Now that's a fact
With the ubiquitous NBA Draft, everyone's an 'expert'
Posted: Tuesday June 26, 2007 12:06PM; Updated: Tuesday June 26, 2007 3:22PM
Let me begin by saying that there's a lot I'm not sure about.
I'm not sure that Kevin Durant will be a better pro than Greg Oden, though I've advanced that theory on a couple radio shows.
I'm not sure what the Atlanta Hawks should do with the third pick, though my learned colleague Ian Thomsen says they should trade it, so I believe they should trade it. Actually, I'm not really sure, but I think so. At least, Ian seems sure.
I'm not sure what kind of pro Joakim Noah will be, though I opined on another radio show that he was "an elongated Shane Battier," whatever that means. I sort of meant it, though I'm not completely sure.
What should the Celtics do at No. 5? Not sure, but I've said that it would be a risk to take China's Yi Jianlian that high. I'm not sure why I said that, but I have seen films of the 6-11 native of He Shan, Guang Dong, and my theory seems semi-solid. (I am sure that Yi's birthplace is the title of a hip-hop song waiting to happen.)
As I listen and read about the NBA Draft, however, I seem to be the only one who's not sure about anything. Not only anything but everything. I haven't interrogated my mother-in-law, Dorothy, who hasn't followed the league since the Celtics wore black Converse, but I'm pretty sure she thinks that Brandan Wright might slip out of the top 10 and Al Thornton would be a steal at 12.
It's funny that I'm not sure about a lot of things since the draft has been a principal topic of discussion for a long time. Certainly there was more talk about the draft at the NBA Finals than there was about the NBA Finals. True, the Finals lasted an hour and a half and were as suspenseful as a Family Circus strip, but it's still strange that the names Al Horford and Mike Conley were heard more often than those of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. With the presence of Oden and Durant, Thursday night's draft is understandably more interesting than, say, last year's when the major challenge was to keep from mixing up Brandon Roy, Randy Foye and Rudy Gay. (At least Clifford Ray wasn't in the draft.)
But, suddenly, draft analysis, a static activity, has taken over for the game itself, which is at the very least a live event except when the Hawks are playing. In a larger sense, fantasy has overtaken reality, just as fantasy leagues are in many cases more popular than real leagues. Everybody, after all, wants to run his own team.
I'm loathe to advance any thumb-sucking Marshall McLuhan-esque theories here -- I wouldn't be sure about them anyway -- but we have clearly become a Rotisserie-League sporting culture, more interested in analyzing what could be rather than watching what is. Information is so readily available that everyone becomes an expert. Why do I need to take two mid-winter trips on a single-prop airplane out of Cedar Rapids to watch that undersized power forward, which is what pro scouts have to do? I've seen the dude on YouTube, and I can tell you right now that he can't play.
I am astounded at the certainty to which draft pundits, who are by definition anyone with a voicebox and cable TV, advance their theories about personnel. I heard one of my colleagues not long ago say, "I don't like small point guards" with the same assurance that I say, "I don't like broccoli." Like everyone else, I would prefer point guards who are, say, 6-9 with the skill level of Magic Johnson. But I'm not nearly smart enough to make the blanket proclamation that I don't like small point guards.
We know who to blame for this, of course -- Mel Kiper, who created a career out of NFL Draft theorizing. After years of hearing Mel tell us that the Cleveland Browns will improve dramatically by taking that pulling guard out of Eastern Michigan in the fourth round, we began to think, Hey, we can do that, too. In point of fact, an analysis of Mel's analysis reveals that he isn't a particularly good evaluator of talent. But it doesn't matter. The key is to sound like you know what're talking about, give that illusion of absolute certainty.
Look, I'm not suggesting that draft stories aren't journalistically relevant -- if the Chicago Bulls don't take you-know-who with the third pick of the '84 draft, the history of the NBA in the '90s would have to be rewritten. Moreover, there is much cogent thought in some quarters being put into draft analysis.
On a recent basketball blog post, True Hoop's Henry Abbott printed the intricately detailed musings of a reader named Andy, who, via a theoretical three-way trade, got the Phoenix Suns Kevin Garnett, the Los Angeles Lakers Shawn Marion and the Minnesota Timberwolves Luke Walton, Andrew Bynum, Kwame Brown and excess money. I got a splitting headache just getting through it. I'm not sure Kobe Bryant saw it, but he would no doubt recommend that "Andy" immediately replace Mitch Kupchak as general manager. (Unless Mitch Kupchak is Andy -- has anyone seen them together lately?)
I'm merely recommending that we spend a little less time in draft prognosis and a little more in talking about the game itself. And, please, advance those theories with a little less hubris and a little more respect for that truism that longtime NBA watchers subscribe to: Nobody knows anything.
Except my mother-in-law, Dot, who just loves Acie Law as high as No 8.