AFP/Getty Images, Mike Stobe
You thought you were free from Rebecca Black references didn't you? Wrong. Starting with the NBA Draft. This is the first time I've actually watched a bulk of the Draft, and I've got to say, the NHL's just seems to be more entertaining.
Could it be because of my higher affinity for hockey? Quite likely, but there are a few things the NHL does better than the NBA.
1. Most of the players expected to go in the first round of the NHL draft are there. Heck a bunch of the guys expected to go in the second round are there. While this results in a very disappointed player being at the draft sometimes, it's better than having 15 or 16 of the first rounders available (which is what they do in the NBA.)
2. In the NHL, trades are announced and the team that acquires the pick makes the announcement/selection. In the NBA, not so. The team that is trading the pick makes the selection as the trade is for the 'rights' to the player. That makes for a situation where the player is up there wearing the ball cap for a team he'll never play for.
3. In the NHL, the team makes the announcement with the GM/President up there. The player gets his ball cap and jersey, shakes hands with the team personnel merriment all around. In the NBA, they get a ball cap and go shake hands with the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner depending on where they get selected.
The NHL really makes an effort to make the player feel welcome to the organization and team while the NBA, focuses on the individual. This is representative of the culture of each sport as we're continually reminded of hockey's more team first approach to basketball's me, me, me. Of course there are exceptions to that, but it's a stark difference between the sports.
Everyone was pretty sure Kyrie Irving would go number one to the Cavaliers, and he did. The situation is kind of like what the Oilers are going through with Nugent-Hopkins. The NBA and NHL drafts are fittingly a day a part since they mirror each other so very well. While I believe the NHL draft is stronger than the NBA draft this season, there are still a bunch of players in the top ten that are expected to go there and after that it's a toss up. Perfect example in the NBA is Canadian Cory Joseph. He was expected to go in the second round (in the NBA there are only two rounds) , but went number 29 to the San Antonio Spurs. Don't be surprised to see something like that tonight in the NHL.
Now to the Raptors... the team that I really don't think gets it.
Dan O'Connor and I were kind of tweeting back and forth leading up to this pick. We wanted the Raps to pick Kemba Walker. The guy is a winner with a great attitude and serious talent. A little on the short side, but that wasn't really an issue for me. When the Utah Jazz took Enes Kanter (F) at #3, we figured Toronto would take Brandon Knight. There are some questions about him as a point guard, but he has great scoring ability and would be a fun player to watch with the Raps. The Raptors took 6'11 Lithuanian Centre Jonas Valanciunas.
At which point you may have heard a massive slapping sound as Raptors followers all dropped a collective facepalm. Valanciunas is supposed to be a strong centre with definite potential. However, even if he turns out to be a strong player, he's the wrong pick for the organization right now,
He's a European player, and while that may sound very Don Cherry-esque, it's an important point. European players are becoming more and more prevalent in the NBA as the rest of the World catches up to the U.S. in the sport. Players like Dirk Nowitzki and Pao Gasol help grow the sport overseas and it's great to see. That said, the Raptors already feature a bunch of European players including former top pick Andrea Bargnani. Listening to many Raptors fans, they're growing tired of the lack of success with a primarily European core to the team. Especially when American players like DeMar DeRozan step in and instantly start to push the profile of the team more than the Europeans.
My question to the Raptors is why not take a player that your fans would much more appreciate. A Kemba Walker or Brandon Knight would be infinitely more marketable than Valanciunas. Even better, Big V (as I'll call him because his name is too long) won't see the NBA for at least a year as he's still under contract with his team in Europe. Development-wise, that's probably for the best as he needs to get stronger, but not for a team that needs to endear itself to its fans NOW.
Case and point. Dan O'Connor is looking for a new team to be a fan of right now as he rediscovered the NBA over this post season. This was what he tweeted after the pick:
"This draft has convinced me to ignore the Toronto Raptors completely. They have no clue. Knight falling to 8? Walker falling to?" (Walker ended up going right after that tweet at number 9, you can follow Dan at twitter.com/Dan_OConnor_NB)
While Dan isn't really a Raptors fan, it still pushed him away from the team. I can only imagine this is going on with fans in TO, maybe not as extreme, but it's happening. Big V may turn out to be a great NBA player, he's certainly going to be a decent one. However, Toronto needed a player it could present to the fans and market the heck out of and they didn't do that.
Okay, after that lengthy sojourn into the world of basketball; we now go to the madness that was the Flyers on Thursday.
Apparently I'm in the 25% of a TSN poll that didn't mind the Flyers moves yesterday. Yes, they traded a big chunk of their team's offence and leadership away, but they got decent return, especially in the Carter trade. The eighth pick, a third rounder and Voracek. I truly feel Voracek will have a better chance of reaching his true potential in Philly than he did in Columbus. While the Flyers are taking a chance on him and whoever they take in the draft I don't mind that deal at all.
I think they could have gotten more for Richards. That said, Brayden Schenn is an offensive talent that doesn't come along all that often. He's going to be a serious threat for the Flyers for good long time (provided they don't trade him just before an eleven year contract kicks in).
What I do take issue with is the Flyers moving Carter just before his massive extension kicks in. He signed that contract based on the thought he would be a Flyer for a long time and he never even reaches that contract wearing orange. At least Richards was a few years into his contract. I'm actually shocked he didn't have a NTC. If you recall, I don't like those things, but he's one of the 2 or three players on a team those should be reserved for. It certainly makes things interesting though.
The Flyers also signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a 9-year 51 million dollar contract. While I like Bryz, I can't get behind this one. We all knew he was going to get a ridiculous contract from someone, and actually the cap hit of this isn't as bad as I thought it would be, but it's also for nine years. When will GM's stop signing goalies to these epic contracts? What happens if he tanks it? You're stuck in a contract for NINE FREAKING YEARS! I don't think he will tank, at least not right away, but it's a contract that I would be nervous about in Philly. In my non-GM and zero Hockey Ops opinion, goalies should be a three to four year thing at the maximum. I'll have to follow up on that and ask someone with some experience about it.
Update: I got into a live chat on the Denver Post website and asked about long goalie contracts. Here's Avs' beat writer, Adrian Dater on the subject:
"I don't like really long goalie contracts. Vancouver is stuck with Luongo for 11 more years!! I think goaltending is too dependent on the team in front of them to risk all that money on. The better team you have, the better goalie. But, that said, I don't believe goalies are just one-year projects and that's it."
Not someone in hockey operations, but someone that has covered hockey for a long time.
Looks like Robyn Regehr is on the move, he's still debating on whether he waives his NTC, but I think it will happen. However, we'll deal with that and the Ryan Smyth rumours when something actually goes down.
I have finally made my selection of the number 2 pick in the draft. If Nugent-Hopkins is still magically available, that's a no brainer for the Avalanche. Oilers would be foolish not to take him. Since he won't be available, I would like the Avs to pick, from the Kitchener Rangers, Gabriel Landeskog. The Avs have a bunch of defensive prospects coming through the system right now, and there should be a good D-man or two available at number eleven (rationalization for not taking Larsson). Landeskog may not be as skilled as Huberdeau, but it's the physical style and mentality that make him a great pick. The guy is a leader and I think his attitude would do wonders for the Avalanche. So there you have it Mr. Sherman, you may now make your selection.
Merry Draft Day everyone!
Post Script: I'm glad some of you think I deserve a hot tub in the poll (no I didn't vote for it myself).