Thursday, June 26, 2008

NBA Draft '08 - The Winners and Losers

For about thirty minutes I thought that this year's draft had an off-shot at being normal. Teams were being logical with the exceptions of the best player not being picked first, the fourth best player not going in the top ten, and Michael Jordan sucking at his job. Overall, however, it was calm, serene, and understandable draft. Then teens came, and the deals started. By the end of the night, even the serenity of the top ten had been shattered by the ridiculous fleecing of Memphis by the Timberwolves (McHale finally figured out who is a worse GM than he is). So, with all of the Jay Bilas I can handle for the next year under my belt, it's time for an incredibly bouncy recap with freak athleticism, a 7'4'' wingspan, and remarkable potential. The good, the odd, the misunderstood, and, of course, the bad.


Minnesota - With the new report in that the Wolves fleeced NBA GM Punching Bag Chris Wallace in an eight-player swap after the conclusion of the draft, what was going to be a good ranking for the Grizzlies was essentially handed to Minny. The Wolves get the player that they wanted, Love, by taking the player with more value, Mayo. Then, in recognizing that Mayo had plenty of admirers, they managed to dump off their crappiest contract, Marko Jaric's atrocious deal with three years and $21 million left, in exchange for the slightly more palatable two years and $15 million of Brian Cardinal's deal (which basically turns into one year of Brian Cardinal and then Brian Cardinal's Expiring Contract), dumped Antoine Walker's and Greg Buckner's expiring deals, got value for them in Mike Miller, and then got ____ Collins' Expiring Contract. It was a risk to take Mayo and hope to not get stuck with him, but McHale pulled it off. Their second round is slightly discouraging, picking up some Serbian dude (whom I will not try to analyze due to the moral opposition to trusting scouts' takes on foreign guys). Did a solid job capitalizing on the free-fall of Mario Chalmers into the second round though, picking up two future second-rounders from Miami. Speaking of Miami though...

Miami - They did the right thing. Granted, if they dump Beasley now because they don't like his attitude, they'll be morons for doing so, and will immediately make everything I'm about to say completely invalid. However, if they keep the most talented player in the draft, and a guy who will be a star, Pat Riley's wavering stubbornness might be a godsend. Beasley's special. Like more than Kevin Durant special. Like making Dwayne Wade maybe have a teammate he likes again special. Like making Shawn Marion possibly think about a contract extension special. And by selling two future second-rounders to Minny for Mario Chalmers, they also got a point guard who can play some D to go alongside Wade and send Jason Williams back to... wherever it is that people like him come from (Mars? Venus? It's a mystery...). A starting lineup of Chalmers, Wade, Marion, Beasley, and Generic Defensive Center X can contend in the Eastern Conference.

L.A. Clippers - I know, I said that it would be nuts for the Clippers to draft Eric Gordon. You don't need to remind me. That said, I can't blame a team for picking the best player available at their particular pick. Gordon was the best player available at number 7. Perhaps grandpa Mobley can teach Gordon a few things about being an undersized scorer who can light it up from outside. I dono, it sounds mostly like it's just something you can do with ability, but maybe Mobley can be of some use... I'm being optimistic. As for the second round, I'm not sure if Jordan would be extremely motivated in L.A., but as far as talent goes, he's got plenty of it. It's a matter of when he wants to use it. Obviously, in hindsight, he should have gone back to TAMU and proven he wants to be a basketball player, but he's stuck with an unguaranteed contract, so it's shape up or get out of the league for him. And I don't think he wants to get out of the league, so this might shape him up. Clipperland still needs a point guard though. They'd better not think that it's Gordon, because that will ruin him.


New Jersey - Two picks make me want to give Rod Thorn a hi-five. One makes me wonder. The Brook Lopez pick is one that again, I love because Lopez was the best player available and fit a relative hole for the Nets considering that Nenad Krstic can never seem to stay healthy. Not that it was a hard pick to make, but overthinking it could have been disastrous. Their second-round stealing of Chris Douglas-Roberts was also rather remarkable, considering he could have gone in the first round without any complaints. However, I don't get Ryan Anderson at 20. They're basically drafting Bostjan Nachbar, a guy they have on their team. And although Nachbar is a free agent this summer, he's not going to have that big of a market and will likely not be racing to leave New Jersey after ending his journeyman ways upon his arrival in NJ. If the Nets are strictly looking to get a cheaper version of Nachbar with this pick, that seems like a totally illogical and terrible way to spend a first-round draft choice. These picks are supposed to build your team, not save you a few bucks on the same player.

