Here's all you need to know about the 2011 NBA draft: it was held in Newark, N.J.; its consensus first pick played 303 total minutes of college basketball; its most exciting player projects to be a rich man's JJ Barea; its most exciting pre-draft trade involved three small-market teams that all might move someday; and my father (normally a draft junkie) was left so uninspired by this year's draft pool that he skipped the first 90 minutes of the telecast to have dinner with his wife. No, really.1
Fortunately, we won't remember any of this in 20 years: We'll only remember June 23, 2011 as the day Ron Artest changed his name to Metta World Peace. Move over, World B. Free, there's a new sheriff in town! Without further ado, Draft Diary XV.
7:30 p.m. ET -- We're coming to you live from the New and Improved Man Cave! I'm joined by some pretzels, some lukewarm Bud Lights and my buddies Wildes and Jacoby, who I grabbed for tonight's peanut gallery to help with what looks to be a brutally bland draft on paper. I've been grasping for straws all day; I even roped Cousin Sal into making our first two draft-related wagers ever: Jan Vesely being a top-six pick (-125 odds), and a parlay with Jimmer Fredette being picked in the lottery and two or fewer Kansas guys being drafted (+110 odds). When you're gambling on an NBA draft, you know it needs some help.
7:31 -- ESPN opens its telecast with Adele's "Rolling In The Deep" as the theme, Taye Diggs narrating and every prospect dressed like they're in the 1930s. We've decided the theme is either "We're entering the Depression" (literally, there's a lockout coming), or "We wanted everyone to dress like it's an Amar'e Stoudemire press conference."
7:31 -- Tonight's announcers; Stu Scott, Jeff Van Gundy, Jon Barry and the Wizard of Wingspan, Jay Bilas.
7:33 -- Does anyone get more of a kick out of being booed than David Stern? He just came out to his usual round of jeers, made his introductions, then said, "On the clock, the Cleveland Cavaliers for whom I rigged the lottery last month!" Fine, fine, he didn't say that. Hey, is it a bad sign that Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams both have a "Crap, I think I'm a good player, but even I'm not sure I should be the first pick in a draft" look on their faces?
7:38 -- Cleveland just had five weeks to think about this pick, but that's not stopping them from milking the clock for another five minutes just to remind Clipper fans that the Clips gave away this pick to get rid of Baron Davis. Van Gundy raves about Derrick Williams, saying he's going to be good right away and he's the perfect "4" for this generation. (I agree, actually.) Barry follows by saying, "If you believe Kyrie Irving is the best player in the draft, you take him. If it's Derrick Williams, you take him." Glad he's here.
7:39 -- Our no. 1 pick? Yup Kyrie Irving. You know, because any time you can grab a freshman point guard who missed two-thirds of the season when you have $20 million of point guards on your roster, you have to do it. We'll see how this goes: I see him settling somewhere between an extremely poor man's Chris Paul and a rich man's Mike Conley. Will he ever make an All-Star team? It's possible maybe one or two. One thing I don't understand: Why does everyone keep saying this month that you "need" a good point guard to win? Didn't anyone watch Jason Kidd and Mario Chalmers just battle in the Finals? You need good players to win. I believe Derrick Williams will be a more effective professional basketball player than Kyrie Irving. We will see.
7:41 -- Bilas breaks down the Irving pick for 75 uninterrupted seconds, shattering Dick Vitale's record from 2005. He also used up one of his "great feel for the game" immunities on Irving — he has three left with 29 picks to go.
7:42 -- Heather Cox interviews Kyrie's dad, Drederick, under the NBA's little-known rule, "Any time a lottery pick's father is in the audience, you have to interview him." Uh-oh, guess who's on the clock .
