Friday, June 27, 2008

NBA Draft: Not That You Care

This one is dedicated to one of my favorite people: Me.

It seems odd for me to return from the dead with an NBA post, but that's precisely what I'm doing. The way I see it, I have no choice.

Here's how it works: I started writing almost two years ago because I was rarely allowed on the air (at my radio job) and I needed an outlet. I basically wanted to make French Open predictions (not really) and remind people of the greatness of chaps like Barry Larkin and Nick Van Exel (really). I also wanted to tell nobody in particular that Edinson Volquez would be better than Johnny Cueto (which I did). Essentially I wanted to allow myself the opportunity to one day tell the world I TOLD YOU SO.

Which is why--after a week of infrequent posting, due to a move and a broken computer machine--I'm making an Ali-like return to the ring NBA draft recap. Deal with it. In seven years you'll be telling strangers things like, "This one guy, Brad Spieser of, accurately predicted D.J. Augustin's place in history as a lottery bust." So you have that going for you, which is nice.

Anyway, my reactions to the things and stuff that happened last night (and the ban on bullet points is still in place)...

(One other thing: If you're not sure who went where, Draft Express has it covered.)

1. As previously stated, I think Michael Beasley is the best player in the draft. That said, Derrick Rose would be the toughest player to pass up, if that makes sense. With young point guards virtually taking over the league it would be impossible to skip over a shockingly-athletic true point like Rose. The prediction here is both Rose and Beasley become superstars.

2. The trade sending Todd's brother to the Grizzlies for (among other things) Kevin Love and Mike Miller made me happier than (insert lame joke here). Couple that with the draft-day trade to acquire Darrell Arthur and I'm loving what the Grizz have going for them. Plus, with the glut of talented point guards--Mike Conley (the obvious keeper), Kyle Lowry and Javaris Crittenton--they will almost certainly turn one of them (probably Lowry, but hopefully Crittendon) into a much-needed banger or shooter (the loss of Miller makes their current roster one of the weaker bunches from long range). Hell, as my buddy (and resident NBA expert) Cam points out, the Grizz could move both Lowry and Crittenton if they wanted, since Todd's brother is capable of playing some point guard.

My opinion is that getting rid of Lowry would be stupid. He's an A+ athlete/defender. He's got Lindsey Hunter's bulldog mentality, but unlike Hunter is a strong finisher at the hoop. You win championships with guys like Lowry coming off the bench.

Regardless, you're now talking about a team with a relentless up-tempo philosophy and pieces fitting that style. With Conley, Lowry or Crittenton (one will be playing elsewhere), Todd's brother, Rudy Gay, Hakim Warrick and Arthur, plus whoever they add, that's a roster of thoroughbreds. The Grizzlies will wreak havoc on plodding teams, sooner rather than later.

3. The Sonics shocked the world (relative term) by drafting Russell Westbrook higher than expected. Facts: He hasn't shown the passing skills of a pure point and he's a suspect shooter. You know what, though? I'm signing off on the pick. The Sonics needed athleticism, unselfishness and lockdown perimeter defense, and they got that with Westbrook. Kevin Durant is a gunner (meant positively in this case) and needs someone who won't be looking to get his own (perhaps that's why they didn't go after Jerryd Bayless). Durant is also weak defensively, but now he's flanked by Westbrook and Jeff Green. I really like this pick.

4. My thoughts on Eric Gordon, Joe Alexander and D.J. Augustin can be found here and here. In short, I think Augustin will be a bust; Alexander, a star when he refines his game; Gordon, a below average NBA player.

5. When Portland made the deal to acquire Jerryd Bayless I immediately received a phone call from Cam, and we slurped Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard. Bayless detractors say he's a shoot-first point guard. Hell, everyone says this. But Portland runs their offense through Brandon Roy, so Bayless basically just has to knock down open jumpers and penetrate when he sees fit. Great trade.

Which reminds me...

6. Why didn't Cleveland trade up to get Bayless? They need to improve their athleticism and outside shooting, which is what Bayless brings to the table. Instead the Cavs selected PF J.J. Hickson from NC State, who I didn't see enough of to form an opinion.

7. I think picks 21-23 were all smart ones. I believe Ryan Anderson, Courtney Lee and Kosta Koufos will be contributors for a long time - and that's all you can ask for in the bottom third of the first round.

8. I think Donte Greene slipping to No. 28 shows how far scouting has come in the last fifteen years. Had someone with Greene's exact skill set entered the draft in 1997 there is no doubt he would've heard his name called in the top five. For the record I think Greene is a great pick at No. 28.

9. D.J. White is a terrible basketball player.

I have no thoughts on foreign players or unknowns like Jason Thompson and George Hill...but...I know which second rounders will overcome the odds and stick in the league.

10. Joey Dorsey is a lock to stick. You know, assuming he stays out of the pen.

11. Mario Chalmers is another player Cleveland should have targeted. He brings something they believe in (defense) with something they need (outside shooting).

12. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Kyle Weaver offer too much defense and versatility not to make it in the NBA.

13. If memory serves, Sonny Weems is a knucklehead. But he's not without ability. He was an excellent second-round flier.

14. Chris Douglas-Roberts had the biggest chip on his shoulder before the draft - and then he slipped to 40th overall. I say his quirky offensive game (he plays like he's left-handed) will overcome his shaky athleticism - CDR is a rotation player within the next few years.

15. Patrick Ewing, Jr is an excellent selection at No. 43. He has no offensive game to speak of, but he's powerful enough to guard the new-age PF, and built perfectly to take a shot at Carmelo Anthony. He has the potential to be a stopper.

16. I could write 3,000 words about Bill Walker, or I could write 30. Not surprisingly, I'll stick with the latter. It's an outrage he wasn't a first rounder. An outrage, I tell ya. With his baggage (ACL injuries to both knees and now a torn meniscus, plus he's a temperamental and seems uncoachable at times), I understand the risk. But he has legitimate All Star potential, something very few in this draft can claim. How D.J. White gets taken in the first round while Walker waits it out is beyond me. The Wizards might have taken the steal of the draft with Walker. (Hey, teams once shied away from Anthony Munoz because of pre-existing knee injuries...)

17. Darnell Jackson, taken 52nd, will soon join Jason Maxiell, Reggie Evans, Chuck Hayes, et al, as effective undersized bangers who seem to love doing the grunt work.

That's about it, boys and girls.

I'm not into assessing draft grades, but I loved what Portland, Miami and Memphis did. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I'm a big Brandon Rush fan. He seems like the type of player who will contribute for a champion some day.

UPDATE: The Wizards sent Bill Walker to the Celtics for cash money. The opportunity to absorb tongue-lashings from Kevin Garnett increases Walker's chances of stardom by about 330%.)

(Go listen to the eleven new podcasts.)

-Brad Spieser (