Why the NBA Draft Was Less Dramatic Than Expected

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The 2018 NBA draft went off without a hitch, as almost every expectation was met on Thursday night. The Phoenix Suns made Deandre Ayton the No. 1 pick, with Marvin Bagley III, Trae Young, Luka Doncic and Jaren Jackson Jr. following soon after.

And while it had to be nice for players to land in their desired spots, this year’s event was low on dramatics. On the Open Floor podcast, Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver consider that and explain why this year featured fewer fireworks than years past. 

Ben Golliver: The losers are us. I mean we’re all losers. That was a waste of time. 

Andrew Sharp: Well, the losers are definitely you and I. We just spent four hours yelling at each other on video. 

Golliver: What I’m saying is how many people do you think watched once we got to like pick 16 and there was no major trades and no real rumbles of major trades. Don’t you think the TV ratings went down? 

Sharp: Yeah, and we kind of ran into this with the Finals a little bit, where I think NBA media and the conversation around basketball has never been more entertaining and consistently engaging. But there’s so much energy poured into talking about this stuff that sometimes you kind of feel the air let out of the room when an event fails to deliver, and that happened tonight. All week long you had various writers and people in the know saying this is an unpredictable draft, it could go in a lot of different directions, things could get really wild. And that never really happened, and that’s OK. It’s totally fine. 

Golliver: Don’t blame the people who thought that because sometimes stuff just doesn’t materialize. I guess my point is I always got angry when you tried to say the NBA playoffs are boring and pushed back against it, especially in the Finals because of the incredible individual performances we got to see there. To me, if you’re going to harp on anything being boring, it was a draft night where the one interesting trade, basically Atlanta and Dallas, everybody knew it was going to happen on Tuesday. 

Sharp: I don’t know about Tuesday but it was tipped. This afternoon we started to hear rumblings and it made a lot of sense for both sides and we’ll get to that. In terms of the relative calm elsewhere, I think one of the things that was driving the lack of action on Thursday night was probably that everybody is kind of in a holding pattern until Kawhi and LeBron start to move and things become clearer on that front. I mean it’s just hard. Teams with assets would be stupid to sort of push their chips into the middle until the guys at the top of the league make their decisions, and I think in some ways that kind of put a cap on what could’ve happened tonight. 

Golliver: I totally understand people who get fed up with us for making everything about LeBron. All roads lead back to LeBron and what’s the most guaranteed traffic you can do? Write a column on LeBron. How many times did we write LeBron columns over the last two months? Every other day? I do think that the stagnation in this draft is all about people positioning for LeBron and the responses to LeBron. We saw the same thing in 2014. The NBA was just at a standstill, nobody was signing, everybody was waiting, the dominoes hadn’t fallen. And as soon as he made his decision, everything happened afterwards.

And I think San Antonio smartly is taking their time here. They’re not doing the panic trade thing like Chicago last year just getting Jimmy Butler out of town. Obviously it’s a different situation, not completely comparable, but because they’re taking their time, if you miss out on LeBron, you’re hoping for Kawhi. If you miss out on both, you’re hoping for Paul George. So any team that’s sort of one degree of separation from LeBron has to be paralyzed at this point unless they’re making some crazy trade that we couldn’t think of to improve their chances at landing LeBron and that just didn’t happen. 

Sharp: Yeah, I don’t blame a team like the Lakers, for instance, for just not doing anything…

Golliver: Hey, they drafted Mo Wagner. Michigan’s finest. 

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