My first blog post, on the first version of this site, ten years ago was a Bill Simmons-like breakdown of the 2003 NBA Draft. Now, as I watch the 2013 draft, Bill Simmons is manning the ESPN table with Reece Davis, Jalen Rose, and Jay Bilas. Does that qualify as coming full circle?

I won’t mince words: this is a shitty draft. I’m biased about one of these guys, but I think there are two safe picks in this draft: Ben McLemore and Otto Porter. I don’t know that either of them will be superstars, but each will be very solid pros with a ceiling of an All-Star. Beyond them, there are some nice players who can fill roles, but there aren’t a bunch of stars.

So here goes. As has happened most years since I became a father, I was not able to watch the entire draft. But thanks to an incident I’ll share details of later in this post, I had a solid 45 minute window to watch the beginning of the draft.

1 – Anthony Bennett, Cleveland. WHOA! I mean, holy shit! Who saw this coming? I think Nerlens Noel is a bust waiting to happen, so good move to avoid that disaster. And Bennett has some serious upside, although I don’t see him as ever being a big star. But with Kyrie Irving already in the fold, and the dream of re-signing LeBron next summer simmering, Bennett feels like a nice piece to add. And let’s not forget, building for the future isn’t just about getting LBJ. I think the odds are maybe 10% that LeBron decides to go home next year. If that 90% comes to pass, there will still be plenty of other free agent talent that can look at Cleveland’s roster and think, “That’s a nice team that I can make a difference with.”

Highest drafted Canadian ever, stealing Andrew Wiggins’ thunder. Nice of Bennett to throw the shout out to Wiggs, though.

2 – Victor Oladipo, Orlando. Officially the most fun draft ever after only two picks! Great energy in the crowd as the New Yorkers realize something crazy is going on. I love Victor, but I think people are giving him too much love. That said, if anyone in this draft surprises people by blowing away their expectations, it’s him. Even when he’s picked second. I think his odds of being a bust are ~20%, but his odds of being a breakout star are ~10%. That in-between leaves you a defensive stopper who can guard all three perimeter positions and will get better offensively as he rounds out his game. He’s going to be a Bruce Bowen-type player who learns how to spot up on one end of the court and plays manic D on the other.

3 – Otto Porter, Washington. Very good pick and the (semi)-local player they wanted. Long, athletic, can shoot and defend. A nice piece for a team that suddenly has a decent core of perimeter players.

4 – Cody Zeller, Charlotte. WHAT?!?! What the hell is going on here? Wasn’t he supposed to go like #15 or something? Seriously, Cody got a bad rap late in the season when Big 10 coaches, who had seen him for two years, knew how to attack his weaknesses. I think he’ll be a decent player, provided they keep him out of the low post where he’ll get eaten up in the NBA.

More importantly, McLemore avoids Charlotte! And with two Hoosiers in the top five, Tom Crean immediately begins texting recruits making sure they know how he turned them into lottery picks.1

Worth noting: ninth-straight draft a former Indiana high school player has been picked in the first round.

5 – Alex Len, Phoenix. Man, Noel must have pissed some people off in his interviews and workouts. Shitty draft, so I can’t say this is a shitty pick. Seems kinda stretchy, though.

LeBron and Aaron Rogers just told people on Twitter to wake up on McLemore. I’m trying to tell you…

6 – Nerlens Noel, New Orleans. He had to go at some point, right? Like I said, I think he’s a bust. I’m not holding his freak injury against him. But I look at him and I don’t see a toolsy guy who is going to develop into a franchise cornerstone. He’s a more athletic Jeff Withey, someone who will block a few shots, grab a few rebounds, and that’s it. Perhaps suffering the indignity of sitting through six whole picks before he heard his name will light a fire under him and he’ll prove me wrong. I’ll start the rumors: the inevitable happens and something naughty comes up at Kentucky, Calipari takes the New Orleans job to avoid NCAA sanctions, and gets to coach Noel and Anthony Davis. (Aww, Noel’s rights traded to Philly, so my dream scenario of Cal’s triumphant return to the NBA won’t work out.)

7 – Ben McLemore, Sacramento. There it is! GREAT pick! Well, except for the reality that the Kings have been a mess for years and the first question for any draft pick that goes there is, “Will the idiots who are already there ruin him?” Perhaps things are changing in Sacto, though, with the new ownership and recommitment from the city. I sure hope so because Ben needs a steady, mature mentor.

As I’ve written all year, B-Mac never has been, and never will, be an alpha dog. But he’s so skilled and level-headed that he’s the ideal player to compliment a star. Unfortunately for Sacramento, they don’t have that other star right now. The bigger question about Ben is can he grow his offensive game so that he can put the ball on the deck and create his own shot. The good thing is that is something that can be taught/learned through practice. And he seems like a guy who is willing to put the time in to please those around him. Plus he has that beautiful, perfect jump shot, which is something you can not teach. A pretty solid base to work with. At worst he’s a shooting specialist for 10 years. But if it works out, he’s a second-tier star for just as long.

