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

More ACC Slobber-Knocking, Yet Again

I feel like I need to preface this by saying that I like reading Grant Wahl in SI, more often than not, because I just cannot conceive how any publication right now can decide that UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough is really college basketball’s player of the year — not with Michael Beasley around. The ACC isn’t even particularly good this year; it’s Duke and UNC, mostly, and not only are the Pac-10 and Big East more competitive, but the Atlantic-10 may be rivaling it as a conference right now.

Essentially, Wahl has based his argument, and gotten support for it, based on the notion of how the team is doing (UNC is 27-2, K-State is 18-10). This is a problem. Do you think K-State is even over .500 and looking at the possibility of a tourney slot without Beasley? Not even close. His scoring averages and his rebounds, along with the production from Bill Walker, make up the Wildcats offense and makes them a threat. UNC rolls nine deep on blue-chip talent every damn year. I won’t say Hansbrough isn’t a good to great player — but the Tar Heels will find another forward like him when he leaves and will somehow manage to cruise to the NCAA tourney.

I’ll excerpt here:

Hansbrough’s individual numbers are certainly good enough; he and Beasley were two of only six players averaging at least 20 points and 10 boards. What’s more, Psycho-T has been a tougher defender, and he clearly outpaces B-Easy in the most important deal breaker: North Carolina was 27-2 and ranked No. 1 on Monday (not least because Hansbrough averaged 29.0 points during the six games that point guard Ty Lawson recently missed because of injury), while unranked Kansas State was 18-10.

Sure, Beasley is likely to be the No. 1 pick in the next NBA draft — at least 15 spots ahead of Hansbrough, should both declare for the pros this year — but the last time we checked, POY was a college award. “Beasley is a better player,” says Gonzaga coach Mark Few, “but with the year Carolina has had and the fact that [Hansbrough] plays every second like it’s his last, I’d vote for him. When we were getting ready to play Carolina [last season], we’d show clips of him to our guys and say, ‘See, this is what we mean when we talk about playing hard.’ He’s putting out more effort for longer stretches than most college players can even begin to understand. And he’s certainly great for college basketball.”

Hansbrough’s credentials are impressive enough, but it’s hard not to give him bonus points for squeezing out every bit of his potential, for never coasting, for giving three All-America seasons to the college game during an era in which nobody expects more than one. “Tyler is not even the most gifted player on my team, much less the most gifted player in college basketball,” says Williams. “But no one has a bigger heart. No one has more desire than Tyler Hansbrough.”

I smell the same damn argument that baseball writers use in glorifying the gritty, gutty nature of David Eckstein, and it reeks. National player of the year should have less to do with the overall team record — particularly when measuring a player on a non-powerhouse program against one on a perennial favorite for an NCAA title — and measure the real impact in numbers on the game and in the program’s won-loss record. Michael Beasley may be one and done, headed to the NBA next year — but he should be making the jump by following Kevin Durant as the second freshman to win the honor.

Hopefully, the folks responsible for the Naismith Award aren’t reading SI too closely this time.

March Madman [Sports Illustrated]