"Growing up, I lived in a tough neighborhood, getting in trouble in school, especially when my dad passed. So my mom took me to school and picked me up in the afternoon, that was it. As a kid, 10, 11 years old, you want to see your family spend time and [we] didn't really have it. She was the first lady, she says, if you don't change your attitude, you'll never be doing [anything]. So for her, to be in this situation, means a lot to me..."
Admit it, as sarcastic as we are about the NBA Draft every year, that quote from John Wall was pretty phenomenal. Let's all just take a moment and reflect on what this means to all these kids.
(trying not to think about Kirk Hinrich...)
(doing yoga breathing...)
Okay, let's go.
AHHHHHHH... John Wall John Wall John Wall.
Let's say there are 10 true "franchise" players in the entire NBA... Last night, the Washington Wizards got a guy with a good chance of joining that group. That's all you need to know.
You'll hear a lot of folks ridicule the 'Zards today, and that's fine. Deserved, even. Later in the day, we'll talk about why the Wizards need to fire GM Ernie Grunfeld. But that's a whole different story, and it pales in comparison to Wall joining the Wizards.
That's the funny thing about the draft. We have all this hoopla surrounding each of the 60 picks in the first and second rounds—did you see Knicks fans react when the team picked at 38/39 in the second?—but after the first few picks in the lottery, it's all pretty much a crapshoot. When we look back at NBA Drafts of years past, there are really only a handful of picks that stand out as moments where we can say, "Whoa. That changed that entire franchise."
John Wall's that type of player. Most years, the draft doesn't even have a guy like that.
Have I been repeating this reasoning to myself over and over for the past 24 hours? Yes, yes I have. This draft is about John Wall, not Kirk Hinrich. You hear me? John Wall. WE'RE NOT GOING TO TALK ABOUT HOW THE WIZARDS PAID $20 MILLION DOLLARS TO DRAFT A GUY NAMED KEVEEEEEN. (stabs self in the thigh) WHY NO, I'M NOT UNSTABLE AT ALL, WHY DO YOU ASK? (throws cell phone across room) WHO WANTS TO SMOKE CIGARETTES ALL DAY AND CURSE OUT ERNIE GRUNFELD? (weeping)
Hey, look over there! Greivis Vasquez got drafted!
While we're here, we should mention that Greivis' shimmy, while insufferable, is infinitely cooler than the John Wall dance. (gif via Jose3030) Let's jump into some other stories from draft night.
Sam Presti Invented The Internet, Then Bought Stock in Google
In the 2009 Basketball Prospectus, Sam Presti is quoted as saying, "It would not be prudent for us to let restlessness be our nemesis." It doesn't even matter what he's talking about there. Doesn't that sound like someone you'd want running your franchise?
So of course he's emerged as one of the best GM's in the league, and completely ran away with draft night. If I ran an NBA team, there are three people whose phone call I would never answer: Daryl Morey, R.C. Buford, and Sam Presti. To quote Leonard Washington's remark to Grits N' Gravy during the World Series of Dice, "Boy, you are the Goddamn devil." You could say that about any one of these three, and consistently, they leave fellow GM's looking like Ashy Larry.
As for Presti and Oklahoma City in the 2010 Draft, he traded five times, landed Cole Aldrich (solid low post option), Morris Peterson (expiring deal, nice compliment), Latavious Williams (nice potential as an energy guy off the bench), a future first round pick from the Clippers (a first rounder from the Clippers should count as two), and... Well, they win. Sam Presti, you're the Goddamn devil.
Trades, The NBA Needs To Fix 'Em
Speaking of Aldrich... How many times did someone get traded last night, and then have to go through the charade of strutting around wearing another team's hat, posing for pictures with those weird team basketballs, and answering questions about a completely different team, city, and fanbase? It's embarrassing.
Generally, this is one of those pastimes of the draft that everyone enjoys, but Thursday night, the absurdity really one-upped itself. Sometimes, the ESPN guys would know about a trade and tell the audience, and others, they'd just pretend like, say, Chicago drafted Kevin Seraphin. Multiple times throughout the night, we were legitimately confused about who was drafting whom.
It's not a huge problem, but it definitely affects the viewing experience for fans at home. The NBA Draft is well-paced, with entertaining interviews, and lots of engaging storylines, but if we're spending half the time looking at each other dumbfounded and trying to keep track of who's going where, that's a problem. Whatever moratoriums are in place until July 8th should either be lifted, or at least ignored on draft night, just so that fans can process this stuff while retaining some measure of sanity. Really, we don't ask much.
DeMarcus Cousins To Sactown: Getcha Popcorn Ready
Whether it'll be successful is whole 'nother issue, but who's excited to watch Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins double team the world for the next few years? And it was great pick. Because if you're Sacramento, what choice did you have?
Put it this way: if you're going to risk building your franchise around Tyreke Evans, you might as well take the risk on someone like Cousins. It's essentially the same risk, after all. You're hoping that talent obscures the red flags, you're hoping that they can stay out of trouble, and you're taking your best shot at landing a superstar. It worked brilliantly with Evans last year, and even now, we're still wondering whether Tyreke is stable enough to build around. Those questions will persist for years, and it'll be the same story with Cousins.
But while everyone else balks at the risks, fact is, Cousins and Evans are arguably the most talented young duo in the league. Character and maturity can be massaged over time, but talent's either there or isn't. And with Sacramento, it most certainly is.
Throw in the Hassan Whiteside pick in the second round, and suddenly, the Kings have one of the brightest futures in the league. Could they self-destruct in spectacular fashion? Sure, but screw it. That'd be entertaining, too. And if your franchise is Sacramento, with little hopes of attracting big name free agents and a long history of marginalization, you might as well go for the home run.
