Long-time observers of the NBA Draft are calling Thursday night’s proceedings the craziest ever, and as usual in the John Calipari era, Kentucky played a part.
Only this year, the Wildcats didn’t produce the No. 1 overall pick. Nerlens Noel was the consensus choice in the mock drafts, but the Cleveland Cavaliers had other ideas, going instead for UNLV’s Anthony Bennett. And even though the word was that there was no way Noel would fall past the No. 2 pick owned by Orlando, he dropped all the way to No. 7, where, for a few mind-numbing minutes, he was paired with last year’s top pick, Anthony Davis, in New Orleans.
How would anyone get a shot off against the Pelicans with those two shot blockers on the floor at the same time? Before anyone could ponder that possibility, Noel was on the move again, traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, where he will be joined by former AAU teammate, Michael Carter-Williams, the Syracuse point guard.
Obviously, NBA general managers were more concerned about the ACL injury Noel suffered last February than was commonly known. That made the first couple hours of draft night more compelling than anticipated.
Other SEC draft picks
Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was also involved in a bit of draft intrigue. It was widely speculated that the Minnesota Timberwolves, in need of a shooting guard, coveted KCP and wanted to use the No. 9 pick to get him. But before they could, the Detroit Pistons grabbed him at No. 8, where he’ll team with former Kentucky guard Brandon Knight.
In the process, the Pistons passed on Michigan point guard Trey Burke, even though pre-draft speculation indicated they wanted to move Knight off the ball and draft a point guard.
Just as Kentucky coach John Calipari said, guard Archie Goodwin, who defied conventional wisdom to declare for the draft only to have his stock apparently fall into the second round, was drafted in the first round, but he endured a wild ride, too. He was originally taken with the 29th pick by the Oklahoma Thunder before being traded to the Golden State Warriors, who then dealt him to the Phoenix Suns, who took to Twitter to proclaim they’d pulled off one of the steals of the draft.
Goodwin, at 18 the youngest American player in the draft, has requisite NBA athleticism and explosiveness around the basket. And Calipari said on Monday that Goodwin’s lack of a consistent jump shot wouldn’t hurt his draft stock as much as draft analysts thought. Cal was right.
The two Kentucky players and Pope were the only two SEC players taken in the first round after a 2012 Draft where eight league players became first-round picks.
Second round surprises
That left some intrigue for the second round. Florida face-up four man Erik Murphy was the first league player taken, by the Chicago Bulls at No. 49, and for a few anxious minutes he seemed as though he would be the only one, until a Missouri player got picked at No. 57 by the Phoenix Suns. Only it wasn’t point guard Phil Pressey, it was power forward Alex Oriakhi, whose name appeared in no one’s mock draft.
That left a handful of SEC players on the outside looking in. But before day broke on Friday, Pressey had already signed a free agent deal with the Boston Celtics.
Two Arkansas players found themselves scrambling. Guard B.J. Young, who left with two years of eligibility remaining, and Marshawn Powell, a redshirt junior who could have returned in 2013-14, weren’t chosen. Young’s lack of a consistent jump shot may have doomed him, and Powell’s history of injuries—broken hand, broken foot, torn ACL in his right knee—and his tweener size worked against him.