Friday, June 27, 2008

The story of the 2008 NBA Draft starring ... Greg Buckner?

It didn't hit me until I watched the beginning of ESPN's telecast of the NBA Draft last night that this marks my 10th consecutive time watching the draft basically from start to finish. The 1998 draft when I was 13 years old was the infamous Michael Olowakandi debacle. I could probably spend an entire post going over all the mistakes and high-profile picks made that year. Like for instance, the then-Vancouver Grizzlies picked Mike Bibby second overall, passing over Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, and Rashard Lewis.

Some other memorable picks from that year included, well, the Wizards, coming off that memorable three-game sweep courtesy of MJ and the Bulls, not having a first-round pick and then selecting Jahidi "Jelly Donut" White from Georgetown. FYI, I had a #55 GTown Jahidi White jersey back then so I was ecstatic about the pick, clearly forgetting the consequences it had on the Wizards catering bills over the years. Oh yeah, this was the draft where Robert "Tractor that gets paid thousands by Ed White" Traylor got picked by the Bucks sixth overall.

And with the 53rd pick in that draft, the Dallas Mavericks followed up their franchise-altering selection of Dirk in the first round with the earth-shattering selection of Greg Buckner out of Clemson. Wait, what's that? You don't know who Greg Buckner is. Well, he hasn't done much in his career, but he was involved in a pretty big draft day deal last night, so he provides me with a perfect transition to my 2008 NBA Draft thoughts.

Buckner's trading card from back in the day.

1) The O.J. Mayo Conundrum: So if you haven't heard, because it happened following the conclusion of the Draft, the Timberwolves traded O.J. Mayo, Marco Jaric, and the golden goose, Greg Buckner, to the Grizzlies for Kevin Love, Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal, and Jason Collins. Apparently, KLove was was the one player Kevin McHale really wanted, ending what Bill Simmons terms "the short lived Gay-Love era in Memphis". I actually like both of these players, Mayo and Love, and think both can be solid pros. I especially liked Mayo's decision to wear bifocals to the draft as a way to make himself appear sophisticated. Classy move.

2) The Beasley Pick: So I alluded to this the other day, about Pat Riley and the Heat being very skeptical about Michael Beasley and South Beach being near each other. Well, apparently Riley had a super-secret workout that somehow got leaked to the media making it no-so-super-secret with Jerryd Bayless and O.J. "Extra" Mayo. But he made the pick anyways, and I think it was the right move. Although Beasley is undersized (apparently he's only 6-foot-8) for a power forwards, he will have an excellent defender in Shawn Marion to pick up the slack for him. I like Mayo and Bayless, but in the long run I don't see them as anything more than a poor man's version of Dwayne Wade. Neither would turn into the legitimate point guard that Miami wants.

3) Say it ain't so, Joe Alexander: I really like Joe Alexander. I'm talking borderline infatuated with the man. In fact, during the NCAA Tournament, I was writing columns for the Daily and dedicated a whole one to Joe and his glorious trash 'stache. But getting picked by the Bucks at No. 8 might just spoil his NBA career.

Think about it, the Bucks just got Richard Jefferson in a trade, so he'll likely be manning the small forward spot, with Michael Redd at shooting guard. There's no way Alexander can play power forward in the NBA because he was already undersized at that position when playing college ball. Besides which, they've got Charlie Villaneuva and Andrew Bogut on the interior. The pick just didn't make sense to me, especially when players like Jerryd Bayless and D.J. Augustin were still on the board and your starting point guard goes by the name of Mo Williams. Although I must say, the Bucks got a bit scarier now that they have both Jefferson and Redd.

Speaking of which, how can David Stern legitimately approve this trade. It's so painfully obvious the Nets are tanking it the next two seasons just so they can grab LeBron in 2010. Isn't that some kind of collusion. This is a perfect example of what's wrong with the NBA. How are we supposed to take it seriously when teams are doing straight up salary dumps. Yi and Bobby Simmons for Richard Jefferson. What about Nets fans? They get the big three of Yi, Bobby Simmons ridiculously large and expiring 2010 contract, and Vince Carter's corpse until LeBron saves the day and they move to Brooklyn. Also, didn't realize until last night that Kiki Vandeweghe is their GM now. He's a moron, so I'm guessing they won't even end up with the King.

