Hear Me Out...NBA first round and NFL Draft thoughts
May 2, 2019
This is 100 percent recency-bias in play but last week may have been the greatest week in entertainment history. You had the "Avengers Endgame" and Game of Thrones S8E3 "The Long Night," the two biggest properties of the decade in film and TV reaching long promised moments.
Obviously, it was a big weekend for Thrones, Avengers and the Tractor Guys. Maybe it was just the Sunday 3:30 showing at the Washakie Twin Cinemas but the Tractor Guys won BIG because their ad was playing on a loop until the lights dimmed. It honestly felt like everyone in Screen 1 was unknowingly a part of a joint experiment between UW marketing and psychology grad students.
The jubilation and celebration in the theater when the previews started was somewhere on the scale of the fall of the Berlin Wall and V-E Day.
Moving past the big week in pop culture and favorite characters dying, the sports world had a great week too. Both the NBA playoffs and NFL Draft did some heavy lifting last week.
The first-round of the NBA playoffs is hardly ever good. There are a few good series but in large part, we're trying to get to the second round as quickly as possible. There's a legitimate case to be made now to cut the playoffs from 16 teams to 12 and give the No. 1 and No 2-seeds in both conferences a bye in the first round. But that's a separate column for another day.
The competitive series for this year's playoffs were Portland-OKC, Denver-San Antonio and Golden State-L.A. Clippers.
The Warriors-Clippers series was a bit of a surprise, I'm still torn on what that series meant for the Warriors. Yes, they're not as good as they were last year but they're still better than the rest of the Western Conference field, in terms of talent. But did they struggle because of their hubris and the Clippers were just good and pesky enough to push them?
Or is there something more fundamentally wrong with the Warriors? Are the chemistry issues coming to a breaking point for this group? It's something to keep an eye on and we should find out quickly what it is in their series against the Rockets.
I feel bad for the Nuggets. They are the No. 2-seed and they only have one All-NBA player, so they took a lot of heat for being a "regular-season team." But I think that's an unfair assessment of the Nuggets, they were the second best team in the West and that's no small feat.
They just ran into a I'm-not-sure-how-this-is-working-but-it-is Spurs team, with the league's best coach and veteran players with a lot of playoff experience. It was a tough break, but the Nuggets made it out alive. That's all that matters.
The series of the first round though was the Blazers-Thunder, it ended in five but those five games were fiercely competitive. Lillard's series-ending shot was fan-freaking-tastic and one I will never forget.
Game 5 was an instant classic, the Thunder and Blazers were exchanging haymakers all game. And just when you thought one team’s legs were getting a little wobbly, they’d connect on a haymaker and gain control of the game. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire second half and I don’t root for either team. I couldn’t imagine what it was like for actual Blazer and Thunder fans.
Then came Lillard’s shot. His bucket to eliminate the Thunder was wild but the wildest thing about it was I expected him to make it. As the seconds ticked off and he’s still dribbling 30-plus feet out and how every Trailblazer was planted on their spot, my first thought was “YES, he is going to rip out the Thunder’s heart with a series-ending shot.”
Lillard did it and his reaction, the waving goodbye, staring at the camera, his teammate’s mugging him and Portland’s coach Terry Stotts grin of “Yup, that’s my guy.” LOVED IT ALL. (It was also the most brutal and ruthless move of the week, that’s including everything that happened in Avengers and GoT)
On the Thunder side of things, first, Paul George you cannot get up there during your press conference after Lillard hit that dagger right in your eye, and complain about that being a “bad shot.” You just can’t. It’s not a good look, especially when you consider yourself one of the league’s best defenders.
It’s a stinging defeat, I get it but you can’t whine about that shot when Lillard has been making them all series long. It’s a bad shot if your teammate Russell Westbrook is taking it or if some casual basketball player like myself is taking it. But for Lillard, it was a good shot.
The Thunder now head into the offseason with another first round exit. The popular discussion on all the talking head shows was what do they need to do to get over this hump? The common theme seemed to be blowing it all up, with some even recommending trading Westbrook.
Even for this hot take era and how I like proposing trades, that’s extreme.
All the talk in the NBA is how difficult it is to get two legit superstars and the Thunder have that. So there’s no need to blow it up, just yet. Basketball takes time, just look at the Trailblazers, they got rocked by the Pelicans in the first round last year and kept most of their team intact.
It was the right decision and even as people made fun of them for not making any significant moves, myself included, they stuck to their plan. The Thunder do need shooting and Westbrook could spend the offseason working on his own shot, but they have something in OKC. Blowing it up feels too reactionary since the West is going to have a different layout when KD leaves for New York, it should be a wide-open race next season.
One of my favorite Chris Rock jokes came from his “Never Scared” album. Talking about when magicians Siegfried and Roy’s tiger attacked Roy in 2003, here’s the joke, “Siegfried and Roy, the tiger bit the man in the head and everybody is mad at the tiger. Talk about how the tiger went crazy. That tiger didn’t go crazy, that tiger went tiger!”
It’s a great joke that you can apply to so many different things and one that I use a lot, probably too much. Yet, it works and I love it.
The NFL Draft went down last week and after the first round, all the talk swirled around two teams, specifically two men. The commentary basically boiled down to saying they went crazy. The two teams and men in question were none other than the Oakland Raiders Jon Gruden and the New York Giants David Gettleman. Both the top decision makers for their respective franchises.
The thing is, they didn’t go crazy, this is who Gruden and Gettleman are.
I know it feels like I’m picking on Gruden but in my defense, he’s bringing it on himself. The Clelin Ferrell pick wasn’t bad, I get that they could have moved back a few spots and still grabbed him but I think we all tend to make it sound like moving back is super easy.
The pick that Gruden takes heat for is taking Josh Jacobs in the first round. It has become quite clear that there’s no need to take a running back in the first round, the value just isn’t there. Every smart team in the league takes a back in the later rounds, and every season we see either a late-round pick or undrafted rookie burst onto the scene and win people their fantasy leagues. Every year.
Once again though, Gruden is here to reinvent football with an outdated approach to the game.
Gruden, however, was upstaged by Gettleman because Gettleman not only took a quarterback with the sixth-overall pick, but one that no one was going to take in the first three rounds.
The Giants took Daniel Jones at six, who ranked in the bottom of nearly every single QB statistic in this 2019 class and his only upside as a player was that his college coach is buds with the Manning family. Not your typical franchise QB pedigree.
Leading up to the draft the joke was the Giants were going to take Jones with their No. 17 pick while spending their No. 6 pick on the best player available. Instead, Giants fans will be haunted by this moment for years to come.
The best way to describe this would be you’re at a seafood restaurant and you order crab. When the waiter comes around to discard your plate of crab shells they’re immediately tackled by Gettleman. Who then grabs crab shells and tosses them into an already shockingly stuffed bag of crab shells. With his bag nearly overflowing, Gettleman sprints out of the restaurant like a mad man, proclaiming he’s got the goods and the best part of the crab. Meanwhile, everyone is very confused by his unnecessary violence for something no one wanted.
I get running the franchise is tough and there aspects to the job I’ve never thought of. I don’t hate or disklike either Gettleman or Gruden, I enjoy them very much. They make this column that much easier to write. All I have to do is Google just their names and awesome quotes and defiant press conferences pop up every time.
Plus, my Jags landed Josh Allen, who should have been gone by the fifth pick. But thanks to Gettleman and Gruden (which sounds like a realty office who is going to get you in your dream home. Or a home, once they realize they can’t deliver and it’s all your fault because you demand too much) All is now in the Teal and Black.