Perhaps more than any other major sport, the NBA draft is a crapshoot. For every Michael Jordan, Lebron James, or Derrick Rose, there are two Sam Bowies, Greg Odens, and Darko Milicics. This year’s draft was deemed by experts to be especially weak. With that in mind, let’s take a look at who got the most out of Thursday night’s activities.
Sacramento Kings On the one hand, Jimmer Fredette represents an immediate marketing hit for the financially strapped Kings franchise. Talent aside, the Jimmer entered the draft with the highest “Q” rating of any eligible player by virtue of his outstanding scoring at BYU. That being said, Jimmer doesn’t help the Kings get any better. It’s a bad fit for both the team and the player. Jimmer can score, but the Kings don’t need another scorer in the back court with Tyreke Evans already there. The Kings needed a guard who could distribute the ball effectively and make those around him better, in the mold of a Tony Parker. Look for Fredette’s career in Sac-town to resemble Pete Maravich in New Orleans: plenty of highlights and big numbers, little in the way of wins and playoff appearances.
Cleveland Cavaliers After losing Lebron James to “The Decision,” no franchise needed a break more than the Cavs. They got it, having the number one and number four overall picks. In a weak draft, the Cavs couldn’t help but get two immediate impact players to help them rebuild, could they? They blew it. Instead of grabbing one of the sure-fire superstar power forwards, Derrick Williams or Enes Kanter, with the first pick and having their choice of Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker to run the point at number four, the Cavs chose Duke’s Kyrie Irving with the top pick. Irving is without a doubt a tremendous talent. In the 11 games he appeared for Duke this season, he was stellar… but he only played in 11 games. Ask Portland about taking highly touted college players with histories of foot problems (Walton, Bowie, Oden). The Jazz tripped up Cleveland by selecting Kanter, leaving the Cavs with Texas power forward Tristan Thompson at number four. While Thompson and his agent are certainly happy to have been picked that high, I doubt the Cavs will be. Thompson lacks range and his frame isn’t built for simply banging inside. The Cavs could very well end up with an injured point guard and a bust at power forward for their troubles. The upside is that next year’s draft will be stacked. Maybe the Cavs can win the lottery a second time.
Utah Jazz Who’s a European power forward with combo skills who wanted to play at Kentucky, but didn’t. If you thought of Dirk Nowitzki, you’d be right, but the answer is Enes Kanter, aka Dirk 2.0. Ten years from now, the Jazz will have gotten the steal of the draft and Cavs fans will be “face palming” at the thought of the one who got away. Kanter, who broke Nowitzki’s records in the Nike Hoops Summit, has the entire package. He can bang down low and knock it down outside. Tyrone Corbin just became a much better coach.
Indiana Pacers The Pacers traded their mid-round first and second picks for Indy native, George Hill. Hill gives the Pacers a steady two-guard to go opposite Danny Granger. He’s a career 38% shooter from beyond the arc who averaged double figures off the Spurs bench. And he has playoff experience, something this young team needs. Larry Bird scored big time, both on the floor and at the box office by bringing home the former IUPUI star. Hill gives this young and talented Pacers team much more immediate impact than anyone they could have gotten with either of those picks.
David Lighty and Josh Harrellson Nobody wanted to draft an experienced, long combo guard with shut-down defensive skills? David Lighty will be someone’s free agent steal. I predict a long NBA career for him (and another Cleveland face-palm as they had a shot at the home-town star). Kentucky’s Josh Harrellson made UK 4-4 in players drafted this year. If you put money on him being drafted prior to this season, you’d be rich right now. A juco transfer, Harrellson spent more time in Billy Gillispie’s and John Calipari’s doghouses (bathroom stall in BCG’s case) than on the court. Then something clicked. “Jorts” bought into Calipari’s work ethic and transformed himself from a guy UK played because they lacked depth at the post to the team’s most valuable player at the end of the season. His toe-to-toe battle with Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger was one for the ages. I don’t know how much time Harrellson will get with the Knicks, but Amare Stoudemire had better be ready when practice starts. Jorts won’t be intimidated.