Posted by: mdegeorge | June 24, 2011

60 for 60: Musings on the NBA Draft

There are few happenings in the world of sports that provide as many opportunities for insight, analysis and criticism as the NBA Draft. Unlike the NFL’s new-and-improved protracted four-week saga that is its new format, the NBA manages to condense its picks into a non-comical amount of rounds and a single night.

In an efficient four-plus hour spurt of ESPN broadcast excellence, the entire Draft can be digested in a single-sitting. So in that vein, allow me to burp out the little nuggets that the Draft provides us in what is quickly becoming a yearly tradition.

Since 60 amateur players became professionals Thursday night, or boys became men if you’re a producer for ESPN, I’ve got 60 musings to encapsulate a entertaining evening in scenic Newark.

Courtesy of Creative Commons.

– Ok, one more dump on Newark – other than the dump it is. The telecast kept calling it the brick city. Is that for what the buildings are made out of or for what is likely to get thrown through your window in the parking lot?

-We get an early trade. The mass exodus from Charlotte continues with Stephen Jackson getting the gate. Set your calendars for early picks next year and for the foreseeable future.

– The trade does set a nice tone though. Along with Jackson, John Salmons and Corey Magette are still viable NBA players. That means big picks move too, No’s 9, 10 and 19. Maybe some shockwaves for the man, the myth, the legend Jimmer Fredette.

– Nice intro ESPN. I can see Taye Diggs narrating an NBA function on ESPN, but Adele? Does an albeit soulful white British girl really scream NBA to you?

– Fans not big on David Stern. Still don’t think he’s as hated as Gary Bettman, but give the fans a lockout and see how he ranks.

– That was a half hearted pander to the New Jersey crowd, followed by a sarcastic, “this is a good crowd”. Great start, Comish.

– And the number one pick goes to Kyrie Irving. Shocked. I mean really, I had no idea it was going to happen almost certainly for the last two weeks.

– In case you were unaware, former Blue Devil Irving attended Duke, the alma mater of Dukie Jay Bilas, who attended Duke when he was in college. Did Bilas mention what Tobacco Road school that isn’t North Carolina he attended?

– All kidding aside, it’s nice to see a strong father figure in Irving’s dad, Drederick. A pair of terrible names, yes, but a great relationship it seems.

– You can almost hear ESPN producers rooting for Jimmer to fall in the draft a) to the Knicks and b) to prolong green room time/on-air references. We’re in double digits just minutes into the broadcast.

Derrick Williams goes number two to the Wolves. He in no way brings a game that resembles Kevin Love’s. Maybe Kurt Rambis is right to get knocked off that ship.

– This must be exciting for Enes Kanter to become a professional basketball player … you, know, again.

– Don’t say lockout. Don’t say lockout. Crap I said lockout.

– So the Cavs use the No. 2 pick on a Canadian big man with a girl’s name. No way that can go downhill. Hey Tristan Thompson, you bringing your pal Isolde with you?

– Until Jimmer comes off the board, every pick is going to be announced with the addendum of how it affects Jimmer.

– And cue the onslaught of foreigners. Jonas Valanciunas to Toronto. Jan Vesely to Washington. Something called a Bismack Biyombo to Sacramento. Remember when Joe Smith went number one?

– Many scouts say Valanciunas is much like former No. 1 pick Andrea Bargnani in his skill set. Translation: He plays no defense. How many soft seven-foot white guys that are afraid to dabble in the lane can one team have?

– Hey, let’s give Valanciunas questions he can’t answer in a language with which he’s unfamiliar and then patronize him when the answers aren’t up to the high standards the other brain surgeons have given. Now ESPN chooses to play hard-hitting.

– Vesely’s kiss with what I hope isn’t his sister after being announced as the sixth pick was the moment I think I’ll remember most from this draft. It’s the happiest anyone has ever been to be a Wizard this side of Harry Potter. I believe the Washington management went with Vesley because of his potential, his athleticism and his complete ignorance to anything call the Second Amendment.

– Finally another American player in Brandon Knight. Could be one of the steals of the draft for Detroit.

– At least Kemba Walker gives us one of the true really nice moments of the night, tearing up in close proximity to his hometown of New York which for some reason this event was not held in (got another one in there on ya, Newark!)

– It’s a shame Jimmer watch couldn’t last well into the teens. At least he gets to go to a relatively low-key destination in Sacramento where he can ride shotgun with Tyreke Evans. (Note to Jimmer: If Tyreke asks to you ride shotgun for real, politely decline.)

– That was the Jimmer Jam? It was held in 6,000-seat arena and only like 100 people showed up. Maybe there was something else going on in pollution capital of the Hudson Valley, scenic Glens Falls, New York.

– The Warriors go with Klay Thompson, whose basically a less talented and taller Steph Curry, thereby ensuring no defense will be played this season.

