Being the nominal "NBA" guy here on SCU I was going to post a piece on the Lakers collapse in the finals and how badly they played in all six games, but why should I do that when So many others have done so already?
Suffice to say, the Lakers disappointed pretty much the entire universe outside of the New England regional area, but that's fine. After the off-season from Hell and Kobe's trade demands on live local Sports Radio, So-Cal natives really weren't expecting much from the Purple and Gold this season anyway. As the season began though, Kobe was still a Laker, Andrew Bynum began to play up to his potential, the Clippers spent another season in the basement, the UCLA Bruins with Freshman Phenom Kevin Love were atop the Pac-10 standings and all seemed to be better in the Los Angeles basketball world.
Until January, all was going right. Then Bynum got hurt, and the Lake-Show had to scramble to adjust. They weren't as good without an inside presence, and something had to be done to counter-act the sudden loss. Fortunately a certain angel with the initials J.W. came to the rescue, and in one fell swoop, the Lakers were pencilled into the NBA Finals. Oh sure, it's only rumors that the NBA logo was involved in the massively lopsided trade that got rid of also-ran, hands of stone Kwame Brown and no-potential Javaris Crittenden for the spectacular Spaniard Pau Gasol, but because I believe that Kevin McHale gift-wrapped K.G. for the Celts, then I can believe that the Logo got involved in the Pau deal.
Of course, the only problems with handing someone the title is that the games still have to be played, and the Lakers, after blowing through the Western Conference bracket met up with a team of destiny. Yes, I'll call this year's Celtics a team of Destiny. You see it every now and then in sports, a team pieced together specifically to win THAT year. I'm talking both champion Florida Marlins squads, the '86 Bears, the 84 Tigers, the 93-94 NY Rangers, etc. That's what these Celtics are. Now that they've gotten their rings and the rest of the NBA has seen what they're capable of doing, teams will adjust to their style of play, and while they may contend for as long as they can keep K.G., Pierce and Allen together, I doubt they'll win another ring.
So while we put this NBA season to bed and the Celtics enjoy their moment in the sun, there's still one last event that caps this season, and begins the speculation for next season, the NBA Draft.
Only the NFL Draft has the same immediate impact on the professional level as the NBA Draft, and that's only because of the sheer number of players chosen who end up playing in the NFL the next season. The NBA draft is the smallest of all four sports: the MLB Draft can be up to 50 rounds with some 1,500+ players chosen, the NFL Draft is 7 rounds with over 250 players, the NHL draft (which starts today in a couple of hours) is also 7 rounds with over 200 players. Of course, the NBA also has the smallest roster-size of any of the four major sports with only 12 players to a team, whereas we all know how bloated the NFL rosters can get. Seriously, there's usually a roster spot for the guy who holds the ball on field-goals and extra-points (OK that's also usually the back-up QB, but come on).
For me, this year's draft is somewhat of a novelty, because my alma-mater (and the only college I ever really wanted to attend) UCLA has three potential selectees, after the entire starting roster (and a couple subs) declared for the draft earlier. Fortunately our starting PG Darren Collison and Senior Josh Shipp will be returning to Westwood to welcome an all-star recruiting class with two potential All Americans who played in the McDonalds game (Jrue Holliday and Malcolm Lee).
The Bruins have had a great couple of drafts recently too, with Arron Affalo going to the Pistons last year at #27 and Jordan Farmar (my current favorite Bruin in the NBA) going #26 to the Lakers. This year should be even better, with K-Love as a lottery pick (some draftniks have him going at #5 to the Grizzlies) and our BACKUP PG Russell Westbrook going somewhere else in the first round. The Prince of Cameroon (seriously, he's a real Prince) Luc Richard M'bah-a-Mouté has a good shot at a second round pick, and even our lanky Senior post-player Lorenzo Mata-Real has a chance at making an NBA roster. Yes, the NBA Draft should be a great day for the Blue and Gold.
Of course, this blog is about SPORTS CARDS, so let's take a look at the consensus lottery picks so that the NBA collectors have an inkling of who they want to pull in a few weeks when 2008-09 Cards start popping up which should be sometime in August. Today I'll look at the top five selections, saving the others for another post.
- Derrick Rose PG Freshman - Memphis - This guy tore up the tournament and the regular season, only losing TWICE during his one and only NCAA season. He's the most common number one pick in mock drafts, and could be the one piece to put the Bulls back to the elite level in the East.
- Michael Beasley F Freshman - Kansas State - The lanky lefty (6'10 235 lbs) had an ungodly 26.2 scoring average, taking the Wildcats to the second round of the tourney. He also shoots the three with deadly accuracy.
- O.J. Mayo G Freshman - USC - To me Mayo is the most overrated player in the draft, having watched his game all season, it's either all or nothing with this kid. Sure, he has great game, BUT in money situations he doesn't bring it. Add to that the legal controversy over his one season at $UC, the lavish lifestyle that he flaunted over the other priledged kids in downtown L.A., and his lackluster play in the Pac-10 tourney and the NCAA tourney, and I have to wonder why he's so rated so freaking high by so many people. I wouldn't touch him with a 10 meter cattle-prod. Maybe some day I'll tell you all how I really feel about $UC, but then again, I think you might already know.
- Jerryd Bayless - G Freshman - Arizona - Does it strike anyone else as strange the sheer number of one and dones in this year's draft? We're only in the second year of the new NBA ruling that did away with high-school kids playing in the league, and already we have a plethora of freshmen in the big-dance. We can only hope that this year's crop of kids will have better luck than that other guy who got drafted last year ahead of Kevin Durant and didn't play at all because of an injury. What was his name again? Oh yeah, Greg Oden. Getting back to Bayless though, he's a solid performer with a set of skills that has nothing but potential.
- Brook Lopez - C Sophomore - Stanford - I saw a lot of Brook and his brother Robin over the last two years, and while they didn't play as well as another famous pair of Stanford Twins, they worked extremely well together in the paint. It's kind of sad that they'll be broken up in the NBA, barring a miracle, but Brook is the stronger of the two and should have a good, if not great career in the league.
The NBA Draft takes place June 26 in New York City.