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TELANDER: Youth again is served in NBA draft

Updated: June 26, 2014 11:34PM



This draft was a fascinating, curious one.

By the time the Bulls traded their 16th and 19th picks to the Denver Nuggets for the 11th pick, Creighton coach’s son Doug McDermott, we had seen a lot of weirdness.

Duke’s Jabari Parker, who had been rumored to have semi-tanked his pre-draft workout so he wouldn’t be drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers, was taken second by the Milwaukee Bucks. Thus, Parker would be closer to his ailing father, Sonny, back in hometown Chicago. A plot? Who knows.

Then there was 7-0 Joel Embiid, the raw-but-agile center from Cameroon, by way of Kansas, who was taken third by the horrible Philadelphia 76ers. Embiid had been the consensus first pick until he broke his foot and needed surgery last week. The injury might take up to six months to heal. And after that, no one knows.

Images of wounded, short-circuited big men such as Greg Oden, Sam Bowie, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Yao Ming, even Bill Walton had to have danced through general managers’ heads. Would the Cavaliers and Bucks be sorry for having passed on a rare, still-learning center who has only played four years of organized basketball?

Who knows? With their recent bad luck at team-building it seemed quite possible.

What was certain was that six of the first seven players drafted were teenagers or college freshman, or both. The NBA, thus, had done its usual excellent job of foisting development of its child draftees on the NCAA and an American educational system in which the young players had zero interest. And which should have no interest in them.

Such is the lifeblood of college predators such as John Calipari and his ilk. Well done, NBA!

Another interesting part of the early draft was the taking of UCLA point guard Zach LaVine, himself a teenager, by the woeful, up-yonder Minnesota Timberwolves. That’s the team, remember, that former UCLA star Kevin Love is trying desperately to leave.

Cameras seemed to catch LaVine mouthing the words, “[Bleep] me,’’ upon learning of his selection. He sure didn’t look too happy. Or maybe he really said, “Lucky me!’’ and was overwhelmed with blank-faced joy.

Here’s the thing: the real dominoes haven’t fallen for team arrangement yet, because established stars Love, Carmelo Anthony, and “The Chosen One’’ himself, LeBron James, have not decided where they will land.

We won’t know that for days, maybe weeks, but the Bulls certainly are still in play. Their starting lineup if their season were to start now — and a few other things were guaranteed (such as Derrick Rose’s healthy knees and Carlos Boozer being gone) — would be Rose, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, and either Mike Dunleavy or Kirk Hinrich, with Tony Snell and our new gunner, the 6-8 small forward McDermott off the bench.

Not a bad team. Not a great one. Unless … Unless a good backup center comes along and the Knicks’ Anthony joins the team. That might well be the plan in place. Getting Anthony is a coup for any team. He is the pure scorer the Bulls don’t have. He is the man who could nail buckets as Rose breaks down the defense.

It’s impossible to say what the James domino theory of player movement is. Wherever he ends up — or even if he doesn’t leave the Heat and stays with teammates Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade — that’s where the power source lies.

The San Antonio Spurs are the quietest championship organization ever. But they are as unusual as they are skilled. They make no noise until they strike your neck.

Indeed, commissioner Adam Silver started off the draft night TV show by saluting the Spurs and reminding all Americans that this is roundball Disneyland where dreams come true! Why, he noted, the 2014 champion Spurs, are built around non-top-10 picks such as Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, and veterans Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

Silver conveniently didn’t mention maybe the Spurs best player ever, 17-year veteran Tim Duncan, taken No. 1 in the 1997 draft. An actual pre-draft college graduate, no less. How times change, eh?

A freshmen taken early, power forward Julius Randle of Kentucky, drafted No. 7 by the Lakers, was grilled by an ESPN reporter, being asked if he was ticked off at not having been taken higher.

“It’s not where you start,’’ Randle, 6-9, 250, said wisely. “It’s where you finish.’’

He’s right — nothing’s over yet. In fact, it’s just begun.

Email: rtelander@suntimes.com

Twitter: @ricktelander



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