The 2011 NBA Draft gets underway tonight at 7:30 eastern on ESPN, and the Cleveland Cavaliers own the first and fourth picks of the first round. There are rumors that the Cavaliers could try to trade up to get yet another lottery pick, too. In other words, as the NBA's about to welcome the most mediocre draft class we've seen in years, Cleveland's not about to get caught on the sidelines.
That's right, the Cavs will be right at the center, stockpiling all the mediocre, enigmatic talents they can get their hands on. And if you haven't noticed, yes, one of the highlights of tonight's draft will be Cleveland jokes, because even after all these years, some things just never change.
Speaking of which, another star tonight will be David Kahn, whose team owns the no. 2 pick, and could singlehandedly sway the rest of the draft. As reported earlier on SB Nation, the Wolves are actively shopping the number two pick, with the latest rumor centering on Josh Smith and the Atlanta Hawks. As Tom Ziller writes:
Thehave offered forward to the in a prospective trade for the No. 2 pick in Thursday's 2011 NBA Draft, reports Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski. With that No. 2 pick, the Hawks are reportedly interested in Turkish big man Enes Kanter.
Atlanta has made Smith available in recent weeks, according to reports, with rumored discussions with theand drawing sunlight. The Hawks have huge salary obligations, and Smith is considered move tradable than and less vital than , both of whom are owed more salary than Smith.
Beyond the Hawks, the Suns and Wizards are also said to be in the mix for possible trades. In any case, the clock is ticking, and it's only a matter of time before David Kahn does something completely baffling. Like, you know, firing his coach in the most embarrassing way possible.
In any case, the draft is here, and year-in and year-out, the NBA Draft marks one of the true high points of the NBA Calender. The Finals are fun, but on draft night, everyone has a chance, and as an added bonus, the spotlight shines of some of the most dysfunctional organizations in the league. Seriously, Cleveland AND David Kahn? It seems too good to be true.
Nothing can top the 1996 Draft, but tonight should be fun regardless. Without further ado, let's get into an NBA Draft edition of Talking Points...
The Best Draft Story You'll Read Today. It comes from ESPN's Chad Ford, and centers on a projected second-round pick out of Marquette named Jimmy Butler:
"I don't like the look of you. You gotta go."
Those were the last words Jimmy Butler says he remembers his mother saying to him before, according to his recollection, she kicked him to the curb. He was 13 years old. There was no family to run to. No place to call home. No money in his pocket. Most kids his age are concerned with school, sports, girls. Butler was just trying to survive. Alone.
"His story," one GM said. "is one of the most remarkable I've seen in all my years of basketball. There were so many times in his life where he was set up to fail. Every time, he overcame just enormous odds. When you talk to him -- and he's hesitant to talk about his life -- you just have this feeling that this kid has greatness in him."
Just remember: As absurd as the draft can seem tonight, it's still the night when a lot of guys like Jimmy Butler fulfill lifelong dreams, and that's pretty great. For every overprivaleged millionaire (including guys like David Kahn) the draft still gives us stories like Butler's. Very cool.
A Roundup Of Backhanded Compliments For This Year's Draft Class. Via Deadspin:
4. Enes Kanter, Turkey "He'd be a great backup center to Andrea Bargnani." — Jerryd Bayless
"Good athlete, not great...Runs well but does not possess average NBA-level speed." — NBA.com
5. Jan Vesely, Czech Republic "There may be no more of a beauty-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder player in this draft than Vesely....Whether Vesely's quick first step and ballhandling translate to the NBA is a question, though, especially because he is not much of a perimeter shooter." - The Sporting News
6. Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State "He's tough, he's versatile and if he ever learns to really shoot the basketball ... watch out."— Chad Ford
7. Kemba Walker, Connecticut "He can learn a lot from Devin Harris" — Al Jefferson
Yeah, not the greatest year for teams to be drafting in the lottery. Kinda perfect that this year's Draft got moved from Manhattan to Newark because of renovations at Madison Square Garden.
Speaking Of Which... Some More Realistic Comparisons. You will hear lots of player comparisons tossed around during tonight's draft, but the most accurate analogies are provided here.
Could This Be The Worst Draft Ever? Eric Freeman takes a closer look for ESPN.
An Oral History Of How The Boston Celtics Drafted Len Bias. This was pretty cool:
Larry Bird, Celtics forward (1979-92)
The two college players that I can remember Red talking about were [Ralph] Sampson and Bias. He really thought Bias was going to be great. Maybe he would have been.[...]
There was a hard white snow falling on the NBA by the late 1970's. And as much as Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and the "NBA: It's Fantastic" ads changed the public image of the league, cocaine was still very much a factor in the NBA. And the cocaine era was about to be defined by the Class of 1986.
Gerald HendersonIn the 1980's, drugs were everywhere. And not just in the NBA or with the Bias stuff, it was all over the country. The Bias incident wasn't something that just appeared out of nowhere.
We brought Bias in, worked him out, we gave him a physical, we gave him a drug test. We were at that point where we were doing that. It was the first year we did it, as I recall. As it turns out, we violated the CBA in doing so. Unintentionally.Yes, he passed. I'm not going to get into that. But Bias passed the drug test. I don't think you'll find anybody who said they knew there were drugs.
Bismack Biyombo Will Be Your New Favorite Player. Here's video of Bismack Biyombo dunking 75 times in a row at a Charlotte Bobcats workout, and just because it was that good, we'll re-link the interview that we featured earlier this week. From Grantland:
Grantland: Do you have a girlfriend?
Biyombo: Yeah, for sure! I met her at a house party, hanging out with some friends. She lives in Madrid. But now is the NBA draft, and I don't know what's going to happen. I came back from [the Hoops Summit in] Portland so excited, but also sad because I know that moving to the U.S. means maybe leaving my girlfriend. We've been together 6 or 7 months. We say "I love you" to each other.
And I invited her to move to America with me. But she's young — she's 18, same as me — and she might want to stay in Spain with her family. If she doesn't want to move, I told her I understand, that's no problem, but the United States is like another world, and being there for the first time is gonna be difficult. I need someone next to me. If she's not gonna come, I told her I'm gonna have to catch up with someone over there. It was hard to tell her that, but I'm not gonna lie to her and say, "I love you," and keep things going and then she finds out I'm doing something wrong.
I like to talk to people face-to-face and be honest. Sometimes that means people want to punch me out, but at least, hey, they know the truth. I don't want people to say, "Oh, this guy lied to me." I want them to say, "I have respect for him." So I talk straight to people. That's just the way I am.
If that answer doesn't make him your favorite player in the draft, then you have no soul.
Finally, We End With A Pair Of Videos. My favorite draft memory will always be Steve Francis getting drafted to Vancouver and looking like he'd just been taken hostage. So glad this is on YouTube:
On the other hand, when I shared that yesterday, Tom Ziller one-upped me, and provided something that might not be better, but is certainly just as surreal. The wired segment from Brook Lopez in 2008:
"I'm so bored!" Can't wait for another NBA Draft. Enjoy the show!