Editor’s note: This post was supposed to be titled “so about last night…” but I forgot to post it yesterday, when it would have made sense. Anyway, about 2 nights ago….
Of all the sports drafts, the NBA is by far the most engaging. Firstly, it realizes we all have lives (okay most of us… fine some of us) so the entire draft lasts one night and actually sustains momentum through most of the first round until the teams tread into the “dominating Horizon League star with 80’s haircut” and “guy with a name already taken by another sports legend” nether regions. A rarity in professional sports, the NBA expects rookies to play significant roles very early in their careers, giving the draft much more gravitas than in other leagues. While it’s tough to ignore the biggest news of the night- the entrance of World Peace into the league- we will focus on the drama that was the 2011 NBA draft. Let’s go over the first couple picks (and the overall effort by those teams) of the draft, and then a quick look at the Winners and Losers (ya its clichéd, but that’s what you get with a really quick review from a guy on summer vacation).
Cleveland takes Irving with the #1 pick, back to where they were 7 years ago. Could be one of the saddest parts of sports to realize a team built itself up, reached a point and then collapsed only to be back where it started- with no championship to show for the whole thing. Cleveland fans can now start worrying about Irving leaving in 2015. People think the Thompson pick at 4 was a bit of a stretch but I don’t mind it (not just the Canadian in me agreeing here, but the basketball know it all). Thompson is a solid character guy with an established position. You know what you’re getting with him, and he’ll have plenty of time on the court to grow with Irving (of course until they leave).
Minnesota finally makes a pick that’s not horrendous in Derrick Williams, except for the fact that they already had 5 other guys who play that same position. To their credit Minnesota did get rid of Flynn, breaking up their gluttony of point guards. Unfortunately the only way to do this was to acquire Brad Miller, who will be paid about $14.25 million over the next three years to back up Kevin Love. And people are wondering why the owners asked the players to give $120 million back.
Utah did what everyone expected and it was truly the right pick in Enes Kanter. Of all the players in the draft, I think he has the most reachable upside (we’ll get to BIYOMBO later). Unlike the other big guys in the draft, he already has the body and while he might not have played for Kentucky, he still practiced everyday with Calipari, which is never a bad thing. Let’s be honest, no one in Utah will remember today as the day they got Kanter, but the missed chance of Jimmer.
Now to the pick all you Raptor fans are fuming and barfing about… Jonas “not as strong a body as Chris Bosh” Valanciunas. At first it felt like Bryan Colangelo took a giant dump in my mouth. Valanciunas will be known around town for a while as slang for shit. Last night at commercial I told my friend I had to go to the washroom and make a Valanciunas. That was the utter pain I and many fans felt. Many pro-Valanciunas have pointed out that we are just being xenophobic and cannot comprehend that there is such a thing as a European who can be tough in the NBA. Our friend Bogach pointed out that Knight and Walker aren’t must-have “transcendent” guards and that for Colangelo, who is on a short leash, must have a lot of confidence in Val (saves a lot of time) to pick him. I can’t disagree with that, but I can say this: most European big men have struggled with the NBA game (no one denies Europe plays a whole different style). Valanciunas was an excellent rebounder in Lithuania/Euroleague with almost 15 rebounds per 48 minutes but I don’t anyone in Lithuania can rebound like Chandler, Okafor, Howard or even Kris Humphries. With Knight or Walker, both guys who fill a need at PG (Calderon has 2 years left but will probably be gone sooner). With Walker, you get a guy who can score when it matters and has shown to be a natural leader, which the Raptors severely lack. I am hoping Val pans out, but the odds are really against it. The only way I understand this pick is if Colangelo admits he did this so we suck even more next season (if there is one), allowing us to get a chance at #1 in a much stronger draft.
Okay so there was a draft after pick 5 so without further ado I’m just gonna sum up the rest of the draft quickly…
BOBCATS: Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky have effectively proven being the most talented at your sport makes you terrible at identifying talent. But last night he was able to nab two lottery picks, taking Kemba and BISMACK BIYOMBO (sorry the name can only be said/read via screaming like a wild hunter). The team should have warmup dashikis just for the two of them. Everybody knows what the deal is with Kemba, no mysteries there; a solid middle of the pack starting PG at best (Ray Felton level). Biyombo has the most defensive upside of anyone in the draft and although he’ll be dead weight on offense for a couple years, he could mould himself into a great defensive stopper. For a draft that will be known for its weakness, this is probably the best a team could do.
MARKIEEF MORRIS: The only time in his life that he has outdone Marcus. We all know Marcus was crying out of pure shame. And playing with Steve Nash, who will make you look way better than you actually are, is always nice. Markieef, you may be a little creeped out by the Phoenix twin fetish (see Robin Lopez, Taylor Griffin) but you’ll get used to it.
SPURS: Well it’s the Spurs, when are they ever wrong? (Everybody is allowed one Richard Jefferson every 15 years) Kawhi Leonard was a stone cold steal at 15 and although it cost them George Hill, they picked up Corey Joseph at the end of the round, a guy who will fit in well with the Spurs offense. If Joseph had stayed at Texas he would have definitely moved up into the lottery in 2012 but the recruitment of prized PG Myck Kabongo (another Canadian, #2 PG in 2012 class) to Texas ultimately forced Joseph’s hand. He’s only 19 and by the time Parker is gone, Joseph might be a solid PG in the league.
DONNIE WALSH: Is it me or did Donnie Walsh purposely screw up the Knicks pick at 17? Why not? He’s leaving and everyone will blame it on Isiah Thomas soon enough anyways.
PISTONS: Brendan Knight fell so far in the draft the Pistons were obligated to take him, which is a real shame because there is really no room for him on the present mess that is their roster. The Pistons needed a big man but their really weren’t any left by #8. Tough break for Joe Dumars. He really should have found a way to get out of this pick, there must have been someone who actually wanted Knight.
JAZZ: Just imagining every man, woman and child in Utah stammering in the corner of the living room screaming like a child “We wanted JIMMER!!! He’s ours!! ” Also, there are reports of several Utah citizens leaving the Mormon Church due to Joseph Smith’s failure to answer their prayers.
REGGIE JACKSON/ISAIAH THOMAS: Sorry, but you guys have no shot at success. It is very easy to tell a player will not be successful based on their names. Derrick Rose and John Wall sound like superstars unlike alphabetically unblessed Nicholas Tskitishvili or Eric Montross (Hockey fans be prepared for this to happen to Nugent-Hopkins, I just can’t imagine that name succeeding). These guys fit into the unfortunate “Already Taken” category. If your name already belongs to an iconic sports figure its over unless you find an excuse to change your name.
WARRIORS: Another guard who’s specialty is you guessed it, shooting!! Looks like Golden State will now only lose games 175-150. They should change the team name to the Archers.
…And that’s the 2011 NBA Draft! Could be the last look at official NBA workings for a long time. Tristan and Corey you’re welcome to come by the JCC anytime.