Offseason madness starts with the hope of the NBA Draft

BY foxsports • June 19, 2015

By Joseph Nardone

While others try mightily, through various means, only one team per season gets to the pinnacle of the NBA. Most recently, the Golden State Warriors and their plethora of talent, built mostly through the NBA draft, traveled to the mountaintop of the sport. Yet, that was so yesterday (or Tuesday). What have they done for us lately?

With the NBA Finals over, the offseason is now in full swing. Reports are coming of players opting in, opting out, and working with their current teams for possible trade-scenario exit strategies. Fan bases are beginning to salivate over the prospect of landing a potential future superstar in the NBA draft.

The draft is a weird, sometimes illogical, but always fun event. Every year fans, media members, and general managers will discuss the draft as if there are 30-plus franchise changers in the prospect pool. Despite the fact that almost all drafts average a handful of superstar-level players, it is the fan’s hope that his or her team will land the next Kevin Durant; the next role player to get their already-solid team over the top; or even a sleeper pick late in the draft, such as a Draymond Green or Tony Parker, who will become a stud over a short period of time, which makes a fan’s life perfect.

Most of that is unrealistic, but that’s okay. No one honestly knows which players are going to blossom when they reach the NBA. Year after year people project Player X to be “similar to {insert superstar}.” More often than not, the rookie ends up more closely resembling another ho-hum, run of the mill player (relatively speaking, of course). Seriously, if it were as easy to project as we all pretend, no general manager would ever be fired, and every NBA draft expert (or fan) would be on a team’s payroll.

What fuels the draft and makes it so fun, then? Hope.

Much as citizens wish they get the winning Powerball ticket, NBA fans invest a lot of emotion in the tiniest of tiny chances that their favorite team, whether selecting first or 20th, will transcend the more conventional wisdom which says the draftee will more likely be a back-end-of-the-bench player in the immediate future. Hope that a team will hit the draft jackpot is what keeps fans sane while the Sixers, T-Wolves, and Kings of the world are bottom-rung disasters in consecutive years.

It isn’t merely the potential of the prospects that has fans’ eyes glazing over as if they were about to fall in love for the first time. The endless scenarios that can play out before or during the NBA draft give rise to the hopes which flow through the league.

Depending on the draft, some are considered top-heavy while others are considered deep. Granted, the tenor of each draft usually changes multiple times throughout the college basketball season, and then leading up to the NBA draft itself. However, there’s generally a widely accepted viewpoint as to what every draft’s strengths and weaknesses are.

For the 2015 NBA Draft, it has three — now bordering on four — prospects that people feel can be pillars for franchises which are otherwise struggling. Fans whose teams have a pick in that range to land a Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell, or Kristaps Porzingis, are currently talking themselves into each possible player helping their team turn their fortunes around. Realistic or not, that glimmer of hope is helping them stay sane.

This year, such a dynamic applies even more for New York Knicks fans. Falling out of the top three thanks to some ping pong ball witchery, it was only a few weeks ago that many viewed New York’s fourth pick as having little value. Experts cited the top-three prospects as being the only potential game-changers in the NBA draft, with guys like Emmanuel Mudiay being viewed as intriguing, but not as favorably as the two bigs or Russell.

Then time happened. Mudiay is still viewed mostly favorable, yet his stock has hit a weird stage of limbo — not because he did something wrong, but because another guy’s value — Porzingis — has started to trend upward as if it were a Fortune 500 company going public for the first time.

Whether Porzingis ends up being the real deal or a figment of scouts’ imaginations, that shouldn’t really matter to New York fans. The rise of Porzingis’ stock signals an increased value in the Knicks’ draft pick, which provides management even more possibilities in the draft.

Now, thanks to the idea of Porzingis’ stock, the Knicks can hold firm, believe in their own scouting, then select whoever they feel is the best player left with the fourth pick, or they can shop the pick for more immediately helping assets. Either way, Knicks fans have even more reasons to feel optimistic heading into the draft — the more avenues available to get the franchise back on track the better, right? Right.

There is also the idea of the draft having a plethora of quality power forward prospects. Despite Golden State winning an NBA title going 6’8″ and smaller for a large part of the Finals, and everyone being pretty much in agreement that big-man-ball isn’t as valued as it used to be, there are a slew of guys who can immensely improve a team’s frontcourt.

Especially for those needing help at power forward but not drafting close enough to the top, it’s a good thing that the frontcourt talent in this draft isn’t predicted to be limited to Towns, Okafor, and Porzingis. Willie Cauley-Stein, Myles Turner, Frank Kaminsky, Bobby Portis, Trey Lyles, Montrezl Harrell, Kevon Looney, and even Robert Upshaw are all going to be available for most teams within the first round.

Whether all, only a few, or none of them end up being good doesn’t matter. Not today, at least. It is simply the idea that a team drafting between 10-15 can draft a Bobby Portis, slot him into the starting lineup, only for him to exceed even the highest expectations set on him, and help a team get over the hump — THAT is what is fun about the NBA draft.

Let me be clear: There is nothing wrong with doing this as a fan, either. Get your hopes up; convince yourself that George de Paula will become the next big thing; conjure trade scenarios which involve your favorite team magically landing the sixth overall pick for Ty Lawson; or any other thing that will help stabilize your offseason woes.

The NBA draft is nearing. Mock drafts will be coming out in bunches, player profiles will be written which make every prospect as alluring as it is to see a wonderful member of the opposite sex smile at you. Mix-tapes will watched which make every single prospect look as a good as Michael Jordan.

Enjoy it, everyone. Enjoy it now before the reality sets in … the reality being that very few of these players will end up being impactful; even fewer of the trade scenarios will happen; and we will all use hindsight to declare our brilliance four years down the line anyway.

With the NBA Finals over, it is officially draft season. Hope springs eternal … yes, even for fans of a team owned by James Dolan.

Hope, as you know, is a very potent and dangerous thing.

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