- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2007

The armchair general managers of the NBA have trotted out in numbing detail the relevance of each player eligible to be drafted this week.

Most of these player assessments are conceived from a distance and have about as much value as gazing into a crystal ball.

That is no knock on the stargazers, basketball and seers alike.

That is the nature of the personnel business, fraught as it is this week with disinformation, agents doubling as spin doctors, projected trades galore and one team executive after another dropping trial balloons to see which ones float and work in their favor.

Kevin Durant cannot bench press his weight, come to find out, as if this tidbit will determine his stardom.

He probably cannot run the mile in 4-something either.

Yet it is doubtful the Sonics need a weightlifter or cross-country runner on their roster.

Reggie Miller always appeared to be the fellow most likely to have sand kicked in his face at the beach.

You would have to agree his 18-season career turned out fairly well, stick body or not.

And he was only the 11th pick overall of the 1987 draft, taken one spot ahead of Tyrone Bogues.

The Miller choice disappointed those enthralled with the Hoosiers and the cunning of Steve Alford that resulted in a national championship in the spring of that year.

Alford would have been an absolutely dreadful pick for the Pacers, local ties or not, and, in fact, was not selected until early in the second round.

The Spurs made the universal choice by claiming David Robinson with the No. 1 overall pick in 1987.

The quality of that year’s draft deteriorated appreciably after Robinson, although who knew it at the time?

Armon Gilliam was the No. 2 pick overall, Dennis Hopson No. 3 and Reggie Williams No. 4.

The Sonics, with the No. 5 pick, took a nobody out of Central Arkansas.

When a trade involving Olden Polynice and the nobody was later announced on draft night, the collective response of the Bullets’ faithful at Capital Centre was, “Huh? Who’s he?”

Of course, Scottie Pippen eventually addressed that question in convincing fashion.

There was lots of anticipation going into the 1987 draft, just as there is now, and yet you can count on one hand the number of genuine difference-makers from that year: Robinson, Pippen, Miller, Kevin Johnson (seventh overall pick) and Mark Jackson (18th overall pick).

Reggie Lewis (22nd overall pick) died after six seasons with the Celtics and one appearance in the All-Star Game.

Kenny Smith (sixth overall pick) became a fairly able analyst on TNT.

Despite the half-empty nature of the draft, it pulls observers into its arms each June by offering a modicum of hope.

That hope usually turns to disappointment and sometimes a trivia question, such as: Whatever happened to Harold Miner, the so-called Baby Jordan?

We still have Kwame Brown to bemoan around here.

But long before the selection of Brown, the Bullets used first-round picks in successive years on Mel Turpin, Kenny Green, Hot Plate Williams and Bogues.

That effectively sentenced the franchise to also-ran status for years to come.

The awful truth is most players never look better than on draft night, when their names are called, they make their way to the podium to shake the hand of David Stern and don the cap of their team.

Most first-round picks end up settling into workmanlike careers and varying degrees of anonymity.

Are Greg Oden and Durant destined to be can’t-miss All-Stars, as so many insist?

The drafts of yesteryear forever reveal the fragility of such proclamations, whether the flavor of the moment is Pervis Ellison, Joe Smith, Michael Olowokandi or Brown, to cite a few No. 1 overall picks that failed to meet the expectations.

Doug Collins and Michael Jordan beamed with pride the night they cast their lot with Brown.

That one innocent night in June 2001 was as sweet as it ever will be for Brown in the NBA.



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