My friend and former colleague Brian Fox is a writer for iusportscom.com and a broadcaster for WIUX-FM Bloomington, Indiana. My NBA Draft recap will be up once trades become official, but for now, due to technical difficulties, I have the privilege of hosting Brian’s draft recap here on Press Box Opinions.
Outside of maybe the 2003 draft, I can’t recall a draft class that generated this much hype—even before potential lottery picks had made their college decisions. And even the 2003 draft was top-heavy—whereas this draft at face value appears to be much deeper. Only time will tell for sure, but I’m here to at least break down what happened at the Barclays Center.
Of course, I’m not going to do it alone. Helping navigate through my stream-of-consciousness is everyone’s favorite douchebag, Schmidt from “New Girl”. He’s just so relatable—I know I at least get a little perturbed when I can’t find my sharkskin laptop sleeve or driving moccasins. Let’s get into it.
(Side note: the theme of the draft night coverage seemed to be players taking selfies. Why is ESPN on a never-ending quest to make me hate it?)
“This is a horrible neighborhood. There are youths everywhere!”
I use two quotes here because this was the overarching narrative of the night. Out of the first five picks (Wiggins, Parker, Embiid, Gordon, Exum) none played more than a year in college.There is a definite youth movement in the league the last few years, with “1 and dones” becoming more and more popular. And I know you can argue that of course there’s going to be a lot of young talent, but there’s usually more of a mix of players younger than and at or older than 20, rather than all 18 and 19 year-olds.
“Please take that off. You look like a homeless pencil.”
Andrew Wiggins looked like his fashion advisor was Russell Westbrook. Don’t justify it. That is all.
“You consider me a sexy man, correct?”
Dante Exum is also in need in some serious validation. In the Internet era, has there ever been such a highly touted prospect that we had such limited film on? And as the season progressed, and we never got much film of Exum against top-flight competition, his stock rose even higher. In all honesty, Exum is a glorified high schooler because he hasn’t consistently played against competition that’s higher than that. Right now Exum looks like Shaun Livingston coming out of Peoria—before his struggles with injuries that completely altered his career arc. Playing with Trey Burke and not having to be a ball-dominant guard, Exum should have plenty of opportunities to silence his doubters.
“Old people freak me out. With their hands and their legs. They’re like the people version of pleated pants.”
Adreian Payne is only 23, but that’s ancient for a player just coming into the league. By the time he’s off his rookie deal, he’ll be in his late 20s. Because of that, it is imperative that he has an instant impact in a crowded Atlanta frontcourt that already includes Al Horford and Paul Millsap. Payne is an interesting possibility as a stretch four coming off the bench, but Atlanta would have been better served using their first round pick on a wing or combo guard.
“If you need me, I’ll be in my room, listening to some mainstream hip-hop.”
Jacque Vaughn will also be brooding after the higher-ups in Orlando mismanaged this draft. Somehow, the Magic turned into the Pistons by the end of the night. Arron Afflalo was the only shooter on the team last year. He got traded to the Nuggets pre-draft for sixty cents on the dollar (Evan Fournier and a second round pick). Instead of taking shooting, the Magic took Aaron Gordon too high (whose range is 17 feet at best) and then traded for Elfrid Payton, a turnover prone point guard who can’t shoot. But I guess when you can get that instead of either Dante Exum or Marcus Smart, you have to do it.
Right up there with the Magic: Sam Presti and the Thunder. Scott Brooks has wildly uncreative offensive sets, and for the second straight year the Thunder drafted no offensively skilled players to help take pressure off Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Steven Adams and Andre Roberson were underwhelming last year, and Sam Presti followed that up with Mitch McGary and Josh Huestis in the first round—two guys who were pegged as second rounders at best, and certainly not scorers. McGary seems destined to be the second coming of Nick Collison, and Huestis was described as Thabo Sefelosha with slightly more offense. Additional underrated storyline of the night–two guys that got caught for smoking pot (McGary and PJ Hairston) went in the first round. The NBA: Where Ignoring Potential Character Issues Happens.
