Busy with my life of slinging brilliant insight and watching as much NBA playoff basketball as I can manage, I’d pledged to catch only the second half of Tuesday night’s Memphis-San Antonio game, and in doing so completely forgot to watch the draft lottery.
Therefore, my phone practically blew up in my pocket, sending shards of iPhone glass into my thigh, when every basketball fan friend I have from Ohio texted me simultaneously as the league revealed that the Cleveland Cavaliers, for the third time in a decade, would have the #1 overall pick.
Of course, I’m excited. A first pick to be paired (or traded) with our phenom point guard, and the first pick just two years ago, Kyrie Irving? Yes, please. I’ll have some of that on my plate with a garnish, and then no pie at the end because I’ll be full from this meal of Kyrie Irving and another #1 overall pick, and also, I don’t necessarily like all pie—apple, blueberry, strawberry rhubarb, lemon merengue, sure, but don’t force pumpkin on me and if you bring pecan pie anywhere near me, I’ll freak out and barf on your eyes. You get exactly what I’m saying here.
However, whenever your team has the #1 pick in the draft it comes with a great amount of anxiety. Here’s your team’s one shining moment to change everything, to nab that future hall of famer who will turn your fortunes around in a beautiful, spiraling, rotational 180. Yet the history of the #1 pick is replete with failures, losers, injuries, and devastating decisions. The first team I ever loved in my youth, the Portland Trail Blazers, drafted Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan: an immobile, mostly talentless, injury-prone center over the greatest player ever. Then they turned around a couple decades later and with the #1 pick drafted an immobile, mostly talentless, injury-prone center over the best pure shooter of his generation (Greg Oden over Kevin Durant being pure Bowie redux).
When the Cavs had the first pick in 2003, they drafted a hometown hero, who changed the franchise and who had the potential to overshadow Michael Jordan himself. We all know what happened there.
So much heartbreak comes with the #1 pick, I almost feel a melancholy just possessing it. Here are your hopes and dreams as a sports fan wrapped up in this one electric decision. Like the Knight said to Indy, “Choose wisely.”
The consensus #1 pick this year has long been thought to be Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, who went down with an ACL tear his freshman year. Noel makes me so incredibly anxious that my fingernails will vanish next season if we draft him. After all, he’s a raw nineteen year-old with a major injury already under his belt. Sure, he might be great someday, but right now I’d trust my post moves over his. All I’m saying is if we draft this guy, then Ben McLemore and the possibility of trading the pick will haunt my dreams until proven otherwise.
(It also doesn’t help that I disapproved of the Cavs 2011 pick at #4, Tristan Thompson, not to mention Dion Waiters at #4 in 2012 when Harrison Barnes was still on the table. I mean, for chrissake the talent of Rookie of the Year Damion Lillard may have been hard to predict, but not Harrison Barnes. I’m sorry, but if a guy is six-eight, 210 with decent range and can play either the Three or a small-ball Four, what are we thinking drafting a smallish guard who never demonstrated he could actually shoot and went for around 40% from the field and had a -3.7 PoP48 rating [points per par over 48 minutes—or how many points a player effectively wins or loses for their team per 48 minutes of floor time, duh]. Furthermore, when evaluating draft picks don’t we have to assess the chance for re-injury? Why hasn’t Nate Silver tackled this area of potential draft-deflation wherein an injury-prone player is given some kind of probability for further injury based on a mathematical model that assesses similar injuries to past players? What the hell is everyone so busy doing that they’re not on this problem like flies on shit? We need the defensive help, don’t get me wrong—Noel’s mere presence would almost undoubtedly put opponents back on their toes and make up for Irving and Waiters’s lackluster D, but we also don’t want to throw away a #1 on a glorified Serge Ibaka, a shot-blocker and stopper with limited offensive prowess [And what is with that annoying tic where sports fans refer to their team as “we”? I’m not on the Cavaliers payroll; I don’t have a jersey that says “Markley” on the back; Nothing bad will happen to my career, health, or love life if the Cavs blow it; I’m just some goddamn idiot in Chicago freaking the f*** out about who we’re going to draft with our #1 pristine, pure, white-as-the-driven snow pick.])
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