LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The NBA Draft has come and gone. Now I'm going on the clock. Here are ten thoughts on the night that was.
1. Leading off, this is truly one of those stories that should make everybody happy for all the guys involved. All seven of the guys with area ties are not just good players but have been good guys in their respective programs. Indiana's Victor Oladipo going second to Orlando and Cody Zeller fourth to Charlotte (to boos from Bobcat fans) rewards two players who combined hard work and talent. Both should be in the league for a long time. There may not have been a nicer player in recent memory to wear a Kentucky uniform than Nerlens Noel. Archie Goodwin seemed like the most stressed guy in the country the last couple of weeks under the pressure of possibly slipping out of the first round and guaranteed money, only to be grabbed late in the first round. Gorgui Dieng realized an unlikely dream, being taken No. 21 overall. For a kid who grew up in Senegal and who only began playing the game six years ago, it was the culmination of quite a trip. For most of the season, people assumed Peyton Siva would be an undrafted free agent. But the Detroit Pistons took him late in the second round, giving Siva a chance to go where he thought he had one of his best workouts. And Murray State's Isaiah Cannan probably dropped further than his talent level should have allowed, but in going to Houston will get a chance to shine in an up-tempo, high-scoring offense.
2. The early-pick cutaway shots of Noel were brutal. He looked on a couple of them, as he dropped to the sixth pick, like he'd lost his best friend. Actually, here's what he lost -- $5.5 million. That's the difference in the three-year guaranteed deal for the No. 1 pick ($13,909,800) and the No. 6 pick ($8,287,700). Still, I don't think you can say he did the wrong thing coming out for the draft. He had a shot to be the No. 1 pick, and by all accounts a good shot. Why he wasn't will be a matter of some speculation, but in the end likely will have more to do with concerns over his health and unconventional frame for a big man than with any of the concerns over his "entourage" that were reported in the days leading up to the draft. It was a long night for Noel, who was kept in a Barclays Center "phone room" until well after midnight while the deal to trade him to Philadelphia was completed. At the end of the night, he's still a wealthy man, but it was hard not to read the expression of "what if" on his face.
Interesting tidbit: One night Rick Bozich, Jody Demling and I went out to dinner at the Final Four in Atlanta and saw Noel and Michael Carter-Williams of Syracuse having dinner across the way. Now those two are teammates in Philadelphia.
One last Noel thought -- I still would've liked to see him play with Anthony Davis in New Orleans.
3. While Zeller and Oladipo both going in the top five was a big deal for Indiana basketball, it also underscored the underachievement last season for Indiana basketball. The last team with two top-five picks not to make at least the Elite Eight was Duke in 2002. Only one team with two top-five picks since then has failed to make the Final Four -- Kentucky in 2010.
4. Zeller actually was booed by Charlotte Bobcats fans (though, to be fair, they might've just been booing the prospect of even having a team next season). Let Scott Fowler, Charlotte Observer sports columnist (and fellow Courier-Journal alum) set the scene in his blog:
"As the No.4 pick approached, the crowd mostly wanted Kansas guard Ben McLemore or Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel. So when Zeller was announced by NBA commissioner David Stern, the immediate reaction from the Bobcat fans was a stunned 'OOOOOHHHH' of disbelief, followed by a lot of booing, followed by at least one chant of 'Bull----, Bull----.' I recorded it and just listened to it again on my iPhone, and the amount of vitriol was really amazing. It sounded almost like when NBA commissioner David Stern walked out to give the first few picks and the New York crowd booed him heatedly."
Who are these people? They do realize Charlotte is lucky to have an NBA team, if you want to call it that, right? It should be added motivation for Zeller.
5. Gorgui Dieng said getting drafted is only the beginning.
"Coming from Senegal, start playing basketball six years ago. And today just get drafted. I think I just opened another chapter in my book," he said. "I know I had a long way to go. I want to play a game in the NBA now. So I'm just trying to keep working right now and get drafted wasn't my goal. I just get drafted, but that's not my goal. My goal is like playing ten or 15 years in the NBA. That's what I'm all about."
