James’ opt-out announcement has at least made this NBA draft interesting

I know I’ve said it before, but I really don’t care for professional sports drafts. I don’t mean to belittle their importance to the sports themselves. Without the amateur drafts, we don’t have the next LeBron James or Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or Joey Votto or any of today’s current sports stars. Well, Aroldis Chapman was signed as a free-agent rookie. But today’s professional sports are dependent, for the most part, upon the amateur drafts.

The reason I don’t care that much about the drafts is the amount of hype and expectation that is placed upon the drafts themselves. Young kids barely out of college, sometimes high school, expected to be his teams savior. In the NFL’s case, seven rounds of picks often lead to nothing more than one or two players that if a team is lucky might make an impact that season. In the NBA, where there are only two rounds, the picks themselves can be more meaningful. But more often than not most team’s rosters are fairly well set once you get past the top five to eight picks.

In baseball and hockey, even a first round pick is never assured a place on the major league roster. In fact, many picks will never even see the inside of a major league locker room.

It often takes three years to determine whether or not a team’s draft was a successful one. But with today’s fans expectations, patience is something that some teams feel they cannot afford.

But this year’s NBA draft has now taken on a bit of intrigue. Will it be Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins that the Cleveland Cavaliers will take with the number one pick? Will this week’s revelations of Joel Embiid’s medical issues cause him to drop out of the top five or even out of the lottery altogether? Will IU’s Noah Vonleh be the next Victor Oladipo going high in the first round? How high up will former Hamilton Southeastern star Gary Harris be taken in the first round? This does have the makings of being one of the most talented drafts the NBA has had in recent memory.

LeBron James’ announcement this week that he was opting out of his contract with the Miami Heat and will become a free-agent has set the basketball world on its ear. All of a sudden, it has become Christmas in June with every NBA general manager making his list and checking it twice to see whether or not their team is nice enough to be the choice of the two-time NBA champion, two-time NBA finals MVP, four-time NBA most valuable player and 10 time NBA All-Star. Could we see teams starting to move players around trying to free up cap space in hopes of landing James?

Will the Cavaliers, who already have an outstanding point guard in Kyrie Irving, look for even more pieces to lure James back home? The thoughts of Parker or Wiggins joining Irving and James and who knows maybe even Kevin Love, would immediately vault Cleveland into front runners of a woefully pathetic NBA Eastern Conference. The Cavaliers pick itself promises to be full of intrigue. Will the Cavs take Parker, who is likely the best prepared to play at the next level, but who obviously does not have an affinity for playing for Cleveland? Could we have the NBA’s version of John Elway or Eli Manning?

There been other teams bandied about. The Clippers, Rockets, Nets and Knicks have all been mentioned at one time or another as teams that James would like to possibly play for. A move to any of these teams would likely keep a general manager up several nights, just computing all the salary and luxury tax implications that such a move might present. Indeed, in some cases like the Nets in the Knicks, it may not even be a realistic possibility.

But it also might make for some very interesting draft night decisions as teams look to rebuild rosters in such a way that maybe they can afford to build a team that might lure James their way.

If not, the talent alone in this year’s NBA draft might make some teams salivate at bringing in a young, fresh player. Teams like, oh, maybe the Pacers? The Pacers only have one pick in this year’s draft, and that doesn’t come until the second round at number 57. There’s already been some discussion about possibly moving starting point guard George Hill in a deal that could possibly net Larry Bird, a first-round draft pick.

Either way, James’ announcement this week might make Thursday night’s NBA draft something that even I will want to tune into.

By the way, I fully expect James to return to Miami. After all, the Heat have made the NBA Finals the past four consecutive seasons, winning two NBA titles along the way. Miami could still use another role player or two, but they would likely still be the favorite to win the East should James return. Something I believe the King knows himself.

 

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