Culture of Hoops

Answering The Post-NBA Draft Questions

Screen capture courtesy of NBA/YouTube.

Screen capture courtesy of NBA/YouTube.

The NBA Draft is without a doubt the league’s biggest annual offseason event, yet it’s rarely one that ever clears up any sort of confusion or definitively answers any of the looming league questions. In fact, more often than not, the draft just stokes the metaphorical fire; creating more chaos and uncertainty than there was before it started. And this year there was already plenty of uncertainty heading into Draft night. So at this point, the fire is out of control.

With that said, I’ll take it upon myself to address the questions that have been left unanswered. I don’t have any insider info so I’m not equipped to give you any answers that shouldn’t be taken with a few grains of salt, nor am I a fireman, so don’t expect these metaphorical flames to die down until late July once all of the free agency moves have been made. I do have some guesses though as to how some of the draft night and post-draft drama will play out.

Are we still supposed to be trusting the process in Philadelphia?

If the process is to assemble the biggest roster in NBA history and continue to suck, then yes, not only should we be trusting the process, but we should be treating Sam Hinkie as if he’s some sort of diabolical super-genius. Seriously, what’s in God’s name are the Philadelphia 76ers doing? Look, I liked the Jahlil Okafor pick. I like Nerlens Noel. I even like an Okafor/Noel/Joel Embiid triumvirate manning the middle in Philadelphia. You know what I don’t like? Spending your six draft picks on three centers and three power forwards when you already have Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Henry Sims, Furkan Aldemir and Dario Saric whenever he decides to take his talents to the City of Brotherly Love. I’m baffled.

If you’re a 76ers fan you just have to buckle yourself in for another disappointing season. Sure, the Okafor and Noel partnership will be fun, and if Embiid makes a return at least you get a look at the three big guys you’ve gotten in the lottery over the last three years. Maybe the big move that turns the Sixers around is yet to be made. Maybe it involves Philadelphia moving one of these their three very large franchise centerpieces. Or maybe Sam Hinkie is certifiably nuts and totally unqualified to be running a professional sports team. Or a lemonade stand. You know, this situation can be salvaged …

Why wouldn’t the Boston Celtics and Sixers be working on a trade?

It was rumored earlier in the week than Boston was trying to pry away Nerlens Noel and the 3rd overall pick by dangling Marcus Smart and their 16th and 28th picks. Clearly, that wasn’t going to be enough to make a move. Even Hinkie has the common sense to know that he’d be getting short-changed if that were the return. I can’t help but wonder, would Boston have upped the ante and made a Godfather offer to Philadelphia if D’Angelo Russell were on still on the board at No. 3? Maybe Smart, the 16th Pick, the 28th Pick, Dallas’ 2016 1st Rounder and Memphis’ 2017 1st Rounder for Nerlens Noel and the 3rd pick? Maybe I should just stop speculating on anything Sam Hinkie might do.

This doesn’t mean these two teams shouldn’t be trying to work out a deal, though. Boston has a surplus of guards (they drafted Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter and a William & Mary guard named Marcus Thornton, plus Smart, Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas are still in town) and Philadelphia has a surplus of bigs (as I previously covered). It makes too much sense that neither of these teams would make a deal, even if it’s not with each other.

Is Charlotte back in Playoff contention?

Well they weren’t that far away from it to begin with, right? I mean, they are still apart of the Eastern Conference so virtually every team is alive, even if they dwelled in the cellar the season prior. The fact of the matter is most Eastern Conference teams were flawed and will remain flawed next season. Last year was disappointing for Hornets fans but I wouldn’t say it ever felt like they were any more fatally flawed than any other team that missed out on the Playoffs. I loved the deal for Batum, even though he’s coming off of a curiously poor season shooting the ball, and I am able to look past the potential defensive shortcomings of a Al Jefferson and Frank Kaminsky frontcourt if it means the Hornets can put a little more shooting on the floor.

With that said, the Eastern Conference should be better next season. Just about every non-playoff team should be improved in some tangible way. The Heat are reloaded and due to make a couple splashy free agent signings. Paul George will hopefully be back and totally healthy next season. And it’s about time that these young pieces fit together in Orlando and help to get the Magic back into the Playoffs.

What is Sacramento doing?

Nothing good.

Is the Portland rebuilding project officially under way?

It looks that way, and that paves the way for a more important question …

Where Is LaMarcus Aldridge going to end up?

As far as I can tell, there are five teams currently in play for Aldridge now that he’s reportedly notified the Blazers of his intent to leave in free agency: the Spurs, Lakers, Mavericks, Rockets and Knicks. I reluctantly include the Knicks just because the allure of playing in New York City is something that guys seem to gravitate — wait a second, the last big name free agent to leave his team and opt to go to New York was Amare Stoudemire and that was five years ago. Why am I including that ass-backward organization again?

