Friday, June 26, 2009

Mid Majors and the NBA Draft, Plus Draft Musings

So, as I am warranted to do each year, I watched the NBA draft last night. Now this year's NBA draft was special in that four mid major players who I had seen a great deal of were going to be drafted for certain in this draft - Stephen Curry (Davidson), Austin Daye (Gonzaga), Eric Maynor (VCU) and Patty Mills (St Mary's). Where they were going was anybody's guess. But there was some drama and a surprise at the end of the second round.

But before I get into my draft musings, after reading my column, you must, I mean you MUST read Bill Simmons NBA Draft Diary. It's typical hysterical Simmons. But he missed a few things, which I will add in my column.

Curry was figured to be selected no later than eighth by the Knicks, who truly coveted Curry. And why not, Curry had one of his biggest moments of this past season lighting up West Virginia at the Garden for 27 points in a Davidson come from behind win. My friend Mal was there at the game (I had to oversee exams) and he said the crowd went nuts for Curry at the end. Bet there was a few Knicks fans there.

But before the huge letdown, there were several other picks first. Blake Griffin of course, was selected first overall by the Clippers. All I could think of when Griffin was drafted was "I'm going to hell in a bucket, baby. But at least I am enjoying the ride". Well hopefully like the Grateful Dead song says, Griffin will get lots of cash for going to basketball hell.

Then the Grizzlies took Hasheem Thabeet. When Jay Bilas started talking about Thabeet getting owned by DeJuan Blair and needing to get stronger, all I could think of was Dwight Howard postering the kid and then doing a Superman pose. Thabeet is not that good when facing good competition. A little worried about this pick.

Then Oklahoma City came up. Thought for sure Rubio or Curry would go here. Surprise, James Harden goes here. And that's ok, Harden was a damn good scorer at ASU. Fits nicely here.

Ok Sacramento was up. Thought for sure they would go for Curry or Rubio. Nope, Tyreke Evans. Ok, I guess. Don't think he is Derrick Rose, but he is a stud. Point guard? Not certain on that.

So now Minnesota has the next two picks. Thought for certain it's a Rubio-Curry Daily Double. The first part is right in that they draft Rubio. He's a love him or hate him pick. I thought he played well against the U.S. Olympic team in China, so to me he's fine. Not sure he can keep up with NBA point guards on the defensive end.

Well neither did the Timberwolves I think, cause...wait for it....instead of drafting Curry, they drafted Johnny Flynn from Syracuse. Now he IS definitely a point guard. So while Minnesota has been getting hammered about drafting two point guards in a row, I said there has to be a plan. So while in the shower this morning reviewing my thoughts for this column, I said to myself "Hmmmm, my guess is that they see Rubio as a combo guard and Flynn as the true point." That might work. Yeah, I think Rubio may not be quick enough to guard a true #1 but he is certainly tall enough and quick enough to guard a #2. Not bad actually.

So here is where the Garden faithful are getting nervous. One team stands in between the Knicks and Curry. Golden State and Don Nelson. I can hear it in the background after the Wolves selected Flynn. I was on the road listening to the Rubio and Flynn picks on ESPN radio. I quickly race into Ace Hardware and grab what I need, pay for it, nearly leave the store without said item and get back into my car. Ok, they are still talking about the Warriors being on the clock.

So now think about it. Don Nelson. Former Knick coach, ceremoniously shown the gate courtesy of Patrick Ewing and Knick brass. Could Nelly come back and screw the Knicks and take Curry. Doug Gottlieb says something like "I have it on good authority that the Warriors want to select Jordan Hill (the double double power forward from Arizona)." Perhaps there's light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps finally I will go back to being the big Knicks fan I was growing up and through the Patrick Ewing glory days (please don't mention the name "John Starks" to me. I just got convulsions writing that)

Ok the pick is in. As I am hearing David Stern say "With the seventh pick of the NBA draft, the Golden State Warriors select...". I am waiting to hear a J pronounced. It never comes..

"Stephen Curry..". My head shot straight up as if someone punched me hard in the stomach. The light at the end of the tunnel was an oncoming train. Nelly screwed the Knicks again. The chance to see Steph Curry on a regular basis at MSG lighting up the Garden for 30 goes up in smoke. Nelly must be really enjoying this.

The charred remains? Knicks take Jordan Hill next. Great, another Arizona forward picked by the Knicks. Yeah how did that work out with Michael Wright and Channing Frye?! Ugh. My friend Mo Goldman swears Hill will be good. Then I listen to his interview with Mark Jones. Eeek. Not good.

