CREAM OF THE CROP
Move over, or go away, Gilbert Arenas. There's no doubt that University of Kentucky freshman John Wall goes No. 1 to the Washington Wizards, making him the point guard of the future for a franchise desperately needing a shot of good fortune. Beyond that, though, Thursday's NBA Draft is nothing at all like last year's, when points ruled the roost. After two big men (Blake Griffin, Hasheem Thabeet) and two shooting guards (James Harden, Tyreke Evans) went, there was a run on points. Four went with the next six picks. Johnny Flynn, Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings all were awfully good NBA rookies; Ricky Rubio stayed in Spain, but could be an NBA star before all's done. Denver's Ty Lawson, another dandy, went at No. 18. This time, no point besides Wall is likely to go in the top-10. This year's next-best two are Kentucky's Eric Bledsoe, who often slid to shooting guard because of Wall's presence in the Wildcat backcourt, and Texas' Avery Bradley, really more of a combo guard. Both were one-and-done. But just one may go in the lottery, perhaps 13th to Toronto.
USA Basketball/Olympic point Deron Williams is the man in Utah. The 2005 draft's No. 3 overall pick appeared in his first NBA All-Star Game this year, and — barring injury — should play many more. The Jazz drafted Virginia Commonwealth point Eric Maynor 20th in last year's first round, then traded him before Christmas to lessen their luxury-tax hit. Williams was backed up thereafter mostly by undrafted combo guard Ronnie Price. The Utah Valley product has one year left on his contract. The Jazz's No. 3 point late last season was undrafted rookie Sundiata Gaines, plucked from Idaho of the NBA Development League. He didn't play much, but will be remembered for a buzzer-beating 3-pointer against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers — perhaps Utah's top regular-season highlight. The Jazz have a not-fully-guaranteed option on Gaines' contract for next season, but he may have to win his roster spot with a strong showing during summer-league play next month.
The Jazz have no plans whatsoever to take a point guard at No. 9. Wall will be long gone, and it's deemed too high for Bledsoe or Bradley. But Utah did bring Bradley in for a workout, and could consider him in the 20s should they acquire a second first-round pick. If so, Gaines will be challenged. Other possibilities with their No. 55 pick in the second round include Duke combo guard Jon Scheyer and Cal's Jerome Randle. Both auditioned recently in Utah.
Utah State's Jared Quayle, a scoring point, also had a workout in front of Jazz brass. But he won't get drafted, and can only hope for a summer-league camp invite.
The Wizards goof and take Jon Scheyer instead of John Wall. No one notices until it's the Jazz's turn to pick at No. 9, and Utah gets the steal of the draft. Talk about a sleeper. Then, though, it's up to Jerry Sloan to figure out how to make things work with Wall and Deron Williams in the same backcourt. Good luck with that one.