2011 NBA Draft: Why It's Taken 25 Years for Me to Not Care About It

John StebbinsCorrespondent IJune 23, 2011

With the first overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers will likely pick Kyrie Irving from Duke, while the fourth pick will also be used to pick one of three players—Arizona’s Derrick Williams, Enes Kanter from Turkey or some player General Manager Chris Grant thinks the Cavaliers can use.

And I will pick something else to be doing at that time.

But John, you’re a Cavs fan. You got the first AND fourth picks. This could make or break the next five years of your team, dude!

Yeah, it could, I get it. With Irving and whoever we get for the fourth pick, it could mean we have a solid foundation for a contending team in a few years. If they’re duds, then it’s back to the drawing board.

But I’ve never seen a draft pick make a basket, grab a rebound or steal a pass while they’re shaking hands with NBA Commissioner David Stern and putting on a team cap.

So if I ask if I want to be there when it all begins, lemme know when the season starts, okay? Of course, you can also lemme know if the season’s gonna start, too.

Do I think Irving and the fourth pick are going to be great players? I don’t know. Looking at the past history of first overall picks has shown it’s not a guaranteed lock.

Past first overall picks in the past 25 years have included legends like Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Allen Iverson and Tim Duncan. That slot has also given us many of today’s marquee names, including Dwight Howard, reigning Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose and…

…the Cavs’ last No. 1 pick, LeBron James, who wound up becoming a top marquee player himself despite being a controversy magnet as of late. Many are hoping we can find the “replacement” marquee-level player that will lead us back to title contention. Compared to last year, I’ll take title contention, so I hope (probably) Irving and the fourth pick can provide a major part of that nucleus.

The problem is that in the past quarter century, only about half of the top picks have resulted in a top, league-wide marquee player that’s a household name.

Or, (probably) Irving and even the No. 4 pick can wind up in the “bust” category, like Greg Oden, Michael Olowakandi, “Never Nervous” Purvis Ellison, or maybe even Andrea Borgnani (who I totally forgot until I looked up the list of No. 1 picks).

Do I think (probably) Irving is going to be a bust as part of the “Duke” reputation? I dunno. I certainly hope not.

If my gut tells me anything, it’s that Irving (or whoever we pick if it’s not him) will likely fall into a third category.

The first pick has also given us very good stalwarts; solid players who make an all-star team occasionally, and can be that “final piece” to a title run instead of being the foundation. So would I hope that Irving be Joe Smith, Andrew Bogut, Glenn Robinson, Derrick Coleman or the Cavs’ No 1 overall pick in 1986, Brad Daugherty.

It was 25 years ago that the NBA probably held its most screwed up draft in its history. Like then, the Cavaliers, fresh off a nightmare scenario, wound up with two of the top eight picks in the draft, which then-General Manager Wayne Embry picked Daugherty and playmaking guard Ron Harper, who later went on to be part of the Bulls' second three-peat.

While Daugherty and Harper had solid careers, the rest of the first round was a scouting disaster. The second pick, Len Bias, was dead of a cocaine overdose the next night. Other first-round “gems” were Chris Washburn, William Bedford, Dwayne “the Pearl” Washington, Maurice Martin, Kenny Barlow...the list of head-scratching goes on and on. Even Johnny Dawkins and Mark Alarie of Duke were picked in that round, which could’ve arguably started that Duke curse.

Instead of being a “who’s who” of NBA history, it was a “who was that?” of draft roadkill.

Well, at least No. 5 pick Kenny Walker won a slam dunk contest. Scott Skiles, picked at No. 22, did become a solid coach, too.

You can easily argue that the best pick in that round was the last pick, as Portland landed Arvydas Sabonis, who spent a stellar career with the Trail Blazers, being a part of a squad that made two NBA Finals in the next five years (consider the Danny Ferry trade made the Cavs’ pick of Harper a waste, it’s not even close when a majority of his success wasn’t in Cleveland).

But the second round was another story. The first pick of that second round was Mark Price, who arguably could’ve been the Cavs’ acquisition that day. His pick (via, ironically, the Mavericks) was later followed by Dennis Rodman, who became one of the NBA’s great defenders, and Jeff Hornacek, one of the Jazz’s role players in their title runs of the 1990s.

Also in that second round were players Kevin Duckworth, Nate McMillan and David Wingate, all successful role players with long careers. If you had to do the draft over again, you’d almost flip the two rounds the way they defied their respective expectations.

Maybe it’s fitting that the Cavs are looking to take Irving with that first pick, as we know so little we know about him, as history has shown how truly we know about these drafts.

Note: As I write this, I have Queen’s “Greatest Hits 1 and 2” on shuffle on my computer. “We Are the Champions” is playing. Omen?

Or will he be a selfless player to the point he disappears? He might’ve fit well into collegiate and/or foreign game plans against collegiate/foreign opponents, but does he fit Byron Scott’s? We don’t know how well Irving will truly understand the on-court nuances of his fellow players so he can be a better addition to the team.

Will he become self-centered, which is the antithesis of basketball’s jointly extemporaneous nature? How will he handle the locker room?

Whoa. “You’re my Best Friend” just started. Yep. It’s ominous.

Does he have the mental grit to handle the more grown-up NBA? Will the money change him? Will he like living in Cleveland? Even if he says the right things to reporters tonight, I’ll see it when I believe it.

So for me, this is nothing new. I’ve seen Cleveland handle two high lottery picks, including the top overall pick. I’ve seen top overall picks resurrect the franchise when it was ailing. But I’ve never seen any draft pick score from the ballroom of Madison Square Garden, either.

I just hope that they have better results with high first-round picks than the Browns have had.

Okay. Now it’s playing “I’m Going Slightly Mad.” I’m sticking a fork in this one...

For more 2011 NBA draft coverage, stay tuned to Bleacher Report for updated NBA mock drafts, B/R's Big Board of Recruits, NBA draft rumors, NBA draft results and draft grades.


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