Shanoff's WUC: Draft Mania, U.S. Soccer Craze

Today's Calls: John Wall vs. Washington, Chicago Bulls vs. LeBron James, U.S. vs. Ghana, Italy (and Spain?) vs. Oblivion, Isner vs. Mahut, Kevin Pritchard vs. Paul Allen, Vlad Guerrero vs. Rangers Streaking, Bobby Valentine vs. the Marlins, Joe Torre vs. the Yankees, Miles Austin vs. Reggie Bush, Michigan vs. Irrelevancy, the Saints vs. the ESPYs and More.

The Opening Pitch: With the 1st pick of the 2010 NBA Draft, the Washington Wizards instantly became relevant, snagging the most exciting guard prospect since Allen Iverson.

That's a pretty good outcome.

Let's talk about some other interesting developments from the draft:

Best non-Wall pick: DeMarcus Cousins by the Kings. "Boogie" will have an instant impact and, presuming he keeps his head on straight (quote of the night: "They think I'm a monster off the court"), can be a 20-10 cornerstone for a decade.

5 Other 1st Round Picks to Love: Aldrich (Thunder 11); Patterson (Rockets 14); Bledsoe (Clippers 18); Anderson (Spurs 20); Orton (Magic 29).

5 1st-Round Picks to Question: Udoh (Warriors 6); Aminu (Clippers 8); Henry (Grizzlies 12); E. Williams (Blazers 22); Vasquez (Grizzlies 28).

Five 2nd-Round Sleepers to Watch: Pleiss (Thunder 31); Whiteside (Kings 33); Rautins (Knicks 38); Ebanks (Lakers 43); Caracter (Lakers 58). Looking for an undrafted free agent? How about Jon Scheyer?

Most Eye-Opening Pick: Latavious Williams at No. 48 to the Miami Heat. Williams, the first prep to jump straight to the D-League, becomes the first D player selected in the NBA Draft. That's a lot better than 25 percent of the collegian early-entrants, by DeCourcy's count, who didn't get drafted at all.

Fashion King: Wes Johnson. The No. 4 pick (part of the T'wolves' let's-draft-as-many-swingmen-as-possible haul) may never become a star, but he instantly joined the NBA Draft Fashion Hall of Fame. Those pants!

Media phenomenon: Twitter. Last year's draft was Twitter's warm-up; this year, Twitter ruled, with picks and trades routinely breaking far ahead of the TV broadcast. The instant commentary was way more interesting, too.

2010 NBA Rookie of the Year: Blake Griffin.

(OK, that's not fair. From this class? I'm going to say Cousins. All-Rookie Team? Big men rule: Cousins, Favors, Monroe, Griffin, Wall.)

Be sure to read DeCourcy's analysis of every 1st-round pick.

LeBron Watch: Because there was plenty about this draft that had nothing to do with rookies and everything to do with jockeying for position for next week's start of NBA free agency -- aka the Summer of LeBron.

The Wizards-Bulls deal for Kirk Hinrich was a good move for the Bulls, though, freeing up enough cap room to sign LeBron and another top-tier free agent. Here's the thing, and this will get pointed out constantly over the next week until July 1:

There's only one LeBron, making this a zero-sum game. Either the Bulls or Knicks will lose out (we already presume the Cavs will). I guess the team that doesn't get LeBron makes an offer to Chris Bosh -- hardly a huge prize when NOT paired with LeBron or Wade -- and hopes he doesn't either sign with LeBron or with Wade down in Miami, another team with mega-cap room.

NBA Summer of 2011: Carmelo is the next LeBron -- the prize of free agency a year from now. The Nuggets would like to pre-empt that, offering Melo a 3Y/$65M deal. If he doesn't take it, that is a perfectly clear signal he intends to leave the team next summer for any number of teams with 2011 cap room (ahem: Wizards?) and Denver should look to trade him immediately, to try to get back a few dimes on the dollar before he leaves them high and dry.

World Cup: Knock-Out Round Begins, and the U.S. plays in the first day's games, versus Group D runnerup Ghana at 2:30 ET, in the most must-see (and must-win) soccer game ever since ... well, Wednesday. The Cup shifts to a format that every American sports fan can and should appreciate: A bracket. No more "points." No more ties. Survive and advance. Pick: U.S.

More Weekend Knock-Out Round Picks: Uruguay over South Korea (Saturday 10); Germany over England (Sunday 10); Argentina over Mexico (Sunday 2:30).

World Cup Today: Groups G and H are settled. Not much drama in Group G, where Brazil has advanced and Portugal is a virtual lock; in Group H, presumptive Cup favorite Spain can be knocked out if they don't beat Chile. If Spain loses, all Switzerland has to do is tie Honduras; if Spain ties, a Swiss win over Honduras sends Spain home, in a shocker.

(Speaking of shockers: Defending champ Italy is out. What's the Italian word for schadenfreude, because that was the worldwide feeling yesterday afternoon.)

Isner beats Mahut: The ending felt entirely anti-climactic. Next year, Wimbledon needs either to install lights so they can play into the night and not get a break -- or to change the format so that 5th sets don't have the potential to go on forever.

MLB Talking Points:

Walk-Off Watch: Vlad keeps Rangers going.

Bobby V returns! Four years with Fish?

Fantasy Stud: Dustin Pedroia (3 HR).

Weekend's Best: Torre vs. Yankees

Should Strasburg be an All-Star?: Yes.

Favre Watch: So Brett Favre would love to beat the Saints? And? Was this supposed to be one of his coy "tells" that he is coming back? Whatever. Until he announces that he is coming back to actually beat the Saints, he is nothing more than a Vikings fan with an opinion.

NFL Offseason: Well, of course Steve Smith regrets his flag football injury that will keep him out 10 weeks and limit him who-knows-how-much longer.

CFB Offseason: No. 71 Michigan. Three years in to the RichRod Era, this is where things are? That's not good.

NBA Executive Moves: Making the draft slightly more awkward was the news that the Blazers had fired GM Kevin Pritchard hours before the draft.

Pop Culture: Oh, Miles Austin. Really?

Award Season: The ESPY nominations came out yesterday. I suspect that the Saints will clean up -- they would win every category, so it looks like they were limited to a handful (not listed in "Best Game?"). Among other categories the Saints will likely win: Best Team, Best Moment and best Championship Performance. (No nomination for the Onside Kick?)

Mea Culpa: In yesterday's WUC, I painted U.S. soccer die-hards with an overly broad brush -- that there was some sort of resentment for casual (or non-) soccer fans hopping on the bandwagon. I was vociferously corrected that die-hards love the bandwagon fans, and would love to see them stick around after the World Cup is over. (They agreed, however, with my characterization that they were snobs.)

The Last Word: "USA." Get it done, team.

Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff.

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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