The Confusion of the NBA Draft

A few notes I have after the detritus has finally settled over last night’s draft:

1. Kevin McHale lets Minnesota fans down once again.  Draffs a potential superstar in O.J. Mayo and then deals him to Memphis for Mike Miller and Kevin Love, the latter will be very good, but I’m not sure that will be enough to keep fans from continuing to turn on the team. I expect another year of RandBall calling them “the McLovins.”

2. Did Pat Riley get outvoted on Beasley?  Every time I hear him talk about the pick, it sounds like he really, really didn’t want him.

3. Portland’s front office is smarter than yours. Brandon Rush wouldn’t have been a bad fit, but to turn him into Jerryd Bayless is a frickin’ steal. Bayless, Roy, Oden, Outlaw, and Aldridge. NICE.

4. New York Knicks fans will boo anybody. Why they weren’t expecting Coach Pornstache to draft Danilo “The Big Cock” Gallinari, I don’t know.

5. Joe Alexander makes me want to watch Bucks games. So does Richard Jefferson. Good job, Milwaukee.

6. Kevin McHale should be glad he doesn’t suck as much as Michael Jordan in a front office role.  D.J. Augustin is going to get burned on the defensive end in the Association early and often.  Brook Lopez will eventually thank Charlotte for passing on him so he can have a career.

7. Brook Lopez, trading away Jefferson and getting Bobby Simmons’ expiring 2010 contract is as blatant a play for LeBron James to come to NJ/Brooklyn in 2010 as anything else I’ve seen yet. Danny Ferry, you have two years to deliver.

Anything y’all liked, hated, or want to note?

Photo: AP/Frank Franklin II

Should They Stay Or Should They Go?

Your basic evaluations as to which high profile freshmen should be declaring for the Association or should decide to stick around for another season in the college ranks.

Derrick Rose, Memphis – Guaranteed lottery pick, and depending upon the franchise that lands the first overall pick, could go #1 in the draft. Regardless of what happens against Kansas tonight, should punch his ticket to the Association.

Michael Beasley, Kansas State – If you are averaging 26 points and more than 10 boards a game in your freshman year in college in a conference like the Big 12, you are probably ready to go pro. Those are numbers beating Carmelo Anthony’s marks, and if Beasley had someone else to play with outside of Bill Walker the Wildcats might have gotten further.

Jerryd Bayless, Arizona – Already declared, might have wanted to stay another year. It may not be fair or right, but he reminds me a lot of a bit less polished version of Gilbert Arenas (and no, it isn’t necessarily because he wore “0” at Airzona too.)  He’ll probably turn out fine, but a year actually being coached by Lute Olson and a more open offensive system would have been better for him.

Eric Gordon, Indiana – I really don’t know if there was any other choice than for Gordon to leave.  There was too much instability and uncertainty about NCAA violations that Kelvin Sampson left with that Gordon might have been stuck with a school that could be punished severely. He was consistently good in conference, but faded when hitting the Big 10 and NCAA tourneys.

O.J. Mayo, USC – Started out his freshman year flat, got much better as Pac-10 conference play rolled on and grew into his role as leader.  Honestly, he needs to stay one more year and then he’ll be set to go. There are some shot creation situations he could use some more work on, at least from what I could see when I watched USC games this season.

Kevin Love, UCLA – After watching him just get boxed in by Memphis’ front-court tandem on Saturday, he needs to spend another year in Westwood lifting weights and focusing that post game further. The Tigers had players that are the caliber of guys Love will see in the Association — and he just looked kind of schlubby in comparison.

Photo: AP/Matt York

Brave New Basketball World.

The saga of Yi Jianlian’s possibility of not playing in Milwaukee come next season is a fascinating lesson on where political concerns, sport, and government combine for an utter clusterfuck. Since the Chinese government, more or less, dictates the rights of these players, the recent statements of the Guandong Tigers’ head saying Yi will never play for the Bucks provides a new wrinkle in the morass that is drafting international players: now, more than ever, teams will have to consider not only the player’s original club, but also his government.