A quick recap of Kahn's 24 months in charge: his Timberwolves lost 132 of 164 games; he used the fifth and sixth picks in the 2009 draft to take a Spanish guard who couldn't come over for two years and a point guard who bombed so badly that he's probably getting traded tonight; he drafted three point guards in 2009 and three small forwards in 2010; he locked down a center combo of Nik Pekovic and Darko Milicic for a measly $9.3 million a year; he gave Ramon Sessions $16 million over four years, decided he didn't like Sessions, dumped him in a trade, then gave the exact same deal to Luke Ridnour (who didn't deserve it either); he starred in a YouTube clip called "Chris Webber Clowns Incompetent GM David Kahn"; he whiffed on Steph Curry and DeMarcus Cousins in back-to-back drafts; and he hired and fired a head coach. Other than that, things went pretty well.2
7:45 -- Kudos to Kahn for not overthinking things and grabbing Williams, who just inspired Wildes, Jacoby and me to figure out the hierarchy of congratulatory hugs right after someone gets picked. We think it goes
- Mom (if she's there)
- Dad (if he's there)
- Girlfriend (if she's there)
- Brother (who's usually there)
- Agent (always there)
- Future head entourage member/weed mule (if he's there)
- Extended family member (if they're there)
- And finally
- Hat Guy (the guy who hands them the team's hat who just picked them)
If somebody hits all eight, that will be the Draft Cycle. Williams just went Mom-Girlfriend-Agent-Entourage-Family-Hat Guy. He fell two short. Although Stern just hugged him and may have just whispered, "Don't worry, Kahn will be gone soon "
7:46 -- Bilas on Williams: "He's 6-foot-8, but he's got a wing span of 7-foot-1 so bottoms up everybody!"3 From there, we get a replay shot of Kahn and everyone else in the Minnesota war room awkwardly applauding their pick. Has an NBA war room ever NOT awkwardly applauded a pick? Does that footage exist?
7:50 -- Stern waves as he's getting booed. "He loves the hate!" Jacoby says. "It fuels the fire for him!" Stern and Vince McMahon could switch jobs for a year pretty seamlessly. At the very least, Stern should have his own entrance music for the beginning of the draft. I've been saying this for years.
7:51 -- Utah takes Turkish banger Enes Kanter, a dead ringer from the one-armed man from The Fugitive. That pick was a big hit in our room, and not just because (a) Kanter scored 34 points at the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit, (b) he wants to be a WWE wrestler after he retires, and (c) we liked his interview with Mark Jones. I have a good feeling about that guy. Right team, right fit. Somehow this leads us to start talking about whether it's an easy transition to go from Turkey (a religious place with good-looking women) to Salt Lake City (a religious place with good-looking women). "Turkey is a little more open-minded about religion," Wildes decides. "Could be a tougher adjustment." These are the things you talk about during the NBA draft.
7:55 -- Bilas mentions that Fran Fraschilla has likened Jonas Valanciunas to a "poor man's Pau Gasol" and adds, "That's pretty high praise." It is? Since when is calling someone a "poor man's" anything praise? And isn't that insulting to Marc Gasol, the original Poor Man's Pau Gasol? Or did he vacate that title after his sterling 2010 playoffs?
7:56 -- A funny Van Gundy riff about not being able to pronounce foreign names ends abruptly when Barry jokes, "Thanks Johnny Most," followed by Van Gundy freezing on a comeback and two seconds of silence before Stu throws it to the next pick. "They need a laugh track," Jacoby decides.
7:56 -- Curveball from the Cavs at no. 4: They take Tristan Thompson, the Texas forward who's also (a) the highest Canadian-born pick ever, (b) someone who likes to tweet Confuscius-like messages like ""One man trash is another man treasure. So you better know what you got, before it's gone," and (c) the No. 1 Draft Pick for this year's Lindsey Hunter All-Stars (for athletes whose names make them sound like supermodels). "He just needs to learn how to play and how to score," Bilas says. I think I need more from my fourth pick than that sentence. Weird choice. Or, this draft is horrible. One or the other.
7:58 -- Stu tells us that Thompson is our third active NBA player born in Canada, joining Joel Anthony and Jamaal Magloire. We need a name for these awkwardly enlightening Stu facts when he's trying to spruce up a throw to commercial. I say we call them "Stidbits." Regardless, I'm writing each one down in case there's a quiz later.
8:00 -- "We could have had it allllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll."
8:02 -- Toronto takes the poor man's Pau (Valanciunas), getting one step closer to Bryan Colangelo's goal to have a 12-man roster of dudes from different countries who will score 110 points a game and finish 26-56. You can't say Colangelo blew the pick because Valanciunas isn't playing in the NBA for at least a year. That's right out of the Kahn playbook: I'm not doing a bad job, I drafted a guy playing overseas who's going to be incredible! You can't fire me yet!
