I don’t think anyone necessarily loves sitting through the NBA draft, itself. It’s kind of how I imagine watching your kid play 9 innings of t-ball would be like (do they play 9? Somebody check on this). Sure, if my son weren’t picking his nose at third base (with SpaghettiOs stains on his formerly-white baseball pants from a pregame meal that apparently turned tragic), I probably wouldn’t voluntarily stand around and watch for 3 hours — but it’s deeper than that, it’s about future implications. One day, little Jonny (with the red sauce on his crotch) could be playing college baseball, and you were there from the start (bored and hopeful that a torrential downpour would come and salvage your evening).
If you watched the NBA Draft last night, and the birth of the 2013 draft class, you too were there from the start. Personally, I didn’t hold such lofty expectations for this draft — entertainment-wise — aside from the never disappointing public presentation of one, David Joel Stern. Think, sitting down at the theater for the new Samuel L. Jackson flick. The movie very well might suck, but you enjoy yourself some Samuel, so you grab a medium popcorn (and a large soda) and you give it the “ol’ college try.” In the case of last night’s draft, the movie’s plot was full of twists and turns (trades and Cody Zeller-top 5-spottings), and David Stern put on the performance of his life (hand gestures, bad jokes and all). In case you missed it, let me start with a brief wrap-up of the top 10 picks alone.
-The movie opens with a bang, as we realize our protagonist (the top selection) is not who we thought he was (Nerlens Noel). He is, in fact, Canadian. Anthony Bennett to Cleveland, in a head-scratcher (that I personally love the sh*t out of).
-Victor Oladipo goes to Orlando, as the FLID-packed arena does its best Assembly Hall after Watford’s 3 impression. If you didn’t know, FLID stands for F*cking Long Island Douchebags (who compile 50% of Indiana University’s student body, and a large portion of the Barclay’s Center last night).
-Otto Porter Jr. to Washington. Noel still on the board. The plot thickens.
-Charlotte’s pick, the GOAT on the clock. We see our second plot twist, as Jordan supplies his annual “what the f*ck was he thinking” moment, selecting Cody Zeller over the closest thing to a consensus top pick we had this year, Nerlens Noel. I’m not sure if Jordan is harboring any sort of animosity toward Patrick Ewing, but (for Ewing) inheriting Zeller with the 4th pick in the draft is like unwrapping socks on Christmas. Don’t worry Pat, you’ve still got Mullens.
-Alex Len next, to Phoenix. Shouts to not making your all-conference 1st, 2nd or 3rd team and still squirming into the top 5. Start preparing the pregame/postgame beef and onions (along with a nickname) for the Suns new frontcourt. So far I got the “Bruising Baltics” and the “Axis Powerhouses.”
-Our plot’s first red herring. The Caliparis, I mean Pelicans (will this ever get old?), have everyone in the building thinking “New Orleans Block Party,” by drafting Nerlens Noel, only to trade him moments later.
-Ben McLemore to Sacramento (who fell quickly) at 7, Caldwell-Pope to Detroit (who rose more quickly) with the 8th.
-Minnesota, one of my favorite recurring characters, sticks to the script (à la 2009) and drafts another point guard…to trade away. Trey Burke packs his winter coat for Salt Lake City.
-Finally, with the 10th pick, our plot comes full circle once again, as Portland supplies the poetic justice — drafting fellow small-school-guard-extraordinaire, CJ McCollum for a duet in the backcourt with Damian Lillard (the Blazers, if you haven’t heard, will be scouting community colleges in 2014).
…and the momentum continued for 30 picks, until I flipped on “Seinfeld,” and went to sleep. Alright, now time for analysis. Outside of the top 10, here are some noteworthy facts.
1.) Shabazz Muhammad crashed the party, showing up fashionably late to shake the commissioner’s hand. Curious how the NBA Draft RSVP system works.
2.) Giannis Antetokounpo (literally have seen his last name spelt infinite ways) is my new NBA guilty pleasure. I guess I have a thing for 6’10” Greek point guards.
3.) Lucas Bebe Nogueira heads to Atlanta, where his hair can frizz freely in the footsteps of Ludacris (circa Chicken N Beer).
