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What They Said: Rundown From 2014 NBA Draft Night

One of the most anticipated NBA Drafts in recent memory has come and gone. A number of minor trades were consummated, but no major names swapped hats as Adam Silver commanded his first draft as commissioner at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

A deep draft class means there was plenty of consternation regarding who would end up where and that many of the league’s newest players were in attendance on the biggest night of their life. Here’s a rundown of what they had to say moments after realizing their dream.

1. Andrew Wiggins – Cleveland Cavaliers

On the significance of being the second consecutive Canadian player drafted first overall: “It’s a great thing for Toronto. Great thing for Canada, actually. Before this, no player from Canada has been No. 1, and now we have back-to-back No. 1s. So It’s a huge accomplishment for Canada.”

On reports that LeBron James may want to come back to Cleveland: “I want to win. If he wants to win, we’d be good together.”

2. Jabari Parker – Milwaukee Bucks

On how he feels he fits in with the Bucks: “They’re a young team. I feel like I can contribute right off the bat. I feel like I’m going to be able to grow with that organization, and I’m trying to be a throwback player, only stick with one team. This might bite me in the butt years from now, but right now I just want to stick with whoever’s rolling with me.”

On comparing himself to Wiggins: “It’s not my job to compare. I’m going to leave it to y’all. It’s your duty and your job to stir up controversy, and y’all keep it.”

4. Aaron Gordon – Orlando Magic

On growing alongside Orlando’s young stars: “It makes it easy for me because Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris, they’re both good pros already. They’re young, and we can grow together. Very gritty, hard-working people. That’s who I am. I couldn’t be happier to be playing with them. I really couldn’t be.”

5. Dante Exum – Utah Jazz

On ending up with the Jazz, who he didn’t workout for prior to the draft: “Looking at the Draft and where I was paced, me and my agent thought that I wouldn’t get down to 5, but anything happens in the draft, and you see I’m lucky enough that Utah believed in me and picked me up at five.”

6. Marcus Smart – Boston Celtics

On working with Rajon Rondo: “Rondo is a wonderful point guard, a wonderful player. He reminds me a little bit of me. He plays defense. He’s long, his wingspan, and he has big hands. Just being able to learn from a guy who’s been in the league and been in my seat and my situation, it’s an amazing feeling and a great opportunity.”

On how the Celtics sold him on their tradition: “They had a video playing in the locker room [during his workouts in Waltham]. We got done working out, and it just kept replaying and replaying and replaying over and over. It was just talking about the history and the guys that’s been through there and the work, the blood, the sweat and tears they put into that program.”

7. Julius Randle – Los Angeles Lakers

On playing alongside Kobe Bryant: “I’m going to learn a lot. He may get tired of me because I’m going to be bugging him learning, trying to learn stuff from him.”

On reported foot injury that may have lowered draft stock: “I really wasn’t worried about it. Whatever organization or team I went to. I would be blessed to go to. That’s where God wanted me to be. But happily, it’s in L.A.”

8. Nik Stauskas – Sacramento Kings

On playing with guys like Trey Burke, Glenn Robinson, Mitch McGary and Tim Hardaway, Jr. at Michigan: “Playing with guys like Trey and Tim my freshman year, it helped me a lot because I saw the level of commitment and the talent and the work ethic and everything that they put forth. To see them this year have that success in the NBA just made me confident in myself because I know I can do what they did.”

9. Noah Vonleh – Charlotte Hornets

On what made him NBA-ready at just 18: “Just the gifts from God. I’m 6-foot-9 and a half. I’m 250 pounds. I was blessed with big hands and just a great body. Just the skills I possess, it’s just a blessing from everything – a gift from God to have these abilities. I thought that’s why I was NBA-ready. I just had a good year at Indiana, also. It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the NBA, and I thought it was time to come out.”

10. Elfrid Payton – Philadelphia 76ers (traded to Orlando Magic from New Orleans)

On what will get him on the court quickest: “I think my defense is going to get me on the court. All coaches sure love defense because that’s what wins championships. Once I get on the floor, I can show them maybe my passing, things like that, and my rebounding ability.”