8:04 -- The Valanciunas highlights were pretty uninspiring (semicontested layups and tip-ins), but his interview made up for it: Mark Jones asked him why he thought his game was like Chris Bosh's game, then Valanciunas stammered, "I don't know I have not so strong body." High comedy. Poor Bosh can't even make it through a draft that doesn't involve him getting insulted. Wildes thought Valanciunas was right on the Interpreter Cusp — he knew just enough English that he didn't need one, but he probably should have gotten one, anyway.
"The interpreter never hurts," Wildes says sagely. "You're always gonna sound smart talking in your own language." Unless you're Brett Favre.
8:06 -- High drama for Cousin Sal and I: We need the Wizards to take Vesely to win our "Vesely will be a top-6 pick" bet. And
8:07 -- Yes! The Dunking Ninja is going to Washington! He starts his career with a memorable highlight: Right after the pick, he just about open-mouth kisses his smoking hot European girlfriend as the crowd cheers lustily. That leads to this exchange:
Wildes: "I hope that's not his sister."
Me: "No, that was his girlfriend, there was practically tongue."
Jacoby: "Yeah, I think she was marking her territory. Like a dog marking a tree!"
(The NBA draft everybody!)
8:08 -- Highlights from the past 2 minutes: Fraschilla gushing during the Vesely highlight reel, "He's a FREAK athlete!" ESPN smartly replaying the Vesely kiss (that will have 10 million YouTube hits by Friday night) Jones saying, "He's wearing a big smile right now" (because he got drafted, or because of his girlfriend?) Jones saying Vesely was the European Blake Griffin, then Vesely joking awkwardly, "I think he's the American Jan Vesely" the thought of Blake hearing this, then vowing to go out of his way to dunk violently on Vesely next season.
(Put it this way: If Jan Vesely does for the Wizards what he just did for this draft, they're going to be the most exciting team next season. You know, if we have a season.)
8:09 -- Was just thinking of something: When you're ESPN's foreign draft expert during a first round with two Lithuanian guys, a Turkish guy, a Congolese guy, a Serbian guy, a Czech guy, a Latvian guy and a Croatian guy, the world is your oyster, right? Fraschilla's agent should have told him to hold out for more money on the morning of the draft. We're going to need an extra $200,000 in unmarked bills or Fran is going to come down with a migraine tonight. ESPN pays that Fransom. There's no question.4
8:10 -- Stu breaks down today's confusing trade between Sacramento, Milwaukee and Charlotte, a small-market menage a trois that basically flipped some draft spots, changed addresses for three vaguely similar veteran swingmen (John Salmons, Corey Maggette and Stephen Jackson) and featured cameos from Beno Udrih and Shaun Livingston. The most shocking part: Charlotte landed the ninth pick just for downgrading from Jackson to Maggette (not even that much of a downgrade), which means that's right Michael Jordan finally won a trade! I knew it would happen in my lifetime!
8:12 -- With the seventh pick, Charlotte takes Bismack Biyombo!!! (FYI: I'm adding three exclamation points to Bismack Biyambo's full name for the foreseeable future. I want to scream his name every time I read it or hear it.) We're all fired up for this pick: Biyombo is like Serge Ibaka after 10 cups of coffee, only if he spoke one extra language (Ibaka only speaks five), only if he didn't have a jump shot and you had no idea how old he was.5 Clearly, his career WILL be memorable in some way. But which way?
8:13 -- Fraschilla on Biyombo: "The problem he cannot score. You cannot run any plays for him." Big laugh from the room on that one. Don't pass him the ball! Don't even think about it! NO! NO PASS TO BIYOMBO! Later, Fraschilla adds, "High risk, high reward but he is an unbelievable athlete for a guy who's allegedly 18 years old." Even Fran can't resist bringing up the age rumor. I think Fran just made history: In the span of a minute, he raved about a prospect and destroyed him at the same time.
8:13 -- Random gripe: We're upset the NBA won't change the rules that, even if we know a draftee is getting traded, they still have to wear the wrong team's hat for the handshakes/pictures/interviews until the trade is "official." They can't bend that one? What about a hat with a question mark? It's confusing enough to keep track of this draft without dudes wearing the wrong hats.
