Just enjoy tonight. Enjoy it. The NBA Draft is a ton of fun. Not because highlights from Draft Express are fire (you’ve seen them 100x over already). Not because the New Era Draft Caps are felt this year. Not because you know who will be great. Not because you know will be terrible. What makes NBA Draft night fun is knowing the only thing you do know is how to boo mercilessly. That is what makes tonight fun: the unknown.
You don’t know who is going to make that wild trade that starts a rebuild (#TrustTheProcess). You don’t know which international prospect you have never heard of before will become a household name. You don’t know which top flight prospect is going to be out of the league in two years. You don’t know which second rounder is going to be a star like Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, or Gilbert Arenas. You don’t know what player is going to careen down the draft board last minute. You don’t know who’s going to get picked from out of nowhere (Hi, Anthony Bennett).
What makes the NBA Draft so much damn fun is you just don’t know.
Here at SLC Dunk we have written preview after preview on prospects. Having been here 10+ years, I can tell you I have no idea what makes a good NBA player before the draft. I’m pretty good at telling at Summer League where it becomes apparent really fast, but before the draft? No idea. Great college resume? Doesn’t matter. Or it completely matters. Age? Can’t be too old. Or maybe 24 gives them an advantage. Tweener? Perfect for today’s NBA. Or it’ll change in three years and render them useless. We just don’t know. It’s why it’s fun.
I remember seeing Rudy Gobert at the NBA Draft combine and having a scout casually say offhand, “Someone is going to make a big mistake and get the French Hasheem Thabeet.” I couldn’t blame him for the comment. Rudy had been horrendous at the Draft. His interviews with reporters highlighted a scared 20 year old man child in a 7 foot body. He looked lanky, uncoordinated, and slow. I didn’t want Utah to draft him. When Utah traded up for Trey Burke—WHO I LOVED—I thought that was the swing for the fences type of pick that would change the franchise. When Utah traded up for Gobert I didn’t think much of it, especially as Utah had both Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors.
Then I was proven wrong. That slow 7 footer I saw at the combine? He was nursing an injury (ingrown toenail that needed surgery) that he was worried to disclose. Once repaired he ran like a gazelle, had a knack for blocks, and jumped out of the gym. That scared kid? It was his first time in America and was translating English as he was speaking to us in his head. Nothing about his first trip over here was natural. Little did I know that Rudy came pre-equipped with a work ethic that didn’t quit. The chip on his shoulder was almost as tall as he was. By his second season he was starting to grow into his body and bully the Gasol brothers in international friendlies. Now he’s a two-time DPOY, two-time All-NBA Center, and one-time All-Star. He even qualified for a Supermax Contract. That was a #27 pick that a scout thought was the French Hasheem Thabeet.
Players I thought were going to be great turned out to be great. I loved Donovan Mitchell. I was bought in on him before he got to Utah. But it could be bias as anyone from the Midwest in Indiana or Kentucky got my vote (Carsen Edwards should be a Jazzman, don’t @ me).
Then other players I thought would be scrubs turned out to be great rotation players (Raul Neto), or players that I thought would be stars turned out to scrubs (Morris Almond). It’s so damn hit or miss.
The joy of the NBA Draft is not in the known, but the unknown. Whether the Jazz use the pick and draft a one in a million type player like Andrei Kirilenko or Deron Williams or push their chips to the center of the table and trade for George Hill or Mike Conley to get that extra umph in the playoffs. The NBA Draft is the perfect embodiment of why hope springs eternal in the NBA. One player in the NBA can change the fortune for an NBA team.
That happened when Utah drafted Donovan Mitchell. Without Mitchell, Utah wastes away in NBA purgatory post-Gordon Hayward. Hell, I thought Hayward was going to be a star when drafted. He didn’t come into his own until his 5th year. This whole NBA thing is crazy. It’s fun.
But one thing that isn’t unknown? How to guarantee a great Jazz draft pick when you’re worried that it’s the wrong. If you’re worried the Jazz picked the wrong player, or he doesn’t have the upside to become a star, boo the **** out of him. Trust me. It imbued on John Stockton and Gordon Hayward the ability to rise above the potential of average starter and become stars. In John Stockton’s case, the booing was so strong that some say it changed the chemistry of his DNA turning him into a Hall of Famer.
So have fun tonight. We have no idea which player is going to be great. We have no idea who is going to be terrible. We have no idea what is going to happen. But we do know we gotta boo the **** out of whoever the Jazz pick if we think they’re going to be terrible. Else how will they ever get the ability to make a name for themselves?