It seems like every couple years or so, there’s a dilemma about who to select first overall in the NBA draft, and one of the options is almost always a defense-first center with an “unrefined” offensive game. This year’s model is Nerlens Noel, and right now it’s looking like he’ll go No. 1 unless a team with no need for a center lands the No. 1 pick. Our own Joe Kotoch, whose next Mock Draft goes up Tuesday, has already told you that Orlando and New Orleans will look to trade the pick if they win Tuesday night’s draft lottery.
It’s not hard to see why. Franchise centers are perhaps the hardest thing to find in the NBA, and the truly great ones can absolutely transform a franchise (see: Dwight Howard with the Magic). But past lotteries are absolutely littered with “project” centers that never turned into what so many people thought they could. Darko Milicic, Hasheem Thabeet, Kwame Brown… the list goes on. Does anyone remember Patrick O’Bryant? Nikoloz Tskitishvili? All these guys were drafted in the lottery since 2000. None of them have made an All-Star team, and most are out of the league.
So when the draft order is revealed Tuesday, the team who the ping pong balls favor might end up with a franchise player or a total bust. Or maybe Ben McLemore, whatever he turns out to be. Nothing is for sure. It’s what makes the draft so fun.
Now to the latest NBA news and rumors:
- With the Grizzlies playing in their first conference finals, it’s time to take a look back at some of the moves that got them where they are today. Peter May of this site has already spoken to Chris Wallace about the Gasol-Gasol trade that was mocked around the league when it was made. More on the subject from Jeff Caplan of NBA.com: “The next move came on Feb. 1, 2008 and will go down as the franchise’s moment of truth. At that moment, however, it was perceived more like the moment of ultimate doom. Wallace agreed to a trade that unleashed shockwaves of ridicule from, yes, the media, but also shockingly from within the league. The backlash, Wallace said, was so fierce that it damaged the team’s ability to conduct business in its own city as it set out to sell critical sponsorships and arena suites for the following season. “People [potential clients] would list off all the big-name people [in the NBA] that had ridiculed us,” Wallace said. “It was like running the 100-meter dash with a 20-pound leg weight.” Everyone knows the deal: Pau Gasol to the Lakers for his chubby, unheralded younger brother Marc Gasol, bust Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and a couple first-round draft picks. Stunning criticism crushed Wallace for getting fleeced while being backhandedly credited for handing the post-Shaquille O’Neal Lakers the keys to certain championships. “I expect the media to shoot from the hip and not study the deal. That’s to be expected,” Wallace said. “I just shook my head. I had never seen that kind of response from inside the league. I don’t deny that was the assist for two Lakers championships, but we had to shake things up. We had never won a playoff game. We had been in the 20s [wins] and there was complete apathy in our market. Calipari and the Tigers were roaring at the time. When we went around the league, we weren’t going to get a tit-for-tat deal. We wanted to bring our salary structure down, get assets and draft picks. And no one else had a Marc Gasol.” “