11. Doug McDermott – Denver Nuggets (traded to Chicago Bulls)

On going to a defensive-minded team led by Tom Thibodeau: “I’ve just got to be a sponge and soak it all in from all the guys on the team and the coaches. They know what they’re doing. The numbers don’t lie, how good a defensive team that have been.”

On learning from Thibodeau with an eye on coaching after his playing career: “Definitely. A guy named Kyle Korver, who played at Creighton and who’s on the Hawks now, played for the Bulls for a couple seasons. He told me – he just got off the phone with me. He’s telling me, I’m going to love it in Chicago.”

12. Dario Saric – Orlando Magic (traded to Philadelphia)

On describing his game: “I think a player like – all around player like Lamar Odom, Toni Kukoc. I got good ball-handling for 6-foot-10. I see myself in Philadelphia because Philadelphia got tow athletic, big guys, got smart playmaker, and I think I can and this team can improve to bring another level.”

13. Zach LaVine – Minnesota Timberwolves

On what he’s learned from another players out of Seattle: “There’s so many. Seattle is a big ground for basketball. There are so many players that have been brought up. So many players in the league. I played with Tony Wroten in high school. I work out with Jamal Crawford, Will Conroy, Terrence Williams, I.T., all them dudes helped me out. It’s incredible.”

14. T.J. Warren – Phoenix Suns

On fitting in well with the Suns: “I think my style of play fits very well. I like to get up in transition for easy baskets, running the floor very hard. Their style of play matches my style of play. So it’s a perfect fit.”

15. Adreian Payne – Atlanta Hawks

On the meaning behind his draft night outfit: “It really has meaning behind it. I wore this for the -- dedicated to Lacey Holsworth -- and it’s the color of her cancer that she had, leukemia, and I wear a band every day. As you can see, the band is the same color as the suit. So that’s why I wore it and that’s where I got my inspiration from.”

17. James Young – Boston Celtics

On the history of the Boston Celtics: “I really don’t know that much about it, but I got to start doing my history now, I guess.”

On inviting Rihanna to a game in Boston: “Yeah, I mean, of course I will. Who wouldn’t? If she wants to come, then yeah, I definitely would.”

18. Tyler Ennis – Phoenix Suns

On Canada providing competition for the United States at the 2016 Olympics: “I think we could put together a really good team. 2016 might be early. The U.S. is going to have a tough team regardless of what year it is. I think once we get in the gym together, getting chemistry and just get all the talent in one gym for the first time, I think that will be a big moment for Canada. I think not only in 2016, but the follow Olympics I think we’ll be able to make a run at it.”

23. Rodney Hood – Utah Jazz

On looking forward to playing the teams that didn’t draft him: “Most definitely. All the teams that I talked to, I didn’t get a negative report. It just happens like that sometimes.”

24. Shabazz Napier – Charlotte Hornets (traded to Miami Heat)

On whether or not his presence will help the Heat re-sign LeBron James: “I don’t know if I’m bringing him back. I would love it. Me and LeBron’s relationship, he’s a great guy. I’ve been to his camps. Me and him chatted  a few times at his camps. He’s just a special thing.

“My agent just told me that he Tweeted something out about me just now. It’s just something special to know that one of the best players in the world thinks about you and appreciates your talent. That’s something that I’m so humble for.”

32. K.J. McDaniels – Philadelphia 76ers

On starting immediately for the 76ers: “I fee like with my work ethic, I could come in and possibly start. I’m appreciate just that I was picked, so I’ll have to go in there and work hard just like everybody else.”

Isaiah Austin – Honored by the NBA after career with derailed by Marfan syndrome.

