First, there’s the line “You’ve got much to think about” which accurately sums up each and every GMs position at this point. Unlike most drafts (even the abysmal 2000 Draft Lottery) there isn’t a single GM out there right now who possesses absolute certainty on whom they will select during this evening’s first round. The second (and even more famous line) is the aforementioned jibberish which goes something like, “yodeberebersunaneverwitadun….”. Of course, this line applies to people like us, the fans, who have no goddamned idea who their favorite teams will select this evening. Just like none of us ever knew what that chick was actually saying during the chorus. This draft is truly one of a kind…and I don’t mean that in a good way. Sure, there's some real depth in this draft and they’ll be some players who end up being steals but, the fact remains, this draft (like Duper) just isn’t sexy.
With that in mind, I set forth with my draft preview. This won’t be a mock draft or anything like that, rather my thoughts on some of the players and rumors that will meet this evening in NYC. (Disclaimer: I haven’t read any of the new mock drafts or columns as of today. Hell, I’ve got to have something left to help me waste away the remainder of the afternoon).
Biggest Moneymaker: Sadly, I’m not talking about the Mike Sweetney kind of moneymaker here. Rather, the player who has made the most money over the last month of so. Surprisingly this is a rather easy pick: Shelden Williams.
Not only has Williams apparently secured a promise at #5 from the Hawks (thank god the Hawks are around to make the Magic look mildly competent) despite being undersized and underskilled (offensively) but he’s also managed to make even more millions in the process. Not millions for himself but millions nonetheless. While both Cedric Simmons and Alexander Johnson had good years for their respective teams, does anybody actually believe that they’d have gotten the level of pre-draft hype that each of them has had they not each lit up Williams on separate occasions this spring? I don’t doubt that each of these guys were on the NBA’s radar prior to torching Williams. I just feel like killing the two time National Defensive Player of the Year has raised each of their profiles considerably. If I was Williams I’d have my agent request at least 15% of these guys’ signing bonus.
Biggest mistake: The Celtics NOT drafting Marcus Williams. It's gonna happen too, just wait. We’ve all heard the knocks on Williams. Too slow, not athletic enough defensively, questionable character and jumpshot. How about focusing on what this guy does well for a change? He’s by far the most natural PG in the draft, he’s clutch, he plays with great pace and poise.
He’s is the perfect player for the Celtics as they’re currently constructed. You’re telling me that Paul Pierce wouldn’t love playing with this guy? Williams would take a lot of the ball handling pressure off Pierce while still getting the ball to Pierce in his comfort zones. If Williams made Armstrong and Boone look good at UCONN then what could he do for the confidence of young bigs like Kendrick Perkins and Al Jefferson. Finally, Williams would allow the Celtics to move Delonte West out of the starting lineup and into the role he’s best suited for: combo guard off the bench. West would end up playing the same amount of minutes but he’d be splitting time between the point and two while getting a chance to score more against second unit guys thereby maximizing his effectiveness.
The Magic: I’ve been dreading tonight since, oh…the moment that the Magic drafted Fran Vasquez last year. The Magic don’t have what I’d called an illustrious history of draft day steals. Basically, unless a Shaquille O’Neal or Dwight Howard fall into their laps the Magic front office have no clue how to properly evaluate talent with regard to their overall needs as a team. It’s been said for quite some time that the Magic covet Brandon Roy. Well good luck because he’s not going to be available at #11. Now, unfortunately, it’s looking as if maybe neither of the Magic’s backup options (Ronnie Brewer, Rodney Carney) will be available either. I’m not sold on either of these players but I would be able to rationalize their selections based on their overall ability and the Magic’s desperate need for a shooting guard.
I don’t know who I “want” the Magic to select if those two aren’t available but I DO know who I don’t want them to select: JJ Redick. I know that he is NOT Trajan Langdon and I know that he’s going to play in the NBA for ten+ years. I also know that he isn’t the right player for the team that the Magic are currently building. If the Magic had an already established two then I’d be on board with the JJ pick as he could ably fill the role of off the bench assassin. However, the Magic don’t have any two guard (Keyon Dooling are you listening?) and I don’t need to see both JJ and Hedo Turkoglu in starting lineup in Orlando. Finally, there is one player out there who, as Jerry predicted, could send me into a fit of arson inducing rage. That player’s name is: Thabo. It’s not that I’m a racist (though I am a bit of a timesist), it’s just that I can’t possibly take the thought of the Magic drafting a raw two guard with language issues who I’d never even heard of before the beginning of June.
God, if you’re out there, you won’t do this to me.
