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Bulls Thu Jun 24 2010
Today marks the beginning of the a new season for the NBA. Just days after the Los Angeles Lakers celebrated their 16th NBA championship, hope is restored to every NBA franchise in the form of the NBA Draft. History has shown that there is no better way to transform a downtrodden team than by infusing some young, inspirational talent. Each summer the draft acts as the source of belief for every fan.
More so than any other league, the NBA is dependent on stars to drive its popularity. Thanks to the enormity of the NCCA Men's Basketball Championship, many college stars enter the draft with built in appeal. These are the young men that inspire fans to call into the ticket office the next morning to put down a deposit on season tickets. It's these players who will be selling the most jerseys in places like Washington and Philadelphia. These are the players who will hold the fates of their new found franchises on their shoulders.
Unfortunately for both the fan bases of these teams and the players themselves, the 2010 NBA Draft is sorely lacking in the types of franchise leaders that are so sought after.
The Only Certainty: John Wall
John Wall is the only sure-thing in the entire draft. Many can find flaws in the style of Kentucky basketball from last season, but admissions must be made that Wall was the prime mover on a team that was very successful. Playing with a semi-professional team filled with what will be a handful of first round draft picks, Wall led the Wildcats on offense and on defense. Without Wall, John Calipari's squad would have resembled the North Carolina team from last year: limitless potential with no direction. Wall brought the pieces together.
As the first pick in the draft Wall will go to a franchise that has been anything but stable recently. The Washington Wizards are coming off a year in which their star player was suspended for most of the season for various issues stemming from bringing a gun into the locker room. Most of the core was dismantled mid-season through trades. The ownership situation is only now being finalized. It is a tumultuous situation that Wall will be stepping into. This will not be unlike what his first days with Kentucky must have been like.
Depending on the moves that the Washington front office makes, Wall might have some interaction with the once-admired Gilbert Arenas. Many worry that exposure to a well-documented NBA diva would be a detriment to Wall's growth; however, one knock on the Kentucky point guard was his play in the final minutes of games. Often times Wall seemed tentative with the ball in his hands down the stretch. Who better than Arenas to teach Wall how to handle this pressure? Despite the negative press the past few seasons, Arenas has never been portrayed as indecisive when it comes to the final shot. Perhaps Wall could learn a thing or two.
Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover: Evan Turner
There has been much written recently about the potential for Evan Turner, the do-it-all sensation from Ohio State, to usurp the number one slot from John Wall. These pro-Turner advocates speak about his abilities to play numerous positions, they point to his performance in the Big Ten tournament, they recite the statistics he put up during a very difficult regular season. Somehow they manage to make a case for Turner being the best player in the draft.
However the argument is assembled, it is foolish. John Wall is an athletic anomaly. He can simply do things on a basketball court that almost no one else can do. Evan Turner is a very good basketball player, the type that comes along every draft season. The argument stops here. In terms of his NBA future, Turner has the ability to become a solid starter. His potential could lead him to an All-Star berth at some point in his career, but this is less likely. He will most likely have a lengthy career of middling success.
What should be unsettling to the Philadelphia 76ers, who sit waiting at the number two pick, is the way that Turner handled himself at Ohio State. An interview with an older Buckeye gives a clear understanding to how Turner held himself above his teammates as soon as he stepped on campus. This player makes no mistakes when claiming that
Turner was a terrible teammate who cared about only his success. To his credit, Turner did make some attitude changes as he progressed through his time at Ohio State. In the end, though, it took some humbling moments before Turner even thought to embrace the team concept.
Anyone who has watched a "me first" prospect come into the league knows what the adjustment period is like. For Turner to enter the NBA as a 76er, playing for a sub-par team, will be a shock to his system. Don't be surprised if his attitude reverts to pre-Player of the Year candidate Evan Turner. Philadelphia fans should be wary.
The Head Cases: Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins
Based entirely on physical makeup, Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins are the clear top prospects in the draft. It isn't even close. These two are built to play NBA basketball. Yet almost every draft expert has Wall and Turner coming off the board before either of these gifted big men. Curious, isn't it?
Obviously there is more to the science of drafting than physical abilities. Often times teams are looking for the players that "get it" better than their peers. This is the criteria that derails the Favors and Cousins resumes. There are doubts as to whether these two "get it."
DeMarcus Cousins was a key player on the previously mentioned semi-professional Kentucky Wildcat team. He was the epitome as the team itself: supremely talented, yet completely unpredictable. Game to game, fans and coaches did not know what they were going to get. They might get the focused, dominant center who could not really be stopped or they might get the easily distracted, foul prone mistake machine. Throw in some displays of poor attitude and a few stories of immaturity and teams begin to grow weary of the risky enigma.
Derrick Favors did not receive the same type of attention as his counterpart from Kentucky until much later in the season. Playing for a underachieving Georgia Tech team, Favors was held responsible for a majority of his team's results. As the tournament season approached, more and more attention was heaped upon a player who clearly had the tools to lead a team to prolonged success. One game would show Favors to be a prodigious athlete with well rounded skills. The next game, Favors would be almost invisible. There was a reason why pundits had high hopes for Georgia Tech and it was almost totally because of Favors. If the team didn't live up to expectations, one can't look past Favors as the reason why.
New Jersey sits at the number three pick and will be happy with either of these risky picks and Minnesota will fall in line and pick the leftover. Only time will tell whether either player will reach their potential or flame out in a streak of wasted talent.
The Chicago Bulls
Calmly waiting at the number 17 pick are the Chicago Bulls. Fans should temper their excitement heading into this year's draft. In an arguably weak draft class, the 17 pick will present a few intriguing choices for Chicago. This, however, is not where the focus of fans will be.
No matter what happens at the draft, the Bulls will be patiently waiting for the start of free agency where they will unpredictably make an all-out play for LeBron James. Settling for other big name free agents will be a decent backup plan, but for now all of the attention from the basketball world is squarely on the most anticipated free agent in the history of the NBA.
Cautious Bulls fans will be watching the draft with a few things in mind:
1.) Will the Bulls make any moves with their pick and/or players to clear cap space?
Rumors have been mounting in regards to the possibility of a package of the 17th pick and another player to be traded away. This move would be a clear step in the direction of James.
2.) Will Chris Paul be moved?
This would be the trade that Chicago does not want to see materialize. Over the past few days reports have been building indicating that any team that has Chris Paul on it will vault to (or near) the top of James' desired destinations. The worst case scenario would be for a team with intentions of wooing James to pull the trigger and acquire James. This would set-up a James-Paul-Chris Bosh trifecta of movement that would certainly dominate the NBA world for the foreseeable future.
No matter what the Bulls do with their pick at the draft, it will be forgotten almost immediately. Only after the LeBron James saga ends will anyone in the NBA regain focus on other matters.
After all, LeBron is the one thing that is lacking in this year's draft -- a sure thing.