Once upon a time in a land far, far away, high school basketball prospects went to college to get an education.
Gas cost six cents per gallon, dragons terrorized the skies, and yes even the best teenage ballplayers in America committed to four years of campus life.
Then, in 1970, a usurper named Spencer Haywood, along with Seattle SuperSonics owner Sam Schulman, changed all that. They called it "hardship" then. Haywood wasn't eligible, but he was clearly good enough to play professional basketball and he needed the money, so he challenged the system in court and won.
Now NBA players are multi-millionaires and getting them to attend college for one year is viewed as a violation of their financial freedoms. Hardship is deciding between the roomy Escalade or something sporty. Oh yes, the game has certainly changed. The NBA is thriving, but college basketball is a shell of its former self, Danny Ainge is fat with gray hair, and the draft is no longer the must-see NBA event it used to be for us diehards.
The result is that nearly every year the draft now looks weak to basketball fans. Stars are still being made in the league, they just aren't nearly as polished coming out of the starters' gate, and because of that, it's more difficult for us to pick a winner. And we don't like it.
Who are these dudes? I'm not certain any of them can play.
Gone are the days of watching a player develop over four years, getting to know his game, witnessing first-hand as Clyde Drexler's hairline recedes, as David Robinson grows out of his naval submarine, and as Bryant Reeves magically tranforms from a giant block of wood into a lottery pick. And this unfamiliarity with each rookie class, well, it scares us.
Four years later, we review each draft and realize a similiar star-to-bust ratio still exists, as it has always existed, and that everything turned out fine. But what if we could go back, even if for just a little while, and pretend things were as they used to be. I have my college six-pack back, you're rockin' your mullet once more and it looks damn sexy with that OP hoodie, and college basketball players stay all four years. Then, what would the 2013 NBA Draft (that we presently hate so much) look like?
With the #1 pick the Cleveland Cavaliers select: John Wall, PG, Kentucky
John Calipari's first recruiting class at Kentucky cranked out a winner in Wall. The Wildcat point guard led his team to three SEC titles, two Final Fours, and this year's national championship. No one in the country is faster with the ball in his hands, and the 2012-13 National Player of the Year developed his shot-making ability over his four years in Lexington, where fans will no doubt miss his 22 points per game and that goofy John Wall arm dance they did for four long years.
With the #2 pick in the 2013 NBA draft the Orlando Magic select: DeMarcus Cousins, C, Kentucky
Cousins needed all four seasons at Kentucky to mature on and off the court. The Magic are now getting a legitimate 7-footer with power forward skills. He averaged a double-double in each of his final three seasons in Lexington, and he shouldn't stop posting such lofty numbers now that he's a pro.
With the third pick of the 2013 draft the Washington Wizards select: Kawhi Leonard, F, San Diego State University
Leonard should pair nicely with last year's top overall pick Derrick Rose. He's an excellent athlete and defender who developed his offensive game over his four years with Steve Fisher to include a deft three-point touch.
The fourth pick in the NBA draft belongs to the Charlotte Bobcats who select: Damian Lillard, G, Weber State
Lillard's 29 points per game as a senior led the nation in scoring. No doubt a late bloomer, he's improved with every season at the collegiate level. Some scouts claim if Lillard was from Duke and not Weber State, he might have gone as the #1 overall pick in this year's draft.
And with the fifth selection in the NBA draft the Phoenix Suns select: Eric Bledsoe, PG, Florida
The Suns had to think long and hard here about big men Derrick Favors of Georgia Tech and Arizona's Derrick Williams, but they opt for the explosive Gator point guard. Bledsoe was originally slated for Kentucky out of high school, but he didn't want to spend four years playing out of position with John Wall starting at the point. In Gainesville, he dominated to the tune of 19 points, six assists, and six rebounds per game, reminding many NBA scouts of 2011 NBA Rookie of the Year Russell Westbrook of the Sacramento Kings.
Other players up for top 10 consideration in the 2013 NBA draft: Thomas Robinson of Kansas, Iowa State weirdo Royce White, and Colorado guard Alec Burks.
Now, when I clap my hands twice we will have returned to reality. CLAP-CLAP.
The Cavaliers are on the clock and they have a choice between a center who averaged 11 points per game this season, a shot-blocker with a blown out knee and no offensive game whatsoever, and a shooting guard who can't shoot. Enjoy the draft.