Expectations are dangerous.
As the draft approaches, most pundits are calling it a four player draft. John Wall, Evan Turner, DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors are widely regarded as the top four prospects, at least from a pure talent perspective. The Wizards, Sixers, Nets and Timberwolves came away from the lottery last night with the top four picks, yet the excitement level has to be wildly different for each of the four franchises.
The Nets and Timberwolves entered with the leagues two worst records, at 12-70 and 15-67 respectively. The draft, combined with the significant cap space both would have heading into free agency, were key elements in their rebuilding process. Dropping to third and fourth in the draft, respectively, was a serious blow. Cousins and Favors, the current consensus third and fourth rated prospects, may have similarly high upsides to Wall and Turner, but they contain significantly more risk as well. The question with each is less how high their upside is but how probable it is they max that out.
Furthermore, if there were two franchises that needed an influx of excitement to make themselves more attractive, both to fans and potential free agent signees, it was the Nets and the Timberwolves. The impact of their lottery disappointment could extend even further.
It may also impact the Nets coaching search. "It may affect who may or may not be interested in our job," Nets President Rod Thorn said before the lottery. "It doesn't affect me, from the standpoint of who I'm interested in or not interested in. But some guys who might have had a lukewarm interest may have more now."
Before the draft, when asked what his primary concern is right now with regards to taking over the Nets, new Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov jokingly stated this has primary concern right now is to get the top pick. It appears the Russian entrepreneur has suffered his first NBA defeat.
That being said, both front offices said the right things afterward.
"There are good players at those positions - one, two, three and four,", Thorn said. "I will never look at a player as a consolation prize, not at all. You never do that."
Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations David Kahn was bracing for the potential outcome before the draft. "There's a tendency with [the lottery] to make everyone feel as if the stakes are actually much higher than they are," he said. I don't think the stakes are as high as people would like others to believe. Sure, would we like to be 1, 2, 3, of course, but I just don't see the world becoming a very bad place for Timberwolves fans if, god forbid, we're at 4 or 5 [after the lottery]."
The world might not be ending, but the outcome of last nights lottery may have a worse impact on the Timberwolves than the Nets. With John Wall and, perhaps more importantly in the Wolves eyes, Evan Turner expected to be off the board, the best players available may be big men, an area the Wolves are already crowded at with Kevin Love and Al Jefferson. If the best player available is DeMarcus Cousins, can he coexist with Big Al?
"There is excellent talent at the top of the draft and we'll be able to add a talented player to our team no matter where we end up selecting," Kahn said before the lottery.
Contrast that with the Wizards and the Sixers, who entered the lottery slotted fifth and sixth, respectively. Both teams suffered through major distractions last season, neither would appear to be major players in free agency this year, and both were sitting on the outside looking in on the top four of the draft. The prospects of both franchises were brightened significantly from last nights results.
Might there be questions on whether Arenas can fit with Wall, and whether Iguodala can coexist with Turner? There may, although I don't think either concern is as big as will probably be made out over the next five weeks, and I don't think either question should prevent the teams from drafting who they have rated as the best prospect. That being said, both general managers are thrilled to have that problem. As I sat next to Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace while the results were being announced he mentioned that sometimes it's best to forget your roster on draft night, and both teams should likely do so come June 24th.
"It's great for the fans," Sixers General Manage Ed Stefanski said. "We've had a rough year. We have loyal fans who will stick with us, I know it, but this only helps people see that we are on the right track."
The Sixers very well could have been slotted seventh. The Pistons won on the last day of the regular season to tie the Sixers, and eventually lost a coin toss that would have placed the Sixers seventh had neither team moved into the top 3.
Stefanski was very excited to add another piece to his young core.
"I'm looking up on that stage and I see that we have a 19 year old point guard in Jrue Holiday who can flat out play, and now we're going to match that up with a #2 pick in the draft and the other pieces we have with the 76ers, we feel confident that we'll turn this around quickly. "
Which may be good news for him. With rumors coming down earlier in the offseason that Stefanski's job wasn't necessarily secure, if he's able to add top level talent like Evan Turner, who can come in and contribute immediately, it may allow Stefanski to breathe easier, without compromising the future of the ballclub.
And who can't feel happy for Irene Pollin, the widow of long-time Wizards owner Abe Pollin ?
Assuming Arenas comes back from his layoff and is the player he was, Arenas does not necessarily have to be moved to fit Wall in. Defensively, Wall is tall enough and has enough defensive potential that the two may be able to coexist, and offensively the duo should work well off each other.
Changes to lottery?
Ironically, at David Stern's press conference before the lottery, Stern was asked whether he thought there was enough of a deterrent to prevent tanking, and he said he thinks if there is a problem, it may be that the teams needing talent may not be getting it.
"I think that the results of the lottery, if anything, are causing teams with the worst record to feel as though their paucity of wins is not being adequately recognized and compensated," Stern said. "But so for us [the NBA] it works well. It's taking care of the main reason for which is was enacted [to prevent tanking]."
Still, with the two worst teams ending up at the third and fourth picks, the system will likely be second-guessed.
Stern stepping down?
When asked during the lottery whether Stern had ever stepped back and asked himself how much longer he could would continue in his capacity as commissioner, Stern admitted that he has thought about it. When asked how long, he wouldn't put a timeline on it.
"I'm not going to say. But I have stepped back. And what I will say is that I really consider myself lucky. I have a job that I enjoy. I enjoy coming to the office. Particularly I enjoy working with the people who make the league look good. And I enjoy the additional growth and challenges."
"I have thought about it, I thought about it every 2 or 3 years for the last 26, but so far so good," Stern ended with.
Stern apparently believes Gilbert Arenas can be a positive example going forwad.
"I see him working hard in the community, I see him getting in shape. I spoke to him last week and I think he might have put on a couple of pounds, he's going to work it off, and he's going to come back as a very successful member of the Wizards, and he's going to work hard to use his experience to talk to others and demonstrate that there is such a thing as making a mistake, owning up to it, and moving on from there."