8:13 -- That reminds me our past five picks were Enes, Tristan, Jonas, Jan and Bismack. What the hell is happening right now?
8:18 -- The Pistons just lucked out: Brandon Knight at no. 8? Really? He celebrates by nearly going for the Draft Cycle: From what we could gather, it just went "Dad, Mom, Hat Lady (she jumped the gun), agent, buddy, buddy." He was two away from magic. I like this pick: smart kid, good character, good pedigree, talented he might end up being better than Irving for all we know. Not sure how he falls to eight. Joe Dumars is like Rob Lowe — every time you think it's over for him, he rallies back.
8:20 -- Random question: What would happen if Detroit re-signed Rodney Stuckey, then started Knight and Stuckey together? If you start two combo guards, does that equal one point guard and one shooting guard? I say it does; Jacoby thinks it cancels each other out; Wildes solves it by saying, "If you have two Arnold Palmers, that doesn't mean you have one iced tea and one lemonade, it means you have two Arnold Palmers." He's right. Stuckey needs to go.
8:22 -- Pop Quiz: Christian Mingle is
- a. A high-flying 20-year-old forward from Portugal who lit up the Nike Hoop Summit and might sneak into the lottery.
- b. the name of a dating service website that just ran a commercial in which the narrator said, "Sometimes we wait for God to make the next move, when God is saying, 'It's your time to act, the next move is yours.'"
(I'll let you think about this one.)
And time! The answer is "B."
8:23 -- Charlotte grabs Kemba Walker at no. 9, leaving the door open that Friday's Charlotte Observer will have the headline, "KEMBIYAMBO!" Everyone in the room likes that pick — not just because he's crying with joy, not just because he's a leader and a winner, but because he could absolutely be the second or third guard on a contender someday. I'm not betting against Kemba Walker. Meanwhile, Mark Jones drops his first "What does this moment mean to you?" in his Kemba interview. He was due.
8:25 -- We're in Jimmer range.
8:26 -- Getting closer.
8:27 -- Closer.
8:28 -- Close
8:29 -- Ladies and gentleman, it's Jimmer Time! Sacramento just grabbed him with the 10th pick. I see him becoming a more consistently explosive version of JJ Barea, only with deeper range. That's a guy you'd want on your team, right? Although teaming Jimmer (a black hole in college) with Tyreke Evans (a black hole in the pros) makes me a little nervous. Can the usage rate of two guys add up to higher than 100 percent?6
8:30 -- Whether that Jimmer pick works or not, can't we do Hard Knocks or 24/7 with the Kings next year? Jimmer, Tyreke, DeMarcus Cousins, Pooh Jeter, Omri Casspi, the Maloofs going broke, Mayor Kevin Johnson going for a new stadium you're not watching that show?
Wildes: "I'd watch a 24/7 on the making of a 24/7."
Jacoby: "I'd watch any 24/7. Anything. ANYTHING."
Me: "You'd watch a 24/7 on a WNBA team?"
Jacoby (after a pause): "Almost anything."
8:32 -- We just spent the past three minutes trying to figure out who Jimmer will hang out with on the Kings. It's unclear. In other news, TJ Fredette reminds me just enough of the brother from Lights Out that it makes me nervous. Let's hope he doesn't lose all of Jimmer's money 15 years from now.
8:32 -- Just remembered that nobody watched Lights Out.
8:35 -- Golden State grabs 2-guard Klay Thompson (son of Mychal), a pick that has "We're trading Monta Ellis" written all over it. Major Stidbit heading into commercial: Thompson is the "Second player ever taken in the first round from Washington State. The first player? Don Collins, back in 1980." I'm so ready for this quiz after the draft. I'm gonna ace it.
8:38 -- "We could have had it allllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll."
8:40 -- Utah grabs Alec Burks at no. 12, or as he'll be known in Salt Lake City from the day forward, "Not Jimmer." Bilas points out that Burks can't shoot, and also, he can't defend. Sounds like a steal. How has Kawhi Leonard not been taken yet? What am I missing?
8:47 -- After failing with Robin Lopez and Taylor Griffin, Phoenix grabs its third twin in three years: Markieff Morris — the identical twin of Marcus Morris, who was better than Markieff at Kansas — only now Markieff is a slightly better prospect because he's a natural "4" (and Marcus is a tweener 3/4), but again, they're identical twins, and if you can figure this out, God bless you.
