As expected, Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams went one and two to Cleveland and Minnesota, respectively. After that, a parade of foreigners fell upon the NBA, with five in a row going from picks three to seven. [I’m counting Tristan Thompson, now the highest-drafted Canadian, as a foreigner, even though he’s got a standard player profile and big-conference collegiate experience.]
Kyrie Irving is essentially a preps-to-pros player, a high-upside teen who played only eleven games at the college level and was always considered a one-and-done type. His ceiling, according to scouts, could be as high as Chris Paul’s. If he does develop into a franchise-changing talent, Cleveland will have scored again with the No. 1 overall pick.
Derrick Williams, the only other potential franchise-changer, went No. 2. Due to the increased exposure, a few NBA pundits thought him to be the better pick than Irving. Nonetheless, he was a safe pick, though he goes to a Timberwolves team with a glut at forward. It might be tough for him to see a lot of minutes. But he’s certainly got the cocky attitude to believe he’ll always be the best player on the floor.
Even taking out my cheap trick of counting Thompson as a foreigner, having four of the top seven picks as unproven foreign players is a record and could herald a young-Euro fad similar to the high-schooler fad that peaked in 2004 before the age limit was put into place. These players are all potential-filled young big men. Despite the failure of highly touted Euros in the past like Andrea Bargnani, the GMs this year either found the risk to be worth the reward or considered it a very lackluster college class.
Tristan Thompson was actually the biggest surprise, going 4th overall to Cleveland. Brandon Knight, largely expected to go third or fourth, fell to eighth with Detroit. And it was unfortunate to see Jordan Hamilton of “my” Texas Longhorns, who many projected as a lottery pick, fall nearly out of the first round.
As happens many years, the New York faithful erupted with groans once their hometown team’s pick rolled around. While there were a few known commodities still on the board, the Knicks passed on the likes of Chris Singleton and Nolan Smith to pick up Iman Shumpert, a defense-first guard out of Georgia Tech. Interesting, if anything, but other unheralded Knicks picks have actually turned out as solid choices recently.