A bunch of young guys are wearing new suits in Madison Square Garden, old men are talking about a choice between two young men, and ESPN has popped Dick Vitale out of his offseason recharging machine… it must be time for the NBA Draft.
As often happens, the most interesting part of the evening will probably be the trades that blow up everyone’s mock drafts. After all, the players being drafted all carry loads of risk since they’ve never played on the highest level before. When known quantities like Richard Jefferson and Jermaine O’Neal are getting moved around, it just feels bigger.
Anyway, the festivities are about to begin, so let’s do this.
7:27 – All is quiet in the Magic’s draft room, and appropriately so. It will probably be some time before they need to get moving. They aren’t looking to make any deals other than perhaps buying a second round pick. Everyone’s just watching TV or working on a computer, and Otis Smith looks bored.
7:31 – The New Yorkers still love David Stern. I wonder if he feels good about being in a theater sponsored by a failing bank.
7:32 – Classic. Chicago decided at the latest over an hour ago who it will take, but will take all 5 minutes to make their pick. Why do teams do this with the first overall pick in drafts? Does ESPN force them to do it to give more time to talk about the pick?
7:37 – New Bulls coach Vinnie Del Negro has a hall of fame name, and it’s nice to hear it thrown around again.
7:38 – Derrick Rose goes first, as we all knew. Again, did it take all five minutes to write his name on the card? Anyway, it’s the right pick so kudos to the Bulls for making the right choice.
7:41 – Rose didn’t faint like he said he might, but now he’s getting a full blast of Stephen A. Smith’s voice in an interview. He still doesn’t faint. Honestly, the latter might be more impressive.
7:43 – The Miami Heat’s tank job officially lands them Michael Beasley. I’m still not sure what to think of the guy. I know he puts up great numbers, but he stuck with Kansas State after Bob Huggins left despite not being from the state. While it’s honorable that he kept to that commitment, it still doesn’t make sense on any level.
7:46 – Beasley needs to develop a media voice. All the stars figure out a way to enunciate better in front of microphones; even Shaq speaks more clearly when he wants to. If Beasley wants to maximize his money making potential, mumbling won’t get him there.
7:48 – The T-Wolves select O.J. Mayo, and he ends up looking like a robot. He doesn’t smile until he gets to the stage. This guy is acting like he always was meant to be here and maybe he was, but O.J. should at least look a little surprised/relieved.
7:51 – Mayo already has developed his media voice. Beasley should be taking some notes.
7:53 – Pat Riley puts on his best happy face and tries to talk himself into Beasley on camera. He just doesn’t sound sold on him, almost like he was obligated to take Beasley second.
7:54 – The thing about the first pick taking the whole time? Definitely media-driven. The Sonics have been off the clock for a while, and it’s still interview time on ESPN.
7:55 – The first surprise of the draft: Seattle takes Russell Westbrook fourth overall. I can’t remember a single mock draft with him here. By the way – I don’t trust anyone who wears single zero on his jersey. I can’t explain it, but it makes me wonder.
7:57 – No reaction to the surprise in the Magic’s draft room. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the video feed has frozen or not. Meanwhile, Westbrook’s interview gets preempted for a single question for Kevin Durant. We find out later that the rush job is to get in a commercial. I know it’s hard to cut away when there’s only 5 minutes between picks, but more player interviews and less from the talking heads would be nice.
8:00 – Again, the clock has run out but we’re watching people talk. It can’t possibly take that long for Stern to walk up and down the backstage walkway.
8:01 – Memphis goes with Kevin Love. Maybe he’s worth it this high, maybe he’s not, but you know you’re not getting a head case. You also know you’re getting a guy who knows more about basketball than perhaps your GM does. In Memphis’s case, this is almost certainly true.
8:04 – Stu Scott asks if Love can handle an interview. He repeats the canned answers and buzzwords he’s been saying all week. Way to stay on message, Kevin.
8:05 – This has got to be the first time ever that two drafts in a row have a guy named “Kevin” taken in the top 5.
8:07 – In their first draft without Isaiah in a while, the Knicks take the son of Mike D’Antoni’s former teammate. Given that D’Antoni basically runs an Italian league scheme, it makes sense to take Danilo Gallinari. The New York fans boo him mercilessly, natch.
8:08 – ESPN just now tells us that he won’t be a star, they’ll have to wait for him to develop, and that his nickname is “The Rooster.” Yeah, this is going to go over really, really well.
