It is Thursday June 20th — America is madness, camps and rallies: Chernobyl’s off the air; you need something good in your life. I don’t know you or your situation but look at the list above. Did your blood pressure spike? I know it did! So let’s improve your standing. Let’s make life better with three little words: 2019 NBA Draft.
Yes – The Draft.
“But wait!”, you say, “I loathe basketball!”No worries, you’ll love the draft. “I don’t know any of the players!” That’s fine, you’ll love the draft. “Why would I devote any sliver of my time to a three hour circus whose plots are convoluted and consciously riddled with jargon?” Well, you watched Avengers: Endgame; comparatively, the Draft is child’s play (And not this kind, thank goodness).
Look, it’s simple: you — we— crave content. It holds dominion over our species like eggs does breakfast. If you don’t watch the Draft tonight, you’ll stream a show or read twelve tweets or maybe even dive into the void of that new Neal Stephenson. You will do your best to feel less alone and possibly more seen because some bit of material out there in the ether gets, hooks, and moves you. That’s good and the least you deserve — you’re human.
Good news: the NBA Draft is as human as sports gets. It combines the heart-string shredding sighs of seeings families change their station in life with the recessive trauma of not getting picked at recess. There are drinking games to be played, plus wheeling and dealing to keep track of. It’s a low-key soap opera and highlight reels are it’s soundtrack. More than anything, it’s a loud but disquietingly genuine tome to the power of pure possibility.
Fear not — you will be. Here are several ways to get into and maximize your enjoyment of this year’s NBA Draft. Get lose, strap in, and rename your dog Zion Williamson because here goes:
Watch Like No One’s Watching
Don’t roll up to your Draft stream via YouTube TV trial in some everyday pajama pants: get your Knicks jersey on. Open a Platform IPA if Cleveland’s home for you or sip some Pinot for Portland. Are you superstitious? Good. The Draft is a ton of pomp and circumstance, but it’s jet-fueled by hope — for a better franchise, bigger wins, or reasons to troll LeBron. The Draft nurtures those desires by giving them soil in which to take root, sometimes exorbitantly. How often does that happen? In sports or life? For a few short hours, imagined glory’s the point.
So go on and watch like no one’s watching you! Be extra! I, for one, will be pounding Goose Island and flaunting my Bulls denim jacket because I know who I am…
…And that’s extra.
On some nights, trades are trades. On Draft Night? Trades can be thirst traps.
Wait — What Are “Thirst Traps”?
Ok, Mom — from Urban Dictionary:
“A sexy photograph or flirty message posted on social media for the intent of causing others to publicly profess their attraction.”
So How Can Trades Be Thirst Traps?
Simple — free agency.
In layman’s terms, free agency is the sports world’s singles pool. It is a period in which players once coupled to teams are newly divorced and suitors come a calling. Sometimes they do so through lucrative offers. But sometimes? Sometimes teams go full fire sign:
If you’re Brooks Lopez, resigning with the Bucks is so attractive right now. It’s your partner saying “I can change” then up and doing it. You want to comment on their post. Maybe he’s sliding into their DMs with some footage of his sweet jump-shot. (“#SmoothAndSilky”)
The point is this: no trade in the Draft is ever utilitarian. Each is loaded with meaning, be it that of a salvo or changing of the guard. If you dug Game of Thrones, draft trades may feed your soul.
And speaking of trades…
All Eyes On ‘Orleans
…There’s one trade to rule them all.
It’s official — the Pelicans have the deepest war chest in NBA Basketball. They’re less “building for the future” than stocked for it like your friend that wins Risk and their armament continues this Thursday at the draft.
It should be exciting to watch, for no other reason than that the #4 pick is a Choose Your Own Adventure novel: do the Pelicans draft Jarrett Culver and form a small ball squadron? Will a team like Atlanta or the Bulls trade up? Will Pelicans GM David Griffin ship the pick for an established vet like Bradley Beal, whose name has been whispered in trade rumors recently?