– You’ve got a great John Houseman name. “Alec Burks. Thank you, Mr. Burks”

– Get out your Doublemint gum for a double-shot of Morris. It’s somewhat surprising that Markieff went first before Marcus, since I’d seen as much as a five- or eight-pick between Marcus and then Markieff in other drafts. I can only assume there was some coin-flipping in Phoenix war room.

– San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard wins the Aaron Rodgers Sinking Like A Stone Award when he gets picked 15th despite prognostications putting him in the top eight most places.

– Bridge over the River Kawhi Leonard (horrible, I know) also gets the Bad Ass Suit Award for his outfit, the lapels of which looked like they were lined with that glow-in-the-dark stuff that shows you toward the exits on airplanes. Honorable mentions go to Kemba’s blue suit, just because it was different, and Marcus Morris’ sharp black and pink look.

– Hey, did you know the Timberwolves drafted Ricky Rubio again? He got a montage like he was just picked.

– The 76ers are soft in the middle, so let’s fill it with a seven-footer from USC via Switzerland via Montenegro. Nicola Vucevic has gotta be tough, right?

– Bilas loves absolutely everybody. It’s a love fest. He’s worse than Hubie Brown when it comes to gushing over picks. The guy could have one leg and be in an iron lung, and he’d only have minor reservations about his fit with the team chemistry.

– Things broke just right for the Knicks. They didn’t get Jimmer, but they have a shot at a really athletic guy like Chris Singleton. Or they have a scoring guard in Marshon Brooks they can trade down a few picks for. Or local guy and much needed tough guy Kenneth Faried is there. The fans are going to love this pick…

– And it’s Iman Shumpert? Really? No, seriously? It’s like somewhere, the gods just go, “Man, those fans would hate it if they really screwed this pick up, like if they took, Iman Shumpert.” And then it happens. What a whiff. Even Spike Lee’s enthusiasm was tepid. The next time a New York crowd likes a pick made by a New York team in a New York-hosted draft will be the first. If you listen closely, you can still hear the boos resonating off the walls of the Madison Square Garden Theater from when Kyle Brady when ninth to the Jets in 1995.

– Finally the most lyrically-named player in the draft, Donatas Motiejunas, goes to the Timberwolves at No. 20. Donatas Motiejunas. It sounds like a symphony composed by Bedrich Smetana.

– OK, two years ago the T’Wolves draft nothing but guards. This year, they draft nothing but bigs even though they have a franchise big man in Love. Is it still so cold in Minneapolis that whatever draft machine they use literally gets frozen on one setting?

– This draft did have some nice local stories. Irving went to high school in nearby Elizabeth, Faried is from Newark, Charles Jenkins from Hofstra in the middle of the second round and Walker is from NYC, where everyone in Newark wishes they were.

– When you’re from Boston College and you get picked in the first round of the NBA Draft and no one knows that much about you, it’s probably not a good sign. Sorry, Reggie Jackson.

– Leave it to the Celtics to take a kid from Providence in Brooks. His game reminds me little of Bob Cousy or Tom Heinsohn, but what the heck.

– And he’s traded. Oh well, that brings a little order to things at least. Brooks is now a piece in the revamping of the New Jersey Nets backcourt. The Celtics fill a need by getting JaJuan Johnson, a big who, well, he qualifies as an upgrade by the simple fact that he’s alive and not yet hurt, something in short supply in Boston.

– The Spurs use their first pick on Cory Joseph, another Canadian from Texas (how does that happen?) The writing has to be on the wall for Tony Parker and/or Manu Ginobili, right?

– Also, three Texas guys in the first round? Seems like a bit much for a team that almost got run out of the first round by Oakland.

– Joseph makes nine international guys by my count in the first round – including Tristan Thompson, Kanter and Vucevic (not counting Irving’s dual Australian-American citizenship). That ties the record from 2006. At least there shouldn’t be that many more in the second round.

– ESPN does share a great story about Jimmy Butler, the kid from Marquette who goes to the Chicago Bulls at No. 30. Any kid who grew up so poor, was adopted by a foster family who pushed him through school and had to fax in his national letter of intent from a McDonalds is ready to do what it takes to win. He’s a great defender and an excellent piece for a contending team.

– David Stern leaves to an even more robust chorus of boos than when he arrived. At least the comish fights back with a sarcastic thank you to the crowd for their enthusiasm and boos. Yet deputy commissioner Adam Silver receives a rousing ovation. Not sure many people really understand that they do basically the same thing.

– Let’s just appreciate how lucky Butler is in this instance and how crucial sneaking into the end of the first round is as opposed to the start of the second. Two picks later, and he’s with Cleveland. It’s the difference between being a great role play on a title team and a guy who breaks when leaned on. The salary difference in comparatively trivial.