On getting invited to participate in the draft by commissioner Adam Silver: “It was heart warming. I remember Commissioner Silver, he didn’t personally call me, but he called my agent Dwon Clifton, and he let me know that he wanted me to be his personal guest for the night. It was just joy. I forgot about the syndrome for a while. I just couldn’t stop thinking of, I’m going to New York, I’m going to New York for the NBA Draft. It’s always been my dream to go to New York. I got here, and I remember it was so surreal, just a surreal moment. I’m here today, and I’m blessed, and I’m thankful.”

Reviewing The 2014 NBA Draft (From A College Perspective)

- I’m looking forward to seeing Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens try to properly use Marcus Smart and James Young. Both have serious flaws in their game. Smart is a terrible shooter, and Young is a terrible defender. (The later fact cannot be understated. Despite NBA size, Young blocked almost no shots, and had a terrible steal rate in college. He simply doesn’t have good defensive instincts.) But if put in a system to emphasize their strengths, both could outperform many of the players drafted ahead of them.

- I feel like Elfrid Payton’s stock shot up far too high. He put up great numbers, but you have to remember that he played in the 20th best conference in the country. He didn’t face a single Top 100 defense in his league. Moreover, in that relatively weak league, he couldn’t even lead his team to a dominating season. Louisiana-Lafayette finished just 11-7 in the Sun Belt. People always seem to be looking for the next Jeremy Lin. (Wait, people don’t seem to love him anymore.) People always seem to be looking for the next Damian Lillard, a small college guy with great college stats who translated well to the NBA. But there are lots of guys who have dominant stats in college and do not make it in the NBA. Perhaps Payton was a late bloomer and he really does have the athleticism to make it at the next level. But it is very hard to have watched a ton of college basketball and believe a player like Payton is better than Tyler Ennis or Shabazz Napier.

(Oh, and by the way, like Marcus Smart, Payton was a terrible shooter. Teams always seem to fall for the mistake that they can teach shooting. But while it is literally true that teams can’t teach athleticism or size, it is usually true that teams cannot teach shooting either. Kawhi Leonard might have learned to shoot in the NBA, but GMs are fired every year because they draft players who never learn to shoot.)

- I agree with everyone who felt Oklahoma City drafted Mitch McGary way too early. McGary was suspended this season because he used marijuana. I certainly understand the scouts that say that drug use happens in the NBA, and this isn’t a red flag. But the reason it bothers me is that McGary’s career effort appears to be so inconsistent. McGary was viewed as one of the top prospects as a junior in high school. But then he didn’t handle success well, and saw his stock plummet as a high school senior. Then, despite joining a team with a great PG and a great offensive mastermind at coach, McGary was invisible for four months of his freshman season. Suddenly, he had one great month in the NCAA tournament and was viewed as a lottery pick. Then he started the next season very slowly. He was injured, but I think we tend to forget that he struggled to be the center of Michigan’s offense. Had he continued to play, he was on pace for a very disappointing season. Basically, when you have a player who appears to have very inconsistent effort and performance, drug use should be a much bigger red flag.

- I agree with those who felt Kentucky’s Julius Randle fell too far in the draft. Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose may be right that experts picked him apart too much because they saw too much of him. But I hate the scouting reports that said that Randle depends too much on strength and overpowering people in the paint, and that won’t work in the NBA. Certainly, there will be older players in the NBA, and Randle won’t have the same size and strength advantage he did in college. But I don’t see how being the rare college player who is physically dominant counts as a major drawback. Randle was a true alpha-dog from the moment he stepped on the floor in November. The fact that six NBA franchises thought there were players better than Randle says a ton about the quality of this year’s draft.

Players Are Not One-Dimensional

NCAA fans face a key dilemma anytime they watch the draft. While they cheer for their former players to do well, the truth is that most fans are not happy to see their favorite players move on to the next level.

This was well-highlighted by John Calipari’s comments a few years ago that a draft with a large number of Kentucky players selected should be a great moment in Kentucky history. When we all step back and look at it, that has to be right. The purpose of a college is to prepare its students for their future careers. If Kentucky is doing that, the UK alumni should be proud, not angry. But as fans, that is a tough pill to swallow. On draft day, college fans are usually a little frustrated that we don’t get to see more from our favorite early entrants.

