NBA draft 2013: Winners and losers
David Stern. The booing was merciless. Nobody, not even someone as self-assured as Stern, could possibly enjoy such treatment, especially during his grand exit after 30 years leading the NBA. He completed the first round on a slightly higher note, and he got in his share of wisecracks, but the extended chorus of jeers at the beginning left its mark.
Nerlens Noel. We’ve seen prospects in both the NBA and NFL agonize in the green room as their stock unexpectedly dropped. But the fall from No. 1, where most expected Noel to go, to No. 6, where he finally landed, felt like a marathon. The incessant camera shots of a stunned Noel only drove home the pain. Impossible not to feel for him.
By the way, we haven’t even mentioned the fact that he’s heading to Philadelphia, which just suffered through a season of knee injury updates and disappointment from its supposed franchise center. Noel’s post-selection interview included a number of questions about the Sixers, and he kept referring back to Holiday’s adding an All-Star presence. Of course, Holiday was traded for Noel, leaving Philadelphia’s top shelves stocked with the lesser likes of Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young. Perhaps we’re only seeing the first stages of a larger sell-off under new general manager Sam Hinkie.
Charlotte Bobcats. Holding the No. 1 spot in the Desperate Franchise Power Rankings, the Bobcats passed on arguably the two players with the biggest upside, Noel and McLemore, to select Cody Zeller. The Indiana product should be ready to fill minutes as soon as training camp opens, but he hardly appears to have franchise-changing potential. On the bright side, he did drop a fantastic pre-draft Twitter wisecrack: “I was going to shave to get ready for tonight, but then I remembered that I don’t have the ability to grow facial hair.” (Insert Michael Jordan’s ownership skills joke here.)
Phoenix Suns: For almost exactly the same reasons as the Bobcats above. McLemore, in particular, seemed like a no-brainer. Instead, Phoenix opted for Len over McLemore and Noel. The Maryland center should be a solid pro, but the rest of the Suns’ roster is so terrible that they could have used an injection of upside. This wasn’t a total loss. Disgruntled center Marcin Gortat is now available for trade offers and the tank is on for 2014.
Celtics fans. Few things are as painful as trading a franchise icon. Now multiply that feeling by two. No, Kevin Garnett didn’t spend 15 years in Beantown like Paul Pierce did, but his impact on the Celtics, not to mention the 2008 title, won’t soon be forgotten. The return haul — particularly the three future first-round picks — represents legitimate hope. That’s all well and good, but Celtics fans are still waking up Friday morning with Kelly Olynyk, Gerald Wallace (and his three-year contract) and Kris Humphries as the new kids on the block. Just writing that sentence requires a stiff drink. At least the waiting game is over and the new course has been charted.
Minnesota Timberwolves. Credit the Timberwolves for making the most of their lot in life. Turning the No. 9 pick into Shabazz Muhammad at No. 14 and Gorgui Dieng at No. 21 — both nice value plays that fill clear needs — prevented Flip Saunders’ first draft from being the type of mess we were accustomed to seeing with David Kahn.
Even after the trade and the selections, though, the lingering feeling is that they just barely missed out on the guy who was seemingly the perfect fit, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The Georgia guard went to the Pistons at No. 8 — just one spot above Minnesota — going off the board at what I felt was his absolute ceiling. Now the finger-crossing over Muhammad’s ability to overcome his red-flag label begins in earnest.
Ricky Ledo. The latest cautionary tale. A top-25 player in his high school class and a McDonald’s All-American, Ledo never got eligible during his one year at Providence and failed to wow anyone during his pre-draft workouts. He plummeted to No. 43 and now must fight his way into a contract.
Jamaal Franklin. The San Diego State guard might have been the draft’s biggest slider. Forecast as a clear first-round pick, he dropped to the Grizzlies at No. 41.
Bill Simmons. Overall, I’m a fan of what Simmons brings to ESPN’s televised NBA coverage, and he supplied good energy and genuine reactions during a wild night. But the constant use of “We” when referring to colleague Jalen Rose was just too much. Within 30 minutes, it sounded like the two were Siamese twins. There was just no need to force a consensus opinion on player after player. Fully independent perspectives are more entertaining and informative.
Snapback hats. The whole concept is one size fits all, right? Try again. And again. Keep trying!