Kyle Weaver (left) with new teammates Alexis Ajinca (center) and D.J. Augustin (right)
The NBA Draft was, without a doubt, a benchmark evening for Pac-10 basketball. Five of the first eleven picks belonged to the conference, seven were taken in the first round (a draft record), and twelve players in all were selected. The Pac-10, regarded as possibly the best conference in the land prior to last season, regained some of the notoriety it lost following a disappointing showing at the NCAA tournament for some of its teams. The top three (UCLA, Stanford and WSU) performed well, but the remainder of the conference representatives were duds, leaving some national pundits to mark the Pac-10 as overrated.
So, with all of the picks in, how did the NBA do in evaluating talent from the “conference of champions”? I’ll take a look at each individual pick from the draft, and then tell you if I thought the player was underrated, overrated, or “just right”. Let’s start near the top of the draft board, with the third pick and the Minnesota T-Wolves.
#3 – Minnesota Timberwolves (traded to Memphis) – OJ Mayo, G, USC – With all the superlatives being tossed around about Mayo by ESPN’s draft crew, not once did I hear the most glaring criticism available. Nope, it took another Coug blogger, WSU Hoops’ Jeff Nusser, to uncover Mayo’s dirty secret earlier this season. He can’t get to the free throw line. In a league where Kobe Bryant lowers his head and charges down the lane with no hope of getting a basket, the NBA makes it an emphasis to bail players out with the whistle. And if Mayo wants to become the player people seem to think he is, he’ll have to learn to be a little more aggressive driving to the basket. Seeing as how he was the #1 prospect before the season started, Memphis gets good value making the trade for number three. Result: Just Right
#4 – The Seattle Supersonics of Oklahoma City Basketball Club/Litigation Firm – Russell Westbrook- G, UCLA – Whoa, whoa, whoa. Nothing against Westbrook, who is a fine player and lock down defender, but he’s not even the best player on his own college team. Of course this is part of Seattle’s master plan to ensure that no fans are in the seats when and if the team remains in the Emerald City in 2008. Make the team awful, with no star players (except for Durant, who is your franchise’s financial future) and sneak the team out of town in the cover of darkness. This is what being a robber baron is all about. Unless they know they will win the lawsuit and move the team this fall, in which case this is just a bad pick. Westbrook belongs in picks 8-12 and the Sonics reached for him at four. Result: Overrated
#5 – Memphis Grizzlies (traded to Minnesota) – Kevin Love, C, UCLA – Thank goodness. Now that he is free from drawing invisible fouls from Aron Baynes, I can no longer hate Kevin Love. Love was the face of the team the Cougars needed to beat this year, and I couldn’t stand it when we lost. Twice. Granted, he’s nowhere close to the level of hatred I hold for Brook Lopez, but now I can appreciate his ridiculous outlet passing and fundamentally sound skills. Result: Just Right
#10 – New Jersey Nets – Brook Lopez, C, Stanford – I hate Brook Lopez so much I won’t even waste my time with analysis of him (or at least not until we discuss Ryan Anderson). I must still be honest here: he should have been a top five or six selection. Result: Underrated
#11 – Indiana Pacers (traded to Portland) – Jerryd Bayless, G, Arizona – For 7-8 picks lower, Portland gets a much better offensive player than Westbrook, and a much better foul-line getter (is that a word?) than O.J. Mayo. Remember, he was #4 on Portland’s draft board, and they got him at #11. That stuff never even happens in your fantasy league drafts. I really do love how the Blazers are getting set up to murder the rest of the league in the 2010s. Result: Underrated
#15 – Phoenix Suns – Robin Lopez, C, Stanford – By the way, have you ever heard two tall people with more ridiculous speaking voices than the Lopez twins? My biggest pet peeve of the draft is that now everyone is raving about Robin’s offense. Really? Jay Bilas kept making the excuse that he was somehow thrown off by Brook being the #1 option on the team. And the worst part is that other analysts agreed with this crap. If that’s the case, why wasn’t Robin dominating in the post when Brook was on the bench? When Brook was too much of a moron to hit the books at Stanford, why wasn’t Robin dropping 22/10 on inferior, out-of-conference opposition? Robin is the defensive/shot-blocking twin, not the one with the dominating offensive skills. As impressive as his 8 points in 35 minutes against Siena were, I think Brook might just be a little more polished. Still, it’s not too much of a reach at #15. Result: Just Right
#21 – New Jersey Nets – Ryan Anderson, F, California – Apparently my Pac-10 sleeper in the draft was also New Jersey’s. So here’s what is interesting: By making the Yi trade, New Jersey continues to clear a ginormous amount of cap space for 2010, when guess who (I’ll tell you: LeBron) is available. What we are seeing now is the core that the Nets want to put around LBJ when they make the move over to Brooklyn. And let me tell you, it’s intriguing. First there’s Lopez, a tall, screaming, chest-pounding lunatic in the post. Then there’s Anderson, another tall guy, but instead a lights out perimeter shooter. Perfect role players for King James, if everything goes according to plan. By the way, if I’m a Cleveland fan, I’m preparing to disown the Cavaliers and never watch basketball again. NJ still could have grabbed Ryan later in the first round. Result: Overrated
#37 – Milwaukee Bucks – Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, F, UCLA – Besides having the best name ever, LRMaM was earlier projected to be a first-rounder. Good value move for the Bucks. Result: Underrated
#38 – Charlotte Bobcats – Kyle Weaver, G, WSU – Enjoy the Kyle Weaver era, Charlotte. You are blessed. Result: Severely Underrated
#48 – Phoenix Suns – Malik Hairston, G, Oregon – Hey, remember that one time when Aaron Brooks took three f-ing steps, passed the ball to you and you drained a game winner against the Cougs?? Yep, I still hate you. [impersonating Stephen A. Smith] HOWEVA, you’re a good second-round selection. Result: Just Right
#50 – Seattle/OKC Sonics Law Offices/Hoops Firm – DeVon Hardin, C, California – Thoughts of being a lottery pick two years ago; now drafted behind Weaver and Malik Hairston in the second round. That’s cold as ice, man. The second round is for taking chances, so I like the pick. Result: Just Right
#54 – Houston Rockets – Maarty Leunen, F, Oregon – This pick is like getting a 50% off deal on Ryan Anderson. What is it about the Rockets and former Ducks players? Last year they took Aaron Brooks, now they take the King of Clutch Free Throws, Mr. Leunen. Dickie V would’ve loved this guy if he ever glanced at players outside of the state of North Carolina. Result: Underrated
Enjoy your abbreviated work week, Cougar Nation.