Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

June 27, 2012

NBA season a wrap and will Kentucky make draft history?

BLUEFIELD — Finally, the NBA season is over, LeBron James has his championship and life can move on. We won’t have to hear LeBron talk for at least … a few weeks when the Olympics begin.

The good thing about the lengthy season, which was actually 16 games shorter thanks to the lockout, is that NBA draft is so soon after the championship has been determined that we don’t have to endure months of speculation like we do with the NFL selection process.

If the finals had gone seven games instead of five, it would have finished on Tuesday, and the draft would have been two nights later.

That is a relief. By the time the NFL draft gets here, you just want it to end. So-called experts spend weeks telling us who these teams should take and when Ryan Tannehill and Dontari Poe prove to be busts, those same experts then bash the teams for taking them.

It’s not nearly as bad in the NBA since you don’t have to hear about it every day for months. There is no Mel Kiper who knows just everything about anyone who has ever put on a college football uniform.

The question that will be answered tonight is whether this will be the greatest night in Kentucky basketball history. Six Wildcats are on the draft list, and all six could be taken, and all could go in the opening round.

That has never happened. The most ever taken in a draft is five, and that was from Kentucky in 2010. John Calipari called that the greatest day in the program’s history, which didn’t sit well with fans of the Wildcats, but they did finally get themselves another championship in April.

There are few mock drafts out there, but there isn’t near as much speculation about the NBA as there is about the NFL. We know Anthony Davis will be the top pick, and who knows after that.

First of all, the process to the first pick should be investigated. The ‘fix’ word has been used, much like it was with the first lottery back in 1985 when the New York Knicks just happened to get Patrick Ewing.

The Charlotte Bobcats had not just the worst season of any team this year, but in terms of percentage points, the worst record of any team in NBA history. They wound up with the second pick, while the New Orleans Hornets, which bolted Charlotte because they couldn’t get a new stadium, got the first pick, and they just happen to be run by the NBA.

It was suspicious enough when Commissioner David Stern won’t allow Chris Paul to be traded from the Hornets to the Lakers, but let’s let him go to the Clippers, a topic us sports guys hear often from our resident Lakers fan here in the office.

That was supposedly for the integrity of the game, but the NBA and integrity haven’t gone together since Magic and Bird.

While the NFL draft prospects are hashed over so much in the two months after the Super Bowl that we all know more about some of these guys before the draft than we hear from them when they actually play, the NBA evaluation has been mostly quiet, with all the focus being on the playoffs and James saving us all by winning his crown.

There are some familiar names on the draft boards, and many more who are not. Sixty players have to be taken, but only a dozen or so ever make an impact on an NBA court. It’s not like the NFL where teams have 50-plus players, the NBA teams simply don’t have very many openings.

There are two rounds, and 60 total picks in the draft. There were 48 college underclassmen who signed up and seven international prospects. Every year someone with a name like Mathieu Wojciechowski _ let’s see that name on the back of a jersey _ or Alen Omic gets selected and is never heard from again.

It almost as if an NBA team would rather pass then have to pay one of these guys to play on their team. The Spurs are especially good at this practice.

Every year there are questionable decisions made in terms of leaving early for the NBA, but they keep doing it year after year. Most live to regret it, but the next batch pursuing ‘their dream’ never seem to learn from the others.

They wind up taking a chance, and then have to play overseas, in the NBA development league or get a real job for a whole lot less pay.

The NBA is the worst when it comes to jumping on potential. Joe Alexander was taken with the eighth pick from West Virginia in 2010 by Milwaukee, and that was done on the basis of one good season and his athletic ability in workouts.

He was taken by the Bucks, and he’s been traveling ever since. In addition to short stints with the Bucks, Bulls and Hornets, he has played for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants — that is a basketball team — the Texas Legends and is now in Russia.

How about Hassan Whiteside? He was a rebounding and shot-blocking machine for a year at Marshall. He was a second round selection in 2010 by Sacramento. He has played 19 games in an admittedly injury-riddled two years, and has twice been assigned to the Reno Bighorns of the D-league.

At least he got paid. Whiteside signed a four-year $3.8 million contract, and $1.76 million was guaranteed. Not bad money if you can get it.  

There are few sure things in this year’s draft that will happen tonight. Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Harrison Barnes should be good pros, but who knows about the rest.

Looking for a few names to look for? West Virginia’s Kevin Jones and Mike Scott of Virginia were both dominant forces at the college level, but how will their games relate to the NBA. They both remind me of Ervin Dudley, the SEC player of the year at Alabama a few years ago who didn’t get drafted.

The NBA scouts are looking more for potential than production, but who can blame them? A lot of these guys haven’t played enough to show what they can do. Many will get a chance to do it while sitting on a bench, but at least they’re cashing a big check and those courtside seats are pricey.

Here is hoping for good things for Doran Lamb from Kentucky — not to be confused with Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb — who played in an exhibition game at Bluefield College for Oak Hill Academy a few years ago. I had a chance to talk with him and would like to see him make it.

There is also Ralph Sampson III, the son of Ralph Sampson, who played at Virginia and then struggled with injuries in the NBA. Here is hoping this Sampson can stay healthy and have a productive career.

Then there are names that will not get called. I might be wrong, but how many of our readers have heard of Avery Scharer, Richard Townsend, Geraldo Suero, DAngelo Williams and … yes, Jet Chang.

They are all early entries from schools like Shoreline Community College in Washington state (Scharer), Vancouver Island University (Townsend), Notre Dame de Namur in California (Williams), Albany University (Suero) and Brigham Young-Hawaii (Chang).

I have offered before to be the agent for some of these guys who decide to try and make at the highest level of the game. Never once have I ever felt threatened that it might actually happen.

The feeling is much the same this year. At least there is no one named LeBron, but there is a Festus … for the rest of us? Seinfeld viewers will understand.

Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He can be contacted at bwoodson @ bdtonline. com.

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