8:10 – Gallinari gives a nice effort at answering Smith’s questions despite his shaky English. If I didn’t know the language that well, I doubt I’d understand a word Smith says, so good job Danilo.
8:12 – The Magic are tied for fourth on the list of most times in the lottery at 12. Wonderful.
8:13 – The Clippers end Eric Gordon’s productive career by taking him in the draft. It was nice knowing you, Eric.
8:14 – Otis Smith actually looks like he’s working now. Either the video feed is on a half hour delay, or Smith is an Indiana fan. I don’t know; I know the Magic aren’t picking for a while, but I’d think a GM would look busier on draft night.
8:18 – The Bucks take Joe Alexander in their first pick of the Scott Skiles/Richard Jefferson era. When you add Alexander to Jefferson and Michael Redd, it appears the Bucks are planning on winning with offense despite Skiles’ coaching reputation.
8:20 – Despite trading away Yi Jianlian, Milwaukee keeps a Mandarin speaker on the roster. He’s got a big voice. Not exceptionally low or powerful, just big.
8:22 – The hometown team of my new city is up next. On the one hand, you have Larry Brown’s great basketball mind. On the other, you have Michael Jordan’s horrid drafting record. Which will win? Let’s find out.
8:25 – Charlotte takes D.J. Augustin despite Brook Lopez still being there. Jay Bilas was right when he said that Lopez would have made a lot of sense. Either Raymond Felton is not be as good as we thought, or they just picked a backup at #10.
8:28 – There’s been a lot of activity in the Magic’s draft room after that selection. They don’t have the pieces to move up for Brook Lopez yet. However, if he slides a few more slots I know they’d have to be at least making some calls.
8:30 – The Nets take Lopez, and that ends that. However, it still shows that big men aren’t at as much of a premium this year. That increases the chances of a quality big guy still being there at #22.
8:34 – Four mentions of his name, and four different pronunciations of Yi’s name by Stu Scott. Anything less would be a disappointment.
8:35 – Jerryd Bayless goes to Indiana, and by some measures that’s a bit of a steal. Between him and T.J. Ford, I guess the reign of terror inflicted on Pacer fans by Jamaal Tinsley may come to an end soon.
8:36 – Not only does he wear single zero, but he shares a last name with Skip Bayless. Be afraid Indiana, be afraid.
8:39 – It took until now for one of the “You’re watching the draft on ESPN” segments to be successful one rather than a blooper. I know the mess-ups are funny, but really? An hour and a half into the coverage to get a real one?
8:41 – The Kings take Jason Thompson from Rider. He’s a power forward, and I know someone the Magic were looking at. Is this a sign that Spencer Hawes was a mistake?
8:44 – Not too much reaction from the Magic’s draft room, though everyone appears to be working on something now.
8:46 – Bob Vander Weide just stood up and awkwardly tried to dribble a basketball. He’s getting restless.
8:47 – The Blazers make another savvy pick by taking Brandon Rush. They have a really nice young nucleus up there, but they have to figure out a way to maximize the talent. The Bulls were where the Blazers are two years ago, and they bottomed out this past season.
8:50 – I kind of feel bad for the Warriors, having won so many games and yet they missed the playoffs. They have a lot of question marks this offseason with free agency.
8:51 – Golden State takes the bait and selects Anthony Randolph. He has physical skills that got him by in college, but he is nowhere near ready for the NBA. I guess the team is going to try to resign most everyone and compete that way.
8:53 – ESPN keeps talking about how high the number of freshmen being taken is, but never once mentions the age limit as the reason why it’s happening. It’s obvious yes, but at least let us know you know it.
8:54 – Our first Dick Vitale appearance of the night, and he’s pumping up Kevin Love for Seattle over Westbrook. He’s now comparing Gallinari to Darko, meaning his college bias is also in full effect. It’s strangely comforting how some things never change.
8:57 – The Suns take Robin Lopez at 15, and he’s got a nice Oscar Gamble effect going on with the hat that won’t stay on his head. This seems slightly high for him, but Steve Kerr has shown an affinity for big guys so far. If D’Antoni is still in town, there’s no way they pass up Kosta Koufos with this pick.
8:59 – The attitude in the Magic’s draft room seems a little deflated. Aside from Vander Weide laughing at a joke, everyone appears disappointed. I think they may have wanted Robin.