San Antonio - It's hardly surprising to find San Antonio here, considering that they seem to draft completely differently than anybody in the league, but usually that means going international in some way. But George Hill at 26 (when he'd have probably been there at 45 - or perhaps 57)? And then they sell their second-round pick to the Suns for a future pick and some money. Riddle me this, why wouldn't the Spurs just trade the Suns their first-round pick, which the Suns had said they would have taken, for the money and future second-rounder, then take Hill at 45, where he would have still been available? What's the difference? The Spurs would have Hill at an unguaranteed contract. With this scenario, they have him on a guaranteed deal for three years. I'm not doubting that Hill is a decent player, because I tend to trust the Spurs, but unless they had some hot lead on someone wanting Hill (some thought the Raptors at 41... which would make sense with the T.J. Ford departure) before 45, it seems illogical to take him so far ahead of when he should have been taken.

Indiana - I'm a bit lost. They traded Jermaine O'Neal to the Raptors for T.J. Ford, Rasho "I'm Totally Useless" Nesterovic (henceforth known simply as ITU), and the 17th pick. The assumption is that with that 17th pick or their 11th pick, they'd pick up another point, or at least someone who could play point in case of Ford having injury troubles, to make sure that Jamaal Tinsley never has to be summoned from Dark Void of the Pacers bench again, and given Ford's aforementioned injury history. So they draft Jerryd Bayless at 11 after he slips. Good choice, he's a great talent and could start at the 2 alongside Ford, Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, and (*gulp*) ITU. So what do they do? They package Bayless along with Ike Diogu and ship him to Portland for Brandon Rush, Josh McRoberts, and Jarrett Jack. So you downgrade your swingman from Bayless (great) to Rush (in my opinion mediocre), just in order to pick up Jack as a backup point and swap useless forwards? Jack is your point guard answer? Could they have not just taken Chalmers at 17? Did they need to pick up a guy who averaged 10 points and 4 assists last year in 27 minutes (more than he'll get this year)? To top it off, with that 17th pick, they take a total stiff in Roy Hibbert who won't even be able to challence ITU for the starting center spot. This draft would have played out a lot better for the Pacers had they just stuck with Bayless and Chalmers... Why they liked the trio of Rush, Jack, and Hibbert more is beyond me. Oh yeah, to top it off, they picked an Australian guy in the second round. Because there have been so many successful Australian NBA players. Let me list them: N/A. Now let me list the crappy players from Australia: Chris Anstey, Andrew Bogut (of #1 pick bust lore), Mark Bradtke, Andrew Gaze, Shane Heal, Luc Longley, and Luke Schenscher. Anytime Luc Longley might go down as the best player from any particular list, that is not a good particular list to be on. Let's just move on...


Portland - Yes, Portland picked up Bayless. Yes, Portland had a lot of picks, made a bunch of moves, and threw around John Nash's money like Pacman Jones at a strip club the day after Roger Goodell's death. But... why? What are all of these players for? They had three second-round picks and traded them all away for... more future picks and cash. Of their two first-round picks, one got shopped away with one of those second-rounders to move up two spots and get Nicolas Batum, a French dude who you think might be a decent choice to stash in Europe for a while... Until you hear Kevin Pritchard say that he thinks Batum will sign with the Blazers this year. And then they get Bayless and Diogu from the Pacers for Jack, McRoberts, and Brandon Rush. I didn't like the deal for the Pacers, but I also don't like it for the Blazers. They're looking for a true point guard to play with their great scoring 2 guard combo of Brandon Roy and Martell Webster... and then trade the closest thing they had to a legitimate point guard, Jack, for a scoring 2 guard in Bayless. You're telling me they're going to depend on Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Rodriguez, and Steve Blake to handle the point guard position while Roy and Bayless try to share time at the 2? Or are they going to be one of those stupid teams that tries to take a gifted scoring 2 like Bayless and make him into a point guard? Because that simply will not work. Pritchard made a lot of moves but at the end of the day, when the dust finally settles, what did he really get accomplished? He left his biggest hole bigger than before, continued to stack players at his most stacked position, and continued to stockpile draft picks that he'll just end up turning into even more draft picks later on. Just a lot of white noise here, don't be too impressed.

