FreeDrafto, Pt. 2: It came from below
This marks time number four I've tried my hand at this post, so the rough edges and facile answers you see in this one will be battle scars and mental toughness, respectively. NBA Draft 2005: it's a war out there!!
Without the the Draft, there would be no FreeDarko. The Draft embodies all that is frivilous and fantastic about the Association, the time at which the NBA is furthest from being a real sport and yet closest to our hearts and minds. It was also all I used to talk about with the Recluse, without whom I don't think any of this would have ever happened (stay watching for that FreeDarko biopic for the full story). And, most of all, it renews and refreshes the league itself like so many summer mikvahs, keeping the "league of stars" from becoming the breeding ground of grouchy tradition and conservatism.
(It doesn't take a billionaire to look at what's happened to the Association this season and recognize that the Draft now mattters more than ever. It's being dominated, gamewise and image-wise, by players whose draft-day interviews are still fresh in our minds)
For these reasons, the Draft is my Easter. In summers past, I killed time poring over mocks, laughing at the stories, wondering exactly why this thing was such an inspirational mess every year. In the end, though, that was its charmful beauty: the Draft operates according to a logic of its own, developed over a few fitful weeks of talent evaluation and chad ford-baiting. Each team lives in its head, wildly imagining what could be and ending up with a highly personal board that no other scouting dept. could understand or agree with; stir these all in together, and it's like the U.N. talks on child birth laws would have been circa 1200 A.D.
There have been trends. We've seen Euro-mania crest, recede, and creep toward the shore again; the high schoolers, while still too good to pass on in some cases, have proven to often not be worth the wait or the PR hit. And the major draft revolution of the last few years has been the shocking discovery that, MONGA or no MONGA, experienced college players can actually breath new life into the game, rather than show up in the pros living on borrowed time or having succeeded largely on technicality alone.
It should be a year of enlightened drafthood like none before. If an international player isn't ready to compete at a professional level, you make him wait for his lottery promise until he is. If a high schooler doesn't stack up well against older prospects, try to push him into the collegiate ranks. If someone could dominate the NCAA game, chances are he'll be able to do a thing or to in the pros.
(Joe Forte andnotwithstanding.)
And if a player leaves college before he can really make his mark there, you shouldn't expect him to amount to much at the next level. These rules aren't perfect, but they set a level playing field, wherein prospects can be judged on their own merits and not suffer because of categorical biases.
Unfortunately, this year things are too fair. Very few people in the draft pool are foolproof or amazing. But responsibility has taught us to not rashly exclude and include players based solely on what kind of prospect they are. So, instead of the draft hysteria of years past, 2005 sees a low-level, disorienting malaise setting in, where everyone seems just as attractive as everyone else. Usually, players fall into three distinct categories: lottery picks, who have that aura of royalty well before the first whispers of draft order; late first-rounder, good guys that no one's too excited about; and second rounder, a merely formality. There have always been busts and sleepers, and the high school/Euro element introduced a whole new wrinkle into talent evaluation. But scouting seems to have finally caught up with itself; surprises should in theory be kept at more of an all-time low than ever.
As I write, these walls mean nothing. Making a mock this year is a joke, since on any given day someone might make a jump from the late first to the lottery without anyone batting an eye. The second round, far from being the place where good college players go to die, is instead the sexiest part of the draft. With very little distinction between, say, picks #20-40, teams have never been more intent on finding the diamond in the rough, and, since it's pretty much all rough, taking him as high as need be. Hence Hodge and Garcia, to pick two examples, initially projected as second-rounder but now with a chance of cracking the late lottery. Taft has fallen from high lottery pick to late first-rounder before draft night, something we usually get only as a blast of eleventh-hour drama. Channing Frye, too, would in past year's be a head-scratching pick on 6/28, but instead the secret is out and there are now actually teams fighting over how high to take him. Euros and high schoolers that were thought to be out of the draft are now worming their way back into the lottery. Deron Williams loses some weight and he's the next Jason Kidd, not Andre Miller's revenge. The Chicago camp actually might produce several first-rounders, rather than just get someone invited for a FA try-out.
And anyone who says "the draft is always in flux" is retarded. Nothing compares to this. Not even
To prove my point, here's my one and only attempt at a mock. Lottery only.
(It was lazy when Dime could only manage a lottery preview, but in my case it's nothing but bitter, bitter snot)
(EXPUNGED LATER, IN A SHOWER OF FAITH)
If anyone read my mock, I hope you got a giggle out of it at my lenient expense. For the record, I know it was somewhat less than credible; it was actually credibility-killing, sharks, tweezers. I also realized, only several hours after the fact, that it was virtually identical to Chad Ford's in all the places that count. The stupider parts were all mine, and that was all principle (see the remaining comment for the sole evidence of its flaws).
Since then, I have decided to boycott all mock drafts until the Hawks wise up and decide that it's in their best interest to take Paul, not Williams or Bogut. I just can't bring myself to pencil in (or support the penciling in of) such stupid gm'ing. As THC has mentioned in behind-the-scenes FreeDarko meetings, a decade of Paul to Josh Smith alley-oops could be the only thing capable of saving the Association from this year's Finals. . .I mean, averting a lockout.
"They don't know" -Curtis Mayfield
"Why don't they know?" -Rashaan Roland Kirk
"They ain't even tryin' to know" -Aceyalone