A few thoughts about the 2011 NBA Draft...
ESPN reported that it was the highest rated NBA Draft in 15 years. Why so popular?
The NBA is hot right now, but I don't think that explains why so many tuned in, especially for a draft that is, overall, considered weak. Twitter is probably the real reason. How else can so many people be engaged at the same time around a common interest? And you don't even have to pay a bar tab at the end. Maybe. That assumes, of course, that you are not participating in the now-legendary Jay Bilas Drinking Game, whereby you drink to certain oft-repeated comments describing draftees (e.g., a player's wingspan). My bet for most inebriated? Those who drank to, "Should've stayed in school."
The NBA is a journey, not a destination
The NBA Draft has a lot of drama. A few hoop dreams become reality. A few are shattered. But, folks, keep it in its proper perspective: Getting drafted in the first round is certainly a good thing, especially the guaranteed money that goes with it.
My advice for all the draft-night winners and losers...
If you're drafted in the first round, great, but don't believe the hype, stay humble and focused. And save money!
If you're drafted lower than hoped--or not drafted at all...best to shut up, get to work and prove the basketball pundits wrong.
For all, remember, it's not where you start, but where you finish. The best line is from Jerry West who once told me,"The goal is not to get to the NBA. It's to STAY in the NBA." The proper attitude is to accept whatever hand is dealt--and, of course, Go Pro Like a Pro (shameless plug for reading my booklet).
Rick Barnes is the reason Jordan Hamilton fell to 26, says Hamilton
According to Chris Tomasson, Hamilton believes the reason he slipped to the 26th pick is his coach, Rick Barnes, did not give him a good recommendation. Of course, there are three version to every story: yours, his and the truth.
Hamilton may have a legitimate gripe against Barnes. But blaming others for one's draft woes never plays well. As much as I reflexively like to take a player's side, if you make a coach think you are uncoachable, whether you are or not, that's his impression. And there's a good chance the coach will express his thoughts to all those who ask, including NBA GMs and scouts. In the end, college coaches definitely want their players to succeed in the NBA, even if they couldn't stand coaching certain guys.
Players need to understand, part of being coachable is playing the game, on and off the court: Do what the coach wants, buy into his system and generally act like team player. Or, at least, create that impression.
Jordan Hamilton Is fighting an uphill battle by making the case against Rick Barnes, no matter actually happened. Barnes has too many Texas-to-the-NBA success stories, including one of the most talented and coachable players in the NBA, Kevin Durant.
Best for Jordan Hamilton to shuddup and let his play talk for him.
F*$@ anyone who referenced Mr. Irrelevant
Mr. Irrelevant got its start in the NFL. The first recipient was was Kelvin Kirk, who was the last selection in the 17th round. Kirk was the number 487th pick. In 1976, the NBA had 10 rounds (220 picks). Back then, the last player selected had little to no shot at a pro career.
In the 2011 NBA Draft, the last pick was Isaiah Thomas, who was was 2011 First Team All-Pac-10. He was also the 2011 Pac-10 Tournament MVP. There is nothing irrelevant about Isaiah Thomas.
Dime Mag posted a good article on the topic, "Isaiah Thomas Is Not (Mr.) Irrelevant." In the last 10 NBA Drafts, four players made an NBA roster and two played "multiple seasons."
Should Thomas have waited another year? Who knows? I do believe players drafted in the second round should have the option to return to college for another year, assuming they've kept their eligibility in tact.
This leads me to my next issue: Those who criticize kids for turning pro too soon...
"Should have stayed in school"
Sure, more kids should stay in school. Same as every year. But, the real issue is not underclassmen declaring for the draft. It's the NCAA rules, which create this problem in the first place. And then the public blames these kids for making "bad" decisions without mentioning that the NCAA screwed borderline players when it eliminated testing of NBA waters.
For my entire diatribe on the subject read, "Mad as hell at the new NCAA draft declaration deadline."
I also reject the notion that players who turn pro early, but get drafted late did so because they received bad advice. Going pro versus staying is a game where some win, some lose. You just want those faced with this situation to make an informed, thoughtful decision without undue influence from either side.
It's also important to remember: One more year does not guarantee anything. It was great that Kyle Singler returned to Duke for his senior year, but did he improve his draft stock? If DeAndre Liggins returned to Kentucky, would he have used another season to showcase his talents? Not necessarily, especially if his minutes go down. Maybe Josh Selby should have stayed in school, but no one outside Josh and his inner circle really know his situation.
I certainly would have liked Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee to return, but they wanted out. When they were forced to make their final decision, both were legitimate 1st round prospects. If anything, this was the year for middle-of-the-pack college players to leave early once players like Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, John Henson, Terrence Jones and Perry Jones decided to stay.
It is interesting to note: ESPN's Chad Ford Version 2.0 Mock Draft, which was posted May 17th, around the time of the NCAA-imposed deadline, included four college players (including three underclassmen) who projected as first rounders who fell to the 2nd round. It happens.
Let's look at the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft. 10 underclassmen were selected, 12 seniors, 7 foreigners and Jeremy Tyler.
2nd Round Underclassmen
34 Shelvin Mack
35 Tyler Honeycutt
36 Jordan Williams
41 Darius Morris
43 Malcolm Lee
37 Trey Thompkins
47 Travis Leslie
49 Josh Selby
53 DeAndre Liggins
60 Isaiah Thomas
Many of the foreign players drafted won't come immediately to the NBA. Some are under contracts. Others aren't ready. They'll wait until they are ready for the NBA.
About that kinder, gentler NCAA...Collegiate players should have the same flexibility to return to school. Would the NCAA model been hurt by Isaiah Thomas returning to University of Washington next season? Please, someone, make that case.
Rollin' with Nolan
It is a huge honor for your name to be called on draft night by David Stern and even Adam Silver. But I am happiest for Nolan Smith, who was drafted 21 by the Portland Trailblazers. Many of you are familiar with his incredible and bittersweet story. Hard not to root for Nolan, even if you are part of the "anti-Duke" sentiment. WaPo's Liz Clarke did a great piece on Nolan, his sister Syd, his mom Monica and his dad, the late Derek Smith. And make sure you check out the Sydney and Nolan Smith Foundation, which honors their father by turning family death "into a positive by sharing with other children who have suffered similar losses."
The 2012 NBA Draft Jay Bilas Drinking Game
I am going with: "Should have gone pro last year." Back when the talent pool wasn't so deep.
Follow Marc Isenberg on twitter @marcisenberg