By the time Brooklyn made their selection, the 29th in last week’s NBA draft, the booing from die-hard New York basketball fans had subsided, but the reasons hadn’t been forgotten. Thoughts of past heavily touted European draft picks who were busts came to mind.
Surprisingly, the Los Angeles Lakers had this draft’s second pick. The Miami Heat picked 10th. Michael Jordan, the Charlotte Hornets’ owner, not known for stellar draft choices, had the ninth. How successful would he be this time? How many top draft picks will the Philadelphia 76ers need to stop losing? Which team will draft the Rookie of the Year?
With their 29th pick, the Brooklyn Nets selected freshman Chris McCullough, an impressive but questionable 6-foot-10, 220-pound forward from Syracuse University.
Teams that pick when the most sought-after blue chip players are gone must find jewels in the rough, players overlooked, not on everyone’s radar. They take chances. General managers, the ones entrusted with this assignment, must be able to identify a player with value. On the other end, GMs with top picks don’t want to be the one to choose a bust, a drafted top player who doesn’t work out.
They’re like Berry Gordy building Motown or Simon Cowell choosing the next American Idol. They use buzz words and catch phrases such as “analytics,” “athleticism,” “culture,” “freakish” (which I hate), “game changer” and “runs the floor.”
When McCullough, from the Bronx, will be able to run the floor is the question, because of his torn ACL injury sustained midway through his Syracuse season. He’s currently rehabbing and mildly working out in hopes of being ready for Brooklyn’s training camp in the fall, but a definitive diagnosis has yet to be determined. “I should be able to play by November,” McCullough said. “But I’m not going to rush it.”
Billy King, Brooklyn’s GM, whose attention is now focused on free agency and a potential trade or two, was also able to make a thumbs-up deal, acquiring the Portland Trailblazers’ 23rd pick, small forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Arizona), and veteran point guard Steve Blake, for Brooklyn’s 41st pick, Pat Connaughton, and second-year center Mason Plumlee.