4.) Nice to see Gorgui Dieng from Senegal get drafted to the NBA (with the 21st pick), and not stand outside nightclubs in Florence (like Club 21). If you cheered after Oladipo and Cody Zeller got drafted in your Knicks jersey, odds are you appreciate this too (after your semesters abroad).
5.) Looks like Tim Hardaway will be forced to come around on the New York Knicks (or at least come around to Madison Square Garden, to watch his son play ball). Which is essentially the “retired NBA player” version of an extended stay at your (not-so-beloved) in-laws. Sorry Tim!
And now, without any further delay, my breakdown of the top 10 picks:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Anthony Bennett PF 6’7” 240, UNLV Fr.
I think this says it all. It’s not a bad pick (anyone they could’ve selected at 1 would’ve had their share of doubters), it’s just not the obvious one. Bennett’s a beast (think the illegitimate-NBA-lovechild of Monster Mash and Grandmama), who can play inside or out, at either forward spot.
Personally, I think he’ll end up as a stretch 4 (alongside Andrson Verajao), who can also eat up shot clocks in the low post. He’s got a pretty unique set of low post skills. Also, keep an eye on who locks up a certain former Cavalier when Miami comes to town — even though it might only be for a season (cue clichéd 2014, LeBron back home quote here).
NBA Comparison: Jamal Mashburn
2013 Predictions: 15.2 PPG/ 7.5 RPG/ .8 BPG
2. Orlando Magic – Victor Oladipo SG 6’4” 215, Indiana Jr.
Whenever I hear something “can’t fail,” I automatically assume “when will it fail.” Think about the 2012-13 Lakers. Think about the “newly perfected” recipe of Coca Cola in the 70s. Think about the Titanic. Nothing in life can ever be failsafe and Victor Oladipo is certainly no exception. I’m just not sold on Oladipo as anything but a complementary player (a role he certainly won’t get in Orlando, unless he’s content complementing Tobias Harris).
I hear a lot of Dwyane Wade comparisons, and I disregard them shortly after hearing them. I don’t know too many successful offensive NBA players whose jump shot and ball-handling skills are still blatant question marks on draft day. I guess if I were to play devil’s advocate, I could bring Russell Westbrook into the discussion, but he simply doesn’t need a jump shot (to this day), given his first step off dribble. I’m not sold on Oladipo, offensively, but that’s not to say I don’t think he will contribute in other ways (defensively and on the practice floor) as a rookie.
NBA Comparison: Tony Allen
2013 Predictions: 12.7 PPG/ 5.4 RPG/ 3.1 APG
3. Washington Wizards – Otto Porter Jr. SF 6’9” 200, Georgetown So.
John Wall 3 years ago. Jan Vesely the year after. Bradley Beal last year. Porter this year. Suddenly, Washington’s future isn’t too hopeless. Porter has an NBA frame and a jump shot to go along with it.
He’s a heady kid who understands his length, using pump and head fakes to draw contact, and gets to the charity stripe. It’s clear Washington saw something special in this kid (sticking with him, over Noel), and I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts from day one. I think he’s a future all-star.
NBA Comparison: Jeff Green
2013 Predictions: 14.8 PPG/ 5.6 RPG/ 1.9 APG
4. Charlotte Bobcats – Cody Zeller C 7’0” 230, Indiana So.
I’m not even going to dissect Mike’s perpetual knack to screw up drafts, instead I’ll try to focus on Cody and only Cody (and not the other two potential top picks — at the same position — who were still on the board at the time of this selection). I guess Cody’s a good look, especially if you factor in his stock before the season started.
The thing with Zeller is, he didn’t even have a bad season…he just didn’t have the consensus top pick caliber season that a lot of NBA scouts were anticipating. It’ll be interesting to see how newly-hired assistant coach, Patrick Ewing, grooms this young big. If you have any doubts about his physical tools, just watch him run the floor.
