NBA Draft promises long night for fans

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJune 25, 2009 

With Jodie Meeks in the mix, Big Blue Nation might actually turn off John Calipari's tweets and turn on Thursday night's NBA Draft, live from Madison Square Garden.

If so, here's a primer on what to expect:

Q: How good is this year's draft?

A: Most so-called experts peg this as a middling crop of tepid talent. Even expected No. 1 pick Blake Griffin, the Oklahoma muscle-man, is far from a rock-solid star, especially because he will have the misfortune of playing for the Los Angeles Clippers. The lack of star power might bring a flurry of last-minute pre-draft activity with teams in the top slots trying desperately to trade down.

Q: Besides Meeks, what about the other Southeastern Conference players?

A: There's a good chance that not a single SEC player will be selected in the first round. That's no surprise to those of us who winced along with league play last season. Plus, Tennessee's Tyler Smith, Louisiana State's Tasmin Mitchell, South Carolina's Devan Downey, Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado and UK's Patrick Patterson all pulled out of the draft. Then again, Patterson was the only one in that group with legitimate first-round potential.

Q: What about Louisville?

A: Imagine the reaction if Tubby Smith coached two lottery picks on the same team, yet didn't make it to the Final Four. Talk-show phone banks would be little more than burned toast. Yet Rick Pitino could claim that distinction. Earl Clark and Terrence Williams both could be tabbed in the top 15 picks. Most say Clark will be more productive than he was in the college game. And though Williams' outside shot must improve, his versatility sets scouts adrool. Some say, no way he slides beyond Charlotte at No. 12.

Q: What about Psycho-T?

A: North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough probably won't be a lottery pick. And he won't be a huge star. But the guess here is that he will be a productive player who will knock enough heads to knock around for quite a few pro years. Hansbrough has the size. He has the brute strength. He has a better mid-range jumper than most believe. And, better yet, he has the desire.

Q: What's the biggest trend question in the draft?

A: Eyes will be on Brandon Jennings. The 6-foot-1 guard took the orange detour sign around the "one-and-done" college rule by spending last year playing professionally in Italy. Now we'll see whether travel is broadening. Jennings is considered a possible lottery selection. If he goes high, and plays well, that might cause other high school stars, with no appetite for college ball, to apply for passports.

Q: Which NBA team has the best chance to improve?

A: The Minnesota Timberwolves have maneuvered their way to four first-round picks — Nos. 5, 6, 18 and 28. And the hapless T-Dogs need all the help they can get.

Q: Who is the draft's biggest mystery?

A: The 18-year-old European heartthrob, Ricky Rubio. Scouts either are madly in love or bored to indifference when it comes to the Spaniard who some say channels the ghost of Pete Maravich. Oklahoma City might grab the second coming of Steve Nash with the No. 3 pick. If not, most believe there is no way Minnesota allows him to slip past No. 5.

Q: The draft's biggest surprise?

A: Have to admit I didn't foresee just how Lady Gaga many would go for Davidson's Stephen Curry. Yes, he has amazing range. Yes, he's cute as a bug's ear. But he's not all that big. He's not all that fast. And he didn't really play the point in college, at least not against top-notch competition. Yet many starry-eyed teams, especially the New York Knicks, love Curry as an NBA point.

Q: Could the Celtics actually trade Rajon Rondo?

A: This much smoke might mean there is fire, though Boston General Manager Danny Ainge tried to throw some water on the trade rumors Wednesday. Thing was, Ainge used a pretty shallow bucket, and there are still plenty of reports that Rondo is moody and sometimes difficult to coach. Still, I can't see the Celtics giving up on such a talented point guard, especially during a time in which that position is oh so important.

Q: So where will Jodie Meeks be drafted?

A: Says here the second half of the second round. Get ready for a long night.

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