NEWARK, N.J. — It was a draft dominated by foreigners and surprises that largely didn't pop up until the second round. The first round had its small share of unexpected picks (Tristan Thompson going fourth chief among them), but the sizzle didn't exist in the early part of this annual summer selection process.
As the NBA heads into its inevitable lockout period, its last big event left a whimpering thud for its fans to accept before a labor struggle that's expected to make the NFL's negotiations seem smooth.
Many believed this to be one of the worst crops of talent heading into a Draft in league history -- before it happened. And now that it's over? It's definitive. With the completion of the NBA Draft, a realism sets in of what this year's set of 60 picks has to offer. See the names, match them with the teams -- after you straighten out who got traded where, another thing that plagues Drafts from being fluid, easily digestible spectacles -- and let the grid of picks speak to you.
Not much to new to say about the NBA's class of 2011, except that it featured way too many foreign players and out-of-nowhere, obscure college guys picked to really engage the NBA's fan base at large.
I love me feel-good stories, but when Josh Harrellson, a player that was on the verge of being cut from Kentucky's team last year, is selected before guys like Josh Selby, Travis Leslie, David Lighty and Scotty Hopson, it's not a bad year. It's a dreadful year. The latter two players can make NBA money down the road, but they weren't even selected Thursday night.
Yet Ater Majok was. Who? Exactly. Already an afterthought at UConn, where he managed three points per game last season and clearly was one of the rawest big men in the country, Majok somehow impressed Lakers brass enough to waste a pick on him. (I hate to say waste, but it's true; Majok is not nearly ready for the Association.)
This will most likely be a Draft that's looked back on a decade from now with equal parts confusion, laugh-ability and clarity. There's always clarity, of course, though. Normally it doesn't come this soon. Even if the potential of Kyrie Irving, Jimmer Fredette, Kemba Walker, Derrick Williams and Brandon Knight are unknown quotients, too many picks from this year's Draft are already DOA.
Around the Prudential Center, the feeling among fans and writers was palpable -- this just wasn't a special night. Motions were gone through. God bless those young men who dressed themselves up and made millions of dollars and their dreams come true, but few people were excited by the goings on of this year's festivities.
Were there some dramatic moments? Sure, like the Thompson pick by Cleveland. And when the picks rolled by and Kenneth Faried sat and stewed in the stands, his baby girl in his arms. That's right: a kid who grew up a few miles from the Prudential Center didn't get a Green Room invite. He was 30 feet from Thompson's table. And Faried's more NBA-ready than the lanky Texas tweener.
Still, Faried sat in the second row of the Prudential Center, waiting his turn. He chewed his nails. He talked to practically no one. He didn’t glance at his phone. Ever. As if waiting for detention to end, Faried looked up at the big screen in perpetuity, the metaphor for the clock that signified how long until he had the opportunity to stand up and shake David Stern’s hand.
His name was called eventually, drafting him with Denver making him the 22nd overall pick in the first round. The scowl melted and Faried flashed his big, brash smile.
There were other possible oversights, like Charles Jenkins going about 10 picks to late (44th to Golden State) and Keith Benson (48th to Atlanta) also slipping way, way too far. Some of the most sound, mid-major talents from this year's Draft didn't get the benefit of the doubt that the 13 foreigners chosen were.
It's going to be interesting to see this class, specifically, and who survives more than five years in the NBA. With a new collective bargaining agreement on the way, contracts could look different and the lifespan of a lot of these sketchy players could provide to be warning signs for not only picks in the future, but franchises as well.
It was this humble writer's first Draft, so I'm not drawing on too much experience here. But in talking to many, it seemed all too appropriate that this year's inferior Draft was held in an inferior location; Madison Square Garden will return as host next year, when renovations are completed. It was an experience, for sure, even if a less-than-thrilling one. Trying to get halfway-decent, somewhat-personalized interviews was nearly impossible. Draft night is when the prime beef get escorted about the building, chauffeured from one glob of media to the next, sometimes being tucked behind metal doors while trades are made.
As much as many would like to, and try to, make NBA Draft night about storytelling, it's really about reacting. The problem is, this year, there's not so much to react to. Acceptance instead of interest became the theme for the 2011 NBA Draft. Kind of mirrors the labor fight ahead, doesn't it?Photo: AP