Detroit - Now, many would think that the moves made by the Pistons, to trade their first round pick just three picks down and into the second round, and pick up another second round pick in the process, is totally and completely irrelevant. Really, the players they picked with their three second-rounders didn't matter too much. The fact of the matter is that the picks at the top of the second round are more valuable than the ones at the bottom of the first round, because they're the same caliber of player and come without guaranteed contracts. If the guy Detroit was looking at ends up panning out to be a flake in a year and a half, they can just cut his ass loose and not have to pay the guy another cent. Looking at the guys they picked up, the 32nd pick, Walter Sharpe, may turn out to be worth something. Aside from the awkward fact that he was diagnosed with Narcolepsy, he was pretty productive during his one season at UAB after transferring, and, while likely needing development, could become a solid player for the Pistons. Trent Plaisted at 46 is a stiff. Sorry, not much else to say. I have a hard time believing he'll make the roster. Same with Deron Washington at 59. Athletic, but out of control and totally ineffective on offense. Still, by being savvy, Joe Dumars saved himself from having to take on a financial responsibility to someone he may not have wanted to.


Charlotte (The Worst) - What is MJ doing with this poor franchise? First, he thinks that Larry Brown, a coach who has shown a clear inability to handle losing in his stay at New York, can inherit one of the worst teams in the league and make it work. And then, he makes boneheaded moves in the draft like the ones he made tonight. The best-case scenario guy for Charlotte was on the board when the Bobcats picked. It had become a foregone conclusion in recent days that Eric Gordon and Kevin Love would be long gone when the Cats picked, and with those two gone, the next guy on their list of players likely available at their position should be Brook Lopez, who could step in and fill the absolutely gaping hole at center. So, when Lopez was on the board when the Cats picked, they naturally totally avoided him and left the Nets with the most obvious pick since LeBron James was picked first by the Cavs, instead taking a D.J. Augustin, a guy who plays a position where the Cats already have a significant financial investment made to Raymond Felton. Hell, how is Felton supposed to take this? So, after that huge mistake, the Cats still had a huge hole at center to fill. So when their pick at 20 came around and guys like Kosta Koufos and DeAndre Jordan still on the board, they had an easy opportunity to ease everyone's worries that they wouldn't fill their center slot with a legitimate prospect. But, in classic MJ draft fashion, they blew it. They drafted a center, but one who'll have to be in Europe for another two or three years, Alexis Ajinca. The guy averaged 5 points per game last year... He shouldn't be drafted like... at all. And he's Charlotte's choice to hold down their center position. To make things even richer, the Cats picked up yet another point guard, Kyle Weaver, in the second round. I'm totally lost. Was Jordan smoking cubans and drinking scotch with Charles Barkley in the Charlotte War Room before these picks were made? Did he think he was drunk-dialing David Stern or did he actually realize he was making draft choices? These are legitimate questions...

Phoenix - I'm a huge Phoenix Suns fan. I love them. but I hate their first-round pick. Despise it. Yes, you know what you're getting with Robin Lopez. Some rebounds, a few blocks, a couple of dunks, no offensive skills whatsoever, and a lot of hair. But you also know that at no point in his career are you getting a starting center. And when your current starting center is 38, it might not be a terrible idea to start thinking about what you're going to do about the hole he is going to leave. Kosta Koufos or DeAndre Jordan were the guys the Suns needed to pick at 15, preferrably Koufos. What does Lopez have that Koufos doesn't? The fact that he knows how to be a backup? In two years, when Shaq is gone, Nash is a crippled special assistant coach for head coach Jeff Hornacek (after Terry Porter's firing due to the fact that his team was specifically built to be good for one year and then deteriorate, selling draft picks and setting itself up for a 25-57 record in 09-10), Amare is complaining, and Lopez is a poor man's Anderson Varejao, the Suns will be wondering why they passed up on a guy who had a potential to start alongside Amare and create an athletic (Koufos is athletic for a whitey - over a 30 inch vertical) starting combo for another seven years. Sigh. At least the Euro guy they got from the Spurs, Goran Dragic, appears to be decent.

Milwaukee - I obviously understand the Jefferson trade. They got rid of Bobby Simmons and Chairman Yi for an overpaid yet highly skilled small forward. It was a good move. So why pick up a guy who plays the same position with the eighth damn pick of the draft? After years of center futility, would Brook Lopez not have been a great pick for the Bucks? What does Joe Alexander do that Desmond Mason, the guy who now becomes the one of the highest-paid and best third-stringers around, doesnt? They both can't shoot to save their lives, and are both really athletic and dunk a lot. What, did the Bucks take Alexander because they would rather have a white guy who can do that stuff at that position and get along in Milwaukee? To top it off, they get another small forward in the second round. Milwaukee needs Bill Simmons, dammit.

There you have it. I’m glad this is a two-round deal, because I just can’t take anymore of this. Or anymore of Jay Bilas. A 364 day break from this has some pretty good upside right about now...

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