Think back to May 21st, 2013, the 2012-2013 NBA season was winding down and the 2013-2014 season was in its inception. The conference finals were in full swing, when the ping pongs balls were “dropped” and then “called” ceremoniously like a saturday night powerball drawing. Many may be sad to know that this was David Stern’s last lottery as the commissioner of the NBA, he will be replaced by deputy commissioner Adam Silver in 2014-2015. I say that ironically because many are happy that this is David Stern’s last NBA Season at the steering wheel. Anyways back to lottery night, Orlando was hoping for a # 1 pick and theoretically they should of gotten it. Phoenix was really hoping for a top 3 pick, their franchise had the 4th best chance of that actually occurring. Phoenix had squandered the past few lottery picks and had been without an all-star since Amare Stoudemire. Cleveland ended up with the 1st pick with Orlando, Washington, Charlotte, and Phoenix following respectively.
The next important date in this young season’s saga is June 27th, 2013, D-Day to some, better known as Draft Day to others. I have never sat in a “war room” but from what I have heard, my D-Day reference is not far off from the truth. This year there really was not an overwhelming number one pick, there was certainly not a consensus from any of the so-called experts. In my mind, when Cleveland went on the clock I was certain they were going to take the stud out of Indiana Victor Oladipo. The best talent may have actually been Nerlens Noel but, with him being hurt his stock fell. So instead, the Cavs shocked the world and took Anthony Bennett, the forward freshman from UNLV. This pick surprised a lot of people for 2 reasons, the first being, this was only the 2nd time in history a non-american had been drafted number one overall, the other being Andrew Bogut (Bogut is Australian and Bennett is Canadian). The second reason being, there was a lot of “ready-made” talent available, while Bennett was considered by many to be a project. In most of the mock drafts, he was listed as going somewhere around the 10th pick. The Cav’s number one need was a wing presence, with not a lot available many thought that trading down might be a good option. Also, last draft the Cav’s took Tristan Thompson who is also a Power Forward, supposedly the Cav’s “PF of the Future”. A good complimentary player to Thompson would have either been a Center in Noel or a shooting guard in either Burke or Oladipo. Going into the 2013-2014 season they have 2 Power forwards, no Center for the future and Kyrie Irving, in short they have a big hole at 2/3 position going forward.
Orlando was ready to go into attack mode, and then realized that they had every single player available to them that they could possibly want, so naturally they gobbled up Oladipo. Next, Washington takes Otto Porter out of Georgetown, this pick was solid in my mind and here are 2 reasons. First, It is always a good move to bring a kid who playing at a college near the NBA city to the team, thats just good marketing. Second, the Wizards needed a forward and the other forwards on the board were sketchy at best; Sergey Karasev and Shabazz Muhammad. These two were best forwards available, and Washington wasn’t going to take a chance on either. Little was known about Karasev but Washington did their their homework and knew that Shabazz Muhammad had been caught up in a number of scandals.
The next 2 picks in my mind were both misses., Charlotte takes Zeller out of Indiana and Phoenix takes the Ukrainian born Len, who went to Maryland but is also hurt. Michael Jordan was a great player, but has proven to be a terrible GM and Owner. Time and time again he chooses players that have certain key pieces missing. Cody Zeller might turn out to be a decent NBA player, right now he’s currently averaging 5 pts. and 4 reb. in the first 28 games of his career. Zeller was the second wheel on the Indiana team of 2012-2013 and will have a lot to prove in the NBA to stay in the NBA, he will certainly be a project. The other reason I feel Jordan missed here, is Noel is still on the board and teams are passing him up because he is hurt.
With that said, Phoenix really botches the next pick and takes Alex Len. If you are going to take a hurt player why not take one with a huge upside? Phoenix needed a Center, there were 2 injured guys available and while neither has played significantly yet in the 2013-2014 season, I think Phoenix missed out big time by not taking Nerlens Noel. At the time the Suns still had Marcin Gortat so, they might have been thinking that the foreign-born Len would be a good protege for Gortat. Whatever the case may be, Gortat is no longer with the team and Len has 7 pts. total on the season in 31 minutes. Fortunately, the Suns were able to acquire Kentucky’s Archie Goodwin. Goodwin left Kentucky mainly because he knew of the impending freshman class coming in and he worried about the amount of playing time he would receive. Coach John Calipari said if he would have stayed in school he would have been a top ten talent.
In terms of other important notes from this draft, in the beginning of 2012-2013 NCAA season, Shabazz Muhammad was probably rated as one of the best players coming out of high school. He attended the prestigious Bishop Gorman High School, he was a McDonald’s All-American, and Nevada Player HS player of the year. Muhammad chose UCLA and was ruled ineligible shortly after arriving in LA. He sat out a number of games and was eventually allowed to play, and ended being named co-freshman of the year alongside Jahii Carson at Arizona State University. Around Lottery Day, rumors began surfacing that Muhammad was lying about certain things relating his age. It was then released shortly before the draft that Shabazz Muhammad was in fact 20 years old and not 19 as previously thought. This was a huge shot to his draft stock, his credibility, and ultimately cost him being a top 3 draft pick. Shabazz Muhammad ultimately still ended up being a lottery pick and was selected 14th overall by the Utah Jazz, he was then traded on draft day to the Minnesota Timberwolves. To make matters worse, Shabazz Muhammad was sent home from the rookie symposium for rules violations, this means he will have to repeat it in his sophomore season. He has played in 8 games, for 33 minutes and scored 8 points thus far. Things for Shabazz have gone from Shabad to Shaworse.
In the next article I will discuss Rookie of the year so far, sleepers in the draft, and undrafted free agents making a big splash.