From the opening tip, this year’s seemingly lackluster NBA draft gave the TV networks and fans exactly what they needed: a shot in the arm. No, not the kind of shot in the arm that A-Rod got from his “doctors” in Miami. It was the kind of shot in the arm that surprises you and shakes things up a bit.
It began with the Cleveland Cavaliers taking freshman forward Anthony Bennett from UNLV. To almost everyone’s surprise (yes, even Jay Bilas and Bill Simmons were stunned), the Cavaliers and owner Dan Gilbert selected the 6″8″ Canadian with the first overall pick in the 2013 draft. How the Cavs managed to keep their pick under wraps is even more bizarre. From hiring an assistant coach from Alex Len’s home country of Ukraine, to Gilbert following Victor Oladipo on Twitter, there were various smokescreens being used by the Cavs (whether intentional or unintentional) that made it difficult to predict who they were taking. Not one mock draft I saw had Bennett going first overall. In fact, due to questions about his conditioning, many mock drafts had him falling out of the top 10. But little did we know, this was simply setting the tone for what followed.
The consensus number 1 overall pick, Nerlens Noel, another one-and-done power forward/center from Kentucky, fell to 6 overall where he was selected by the New Orleans Pelicans (yes, that’s actually their name now). It was then announced, however, Noel’s rights would be traded to the 76ers along with a protected 2014 first round pick in exchange for Jrue Holiday.
That trade created ripple effect in which we saw 11 of the 30 first round picks have their rights traded to another team. Aside from the Noel deal, the most talked about trade (and what we’ll be hearing about all off-season) is the deal that was struck between the the Celtics and Nets, sending the Truth and the Big Ticket to Brooklyn. In an attempt to stay true to his promise of winning a championship within the first 5 years, Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov brought Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry to the Nets in exchange for 3 first round picks in ’14, ’16, and ’18, Kris Kardashian (err, excuse me, Humphries), Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph, MarShon Brooks, and a sign-and-traded Keith Bogans. It was a move that makes the Nets immediately better, but also gives them a short window with which to compete for a championship. Pierce, Garnett, and Terry are almost as old as Brooklyn’s new rookie head coach, Jason Kidd. Though I really like this move (for both teams actually), I won’t be writing the Nets as NBA champs yet. Let’s see how the team can mesh first. I think we all remember what happened to the Lakers this past season.
Though there were many surprises of the first round, one team stayed true to form: the Charlotte Bobcats. With the 4th overall pick, and Ben McLemore and Nerlens Noel still on the board, the Bobcats selected Cody Zeller, the sophomore center from Indiana. Before I get ahead of myself, let me first say I’m a Cody Zeller fan. I mean, how could you not love a white guy from Indiana who wears Converses? I just don’t think it was the right pick at number 4 overall given the players still available. It’s been said Michael Jordan didn’t have much to do with this pick, and that it was the GM’s doing. Regardless, someone should be held accountable. Zeller will provide solid minutes and bring offense to a team that needs it. But he certainly doesn’t have the sex appeal of a McLemore or Noel, two guys that would put butts in the seats of the usually empty Time Warner Cable arena and give the Cats a better chance to win. Bobcats fans can find comfort in that pick, however, knowing that they’ll be in the lottery again next year with a chance of landing Andrew Wiggins.
So to say it was a boring draft that lacked starpower and appeal would be to say naming your child “North West” was a good idea. Yes, this draft didn’t have the sexiness of the 2003 class with LeBron, Melo, Wade, and Bosh. And it probably won’t compare to an already loaded draft class next year headlined by Andrew Wiggins. But it did have fans going “oooh” and “ahhhh” (and “boooo”–most of those aimed at Commissioner Stern) and getting excited about the future of their respective teams. No one knows whether or not these players will pan out, but for now, let’s just sit back, let the pieces fall where they may, and dream about where our teams might be come June 2014.
P.S. This is the first article I’ve ever done. I won’t start to speculate, but if I’m allowed to keep doing this, I’ll be contributing to all things NBA, NFL, NCAAF, and PGA. Til next time…Mike
Editors Note: He’ll be allowed to keep doing this. Look for him to cover everything he mentioned. Also, find him on Twitter here.