Grading last night’s NBA draft is a futile exercise at this point because we’ll need a few years to truly ascertain what teams made the best moves.
Case in point, one can make the argument that Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks hit a homerun with their selections of Latvia’s Kristaps Porzingis and Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant.
Kristaps could pose some serious match-up problems on the perimeter with his sweet long-range stroke and terrific athleticism for a 7-footer. His skill set and versatility would seem to be a strong fit for the triangle offense that functions at its highest level with a big man that is proficient facing the basket and comfortable in a system of constant movement and spacing, which the European game is heavily reliant on.
Grant seems like a huge upgrade for the team, who traded away the disappointing and defensively inept Tim Hardaway, Jr.
There are many who rated Grant’s ability to pass off the dribble while attacking the paint second only to Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell in this draft class.
Conversely, one can equally argue that Porzingis is the second coming of Darko Milicic, an overrated overseas prospect who was a worse disaster than Eddie Murphy in The Adventures of Pluto Nash, and that Grant will one day be compared to the over-hyped and underwhelming Mateen Cleaves, Troy Bell, Antonio Daniels, Reece Gaines, William Avery and Marcus Banks.
Flash back to 1998, when the Dallas Mavericks selected the University of Michigan’s Robert “Tractor” Traylor with the 6th overall pick, and traded him to Milwaukee for their selection at #9, an unheard of 19-year-old 7-footer from Germany who some compared to Larry Bird, and others likened to Big Bird, named Dirk Nowitzki.
There were some who applauded the move, thinking Milwaukee fleeced the Mavs. I distinctly remember one of my street corner basketball philosophers in Brooklyn ranting, “Dallas got some bum from Germany named ‘Dirt-and-Whiskey’ when Felipe Lopez, Keon Clark, Rashawn McLoud and Nazr Muhammad was still on the board! Dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. Barbara Bush will leave George for Bobby Brown before the Mavericks ever win a championship with some soft European 7-foot jump-shooter named ‘Dirt-and-Whiskey’, I guarantee it!!!”
And how did that one turn out?
I also remember when Canadian Steve Nash, by way of Santa Clara, was selected with the 15th pick in 1998, when some screamed that LSU’s Randy Livingston and North Carolina’s Jeff McInnis were much better prospects.
The saying, “Hindsight is 20-20” has never been more true as it relates to the NBA draft. You truly never know.
To be completely transparent, I thought when Allen Iverson came out of Georgetown that he was an outstanding talent that I would pay to see as a pro. I knew he’d be an exciting and very good NBA player, but I thought UCONN’s Ray Allen and Georgia Tech’s Stephon Marbury were better at the time.
I’m excited about this draft class and truly believe that Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay, Justice Winslow, Frank Kaminsky, Trey Lyles and Devin Booker have a chance to be special in the long term.
Right now, I’m scratching my head at the Cleveland Cavaliers trading away Duke’s fantastic Point Guard, Tyus Jones, to the Minnesota Timberwolves for two second-round picks, given their obvious need for a tempo-pushing floor general who can score, pass, facilitate an offense and give you constructive minutes off the bench while spelling the often injured Kyrie Irving.
But who knows if what they got in return, one piece which is a sweet-shooting 6-foot-8 swingman from Macedonia named Cedi Osman who currently plays in Turkey, will eventually prove to be a key component in LeBron’s future championship run.
Where will this draft rank in the years ahead? Only time will tell.
My guess is that, like last year’s group of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embid and Aaron Gordon, who we’ll also need to wait a few more years on before we can truly understand what we have, they’ll be very good.
But there is also a chance that it could wash out like the 1997 group who, despite having Tim Duncan atop the draft board and Chauncey Billups and Tracy McGrady in the top ten, was rife with the likes of Tony Battie, Ron Mercer, Keith Van Horn, Adonal Foyle, Austin Croshere, Kelvin Cato and Rodrick Rhodes.
But right now, fans of every team can find something to celebrate, hoping that the latest moves from last night, the upcoming free agency market and some potential future trades will prove to be the magical ingredients that turn things around.
Laker fans are drooling at the prospect of a backcourt of D’Angelo Russell and Kobe Bryant while Timberwolves fans are excited about the future with Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Tyus Jones.
Knick fans, despite the strong inclination to conjure up the name Frederic Weiss, are optimistic that Porzingis could be the next Nowitzki, and that their other draft night acquisitions of Grant and Spain’s Guillermo Hernangomez can help Carmelo and a possible trade or free agent acquisition like DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Tobias Harris, Greg Monroe or LaMarcus Aldridge can invert last year’s calamitous 65-loss cataclysm.
Did the Nuggets score a knockout with Mudiay? Did the Timberwolves get the next physical ideation of Anthony Davis in Karl-Anthony Towns? Will Murray State’s Cameron Payne turn out to be the next mid-major prospect with tantalizing potential like Elfrid Payton, or will he turn out to simply be the next coming of Major Payne?
Did Michael Jordan add to his draft-day incompetence of Kwame Brown and Adam Morrison by selecting Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky?
Did Atlanta’s draft stink worse that Patrick Ewing’s underarms in the fourth quarter of a tight game? Did Memphis really think they were doing something by getting LSU’s Jerrell Martin as opposed to a deadly perimeter scorer?
Do the Cavs need to be drug-tested for trading the rights to Tyus Jones, while attempting to strengthen their bench with Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas and St. John’s Sir’Dominic Porter?
This is the fun of the draft. We won’t know until a few years down the road who really did what.
The impatient and arrogantly delusional among us will tell you they have all the answers now, like they did when they insisted that Felipe Lopez should’ve been picked by the Mavericks before “Dirt-and-Whiskey” in 1998.
The rest of us will simply sit by patiently, waiting for the mysteries to unravel themselves and for the answers to appear when they’re ready.