Every week, our panel of sports fans discusses a topic of the moment. For today's conversation, Patrick Hruby (writer, Sports on Earth and The Atlantic) and Jake Simpson (writer, The Atlantic) discuss the many shocks and head-scratchers of this year's NBA draft.
Hruby: Guys, are you still here? Have you been traded to The Atlantic Wire for the rights to Richard Lawson, a 2015 first-round pick and cash considerations? No? Phew.
Forgive me. I'm still a bit disoriented. In a word, the 2013 NBA Draft was ...head-spinning. Top overall pick Anthony Bennett had no idea he would go No. 1 until the moment his name was called. Expected high selections Ben McLemore and Nerlens Noel fell out of the top five, and the latter was promptly swapped. So were national college player of the year Trey Burke and a number of other players--a fit of wheeling and dealing overshadowed by a draft-night trade that sent future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn while putting the Boston Celtics into full teardown mode.
How to make sense of it all? A few observations:
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Award: A power forward from UNLV, Bennett is athletic, man-strong, and a surprisingly adept outside shooter. He's also, like, 6-foot-6--the same height as a prototypical NBA shooting guard--and a somewhat indifferent defender. Is he the next coming of Charles Barkley or Larry Johnson? Or just another positionless 'tweener who created mismatches for all the wrong reasons? (Think Minnesota's Derrick Williams.) I'm leaning toward the latter, and even if Bennett turns out to be an offensive force, I'm not sure why Cleveland selected him with the top pick. After all, the Cavaliers (a) already have a young power forward of the future in Tristan Thompson; (b) have an old/new coach in Mike Brown who emphasizes defense.
Luckiest Team: The Sacramento Kings nabbed sweet-shooting, tall-building-leaping Kansas guard Ben McLemore with the No. 7 pick, never mind that McLemore was probably the most talented player in the draft. Better still, McLemore fills a position of need for the franchise.
Unluckiest Player: Cody Zeller. The Indiana center likely will have to reinvent himself as a stretch power forward to succeed as a pro. The Charlotte Bobcats are the league's reigning Island of Misfit Toys, a place where ill-advised draft picks go to wither and die. What could possibly go wrong?
Biggest Reach: Solomon Hill. It's not that I think the do-everything Arizona forward can't help Indiana--it's that Hill was projected as a mid-second round selection, and the Pacers grabbed him at No. 23. Why pay retail when you can buy wholesale?
Unluckiest player? Cody Zeller. He'll have to reinvent himself to succeed as a pro, and the Bobcats are the league's reigning Island of Misfit Toys, where ill-advised draft picks go to wither and die. What could possibly go wrong?
Second-Round Steal: Jamaal Franklin. The San Diego State swingman is the anti-Hill--a first-round talent who slipped to Memphis at No. 41, basically because he can't shoot. So what? The thing about shooting is that players always can get better with practice--see Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, and Jason Kidd. Besides, even if Franklin never becomes Ray Allen, he can help the Grizzlies with his aggressive defense and all-around offensive game.