4) Eric Gordon to the Clippers: Everyone has this infatuation with Eric Gordon that I'm just not so sure about. I saw the guy live at Crisler earlier this year and came away somewhat impressed, but I just think he's too small to be successful in the NBA. He's 6-foot-3 and has no potential as a point guard. He's got pretty good range, but the best part of his game at Indiana was his raw strength and athleticism. Well, now he's going to be competing on a level playing field, where everyone is super freaky athletic, and I don't see him being that much stronger than your typical NBA shooting guard. I love how everyone has been saying "Eric can be like Ben Gordon", but what the hell has Ben Gordon done? Average 20 points, while chucking up a lot of shots. Welcome to the Eric Gordon era in L.A., where 9-for-25 shooting nights are the norm.

5) The Trail Blazers have the makings of a juggernaut: Seriously, I don't know if anyone caught some of the deals they pulled off last night, but their roster is absolutely stacked now. They picked up Jerryd Bayless and Ike Diogu from Indiana, giving up Brandon Rush and Jarrett Jack, and they somehow got Darrell Arthur. So let's take a look at this roster right now: Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, Jerryd Bayless, LaMarcus Aldridge, Sergio Rodriguez, Channing Frye, Travis Outlaw, Steve Blake, and Joey Dorsey. With a starting lineup of Rodriguez at point, Bayless at two guard, Roy at small forward and then Aldridge and Oden on the interior, this is a championship=caliber team very shortly.

6) The Jermaine O'Neal Trade: I'm really glad Jermaine didn't go to Cleveland like I unwisely guessed because then the Cavs would jump to another level in terms of the Eastern Conference. That being said, the Raptors are now almost as scary. They've got Jose Calderon with no reason to look over his shoulder now that T.J. Ford is gone, Chris Bosh and O'Neal in the interior. Not only is that a strong top three, but Bosh and O'Neal are going to draw their fair share of double teams, which is only going to open up 3-point shots for gunners like Jason Kapono, Carlos Delfino, and Anthony Parker. Remember, the Raptors were already the top 3-point shooting team last season.

7) You'd think being in the National Championship meant something: Think about it, besides Derrick Rose and Brandon Rush, every player in the National Title game a year ago got hosed. And even Rush got traded from Portland to Indiana, which made him very somber looking when they interviewed him after the switch. Darrell Arthur, who some said would be a lottery pick and I predict could become the steal of this draft, fell all the way to 27, and then got traded from New Orleans to Houston to Portland to Memphis all in the same night (imagine that dude's emotions last night). Then you've got the two juniors that decided to come out early, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Mario Chalmers, who both slipped to the second round, along with two seniors out of Kansas, Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson.

I think the biggest oversight was Chalmers, who got picked 34th overall by Minnesota and was then traded to Miami. If anything, though, he's got the opportunity, if he shows he can play the point, to start right away alongside Wade, Marion, and Beasley. Now that could be an intriguing lineup, although the wild card will be whether Chalmers can be a 6-foot-3 point guard, rather than a 6-foot-3 shooting guard.

8) You really thought I'd forget about the Wizards: From about the 10th pick on, I was hoping and praying Darrell Arthur would drop into the Wizards' lap at 18, and lo and behold, he did. I decided a month ago and told Graham that the Wizards would take Arthur. Plus I think he's exactly the type of player the Wizards need. A bruiser to come in as a backup for Antawn. Instead they picked another project along the lines of Andray Blatche. Javale McGee isn't going to bring anything to the table for at least three seasons, by which time this current Wiz nucleus will likely be over the hill. I'll let Chad Ford of ESPN do the complaining for me:

I'm not a huge fan of this pick, especially with a proven guy like Darrell Arthur on the board. McGee is a physical specimen, very long and athletic, and he has some skills. But he's very soft and looks like he's years away. He reminds me of Andray Blatche.

The Wiz also picked Bill Walker in the second round, but then traded him to the Celtics for cash considerations. I'm telling you right now, Darrell Arthur is going to put up a consistent 10 points and five rebounds a game for Memphis next season, just something to consider rather than counting your money, Ernie Grunfeld.

9) James Gist: Good Counsel and Maryland alum James Gist got picked late in the second round by the San Antonio Spurs. It prompted this text message from on-again off-again Spurs fan and Maryland alum, Matt Brown: James Gist spurs jersey already ordered.

That made me laugh. My question now is, who from the 2008 NBA Draft will become the next Greg Buckner? I'm going with Shan Foster of Vanderbilt, who went 51st overall to the Mavericks, the same team that picked Buckner ten years ago. In 2018, when I'm 32 (good God that's a scary thought) we'll re-visit this post and see if Foster ever stuck in the league.

Can Shan Foster live up to the lofty legacy of Greg Buckner?

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