More impressive drafting by Presti
The Sonics came up with three first-round draft picks Thursday night, and while two of them were in the high-rent, low-return district, don’t forget this NBA truth. The league is littered with starters who were picked late in the first round.
There are 150 starters in the league, and counting injuries and rotations, you could raise that figure to probably 180. Yet there are only 10 top-10 slots available each year, and let’s give players 10 years in the league. That’s just 100 players. Even if you go 14 deep, the size of the lottery, that’s 140. And when you factor in high-pick busts, of which there are many, you’ve got to conclude that all kinds of valuable players are found somewhere in the 20s of the draft.
Which makes Sam Presti’s dealings even more impressive Thursday night. Presti entered the draft with four second-round picks, and my theory was to use three of those picks on international players. Maybe even all four. If just one pans out, you’re ahead of the game. It’s more difficult to decipher the potential of internationals, so sometimes you can get some steals. And they often aren’t ready to, or can’t by contract, come over to the USA, so it’s almost like a farm system in which they develop on somebody else’s dime.
But Presti instead decided to make his second-round picks pay more immediate dividends. He traded two of the second-round picks to Detroit for its first-round selection, Indiana power forward D.J. White. So the Sonics ended up with three first-rounders and two second-rounders.
One of the No. 1′s, Serge Ibaka of the Congo, is one of those international projects who probably won’t give the NBA a try for a few years. And Presti’s final selection in the second round, Kansas center Sasha Kahn, was traded to Cleveland for cash. Kahn is expected to play in his native Russia and is a long-term project, too. I didn’t like that trade. Who knows what kind of ballplayer Kahn will become? I always liked him at KU; if he comes to Cleveland in two years and helps LeBron James win an NBA title, what money from the Cavaliers going to help pay the legal fees in Seattle will seem like chump change.
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