UCLA’s Jordan Adams is a great example of this. We spent the last two months talking about what a terrible decision he made to go pro. And now today, we were surprised when he was the 22nd pick in the first round. Perhaps the Memphis Grizzlies don’t know how to evaluate talent. Or perhaps we owe Adams an apology for questioning his decision.

But the truth is, we owe Jordan Adams that apology whether he was selected in the first round or not. Jordan Adams wasn’t playing college basketball to make us happy. He was playing college basketball while trying to pursue his dream of playing in the NBA. Only a curmudgeon would nit-pick the decision-making of someone pursuing their dream.

And this is especially true since returning to school is never a guarantee of success. Louisville’s Russ Smith returned to school and was told he needed to improve his passing to have a chance as an NBA point-guard. He did, upping his assist rate from near 20% to near 30%. And yet, no one noticed. Returning to school and once again becoming one of the most dominant players in college basketball didn’t suddenly make him into a first round pick.

Many of us laugh at the hypocrisy of the NCAA. We watch the O’Bannon vs NCAA trial and chortle at the NCAA’s claims that amateurism means that individuals cannot be recognized and compensated. And yet we often fall into the same trap as fans. We don’t really view the NCAA athletes as individuals who we want to succeed in life. We view them as pieces of a roster for our favorite teams.

Perhaps that’s why I really respect the NBA. While the NFL tries to limit the exposure of its players, (i.e. no one can take their helmet off after a big play without a penalty), the NBA tries to put the players front and center.

The NFL believes that if a team sport focuses on individuals, that it destroys the purpose of teamwork. And certainly this is sometimes true. Focusing on players sometimes leads you to learn that some players are show-offs, ball-hogs, and spotlight stealers. But if knowing about the players makes fans less connected to a sport, that is only because the league’s marketing has failed. The NBA has allowed us to see that players have more depth and nuance than any single highlight clip will ever show.

NCAA fans all know the Lacey Holsworth story, and how Adreian Payne did his best to provide joy for a little girl who died from cancer. And you had better believe the NBA wasn’t going to let its audience miss that story. It was front and center on draft night.

And the Isaiah Austin moment was spot on too. No, I wasn’t talking about the spot where the Commissioner came out and put a spotlight on the Baylor player who has to retire due to a life-threatening medical condition. I’m talking about the fact that during his 30 second interview, Marcus Smart chose to say he was thinking of Austin, and it reminded Smart not to take life for granted.

Marcus Smart is a reminder that we shouldn’t just try to give players one-dimensional labels. I don’t quite believe in all the love the ESPN crew foisted upon him on Thursday. His intensity is not unambiguously good. It often caused him to try to take over games himself and win by himself. It exposed the fact that he was not a pure PG. He did not respond to competitive situations by making his teammates better and rallying in the moment. He reacted with physical aggression and bad shot selection on far too many occasions.

But at the same time, Marcus Smart is exactly why the NBA is so good at what they do. We got to see his interview and see that he is not just the hyper-aggressive competitor on the court. On draft day, he wasn’t thinking about himself, he was thinking about his former rival in the Big 12.

Marcus Smart is a deep and complicated person, just like all of us. And that’s the reason we care about NBA players and teams, and not just our own local squad. Anyone who has watched the early chapters of Marcus Smart’s journey, absolutely wants to see how it ends up. Kudos to the NBA for putting the players front and center, and trying to present them as people, and not just jerseys.

David West Plays Vital Role In Helping T.J. Warren Realize NBA Dream

History was made on Thursday night when the Phoenix Suns selected T.J. Warren with the 14th overall pick. Warren, a 6-foot-8 forward out of N.C. State, is the first player drafted that worked directly with David West through his AAU Garner Road Basketball Club program.

Warren, who was invited by the NBA to sit in the green room, had the support of his mentor on the special night. West lends a hand, and ear, to players in the family program during the season while his older brother, Dwayne, runs the AAU club.

