NEW YORK -- A long, apprehensive day of lies, gossip and unrequited negotiations ended with an NBA draft that defies analysis. Many of the players who were chosen Thursday, including a record 12 freshmen, are too young to be assessed.
This was a deep draft in which teams picking late in the first round or anywhere in the second might have come up with players capable of making a contribution in the NBA eventually. Yet there were very few obvious players of exceptional talent. After the predicted selections of
My own guess, based on conversations with league personnel executives, is that
Among the draft's second tier, Mayo was seen as the player with the most NBA-ready game: a big combo guard who should help the Grizzlies at both ends of the floor. "I think he's going to get into people defensively," said a GM who rated Mayo among the four hardest workers in the draft. "He is a very competitive guy."
A couple of executives named Gordon as a shooting guard capable of becoming a prolific NBA scorer. "He has an NBA body already," said one. Added the other: "When it's all said and done, he's going to be one of the top two or three players in this class. One thing he can do is score and get to the foul line. The pro game is suited for him."
The latter exec also made a compelling case on behalf of Augustin. "I see a lot of
But each of those players also has detractors who say that Mayo lacks upside and has a history of being involved in trouble, that Gordon is one-dimensional and lacks handling skills, and that Augustin is too small.
There's no telling who will ultimately have value from this group. That may be why this class generated so much intrigue and anxiety in the hours before it was brought to the stage. At times, it was close to impossible to predict what rival GMs were thinking. "I'm totally confused," said a team president Thursday afternoon as he tried to forecast the picks ahead of him in the lottery.
Maybe a presidential campaign or a bloc of daytime TV talk shows generates more misinformation and false alarm than this draft. Maybe. Less than 90 minutes before the first pick, I was on the phone with an executive of a lottery team who was hearing that the Timberwolves were going to take
Something else would be, however. After the draft, it emerged that Minnesota VP
Each team ultimately got what it wanted from the draft. And Mayo turned out to be the swing player of the entire evening's exercise.
Based on the possibility of Mayo being available at No. 4, the Clippers had tried to move up by swapping picks with Seattle. It wasn't a bad idea for the Sonics, who still could have taken
So that deal was called off, and the Sonics selected Westbrook at No. 4. This was an amazing jump for the UCLA guard, who had entered the draft in May imagining that he might go as low as No. 20. As recently as a few weeks ago, when I began mentioning to league executives that Westbrook might go as high as No. 4, some of them laughed at the idea. But on draft day, Westbrook had drawn the interest of the Knicks, Clippers and Bobcats -- all picking in the top 10.
All day long it was hard to nail down what anyone was planning to do. Were the Heat going to trade the rights for Beasley at No. 2 along with
Alexander went to the Bucks at No. 8 as the best player on the board even though they had acquired a star small forward (