One of the worst things a rebuilding team can do is completely miss on a first-round pick. With the Celtics now definitely rebuilding, it might be time to question whether they did just that when they took Fab Melo, who was just traded to the Grizzlies for Donte Greene. Of course, it’s not like the Celtics will be set back for years by missing on that pick: they took Jared Sullinger one pick before Melo and Kelly Olynyk this year, both centers whose skillsets are basically the antithesis of Melo’s. It’s not like they whiffed on a top-ten pick and haven’t been able to replace what they thought they were getting, like, say, the Wizards seem to have done with Jan Vesely. Melo isn’t even the first player taken in the first round in that draft to be dumped for a modest return: Royce White’s clashes with Rockets management led to him getting shipped out to Philly before he even wore red and white, and Thomas Robinson’s top five pedigree hasn’t stopped him from going from Sacramento to Houston to Portland, for diminishing returns each time.
Melo, Robinson, Vesely and so many other players taken in the last few years could still be something, obviously, but the odds seem stacked against it. The counterpoint is when picks in the same minefield of lost potential turn into legitimate stars: look at Kenneth Faried and Nolan Smith, for instance. That’s how mid-market dynasties are built.
All this makes you wonder how history will look at this year’s draft. Will Anthony Bennett, Alex Len, and Nerlens Noel be the stars their teams hope they’ll be, or will they be quietly jettisoned for 15th-man fodder in a couple summers? Which, if any, late picks will turn into the value players that are the fuel of so many lengthy runs at the top? Only time will tell.
Now let’s get to all the latest news from around the NBA:
- Nik Pekovic is finally signed. Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune tells us how it got done: “Timberwolves fans might have fretted and feared the worst those six weeks when their team haggled with restricted free-agent center Nikola Pekovic over a new contract. To hear him tell it, even Pekovic’s agents might have done a little of the same. But the big man who on Friday celebrated five years’ job security and a $60 million guaranteed payday by wearing nearly all black never sweated the small stuff when negotiations stalled — until the Wolves offered a fifth year so Pekovic’s side would accept the team’s $12 million salary ceiling. “I always knew it was going to get done,” he said at a Friday news conference that officially presented him and the new deal. “I was not nervous. I think my agents were more nervous, that’s for sure. They were calling me, like, ‘Calm down, calm down.’ I said don’t worry, I’m fine.” “
- Do we have some shots fired in the Nets-Knicks rivalry from Raymond Felton? Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com reports: “The Knicks starting point guard couldn’t believe that ESPN’s 215-member forecast panel picked his team to finish fifth in the conference. He’s also heard other media outlets overlook the Knicks. “I’m like, ‘How can y’all even say this?’” Felton told ESPNNewYork.com on Thursday at an Under Armour event in New York City for his upcoming basketball sneaker. “We made changes and I feel like we got better, and we were the No. 2 team [last season]. We won over 50 games, we won our division, but y’all going to sit here and say that, ‘Just because Brooklyn made some changes, they’ll overpower us just like that, like we have no chance.’ Come on. You can put 10 guys on the court and all of them are All-Stars, but they got to work as a team, they still got to work together. I feel like sometimes that’s tough. You never know; you have different egos and personalities that you have to deal with on the court. Sometimes they don’t mix.” “
- Speaking of the Nets, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reports that Kevin Garnett might be limited, along the lines of Gregg Popovich’s famous “DNP – Old”: “You might want to count out Kevin Garnett for about a quarter of the season. After Garnett admitted he seriously contemplated retirement this summer, the 37-year-old will “probably” not play in back-to-back games next season, according to Nets coach Jason Kidd. The Nets have 20 sets of back-to-backs, including a Rockets-Knicks combo in April. “We’ve talked about it that there’s going to be (minutes restrictions). When you look at KG, probably no back-to-backs for him,” Kidd said Friday following press conference to announce the renovation of Nassau Coliseum. “Those are just topics we’re talking about, throwing around to keep these guy’s minutes down because we are deep. …you want to be fresh going into the playoffs.” Garnett, who will earn about $11.5 million next season, is the oldest starter on a lineup with an average age of 31.6. He hasn’t played more than 71 games since joining the Celtics in 2007-08, and his minutes dipped to under 30 per game last season. The Spurs have used a similar strategy with Tim Duncan, who is also 37 and played 69 games last season.”
#Sixers Turner talked to Brett Brown last night. ‘I told him everybody wants to be in tank mode and everything.’ …
— Tom Moore (@tmoore76ers) August 17, 2013
Turner: ‘I told him I plan on trying 2 win as much as possible. He said they got the wrong coach if we’re going 2 go out & lose on purpose.’
— Tom Moore (@tmoore76ers) August 17, 2013
- Alex Len is feeling good, writes Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic: “Len, the Suns’ No. 5 overall pick in June, has spent most of this year with a protective boot on one foot or the other after undergoing surgery to repair a partial stress fracture in his left ankle after his Maryland season and then another surgery on his right ankle last month as a proactive move when it showed signs of another potential fracture. Len, 20, has been out of the boot for a week and is on schedule to be ready to participate when Suns training camp opens in Flagstaff in late September. He lost weight after his surgery but has gained back 10 pounds during his rehabilitation work in the past month. “I’ve got two more weeks of rehab and then I’ll be back about 85-90 percent,” Len said. “I’ll be back for training camp and be ready for the season. The ankle’s feeling great. I have no pain.” Len went to the rookie orientation program in New York but has returned to Phoenix for good to finish rehabilitation. He gradually will work toward jogging over the next two weeks and said he already has begun some set shooting and dribbling. The 7-foot-1 center is trying to not get caught up in concerns about having two surgeries in two months. He said the Suns asked him to do the “precautionary” second ankle operation and that it will not be an obstacle.”
- There’s a buzz in New Orleans over the revamped Pelicans, now featuring Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans in addition to Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis, and, as John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes, it’s translating into ticket sales already: “A new nickname, an improved roster and a significant slash in ticket prices have helped put the New Orleans Pelicans on pace to achieve their highest season-ticket total since the franchise has been in the Crescent City. Michael Stanfield, the Pelicans’ senior vice president of sales, said the franchise has already sold more than 11,000 season-ticket packages in advance of the regular-season opener Oct. 30 against the Indiana Pacers at the New Orleans Arena. The franchise’s sales record for season tickets came in 2008-09 when it sold 11,800 the season after the team won a franchise-record 56 games and clinched its first Southwest Division title. But Stanfield predicts by October, the Pelicans will have 12,000 season-ticket holders.”
Dan Malone is about to begin his fourth year as a journalism student at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and spent this summer as a features intern at the Cape Cod Times. He blogs, edits and learns things on the fly for Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on Twitter.