If there's one thing that bothers me about the NBA Draft process (and trust me, it's probably the only thing), it's the "best player available" idea. It's not that the philosophy itself is wrong, it's that it's oversimplified. Just because Gilbert Arenas turned out to be a superstar doesn't mean he would have become that player no matter who drafted him. Golden State's up-tempo, jack-it-up style was a perfect fit for his game, and coming to the Wizards as the certified number 1 option helped develop his offensive game. Who knows whether he would have gotten the same opportunities playing for another team?
No, when it comes to the draft, it's all about drafting a guy whose game fits your system and whose personality fits with your organization. Once you get past the can't miss guys, there isn't that big of a difference in pure talent between different prospects. Darko didn't pan out in Detroit because he sucked. He didn't pan out in Detroit because they stupidly left him to rot on the bench for three years, because his high-post game never fit in with Larry Brown, and because he went to a veteran team with no other youngsters to bond with. If he switched places with Chris Bosh, I'd argue that Darko would be the all-star, and Bosh the retread.
It's this philosophy that explains why I made the selections I did in the SB Nation NBA Mock Draft. Jason Smith and Derrick Byars aren't sexy picks. Byars, in particular, seems like a strange pick with Thaddeus Young, a far more hyped wing, still on the board. But whereas Young may be more talented, Byars' game fits the Wizards system and needs perfectly, and Smith's polished game on both ends makes up for the loss of Brendan Haywood.
To make the next step in the Eastern Conference, this team needs two things -- better defensive players and a retooled bench. The defense has been getting worse for three seasons, and once Gilbert and Caron went down, nobody was able to step in competently. Knowing that, I desperately tried to acquire a second first-round pick to infuse the bench and give this team an additional young, defined role player.
My ultimate goal was to draft Joakim Noah, but the Suns took him instead. I then tried to trade Etan Thomas to Charlotte, but had no luck, and eventually agreed to send Haywood to Charlotte for the 22nd pick and Othella Harrington's expiring contract. The original plan was to pick Rice's Morris Almond, who reminds me of Michael Redd, but after reading up more on him, I learned he's an awful defensive player. Instead, I centered on Byars, but figured he'd be gone by 22, so I offered New Jersey the 22nd and 47th selections for the 17th pick. He jumped at it, presumably because he wanted a pick in the second round in this deep draft. After picking Smith to replace Haywood, I got my guy.
Byars and Smith are both guys that are more valuable here than anywhere else. They're exactly the type of role players that can succeed without the ball in their hands. This is particularly true of Smith, who has a diverse offensive game and is no slouch on the defensive end. Byars played in a Princeton offense in college, so his transition will be seamless. He passes well for a wing, shoots a high percentage on his threes, and scores efficiently, and was one of the top perimeter defenders in the SEC. Byars is a lot like Brandon Roy -- he does a lot of things well, but nothing spectacularly. Byars doesn't score or pass as well as Roy, but he's a better defender, can play multiple positions, and is arguably a better shooter.
If the Wizards just take Derrick Byars with their 16th pick, I'd be totally happy with it. He's exactly what they need at this point.
Agree with these decisions? Let me know if you would have done anything differently.