Originally published January 6, 2009 at 12:00a.m., updated January 6, 2009 at 09:01a.m.
Six months or so ago, I ranted about the NBA Draft, pontificating that the annual pro basketball meat market was a joke.
You may remember I was particularly peeved about the Boston Celtics selecting J.R. Giddens with the last pick in the first round when the reigning NBA champs could have tapped Mario Chalmers.
Well, now I’m here to say, with a smug grin, I told you so.
Chalmers, a couple of months removed from the immortal three-point basket that had spurred Kansas to the NCAA championship, was chosen four picks into the second round by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Meanwhile, the Miami Heat were lurking in the wings and when the Heat offered a couple of 2009 second-round draft choices and cash considerations — whatever that means — for Chalmers, the Wolves opted for the deal without consulting Howie Mandel.
Less than a month later, the Heat were so impressed with Chalmers they awarded him a three-year $2.3 million contract with two years guaranteed. That’s news. Second-rounders rarely command a pact, much less a guarantee.
So how has Chalmers fared with the Heat?
Just this week the Miami Herald newspaper dubbed him “the steal of June’s draft.”
Chalmers has started every Heat game at point guard. He’s averaging 10.0 points, 4.6 assists and 1.94 steals a game. Only superstar Dwyane Wade has higher assist and steal numbers among the Miami players.
In a game against Cleveland, Chalmers tied a team rookie record with six three-pointers and finished with 21 points, eight assists, three steals and not a single turnover in 40 minutes of floor time.
Now Heat officials are talking about giving Chalmers more free-lance opportunities in an attempt to take some of the scoring load off Wade.
NBA.com ranks Chalmers as the fifth best rookie in the league behind Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo, Russell Westbrook and Heat teammate Michael Beasley, and that quartet went 1-3-4-2 respectively in the June draft.
Who would have believed the fourth pick in the second round would be ranked behind the first four choices in the first round?
So what about Giddens?
You won’t find him in the Celtics’ box scores. You’ll have to go to the NBA Developmental League Web site to find the 6-6 tweener who began his career at KU, then finished at New Mexico after that over-publicized knifing incident at a Lawrence watering hole.
Yes, J.R. Giddens is now playing for the Utah Flash and averaging 17.4 points a game. Interestingly, one of Giddens’ Utah teammates is Bill Walker, the former Kansas State player who declared for the NBA Draft after his sophomore year in Manhattan, then tumbled deep into the second round.
C.J. Giles, another former KU player who tested the bounds of citizenship while with the Jayhawks, is also in the NBADL. Giles was recently signed as a free agent by the Los Angeles D-Fenders.
I’ll grant that Chalmers’ instant success in the NBA has had a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time, but I’ll be surprised if Giddens ever becomes the NBA player Chalmers already is.