NBA Draft Produces Disappointments

Anthony Davis

New Orleans Hornets basketball player Anthony Davis poses in his uniform in New Orleans June 29. AP photo

The NFL draft offers hope to NBA teams and their fans, but history tells us most of them are bound for disappointment.

Last year’s top pick Kyrie Irving went to Cleveland and delivered the goods, averaging 18.5 points per game while earning Rookie of the Year honors.

But a look at the next seven lottery picks from 2011 reveals that not a single one of them averaged even nine points per outing, and there is not a franchise-changer in the bunch.

There were some bright spots: No. 8. Brandon Knight started 60 games and averaged 12.8 points for Detroit. No. 9 Kemba Walker played well for a horrible Charlotte team. Golden State guard Klay Thompson exploded in April after going at No. 11. No. 15 Kawhi Leonard was picked by the Pacers but landed in San Antonio and started. And No. 17 Iman Shunpert helped the New York Knicks in the backcourt.

Still, there may not be a future All-Star in the group. Everyone else ranges from reasonable role player to major disappointment, and I’m not sure 2012 will be much different. Expect Kentucky’s Anthony Davis to be a star, and some others to surprise – I love Weber State point guard Damian Lillard. But take it with a grain of salt when someone tries to sell you on the superior status of centers Andre Drummond or Meyers Leonard. Like many others in this year’s draft, a season of hard knocks may well be coming their way.

* The Olympic trials produce an array of emotions ranging from jubilance to crushing despair, but it’s always most instructive to see how an athlete handles adversity and disappointment. When Hawaii’s two-time Olympic decathlon medalist Bryan Clay failed to earn a score in the discus because of fouls, he was disqualified from either winning the competition or earning a spot on the American team bound for London.

As the favorite, and after four years of grueling training, Clay could easily have packed his gear and slid away to nurse his pain in private. But that’s not Bryan Clay. Not the athlete whose previous efforts in Olympic competition resulted in gold and silver, and not the man who had overcome youthful difficulties and a lack of size. He gathered himself and competed in the final three events, including his weakest event, the 1,500 meters.

That resolve amid incredible personal anguish may have been more impressive than the two trips to the podium. For me, Bryan Clay will always be a champion’s champion.

* The new college football playoffs will make some fans happy – better four teams in the hunt than two. But it still will deny access to the little guys, the Boise States or Hawaiis that may have an exceptional year.

Sure, they’ll tell you that the top four teams get in, but strength of conferences and selection committees will guarantee that national championships and the big money will remain in the hands of the powerful players.

If the four becomes eight or 16, then we’ll see real possibilities for other teams. But until then, the rings and the dollars will go to the usual suspects.