Jeff Allen is a Minneapolis-based writer and, unfortunately, a lifelong Timberwolves fan. He is on Twitter at @TYTEJEFF.
The NBA Draft is terrible and the NBA Draft is the best.
The NBA Draft is four-consecutive hours of gaudy suits and lensless tortoise-shell glasses, spindly 19-year-old wunderkinds reflexively thanking God and John Calipari.
The NBA Draft is a bar mitzvah for AAU phenoms. They complete sacred rites of passage and don ceremonial hats. It is Jay Williams very earnestly asking questions like “Who is Julius Randle?” to Julius Randle himself, Jay Bilas aggressively sputtering about “wing span” and “upside” in breathless and reverent soliloquies.
In essence, the NBA Draft is like going on one long, bizarre bender with a couple guys you like and one you don’t (fuck you, Sean). And as such, the only way to truly appreciate it is to be intoxicated. The suits, the awkwardness, the disparity in NBA managerial acumen, the Bilas, the wingspan, the upside, the sincere and legitimately non-ironic joy of seeing young men achieve their lifelong dreams…booze enhances these elements in profound ways that are practically spiritual. So I have selflessly agreed to run a lottery draft diary (picks 1-14) for Rolling Stone while drinking. Bottoms up.
7:00 p.m. Got the night started with two quick beers on my couch and researched which prospective draft picks had the best names. Settled on Cleanthony Early and Spencer Dinwiddie. Solid way to begin.
7:32 p.m. NBA commish Adam Silver comes out and the Cleveland Cavaliers are on the clock. Cleveland has the #1 pick for the third time in four years. The Cavs are a relatively incompetent franchise, as evidenced by their confusing choice to use last year’s #1 pick on overweight, sleep-apnea-sapped Canadian Anthony Bennett. Spoiler alert: It didn’t work out very well. It would be cool if they literally just drafted a big bag of dicks this year and were all like “Big Bag of Dicks has incredible upside and and heart you just can’t teach.” It would be so Cavs.
7:41 p.m. Scratch that, they decided on Andrew Wiggins over Big Bag of Dicks. Wiggins – the athletic and charismatic Canadian (a phrase previously thought to be an oxymoron) – is dressed in a black suit that is bedazzled in some sort of vaginal, flowery piping. He looks like a Tampa grandma gussied for Black Friday services.
Jay Bilas plunges into a 32-minute monologue in which he takes no discernible breaths and describes Wiggins in a string of empty non-sequiturs that includes “terrific second jump” and “straight-line driver.” These are basketball skills. Wigs is the second-consecutive #1 pick to hail from Canada. Somewhere, Win Butler is celebrating by writing a Haitian-inspired dance track.
7:47 p.m. The Bucks take Jabari Parker, the doughy bucket-filler from Duke. He is wearing a much more sensible suit than Wiggins and seems serene. Like Killers frontman and UNLV-archivist Brandon Flowers, Parker is a Mormon who has chosen not to participate in the formal Mormon mission process. No word yet on if Parker also plans to release a tepidly-received-but-ultimately-underappreciated solo album called Flamingo.
7:54 p.m. The 76ers take Joel Embiid. The broadcast immediately cuts to Embiid in his home glumly accepting his fate as a Philadelphian with no joy or interest whatsoever. Oh man, it was awkward and great. But it turned out it was just the result of a satellite delay:
Hello Philly!!!! This is my real “Just got drafted” face. Couldnt be happier to be a 76er!!! pic.twitter.com/asA5nGBRUD
— Joel-Hans Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) June 27, 2014
This is the second-straight draft where the Sixers have taken an injured big man whom everyone agrees has the most talent in the draft, but is scared away from due to aforementioned injury. Nerlens Noel (a real person’s name, promise) was this guy last year. This strategy is either super-smart or super-dumb. Time will tell, but the analytical-oriented analysts among us (aka the NBA MATH BROS) think Embiid is a future Olajuwon-level center. Don’t bet against math.