“Nick is delicate. Like a flower. Like a chubby, damaged flower who hates himself.”
Noah Vonleh’s confidence also has to be a little bit shaken after the draft. Projected to go as high as fourth, Vonleh slipped all the way to ninth to Charlotte after some doubts about his shooting and if he can match up with NBA power forwards. There are also qualms about his passing, and there is a concern he may be too turnover-prone and not explosive enough offensively. Pairing him with a veteran big man like Al Jefferson is smart and should help his development.
But the captain of the chip-on-the-shoulder team has got to be Gary Harris. He seemed like a sure-fire lottery pick before the draft, but ended up falling to the 19th spot (where Chicago took him and traded him to the Nuggets). Harris is a good fit on the Nuggets. Along with a healthy Ty Lawson, Harris can help Denver play the up-tempo style of basketball that it so desperately wants to.
“Can we just take a moment to celebrate me?”
Sam Hinkie definitely is in the mood to celebrate, after he helped Philadelphia stockpile even more assets on this long rebuild. The team’s two lottery picks–Embiid and Dario Saric–both are unlikely to play next year but are immensely talented. In the second round Hinkie took defensive stoppers KJ McDaniels and Jerami Grant, as well as do-everything scorer Jordan McRae. Not only that, Hinkie traded for former Baylor guard Pierre Jackson, who lit up the D League and could be very dangerous playing next to Michael Carter Williams. The brilliance of this is that the 76ers are well-positioned to be a lottery team again next year and hoard even more assets.
Also Gar Forman is now the G.O.A.T. GM in my eyes because Dougie McBuckets is coming to Chicago.
“You’re listening to the radio and writing with a pen? What decade are we in?”
The Pelicans drafted like a team that just discovered this new thing called a three-point line. The team’s already crowded perimeter got even more crowded when they traded away a valuable asset in Pierre Jackson to enter the draft–taking Russ Smith. Smith might be a good NBA player down the road, but unless New Orleans is planning on going with a “bomb squad” lineup–with four guards around Anthony Davis–it’s hard to see Smith getting much playing time.
“The economy stinks, bees are dying, and movies are pretty much all sequels now.”
Chris Wallace finally did something right for the Grizzlies. For all the talk that Julius Randle got about being Zach Randolph 2.0, the real Randolph 2.0 is Jarnell Stokes. Since the Grizzlies traded for him in the second round, Stokes gets a chance to be the understudy of the player he emulates on the court. Memphis can practically play football to overpower opponents this year.
“Where have you been? I am having a major life crisis, and you guys are, what, just driving around, French kissing each other like a couple of Dutch hookers?”
To my knowledge, there were no Dutch hookers at the Barclays Center Thursday night. But there was plenty of European basketball talent present. A quick recap:
Dario Saric (12th pick, Orlando—traded to Philadelphia): Hands-down best European player in the draft will be stashed in Europe for a couple more years as Philly’s slow, slow rebuild continues. Saric needs to work on his jump shot to become a true stretch four.
Jusuf Nurkic (16th pick, Chicago—traded to Denver): Anytime you take a center described as having “a little WWE in him” and pair him in a frountcourt with a guy called “The Manimal”, opposing teams are going to be scared. I can definitely see him going after Javale McGee after one of McGee’s bouts of stupidity.He has incredibly quick feet for a guy his size (6’11”, 280 lbs.) though he needs to develop his defense to stay out of foul trouble.
Clint Capela (25th pick, Houston): Very efficient scorer out of Switzerland, and clearly taken to be stashed overseas so the Rockets can clear some cap space. Once he adds some muscle and expands his offensive game, Capela can be a valuable asset.
Bogdan Bogdanovic (27th pick, Phoenix): This shooting guard is offensively skilled, but needs to get better at defense and mature as a decision-maker.