In one way it appears the 2013 NBA Draft broke just right for the Phoenix Suns. In another way, it didn’t.
To listen to new GM Ryan McDonough and new coach Jeff Hornacek, Maryland center Alex Len would have been their pick even if every Ping Pong ball had aligned and the Suns had their pick of the litter. And there were rumors in the week leading up to Thursday night that other teams, including Cleveland at No. 1, had Len on their radar.
But different cities have different agendas. The Cavaliers are picking with an eye toward a possible reunion with LeBron James, who can opt out of his contract next summer. Any idea what teams like Wizards and Bobcats are doing? They have top-5 picks every year. How is that working for them?
Drafting a 20-year-old, 7-foot-1 athletic Ukrainian with plenty of room to improve makes sense on a lot of levels, but the Suns have so turned off their fan base in the last three years by dismantling a winning and popular team and replacing it with a group that is neither successful nor endearing. A No. 5 pick in the draft afforded an opportunity to throw a bone to the populace.
That’s why it would have been better for the Suns if both Victor Oladipo and Ben McLemore had been off the board by No. 5. Nerlens Noel had already fallen — New Orleans took him to trade him at No. 6 and Philadelphia overpaid for him — but McLemore was an instant impact guy who would have given the upcoming season some sizzle.
Orlando, on a similar track as the Suns — recent stars and success are gone and starting from square one — now have Oladipo highlights to sell to their fans. Suns fans will have to hope for steady improvement from Len and a decent return from a possible Marcin Gortat trade while watching McLemore four times each year as Sacramento continues to improve.
Draftniks agreed that there wasn’t a superstar in the draft, but they also were universally unimpressed with Len among the top 10 picks, making him a risky reach for an organization with fences to mend. And this organization has a long and storied history of drafting big men who flamed out, from William Bedford to Armen Gilliam to Jake Tsakalidis to Robin Lopez.
Here’s hoping Len pans out. Here’s hoping that Gortat yields some important assets or affords the Suns a chance to dump some of the dead weight on the current roster. When they have a chance to hit a home run next June in a draft that has more impact players, let’s hope they are well-positioned to pounce.
Nothing they did Thursday should get in the way of that.
Well, now we know why Doc Rivers bolted Boston for Los Angeles. Say this for Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov: the guy is willing to make a leap.
Thursday’s trade that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn gives the Nets a window — however slight, aged and creaky — to challenge the Miami Heat and the best in the East. Garnett, Pierce, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez are a daunting starting five and there are plenty of free agents who wouldn’t mind joining Jason Terry on that bench. New coach Jason Kidd will feel right at home with so many former All-Star teammates in his huddle and won’t have to do too much coaching with a veteran and battle-tested core.
The Celtics get three first-round picks and oodles of cap space and a chance to build a team around Rajon Rondo, who was never a Rivers favorite to begin with. General manager Danny Ainge gets a chance to roll up his sleeves and build another winner, a task he will relish.
Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.