Draft Diary V: The Kawhisis
Note: This draft diary is a compilation of real-time reactions on Twitter.
It’s my fifth annual running diary of the NBA draft! The NBA draft is by far the most exciting event to live tweet (next to presidential debates) because it's the single most chaotic day in all of sports. It's compact (when juxtaposed with the seven-round NFL and forty-round MLB drafts), has a tangible immediate effect (we get to see picks play in a few weeks), has had some of the craziest trades (including the unexpected Garnett/Pierce trade from years back), and has generally good TV commentary.
4:00PM – So here's where we are right at 4PM: DeAndre Ayton is supposed to go 1st to Phoenix, Marvin Bagley is supposed to go 2nd to Sacramento because no one else wants to play in Sacramento, and Luke Doncic will slide to the Hawks at 3 even though he's apparently the best player in the draft. It's unfortunate that we somehow know all these things, because the draft used to be a surprise when we wouldn't actually know anything about what was going on, and we could see the commentators trying to talk themselves into whoever was picked. It's something that we somehow take for granted – how do these things get leaked? Surely there are only a handful of people who know what's going on with a team's draft selection, and wouldn't those people want to keep that information on the inside? Anyway, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski (I'm legally required to call him ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski since ESPN spent a lot of money to acquire his Twitter feed) is the go-to source if you want to ruin the draft for yourself. Wojnarowski is widely considered the trusted name in NBA insider news to the point that any intel he drops is called a #wojbomb. Rumors aren't considered accurate until you see them pop up on Woj's feed. Needless to say, I've blocked both Woj and protégé-turned-master Shams Charania on Twitter so no #spoilers for me.
4:05PM – Past the third pick, no one is really sure of anything. Most of these players are considered to be in the same tier, with the exception of Michael Porter Jr., who would have been in the Top-2 discussion had he not suffered a lingering back injury in college. The last two notable injured-so-we-barely-saw-them players we've seen drafted were Kyrie Irving (played 11 games at Duke but was drafted #1 in 2011) and Joel Embiid (who sat out the NCAA tournament due to injury and fell to #3 in 2014). Sacramento apparently likes Porter quite a bit, but even they recognize that #2 is too high for a risk like that. If teams are trying to trade up, it's most likely so they can get him at a value pick.
4:08PM – To make this whole process more fun (especially since the Lakers do not have a pick this year) let's introduce some drinking games off the top:
(1) Anytime someone mispronounces Luka Doncic's name. The 'Don' rhymes with 'loan' and the two c's are pronounced as 'ch'.
(2) When the analysts use some strange tech thing that's very obviously unnecessary and none of them know how to use it
(3) If someone brings up how the Warriors were primarily grown through the draft
(4) If the Knicks fans boo whoever their team picks. Actually this one is a given, go ahead and take a shot now.
(5) If Jay Bilas orgasms on live TV when mentioning Mo Bamba's 7'10" wingspan.
(6) When the crowd isn't sure how to react after Adam Silver announces a trade involving a bunch of future picks.
4:18PM – An interesting tidbit on NBA drafts – there's always that eight-note tune that plays right before the commissioner announces the pick. Every single pick, the commissioner changes the time that they'll start their "With the __ pick" sentence. Sometimes they'll start right on the sixth note, sometimes they'll wait until the tune is done, sometimes they'll get halfway through their sentence before the tune starts. I'd like to think that this is a bit of a tell – for a stoic guy like Adam Silver, his excitement at reading out the pick might throw off his timing just a bit, kind of like a major league pitcher. Or maybe the guy that presses the button to start the tune is just asleep at the wheel.
4:25PM – I originally wasn't sure of this whole player introduction thing where each attending prospect walks out with two guests, but it's actually pretty cool. Gives a chance for the parents to be seen with their son, a luxury which thankfully wasn't awarded to Lavar Ball last year (although it would have been a good gambling line to see who Lonzo would have chosen as his second guest since mother Tina was ill… would it have been LiAngelo? LaMelo? His girlfriend?). Usually, the only visual the parents get is that weird hug right as their son gets picked where the cameras are always too close. Sometimes we even get an awkward post-pick interview.
4:27PM – Shoutout to NBA draft legend Jan Vesely, who famously made out with his girlfriend right after getting picked at #5 a few years back. In fact, if you look up 'Jan Vesely' on YouTube, the top results are "draft", "highlights", and "kiss". I hope those two are still together.
4:35PM – I've asked this before, but why does the team have to take the full five minutes to make their pick? DeAndre Ayton literally said that he was going first. Unless… this was the ultimate smokescreen by the Suns. Also I know this point has been beaten to death, but why do we have to make the draftees wear caps with the logo of a team they're about to be traded from? Here's the fix: make caps with an LCD display on the front, so you can change the logo right when they're traded.
4:37PM – There's always one guy every year who everyone (for some reason) agrees is good, and there's no further discussion or dissection. Last year that guy was Jonathan Isaac (#6 to Orlando). A couple years before it was Justise Winslow (#10 to Miami). This year it looks like that guy will be Jaren Jackson, who can go anywhere between #4 and #8.
4:41PM – The Phoenix Suns take DeAndre Ayton, which means the draft can actually begin. Will the Kings trade out? Will they say fuck it and take Michael Porter Jr.? Will Vlade Divac announce himself as the pick? Also, watch out for the Deadpool-esque grab bag of powers (the Wolverine version of Deadpool, that is) that the commentators like to give the picks – the post moves of Hakeem! The rebounding instinct of Rodman! The passing vision of Jason Kidd! All for the price of one!