Gordon Hayward Got To Meet David Stern! THE David Stern
1. The protagonist from a Matt Christopher book just got drafted.
2. With Utah/Indiana picking at 9/10, was there any doubt Hayward was going off the board? I mean, any doubt whatsoever?
3. From Ross Siler of the Salt-Lake City Tribune: "If Gordon Hayward takes Kyle Korver's job, here's hoping he's committed to building 1,000 ramps and roofs for needy families in SLC." So, uh, keep that in mind, Gordo. More ramps for Utah, please.
4. Gordon Hayward's sister. She seemed kind of cute, so of course I had to Google her. And sure enough, a quick Google search revealed... Well, 99% sure this Heather Hayward is not related to Gordon, but she sure looks fun.
5. Hayward highlights, set to N.W.A.'s "Straight Outta Compton"... You're welcome, Utah:
Kevin Pritchard Is Either Very Smart, Or Very Stupid
Nothing the Blazers did last night could ever be as reckless as playing Brandon Roy a week after knee surgery when they had zero shot at winning a title. HAVING SAID THAT, Portland did go ahead and put Kevin Pritchard in everyone's dream position. They fired him, and then asked him to make critical, franchise-altering decisions for the ensuing six hours.
So what did Kevin Pritchard do? How'd he handle it?
Well, it's hard to say. As Bomani Jones said on Twitter last night, "If Kevin Pritchard is really running this draft, he either deserves all of my respect, or none of it." Indeed.
It was either an ingenious effort at sabotage, or, well, he's just not very smart. For some reason, everyone talks about Pritchard in glowing terms as a GM, but when you look at his track record, what have you really got? He botched the biggest decision in franchise history (Oden over Durant), and the players he's added, he either chose in the top 5, or chose with late-first round picks that he was able to buy, because he's working with Paul Allen's unlimited cash flow.
Thursday night, he capped off his tenure by trading for Luke Babbitt, a forward from Nevada that will either be mildly serviceable, or a complete disaster. Not a lot to love there. He gave up Martell Webster, which isn't much, but still. He followed that by drafting two guards (Elliot Williams, Armon Johnson), to a team that's already loaded at the guard position. Brilliant, no?
If he did it on purpose, then yes. But if not... Then his dismissal is probably for the best. Again, everyone loves this guy for some reason, but given the advantages he had, it'd be more impressive if he didn't turn Portland into a playoff team. Like, David Kahn impressive.
Also, note to my bosses at SB Nation: If you ever fire me, fire me. Don't leave me with six hours left on the job, because so help me God, I will burn this place to the ground.
But Where Were We? Oh Yes... KAHHHHHHHHN.
Coming into the draft, Daivd Kahn had a lot of pressure to improve on last year's performance (drafting the only two point guards that were NOT spectacular last year), and by God, he did it. David Kahn is more incompetent than we ever could have dreamed.
- "There has to be something else."
- "As much as I think it is one of the worst selection performances I have ever seen..."
- "Viewed by itself, this draft is an insane mess."
- "Right now, they're in the basketball wilderness..."
- "Early returns are horrifying."
- "I'm dead serious about jumping ship with this team if they don't turn it around by the trade deadline."
Now, Canis Hoopus does express some measure of optimism about the future, saying that last night's effort from Kahn needs to be viewed within the proper context, and there's still a chance for the offseason to come together quite nicely. Of course, it's David Kahn, so who knows?
For now, want to know what it's like to root for a team that's run by David Kahn? Those six sentences above provide a pretty nice snapshot, I think. If Sam Presti is the Goddamn devil, then...
Reality Check Of The Night
Watching the draft with an eye on Twitter was about as fantastic as you'd expect, but this insight was really above and beyond. A maxim for life, really.
Regarding Tiny Gallon: If you have a tattoo on your neck that says "misunderstood," you're probably understood about right.
That Guy Belongs On The Clippers
Jokes aside, it seems like the Clippers had a fantastic draft. Eric Bledsoe was my favorite player outside the top ten, and Al-Farouq Aminu, for all the goofiness of those glass and the accompanying grin, should fit in really well next to Blake Griffin, where he won't be asked to carry a scoring load, and can just do what he does best—be impossibly long and athletic, and, uh, do stuff.
Anyway, if you're keeping score at home, the Clippers now have a core of Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, Baron Davis, Chris Kaman, Deandre Jordan, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Eric Bledsoe. Not bad.
Of course, they're still the Clippers, so they're completely f—ing doomed. But at least in theory, that team's working with quite the nucleus these days.
Xavier Henry Will Be Very Good One Day
It's a minor point, but had to be mentioned somewhere. Of all the players in this draft, the list for "most likely to play in an NBA All-Star Game" isn't very long...
- Wall. As close to a lock as you'll find in any draft.
- Cousins. If he stays sane, he'll get there.
- Turner. Most likely, but not quite a guarantee.
- Favors. I guess so... A complete toss-up, really.
- Henry. Isn't he fifth? Cole Aldrich might make it as the "token backup center" one year, but otherwise, who's got more upside than Henry? Or, who else in the top 10 has any sort of All-Star upside? A lot of nice players there, but Henry's got to be considered the most intriguing.
Anyway, he went 12th to Memphis, and considering their need for a Rudy Gay insurance policy, along with Henry's absurd potential, that's probably the best pick of the lottery. With that, let's wrap this up...
The Awkwardness Of The Draft In One, Perfect Photo
Until next year... Long live Ashy Larry, yall.