NEW YORK -- This NBA Draft, like all NBA Drafts, started out with talk about stars and ended in absurdity, with deputy commissioner Adam Silver trying to pronounce a series of unpronounceable and possibly fictional names while the New Yorkers in the crowd chanted "Sex-y Sil-ver!" again and again.
At that moment, it was easy to forget the only part of this event that people will really remember: the players at the top. The top two picks, John Wall and Evan Turner, were a perfect draft-conversation 1-2: they are similar enough to evoke comparisons but different enough to stir a debate. Wall is more explosive; Turner is more cerebral. Wall has more raw talent; Turner, who played three years of college ball, has a more developed game. Wall is a point guard in a two-guard's body; Turner is probably a two-guard who played point last season.
You didn't hear much of the Wall-Turner debate in recent weeks, and I'd like to rekindle it now, but alas, I would have taken Wall, like most of America. But that debate is just one more pebble in the mountain of evidence that the NBA Draft is so much better than the NFL Draft.
I know -- America does not agree with me. That's OK. The NFL rules the universe. I get it. Still, consider some highlights of Thursday's draft:
• Wesley Johnson showing up at the Theater at Madison Square Garden immediately after shooting a 1-under 71 in the 1914 U.S. Open. Johnson wore plaid pants and a jacket that, um, looked like it actually went with plaid plants.
• A second round that featured Tibor Pleiss, Nemanja Bjelica and Pape Sy. This was part of a longstanding NBA policy: once they get through the first 25 picks, general managers get drunk and pick the most confusing names. I choose to find this endearing.
(In his post-pick press conference, Pleiss described his game like this: "I am a good defender and I like to shoot the ball. This is what I can do. I think I must fight for my dream." He was asked four questions and used the word "dream" seven times.)
• The Portland Trail Blazers firing their general manager an hour before the draft -- then let him make the picks! I think Kevin Pritchard should have called every other owner in the NBA and said "Hey, if I trade you Brandon Roy for a bottle of peppermint schnapps, will you make me your general manager?"
The NBA Draft is shorter than the NFL's version and does not take itself nearly as seriously. It ends with players you have never heard of, but unlike in the NFL you aren't supposed to have heard of them.
And it starts with players everybody knows. If you even watched a little college basketball this season, you probably saw 13 of the first 14 picks (all but Paul George of Fresno State). And in basketball, it is pretty easy to form an opinion on a player -- you only have to watch for a few minutes. This does not mean you'll form an accurate opinion, but it will be accurate enough to allow you to participate in a barstool conversation or run the Timberwolves.
On that note: nothing against Johnson, who might be a wonderful NBA player, but I'm still waiting for the first sign that T'wolves' general manager David Kahn has any idea what he is doing. Last year, Kahn impressed his friends and neighbors by drafting two point guards high in the lottery. This year he let the whole world know he wanted Johnson, and called Derrick Favors out of shape when Favors worked out for him. Then Kahn had to sweat it out when the Nets made late noise about talking Johnson.
If you're a true sports fan, you understand your teams will stink sometimes, but you at least want an indication that there is a plan. I don't know -- maybe Kahn does have a sensible plan. But it's hard to see from here.
Five Kentucky Wildcats went in the first round: Picks 1 (Wall), 5 (DeMarcus Cousins), 14 (Patrick Patterson), 18 (Eric Bledsoe) and 29 (Daniel Orton). John Calipari stood up to clap his hands so often, he looked like the vice president at a State of the Union address. This was a wonderful day for the University of Kentucky, which will always remember the 17 days that Wall, Cousins, Bledsoe and Orton spent on campus.
Calipari signed four of those five Wildcats (all but Patterson) and also signed Xavier Henry (who signed with Cal at Memphis, then switched to Kansas when Cal bolted for Lexington). He is quite a recruiter, isn't he? I wonder what his secret is. No, seriously.
Cousins will go to Sacramento -- where, believe it or not, it is quite possible to get into trouble, but you have to do it by 10 p.m. I find it amusing that Cousins is considered the biggest risk in this draft. I don't see it that way at all. But I guess it depends on how you define "risk."
Yes, Cousins is immature -- that label has followed him around since high school. He was overweight for pretty much the whole season at Kentucky (though he looked thinner on draft night). He has a temper and isn't afraid to tussle with his coaches -- though, for what it's worth, he wasn't the problem on this Kentucky team that people make him out to be.
But when you talk about risk, you're talking about the chance of completely wasting a pick. And in that sense, I think Cousins is the second-safest choice in the whole draft, behind Wall. As an overweight and immature freshman, he was the most dominant player in college basketball this season. There is almost no chance that he becomes a total wipeout in the NBA. The worst-case scenario is probably Zach Randolph -- a 20-and-10 guy who gets into trouble, is not particularly coachable and never wins anything of consequence. That is not ideal, but teams have done much worse with the No. 5 pick in the draft.
It was appropriate that Cousins got drafted on the same day reports surfaced that Rasheed Wallace will retire. They have a lot in common. Wallace never liked working out, didn't care about his stats, was generally well-liked by teammates but constantly ripped by the media, and cared more about wining than anything else when he was on the court. Most of that describes Cousins, too. I suspect he will be a controversial player for a long time -- and that he'll make some All-Star teams, too.
Favors, the No. 3 pick, is more of a risk -- he could be Chris Webber or he could be Marvin Williams, who could have been Chris Webber. This is the perennial problem for NBA teams: they want big guys with skill and/or athleticism, but guys like that are hard to find, which means the ones who do have skill and/or athleticism turn pro very early, and teams just pick them and hope they turn into Chris Webber instead of Marvin Williams.
Williams was drafted ahead of Chris Paul and Deron Williams in 2005. Ask anybody in the NBA about that draft now, and they'll tell you that they would never pick Marvin Williams ahead of Chris Paul and Deron Williams now. But they will do it, again and again. And I will watch, knowing that no matter what happens, I won't see one clip of a left guard.