4:44PM – We're taking early callers for the ceremonial Nerlens Noel award for having-resting-bitch-face-that-gets-worse-the-longer-you-don't-get-picked. Remember that Noel was taken at #6 when he was projected as high as #3 (where it went Otto Porter, Cody Zeller, Alex Len), and then immediately traded for Jrue Holiday. The sneaky pick here is Luka Doncic, the more obvious pick is Trae Young.
4:48PM – The Kings surprisingly keep it boring by taking Marvin Bagley. Rumors of a trade incoming. This should be good. Unfortunately since Woj works for ESPN, they're going to announce his scoops on live TV. Spoilers everywhere!
4:57PM – As always, the shallowest position in this draft is Shooting Guard. Last year, the first one taken was Malik Monk at #11 (back-to-back-to-back with Luke Kennard and Donovan Mitchell at #12 and #13, respectively). The year before, it was Buddy Hield at #6 and Denzel Valentine at #16. This year, it'll be Mikal Bridges around #11, and Lonnie Walker after that.
5:04PM – What's the maximum number of picks you could get if you wanted to trade down from the top overall pick? Four? Five? Couldn't you trade #1 for #6, #9, #16, #21, #22? Depending on the draft, I don't even know if the team trading down would do that. Conventional wisdom says that you probably want to have five shots at getting a great player, even though the #1 pick goes on to be a great player the vast majority of the time. There's usually a drop-off in player quality somewhere around pick 3-5, so having one of those top two picks is vastly more valuable than something near the back of the lottery. How much would it take to move up three spots – could you do #1 for #4, #12, and #16?
5:23PM – Sorry I temporarily fainted from the Trae Young pick at #5. He goes above Mo Bamba and Porter Jr., who were both considered to be definitively better. Apparently Trae Young is being traded to the Hawks for Luka Doncic (#3) for some reason. This reminds me of the trade a decade ago where the Wolves traded O.J. Mayo (#3) to the Grizzlies for Kevin Love (#5) and Mike Miller (who was just coming off a 16 point season), made sense for both sides at the time. This one makes less sense mostly because Trae Young has massive bust potential, but then again OJ wasn't exactly The Juice.
5:25PM – And the Knicks blow up the draft! Remember they infamously took Kristaps Porzingis at #4, a pick which garnered boos (take a drink) at the time. That was actually considered a good pick by everyone outside of Stephen A. Smith, a pick that looks even better in hindsight looking at the next five picks: Emmanuel Mudiay, Mario Hezonja, Justise Winslow, and Willie Cauley-Stein. But Knox goes ahead of guys like Porter (who looks like he's winning the Nerlens Noel ceremonial award), Mikal Bridges, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Also, Stephen A. Smith is apparently happy with this pick? Is he on weed?
5:31PM – Some rapid-fire thoughts… What does Orlando do with another non-ballhandler (Mo Bamba) since they traded away Elfrid Payton? Does Collin Sexton (Cavs) get buried behind George Hill and Jordan Clarkson on the depth chart?
5:39PM – What is happening to Michael Porter? He just got passed over for Shai Gilgeous Alexander, who has a top-tier name in a draft that is short on top-tier names (outside of Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk who might go in the 2nd round). An interesting subtext – Clippers could potentially be making their picks on behalf of the Spurs, since those picks would be at the center of a Kawhi Leonard trade.
5:48PM – Jan Vesely update since you were probably wondering: as of 2014, Vesely and his girlfriend Eva Kodouskova are no more.
5:54PM – Porter finally goes at #14 to the Nuggets, an incredible value pick for a team that doesn't need him to be a superstar. Porter seemed to be in good spirits despite going so low. On a related note, the main reason why the draft (and the time surrounding the draft) is great is that it's a time for optimism for every team. Regardless of who each team picks, that team's beat writers and bloggers will be finding ways to rave about the strengths of each pick and compiling highlight reels in anticipation of summer league. The feel-good sentiment stretches into training camp, when veteran players talk about some new move or element they've added to their game, and reports trickle out that coaches are impressed with how well practice is going. Even two weeks into last season, teams like the Clippers, Pistons, and Magic – who ended up well outside the playoff picture – all sat atop the standings.
6:36PM – I really wanted Elie Okobo to go the Lakers (the Suns took him at #31, while the Lakers had #25 and #39) based on some grainy footage of his play in France. Watching film on international prospects is always risky, perhaps most evident in the rise of Dante Exum to #4. He's also being labelled as the steal of the draft, which isn't a flattering title to have – no one who is labelled as the 'steal' during the draft really ends up being a steal, because if they player were that good they would have been drafted higher, such that they wouldn't be a steal. Past supposed 'steals' include guys like Doug McDermott at #11, Perry Jones III at #28, and DeJuan Blair at #37.
6:40PM – I don't think we're getting any trades that include existing players (and not just draft picks), which would make it the first time since 2003. The average draft has five players traded – remember last year had D'Angelo going to the Nets, and of course the big Jimmy Butler deal.
6:47PM – Draft picks do really depreciate in value like new cars. Any trade package Cleveland could have offered to get LeBron some help would have been centered around the 8th pick this year, but that 8th pick doesn't sound so appealing now that you know it's Collin Sexton. Not that Collin Sexton is bad (he's not), but the allure of an unknown player (it could have been Porter, or Mikal Bridges!) is much more exciting than a known one.
6:59PM – Hey look, the Lakers took Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk! On a related note, who is the most successful NBA player with a top-tier name? Hakeem Olajuwon? Detlef Schrempf? Hopefully Mykhailiuk can win the best-player-with-the-best-name title this season, but he'll have to beat out both Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Nemanja Bjelica. It's somewhat fitting that he's going to the Lakers, considering that they have a storied history of drafting great names like Didier Ilunga-Mbenga, Chinemelu Elonu, Jakarta Martana and Chukwudiebere Maduabum (I only made one of those up).