Friday, June 28, 2013

Eight Weird Moments from The 2013 NBA Draft

The Cavaliers surprised everyone by taking Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick (flickr)
By Jeremy Conlin

Here are eight of the weirdest moments from the weirdest NBA draft I can remember:

1. The Cavaliers select Anthony Bennett first overall

All day and in the week leading up, the Cavs had been engaging in some savvy misinformation. Various reports were getting leaked that they were either shopping the pick (to Minnesota, Portland, New Orleans, to name three) or that they were still undecided who they were going to take if they kept the pick.

My theory was this: Cleveland didn’t really have their heart set on any one guy, and they wanted to trade down. So they created a ton of uncertainty, hoping that a team that DID have their heart set on one guy (like Orlando with Oladipo or Washington with Porter) would trade up to the #1 spot and the Cavs would be able to get some value out of it (maybe picking up a 2nd-round pick next year).

Under no circumstances did I expect them to take Bennett first overall, but now it starts to make sense – they wanted to trade down because they assumed Bennett would still be on the board at whatever spot they traded down to. But when they didn’t find an offer they liked, they figured they’d just take him at the top.

2. The Cavaliers select Anthony Bennett first overall

No, seriously, I need to mention this again.

How did the Cavs come to the decision that Bennett was the best player to take first overall? I honestly have no idea. If they were drafting for skill needs, they should have taken Noel or Len (a big man that can defend the paint and the rim), and if they were drafting for positional needs, they should have taken Porter (the best small forward on the board).

Bennett was a bit of a hybrid forward in college, but there’s really no way he can be an effective small forward in the NBA. It would be like Michael Beasley 2.0 (well, technically Derrick Williams was Michael Beasley 2.0, so Bennett would be Williams 2.0 or Beasley 3.0 – nevermind). He just doesn’t have the speed and ballhandling ability to be an effective NBA small forward. So he’s a power forward. But the Cavs spent their No. 4 pick in 2011 on Tristan Thompson, also a power forward. It’s really strange to me that the team picking first in a very weak draft for top-end talent would willingly walk themselves into a frontcourt logjam.

3. Nerlens Noel drops to No. 6

Bennett going No. 1 really screwed things up for Noel. The two teams that followed (Orlando and Washington) really seemed locked into their targets (Oladipo and Porter). Picking fourth was Charlotte, and they had been heavily rumored to be considering Cody Zeller for the No. 4 pick, but, here’s the thing, those rumors were based on scenarios where Noel was already off the board. I think Zeller is going to be a good player, and I would have taken him over Alex Len, but taking him over Noel?

Phoenix took Len over Noel also, which was just as surprising. If Noel was dropping because of concerns about his knee (the only logical explanation), why would a team take Len, who has a history of stress fractures in his foot? If you’re going to take a player with a potential injury risk, wouldn’t you take the guy who (a) has a higher ceiling as a player, and (b) has an injury less likely to be a chronic problem in the future?

4. Nerlens Noel gets traded to Philadelphia

Philly really fleeced New Orleans in this deal. They traded a barely-All-Star point guard for the best player in this draft and a probable lottery pick (top-5 protected) in next year’s draft.

Holiday made the All-Star game, but he completely fell off in the 2nd half of the season, to the point where his full season was roughly on par with Jeff Teague and Brandon Jennings. A good point guard, yes, but not a huge difference-maker.

Look at it from Philadelphia’s perspective – they have a point guard with a four-year extension worth $41 million kicking in next season. Only that four-year extension pays him in the same ballpark as Stephen Curry ($44 million) and Ty Lawson ($48 million), both of whom have markedly out-played him over the last two seasons. So they flipped him for two high-value assets (Noel and the Pelicans’ 2014 pick), and used their No. 11 pick on a new point guard, re-setting their rookie scale contract. Is Michael Carter-Williams as good as Jrue Holiday? No. But he’ll cost (rougly) one-fifth of Holiday’s price tag over the next four years. If you’re only looking at it from Philadelphia’s side, you’re downgrading from Holiday to Carter-Williams (but saving $30 million in the process), and you pick up two lottery picks in the process.

That’s a GREAT trade.

5. The Celtics-Nets trade looms in the background

It’s not exactly relevant to anything that happened in the draft, but it was certainly part of the atmosphere. Boston cleaned house and got back a few half-decent assets. The terms of the deal aren’t quite finalized yet (there have been conflicting reports about the peripheral pieces that Brooklyn will transfer to the Celtics), but when they are I’ll have a more detailed breakdown.

6. Golden State trades into the first round, then trades down, then trades down again, at some point possesses every pick in the draft

This was just plain goofy.

Golden State finished with the draft record for the No. 21 spot. However, that pick was transferred to Brooklyn as part of the Marcus Williams trade back in 1741. Then Brooklyn sent the pick to Utah as part of the Deron Williams trade. So Golden State was without a first round pick.

What did they do? They traded into the 1st round for the 26th pick. This is where it gets even more confusing

The No. 26 starts with Memphis, who traded it to Houston in the 2011 Shane Battier swap. From Houston it went to Minnesota along with Jonny Flynn in exchange for Brad Miller. That’s when Golden State steps in and offers Minnesota a 2014 2nd-round pick (and cash) for the No. 26. But then Golden State wants to trade down. So they give it to Oklahoma City (who eventually takes Nate Roberson) in exchange for the No. 29 pick and cash. But then Golden State wants to trade down AGAIN. So they trade the No. 29 to Phoenix for the No. 30 and Malcolm Lee.

That 30th pick was originally owned by Miami. Miami traded it to Cleveland as part of LeBron’s sign-and-trade in 2010. Cleveland then swapped Miami’s No. 30 with Los Angeles’ No. 19 (as a part of the Ramon Sessions trade), and from Los Angeles it was conferred to Phoenix as a part of the Steve Nash trade.

Did you follow all that?

All told, Golden State at one point or another had their hands on four different draft picks between No. 21-No. 30. Beyond that, those four picks, at various points in time, were held by TEN different teams (Golden State, Brooklyn, Utah, Memphis, Houston, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Miami, Cleveland, and Los Angeles).

My brain hurts.

7. The middle of the first round gets confusing

Between pick No. 9 (Trey Burke) and No. 21 (Gorgui Dieng), only seven of those 13 picks were made by the team slated to draft in that respective position at the start of the draft. Or, if you want to get even MORE confusing, only five were made by the team that finished the 2013 season in that corresponding draft spot. In total, eight of the 13 picks in that stretch saw movement at one point or another.

8. David Stern’s last draft

It was bittersweet.

On one hand, it was David Stern’s last draft ever (he’s stepping down as commissioner next February). On the other, it was probably his best draft ever. Openly egging on all the boos that traditionally rain down over him, even asking for more at a few points. He had total command of the room.

The best moment? When deputy commissioner Adam Silver received a raucous round of jeers when he came out on stage. Normally, Stern will get booed for 30 picks and then the crowd will welcome Silver with thunderous applause when he comes out for the second round. This time? 29 picks of booing for Stern, before a heart-felt and well-deserved standing ovation at the end of the 1st round. Then Silver comes out to the loudest booing of the evening.

Say what you want about NBA fans, at least they have a good sense of humor.

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