The NBA Draft National Holiday

. Thursday, June 25, 2009
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So today is the NBA draft...and I've done a terrible job keeping up on the prospects, so I'm taking time to do that today...and of course watch "Who Wants to be a Basketball Millionaire" with some other basketball minded folks...

Unfortunately, I didn't get to write any draft analysis this year as I would have wanted. But fortunately, I did find a pretty good analysis for the only NBA team that really matters in my universe:

The Golden State Warriors.

Tim Kawakami has a pretty good breakdown of what the Warriors are thinking of doing with their annual lottery pick (which always seems to be just low enough to avoid getting any top tier talent. Wouldn't want any of that. Might interfere with the losing.).

But a few weeks ago, I did start writing my feelings about the draft... it's not even complete... but if I don't post it now it will just waste away on the hard drive...

So here that is...

(Good luck to your favorite NBA team or NCAA player tonight...)

I happen to hold this irrational belief that everyone values the draft as much as I do.

And if they don’t value it, they certainly respect it.

Sort of like a national holiday – it’s observed widely, respected as sacred, and even if you don’t believe in it, you know it would politically incorrect to ridicule it.

That is, until I bring it up with friends that I assume would want to watch it.

A few years back, a sociologist friend told me, “I’m not going to watch a multi-million dollar slave trade.” (Point taken)

Just a few days ago, when I mentioned it to two friends while shooting pool, one friend responded that he’s not that much of a die-hard fan and the other snickered with a faux- perplexed look and said, “Wait that’s an actual event? Like something people watch?”

OK, so perhaps I’m a draft junkie.

As a Bay Area native and long-time Warriors fan, the draft seems to provide a glimmer of false hope. There is this completely absurd assumption stuck in my mind that the Warriors can’t help but acquire some kind of talent with a top 10 lottery pick. If insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results, this draft day love affair might be more of a serious impairment than I thought.

But aside from the fact that the Warriors are spiraling downward with no end to their lottery misery in sight, the allure of the draft extends well beyond the Warriors in my mind.

I remember the player that made me a draft junkie much more clearly than I remember the particular draft.

The player was Nick Van Exel, by far one of my favorite college players ever.

How a high school kid from the Bay Area keeps their passion for Nick Van Exel when all about him others are losing their minds over Jason Kidd is beyond me. Maybe it was that silly adolescent quest to be different. Maybe it was Van Exel’s flair that caught my eye. Really, I have absolutely no idea. And it doesn’t matter.

What mattered is that I was sure Van Exel would be a lottery pick.

The only thing conceivably more satisfying than seeing Van Exel in the lottery would have been Van Exel on my beloved Warriors, who needed a point guard (this of course has been the standard narrative in Warriors-land since Tim Hardaway went down to injury in 1993).

It was not that I had done a thorough assessment of team needs or gone through any kind of scientific process to determine that Van Exel was destined for greatness. It was just that Van Exel had to be good. He was Nick Van Exel…in my naïve mind the best point guard ever to play for Cincinnati (sooo not true). How on earth could anyone pass on my favorite college player?

Draft night came and Van Exel went in the second round. He didn’t cry like Rashard Lewis did, but if he had, I would have cried right along with him… it was tragic.

Of course, he got drafted by the Lakers, which was good because it revived my interest in a team that I followed closely in the 80’s. I didn’t think he would be the next Magic Johnson – that would be absurd – but I was quite sure that he’d end up single-handedly rescuing the franchise.

His first game in his rookie year only confirmed my naïve belief that Nick “The Quick” would quickly become a household name. Though I can’t find the numbers to confirm it, I remember him dropping something like 28 points in his first game in the Forum. Of course, aside from a nice playoff run with the Mavs and being cited in a Jay-Z line, his career ended up being something of a disappointment for me… but that’s what happens when unreasonable expectations are set.

And that only made my hunger to follow the draft grow. If those idiot GMs missed on Van Exel, certainly they must be missing others. It was sort of like a fun game to look at the stats, watch the players in college and figure out if they’d be good.

Of course, the idiot GMs aren’t the only ones who were blatantly wrong – I’ve been wrong quite often: Brevin Knight? Mateen Cleaves? Ha. Or for that matter, anyone from the 2000 draft? I’ve been wrong often… but each year I go back for more punishment. I say punishment mostly because the Warriors are just destined to be bad except for one year every decade. I need to just accept that.

So this year, I am refusing to get my hopes up. The Warriors will pick someone, he will likely get screwed around by those running the organization, and we’ll be right back in the lottery five years from now looking for another savior.

And I’ll still be watching.

Update: In case you're interested, Van Exel dropped 23 in his first game in a win against the Suns (h/t Kevin Pelton).