Maybe you’re among those fans whose favorite NBA team is a lost cause, so now you’re hoping your team tanks it to secure an early pick in the next draft.
Be careful what you wish for.
The NBA draft is a crapshoot. Take the 2013 draft, for instance — and keep it. “It’s a horrible rookie class,” says the Deseret News’ NBA beat writer Jody Genessy.
Let’s put it this way: It’s never a good thing when the first pick of the entire draft, Cleveland’s Anthony Bennett, tells a newspaper (in this case, the Akron Beacon Journal), “I’m still clueless about this whole thing.”
So are many of his peers. Of the top 12 players drafted, five of them are averaging five or fewer points per game and, as of this week, two of them haven’t played a minute because of injuries. Only three of the top 12 draftees are averaging double figures in scoring — the second, ninth and 11th picks.
One of those was Trey Burke, picked ninth by Minnesota, which of course means eight teams passed on him. The Jazz traded their two first-round picks to Minnesota to obtain Burke — Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng (the 14th and 21st picks of the draft, respectively). It turned out to be one of the most astute moves of the draft.
Muhammad has played in just 11 games and is averaging less than four minutes of playing time to go with his 1.1 scoring average. He is being sent to the Developmental League for a couple of games. As for Dieng, his numbers are a little better: 1.4 points, 1.9 rebounds, 5.4 minutes per game.
Burke might well be the Rookie of the Year despite missing the first 12 games of the season with a broken finger. He is averaging 13.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 5.2 assists a game, and he’s made a difference in the performance of his team. The Jazz started the season 1-15, with Burke missing 12 of those games. Since then they are 10-10.
He is definitely the exception in a meager draft crop. To wit: The first dozen picks of the 2013 NBA Draft:
1. Anthony Bennett (Cleveland) — He’s averaging about two points and two rebounds in 11 minutes of play while shooting 28 percent from the field. Bennett is contending for Worst First Pick in Decades.
2. Victor Oladipo (Orlando) — One of the few solid rookies in the class, he’s averaging 13 points and four rebounds a game while shooting 41 percent from the field.
3. Otto Porter (Washington) — Sidelined for nearly three months with a hip injury, he has played in 14 games and averages two points and two rebounds.
4. Cody Zeller (Charlotte) — The 7-footer has played in every game, averaging five points and four rebounds a game.
5. Alex Len (Phoenix) — Another 7-footer, he’s been struggling with a surgically repaired ankle and played in just four games. His averages: two points, two rebounds.
6. Nerlens Noel (New Orleans) — Traded to Philadelphia, he is recovering from the knee surgery he underwent in March. He is expected to miss the season.
7. Ben McLemore (Sacramento) — He’s playing a solid 25 minutes a game, averaging 8.4 points.
8. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Detroit) — The numbers speak for themselves: 23.6 minutes per game, 7.1 points, 2.1 rebounds.
9. Trey Burke (Utah) — Averaging almost 14 points a game, he was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for December. He still has his ups and downs like most rookies, but he always seems to answer a poor outing. During one five-game stretch in December, he scored 20, 2, 30, 3 and 20 points, respectively. The 30-point outing included seven rebounds and eight assists.
10. C.J. McCollum (Portland) — In training camp, he broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot for the second time in six months and didn't make his NBA debut until this week (a four-point outing). He played in two D League games to prepare for his return.
11. Michael Carter-Williams (Philadelphia) — So far, he is the star of the rookie class after 10 teams passed on him. He is averaging 17.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game in 24 contests (he missed seven games with a skin infection). He had a triple-double — 27 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists — in an overtime win against Orlando.
12. Steven Adams (Oklahoma) — Another 7-footer who has been largely invisible, averaging four points and four rebounds a game.
NBA general managers would have had better luck with their draft picks if they had consulted a palm reader or thrown darts at a draft board while wearing a blindfold. Seven of the top eight picks, all selected ahead of Burke, have been non-factors for their teams.
As this season reaffirmed, a losing team is guaranteed a high draft pick — but not necessarily a game-changing player.
Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: [email protected]