Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Without question, the best thing about
Thursday night's NBA Draft is - voila - we've actually heard of some of the
players who are going to be picked.
Of course, there are the requisite number of foreign guys who will go, but, for
the most part, you or I might have actually seen some of these guys dribble a
ball in an American college or university gym. That's rare these days,
especially when it comes to the NBA - a truly international game.
What never ceases to amaze me is how few draft picks ever stick in the NBA.
The world plays basketball - we're not talking about curling - but each year
there are only a handful of players who even make a team.
If you're a late first-round draft pick, you'd better be careful. You'll
probably get a spot, but rent in your new hometown, don't buy.
And if you're a second-rounder, well, stay in a cheap hotel until they tell you
you made it or they tell you to go home. Oh, by the way, being seven-foot tall
doesn't hurt. Being six-foot tall does, but if you can squeeze out another 12
inches, somebody will pay you at least for a little while.
Just compare the NBA Draft to the NFL Draft. I know there are a lot more
football players on a team than in basketball, but a first- or second-round
pick in football is making the team, at least for one season, whether or not
he's a player or a stiff.
And those picks, first or second choices, are like gold in the NFL. Teams don't
trade them away without thinking about it long and hard.
The NBA? A second-rounder, OK, you can have our second-round pick in the draft,
just send us some water bottles and Gatorade and we'll call it even.
Of course, there are exceptions. Manu Ginobili was taken 56th overall in the
tail end of the second round, but most guys drafted that late would rather not
even be drafted.
They're better off not getting picked and trying to latch on with a team as a
free agent. Most second-rounders are labeled with the dreaded "P" word, and
that means "project."
"Give him some time to develop and he might become a player" is what the scouts
will tell you.
Naturally, if your favorite team selects a "project," he'll never develop and
will become just a footnote. And the team picking right after your team will
find a stud and that guy will haunt you for the next decade. It never fails.
So, with a world full of basketball players, only 60 of them will hear their
name called in this year's draft. And of those 60, the guess here is that 35 of
them find an NBA home. Those are not good odds.
Those who have good odds are the guys who will go in the first 10 picks.
They'll be smiling in their fancy suits and hugging commissioner David Stern
like there's no tomorrow.
The first one to go will be Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel. We heard a lot
about him in high school, but didn't get to see much of him in college because
he hurt his knee.
But he's (ding, ding) seven-foot tall and a defensive whirlwind. The Cleveland
Cavaliers have the first pick and they need to do one thing with it: Keep it
and take Noel.
I like Ben McLemore from Kansas and Anthony Bennett from UNLV and Trey Burke
from Michigan. They are all tremendous players, and we can pronounce their
names, but they are not 84 inches tall and will not control things under the
basket like Noel.
To the Cavs: You don't know what you'll get in the Round 2, but you do know
what you can get in Round 1. Don't trade the pick, just be happy you have it.
A little certainty in a draft that has uncertainty every year is a good thing.
The Sports Network