Behind the scenes at the 2013 NBA draft
NEW YORK – The 2013 NBA draft was one of the most unpredictable in history, with a surprise No. 1 pick, several league-altering trades and any number of off-beat and memorable moments. SI.com’s Luke Winn and Ben Glicksman were at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to provide a behind-the-scenes diary of the first round.
5:30 p.m. Welcome to the night where dreams come true. Or maybe I should rephrase that: The night where the dreams of guys who were born with exceptional genes come true. I spent my G train ride to Barclays Center reading the chapter of my colleague David Epstein’s forthcoming book, The Sports Gene, that covers the premium of extreme height in the NBA. The data isn’t pretty for the average dude. As Epstein writes:
For [an American man aged 20-40] between six feet and 6-foot-2-inches, the chance of his currently being in the NBA is five in a million. At 6-2 to 6-4, that increases to twenty in a million. For a man between 6-10 and seven feet tall, it rises to thirty-two thousand in a million, or 3.2 percent. … [For men] who stand seven feet tall, a startling 17 percent of them are in the NBA right now. Find six honest seven-footers, and one will be in the NBA.
So when honest-to-God, 7-foot American Cody Zeller goes off the board, remember that his odds of making the NBA were roughly 34,000 times better than that of a guy who’s 6-1. Then factor in that the former Indiana center has two older brothers in the NBA, which probably improves his odds to about 50,000 times better than a 6-1 guy’s. Zeller put in work at IU, but great genes are what set him apart. – Luke Winn
5:34 p.m.: Now that I’ve established the draft prospects’ genetic superiority, here’s a photo-montage reminder that in other ways, they’re just like us. When they get off the bus in the bowels of Barclays, even they have to get wanded by security guards:
There are no beeps, no incidents. Later, in the Green Room, I hear C.J. McCollum, the cerebral combo guard out of Lehigh, say he “came strapped” … but what he means is that he’s carrying an iPhone charger. He’s looking for an outlet and coming up empty. “I’ve got 30 percent and then I’m done,” he says. – L.W.
6:13 p.m.: The Green Room invitees are milling around. UNLV power forward Anthony Bennett looks nervous and uncertain of his fate. I ask what he expects to happen to him, pick-wise.
“Just me going top 10, hopefully,” he says. – Ben Glicksman
6:45 p.m.: Bill Self is in the Green Room to see Ben McLemore, who spent his whole first season at Kansas, in 2011-12, as a partial qualifier — basically an anonymous practice player. Even though the St. Louis product wasn’t on any 2013 draft boards back then, people in the KU camp were predicting he’d end up here. People with opinions that matter, such as former Pistons and Sixers coach Larry Brown, who was often around the Jayhawks’ practices. Never mind that Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor were KU’s stars at the time; Brown pointed at McLemore two years ago and told Self, “He’s your best prospect.”
Self will be back here next year, barring some crazy development that keeps projected 2014 No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins around for a sophomore season. Wiggins has not been able to show much yet at KU — he’s only been in Lawrence for a few weeks — but Self calls him “a freak.” – L.W.
7:02 p.m.: The best thing about Steven Adams’ draft outfit isn’t his knit tie. It’s his secret accessory: an inside-the-jacket, New Zealand flag patch.
(A side note: I know Kelly Olynyk doesn’t come with the knit tie or the nifty flag patch, but I’m baffled that he ends up remaining on the board longer than Adams, who’s not exactly skilled. Boston > OKC in the battle of the 7-foot late-lottery picks.) – L.W.
7:20 p.m.: John Calipari is here, because John Calipari is always here. He insists that the draft matters more than how his team finishes in the NCAAs (or the NIT). “This,” he says, “is the culmination of the season.”
Calipari will have two more of his Kentucky players go in the first round this year, after four went last year, one in 2011 and five in 2010. He says that UK could have had four in 2013, arguing that Willie Cauley-Stein, had he come out, would’ve gone in the 10-15 range, and Alex Poythress, had he come out, would’ve gone from 20-30. “That means we had four first-rounders and we went to the NIT?” Calipari says. “How bad am I? I must be the worst coach in the world.”
Tonight Cal is wishing for two things: That center Nerlens Noel goes in the top four, like every mock suggests, and that shooting guard Archie Goodwin goes between 27 and 30. One of those wishes will come true, but it’s not the one most of us expect. – L.W.