Now here's the kicker. The Knicks later trade cash and a future pick to LA for the 29th pick, which was Toney Douglas from Florida State. Good player, not Curry. Couldn't the Knicks have offered the 8th and 29th picks to Minnesota for the 6th? I bet you Flynn would have been available to the Wolves at #8. Many had Flynn at around #10. Alas, Donnie Walsh wasn't smart enough to pull that one off. Great, just what the Knicks need, another power forward. They get Hill, then trade for..wait for it. Darko Milcic, he of the huge #2 bust of the Pistons. Oh brother. Then remember, they drafted that stiff with the stiff back Gallinari last year who is a power forward and they already have the really good, really underrated David Lee. Somewhere Lee is right now having a "WTF?!" moment.

By the way, best exchange of the night between Mal and me. Mal texts me saying "Why did Jerry Buss accept $3 million from the Knicks??? Did he lose too much money on High Stakes Poker?

I replied "Didn't you meet the Knicks new assistant GM, Daniel Negraneau?"

Mal replies with a LOL.

So now, it's where Daye and Maynor fall next. Daye goes to Detroit at #15. I am not a fan of Daye and he doesn't seem to fit in with the classic Pistons style. Pistons - rough, hard working lunch pail team - think Laimbeer, Mahorn, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace. Daye -frail, thin, takes plays off. He has a lot of talent, can shoot the three, is long and blocks shots well. But I watched him more than enough to say he needed to stay in school another year. There are times where he is just flat out invisible.

Then there's Maynor. Really the most underrated guard in the draft and if you read Bill Simmons column above (and I said you MUST), he loves Maynor. Kid was a point guard all his life. He was dominant at VCU. Just real solid. Can pass, can drive, hit the floater, hit the pull up jumper. And here's the kicker, I have read where they say his weakness is his three point range.

Are you serious?? I have probably watched as many VCU games on TV as anyone. I have seen him in person against Hofstra several times, saw him in four years of CAA tournaments (three of which I saw live) and the games against Duke, Pitt and UCLA in the NCAA Tournament. The kid can flat out nail the three. We're talking NBA three. I saw him bury a 30 footer against Hofstra this past season. Please. The kid is a flat out assassin from the outside.

So what team takes a solid player like Maynor. How about a solid team like the Utah Jazz at #20? Jerry Sloan and company. Figures. A team that knows a thing or two about great point guards (hello John Stockton) takes Maynor. Perfect fit. Knicks should have traded down and got Maynor. Duh!

So that left one Patrick Mills. But before I get to that. Dejuan Blair drops like a stone. Bilas had him as the 14th best overall player in the draft. But he's never taken in the first round. What is he too short? Oh, it's that he doesn't have any ACLs in his knees. Here's the thing. Never missed a game at Pitt. Never missed a practice.

So more geniuses like Chris Wallace, Mike Dunleavy and Joe Dumars pass him up for stiffs and frail power forwards. Surely there is one team smart enough to realize how much a beast Blair is. I saw that game where Blair had Thabeet for lunch. I saw a lot of Pitt games. Blair is the man.

So what team is smart enough to take a guy who is first round material but is now in the second round?

Try the perenially really good San Antonio Spurs at pick #37. Now I had the Spurs taking Mills here, but I can't blame them on this one. Here's what Chad Ford of ESPN wrote

"Are you kidding me? How do these guys fall into San Antonio's lap? Tony Parker at 29? Ginobili late in the second? Now Blair here? This is a great pick for the Spurs. He might be able to start in San Antonio if Duncan plays the 5. This late in the draft, his knee issues aren't much of a risk; he's just a really cheap rebounder. The Spurs are getting an A+ tonight."

Exactly. A steal. Flat out steal. I bet Blair can't wait to play Thabeet again, stick his butt out on a boxout and send Hasheen into the second row. This is why Popovich and the Spurs are great. And the Knicks had TWO shots at him and take Hill and Douglas instead. If you couldn't trade for Curry, why not draft Blair. Sigh.

Once the Spurs fail to draft him, Mills drops like a stone. Hello, the kid scored 20 against the U.S Olympic team. Did anyone see him blow by Curry time and time again in that NIT game. I did.

As I about to call it a night and reconfirm my thought that Mills should have stayed in school and would have been a first round pick next year, one team realized the mistakes others made. The up and coming Portland Trail Blazers. Yeah, Mills driving the lane, blowing by Tyreke Evans and then kicking out to Brandon Roy for an open three. I see that clear as day. Too bad others didn't. Oh yeah, another guy the Knicks could have had. Couldn't you see Patty in the D'Antoni system? Definitely.

The surprise of the night. The Celtics draft Lester "Done Ruthless" Hudson from UTM with the #60 pick. Hudson is a prolific scorer, has a huge following on the Mid Majority, Kyle Whelliston loves him and Bilas had him as one of his best players available in the second round. Hopefully it works out for him

So five mid major guys got drafted. Good for them. But on average, this draft was typical of stupid NBA general managers. This is why I don't watch the NBA. Only a few teams get it. Like the Jazz, the Spurs, the Blazers and the Celts. Geez, all those teams made the playoffs last year...wonder why? :-)

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