Anyway, the Spurs are the clubhouse favorite at the moment, but the Lakers have a lot of cap space this year and moving forward. Dallas can pitch Aldridge on being the heir apparent to Dirk Nowitzki and the appeal of playing in his home town. Houston apparently has plans to make a run at Aldridge AND Kevin Love, though both seem like long shots at this point.

If I were a betting man I’d say the Aldridge is in San Antonio next season. As far as franchise stability and championship potential goes, the Spurs are the best choice. Even if Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are only around for a season or two longer, a Kawhi Leonard/LaMarcus Aldridge partnership moving forward gives the Spurs a solid foundation transitioning out of the Big Three era.

Seriously, what is Sacramento doing?

Honestly, I’m not sure. Look, I’ve taken a ton of shots at Philadelphia over the course of this column, so I can’t let Sacramento off the hook. At least Sam Hinkie claims there is a plan in place, even if that plan is to lie about there being a plan until somebody realizes the Sixers have 37 centers on a fifteen player roster. I haven’t heard Vlade Divac or Pete D’Alessandro lay out any sort of plan as to how this whole situation is going to play out.

The Kings have a coach who wants more power than he has been given, a star player who might want out of town (especially now since George Karl has apparently made it clear that he wants DeMarcus Cousins traded) and an owner who once pitched playing 4 on 5 defensively so one player could cherry pick. Unbelievable. If a genie granted me three wishes, one of them would be for Vivek Ranadive to own a team that Sam Hinkie was the General Manager of.

How fortunate will the Lakers feel ten years from now that they took D’Angelo Russell?

Very! But I’m on the D’Angelo Russell is the best player in this Draft bandwagon, so my answer is probably a little bit different than others. You know what struck me funny for some reason: the two Duke guys breaking down the Draft for ESPN (Jay Williams and Jay Bilas) both made a big deal about how they couldn’t believe Jahlil Okafor slipped to three and that the Lakers were making a big mistake. Way to stay impartial guys! Good stuff!

What good does it do for Knicks fans to boo Kristaps Porzingis?

None, but hey, they are Knicks fans. They have a right to be frustrated since things haven’t been “goink” too well, but that doesn’t mean booing your 1st Round pick is the way to deal with the pain. I’ve never understood this whole thing. In four months they’ll be cheering Porzingis the first time he checks into a game and they won’t ever stop cheering for him unless he turns out to be a total effing disaster as a player.

You know what I hope happens some day? I hope a player gets drafted and his fan base (any fan base, it doesn’t need to be the Knicks) boos the pick at the draft. Then I hope he plays great for five, six, maybe seven years. Then I hope he leaves and free agency and cites the fans booing him on Draft night as the reason he left the team. Count that as the second wish in my imaginary run in with the genie.

How did Justise Winslow fall to Miami?

I’m not sure. He’s the kind of guy who will play with a chip on his shoulder though. He was good enough in college and has high enough upside that he could have the fourth pick in the Draft and almost nobody would have thought it was weird. He shouldn’t have went tenth. Miami seriously lucked out here.

The Denver Nuggets selected Emmanuel Mudiay. So where does Ty Lawson end up?

Let’s ask Ty Lawson himself.


Who made the biggest fashion statements of the night?

The top three, in descending order:

3: Frank Kaminsky, for his jacket with two tanks on the inside of it.

2: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, for the pants he wore that looked exactly like a pair of pajama pants I owned six years ago.

1: Kelly Oubre, for a blood red outfit and ridiculous shoes, both of which made the moment Oubre referred to himself as “a jewel” even funnier. The first thought that went through my head was “Oh my God, Kelly Oubre thinks he’s a Ruby.”

Who were the biggest winners? Who were the biggest losers?

As always, more winners than losers. I loved Minnesota’s draft; I think Karl-Anthony Towns could be a very good player and Tyus Jones will eventually be the starting point guard for the Timberwolves. The Lakers got the best player in the Draft (or so I think) so they are grandfathered into the winner’s discussion. Miami stole Justise Winslow at 10 (the most identifiable steal of the draft) and Houston probably got Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell later than they should have went.

Even though Bilas’ Duke bias was evident all night, he acknowledged the Jay Bilas Wingspan Drinking Game during his 1st pick spiel about Karl-Anthony Towns, shattering the record he set last year, so Bilas is a winner. Speaking of the Timberwolves, I really liked the howling wolf on their Draft Hat. There are other winners, they just aren’t so obvious. Jerian Grant was one of my non-lottery sleepers, so kudos to New York for managing to get him for Tim Hardaway Jr. I think Mario Hezonja is a nice fit in Orlando and I expect Stanley Johnson to do good things in Detroit.

As for the other end, Sacramento is definitely the big loser of the evening. The franchise is in disarray and they drafted Willie Cauley-Stein, who had apparently been dropping on most teams draft boards because of some ankle concerns. Maybe I’m just picking nits here. At least for now I am. In reality, we don’t know much about how any of this stuff will turn out until at least a year or so down the line. Hey genie, can I use my last wish on an immediate understanding of the NBA Draft each year? It would save me a lot of uncertainty.

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