During the summer, West instills strong values -- in basketball and life -- in the youngsters enrolled in the program. If you go to the Garner Road website, the first thing you are greeted by is the motto: “No Books, No Ball.”

Warren declared for the draft after a sophomore season in which he was named the ACC Player of the Year and a Second Team Associated Press All-American. He has been lauded as having one of the most polished offensive games in a very deep draft class.

The Suns were one of the teams that worked Warren out and he felt as though he performed well in front of the team’s decision-makers. He couldn’t be sure where he’d go, but Phoenix was a logical landing spot.

“I felt like I had strong workouts. The Phoenix Suns were one of my best workouts,” Warren said after being drafted. “I did a lot of great things there, and it showed today. I’m very fortunate to be in this position.”

Warren has West to thank for helping him realize his dream. West has been a part of Warren’s life for nearly half of it.

“David has been a mentor to me since a very young age,” the 20-year-old said. “Since I was 10 years old, just learning from him, from his game. It means a lot to me.”

The importance of the moment wasn’t lost on West, who was drafted 18th overall by the New Orleans Hornets in 2003. Warren spent several summers away from his family and in the care of West’s as he worked towards his basketball goals.

“It’s a pretty special moment. We’ve had T.J. since he was 11, his parents trusted us with him,” West told RealGM on Thursday night. “They trusted us during the summer to stay on him. They gave us a lot of leeway with him in terms of pushing him. This is something he’s talked about since he was a little kid. Something he’s worked his butt off for; it’s great that it happen for him.”

Not only has Warren achieved his goal, but Phoenix’s system also suits his game extremely well. The Suns like to score and Warren can do that in bunches.

“I think my style of play fits very well,” Warren said. “I like to get up in transition for easy baskets, running the floor very hard. Their style of play matches my style of play. So it’s a perfect fit.”

West agreed.

“Perfect,” he said of the match. “They’re an open, run-and-gun system. Very good offensively, one of the highest scoring teams in the league. He’s the best scorer in this draft, so he’s going to fit in perfectly with what they do.”

Warren was one of the first players West was able to take under his wing early on. The two have maintained a close relationship as Warren has grown up and West has moved through what is now an 11-year professional career.

“Everyday I’m there for him, even now,” West said. “I stay in his ear everyday, keeping his mind in the right direction in terms of making sure he remains focused. Early on with him, I was with the Hornets and we weren’t making the playoffs so I was with him from April all the way through to the end of September. We had three or four years like that and they paid off for him.

“Just his hard work, him being a basketball guy. He’s a basketball junkie. He doesn’t have a whole lot of things going on outside. He’s got his family, a very small circle. He’s going to make the transition well. This is something we’ve been talking about since he was a young, young kid.”

The Suns drafted Warren in large part because of his work on the court, but West believes that success will come at the next level because of how strong he is mentally. It’s not surprising given the tenacity the mentor as brought to floor since he was Warren’s age.

“He has it up here,” West said, pointing to his head. “He’s constantly grinding, pushing himself. He pushed himself all the way to this level.”

In many ways, Thursday night could be a stepping-stone for the AAU Garner Road Basketball Club, but the program’s guiding influence insists that he won’t use Warren as a promotional tool. Still, guiding a player from his pre-pubescent years through to high school, college and ultimately the NBA is bound to get the attention of young players and those around them.

“We don’t really look at it like that. We are basically looking at it as just the beginning. We are invested in terms of these young people,” West vowed. “That’s my passion. That’s just what we do, my brother, we ultimately want to guide these kids and give them whatever we can in terms of what we’ve learned. Basketball is just a tool; it’s just a vehicle to reach these young people. T.J. is one of those guys that bought in right away; he’s a listener. Once he gets comfortable and opens up, anything that I would tell him when he was younger he took it to heart because I was where he eventually wanted to be.”

It seems likely that we’ll see West at future NBA drafts, supporting more young talent he has helped guide.

Are there more T.J. Warrens in the Garner Road pipeline?

“Oh yeah,” West said with a smile.

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