As it always does, the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament provided some thrilling finishes and chances for small schools and little known players prove they can dance with the big boys.
What it did not provide this year was anything that wowed NBA scouts.
This has long been considered one of the weakest, if not the weakest, draft class of the last decade coming out of college. Play the first weekend of the NCAA tournament backed that up. What everyone saw are some nice players, guys that could develop into NBA role players.
But that’s not what you want if your team is so bad you have a plethora of ping-pong balls in the overly complicated NBA lottery system. You want a guy that can turn your franchise around. You want a guy fans can get excited about, a guy you can market and sell tickets around.
If your team sucked last year, you could have gotten Derrick Rose, who has become the Bulls best player out of the gate. Or, you could have gotten guys who are NBA starters and have a lot of potential, such as O.J. Mayo or Russell Westbrook or Kevin Love.
If your team sucked two years ago, there was Kevin Durant, already one of the best scorers in the NBA, not to mention a number of other quality starters. Three years ago there was Lamarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy (if you didn’t make the mistake of taking Andrea Bargnani or Adam Morrison ahead of them).
This year, clear number one pick is Blake Griffin out of Oklahoma, a guy who is a legitimate top pick — big men with skills are always at a premium. If he had come out last year he likely would have been a top three or four pick.
And after that… you better hope that Ricky Rubio decides to leave Spain and come over early, because he is the only other guy likely to be a star. DraftExpress, the best of the mock draft sites, has Arizona State’s James Harden going second overall. Harden is at best an average athlete by NBA standards and while he has a lot of polish to his game and he has a diverse offensive arsenal for a college player, he is not a future NBA star. Syracuse was able to completely shut him down in a second round game. After Harden comes a nice player in Arizona’s Jordan Hill, followed by Connecticut’s center Hasheem Thabeet and then the American who went to Greece Brandon Jennings, according to DraftExpress.
All of those guys would be solid picks in the 10-20 range most seasons, but this year they are at the top of the board. The farther down the board you go the more you see guys — such as UCLA’s Jrue Holiday — being drafted purely on potential and not what they did in college. A lot of the guys even in the lottery could really use another year in school.
Scouts don’t know everything. Somebody in this draft is going to break out in a couple years, someone who was held back by the system his college coach saddled him with, but will bust out big in the NBA. The problem is, predicting who that guy will be is crapshoot. Even for general managers.
So while fans of the worst NBA teams are praying for salvation, the NBA Draft is more likely to provide hype and heartache. And the fans in Sacramento and Washington have had enough of that already.