Anything could happen and the odds on favorite is no-one. Do your worst, Griffin:
And Now: A Drinking Game
You can and should play a drinking game (responsibly) while you watch the Draft. For one, they’re an equalizer. Does your partner know Ja Morant’s assists per game percentage? Yes, but will they after four Stellas? Makes you think.
In all seriousness, here’s what I think: that the Draft offers an in to NBA basketball for the uninitiated and a chance for deep commiseration. If a little liquid courage makes approaching both more possible, here’s a few rules to abide by. Drink:
- Every time there’s a trade (#thirsttrap)
- When someone mentions A or KD
- If a player embraces their parental figure of choice before they stand and celebrate
- When a commentator crushes on Zion
- If the Knicks draft Garland (#finishyourdrink)
- If the Knicks fans bop (#powerhour)
Please remember to hydrate.
And Now Some Players:
I didn’t have time to make a draft guide. For one, I’m busy. What’s more, there are draft guides out there — obscenely excellent draft guides. If you want to read them, do. (Especially this one). That said: I’m going to profile four players for you. In doing so, I’m trying to intrigue you, to get you emotionally attached. Know that I could’ve picked any four players. I love every player in this draft. I have spent months obsessing over their highlights or comparing them to Sonic The Hedgehog. They are my proverbial sons about to become men. Please love them as I do.
Ty Jerome is from New Rochelle; so is my father. So while I’ve spent a minimal amount of time in New Rochelle, I know it in my bones. New Rochelle has grit. New Rochelle can make you laugh, but the joke comes out of left field and almost dizzies you. When you pass New Rochelle on the Metro North, it’s more broken in than the sneakers you love. It’ll be there for you.
Ty Jerome is very New Rochelle. You can see it in his steely glare. He was New Rochelle in the NCAA Championship Game, where he peerlessly led Virginia to a title and made snot-nosed plays like the one above.
There’s a lot of prospects in this draft whose game is glitzier — more DUMBO or Vegas than slightly upstate New York. Give me slightly upstate New York. Whoever gets Ty Jerome is grabbing a glue guy who would’ve made Michael Jordan’s Bulls better. He’s that dependable. He’s that “my Dad”. And that’s New Rochelle in a nutshell.
I’ve already written 1,000 words about Cody White and why he’s such a special player and person. That was before the above piece dropped. This is why the Draft is singular and amazing — let Coby White shatter your heart.
Admiral Schofield looks like an Expendable. If you photoshopped him into this poster right between Crews and Staham, no one would blink an eye. Schofield plays like an Expendable. After going from doughy to downright jacked, he was Tennessee’s three-tool grit-and-grind specialist last season, muscling scrubs into the paint and scoring daggers off the dribble. And you’d think, based on the last two sentences, that this blurb was about Admiral Schofield or maybe even The Expendables. But it’s not. This is about the Sacramento Kings, the NBA equivalent of the Expendables.
Look: too often our draft coverage is focused on how great a prospect is. That’s fair. This event is literally about the players! But the situation any player is drafted into is just as crucial to their success as “wingspan” or “talent.” Would Pascal Siakam have thrived in Indiana? Maybe. Would Jonny Flynn have been as big a bust anywhere but Minnesota? We’ll never know. But we do know Eric Bledsoe once tweeted “I don’t want to be here” and thrived upon leaving Phoenix. We know Kawhi, fun guy, really took to Toronto. We know that the marriage of team and player is a fragile but very important one — and Admiral Schofield would thrive in Sacramento.
Think about it. The Kings play hero ball yet work as a squad. They’re rife with quirky personality. De’Aaron Fox, their lightening quick star point guard, has adopted the nickname cribbed from Dora The Explorer. Into that mix, you throw Schofield — with his penchant for guitar-based Adele covers and action-movie steeliness. That’s a team-up I’m down for. That’s a partnership that isn’t…(wait for it)…expendable.
This is the greatest night of the year — possibly your life. There will be content; there will be tears and talking points. If you open your heart to the draft for three hours, you may even emerge a fan or bigger fan of basketball.
It’s 2019 — the world is crazy. But the Draft’s the right kind of crazy.
Let’s get crazy tonight.