Not all are thinking small
Size is still important to many in the NBA, Ben Bolch writes.
Small ball was supposed to be all the rage in the NBA after the Golden State Warriors benched center Andrew Bogut on the way to their first championship in 40 years.
A bevy of big men poked their heads back into the proceedings Thursday night, showing that size is still king in the minds of many team executives.
Seven of the first 12 players selected in the league draft at Barclays Center in New York were 6 feet 10 or taller, with five of the picks 7- footers.
The Minnesota Timberwolves took 7- foot Karl-Anthony Towns with the top pick, as expected, before the Philadelphia 76ers selected 6- 11 Jahlil Okafor with the third pick even though they already had 7- foot Joel Embiid and 6- 11 Nerlens Noel, prompting Embiid to tweet, “OK……. Lol.”
The Lakers bucked the trend, picking point guard D’Angelo Russell second, though it came only as a prelude to their pursuit of big men Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge in free agency.
The Sacramento Kings added a 7- footer in center Willie Cauley- Stein with the sixth pick despite having an All- Star incumbent at his position in DeMarcus Cousins. Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and executive Vlade Divac have denied rumors that Cousins would be traded at the behest of Coach George Karl, whose future in Sacramento seems far more tenuous.
The other bigs to go in the lottery were 7- foot Kristaps Porzingis ( taken fourth by the New York Knicks), 7- 1 Frank Kaminsky ( taken ninth by the Charlotte Hornets), 7- foot Myles Turner ( taken 11th by the Indiana Pacers) and 6- 10 Trey Lyles ( taken 12th by the Utah Jazz).
Giants ruling the night was a fitting homage to Harvey Pollack, the late 76ers statistical guru who wrote “100” on a piece of paper in 1962 and handed it to Wilt Chamberlain, resulting in the NBA’s most iconic photo of one of its most legendary big men. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver honored Pollack, the league’s last remaining employee from its inception before he died Tuesday at 93, with a tribute before the draft.
It was also a big night for the sons of two former longtime NBA players. Jerian Grant, whose father Harvey spent 11 years in the league, was drafted by the Washington Wizards with the 19th pick and traded to the New York Knicks. That means Jerian will get to play for Knicks President Phil Jackson, the former coach of Jerian’s uncle Horace with the Chicago Bulls.
The Lakers selected Larry Nance Jr., the son of the springy forward by the same name who once bested Julius Erving in the slamdunk contest, with the 27th pick.
The quote of the night belonged to Cameron Payne, the point guard from Murray State who channeled baseball Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson by referring to himself in the third person.
“There’s no ceiling for Cameron Payne,” he said after being taken No. 14 by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Fashion suffered a setback, no matter how much bow tie prodigy Moziah Bridges, 13, gushed during the ESPN broadcast. Three of the top four picks wore reddish jackets, looking more like ticket takers at your local AMC Theatre than millionaires in the making.
Rondae Hollis- Jefferson took things a step further by donning a pair of red plaid pants to go with his dark jacket, providing an unsightly visual for Brooklyn Nets fans getting their first look at the forward from Arizona whom the Nets acquired in a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Barring a trade, Minnesota will hold the rare distinction of having three No. 1 picks on its roster in Towns, Andrew Wiggins ( 2014) and Anthony Bennett ( 2013). The Lakers matched that haul of draft dandies during its “Showtime” era with Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Mychal Thompson.
Kentucky ruled among college teams, having four players go in the lottery. Three were big men, staying true to the theme of the night.
KARL- Anthony Towns’ name was called f irst.
KRISTAPS PORZINGIS of Latvia was selected fourth overall by the New York Knicks. Porzingis, 7 feet, was one of seven big men among the f irst 12 picks.
WILLIE CAULEY- STEIN, 7 feet, of Kentucky was drafted sixth overall by the Sacramento Kings.