Thursday night, I attended the NBA Draft with The Longest View’s Executive Curator of Takes, Connor Grabowski. I had never been to the Draft before, so I was unsure of what to expect. Would watching Adam Silver (and Mark Tatum) read names be worth the drive to Brooklyn?
I arrived in Brooklyn around 6:45 PM and drove past the Barclays Center to find a parking spot. Afraid that I would miss the Sixers pick if I didn’t get into the building by 7, I parked in what I think was a bus stop.
After jogging half of a mile back to the Barclays Center, I found out that the Sixers selection of Fultz would not be announced for another 20 minutes. With some time to kill, I paid Timofey Mozgov’s salary by spending $19 on wings and a soda.
The first two picks were predictable, but received huge reactions from the crowd, especially Lonzo Ball. He and his family commemorated the big night by donning Big Baller Brand ties and refusing to wear the complimentary Los Angeles Lakers hats.
The entertainment value of the rest of the lottery came in the form of suspense and and shocking blunders.
The Celtics, Suns, and Kings all made smart picks in Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson, and DeAaron Fox. The Magic chose Jonathan Isaac, which puzzled me. Isaac plays the same position as and projects to fill a similar role to Aaron Gordon. I would have liked Orlando to take a player with more star potential, like Malik Monk or Dennis Smith, Jr.
At some point during the first few picks, Chicago traded Jimmy Butler and the 16th pick to Minnesota for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and the 7th pick. At the time, I was too engrossed in the draft to think about it, but that was an awful trade by the Bulls. To make things worse, GarPax reached for Arizona forward Lauri Markannen at No. 7. The best players available were guards like Monk, Smith, and Frank Ntilikina, but the Bulls had already traded for LaVine and Dunn.
I could barely hear the rest of the arena’s reaction to the Markannen pick because I was shouting, “NOOOOO,” so loudly myself. On the ESPN broadcast, Jalen Rose compounded the Bulls’ humiliation by comparing Markannen to Channing Frye.
The Knicks were up next. I was sure that they would take Malik Monk, but Phil opted for French point guard Frank Ntilikina instead. The pick was surprising, but not necessarily bad, and the arena reaction was mostly positive.
With the Knicks passing on Monk, the stars had aligned for Monk and Fox to reunite in Sacramento. The Mavs chose Smith 9th, as expected, and the Kings were on the clock.
Out of nowhere, Vlade and Vivek took Zach Collins, and I lost my mind. This is worse than the Bulls taking Markannen, I thought. Soon, I learned that the Blazers had given up the 15th and 20th picks to move up and select Collins. Portland knew that Collins would not be available past No. 11, where Charlotte Hornets owner and white big man enthusiast Michael Jordan surely would have taken him.
Even though the Kings traded for an extra pick, the fact that they passed up a backcourt of Fox and Monk dumbfounded me. Finally, Sacramento caught a break, and they still screwed it up. Jordan’s affinity for Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky allowed him to steal Monk for Charlotte.
After the lottery ended, the picks carried less importance, so the Draft as an event became the real entertainment.
Rick Kamla and Dennis Scott of NBA TV analyzed the picks on the jumbotron. I do not have statistical evidence to prove this, but Kamla thought every pick was an absolute steal and could start next season. Sorry Rick, but Kyle Kuzma (later traded to Brooklyn) is not the missing piece that kept the Lakers from making the playoffs last year.
Also, Smith and Kamla were either unaware or not allowed to talk about trades, so they kept interviewing draftees about the wrong teams. Finally, after Kamla asked Justin Jackson about how he would fit in with the Blazers, Jackson corrected him and rerouted the question towards Sacramento.
The NBA also hired emcee Ally Love for the night. Think Christian Crosby if he looked like a female Kelly Oubre. The most memorable of Love’s segments was a game where a face swap would appear on the jumbotron, and she would ask fans to guess which two celebrities’ faces were mashed together. Also, the two people would always have one name in common. For example, the correct answer for the photo of Lebron James’s face with James Corden’s head and hair would be “Lebron James Corden.” Love played this game at least after every other pick, and it kind of started to weird me out.
By the second round, Smith and Kamla were out of content. The few spectators still in the Barclays Center were treated to “Robot Cam” on the jumbotron, where Smith did the robot dance for around a minute, never allowing any fans to share the spotlight.
Connor and I were able to move to the front row, where we could watch up close second round picks appear out of the stands and shake hands with Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum. We shouted at The Vertical’s Shams Charania, trying to figure out what the Sixers were getting in return for Jawun Evans. He responded with the Johnny Manziel money celebration, signaling that Evans had been traded for cash.
By the time the Sixers selected Mathias Lessort 50th overall, the only people left in the Barclays Center were media and a small contingent of loyal fans. If you rewatch the ESPN broadcast, you can see The Longest View celebrating the Lessort pick.
All in all, watching the NBA Draft in person was a great experience. Our goal is to get press passes next year, so we can be closer to action and tell our readers better stories.