Let’s get something straight: NFL Draft Day is my Christmas. It takes up my entire day, I get immersed in all things football, and I am ruined for the next whole day. The NBA Draft is a different animal, because while the warm up to the NFL draft is a slow build of combines and private workouts, the NBA draft is a week-long celebration punctuated with crazy trades, values rising and falling, and the hopes and fates of young men decided. It leaves me so drained, I almost forget that we are immersed in sports purgatory. I guess the best equivalent of Draft Week is Hanukah. Only with fewer candles.
One of the toughest things about the NBA Draft is the fact that no one stays in the college game for any meaningful amount of time anymore, so it is hard to develop opinions on players. With the NFL Draft, you usually have a body of work of at least two years to judge a player by (unless that player is impatient Matt Sanchez – just ask Pete Carrol). And no, I’m not going to launch into my tirade about the reasons I don’t enjoy college basketball as much as the NBA, but it’s hard to know just how good Evans from Memphis is in only a year (BTW, I don’t think he is an NBA starting PG). No, the most exciting part of the NBA Draft Week is the Week itself; watching teams (Minny) stockpile picks in a bad draft, and watching players (Griffin) anxiously await a fate worse than death: The Clippers.
But, for the Atlanta sports fan, the NBA Draft has meant many unhappy returns. Acie Law IV, Sheldon Williams, (not) Chris Paul… and that’s just the last 5 years. We habitually make the wrong decision in these places, sticking the fans with watching a player who is getting paid too much, even with the rookie pay scale, and is untradeable, because he shouldn’t have been drafted in the first place. I’m getting nauseous just thinking about it. All this ineptitude, coupled with our recent ownership woes had me less than excited for tonight. Plus, there were more than a few rumors flying around about us moving our recently extended young power forward/swing man/dunk machine Josh Smith for Chris Bosh: the best player on a 30 win team, a third banana at best, and a guarantee lock to opt out after this season.
Tuesday. Hope? Rumblings abounded that a move of Acie Law and Speedy Claxton (how is he still getting an NBA paycheck!!!) to the Warriors for Jamal “19.7 a game last year?” Crawford. From a logical sense, I was elated: we were shedding two bad contracts for bad players, and while we were going to be paying Crawford 20 million over the next two seasons, in a year, he becomes an expiring contract, and good trade bait. If we could turn his expiring deal into two decent mid-level guys next year, I’d be elated. From a basketball perspective, the trade is a bit more problematic, the main problem being, where does he play? Unless you move Marvin (bad idea?), there is no place for him in the starting 5, but if you can convince him to replace Flip Murray’s role of instant offense (can’t believe I just wrote THAT) off the bench, then it works. But, will the front office not push to have a 10 million a year guy on the floor? Maybe the Hawks aren’t done, and can turn Crawford into room to lure a veteran PG here.
See, it’s stuff like this that makes the whole week so interesting. Things like the Spurs making a move for the last two years of Richard Jefferson’s deal, effectively announcing that they are going to make one last push while Tim Duncan is still at the height of his powers (or at least reasonably close). Even though it is highly uncharacteristic of the Spurs management to pay four guys 8 figures each, the move speaks to the fact that they have decided the direction they want to move in, and made a decisive move to get there. Tony Parker and his 11 million a year might be moving (sell high!), but Pop and co. have sent a message to their star and their fans: they want to win now. For lessons on how NOT to handle an offseason, one has to look no further than last year’s champs the Boston Celtics.
The rumor (and revealed truth) of Tuesday had the Celtics offering up Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo to the Pistons for Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince. Now, everyone gets why they would move Ray: he’s an expiring contract, he probably has one more extension in him, and the Celtics don’t want to give it to him. Basketball wise, meh, but it makes good front-office sense. Rondo makes peanuts, and was a triple double machine in the playoffs. So why is he being shopped (and why is this not the first time it’s happened)? While no specific stories have come out, the rumors are that there are some behind-the-music issues that have the Celts uncomfortable about committing long term to Rondo. But, as opposed to saying something to that effect, GM Danny Ainge came to a press conference somehow talking out of three sides of his mouth. Take some time, track the video down, I’ll wait.
Pretty funny, huh?
Now, he’s put himself in a position where they almost HAVE to move Rondo, because what they’ve done will only serve to exacerbate whatever issues already exist. And the rest of the Association knows it and will use it to their advantage. Except for Chris Wallace. Phoenix with their deal last night, either made a great decision to blow up what they had, and work to the future, or pooped on their fans again. Don’t worry, I’ll be taking a longer look at the Shaq trade this weekend. But, what about the main event? What about the draft itself?
I hate to (be the 1,456,932nd person to) say it, but this class sucks. Case in point: Tyler Hansbrough. After his sophomore year, he was touted as a sure-fire lottery pick. But he stayed. And we watched him be the same player for the next two years. The EXACT same. The only reason to stay in college is to grow as a player in that environment (Stephen Curry), and he stayed the same. So, his draft value has yo-yoed ever since. From lottery pick, to late first round, to mid second, and now, after these workouts, back in to the first. No one is discovering anything new about him (mostly because you have seen all of it already), but they are figuring out how bad this class is. And this assertion that it is a great point guard class? Maybe a great BACKUP point guard class. Aside from Curry, Flynn and Rubio (who I am borderline obsessed with), there isn’t that much talent. Ty Lawson? Great up and down the court, but can’t go lateral. Tyreke Evans? Average athletically, he wilted on the big stage in March. (Okay, full disclosure: I REALLY want the Hawks to get VCU point guard Eric Maynor, but I didn’t want to jinx it. I thought about it some, and to hell with jinxes. Let’s go Birds!!!)
I don’t know who is going where, but hopefully we’ll see some big trades and Blake Griffin’s knees explode when he walks to the stage. Just kidding. No need to hope for what HAS to happen. See you tonight.