We’ll get into some detail below, but here are our main gripes with ESPN’s 2010 NBA draft coverage: 1) College players are being drafted, so why are NBA analysts the ones doing most of the talking?; 2) Far too much LeBron/free agency talk (a smattering was inevitable, but it was relentless; food for thought – Does the NBA need to consider pushing up free agency or pushing back the draft?); 3) there was zero energy from the ESPN talking heads. Maybe it was just a dull, predictable draft, or perhaps the flurry of trades killed whatever flow the draft could have had. But in a word, last night was dull. Was there even one distinguishable moment? At the bottom, we offer some ideas on how to juggle things for next year.
Jay Bilas: Like his analysis, and he’s the only guy ESPN had on the panel with a modicum of college hoops knowledge. Our (very) minor quibbles – did he really need to mention every single player’s wingspan? It got old, quick. We also had beef with Bilas comparing Gordon Hayward (he gets his own post, shortly) to former Oregon lefty Luke Jackson. Jackson was nice college player, but more of a shooter than anything (he was taken 10th in the 2004 draft). Hayward, to us, is a far superior athlete and more versatile. The kind of player who can carry a team on his back to the National title game – and nearly beat Duke. As we said during the NCAA tournament, we think Hayward’s offensive skill set could ultimately rival that of Mike Dunleavy. Hayward’s only 20 and we think in a couple years, he could be a really nice starting SF who is a key role player on a good team, along the lines of Tayshaun Prince in his prime with the Pistons.
Jeff Van Gundy: Really struggled. He just doesn’t know the college game. As his brother said in the funniest part of the draft, Jeff seemed to “fake it” for the better part of three hours. Van Gundy did have his moments – like when he mocked Cole Aldrich for saying that playing Sherron Collins might give him a taste of what it would be like to play with Chris Paul.
Jon Barry: Just not a fan. He obviously knows the game and has his opinions, but why would you have an NBA analyst trying to talk about college players? While Barry is watching NBA from October-June, how much college hoops is he watching? And in the run-up to the draft, he spent most of his time at the Finals, not at the combine. It just seems like Barry is a bad fit for the draft.
Mark Jones: The guy has a brutal job, asking two dozen players the same questions over and over. When do these players ever say anything noteworthy?
Stu Scott: You either like him or you don’t, and the consensus seems to be that he’s a terrible host. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have a college hoops host – Rece Davis, Chris Fowler, someone who does college hoops from Nov-April – run this show? It is much easier for a college hoops fan to casually follow the NBA than vice versa.
Andy Katz: College hoops guy was criminally underused last night.
Here’s one way ESPN could shuffle its lineup to make the draft team much more compelling:
5-person stage (seems like a lot, but it isn’t; worked fine at the NFL draft)
Host: Someone who hosts their Saturday college hoops show throughout the season. Fowler? (He’s at the World Cup or usually Wimbledon, though.) Rece Davis?
2 NBA Guys: Charles Barkley (it’d be nice if TNT loaned him out), Kenny Smith; Chad Ford (follows college closely, had a great night on twitter); Jalen Rose (he’s not quite as good as Chris Webber, but he’s growing on me).
2 College Guys: Keep Jay Bilas. Add … Doug Gottlieb? These two could potentially be the Kiper-McShay of the NBA draft. Bilas really had no foil when talking about players … he’d speak intelligently about someone, and then it would just fall flat because Barry and Van Gundy had nothing to add or disagree wiht.
Satellite reporters/talking heads to pipe in for reaction: Katz (college), Ric Bucher (NBA), Vitale (college), Bob Knight (college), Chris Broussard (NBA), Marc Stein (NBA), Fraschilla (college).
While it probably is an honor for the athletes to sit down and say nothing for 45 seconds moments after shaking hands with David Stern, we’d entirely scrap the 1-on-1 bit on the couch with Mark Jones. Turn that into a back-and-forth between Bilas/Gottlieb or throw it to Barkley for commentary.