Soooo, the NBA playoffs started last weekend, but I hafta say, I didn’t really notice. Was I still mourning Gonzaga’s early exit from the NCAA tourney? Perhaps a little. But truth be told, I haven’t been following pro ball as closely as the college game these past few years. I mean, it’s not like the Toronto Raptors have been giving me much to cheer for. That said, there’s a good chance I’ll be going to at least one Raptors game next season–although I won’t necessarily be rooting for the home team.
Last Friday, Gonzaga big man Kelly Olynyk did the expected and declared for the NBA draft. After becoming the third Zag to be named first-team All American, he’s now the fourth to leave school with eligibility remaining–even though, as a redshirt junior, he already has his undergraduate degree. Of course, Olynyk also has a special set of skills to go along with his seven-foot frame, and could potentially go down in history as the top Canadian big man of all-time, unseating the likes of Bill Wennington, Todd MacCulloch and Jamaal Magloire in the process–perhaps not such a lofty achievement. As it stands, many mock drafts have him projected to go between 10th and 14th overall. And interestingly enough, the Raptors would’ve had the 12th overall pick had they not shipped it to Houston (for Kyle Lowry), who later passed it on to OKC in the James Harden trade. So if the Raps wanna land the next Canadian superstar, well, they might hafta wait till Kevin Pangos is eligible in 2015.
In fact, there’s a decent possibility that Raptors fans won’t even get to see KO in person more than once a year, as four of the five teams in that 10-14 range play in the Western Conference. Draftexpress.com, for instance, has Olynyk going 13th overall to Dallas, where he could hone his Dirk Nowitzki-like game behind Dirk Nowitzki himself. ESPN, meanwhile, has him going to Utah with the 14th pick, a team that’s had some incredible success drafting Gonzaga alumni in the first round. (FWIW, I’m betting they sign David Stockton as an undrafted free-agent next year.) And nbadraft.net has him 10th overall to Portland, a team that seems set at center with LaMarcus Aldridge–unless they trade him to Cleveland. If nothing else, he’d be close to Spokane, as well as Kamloops. And best-case scenario, he steps into the starting lineup, though I wouldn’t quite bank on that Aldridge trade.
Then again, these mock drafts are never an exact science. Thus, it’s worth noting that two of Toronto’s Atlantic Division foes, namely Philly and Boston, have top-16 picks, while the pesky Milwaukee team that pwned the Raps all season picks 15th. Considering that nbadraft.net has all three of them picking players 6-foot-9 or taller, and, let’s say the Blazers prefer Mason Plumlee, we could be seeing a lot more of Olynyk on the East Coast next year. Cuz let’s face it, the chances of Andrew Bynum going a full season without injury are about as slim as North Philadelphia going a full week without gun violence. Not that I really wanna see Kelly in a Sixers jersey. But hey, I hear Boston’s nice this time of year…