Throwback Draft Night
Tonight the NBA Draft is again upon us, allowing us a chance to bid a final farewell to college basketball’s top players. And unlike last year, my excitement level is not all that high. Why am I apathetic about this year’s draft? Some of it’s due to the lack of a compelling local subplot, since the Milwaukee Bucks have gone from having the number one overall pick last year, to not having a first round pick this year. Some of it is undoubtedly due to the fact that the risk-reward factor of teams selecting unproven high school kids has been taken out of the equation. But more than anything, I think I’m just disappointed because there aren’t any players that I can get excited about in this draft.
The funny thing is, it shouldn’t be this way. As I was chatting about the NBA Draft with my friend Dez this past weekend, he noted to me that he was looking forward to this year because the elimination of high school prospects, and a weak year for European entrants meant that he would know who most of the guys being drafted were. I can’t disagree–in that way, this draft is a throwback to the drafts that I used to watch as a child, where it was just a bunch of college stars moving on, with a guy with weird name like "Vlade Divac" popping up every one in awhile. But still, I just can’t get myself excited for this bunch of guys. There’s not a Shaq. There’s no Lebron. Heck, even last year you knew Andrew Bogut wasn’t going to be a superstar, but it was a remarkably safe bet that he’s be a solid cog on any team. I’ve got no clue with most of the top guys this year. Part of it is my ignorance, but part of it is a lack of star power. Consider the first players that NBAdraft.net is predicting to be taken this year:
1) Andrea Bargnani: He’s a foreign guy, which immediately means that I know nothing about him. And he’s Italian, which means that my friend Greg, who’s way too excited about having a family heritage that is part Italian, will get way too excited if this guy ever pans out. So not only do I not know anything about this guy’s game, I’m already actively rooting against him.
2) Tyrus Thomas: Great athlete, from a team that made the Final Four. And when you think of that team that made the Final Four, you don’t think of Thomas. You think of Glen "Big Baby" Davis. Sure, Davis decided not to enter the draft this year, and Thomas is probably a better pro prospect anyway, but are we really so concerned with upside these days that the number two pick in the draft can be a guy who wasn’t even the most compelling player on his own team?
3) Rudy Gay: When I saw Gay in the McDonald’s All-American game a few years back, he leapt out at me as one of the most talented guys on the floor. Since then, I’ve only seen one game where Gay has looked even remotely like the same player. A lot of people say that despite his ridiculous talent, Gay doesn’t always come to play. Maybe that will benefit him, given that NBA players need to ration their intensity over the length of the season. But if we’re at the point where a guy who’s most questionable asset is his heart is being drafted third overall, I’m not foreseeing the best draft ever.
4) Adam Morrison: After the foreign guy, the second-banana and the lethargic guy, we’ve got the gunner who admittedly isn’t real interested in playing defense. Yes, I loved watching Morrison in college, and there aren’t many guys as deadly as him from 10-15 feet away from the basket. But his mustache act will grow stale in the pros, and I have my doubts as to whether he’ll ever be much more than a serviceable player. And "serviceable" probably isn’t what Portland is looking for at this spot. So no, I’m not on board with the hype.
5) Sheldon Williams: Okay, I’ll admit that Williams sort of the exception in this draft for me. I love his game, and think it will translate well to the NBA, largely because he’s so strong. That said, I’m not looking to him to become a superstar, either. And I guess it’s not all that terrible to pick up a dependable power forward with the 5th pick in the draft, especially when the guys picked 1-4 are so lacking in terms of appeal.
So essentially, I’ll be watching tonight, but I won’t be all that excited. It will be a far cry from last year when I gathered with friends to watch the draft and make wisecracks.
Before I go, a few other random thoughts on the draft:
–The local interest story this year is Marquette’s Steve Novak, who most are predicting will go somewhere in the second round (though about a month back, some were thinking that the first round was more likely). I’ve always pretty much been a Novak hater, since he’s so limited in the things that he can do well. However, with his college career over, and a pro draft approaching, I love Novak. The state of Wisconsin has been blessed with numerous potential draft prospects over the past few years, but save for Dwyane Wade and Devin Harris, both lottery picks, I think Novak is in the best position of any of them to be successful. The NBA is about being excellent, and Novak is one of the most excellent shooters that I have ever seen. He might not bring much to the table defensively, or from a rebounding standpoint, but there’s always room for a 6'10' guy with a lightning quick release, range that goes well beyond the NBA arc, and a deadly success rate from three-point range. In college, I’d probably rather have Travis Diener, Kirk Penney, Ed McCants or Dylan Page. But Novak’s my guy if we’re talking NBA success. It’s not even a question.