8:48 -- Wildes thinks there's a poster of Danny DeVito in Twins in Phoenix's front office.
8:52 -- We're on a run of Morris brothers: Houston just took Marcus 14th, rewarding him for a funny interview with Heather Cox right before the commercial. As Stu points out, Markieff was born seven minutes before Marcus; now he was just drafted five minutes before him. Our best Stidbit ever! By the way, San Diego's Kawhi Leonard is officially our "how the hell did he slide to the middle of the draft" guy, which doesn't happen every year, but when it happens (Danny Granger, Ty Lawson, Roy Hibbert), you know as it's happening. He should have been a lottery pick. That guy is a natural NBA small forward.
8:58 -- Questions we would have asked Angel Morris (mother of the Morris twins) that Heather Cox didn't ask during their interview:
- a. "How did you come up with the name Markieff?"
- b. "Which one do you love more? Be honest."
- c. "Which twin is more likely to retire early and have a failed broadcasting career, only to come back later unsuccessfully, but only after leaving his pregnant wife for a 21 year old blonde and turning the nation against him? Maybe Markieff?"
9:00 -- Indiana eagerly grabs Leonard, who's wearing our favorite outfit of the night (a navy blue suit with white piping) and nearly pulls off the Draft Cycle before the Hat Guy squashes it. (He got off six hugs in like 3.2 seconds.) A little bit later, he inspires a "huge hands!" frenzy from Bilas. Did you know his hands were 9.8 inches long and 11.3 inches wide? Or that his teammates in college called him "The Human Avatar?" Mark Jones compares his hands to "meat cleavers." I'm adding this to my Bucket List: "Shake hands with Kawhi Leonard."
9:07 -- Right before Stern tells us that Philly took Nikola Vujevic with the 16th pick, he glances at the index card one more time with an amused, "Really, another effing foreign name???" smirk. "He's the greatest," Jacoby says. We're all gonna miss him when he retires — name me a more entertaining commish on Draft Night. You can't.
9:10 -- The Knicks are on the clock, followed by the obligatory full-body massage of Donnie Walsh by everyone at the ESPN table. If Donnie crapped into his hand and whipped it at Rachel Nichols right now, the media would gush things like "the great Donnie Walsh has done it again!" and "Another savvy move by one of the classiest guys in sports!" It's unbelievable. I need this explained to me at some point.
9:12 -- The Knicks take 2-guard Iman Shumpert at no. 17 (huh?), followed by lusty boos from the Knicks fans in Newark, the obligatory shot of a confused Spike Lee, and David Stern blessing the pick by saying, "Iman is not with us tonight." Ooooof. So to recap: Donnie Walsh made Landry Fields untouchable over Danilo Gallinari, then four months later, picked someone who plays the exact same position as Fields. Another savvy move by one of the classiest guys in sports! By the way, can someone loop every confused Spike Lee draft reaction on You Tube? Don't we have enough for a 90-second clip at this point?
9:14 -- Spike on the pick: "I believe in Donnie Walsh, so that's his pick, we're gonna go with it, we have no choice." Only the Knicks can make their fans sound like hostages.
9:15 -- The winner of this year's Rashard Lewis Award (for the last guy in the greenroom):7 Chris Singleton, the fledgling clothing designer and forward who's headed to Chocolate City as the 18th pick. Hey Wizards — don't think I haven't noticed that you're slowly transforming yourselves into a young, high-flying, high-energy team with cool caps and jerseys. In other news, I'm getting excited for the Celtics to pick ferocious rebounder Kenneth Faried at no. 25. We're in range.8
9:26 -- TRADE! Ric Bucher reports that San Antonio is sending George Hill to Indiana for the rights to Kawhi Leonard. Like it for both teams. Van Gundy's take: "When San Antonio does a deal, I always think they're right." Somewhere, the people watching this draft with Richard Jefferson are sitting in awkward silence.
9:37 --Our last next picks: Tobias Harris (Charlotte picking for Milwaukee); Donatas Motiejunas (a Lithuanian for Minnesota to stash abroad);9 Nolan Smith (Portland).10 Stu's running out of Stidbits, he just told the guys that Smith has a tattoo of his father's face on his arm. We might have to start drinking a little more heavily soon.
