The Northern reticulated monk squirrel is a curious creature. A tireless worker during most of the year, it hibernates exclusively in the buttes of Northern California from April to the middle of June. In fact the Northern reticulated monk squirrel would be an apt analogy to yours truly, whose literary industry is in near dormancy from the end of the NCAA Tournament until the NBA draft, were it not for the fact that we just made up the Northern reticulated monk squirrel. But we leave the issue of its existence or lack thereof to old people on park benches, vaguely unsettling Park Rangers, and other squirrel scholars greater than ourselves. The important thing is WE’RE back.
In the next few days we’re going to take a look at the NBA draft – who falls where, who could surprise, who could disappoint, who should have stayed in school, who should have left earlier, and creative ways Rodney Guillory can expense Red Lobster now that O.J. Mayo has gone pro. We’ll do this as a simple back and forth between the two of us, and in an unprecedented interactive feature, we’ll also address questions from our loyal readership as long as they’re pertinent and don’t involve soft porn or people we went to high school with.
M: Let’s start with Derrick Rose, who has quickly become the de facto #1 overall pick. I love Rose, a big, powerful point with innate point guard instincts. But does it bother you at all that he was nowhere near the consensus #1 pick for 9/10ths of the college season?
R: Yes and no. No one was talking about Carmelo Anthony as a potential top 3 pick in 2003. At least not before the tourney. That last 1/10th of the season you’re referencing is realistically the season for most college basketball fans, even most serious ones. I mean realistically isn’t Rose’s performance against UCLA in a Final Four a better barometer than how he played against UAB in December? I’ll admit I’m biased here. I think Rose has to be the pick for Chicago. We know the Bulls have been in a perpetual identity crisis since the end of the Jordan era. Presently they’re a potential offensive power masquerading as a grind it out team. Rose can make everybody better offensively (including Hinrich) and he isn’t a sieve defensively. You draft Rose you change the culture of the Bulls. I love Beasley, he’s a better player, but I’m not sure if this isn’t one of those rare cases where the Bulls need not the better player but the better fit. Though ignoring Beasley ignores the Bulls glaring weakness since they lost Eddy Curry, their lack of low post scoring. But they’ve ignored it for four consecutive drafts, what’s a fifth? Besides, Paxson is obsessed with taking Final Four products. Since Hinrich in 2003 the Bulls have drafted at least 1 Final Four alum every year, 2004 (Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Chris Duhon), 2006 (Tyrus Thomas), 2007 (Joakim Noah) and the one year they didn’t, 2005, they didn’t have a pick. Not saying it makes sense, just saying it’s been their culture.
Here’s the better question, given Beasley was the presumptive #1 for said 9/10ths of the college season, and given that he did nothing in the tournament to deserve dissuasion from that position, why is Miami so intent and finding an excuse to draft someone else? I doubt even David Thorpe or Frank Martin (who, interestingly, was his high school coach) think the presence of Udonis Haslem is a legitimate reason not to take Beasley.
M: I actually agree with you, I’m just raking a little muck to make a couple of points.
The first is to beware of the player who made his rep solely as a result of the NCAA Tournament. Rose and Melo do not fall into this category. They were already in the conversation as best players in the country and leading top tier teams on a weekly basis against other top tier teams. Their performance in the Tournament simply solidified their position in the lottery and moved them from the middle to the top.
Then there’s the borderline first round prospect who moves into the lottery simply as a result of Tournament performance. We’ll call him, oh I don’t know…the Patrick O’Bryant. Looking at the latest mock drafts, which player may qualify as this year’s Patrick O’Bryant? I hate to say it because I like the guy, but it’s probably Joe Alexander. Alexander was barely in the first round prior to the Tournament and now may go in the top 10. In Alexander’s defense, this may be a case of his being overlooked during the regular season simply because he played in a state which even a guy as square as Dick Cheney can make incest jokes about. Alexander did lead a top team in what was likely the toughest conference in the country, so comparing him to a stiff like O’Bryant is unfair. Still, there’s something vaguely troubling about picking a guy in the top 10 who would have been in Ryan Anderson territory prior to the Tourney.
The second point I want to make is how quickly we all seem to have forgotten about Michael Beasley. NBA teams (most notably the Heat, I might add) began tanking months ago for the chance to draft this guy, and now the Heat can’t wait to trade out of the 2 spot so they DON’T have to draft him?! Granted Pat Riley has a little more experience than I do evaluating NBA talent, but I can’t believe the prospect of a Wade/Beasley combo for the next several years wouldn’t have you dancing down the street like Gene Kelley. Not drafting him because you have Udonis Haslem is like not buying a Ferrari because you have a Passat, and I have a Passat. I love that car, but the day you offer me a Ferrari it’s going in the Demolition Derby.
R: When reading on the Heat’s seeming insistence on avoiding the best player in the draft I kept telling myself “only Pat Riley…” but this is the same Pat Riley that won an NBA Championship two seasons ago, after winning myriad in the 80’s. What happened to the Heat? They didn’t just look bad this season, they looked bad. They looked shoddily tossed together, poorly coached and unmotivated. Part of that, of course, is assembling a roster of aging dudes and waiting for the inevitability of said roster bottoming out. But age is the case with Boston and I like their chances of functioning as the big three decay, in part because they’ve got parts. Miami doesn’t. Riley’s spent almost a decade drafting high scoring, one dimensional combo guards and swing men to varying degrees of success (Caron Butler and Dwayne Wade…yes…Dorrell Wright and Daequan Cook…not so much…), which is why his apparent fascination with O.J. Mayo is an inevitability. Still, the draft is incredibly scattershot. In 2003 almost every mock draft around had the Heat taking a burgeoning offensive talent who would redeem Riley’s recent Miami swoon and restore interest in the Heat. That South Beach Savior? Maicej Lampe.
M: I also seem to remember that the other team in the top 10 reported to be interested in Lampe that year was the Knicks. Turns out they did like him, they just didn’t like like him, eventually taking him in the second round. I guess you could say they averted disaster, at least until you realize they selected Mike Sweetney with that top 10 pick. Scott Layden, the Lusitania to Isiah Thomas’ Titanic.