When it was all over, the three Kentucky freshmen were lottery picks, just as they were projected to be a year ago.
Bam Adebayo, the highest-rated of the three going into the season, had slipped out of the first round in early projections. But he apparently impressed everyone with his workouts – at least he impressed another ex-Wildcat, Pat Riley – and his name was called by Miami with the 14th pick of the night.
De’Aaron Fox was the fifth pick. That was the good news. The bad news is, he’s headed to Sacramento, the franchise DeMarcus Cousins finally fled in February after seven frustrating seasons.
The team may surround Fox with some talent. Rudy Gay can score. Buddy Hield had a decent rookie season, especially after joining the Kings in the Cousins deal. And Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere are there.
The draft also brought the Kings North Carolina’s Justin Jackson – who killed Kentucky in the Elite Eight – Duke’s Harry Giles and Frank Mason III of Kansas.
But the burden will fall on Fox to bring a sunshine face to the program after years of the Cousins grimace.
Fox might have gone higher in the draft, but – one, there was a glut of point guard talent ahead of him; and, two, Phoenix, drafting fourth, already has its quota of Kentucky guards.
Malik Monk went 11th, the victim of backstage manipulations during the evening. The big trade between Minnesota and Chicago threw pre-draft calculations out the window. The Bulls, picking seventh with the trade, needed a shooter but apparently preferred one who’s also seven feet tall.
And the Knicks, picking eighth, decided they needed a point guard more than a shooter and chose Frank Ntilikina of France. Many thought Monk would go to New York.
Sacramento, picking 10th, might have grabbed Monk to play alongside Fox. But the Kings instead traded the pick to Portland, who took a power forward.
So Monk is headed for Charlotte, Michael Jordan’s team, where there are all kinds of problems. But there’s also Kemba Walker, who could use a productive backcourt mate. There’s now Dwight Howard, who ought to be Bam-all-over-again for Monk. And there’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, still struggling to remain injury-free and have a productive pro career.
Monk’s bona fides as a shooter were hampered by his reputation for indifferent defense and rebounding, charges that dogged him at Kentucky. He was also judged, at 6-foot-3, to be on the small side for the pros. However, Charlotte is in North Carolina, and Monk’s 47 points against the Tar Heels in December must still resonate there.
And Bam goes to Miami, where the Heat have some inside presence (ferocious rebounding 7-footer Hassan Whiteside), but that may help him develop the perimeter game he couldn’t demonstrate in his year at Kentucky.
Adebayo seemed unusually burdened by his college stats. He rebounded and blocked shots, but attention focused on his offense. Sure, 13 points a game, but how many of those were dunks, alley-oops and short putbacks? Where was the shot? The Heat are apparently convinced it’s there.
Other than the drama of waiting for the local players to get their names called (Donovan Mitchell was chosen 13th by Denver and traded to Utah), it was an excruciating evening. Even as the ESPN table of experts was reprimanding “the media” for paying so much attention to Lavar Ball, the camera kept lingering over the most overexposed relative in sports, and the network turned immediately to interview him after the Lakers chose his son. (Even a Foot Locker commercial with an oddly timed Father’s Day theme focused on the obnoxious Balls.)
The player interviews were vapid – “Love your shoes. … Who picked out your suit? … How does it feel to be (a Laker, a Bull, a Celtic, etc.)? … What do you need to work on?”
And the first half-hour, before the picks actually began, was sports programming at its worst. Not sure which was more compelling TV: the camera showing us, more than once, a father and son wearing Kristaps Porzingis jerseys who had been seen booing the Knicks’ pick a year ago; or Commissioner Adam Silver explaining the evening’s process. “The team calls in with its pick … and we have a machine that prints the name of the draftee … someone makes sure I know how to pronounce the name … and then I go through that door over there.”
Intriguing. Clears that up! Who’d-a thought? VT