NBA Draft and Conference Finals

If you win the lottery, it is a life changing event or so I would think. You probably start eating differently, dressing differently, and going different places. It changes the course of your life. Thusly, the NBA Draft Lottery is very much like it’s state-run, monetary counterpart in that it will change the course of a franchise for the immediate or distant future, unless of course you’re the Clippers. Coming off a season in which you missed the playoffs, by 1 game or 25, winning the lottery is the equivalent of taking a shortcut you’re no quite sure of. It could potentially be a quicker path to your destination (Tim Duncan) or a horrible mistake that will lead you back to the same situation for the following years (Michael Olowokandi, Kwame Brown, countless others).

The Bullets (I refuse to call them the Wizards since the Bullets is a more relevant name for them at this point) were the lucky franchise last night. This is going to enable them either trade Gilbert Arenas for a turd sandwich (think something like Eddy Curry and his expiring contract) or play Agent 0 at shooting(!) guard and either of these options are a positive because you either get rid of a crazy person who owns multiple handguns or harness his talent for shooting(!).

Evan Turner is the second best player in this draft and would have had to get a restraining order against me if the Warriors had drafted him. He plays multiple positions, is a above average passer, a terrific ball handler, an excellent rebounder, pressure defender and has a high basketball IQ. He can get to the basket almost anytime he wants and his jump shot is improving. He’s a good fit for any team in the lottery because of his versatility but his natural position would be the two so it’s a possibility he could fall to the Nets or even the Timberwolves because the Sixers have Iguadala already and they may want to take Favors or Cousins instead. By the way, how terrible and funny would it have been if the Sixers had won the lottery? They sent Jrue Holliday, the point guard they drafted last year, as their representative. It would’ve been eerily reminiscent of when the Carolina Panthers drafted Dwayne Jarrett and Keyshawn Johnson celebrated the pick and was cut within weeks. I’m happy for Jrue but sad for the rest of America.

Other than the Nets, the nights biggest losers were the Warriors and really it shouldn’t be any other way. They dropped from a top four pick to sixth in a five player draft. This is good news because I want Demacus Cousins to live past 27 and him spending the next few years in Oakland would have ended badly. It would be like a west coast version of Michael Beasley. They’ll still get a good player but there is a huge drop off from Wesley Johnson to Cole Aldrich and the Warriors will probably take some ultra-raw power forward just to sit him on the bench for the next few years. My money is on Ed Davis. He’s active but everything you read about him always ends in “He needs more experience. His minutes were limited.” Sounds like a Warriors pick to me. Whoever they draft, I’m sure they’ll succeed whenever they go through their “Warriors Bar Mitzvah.” This is an actual term Warriors fans use to describe when a Warriors draft pick leaves because they are so sure that he will succeed elsewhere. Next up for Bar Mitzvah: Anthony Randolph. Congratulations Anthony, you’ll make the leap soon enough.

The biggest disappointment of the night was the Timberwolves not winning the right to pick John Wall. This could have extended their Detroit Lions like streak of drafting point guards with first round picks. They took Ricky Rubio and chased him away to Spain and then took Johnny Flynn one pick later and were so terrible this year they had a chance to take one of the most hyped point guard prospects in years. Aside from Jrue Holliday forcing a smile as he held up his index finger, this would have been the funniest outcome for the lottery. Lost opportunities and all, they still have three of the top twenty-three picks so there’s hope they could at least three shooting guards or trade them all for Luke Ridnour.

The biggest highlight of the night was our new Russian owner, Mikhail Prokhorov. He’s uber-rich and is already setting lofty goals, like the Nets winning a championship within 5 years. Seeing him lose the lottery and immediately thinking of who to have ‘offed’ was definitely must-see television. When they introduced him to as the new owner of New Jersey at his podium I was a little disappointed when he didn’t turn to David Khan and say, “I will crush you.”

All in all, it was a fun draft lottery as the Wizards got some much needed luck, the rest of the teams have some hope, and the Nets have a new owner trying to think of how to rig next year’s lottery.

As far as the Conference Finals are concerned, the Magic and Cavaliers both spent last offseason building their teams to beat each other and they completely forgot about the Celtics, which to be fair, so did everyone else. Even Rasheed Wallace, most of the regular season he looked like he didn’t even know the Celtics were playing. In Game 1, the Magic tried to stop Rajon Rondo and got killed by letting him stir the drink and find Pierce and Garnett consistently. In Game 2, he played just as well  and it resulted in more ink in his box score line. Something that didn’t show in the box score: Jameer Nelson is now seeing a therapist. He’s been consistently good, sometimes great, on both ends of the floor. He’s been the best player of these playoffs. In fact:

2010 Playoffs MVP

  1. Rajon Rondo
  2. Kobe Bryant
  3. Steve Nash

     104.   Mo Williams

Right now we’re lucky to be in such a rich point guard era that it is no longer open and shut that Chris Paul is the best point guard in the league. He is but at least it’s up for debate. In fact:

Best Point Guard (NBA)

  1. Chris Paul
  2. Deron Williams
  3. Rajon Rondo
  4. Steve Nash

    32.  Mo Williams

In between Nash and Williams in no particular order: Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, Darren Collison, Brandon Jennings, Chauncey Billups, Jrue Holliday, Devin Harris, Russell Westbrook, Mike Bibby, Aaron Brooks, Jason Kidd, Andre Miller, Jameer Nelson, and Tony Parker. Altogether that is 17 quality point guards who create for others as well as themselves. Only Bibby, Kidd, Miller, Parker, Billups, and Nash are past their prime. That’s a lot of decent players at the point guard position. I only including actual point guards so that’s not even counting Tyreke Evans (well-deserved ROY but is still a 2 in 1’s clothing), Jamal Crawford (ditto), Gilbert Arenas (ditto again), Jonny Flynn (ditto again, sigh), Ty Lawson (nothing but a change of pace until he proves otherwise), Mario Chalmers (because he’s not good), Raymod Felton’s corpse and Baron Davis (because you can’t count on him to give a crap on a consistent basis). Wall is coming into the league and hopefully Ricky Rubio will be as well in the next couple years and that should put our starting point guard crop at roughly 19 good to great show runners. What? Needless to say, I’m excited for the next ten years of the Association.

In the Lakers series, Kobe, along the same lines of Rondo, has dominated the first two games of his series with two very different games. They played off him and tried to match up with Gasol and Bynum so Kobe burned them with a spectacular performance hitting the most off-balance, hand in his face, jumpers I can remember since Wade in the ’06 Finals. Game 2 was the opposite with the Suns trying to play small ball and the Lakers finally wearing them down in the fourth and running away with the game faster than O.J. runs from things he claims he didn’t do. His team is playing at an incredibly efficient level. Part of it is match-ups, part of it is will, part of it is that everyone knows that Kobe will go on a spree Kill Bill-style if the Celtics win another championship while he is on the best team in the West.

I’m starting to get my hopes up about a Lakers-Celtics rematch, especially when both teams are better than their championship iterations of the previous years. Rondo’s emergence as a top-flight point guard has pushed the Celtics to a level beyond what they were in 2008. The Lakers winning last year in emphatic fashion and Kobe getting the Shaq sized gorilla off his back. Both series are 2-0 right now and no one can be penciled in yet but if we get what it looks like we are, then we could see something even better than what we saw in 2008.

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