Ah, the NBA. Any number of things can blow the winds of fortune one way and leave some people picking up the pieces. Last night saw that happen with Michigan State’s Deyonta Davis as he slid from a projected lottery pick to the 31st selection by the Celtics and immediately traded to the Grizzles.
What happened was a perfect storm (What up, Marky Mark?!) of events that caused the fall. Lets discuss them here
The Porzingis Effect
If you follow basketball in the state of Michigan you remember the 2003 NBA Draft. This was the draft that saw Lebron James selected first overall by the Cavaliers. Now, the Pistons had the second pick of that draft thanks to a trade with the Memphis Grizzles in 1997 for Otis Thorpe. The Pistons went 50-32 the year before and lost in the Eastern Conference Finals but were on the rise. It was rare for a team that did so well the year before to have such a high draft pick the following year. James was always going to go first so Detroit could scout and pick basically any player they wanted to and they chose...Darko Miličić. The next three picks were Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade.
The bust of Darko served for a long time as a cautionary tale for NBA teams thinking about going overseas for talent. Instead of swinging for the fence, and probably pissing off your fan base at the same time with a pick that people didn’t know anything about you took that guard from Kentucky or the forward from Duke. That changed last year.
The New York Knicks really pissed off fans everywhere (Including this kid), but PorzinGOD turned those “booing fans into clapping hands” and he led the way to a record setting night last night.
The Draft last night set a record for the most amount of foreign born players selected in the first round with 15. Let me say that for you a little differently: Half of the players taken in the first round last night were born outside of the United States. What does this mean? Well, it is obviously a shift in the way we look at basketball in the level before the NBA. The international game is getting tougher, the players are getting better, and the memory of Darko is getting further and further away.
Obviously a player like Davis would have normally gone in front of a Georgios Papagiannis or a Ante Zizic but the teams that are looking for the player most don’t know about that can make a difference and Davis was left out in the cold.
So there are 30 teams in the NBA. There are 30 picks per round. Seems like simple math but the way that NBA teams trade picks with players makes things nearly impossible and the mess that is now created with the way picks are distributed is insane. Remember how I said the Pistons had the second pick in the ‘03 draft? That came to be because of a trade in 1997 from Memphis, a full 6 years after the trade happened.
Look at it this way, last night the Denver Nuggets selected Jamal Murray from Kentucky with the 7th pick in the draft. That pick should have belonged to the New York Knicks but it was given to the Nuggets in 2011. Remember when Carmelo Anthony was traded to the Knicks? That happened February 11th 2011. Back in February of 2011 Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes were teammates...IN HIGH SCHOOL.
All the trades that have happened over the years, the stashing of draft picks that teams like the Celtics and 76ers have made common place led to last night when a third of the NBA did not even select in the first round and teams like Denver, Phoenix, and Boston had 3 first round picks. With that happening teams are not looking for fit and instead looking for pieces to deal as trades are lined up. That did not spell success for Deyonta last night as the quiet big man saw himself slipping lower and lower.
The NBA Draft is a fickle thing. There are so many outside influences that effect what teams are going to with picks come draft day. In a league where you only have 30 teams and those benches are only allowed to have 12 active players at any time, your margin for error is much smaller than say, the NFL with 53 players. That being said the league has such a level of flux and there is a constant need to keep up with what is going on in your division and in the league.
When the Cavaliers winning the world championship, the noise around Kevin Love being shopped to a new team calmed down. The East realized they needed to make some moves and that is what they did. The Bulls cleared space to get younger and shipped off the knees of the son of the city, Derrick Rose. The Celtics had somehow amassed 8 picks in the draft and they were badly trying to bring some leadership to a team that is on the brink of making a run in the playoffs and they were aggressively shopping that number 3 pick.
With the Warriors losing in seven, the team that won a record 73 games seemed like it wasn’t quite as invincible as they were before and they became one of the teams that made some noise last night. The Thunder (who were arguably the best team in the league last year) were looking at making some moves and they said goodbye to the Ibaka and hello to Oladipo. This all led to the teams looking for names that would play well in a game of professional athlete chess that is only going to get more intense when free agency (AKA: Who can add Kevin Durant season) starts next week.
This hurt Davis may have been projected as a lottery pick, but when you are a quiet 19 year old kid who didn’t put up the numbers that Ben Simmons did, you are going to get lost in the shuffle and that happened last night. He is in a good situation, but there is not too much of a surprise that this happened.
What Does It Mean
He wasn’t drafted in the first round. Instead the Celtics drafted him 31st and he ended up going right the the Memphis Grizzles. He is going to get his contract signed and Deyonta Davis is going to be a NBA player. While he did miss out on some money it does lead to this question: would he have been drafted higher if he waited another year?
Well, that is hard to say. Some argue that the reason so many foreign players went this year is due to the fact that the 2016 draft class is among the weaker classes in recent history. No one knows what would happen if he was to come back and work on the mid-range game (if Izzo would let him) and there is always the potential injury thought that is always on the mind of draft picks. All we know is that he is going to play in a great system in Memphis, he will get a chance to earn a spot on the roster, and if he needs some motivation all he needs to do is check think about what Draymond has done being drafted 32nd a few years ago. It is not how you get there, but what you do when you are there.