CHOOSE WISELY! Here comes the 2009 Draft...
"Wisdom & Warnings for the 2009 Draft"
Hoops heads, get ready!
It's time once again for the annual fest of hoopla, hyperbole, and hijinx we know and love as the NBA Draft! The time of year when we get so sick of hearing the word "upside", we want to up-chuck, then fall back on our backside. The one night in a professional basketball player's career where his wingspan will be more important than his win-span. Yes, that ever-perplexing paradox where, simultaneously, 1 man's dream is realized, while 1 city's nightmare is too soon to be.
Welcome to the 2009 NBA Draft!!
One of the great extravaganzas of exaggeration, the NBA Draft will never fail us. And by "us", I count only the indifferent NBA fan. All other fans with the slightest semblance of team or player-related loyalty-- No, you WILL be failed. Frequently.
Everything about the draft consistently defies common logic.
Like, how a coach can eye some of the best, unrecognized talent, but then can't recognize how to win games with it? (see: Isaiah Thomas)
Or how an "impressive" European becomes an NBA afterthought, while an undrafted afterthought goes from European hoops to an impressive NBA career? (see: Darko Milicic/Udonis Haslem)
How about how a kid can be "so ready" to turn pro, yet no one in the pros is even remotely ready to give "Hasheem The Dream" or "Hasheem The Nightmare"?? him a turn? (see: Way too many people you've already permanently erased from your mind to list)
Face it, fans... The NBA Draft is a game of chance. Some organizations are just better at playing the game than others. It's a crap shoot where teams annually invest millions of dollars on players who can't shoot for crap, among other things. To that point, I'm now 100% convinced the average basketball-loving American could do just as effective a job with a draft board as any coach, team president, or general manager. That is why I've decided to prove it. Below now, the 10 things I know I know about this year's draft... Enjoy:
- The best future pro not named Blake Griffin in this draft is Tyreke Evans. People don't realize how good the Memphis freshman is. He's 6'6", can play the point comfortably, yet could easily slide over to play the "2" or even "3" against smaller lineups. Evans is already strong and adept at getting into the lane and creating with his athleticism. Just wait until he develops an NBA 3-pointer. He's got "Future All-Star" written all over him.
- 4 years from now the Minnesota Timberwolves will either look back on Thursday night's draft as an enormous landmark, or enormous land mine. With 4 first round picks (5th, 6th, 18th, and 28th), the T-Wolves have every opportunity to add quality depth both on the perimeter and down low. With its top 2 picks, Minnesota will almost assuredly end up with 2 of these 4 players-- Evans, Ricky Rubio, Stephen Curry, or James Harden. At least 2 of them will end up with very productive NBA careers.
- Every year 2 or 3 "undersized" big men get drafted, usually with a slight "WARNING" label attached to each. Some find a place in the league (Craig Smith, Big Baby Davis), some don't (Michael Wright, Robert "Tractor" Traylor). This year is no different. Pittsburgh's Dejuan Blair is the highest rated, but I'm not convinced Washington's Jonathan Brockman won't be the better pro. Brockman may be slightly less "athletic", but I see the intangibles in him to stick with a team that values true toughness and a genuine competitive nature.
- Speaking of Pitt players, somebody's going to get a good player in G/F Sam Young. He'll likely go late 1st/early 2nd round, but years from now people may wonder how he wasn't drafted higher. As we saw the last 2 years, but especially in this past March's Big Dance, Young is a flat-out scorer. He's also 24 years old which, in this case, I like. He's ready to play- tomorrow.
- I don't just mean this literally, but big men always seem to be the biggest question marks. This year, lottery teams are sold on UConn's Hasheem Thabeet as a near "can't miss" prospect (He's going to go in the Top 5). I'm sorry, but I just don't see it. First, there's a big difference in being 7'3" (as he's commonly been listed) and 7' 1/4" (as he measured without shoes on). I see very little potential for offensive growth at the NBA level. I'm thinking a slightly more defensively gifted Roy HIbbert. Now ask yourself... Would you go back and take Hibbert in the lottery if you had the chance? Didn't think so.
- Anyone who tells me UCLA's Darren Collison will be a better NBA point guard than former Florida PG Nick Calathes is wrong. We'll see if any NBA teams feel the same way. Calathes, at 6'5", is a first-rounder in my mind. He's already signed with a pro team in Greece. If I'm the Dallas Mavericks, I take him at #24 and let him play overseas for a year. By then, Calathes may be ready to step into a Jason Kidd-like role with the Mavs. I've already told everybody who will listen Calathes reminds me more of a poor man's Jason Kidd than anybody else. After the Hall of Fame career Kidd has enjoyed, wouldn't you be happy with a "poor man's" version of that??
- I'm acting on a hunch here, but give this a moment to marinate... The Celtics have just 1 pick in the draft, the 58th overall. They probably have a 1-year window to win another title with their "Big 3", and that window in the East is considerably smaller than we would've guessed before the 2009 playoffs. Front office has to be at least thinking how they could add another solid piece to Boston's championship equation. GM Danny Ainge has said he is not trading Rajon Rondo, and I believe him. But watch to see if Boston doesn't try to package something, like, the 58th pick, an expiring contract, and, say... Big Baby Davis. It might sound crazy, but Davis' stock is way up since the playoffs, and the C's might be able to get max value for him right now. They could make a strong move either for a 1st round pick where they could get someone they really desire, or for a proven player right now who could be ready to contribute immediately.
- So which team stands to gain the most from Thursday night? You could probably throw out 10 names real quick, (including Minnesota, whom I've already detailed) but I'm going with the Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC has the 3rd and 25th picks. The Thunder already have quietly assembled a very solid nucleus for down the road. Their biggest gap right now is either at 2-guard or at center. OKC has to be careful with the 3rd pick, if they don't take Thabeet (which, again, I think is a liability, but you can't pass that up when you have that particular need). They either need a dead-ringer point guard (Rubio/Jonny Flynn?), or they take an every-night-starter at "2" (Harden/Curry?). OKC has a future MVP in Kevin Durant at "3", a very solid Jeff Green at "4", but they have to decide whether Russell Westbrook is going to be their point or shooting guard of the future. From there, make your 2 picks count, and in 3 or 4 years... OKC could be something to watch out for.
- Where did all the Gerald Henderson-lottery pick talk come from? 1 good season at Duke does not a good NBA player make. In fact, there is substantial evidence to argue the exact opposite. I'm not with the idea, at 6'5", Henderson is the 10th-14th best player in this draft. I know there are few "sure things" in the '09 class, but I believe the pool of solid future players is deeper than Henderson at anywhere from 10-14. Players I think have better NBA futures than Henderson: Eric Maynor (VCU), Jeff Teague (Wake Forest), Young (Pitt), Jodie Meeks (Kentucky), Austin Daye (Gonzaga), and just to make it a half-dozen... Calathes (Florida).
- The L.A. Clippers will somehow find a way to screw up the Blake Griffin pick. It's science.