The 2013 NBA Draft has certainly taken a beating in the court of premature public opinion, but despite the negative feelings some pundits have toward this year's incoming rookies, there's reason to believe that this draft could have a profound effect on the league's future.
Before getting into the more optimistic outlook on this year's draft, it's worth setting the stage by chronicling some of the more common (and negative) sentiments floating around. In fact, the general malaise has reached a point at which joking about the draft's cancellation has become acceptable among some prominent media members.
@Rachel__Nichols has the draft been canceled?— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) June 27, 2013
Lamenting the lack of top-tier talent is also all the rage.
Talked to execs from 3 teams today. General consensus is there's only between 12-15 impactful players worth drafting. Lowest # in many years— Jason Lloyd (@JasonLloydABJ) June 26, 2013
And in some cases, the shots at individual players have been pretty blatant.
Man, Steven Adams, I just... yeesh, this draft.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) June 27, 2013
But there's another school of thought that fosters more hope for this draft, and the hopeful feelings aren't just premised on the belief that there actually is real talent available. To be totally fair, that's a harder sell. Even those with the most positive outlook haven't been able to argue that there's a transcendent talent up for grabs.
But here's the thing: Because there's so much uncertainty surrounding the draft, some of the league's savvier teams are trying to take advantage of what they perceive as an inefficient market. That means championship contenders are angling to move up.
One of the primary targets of Oklahoma City's pursuit of a Top 5 pick on Thursday, sources tell Y! Sports: Maryland 7-footer Alex Len.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 26, 2013
Just imagine how intriguing the possibility of an Oklahoma City Thunder team would be with a young, athletic center alongside Serge Ibaka instead of the clumsy, offensively inept Kendrick Perkins.
Plus, there's one player who just about every established team would like to get its hands on.
A number of teams are trying to move up to draft shooting guard Victor Oladipo, according to sources. He has a lot of fans around the NBA.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 27, 2013
Victor Oladipo may not be the most exciting player in the draft, but the Indiana product is widely regarded as having the kind of defensive tenacity and work ethic that could fit in immediately with a playoff team. In a lot of ways, he's something like a shooting-guard version of Kawhi Leonard.
It certainly hasn't been the case in many recent drafts, but the particular skill sets of guys like Oladipo and the general lack of enthusiasm many lottery teams are showing toward their draft slots is setting things up for the wildest draft night we've seen in years.
That's exciting, right?
Plus, there are a couple of teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers and, to a lesser extent, the Orlando Magic that are very much on the cusp of taking a major step forward.
Cleveland is definitely shopping its No. 1 selection to anyone who'll listen, which makes sense because Kyrie Irving's club is really just one player away from becoming a mid-tier playoff team in the East. That's a significant leap for a squad that has been lottery-bound for three straight years.
If the Cavs find the right deal, they could haul in a veteran who could put them over the top. But they might also take a big step forward if they keep the pick and use it on a player who could fill one of the holes in the rotation.
Now, who that player might be remains a mystery.
Len, Noel, Porter, McLemore, Oladipo and Bennett all making claims to being the No. 1 pick and none have any idea what Cleveland will do.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) June 26, 2013
And really, that's yet another reason why this draft is going to not only be important, but also exciting. It seems like anything could happen. If Cleveland trades the top pick for Kevin Love, a handful of magic beans or anything in between, don't be surprised.
If they guess right and Nerlens Noel turns out to be a stud, don't be surprised either.
And if the Magic hit a home run with either Oladipo or Ben McLemore, they could also move right out of the cellar and into playoff contention. For both Cleveland and Orlando, the right player—even if he's not a superstar—could make all the difference in the world.
Everybody's saying it: The 2013 NBA draft is weak—a boring collection of unimpressive players destined for pedestrian careers. That's one way to look at it, I guess. But the truth is that this draft is a lot like all of the others in that nobody really knows what'll happen.
And what could make this year's draft even better than most is the potential for all of the exciting player movement and creative thinking that will come about as teams try to capitalize on the uncertainty of this year's crop of talent.
Sleep on the draft if you want, but you'll risk missing out on an evening that could change the face of the league.