From start to finish the 2013 NBA Draft was Commissioner David Stern’s last stand at the podium. And what a stand it was. For some, like projected No. 1 pick/Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, it probably felt like it would never end — but more on that later.
And for the Utah Jazz, Thursday’s festivities were a giant welcoming party for new general manager Dennis Lindsey, who may have pulled off the unthinkable by working the phones non-stop to select Michigan guard Trey Burke, the consensus player of the year.
By the time the Minnesota Timberwolves picked No. 9, selecting Burke, the pick was made for Utah and in turn the Jazz grabbed UCLA forward Shabazz Muhammad at No. 14 and Louisville center Gorgui Dieng at 21 for the Timberwolves.
The NBA had officially approved the trade of draft rights by the respective teams before the first round had even finished — and Stern had turned back the clock to 1984 when he again shook Hakeem Olajuwon’s hand 30 years later and bid everyone a fond farewell.
As for Burke, rated by many including the Jazz as the No. 1 point guard in the draft, he would be heading to Utah instead of Minnesota where he would have competed for playing time with Ricky Rubio. But there were many factors that led to his unlikely selection by Utah.
For starters, UNLV forward Anthony Bennett was the No. 1 overall pick to Cleveland, throwing everyone’s mock drafts into a fiery heap headed for the nearest trash bin — because most had Bennett going between Nos. 5-10 at the earliest.
Punctuated by Brooklyn fans booing the outgoing villain boss Stern every time he approached the podium, the No. 1 shock pick from Canada was just the beginning to this madness.
The afore-mentioned Noel and Kansas guard Ben McLemore began their tailspin that didn’t end until Noel was selected by New Orleans — then traded to Philadelphia minutes later. As for McLemore, he went seventh to Sacramento.
As big names slid down the list, they were outmuscled by unproven, raw players like Ukrainian Alex Len at No. 4 and Georgetown defensive specialist Otto Porter Jr. Burke also tumbled out of the top five and into territory even he hadn’t considered.
The Jazz didn’t work out Burke during their long pre-draft camp featuring over 70 hopefuls — because they believed he wouldn’t be available. Well, so much for that thinking, because as everyone saw tonight — sometimes things happen for reasons nobody can comprehend.
And new Jazz GM Lindsey, calling the shots for the first time, got his first deal done in record time and had delivered Burke, the No. 1 rated point guard in the draft, to Utah.
By the time the Jazz were ready to take the 21st pick, the trade was officially accepted by the NBA and the rest, well, is history.
But the night wasn’t over. Lindsey was soon back on the phone talking to Denver, who agreed to choose French center Rudy Gobert, a 7-foot-2-inch defensive specialist with a ridiculous 7-foot-9 wing span, at No. 27 for the Jazz. In exchange the Nuggets took the draft rights to the Jazz’ No. 46 pick and cash considerations.
Surely Lindsey’s track record of selecting foreign-born players in San Antonio had played a role tonight, and he wasn’t done after choosing Gobert.
The Jazz capped what many insiders considered an A-plus-grade draft night by talking Atlanta into selecting Brazilian guard Raul Neto with the No. 47 pick, the rights of which were sent to the Jazz in exchange for the Brooklyn Nets’ 2015 second round choice.