9:01 – Of the eight players that Otis Smith listed as his favorites, two are now gone in Thompson and Robin Lopez. There are six picks before the Magic’s selection, so there’s a great chance at this point they’ll get a guy they want.
9:03 – The Sixers pick up Marreese Speights, I suppose to get an offensive talent to go next to Sam Dalembert. I wish him all the best after two years in Gainesville, but I think this may be too high to motivate him properly. He needs something to spark him to dominate, but nothing has done that yet.
9:06 – Otis Smith and who I believe is Dave Twardzik have left the room. It’s not to make a call since there are phones on the table, so I guess it’s to make a snack run or something.
9:08 – The Raptors select Roy Hibbert for Indiana with the 17th pick. Hibbert was someone that Smith wasn’t high on, so we are now guaranteed to see someone from Otis Smith’s A-list available at #22.
9:10 – For reference, the remaining guys are Courtney Lee, JaVale McGee, Darrell Arthur, J.J. Hickson, and Kosta Koufos. Arthur is the only one left in the green room. I don’t really want Hickson since I don’t like taking the only good guy on a bad team.
9:13 – Washington takes McGee off that list, which is fine for me since I don’t like the idea of taking a thin big man from a mid-major. Plus, “JaVale McGee” just doesn’t sound like a name that could ever end up on an all star roster.
9:15 – The Pacers and Blazers are clearly not done dealing, announcing a trade of Jarrett Jack and the rights to Rush for Ike Diogu and the rights for Bayless. I guess Jack just got too old for the Baby Blazers. After all, he turns 25 in four months.
9:18 – Poor Darrell Arthur is still in the green room, but in my humble opinion, he probably shouldn’t have been there anyway.
9:19 – For the first time tonight, Otis Smith picks up the phone. There’s three picks between now and Magic’s selection, so I guess it’s about that time to make some calls. Then again, he put it back down without calling anyone.
9:20 – The Cavs pick up Hickson, destined to become the latest in a long line of role players around LeBron James. He’s got moves but is undersized and doesn’t have a great work ethic. Congrats, Cleveland – you just picked up Drew Gooden again. That is, if Hickson ever gets that good.
9:22 – The Bobcats are up again, which means anything could happen. This pick just feels like Koufos to me, since they seem to have a thing for putting soft big guys around Emeka Okafor.
9:25 – Things are getting antsy in the Magic’s draft room. Twardzik his pacing the room, Smith is talking to everyone, and Vander Weide is typing something on his phone with the basketball still in his lap. Smith finally is making his first phone call.
9:27 – And right on cue, the Bobcats put a soft big man next to Okafor, but it’s Alexis Ajinca. He’s a French center who needs to put a lot of weight on, says Fran Fraschilla. He hasn’t been a productive player in the French pro league yet, and thanks to the value of the Euro versus the dollar, Fran says he may stay in Europe.
9:29 – With Charlotte going with the high risk foreigner way higher than anyone else would have taken him, the Magic will actually have a choice among their favorites. Arthur, Koufos, and Lee are still there. The activity is really ramping up in the Magic’s draft room.
9:31 – It will be interesting to see who the Nets take, since they likely aren’t taking another big man. The Magic have a good chance of getting a green room player at #22, which is startling.
9:33 – With the last pick before the Magic, the Nets take 6’10” gunner Ryan Anderson. He’s big, so I was wrong, but he’s more of a shooter than a post player. That means they get to pick between three of their eight guys. They can’t have been expecting that.
9:35 – Otis is calling someone on the phone in the front of the room instead of the one by his seat. He just pumped his fist, so I think the pick may be in. By having three of their eight guys available, and both a guard and forwards, we get an insight into what the team is really looking for instead of having the decision made for them. I like that as a fan.
9:36 – We get a fist pound between Smith and Twardzik, so they obviously got a guy they really want.
9:38 – The pick is in, and it’s Courtney Lee from Western Kentucky. Clearly they are not as concerned about the front line as I am. He does a lot of things well and is very tough, so that fits right in with what Stan van Gundy is looking for.
9:40 – The draft room just applauded, so the web cam is on a two minute delay. Not bad, all things considered.
9:41 – This will be the last entry, since the Magic have now made their selection. I like it – Lee can play right away, and that’s what you want when you’re planning on contending sooner than later. If they can get Adonal Foyle to resign or someone similar in free agency, they’ll probably be fine up front with Tony Battie coming back. Well done, guys.