9:39 -- Andy Katz reports that Portland and Denver are talking "feverishly" about a Ray Felton/Andre Miller deal. Does "feverishly" mean they're so excited about the deal that they kept interrupting each other on the phone and talking over each other? Are they getting angry at each other? Have words been exchanged? We're confused.
9:44 -- Denver breaks my heart (OK, not really) by taking Newark's own Fareid, a relentless rebounder/shotblocker from Morehead State who held his baby up when he got picked like she was a deer's head or something. If Faried doesn't end up having a meaningful moment for a contender at some point over the next eight years, I'm giving you a full refund for this column.
9:45 -- "You can't teach relentless!" Bilas gushes in the middle of a five-"relentless" binge about Faried. Jay Bilas was relentless right there.
9:49 -- Houston drafts Nikola Mirotic who can't play in the NBA for four years because of buyout issues. Fran Fraschilla loves the pick except that "Houston needs help right now." Um what? The good news: We have a trade Houston is sending Mirotic to Minnesota with Brad Miller and a future first-rounder for Jonny Flynn, the rights to Motiejunas, and a two-year cycle of PED's to help Motiejunas gain weight.11
10:08 -- Highlights and lowlights from the next few picks:12
- Reggie Jackson (OKC's pick at 24) gets a whopper of a Stidbit: "He's a superstitious guy, he has to wear black socks and he has to take a shower before every game."
- The Celtics pick a guy I kinda like (Providence shooter Marshon Brooks), then trade his rights to Jersey for a guy I kinda don't like (JaJuan Johnson) and a future second-rounder, followed by Jacoby pointing out that Johnson is 6-foot-10, 220 pounds ("He's seven inches taller than me and weighs 10 pounds more and I'm in shape!"), followed by me sulking for about 23 seconds, followed by my dad and I having a brief "why didn't the Celtics trade up for Faried?" phone conversation before realizing that neither of us really care.
- My dad asks me again to not put in the column that he went out to dinner during the draft. Got it.
- With Chicago picking at no. 28, Stu jokes to the other guys, "There's no chance that the Bulls use that pick and select a certain NBA owner that owns a team in Charlotte, right?" For whatever reason, that's greeted with dead silence. Then Stu says, "That, that can't happen?" More silence. And then, "We don't think Michael Jordan can come back?" More silence. It's like everyone just wants to go home.
- Jacoby admits that he cried once during the Budweiser "coming home" military commercial.
- Minny flips no. 23 (Mirotic, who's already been traded twice this round) to Chicago for 28 and 43, then takes Cleveland State's Norris Cole (another point guard for Kahhhhhhhhhhhhhn!!!!!),13 who immediately won fans for having a flattop in his highlight reel. "I like the concept of picking for other teams," Jacoby says. "It's like buying a lap dance for one of your buddies." Wildes and I immediately greet that joke with Van Gundy-esque "I'm not selling that crap" death stares. This needs to end soon.
- San Antonio seemingly reaches for Corey Joseph at no. 29 until you remember that the Spurs always pull those "reach" picks out of their butts. That's followed by Stern coming out for the last round of boos ("Thank you for that," he says), then announces Chicago takes Jimmy Butler (this year's feel-good story) as Cousin Sal and I win our second wager of the night (the Jimmer/Kansas parlay, and yes, that's another feel-good story). End of first round, end of Draft Diary XV.
Last thought: Whenever NBA TV runs old drafts in the week leading up to the latest one, I see the year in the TV Guide listing and a memory trigger comes to mind: something like, "Oh yeah, 1998, that's the year everyone kept passing on Dirk and Pierce," or "Crap, that's the Bias draft, I'm changing the channel immediately." I have a feeling we'll remember the 2011 draft as the Foreigner Draft. And I have a feeling I will change the channel.
Bill Simmons is the Editor in Chief of Grantland and the author of the recent New York Times no. 1 best-seller The Book of Basketball, now out in paperback with new material and a revised Hall of Fame Pyramid. For every Simmons column and podcast, log on to Grantland. Follow him on Twitter and check out his new home on Facebook.