2011 Draft (part 2)
It’s like 2:30 AM. I should be in bed. But basketball waits for no man (woman or child), so let’s do this thing. With the 6th pick in the 2011 NBA draft, the Washington Wizards selected Jan Vesely (SF/PF; Czech) in their attempt to create the most athletic and out-of-control team in history. I’m alright with this pick for the Wizards mostly because I am extremely ambivalent (yes, very, very ambivalent) to them as a team. I don’t think Vesely will be anything spectacular in the NBA as he has the accursed combination of cockiness (“Blake Griffin is the American Jan Vesely“) and troubling lack of basketball skill (his FT% was sub-Shaq, supposedly). So whatever, the Wiz could have chosen Mahatma Gandhi and I wouldn’t care. Moving on.
In case you’re scoring at home, by the way, so far, the guys drafted have been named Kyrie, Derrick, Enes, Tristan, Jonas and Jan (pronounced Yan as in Khan). This leads, of course, to what became the biggest story of the night (this gives you an idea of how over-hyped the draft is… to which, of course, I am only contributing) and an instant twitter sensation: the Kiss. Let me back up and tell this wondrous tale: upon getting selected 6th overall in the 2011 draft, Jan Vesely stood up and kissed his (very tall and, according to the twitterverse, highly attractive) girlfriend before going to shake the commissioner’s hand. That’s it. Oh, wait, one last thing that must be said about that, ESPN (the world-wide leader in enabling millionaires) slow-motioned the Kiss about 3 more times during the telecast making a negligible event into an awkward slow-motion-a-thon. As I said before, moving on.
With the 7th pick, the Kings, who were really selecting for the Bobcats (I’ll squeeze my draft trades rant in later) selected Bismack Biyombo (PF; Congo) – a hyper-athletic big-man who only began playing organized basketball 4 years prior. There, you know as much about him as any scout or executive in the world. Literally, nobody knows anything else about him. Even his age (supposedly 18) is in question. So you have to love that Charlotte spent the 7th pick (and a mult-million dollar guaranteed contract) on this guy. Honestly, he’s a lot like Thompson to me in a lot of ways, but there are actually some things that I like about him as well: he’s got an incredible motor that stems from loving to play basketball. Sue me for reading that in-between the lines of a 4-minute highlight clip, but the kid (or is he?) has so much energy and so much passion. He had the brightest smile on draft day and if there’s anyone who won’t take their opportunity to play in the NBA for granted it’s him. The downside of course is that he makes Thompson look like a shooting specialist and half (at least) of his “highlight video” is comprised of blocks.
With the 8th pick, the Pistons selected Brandon Knight (PG; KU) who everyone thought should have gone higher. I loved one of the commentators on the draft who put it this way, saying that every agent trots their guy out their as a top-10 or top-20 or 1st-round pick until there are 20 top-10’s, 30 top-20’s and 60 1st-rounders. That’s kind of how this went for Knight. He could have gone as high as third (Jazz were actually thinking of selecting him), but he slipped all the way to 8 – something he was not very happy about. This, of course, led to this awkward scene during the draft (Knight never smiles). And you scoffed at my inference from Biyombo’s smile). Thing is that it doesn’t matter too much. Knight doesn’t really want to be in Detroit (he really didn’t want to fall all the way to #8) and Detroit is currently a pretty big mess. So all in all, I don’t think this match is going to be the greatest.
And with the number 9 selection, the Bobcats picked Kemba Walker (PG; Uconn), their second selection in the 2011 NBA draft. Like I said in my lottery preview, I think Walker is too small to play a significant role in the NBA. I don’t doubt his heart, but the guy is my size (6′ officially, but more like 5′ 10″) and is just not supremely gifted in any one area (think Ty Lawson with quickness or Allen Iverson with getting to the basket). Problem is that Charlotte dismantled their team to build around him and Biyombo (their only other solid pieces, Tyrus Thomas and DJ Augustine play the same positions as the new draftees), which means that Walker needs to be more than just a JJ Barea or, for that matter, Augustine. Call me a skeptic, but there’s a reason there aren’t too many small guys in the NBA.