What leaves me confused is why the owner cites the possibility of Yi’s not getting enough playing time being the reason for their objection, after originally citing “not enough Chinese population” as an initial reason.  Clearly, the Chinese Basketball Association is either posturing or seriously believes that Yi would be better off playing more minutes, no matter what the quality of the opponent. Most of us would believe that double-digit minutes on an NBA team is probably ten times better and more competitive than banging up against subpar bodies back home — so I’m not sure that the Tigers’ owner completely buys what he’s spewing.

The Bucks and David Stern can’t really give in here, nor do they have to. Not only would it set bad precedent for international players, but the Bucks and the commish have all the power here. The Chinese want Yi to play in the U.S., well, they can’t set the terms themselves.  The Association will soldier on without him, the Bucks will have learned their lesson, and every owner and GM will always think twice about dealing with the Chinese government and whether they are wasting a draft pick. Milwaukee could have been smarter and listened to his reps in the first place, though.

Evaluating The One-Year Rule, Post-Draft.

A lot of consternation has gone into the NBA’s rule on barring high-school players from entering the draft directly, and now, with the 2007 draft out of the way and one-and-done Greg Oden and Kevin Durant now pros, it’s probably worth a look back at how it has panned out so far, especially with the next class of one-and-dones (so everyone assumes) in USC’s O.J. Mayo, UCLA’s Kevin Love, and K-State’s Michael Beasley on the way to the college game.

Andy Katz at the four-letter has deduced that the new rule has made NBA personnel look harder at the college game; thus, more upperclassmen are getting looked at along with the super froshes.  The logic works for me — it’s easier to look at the players and make judgments now that everyone, save the foreign players, are on the same playing court, for the most part. But let’s note that most of these upperclassmen went later in the first round — because that’s highly important. Teams doing well enough to draft outside of the lottery were smart enough from the get-go to not get psyched into drafting players that weren’t ready for the pressure and change in game. The benefit for the NBA has been obvious; that was never really in question — Oden and Durant came into the draft with the general argument about just who should be taken first after a season of hype on the college courts.

Now, with Mayo, Love, and Beasley, their respective programs are prepared to deal with the possibilities of one-and-done — which still leaves the jury out on whether this is ultimately good for college basketball as a whole.  USC’s Tim Floyd makes a salient point here: it’s all about how attractive and well known your program is:

“The premier programs that just select talent won’t be hurt as badly,” he said, “Carolina being a team, for example, that can easily replace Brandan Wright” — taken eighth overall by Charlotte. “They just plug in the next guy. They may be four deep at that position; they’ll be fine.

“Georgia Tech? Tech isn’t always accustomed to having two early entry picks” — forward Thaddeus Young went No. 12 overall to Philadelphia; guard Javaris Crittenton went to the Lakers at No. 19 — “and may have a more difficult time replacing them and have a couple of down years.”

The hype storm is helped by having the players do at least one year in NCAA ball, but still, the only consensus is how good the rule is for the players and the pro organizations. It’s been good for the college game in terms of exposure of those stars, but that’s really all we can say at this point — the real test will be after a full recruiting cycle, say 3 or 4 years.

Measuring The BS Level Of A Major.

My man-crush for Acie Law IV knows no bounds, and I’m pleased that Billy Knight finally did the right thing in Atlanta by going for the conventional wisdom and picking up Al Horford and Law, but I’ve read a lot about the mockery of Acie’s major while over at Texas A&M. (Law did not help by accidentally punning that it was a “wide open field.”)

Look, we all know that these majors are not particularly strenuous when it comes to D-I athletes, more often than not, but I live five minutes from an ag and engineering university and even I had not heard of the major of “Agricultural Leadership.”

So, engaging in the most minor of journalistic practices, I thought it might be good to consult A&M’s web site, and lo and behold, here we have some information on what this particular major consists of, in terms of what the goals are (it’s part of the College of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications):

The students who major in Agricultural Leadership and Development are “people-oriented.” They have interests in a variety of technical divisions including animal agriculture, science, plant agriculture, business, and other areas. ALED students have career aspirations in the following areas: communications/public relations, politics, lobbying for agriculture, extension work, and other similar fields.

Ah, gotcha. Sounds like the ag ed and comm program at Poly, if a bit less stringent or academically demanding. Not essentially BS, but as far as yours truly is concerned, most comm major fields are BS — however, I will admit there is an art to turning the jargon of academics and experts into something legible and comprehensible in American English. Also, the only reason we’re mocking Law’s major and degree is that, well, he actually finished it in four years.

