While people may not know exactly the order in which it’s going to go down, the NBA draft is usually a predictable science. This is usually especially true with the first overall pick which is usually decided weeks if not months ahead of time and every time teams try and pretend like they honestly don’t know who they’re taking. It’s all usually a big act but last night, it truly wasn’t.
Anthony Bennett, UNLV forward, was predicted by many to go somewhere in the top five or six but no one had thought he had a chance to go first overall. Apparently no one asked the Cleveland Cavaliers what they thought of him because that is exactly what he did. Everyone was shocked, including Bill Simmons who can audibly be heard losing his mind as soon as commissioner David Stern announced the pick in this video.
As a Canadian basketball fan, I can tell you that we have all been looking forward to the moment Andrew Wiggins’ name was announced first overall next year, it was going to be a watershed moment for Canadian basketball, we were all ready for it. None of us were ready for this, I still am not sure last night actually happened. We now live in a world where it is highly possible that we may have two Canadians go first overall in consecutive years…what is this the NHL draft?
The following two picks were a lot less surprising and much safer. Victor Oladipo went to the Orlando Magic with the second pick and Otto Porter Jr went to the Washington Wizards with the third pick. Both players will complement their new teams well with their abilities and should be able to make an almost instant impact in the NBA. That doesn’t mean that the draft was done with surprising all of us.
If I had to say, all in all, this was the most unpredictable draft in a long time. After the second and third picks, things went sort of crazy. Cody Zeller, who had started off his college year as a top pick prospect and then slid down into the late lottery range was unexpectedly picked fourth overall by the Charlotte Bobcats. It was the most Bobcats pick possible as the team keeps trying to make itself worse.
The one player the cameras kept panning to in order to see looks of disappointment and desperation this year was Nerlens Noel. The young man out of Kentucky was expected by many to be the first overall pick in the draft but his lingering ACL injury apparently scared teams away. He fell all the way down to sixth, taken by the New Orleans Pelicans only to be immediately flipped to the Philadelphia 76ers.
This may be one of those instants where a player develops a chip on his shoulder and becomes a better player for it. It happened last year to UCONN’s Andre Drummond who slipped into the late lottery after starting off his college career as an expected contender for the number one overall pick. Sometimes those types of things happen to good players, adversity has never been a bad thing. It gives them that extra edge to want to be better.
If I was one of the teams that passed on Noel, I would be afraid of what he will be able to do in the NBA. He is already the best defensive prospect in the draft and he has an unimaginable amount of potential. With the right coach and team, he will develop into one of the scariest players in the NBA.
The draft was full of twists and turns and it made me happy I did not write a mock draft to be publicly analyzed. I would have probably gotten every single pick wrong. Ben McLemore also slipped out of the top five, something I would have never guessed would happen in a million years. Both Alex Len and Noel were picked after Zeller, which simply seems like a big mistake as both are much bigger prospects for the future.
If I had to choose an MVP for the night, it was certainly Bill Simmons. The ESPN blogger and analyst has been often criticized, usually fairly, for his awkwardness on television. Last night, he was in top form, making fun of Jay Bilas for his massive use of cliches, being honestly excited when picks happened that surprised him and offering some solid analysis to boot. The night was made even better when he criticized Doc Rivers for quitting on his Boston team and Rivers fired back by calling Simmons an idiot. It only served to add more fuel to Simmons’ fire as he ripped apart Rivers on national television.
I will give ESPN credit for not cutting Simmons off like they have done in the past, it made for great television as his fellow analysts all sat there with a deer in the headlights expression, not knowing what to do or say.
A special mention should also be made that this was David Stern’s last draft ever. He is now retired as commissioner and with his retirement goes away the tradition of booing him every year. He has always been a good sport about it, often acting like a wrestler in the WWE and goading the crowd into booing him more. As a commish, he has gotten a lot of flack for some of his actions but he is the one responsible for getting the NBA where it is today. He saved it from certain death in the 80s and made it profitable. In my opinion, he goes down as the greatest commissioner in the history of sports and he will certainly be missed.
All in all, this probably will not be the most talented recruiting class, in fact it could be the worst in recent memory. That is ok though because I will remember it as one of the funnest drafts I have ever watched. It was unpredictable, funny and fast paced. Here’s hoping next year’s draft holds more of the same (and Andrew Wiggins going first overall).