gundy, who looks incredibly surly and barely masks his contempt at the Orton pick. The crowd boo him on general principle, and Stan would probably join them and boo the pick given the chance. Stu Scott then pitches Stan against his brother Jeff, which produces the most awkward moment of the draft by about a hundred jillion miles. They don’t look alike, they don’t get on, they have no idea of what the other one is about to say….yeah, they’re not brothers. They’re not even friends. (I’m sure they are and it’s a bit. But still.)
The end of the first round also marks the end of this post. There will be a similar recap of the second round to follow. Of course.
I am continuously intrigued by the esoterica and minutiae of all the aspects of building a basketball team. I want to understand how to build the best basketball teams possible. No, I don’t know why, either.