Finally, I’d like to end this column with some comparisons and suggestions. These are players in this year’s draft who I have yet to specifically mention in this (or any other previous column) and the players that I feel they most closely resemble as an NBA player. Or, the players and teams who form the best fit for one another in this years’ draft.
JJ Redick: I can’t take credit for this one as my buddy Pat mentioned it a couple of weeks ago while we were drinking and talking basketball. Of all the ridiculous comparisons that I’ve heard between JJ and any number of players, Pat’s pick rang the most true to me.
Comparison: Dell Curry
Dell was a little taller than JJ. However, their wasn’t a deadlier three point marksman around during his prime than Dell. He could drop 25 on you on any given night. If you drafted JJ mid/late first and ended up with something like Dell over the next decade, wouldn’t you be happy?
Shawne Williams: 6’8”, athletic, good shooting touch. He’s also a guy without a true position (at this point), he only played one year of college (in Conference USA) and he managed to do a whopping zero reps of 185 lbs. on the bench (Are you kidding me?). I’m sure he has a ton of upside and he may develop into a heck of an NBA 2/3 but everything about this kid just screams bust to me.
Comparison: Rodney White
Kevin Pittsnogle: He’s seven feet tall with a great jumper and a hair trigger release. He lacks great athleticism but is still far from being a stiff. He’s also an underrated passer and an improving rebounder. While he may never start on a great team, he could easily be a major player off the bench of a title contender or even a starter on a lower tier playoff team. If he grew up in Europe instead of West Virginia then he’d be going in the late first round.
Comparison: Mehmet Okur
Team/Player Fits- 1st round
Good: Alexander Johnson & NJ Nets
Johnson was under the radar at FSU due to a combination of lackluster physical conditioning and the sorry state of Seminole basketball. However, once he got a trainer and started working out regularly he quickly changed his body and impressed NBA GMs with his 40” vertical leap. While it’s always risky to draft a player who has shot up due to his pre-draft workouts, I’m going to give Johnson the benefit of the doubt here because he was stuck playing with guards for the last three years who couldn't differentiate an entry pass from a shovel pass. Plus, in NJ all Johnson has to do is run the floor, catch alley-oops and grab rebounds. He would be a starter from day one in the Meadowlands.
Bad: Guillermo Diaz & Miami Heat
Evidently Pat Riley has a man crush on Diaz that’s reminiscent of Jerry’s undying love for Quincy Douby. Let me be the first to say: I don’t get it. Diaz is an unbelievable athlete without question. Given his relative inexperience in organized basketball it stands to reason that he has much more improvement ahead of him. However, even with marked improvement I still don’t see how he fits on the Heat. He’s 6’1” and he’s an average ballhandler at best. He doesn’t see the floor all that well and will never be a combo guard on even the level of a Jason Terry. So why would you want to pair this guy in the same backcourt as Dwayne Wade? If you’re drafting a guard (or trying to trade up to draft a guard) wouldn’t you want somebody who can take some of the ballhandling pressure off of Wade? Or at least a guy who has shown that he can continually and consistently knock down threes? The Champiosnhip has made Riley drunk on power…that is my only explanation.
Clearly hammered at this point...
Good: Quincy Douby & Cleveland Cavs
I know that I’ve already talked about this but I just wanted to go on record as believing that Danny Ferry should lose his job if he passes on Douby. I don’t even want to talk about what should happen to Ferry if he passes on Douby for Daniel Gibson, who he reportedly has promised at #25.
Good: Renaldo Balkman & Phoenix Suns
The ultimate energy guy on the league's fastest team. Balkman could probably average double figures as a rookie in the Suns' system. He would bring toughness and rebounding to Phoenix while also adding some much needed depth. He'll never be a star but his energy and ability to finish on the break would make him an immediate impact player (and fan favorite) on Team D'Antoni.
Good: Josh Boone & Orlando Magic
Apparently Josh has a confidence problem. That's the story that Jim Calhoun is telling everybody anyway. His down year couldn't possibly be a byproduct of Josh being a lazy slug could it? While Boone lacks the motivation and desire to be a dominat NBA big man, he does have enough size, athleticism and defensive ability to be an impactful front court sub. What would be a better spot for him than Orlando, where he could come off the bench for a franchise with traditionally low expectations. The fans' focus would be on the continued development of Dwight and Darko which would allow Boone to develop at his own pace. Furthermore, the small market of Orlando and his role off the bench would keep expectations low for Boone so that he could continue to grow as a player without shattering his confidence by playing against the likes of Duncan, Garnett, and Nowitzki for 30 minutes a night. Is this just wishful thinking on my part? Probably.
Oh yeah, my pick for most ridiculous suit of the night goes to...Cedric Simmons. Just makes sense, doesn't it?