Yes, it’s a slow day for me with few topics that I care to expound upon today, why do you ask?

(Photo: NBA/Getty/Nathaniel S. Butler)

The Shakeout, Shakedown, and Shakeup of the Draft.

I don’t know why. I just love this photo. It takes awkward to a whole new level. I didn’t get to watch this much on TV (busy night at work), so I mostly observed the nuttiness via the AP wire on my computer. Here are your basic winners, losers, and WTF elements, from my cursory examinations:

Winners:

  1. Portland: Duh. It’s hard to lose with either Oden or Durant, they cleared out Zach Randolph (although this also falls in the WTF category, see later), and Oden, Aldredge, and Roy is the nucleus for what should be a very good team. I also like Taurean Green off the bench, and that low, you can take a waiver on Josh McRoberts.
  2. Seattle: Duh #2. Drafting Durant is great, getting Jeff Green is pretty good too, and adding Delonte West and Wally Sczcerbiak isn’t bad either.
  3. Atlanta: Solely on this list for sticking with the conventional wisdom. Getting Horford and Law were what people were predicting, and Billy Knight should be commended for sticking to the script.
  4. New York: Isiah dumped Stevie Franchise on Portland and only had to give up Channing Frye to get a top notch frontcourt. Now, if he can keep Zach Randolph out of trouble, the Knicks may be playoff bound.
  5. Chicago: Joakim Noah’s a Scott Skiles-type of guy, JamesOn Curry’s a good guy to pick up late like that, and Skiles is probably one of the few coaches who could get NBA -level play out of Aaron Gray.
  6. Golden State: Sure, dealing away J-Rich had to be tough, but you get someone like Brandan Wright in exchange, and that’s not bad. From what I’m reading, neither is Balinelli. Re-sign Matt Barnes and this team is still off the hook next year.

Losers:

  1. Milwaukee: Damn, drafting Yi there was dumb. Never take someone who doesn’t want to be there. Bad sign.
  2. Charlotte: Jesus, that was dumb, MJ. Draft Brandan Wright and deal him away to the Western Conference for Richardson and Jermareo Davidson. Jared Dudley better pan out.
  3. L.A. Clippers: Not sure why Al Thornton at this point. I would have gone with Crittenton, but they must have some confidence that Shaun Livingston will return eventually.
  4. Houston: Really the best they could do at that point, but Aaron Brooks is still underwhelming there.
  5. Sacramento: I don’t like Spencer Hawes one bit.
  6. Boston: Ray Allen is injury-prone and aging. This might get ’em to the playoffs for a couple years, but it isn’t a long term fix and won’t make Boston any more of a destination for better players.

WTF:

  1. Portland got bilked on their end of the Randolph trade, having to buy out Francis.
  2. Charlotte, again, with trading Brandan Wright.
  3. Danny Ainge continues the run of stupid.

(Photo: NBAE/Getty/Chris McGrath)

Well, There Goes the Suspense.

OK, well some of the suspense is now kind of out of the conundrum facing Portland GM Kevin Pritchard because ESPN’s Ric Bucher is now saying that the call is for Greg Oden with tonight’s first pick, which means Kevin Durant goes to Seattle, and then the real questions will start being answered. The obvious subplots to keep in mind are numerous — where KG gets traded (if he gets dealt on draft day), will Mike Conley go as high as #3 (hope to hell not), and whom will be silly enough to think that Yi Jianlian can actually have an impact off the bat? Also, which predicted high draft pick will be pulling a Brady Quinn and waiting a lot longer than they expected?

That aside, I’ve long been an Oden backer, and while there are perfectly good and reasonable points to taking Durant with the #1 pick, the overriding factor for me personally is looking at the Western Conference — in dealing with big guys like Amare Stoudemire and Tim Duncan, you need a big defensive presence to match up. I don’t think LaMarcus Aldredge, Joel Pryzbila, or Zach Randolph do that on the defensive end. If there is something that is proven about Greg Oden, it’s his defense and shot-blocking ability. The offensive skills will come with time.