(Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images)
The Future of the NBA.
With the 2013 NBA Draft in everyone’s rear view mirror and the Celtics-Nets trade also done (even though it isn’t due to a whole bunch of complicated rules regarding the start of the official league year), there are a lot of things we still don’t know. A lot of lessons people either need to learn over again or never learned in the first place. I think I know a few things about what happened at the NBA Draft.
Let’s see what they are.
1: The race to tank for Andrew Wiggins has begun.
Despite what everyone thinks, 2014 will not be the Andrew Wiggins draft. Jabari Parker is up there too, as is Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, and probably more I can think of right now. But the same way the Kevin Durant is remembered for the 2007 NBA Draft and not for Joakim Noah, Mike Conley, Al Horford and even Marc Gasol. The Andrew Wiggins draft will be the same case. There’s just one thing. A lot of teams will be poor enough organically or make moves to ensure they will be. Wiggins is a player NBA Draft.net compares to Scottie Pippen. (Author’s Note: Don’t Believe me? They legitimately did. Read it for yourself here.)
These teams include the 76’ers, Celtics and Magic. Perennial screw ups in the Bobcats, Kings, and even the Suns. If you like competitive basketball and you’re a fan of any of these teams, I have one thing to say to you.
Let’s be clear on what will happen so you’ll know what to expect. You will suffer this year, watching basketball that makes the Bad News Bears look like vintage game tape of the Dream Team scrimmages. Players — whose names will sound like they were randomly created in the NBA 2K13 player creator — will be playing key minutes for your team. If it works and your team gets the next great player (or in the case of the Magic, maybe the next great player to leave), none of it will feel like a burden.
2: Michael Jordan can’t be trusted to properly own a Five Guys franchise in Charlotte, much less an NBA team.
Michael Jordan’s aggressiveness and cut throat competitiveness is legendary — a fact perfectly explained in Wright Thompson’s exhaustive piece. I have no doubt he wants to win championships and craves to bring not just a winner, but a dynastic one to Charlotte. I also have no doubt of a sadder fact: He doesn’t know how.
Since he has owned the team in Charlotte, they’ve drafted Adam Morrison, Emeka Okafor, Sean May and Gerald Henderson. Their best ever drafted, Jared Dudley, was traded to the Suns after 20 games. I am not including Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Cody Zeller in this list yet.
Finding that list is a bit like this scene.
Honestly, reading through that list gave me pain. Serious pain. Because the worst thing about the Bobcats turning into Clippers South faster than I can say DeSagana Diop are the reasons behind those picks. The shameful reasons for those picks. Every one of those men I mentioned — those busts of varying size — have one thing in common. They were stars in college and all dominated the NCAA tournament. This brings up a real problem and not just with the Bobcats. Poor drafting teams have to understand scouting can’t be done purely during the month of March. Gone are the days when all you needed to be concerned with was which college basketball players were playing well. Increasingly now, the work has to include everything at the Nike Hoop Summit and the myriad of international tournaments during the year. It has to be done at EuroBasket, the FIBA U-20 tournament or U-18 tournament. If you can’t understand the league is now a global league and the best talent is no longer just on our shores, you will become what the Bobcats have become: A rival to the Sacramento Kings as the worst collection of talent and the worst organization in the entire league. That’s not a trophy MJ wants, but until he can figure out a way to make sure he picks the best players and not just the ones he’s seen the most of, much isn’t going to change. This is sad because Charlotte deserves better.
Any city that gave us this deserves better.
3: The Brooklyn Nets have taken a look at the future of the league and decided they are going to go in the other direction and do so as fast as they can. By trading with the Boston Celtics.
Every so often, the way basketball is played changes. Sometimes it’s a slow march. Like the first few years after the 3-pointer was introduced and everyone was trying desperately to figure out how it could fit into their offense. Other times, it’s a bolt from the blue like when Elgin Baylor showed up and before too long the dunk became commonplace. We’re in one of those bombshell eras. Based on the supremely adaptable LeBron James and the advances in defense and offense due to analytics and sabermetrics. We are now in a position where the teams who are best set up for success are young, can play frenetic defense, are able to run the floor, push the tempo, and finally play and guard multiple positions.
And then we have the Brooklyn Nets.
Coached by future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd, the Nets are a team as flexible as a steel bar. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson can only guard the man in front of them — at times with great difficulty. Brook Lopez is a gifted offensive big man, but not exactly the type of rim-protector this team needs. Instead of trying to get younger or finding someone to protect the rim so Brook Lopez is free to do Brook Lopez things, what do the Nets do? They decide to get older and slower, all in the name of nebulous “leadership.”
In a league where the best teams play lock-down defense and have coaches who understand analytics — using it to their advantage. The Nets can occasionally do one, the other no one is sure about. The Nets may have made this move for billboards and publicity, but Brooklyn isn’t Sacramento. Fans in Brooklyn are not impressed by names on the back of the jersey, but by wins in the standings. Can the new look Nets give them that?
I’m not sure.