7:59 p.m. Took a break to get a beer from the fridge and ran into my wife in the kitchen, who recommended we do a quick tequila shot. This was a great suggestion as tequila has alcohol in it. Upon returning from the aforementioned tequila consumption, I notice the Orlando Magic have selected Aaron Gordon from Arizona. I saw footage of Gordon playing basketball while Jay Bilas talked about him. Then Jay Williams interviewed him. He seemed tall and maybe like a nice guy.
8:07 p.m. The Utah Jazz select Australian mystery man Dante Exum. Barely anyone has actually seen Exum play basketball, yet somehow a mass-hysteria has gripped the collective consciousness of NBA followers and we have all convinced ourselves that he is the next Scottie Pippen, an angular 6’5″ wing with court vision and point guard skills.
We know so little about Exum that Jay Williams feels compelled to initiate his favorite template question: “Who is Dante Exum?” Mr. Exum responds with a jingoistic “I’m just a kid from Melbourne, Australia” while pointing to an Australian flag located inside his suit coat. He then played a didgeridoo, shotgunned a can Foster’s, and hopped in a kangaroo’s pouch on his way to a Silverchair concert (Midnight Oil opened). To reiterate: Dante Exum is Australian. That is basically the only thing that anyone knows about him. But he is now likely the starting point guard for the Utah Jazz.
8:12 p.m. With the 6th pick, the Celtics select PG Marcus Smart, a consensus top talent according to the NBA MATH BROS. Smart is an elite defensive talent, has excellent court vision and a fiery temperament. He won’t be redundant with Rajon Rondo in any way.
8:17 p.m. The Lakers select Julius Randle with the 7th pick. I was getting another beer here. The Lakers are basically the worst and I wish nothing but terrible things for them. They don’t deserve attention or pixels.
8:23 p.m. With the 8th pick, Nik Stauskas is selected by Sacramento. Stauskas is wearing a black suit with chalky white crisscrosses throughout, accented with a playful pink tie and pink handkerchief. His ears are large and he appears to be a somewhat nervous interview. I could see him being a financial advisor. I would trust him with my investment portfolio.
Stauskas is also the second Canadian taken in the draft! Holy shit! As you read this, Bryan Adams is starting to work on his jump shot in a dusty T-Dot gym in the hopes of declaring in 2015.
On a related note, while researching how to write that previous sentence I discovered a great website called Canadians.ca, which I heartily recommend. According to this informative website, the most popular Canadian currently existing on Earth is Avril Lavgine. Chad Kroeger does not rank in the Top 20.
8:29 p.m. The Hornets take Noah Vonleh with the 9th pick. He’s also someone that the NBA MATH BROS love. He’s got huge hands, and is wearing a bright-purple Joker suit. This is actually perfect considering Charlotte’s recent decision to re-brand themselves as the old-school Charlotte Hornets after a relentlessly uninteresting decade as the “Charlotte Bobcats” that has now mercifully come to an end.
8:37 p.m. With the 10th pick, the 76ers took Elfrid Payton, a PG from Louisiana-Lafayette whom the NBA MATH BROS love. But in the end, Philadelphia ended up flipping Payton to the Magic for Dario Saric, a Croatian wing who the NBA MATH BROS love even more than Payton. Once again, the 76ers are making the smart plays – grabbing the best players available as identified through proven statistical models, regardless of position or current fit. Maybe they’ll actually be good one of these days.
8:38 p.m. Went and got another beer.
8:39 p.m. Getting very nervous about my Wolves selecting at #13. I’m pretty sure Flip Saunders has no idea what he’s doing. He has a twitchy face and doesn’t seem to have a discernible capacity to identify talent or manage the salary cap. I drink deeply from the beer and push the fear down deeply with alcohol. Kevin Love is definitely leaving us, right? We probably deserve that, as we are homely and live in a cold climate. Fuck.