NBA Comparison: Spencer Hawes
2013 Predictions: 7.2 PPG/ 7.7 RPG/ 1.0 BPG
5. Phoenix Suns – Alex Len C 7’1” 255, Maryland So.
I gotta say, I’m impressed by this kid. He’s every inch of the 7+ feet he’s listed at, and he uses them well. He’s got a clean little back-to-the-basket game, and he’s a very coordinated finisher around the basket (which is intriguing, given the “tall clumsy Eastern European” stereotype inevitably floating around the league). His defense will be there, as will the shot blocking, and if his offense translates — he can be a dominant big.
NBA Comparison: Meyers Leonard
2013 Predictions: 8.2 PPG/ 8.5 RPG/ 1.3 BPG
6. New Orleans Pelicans (Philadelphia 76ers) – Nerlens Noel C 6’11” 215, Kentucky Fr.
It would’ve been nice to see him play next to Anthony Davis (Nerlens inside, Davis outside), but New Orleans cancelled the block party nonetheless — shipping Noel and a 2014 (top 5 protected) first round pick to Philadelphia in exchange for Jrue Holiday. This is compelling, out of Philadelphia, not only marking the beginning for Noel, but the beginning of the end for Andrew Bynum there. It looks like Philly has given up on Bynum and his contract and will place all their chips on Nerlens for the future. I think Noel has all-star potential and DPOY written all over him, if he can stay healthy and focused alike.
NBA Comparison: Larry Sanders
2013 Projections: 11.3 PPG/ 8.1 RPG/ 2.1 BPG
7. Sacramento Kings – Ben McLemore SG 6’5” 190, Kansas Fr.
Call me crazy, but McLemore is far and wide the best player in the class. First off, he can shoot from anywhere in the gym. Secondly, he can pretty much dunk from anywhere too. The type of combination that we, as fans, fiend for in our 2K franchises — but for whatever reason, 6 teams passed on. McLemore shot more efficiently this past season (his freshman year) at Kansas (against Big 12 competition) than Steph Curry did his freshman year at Davidson. The only person who can hold back McLemore is himself, just ask NBA scouts. His chief flaw is his passivity. Nothing a quick taste of losing in the NBA can’t cure (and he already enters the league with a large “not top 5” size chip on his shoulder) — so I expect hard work out of the gates for this kid and success for Sacramento (if Boogie can get his head straight and Reke stays in Sac-town).
NBA Comparison: Danny Granger
2013 Predictions: 17.3 PPG/ 4.2 RPG/ 2.9 APG
8. Detroit Pistons – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope SG 6’6” 205, Georgia So.
KCP flew up draft boards when it mattered most (right before the draft). Not to sell his future role in the NBA short, but he’s got 6th Man of the Year written all over him (if that’s the direction Detroit chooses to go with him). The dude can flat out shoot, and he knows it, taking the bulk of Georgia’s shots last season. I think he’ll fit in nicely with Detroit, giving their two young gifted big men opportunities to clean up the offensive glass (if need be). Naturally, getting drafted to Detroit, you already know he’s a lockdown perimeter defender as well.
NBA Comparison: Jamal Crawford
2013 Predictions: 12.3 PPG/ 3.2 RPG/ 2.1 APG
9. Minnesota Timberwolves (Utah Jazz) – Trey Burke PG 6’1” 190, Michigan So.
Following a trade, Burke finds himself in Utah, where I believe he has a ton of room to grow as the score-first point guard (that he is). Burke was a spectacular P&R player at Michigan and should be pleasantly surprised with his new home (and big men Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, amongst others).
NBA Comparison: Tony Parker
2013 Predictions: 12.1 PPG/ 6.3 APG/ 1.4 SPG
10. Portland Trail Blazers – CJ McCollum PG 6’3” 200, Lehigh Sr.
Love CJ. It’ll be interesting to see where Portland fits McCollum into the rotation, with fellow mid major point guard (and ROY), Damian Lillard. I think McCollum is the more natural passer, which makes him the more obvious candidate for point guard (with Lillard at the 2) — but I think they’ll both share combo-guard duties for now (like a smarter, more efficient version of the 2012 Bucks backcourt) until their roles separate organically.
NBA Comparison: Damian Lillard
2013 Predictions: 12.5 PPG/ 4.9 APG/ .9 SPG
Photo Credit: Getty Images