(So here’s where I stopped watching. Just before the draft began there was a big parental meltdown that ended with all three girls being sent to their rooms and dad opening an early beer and heading to the basement to watch the draft. That was about 45 minutes or so before McLemore got picked and I hadn’t heard a peep out of them. So I went upstairs to check on them. Each one was sitting quietly in their room, waiting to be dismissed from their (extended) time outs. First damn time all day they listened to me, but they picked the right spot to do it. Even better, C. and L. made cards for me saying they were “sorre fore being bad.” Awwwwww. Almost made up for the day of mayhem unleashed on me and the Father Of The Year clinching tirade I launched on them at about 7:20.)

Sadly I missed Boston’s pick of Lucas Nogueira, which was one of the great moments in draft history.

23 – Solomon Hill, Indiana. In a very shallow draft, there’s not much value left. Seems like a solid “take a flyer” pick. Maybe he pans out, but there’s no real loss if he doesn’t. Certainly no worse than their first pick last year, Miles Plumlee. Or Ben Fucking Hansbrough, who somehow kept a roster spot all last season. Speaking of the Hansbrough brothers, I bet the Pacers were pissed Brooklyn took Mason Plumlee at 22. They were so close to having both the Hansbrough and Plumlee brothers on one NBA roster!

I was kind of hoping they would take Rudy Gobert, the 7’2” Frenchman, here. They don’t need another big to back up Roy Hibbert right now. But if Gobert spends a couple more years in Europe, he can develop then come play a year or two behind Hibbert and be ready to take over for him when his contract runs out. Plus it’s fun to say Hibbert and Gobert together, even if Gobert is pronounced go-BEAR. Or Tony Mitchell would have been nice as an athletic body behind David West. But, again, shitty draft. You can’t complain much about who get selected here.

39 – Jeff Withey, Portland. Shame he fell and now has to work for that multi-year deal. But as limited as he is, it makes sense that no one wanted to commit three years to him without seeing him in the summer leagues, training camp, and even the regular season before extending him.

There are the important picks. Other thoughts on the night:

Other than his five-minute outburst against KU, I love Trey Burke. I know he’s small and not super athletic. But I was surprised he fell as far as he did.

David Stern’s final draft was full of laughs and silly moments. It was funny as he egged the crowd on to boo him more, but it got a little old when he did it before every pick. I guess when it’s your final draft, and you’re the commish, you’re allowed to milk it. Bringing Hakeem Olajuwon2 out to honor his final draft announcement was kind of cool, but also took away from the draft a little. Why not do that before the draft officially began? Maybe it was just because pick Nemanja Nedovic wasn’t there and they went into Stern’s valedictory right away, but the timing seemed a little disrespectful to the current draftees.

Shane Battier is a smart guy, and will no doubt do well in TV when he retires. But his turn as the first interviewer of new picks was pretty awkward. He seemed stiff, overly reliant on the same questions for each draftee3, and just out of his element. But Stuart Scott and others asked shitty questions in this same role for years, so it’s not like this is a moment of great journalism or deep conversations that Battier sullied with his newness.

On the other hand, I thought Simmons and Rose were great. They have a great rapport together from their podcasting exploits and had no reservations about bringing that chemistry and style to the draft studio. They kept it light while offering good insight. The loser in the deal was Jay Bilas, who for some reason seemed grumpy as the night went on. Perhaps it was because Reece Davis kept throwing questions to Simmons and Rose first and they would eat up all the time, leaving Bilas just a few seconds to get his comments in. But, for the most part, a pretty entertaining broadcast.

I loved Simmons honest reaction to the biggest news of the night, the massive Boston-New Jersey trade. While it had been rumored all day, when the first confirmations came through, he put on a stunned face for TV. And he did not fail to rip it, as he had done on Twitter all day, just because he was on TV or in an official NBA event. Sure, he was doing it all as a Boston fan, but it was good, honest TV.

I missed his little pissing match with Doc Rivers later in the night. But good for him for not backing off, although it’s easy to do that when he and Rivers aren’t actually speaking to each other but reacting to each other through an interviewer.

That C’s trade is huge. I’m bummed that Paul Pierce will not retire as a Celtic, but his legacy there is intact. It’s tough to imagine the Nets being good enough to knock off the Heat in 2014, but if LeBron leaves after next season, the complexion of the Eastern Conference changes and then you never know. So I’m pleased The Truth will have a couple more shots at another Finals appearance. As Simmons said, if Jason Kidd can limit Pierce’s minutes, he still has several good years left.

We don’t know who will be on the clock first next June, but the countdown to grab Andrew Wiggins has officially begin.

  1. Worth noting: I’m not a Crean fan. Only slightly less insufferable than John Calipari. I have no ill-will towards IU. I wish they’d hurry up and find a reason to can Crean, hire Brad Stephens, and then I can be happy when they are successful. 
  2. I love that my spell checked didn’t trip over Hakeem Olajuwon. 
  3. “You were very close to Coach X. So, how important is he to you?”