One reason you feel good for Dieng is that you know he'll make the most of the experience. (He'll also get a deal worth $3.53 million over the next three years.) About 15 months ago, a group of us were talking to Dieng about the NBA, and here is what he said. I know I've shared it several times before, but it's worth looking at again in light of his being drafted:
"I think if I play in the NBA one day, I accomplish 70 percent of my goals," Dieng said. "Since I started playing basketball I always said I want to be a pro one day. Hanging out with my friends, when I was little, I always said, You know what, I want to be a pro. And if I make it one day, I think I accomplish 70 percent of my goals. I'm going to change people's lives where I'm from, because they're going to start looking at me, saying look at this kid, he was young, he was going to school and now he's a pro. People are going to realize how important school and education are. People are going to understand I get where I am right now through school. Because some people didn't make it because, where I'm from, some kids quit school just to play sport. So I have both. I'm going to get my degree one day, and I'm going to make it to the league one day."
With 70 percent of his goals within reach, however, Dieng now expects to spend a lifetime achieving the other 30 percent.
"The other 30 percent is like, to be a role model. I want to go back home and give back," Dieng said. "People helped me to get here to go to school and play basketball, I want to go back home and do the same thing for the kids. I think they really want it. I don't want to be selfish. People who helped me do what I'm doing right now, I want to go back and do the same thing for them."
6. There could be no more relieved guy in the room than Archie Goodwin. Word before the draft was that he'd slipped out of the first round, and out of the guaranteed contract that goes with it. Instead, he was picked up late in the first round, then his rights were traded to Golden State. For a kid who came to UK with so much hype, Goodwin had a great deal to lose. Now, as the 30th pick, he's guaranteed $2.8 million over the next three years.
Still, Goodwin's is an interesting case. He's the first player in recent memory to come to Calipari and leave with a worse NBA standing than he brought with him out of high school. It's likely an aberration. You can't move everyone forward. But it bears watching. Calipari has recruited a lot of guys standing on third base and successfully escorted them home. Goodwin came on third, and wound up back at second. That happens sometimes when guys leave early, and Calipari did advise Goodwin to return to school, but if it happens too often, it takes away some of your recruiting punch. But that's a long way from happening for Calipari.
7. How about this: The Detroit Pistons passed on Trey Burke early in the first round, then grabbed Peyton Siva late in the second. Siva felt good about his workout in Detroit, and obviously with good reason.
"He's somebody who I've always looked at as being a deceptive athlete," Pistons general manager George David said via the team's website. "He's a much better athlete than maybe some people have given him credit for. He's a guy who plays hard and knows how to make the right play, a guy that gets into you defensively. Those are the things we really valued with him."
The site reported Siva will play point guard on the Summer League team that opens play July 7 in Orlando.
8. The draft highlighted like few in recent memory just how little the professional "analysts" really know ahead of time. Nobody saw the Cleveland pick of Anthony Bennett at No. 1 coming. Few saw the slide of Nerlens Noel. Virtually all the advance reporting said that Phoenix was very high on Noel. Then when Phoenix had to take him, it passed. The appetite for "predictive news" is insatiable these days. Just remember, most of it is worthless.
9. ESPN's Bill Simmons took a lot of heat for his a bit too-passionate response over the blockbuster trade that sends Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett out of Boston. His reaction was that of a fan, and it rubbed some the wrong way. As it turned out, Simmons' reaction was at least compelling. ESPN asking Doc Rivers to respond to Simmons' assertion that Rivers "quit" on the Celtics, and Simmons' response, was awkward. There were rough parts in ESPN's marathon telecast. Chane Battier struggled to interview prospects. But listen, as a newcomer to television, I can tell you, sitting up there and talking for three hours is not easy to do. You're going to say things that leave you scratching your head. I'm not a big Bill Simmons guy, but I acknowledge his appeal and respect what he's built. And if getting a little passionate about his own team is the worst he ever does on TV, I think he'll be fine with that. On the other hand, from a media standpoint, the night belonged to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, who broke every big trade story and Tweeted out the next draft pick minutes before it happened.
10. The David Stern sendoff was the highlight of the night. Fans who have booed Stern with gusto for decades stood up and gave him an ovation before he announced his final draft pick. He's retiring after 30 years. It was a nice moment and one Stern deserved. Hakeem Olajuwon, the first No. 1 Stern ever announced, showed up to congratulate him. It was a nice touch. UK historian and guru Oscar Combs had another interesting tidbit. The second player Stern ever announced was UK's Sam Bowie. The next-to-last was UK's Archie Goodwin.
Wednesday, March 5 2014 8:53 AM EST2014-03-05 13:53:25 GMT
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) — They won the game. That's what matters for now. The University of Kentucky did not lose on Senior Night, did not drop a third straight game for the first time under John Calipari,More >>
The University of Kentucky put just enough pressure on Alabama defensively to get some offense going early in the second half of a 55-48 Senior Night victory in Rupp Arena.More >>