–So I love Novak compared to past state products in the NBA draft. What do I think of him in comparison to his peers this year? I love him. J.J. Redick gets a lot more attention than Novak because he’s a Duke guy and put up ridiculous offensive numbers. And Redick will go much higher than Novak in the draft. But I think Novak’s a better shooter. Redick has skills that indicate that he might be able to handle more than the three-point specialist role that Novak will be assigned, but if we’re simply having a shooting contest, I’ll take Novak every day and twice on Sunday. Similarly, Kevin Pittsnogle garners a lot more attention than Novak for being a surprisingly great shooter for a big man. Pittsnogle’s got the flashy name, the crazy tattoos, and tons of hype going for him. Hell, I’m wearing a Pittsnogle jersey as I type this right now, so I love the guy too. But I almost laughed out loud when I saw a comment by one writer who said Pittsnogle’s shooting ability was comparable to Novak’s. Again, if you want to gamble on a guy who can do a few extra things, go with Pittsnogle. If you want the most sure thing from a shooting standpoint, take Novak.
And let’s remember, all of the above rhetoric is coming from a guy who just three seasons ago did a season preview that deemed each Marquette and Wisconsin player as either overrated or underrated, and did so basically as an excuse to call Novak overrated.
–Seriously, is there anything more entertaining than the whole "Draft the ‘Stache" movement that’s taking place in Portland in attempts to get the Trail Blazers to take Adam Morrison? If the people of Portland keep coming up with ideas like this, there’s an awful good chance that I might have to consider moving there. Sure, it would be less safe to live in a community in which the members of the Trail Blazers live, but I’d be willing to take the risk in order to be part of a fan base that act that goofy, and be serious about it.
–Aside from Steve Novak, the other big Milwaukee basketball news is that the Bucks are changing their color scheme from forest green and purple back to something more like their traditional red and green scheme. This hasn’t exactly been the best kept secret in Milwaukee (I heard credible rumblings about it as far back as December), but the actual unis are revealed tonight. I’d say that you can count me as one of the people who wholeheartedly supports this move, but do I even have to? I have yet to talk to one person who has expressed anything but total support for the move. Even when it was announced, I thought purple was a pretty stupid color for a pro sports uniform. Now, if we could just go back to the old, smiling Bango Buck logo, everything would be great. Was it really necessary to angry up the mascot?
–I’m officially angry at myself for forgetting about the fact that NBATV shows old drafts in the days leading up to the current NBA draft. Last year brought back such memories as Jalen Rose’s McDonald’s-themed pinstripe suit (yep, that's him in the photo), Cleveland’s Danny Ferry blunder, and Gheorghe Muresan dwarfing David Stern. This year, I totally dropped the ball on watching this high comedy. So I’ll have to live with the remnants of the 1981 and 1982 drafts that my DVR is catching for me this morning. And that brief moment that I caught before going to sleep, where David Stern almost forgot what the name of the then still largely new Minnesota team was in the 1990 draft.
–I’ll be intrigued as to what happens to Josh Boone, since I’m told that the last ill-advised draft entrant from UConn, Charlie Villanueva, had a pretty good rookie campaign.
–Credit to Steve Czaban, who made a point on his daily radio appearance on the Bob and Brian Show that I could kick myself for not seeing ahead of time. His point? What are the odds that Rudy Gay’s jersey becomes the worst selling jersey of any lottery pick ever?
–Take any of the predictions that I have made with a grain of salt, since admittedly, I know next to nothing about the NBA. To illustrate this point, I leave you with a quote from my thoughts on last season’s draft, about reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Chris Paul, who won the honor in resounding fashion:
Not sure what it is, but something tells me this guy just doesn’t make it big... I just have a feeling, though, and I’m predicting bust. After all, we need someone to laugh at when we’re watching this draft 10 years from now.
Looks like I’m that guy that we’ll be laughing at in 10 years. Happy draft watching!