The WNBA draft never looks like a sports event. It looks like a scene from a hotel jazz club. There is none of the beery pandemonium and emotional overkill that happens every summer when the men have their draft. The league's president, Laurie Richie, doesn't have to read the players' names over a chorus of boos. There aren't 20 people reaching for hugs and half-hugs and there's no irrational sense that, despite the financial bonanza, a bunch of guys are going to fight for all of Panem. Indeed, the presiding mood at the WNBA draft is less Hunger Games and more "Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Dee Dee Bridgewater."
The basketball centerpieces and matching tablecloths notwithstanding, the women treat you to a classier, more straightforward evening.
It's not easy being agnostic. Forget religion or politics. Try telling a buddy that you have no strong opinion either way on Breaking Bad. Or that all beers taste the same to you. Fence-sitting on any number of topics can and will get you an earful. So when a guy who writes about fantasy baseball describes his draft strategy as "I Don't Give a Crap," he's asking for a punch in the nose.
This year, I decided to go a different route in my go-to 18-team mixed-league auction. Yes, I would still seek out as many value picks as possible, staying true to projections and worrying about roster balance, position scarcity, and everything else only after the fact. Since nobody likes to pay for closers, that would mean there would be an excellent chance that I would wind up with four or five of them, yet again. Since everybody likes to pay for big-name power hitters, that would mean I would need to assemble a team with no major weaknesses, my cheapest players smashing the performance of the scrubs on the many stars-and-scrubs rosters sure to be assembled.
On top of all that, I would add a new wrinkle. Though value would remain the main goal, I'd compile a short list of players I liked before the auction. Every one of them would be a sleeper of some kind, so that bargains would remain the target. But having these names handy, I'd be ready to pounce when prices did drop, ensuring that I'm not missing out on any major sources of upside. Moreover, keeping this list close would provide a source for potential trade targets, since there would be no way to land everyone on it. Since you've all done your drafts and auctions already, consider that target list, as well as some of the players I'll highlight that I actually drafted, a good starting point for your own trade discussions.
Let's call this IDGAC, with a twist. Here's what transpired:
Back in June, we spent 24 hours with Royce White on the day of the NBA draft, which doubled as the biggest day of his life. For us, Royce (a 6-foot-8 forward from Iowa State) was the most suspenseful and important story in the draft — someone blessed with an extraordinary combination of skills and size, and also with a refreshing openness about his mental condition. His doctors call it "generalized anxiety disorder," a condition defined as "constant worry." In Royce's case, it's compounded by a fear of flying, which led to him electing to make the 10-hour drive from Ames, Iowa, to Louisville, Kentucky, for last year's NCAA tournament (instead of flying with his team). Rather than hide his condition from the public and NBA decision-makers, Royce made a commitment to millions of young people who suffer their anxiety in shame and silence (as he had done as a child and a teen). He would be their champion. Royce and the staff at Iowa State, led by head coach Fred Hoiberg, knew he could thrive professionally. But they also knew Royce had scared off a few NBA executives with his admirable honesty.
By the time Draft Day rolled around, Royce was the single hardest potential 2012 first-rounder to project. The real question was whether there was anyone in the NBA who wasn't too afraid of Royce to let him in the game
For many of the teenage prospects gathered in Pittsburgh for tonight's NHL draft, the last couple of days have been designed to show off some of the best of what this year's hockey-mad host city has to offer — even if the itinerary clearly hasn't included a stop at Primanti's. Asked on Twitter if he had been to the famed heart-attack-on-a-sandwich joint, goalie prospect Malcolm Subban responded:
@BootsNBrawn not sure where that is but Chipoltle/Qudoba are our spots right now.
Still, there were other local sights and sounds to take in. On Thursday, some of the top-ranked young players held a media availability session not in the standard location — hotel ballrooms, arena bowels — but rather on a boat, where they squinted into the sun as they spoke. And later in the day, they got the chance to take batting practice before a Pirates game at gorgeous PNC Park.
None of them were able to match the homer Sidney Crosby dinged at PNC in the fall of 2010. (USA Under-18 Team's Jacob Trouba came closest.) Nor will they be anywhere close to matching the kind of buzz Crosby received in 2005, the year he was selected by the Penguins. This year's draft class is solid, but it's not at all flashy; if it was a team, it would be more akin to the St. Louis Blues than the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Still, it ought to be an interesting evening. While I'll leave the nitty-gritty, "Here's who the Florida Panthers will take with the 23rd pick" projections to the people who have spent years watching players develop (if you're interested in that sort of thing, I highly recommend you begin by following Corey Pronman on Twitter), here are a few items of note going into tonight's draft.
According to the individuals whose job it is to quantify NFL prospects, Brock Osweiler stands six and seven-eighths inches taller than Kellen Moore; according to these same men at Scouts Inc., Osweiler receives an overall “grade” of 87 as a prospect, while Moore gets a 42. This makes perfect sense: If forced to choose between a quarterback who is potentially too tall to play the position and one who is potentially too short, the choice seems obvious. And yet if I were forced to place a thousand-dollar futures bet on which of these quarterbacks will be in the league five years from now, I would probably put my money on the little guy.