– Some trades to restore order. Minnesota attempts to balance the insanity by sending Motiejunas and failed point guard project Jonny Flynn to Houston as part of a three team deal. They get back Brad Miller and Norris Cole, the 28th pick from Chicago, while the Bulls get former Minnesota pick Nikola Mirotic.

– Time to play follow the bouncing Norris Cole. The Cleveland State point guard is then sent to Miami so that Minnesota can pick up the first pick of the second round, Bojan Bogdanovic, a small forward not much different from Mirotic. Welcome to the NBA. That must have been a weird hour or so for Cole. At least the native of Dayton, Ohio gets to meet LeBron James.

– The Spurs picking a guy from college seemed out to place. So to balance it, they traded George Hill for Leonard and a beloved European player, Latvian Davis Bertans, who they can stock away in Europe for a few years to develop and then bring over if they need another championship. It does relieve some backcourt crowding, as George Hill is somewhat surprisingly jettisoned.

– Another three-teamer sends Raymond Felton (again) to Portland, presumable as Brandon Roy insurance, while Andre Miller (again) and Jordan Hamilton, the 26th pick head to Denver. For their efforts and contribution of Hamilton and eventual 57th overall (more on him later), the Mavs get a key restocking piece in Rudy Fernandez and the rights to Petteri Koponen – or as he’s known in Philly, that #*%&!@$ we wasted a first-round pick on in 2007.

– Impressive showing from the mid-majors in that late first round and early second. There’s Leonard (San Diego State), Faried (Morehead State), Cole (Cleveland State), Justin Harper (Richmond), Shelvin Mack (Butler), Jenkins (Hofstra), Andrew Goudelock (College of Charleston) and Keith Benson (the aforementioned Oakland). The first three went in the first round.

– Time for the rash of good college players who’ll flame out in the pros. Hi there, Kyle Singler. Drawing comparisons to a very poor man’s Danny Ferry isn’t exactly something to put on your resume.

– The second round also featured UCLA players who left way too early, including Tyler Honeycutt at 45 to the Kings and Malcolm Lee to the Bulls at 43. I’d start looking for lodging in a D-League city like Austin or Iowa City now.

– Also a sign of an impending draft bust: When there’s no graphic made for your name. Also doesn’t help if you’re Jeremy Tyler and you beg out of a letter of intent to Louisville to play professionally in such powerhouse leagues as Israel and Japan.

Josh Harrellson proving to all the kids out there that you can be fat, slow and white and still succeed in basketball, even if 12 months ago he had the physique of a tall Flounder from Animal House.

– Speaking of white guys, Jon Leuer of Wisconsin and Jon Diebler are representing for the Big 10. If the game ever becomes a halfcourt game again, they’re in prime position to take advantage. Apparently naming your kid Jon without the “h” helps their long range shot even if they turn out tall like a post player. I’ll have to test that theory some day…

– The 76ers are soft in the middle, so let’s fill it Lavoy Allen, whose softer than wet toilet paper. But he went to Temple. He’s gotta be tough, right?

– We haven’t had an international guy go since Bertans at 42 and only two in the round total. We must be out of them by now, ri…Serbian? Darn you, Milan Macvan.

– Purdue East taking shape in Boston with the pick of E’Twaun Moore. I can see the rhyming posters now. “E’Twaun, JaJuan; We on, You on?” (Copyright Matthew De George, LLC)

– Well, this should be a low key finish to the night, just some picks and … what in the hell is a Chukwudiebere Maduabum? I just tried to spellcheck that, and Word responded with “don’t wasted my time with this crap.” Apparently he’s a power forward from Nigeria whose chances of someday playing for the Los Angeles Lakers are roughly the same as mine.

– Oh well, that craziness is over. They can’t reach that deep again, right? Oh, they can. Oh. A guy from the Congo playing in Qatar in what looks like a high school gymnasium in highlights shot on a Flip Cam. His name is Targuy Ngombo, and I think James Bond killed him in Tangiers during the Cold War. He’s followed by another borderline psychotic Lakers pick which can only be done as a, “I bet you a thousand bucks you don’t have the balls to announce this pick:” Ater Mahok, an Australian who left Connecticut after one year as a bench player and played professionally in his home country since. I think Pau Gasol’s job is safe for the time being. (Maybe they front office is using all of Phil Jackson’s leftover psychedelic mind-alterers, and since their zen isn’t as centered as his, it’s all going horribly awry.) Then let’s have the foreignophile Spurs ramp it up by taking shooting guard Adam Hanga, who if he ever makes it across the Atlantic, would be only the second Hungarian ever to play in the league (famous Kornel David).

– Aside from the ending where things devolved into a farce somehow orchestrated by international expert Fran Fraschilla to gain more camera time (though it backfired when he said he had never heard of Ngombo), it was a night full of laughable foils and unintentional humor. Let’s enjoy it; this could be the last NBA anything we get for a while.

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