"First-round draft pick" is such a useless term. In the span of only a few years, the Thunder, for instance, used a first rounder on a future MVP, one of the best players in the game (sorry, Seattle), then decided that they'd rather punt on a first-rounder completely than pay the kind of player you'd get in the late 20s.
At this point in the draft, you're not necessarily looking for a superstar. By 29, all the surefire first-division starters were gone 20 to 25 picks ago, so at this point in the draft, you're looking for one of two things: A high-floor bench player or a lottery ticket.
So I'm taking Cliff Alexander, late of the Kansas Jayhawks. Here's why Alexander is still around: He's coming out after half a season's worth of coming off the bench, because back in February he was ruled ineligible. He's only 6-foot-8 and change in shoes, which isn't ideal for a guy who's supposed to be able to play center, and he doesn't really have much in the way of finesse, or shooting range, or really advanced skills of any kind to speak of. He is a project in every way.
So here's why I'm taking him at No. 29. First of all, a year ago he was the No. 2 recruit in the country, right up there with Jahlil Okafor and Emmanuel Mudiay, two players who are going to go in the top 5 and be expected to change the direction of a franchise when they do. Alexander wasn't ever perceived as being as polished as those two--Mudiay and Okafor would be in the NBA already if they weren't held down by a collusive NBA age restriction that ought to offend everyone throughout the political spectrum: Lefties because it's anti-worker, conservatives because it's anti-free market.
Anyway, with the second-to-last pick in the first round, a pick with which we're chucking up hook shots from halfcourt, it's worth asking how much could've possible changed in the past 12 months. It's a question worth asking. He's played competitive basketball more recently than Nerlens Noel had when he was drafted, and a year ago he was one of the best high school players in the country. That can't all have gone away.
Second, he's only 6-foot-8, but by the Elton Brand Principle, height is overrated. You know what's more instructive as to his ability to play center in the NBA? His standing reach: 9-foot-2, the same as Frank Kaminsky. Also, his wingspan: 7-foot-4, the same as Karl-Anthony Towns. You don't play basketball with your neck. He's also 240 pounds--as a 19-year-old, he's got full-on Man Body already. If you wanted to eat Cliff Alexander, you couldn't grill him because he'd dry out.
Finally, yes, he got kicked off his college team, but for a stupid reason. Some guys get kicked off the team for doing something that reveals them to have rotten souls. Actually, that's not true--you get kicked off a college team for ticky-tack shit, not for really heinous crimes like sexual assault. Anyway, Alexander was ruled ineligible because his mom took out a loan against his future earning potential, which was only necessary because of the aforementioned age restriction, as well as an amateurism standard that was developed for the express purpose of conducting class warfare. I'd almost call what Alexander's mom did a necessary act of civil disobedience, defying the exploitative regime that kept her son in modern-day indentured servitude and under the thumb of people who hold his entire professional future in their hands, and who have nothing to gain from doing right by him in the long term.
Cliff Alexander might be a bad guy, but we can't tell that from his getting kicked off his college team. All we can tell from that is that he's a Hero of the Revolution.
Which brings us to the Nets. The Nets are as ostentatiously, comprehensively screwed as a team can be without incurring the kind of intergenerational karmic charley horse that damns the likes of the Detroit Lions. They were purchased as a plaything by an international investor who knew so little about how to run a basketball team he put Billy King in charge. If their future had been any more comprehensively ruined by a clueless plutocrat and his men, we'd have to change their name from "Nets" to "American Healthcare System." Their roster is old, and their future has been mortgaged to within an inch of the Stepien Rule.
Which is to say that as much as I like Terry Rozier, he's not going to move the needle. The Nets need to hole out from the fairway in order to keep themselves from continuing to be exactly the kind of expensive C-minus boondoggle the Hot Take Industrial Complex so badly wants the Sixers to become. They need a lottery ticket, and Alexander's got as good a chance as any of panning out.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves - Karl-Anthony Towns
2. Los Angeles Lakers - Jahlil Okafor
3. Philadelphia 76ers - D'Angelo Russell
4. New York Knicks - Emmanuel Mudiay
5. Orlando Magic - Mario Hezonja
6. Sacramento Kings - Justise Winslow
7. Denver Nuggets - Willie Cauley-Stein
8. Detroit Pistons - Stanley Johnson
9. Charlotte Hornets - Kristaps Porzingis
10. Miami Heat - Myles Turner
11. Indiana Pacers - Cameron Payne
12. Utah Jazz - Frank Kaminsky
13. Phoenix Suns - Kelly Oubre
14. Oklahoma City Thunder - Bobby Portis
15. Atlanta Hawks - Sam Dekker
16. Boston Celtics - R.J. Hunter
17. Milwaukee Bucks - Trey Lyles
18. Houston Rockets - Jerian Grant
19. Washington Wizards - Devin Booker
20. Toronto Raptors - Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
21. Dallas Mavericks - Tyus Jones
22. Chicago Bulls - Rashad Vaughn
23. Portland Trail Blazers - Kevon Looney
24. Cleveland Cavaliers - Justin Anderson
25. Memphis Grizzlies - Delon Wright
26. San Antonio Spurs - Montrezl Harrell
27. Los Angeles Lakers - Anthony Brown
28. Boston Celtics - Jordan Mickey
29. Brooklyn Nets - Cliff Alexander
30. Golden State Warriors - ?????