With the number 10 pick, the Bucks select… Jimmer (PG; BYU)! Oh, wait, no they didn’t. Well, they did, but they had already traded this pick to the Kings as part of a ridiculously strange deal in which the Bucks added a couple super-scrubs (players who put up gaudy stats on terrible teams), the Bobcats got the right to draft another diminutive point guard, and the Kings traded back in the draft to pick up John Salmons’ onerous contract. Basically, in a trade that seemingly defied logic and the laws of nature, all three teams seemed to come out as losers. But that’s okay, because Sacramento selected Jimmer Fredette.
But back to my rant. I hate the way the NBA does draft-day trades. 1) They refuse to announce them on TV until the picks have been made, which means that 2) A bunch of players end up with the “wrong” hat, which is 3) Frustrating for fans who get epically confused and 4) has to be annoying for players whose culmination of years of work to get to the NBA is remembered in a picture where they’re wearing a hat of a team they already know they’ll never represent on the court. Dear Mr. Commissioner, tear these archaic rituals down. They were invented pre-internet and pre-social media. Your system is so messed up that the people who are the least aware of what’s going on are the guys inside the arena. You’ve got to be able to do better than that.
Anyway, back to the breakdown. So the funniest part about the whole Jimmer thing was that one of the owners of the Kings, a couple days after the draft, went on ESPN radio and defended taking Jimmer as something other than a ticket-salesman. I love Jimmer as much as the next caucasian suburbanite, but I do not have delusions of grandeur for this kid in the NBA. Basketball (the NBA in particular) is an athletic league – that’s why Tristan Thompson goes 4th overall and Jimmer’s down at 12. I generally dislike Colin Cowherd, but he was right: the Kings selected “Jimmer the name, not Jimmer the game.” Just as a follow-up question: does Gavin Maloof really think all ESPN listeners are completely stupid? The whole interview was utterly disgusting. Sickening.
With the 11th pick, the Warriors broke my heart and selected Klay Thompson (SG; WSU). I kind of like Golden State, but I was hoping that Thompson would fall to the Jazz. Anyway, I really like Thompson (even though I’ve heard mixed reviews about him), because he can shoot, which, believe it or not, is actually something that the NBA is not very good at. Again, see the “athleticism” comment above. Worst part is that Klay is now stuck on a wrecking-ball team that features Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson – a defensive backcourt about as effective as the Maginot Line. This will not end well.
And finally, with the 12th (and final important pick in the draft), the Utah Jazz selected Alec Burks (
SG; Colorado). So here’s my question: when did it become fashionable for shooting guards to not be able to shoot in the NBA? Here’s what Bill Simmons astutely noted in his draft diary: “Bilas points out that Burks can’t shoot, and also, he can’t defend. Sounds like a steal.” And truthfully, that’s kind of how I feel. I love Burks’ athleticism and ability to get to the rim, but I really wish he could shoot a lick (47% from the field, 29!!!!% from three) and that I had a guarantee that he’s use that athleticism to play solid defense. But I’m not hoping. But I’m not going to criticize the Jazz on the pick, though. They chose the best guy left on the board (in my not-so-humble opinion) and it filled a need (positionally, though not skill-wise) to boot. Overall a win.
So, yeah, I’m blowing off the rest of the draft. I think the Wiz kids got a steal in Shelvin Mack in the second round (wish with all my heart Utah had gotten him somehow) and San Antonio somehow managed to thieve Kawhi Leonard who should have been a lottery pick. Also, Dallas made an interesting move shopping Hamilton away for Rudy Fernandez. I really don’t know what to expect, especially with ESPN saying he’s threatening to leave for Spain.
Anyway, my next blog should be something on the lockout (sports-pocalypse) and maybe more junk on Lebron, because that attracts readership and you know I’m a sucker for the numbers. Speaking of which, sometime this week someone’s going to becoming my 1,000 reader. So congrats to you in advance. Oh, and happy American Independence Day (always need to qualify it).