NBA Draft Story Lines Power Rankings
The NBA Draft exists for one and one reason alone: to distribute the hottest young talent in the basketball industry among American pro franchises. It does so in the most fair, and flexible, way possible; the draft is a business transaction with funny formal wear. But it's also a time for storylines. We tell stories about where these prospects have been, getting our hands dirty with human interest; we interpret their often skimpy resumes; and we project into the future how they will transform our teams or destroy themselves. As much as we try to make sense of tonight's picks with boards and mocks, without stories, we'd all be sunk.
With that in mind, NBA FanHouse is proud to present the first, and maybe only ever, NBA Draft Storylines Power Rankings.
1. The Galactus-Sized Uncertainty, Terror, Sadness, and Fear Surrounding DeMarcus Cousins
Cousins himself may be saying he's the best player in the draft. He's saying it, even if it isn't true. But at this point, Cousins practically has to be his own best advocate, a lone voice in the wilderness crying out about all he achieved in his year at Kentucky. You've got to figure that former teammate John Wall, who is the best player in the draft and the top pick, is sympathetic to his cause.
Cousins might well be the second-best player in the draft, or at least could be, or is doomed to not be no matter how hard he tries, or is a ticking time-bomb, or has fooled us all, or is a victim of the basketball-industrial complex, or just lucked out and got to play with Wall. He could go anywhere from two to seven, and yet no one, not even Wall, has generated more ink -- or been a window out onto more issues -- than DeMarcus Cousins. Everyone wants a piece of him and everyone hates themselves for it; at the same time, everyone fears missing out if they bet against him.
2. John Wall and Journalistic Ethics
Wall has lost some buzz over the last few months. I have a theory that it's Rajon Rondo's fault. When Rondo took that next leap into stardom in these playoffs, the "best point guard in the NBA" discussion got awfully crowded. Deron Williams tore it up for two rounds; Steve Nash remained an ageless wonder; and Chris Paul just wasn't around to make his case. Factor in that rookie class of 2009, with its glut of promising guards, and it makes the title kind of meaningless, and takes some of the fun Wall coming to the NBA. Point guards aren't the new center, they're the new air we breathe.
But Wall has managed to stay relevant thanks to Eric Prisbell's expansive Washington Post profile, in which the soon-to-be rookie learned just how checkered his father's past was. Many folks had questions about the way in which Wall learned this info -- and maybe whether he needed to learn it at all. Kudos to Prisbell for addressing the concerns head-on, in both a WaPo chat and to Mike Prada of Bullets Forever.
3. Greivis Vasquez: Our Enemies Are Our Friends Are Our Enemies Are Our Friends
It was a really huge deal when Iranian center Hamedi Haddadi joined up with the Memphis Grizzlies for a spell. Hell, it was like Oslo all over again when Haddadi almost played in the same game as Omri Casspi. It's raised some awkward situations when Chinese NBA players refuse to serve their totalitarian masters, but no one likes to admit that China's a Communist dictatorship.
Greivis Vasquez, the Maryland All-American guard, was born and raised in Venezuela before moving to the states during high school. Venezuela is run by strongman Hugo Chavez, a socialist trying to bring together all of Latin America into one big oil cartel that antagonizes America. He is a problem. Vasquez could very well be the first citizen of a certifiably anti-American nation to be taken in the first round (Lithuanians from the eighties don't count, duh) While no one's questioning Vasquez's love of this country, he's also a proud Venezuelan who played on that country's national team -- the kind of figure who makes it a lot trickier to write off whole nations as the enemy.
4. Wesley Johnson's Four-Year Plan
He's a hyper-athletic wing who runs hot and cold, specializes in rim-smelting dunks and long threes, and has climbed draft boards as if through his own kinetic energy. Anyone who watches Wes Johnson play comes away electrified and frustrated, fairly certain that he could develop into a prototypical slasher in the NBA, or at very least a thrilling second option. And yet despite the charisma of his play, part of you wonders if he's actually got enough to work with, or needs to learn a little more to be effective at the next level.
It sounds like we're talking about a one-and-done, maybe a precocious high schooler like the rookie J.R. Smith (some of us still mourn the Paul/Smith backcourt that was supposed to reign for a thousand years in New Orleans). Except Johnson is 22 years old, played three years of college ball, and isn't very often described as raw or limited. Think of all the coaching he received. All the endless hours of practice, advice, and mentoring. Actually, Johnson started out with two seasons at Iowa State before transferring to Syracuse, which means he had four years total on a university campus. Think how many opportunities he had to discover what it meant to be an adult.
Johnson's game has shape to it, but there's something missing. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. However, he is murder on proponents of the age limit. He reminds us that it's just a number, that development is relative, and that teams are only so concerned with a player's being too old or too young -- or, for that matter, with what he did or didn't pick up in college.
5. Guerilla Branding Tactics With Mr. Jordan Crawford
Jordan Crawford will probably end up going late in the first round, but his name rings out like no one's in the draft, save for Wall's. In fact, it did before most people had ever seen Crawford play basketball. And in this business, especially when you're trying to get noticed as a borderline prospect, and then find your way into the first round, branding is everything. The Xavier guard earned instant notoriety when he dunked on LeBron James during a pick-up game at Bron's summer camp in 2009. Nike, or James's people, or maybe the CIA, attempted to confiscate all recordings of this unthinkable event. The story went nuts on the internet, and was easily the greatest marketing campaign Nike never dreamt up.
Unfortunately, it wasn't a creative ruse, but a public relations blunder that brought James exactly the kind of notoriety his Highness doesn't need. When video did emerge, and turned out to be no big deal, it only made the whole thing sillier. Luckily for Crawford, though, it might him a household name overnight. By the time he was knocking down every shot in sight in an epic 2OT loss to Kansas State, it felt like a prophecy fulfilled (since all things attached to LeBron are part of a divine plan, right?). Of course the guy who dunked on James so badly that James didn't want it getting out had to be this good.