Before this week the only thing I knew about the NBA draft combine was that Kevin Durant couldn’t bench 185 pounds at the event in 2007. Then, during Game 6 of the Spurs-Warriors series, Jeff Van Gundy mentioned that “you have to be a basketball junkie” to watch NBA TV’s coverage of the combine. I took Van Gundy’s remark as a personal challenge and decided to hang out in my basement all weekend to soak in all six hours of televised combine action. Spoiler alert: This proved to be a terrible decision.
I’m guessing you didn’t subject yourselves to the same torture, so I took it upon myself to provide a running diary. Here’s what you missed:
We interrupt Part 2 of the NBA Trade Value column to explain the travesty known as the 2009 NBA draft. That night, Minnesota drafted two of our top-30 trade value guys (Ricky Rubio with the fifth pick, then Ty Lawson with the 18th pick) and passed up a third top-30 guy (Stephen Curry) to take Jonny Flynn. Trust me, this was just as ridiculous at the time. (Check out my thoughts at 5:10 of the '09 Draft Diary.)
That same night, Minnesota quickly traded Lawson to Denver for a future protected first-round pick that became the immortal Luke Babbitt (2010's 16th pick). What happened to Babbitt? It flipped his rights, along with Ryan Gomes, to Portland for Martell Webster, who had already been gift-wrapped a more-than-generous four-year, $20 million deal.
What happened to Webster? Turned out he was damaged goods — Webster needed two back surgeries to repair a bulging disc (including one before he ever played a T-Wolves game), struggled through two injury-plagued seasons before Minnesota released him, then became the centerpiece of a contentious compensation process that was only recently resolved (terms were not disclosed).
Of all the possible moments that could be miked up, David Stern welcoming newly drafted first-round picks into the NBA never is. So I was forced to imagine. (Shout out to Jose3030 for help with the pics)
In their eight years of existence, the Charlotte Bobcats have drafted three players from UNC, one from Duke, and one from Boston College, a school that plays up to seven games a year in the state of North Carolina. They have drafted one player from Texas, a Naismith runner-up from Gonzaga, and two UConn greats. Outside of trading for Alexis Ajinca’s draft rights in 2008, the Bobcats have found nearly every undersized or questionably athletic college star in the country. Some, like Jared Dudley, turn out to be valuable players on other teams. Others, like Sean May, quickly confirm that college post moves sometimes don’t translate to the NBA. The Bobcats haven’t fully developed a player since their inception in 2004. They handcuffed Raymond Felton, they didn’t tell the managers of all Charlotte-area Waffle Houses to stop serving May, they turned Gerald Henderson into the worst version of Kobe Bryant in the history of versions of Kobe Bryant.
With respect to Harrison Barnes’s decision-making, Perry Jones III’s passiveness, Terrence Jones’s tendency to look uninterested, Royce White’s anxiety, Meyers Leonard’s maturity, and Austin Rivers’s hubris, the biggest question mark in this year’s draft has to be how much Jared Sullinger’s back is going to affect his career. Had he put his name in last year’s draft, the two-time first-team All-American almost certainly would’ve been taken in the first five picks, but thanks to a variety of factors, he wasn’t even invited to the green room for this year’s draft and figures to not even be drafted in the first 20 picks. He’s the quintessential example of why even though many consider it noble and loyal for a surefire lottery pick to return to college, the smart play is always to go after the NBA riches. Because while an extra year of college is nice and admirable, you can’t make it rain on strippers or light a fatty with an extra year of college like you can with briefcases full of Benjamins.