Drenched to the Bone: The 2015 NBA Draft
Wikipedia pinpoints the start date of Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour as June 7th, 1988. Since then, with a brief pause due to health concerns in 1997, Dylan has toured internationally almost non-stop, intermittently breaking to release albums. He alienates and enchants his fans, which has always been part of the Dylan mystique, but no matter what, he keeps our attention. As the self-proclaimed poet laureate of rock and roll, he’s earned that much.
I couldn’t tell you exactly when it became imperative to keep track of every movement in professional basketball, but my best guess is that somewhere in the last decade or so, ESPN, FreeDarko, statistical analysis and all which those entities begat made the NBA tab of the Bottomline like reading a daily newspaper. In the year-round NBA, we hardly have a moment to breathe.
Boogie Cousins didn’t go anywhere, and the Lakers didn’t trade out of the #2 slot. They also didn’t take Jahlil Okafor, who slid to Philadelphia, despite their propensity for franchise-altering big men. As the night progressed, however, trade flurries turned into a blizzard, though none of the lottery picks were told to change their hats mid-interview.
Towns Goes #1: In a move that shocked absolutely nobody at all, the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted Karl-Anthony Towns first overall. By almost any measure, Towns is the best all-around player in the draft, a two-way menace who will cause massive destruction on Rubio- or Tyus Jones-led pick-and-rolls. His defense has room to improve, but he is already good enough and big enough to rely on his instincts as he adjusts to the NBA. Having Kevin Garnett, the proto-Towns, as his mentor will help him stretch his game. Garnett isn’t about to let him off the hook, even if the Timberwolves franchise has historically been one where great prospects go to develop before eventually leaving to contend for titles elsewhere.
Lakers Take Russell, Okafor To Phila: On CBS Sports Radio yesterday, Damon Amendolara made the point that the draft really started with the second pick, and that what the Lakers did in light of the Warriors’ triumph could signal a large-scale change in the tide of the league. Rather than taking Jahlil Okafor, the impressive Duke center who was the consensus #1 overall pick for much of the college basketball season, Los Angeles snagged Ohio State point guard D’Angelo Russell, whose playmaking vision and shooting ability should fit in well with both Kobe Bryant’s ego and Julius Randle’s low post scoring. All of this, of course, assuming Los Angeles doesn’t eventually trade Russell for DeMarcus Cousins.
Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Sam Hinkie continues to get his team’s fans to #trusttheprocess. In keeping with the theme, Hinkie selected the best player available in the third slot, which was Okafor. The Sixers said they planned to keep Okafor, which will create an interesting dynamic among Philadelphia’s big men. Nerlens Noel took incredible strides as a defensive stopper during his first year on the floor, which will be a perfect complement to Okafor’s offense-first, defense-nah game. It does, however, leave the curious case of Joel Embiid to the gods. Embiid sat out last season with a foot injury and reacted to Okafor’s selection, as only he could, on Twitter: “OK……….. Lol”
Knicks Stay Knicks: I didn’t live through the Cuban Missile Crisis, so I’m not in any position to draw a true comparison between that and being a New York Knicks fan during last night’s draft. I can say that there was a high amount of tension that led to a near-eruption when the Knicks drafted Kristaps Porzingis, a 7’3″, 209-pound Latvian big man, and the fans present in the Barclays Center seemed on the eve of destruction. Only through the lens of time, and the acquisition of promising (Aren’t all draft prospects promising? Isn’t that the point?) Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant for Tim Hardaway, Jr., did Phil Jackson manage to quell the resentment and anger. It now seems that a lot of fans are viewing Porzingis for what he is: a project with unspeakable upside and also the ability to fall through the floor, à la Darko Milicic, Frédéric Weis or (*shudders*) Andrea Bargnani. Projects are for high school students, sure, but that’s alright, because the Knicks franchise is essentially a high school with an out-of-touch principal and an enigmatic staff anyway. Go Knicks.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post listed Kristaps Porzingis as 6’11”, which he most certainly is not.
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