8:43 p.m. Doug McDermott from Creighton is selected at #11 by the Denver Nuggets, but is ultimately traded to the Chicago Bulls for the 16th and 19th picks. ESPN compares him to Adam Morrison and Wally Szczerbiak. Any other slow white guys we can compare him to? Maybe Newt Gingrich? Their interior games are similar.
8:51 p.m. Orlando Magic select Dario Saric from Croatia. I already covered this, so check out Dario being all Croatian in what appears to be a Zagreb sports bar.
8:52 p.m. Just did another quick tequila shot to prep myself mentally for the Wolves’ pick. They better not take Zach LaVine. The NBA MATH BROS do not like Zach LaVine at all, you guys. I trust in math.
8:53 p.m. The fuckers took Zach LaVine. Dammit. I knew it. You can always count on the Wolves to take the one player that all the brightest minds in the NBA agree will be terrible. Last year it was Shabazz Muhammad. That’s two years in a row that Flip Saunders has spent a first-round pick on an underwhelming UCLA wing player.
Can we discuss Flip for just a second?
Roughly half of the league’s GMs are now actually smart and good at their jobs – likely a record high. Analytical, MBA-havin’, ambitious types like Daryl Morey, Sam Presti and Sam Hinkie now employ top-flight quantitative scouting methods, recognize and capitalize on the value of youth and draft picks, and leave no stone unturned in their quest to build smart, sustainable dynasties.
The other half of the league’s GMs grasp and fumble blindly like drunk virgins to a bra hook, ignore the rise of analytical evaluation methods, don‘t collect assets and find themselves enamored with completely non-essential aspects of a potential draftee’s profile: the firmness of a handshake, the height of a standing vertical or the way that Yi Jianlian swishes jumpers when guarded by a brown folding chair. The draft is the best opportunity all year to watch these simpletons desperately reach and flail in a very public way.
The GM of my beloved (and often be-hated) Timberwolves happens to be one of those simpletons who doesn’t use those insights. And he’s proved it again tonight, spectacularly. Way to go, Flip.
It gets better though! LaVine looks looks about as excited to come to snowy Minnesota as I am to have him here. Take, for example, this video of him mouthing “Fuck Me” after being selected:
Later in the night, LaVine claimed he was saying “Fuck Me” as a means of expressing relief at being drafted at all, but I’m not sure I buy that. My Midwestern inferiority complex prevents me from believing that he wants to be here. I love the Zach LaVine era already. It will be ripe with shame and discord.
9:05 p.m. Took a third and final tequila shot.
9:11 p.m. With the 15th pick, the Hawks take Adreian Payne. He is wearing a tasteful-as-fuck grey suit. With purple pants.
9:15 p.m. A rare classy moment. Isaiah Austin – a player who until recently was believed to be NBA-bound until a diagnosis of a rare disorder called Marfan Syndrome robbed him of that dream forever – was given an honorary selection in the draft by the NBA.
Austin walked slowly to the stage as the Barclays Center stood in thunderous applause. He shook Adam Silver’s hand in a way that suggested he had been waiting his whole life to do so and was going to let the moment sink in. Then he walked over to his post-selection interview with Jay Williams and abruptly put this whole night into sharp perspective.
“I want people to know they can push through anything, because I’ve done it,” he said. “I just want them to know they have the power within themselves to do it if they keep faith and a positive attitude.”
It occurs to me that there are more important things in the world than the preening flash of the draft, the gaudy suits, the Jay Bilas, the wingspan, the upside, the booze, the snarky, couch-ensconced critiques of 19-year-old men whose prodigious skill none of us will never come close to possessing. None of these things matter as much as making the absolute most of the brutally-short window of time we have to exist upon Earth. Isiah Austin is a stark and needed reminder of this important truism.
Having said that, fuck Flip Saunders. I need another tequila shot.