Proving once again that there's no way to predict the vagaries of any professional draft, Da'Sean Butler edged out his former Mountaineer teammate by one spot despite the devastating knee injury he suffered in the NCAA tournament national semifinal . Butler, whose agent put him on a major tour of teams and kept him in the spotlight with an ESPN feature on his rehab process, was selected by the Miami Heat in the second round by the Miami Heat with the 42 pick overall. Just one selection later, it was Devin Ebanks going to the Lost Angeles Lakers with pick number 43.
Many mock drafts had Ebanks going in the first round, while Butler was a marginal second round pick at best, largely due to his knee injury. However, the sometimes strange circumstances that can coalesce to produce unexpected results rose up to put Butler in position to be picked one spot ahead of Ebanks. In this case, it was the targeted reconstruction of a Miami team which could start next season with only one or two players from its 2009-10 roster.
The Heat, who are targeting two or three high-profile, high-dollar free agents, are loaded with unrestricted free agents, and it's expected that of those, only Dwayne Wade has a chance to return. Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers could also be back, but outside that duo Miami is expected to completely turn over its roster. In doing so, Miami has cleared salary cap room to pursue two or even three players that could command salaries of $15-16 million per year. But after that, the Heat will have to fill out its roster with players that don't command huge numbers.
That, of course, is where Butler fits in. He's not expected to be ready to play until late this year or early in 2011, and thus won't come into the league as a high dollar player. In other words, he's a perfect fit for Miami's rebuilding process.
Of course, Butler's talent also comes into play here. He doesn't necessarily stand out at any one aspect of the game, but he knows how to play and get the most of his skills. He does everything well, both on and off the court, and would certainly be a solid addition to any locker room. Where he ends up on the floor, and what type of chance he will get remains to be seen, but for a team in the process of deconstructing its roster, Butler should get every shot to make it – even though his debut will be long delayed.
One of the best indicators of Butler's long term value? His steady improvement at WVU. Every season, Butler boosted his minutes played, scoring and assist averages, and nearly did so in rebounding as well. He also raised his free throw percentage from 66.3% to 78.9% over his four year career.
Ebanks' situation was much different, and in hindsight it became apparent that is lack of consistent scoring punch and the undisclosed issue that kept him off the floor at the start of his sophomore season may have weighed a bit more heavily in the evaluations of NBA general managers than they were willing to let on.
Ebanks' selection by the Lakers, although coming later than he would have hoped, certainly isn't a bad one. He'll be joining a team with few negatives, but also a squad that he should have at least a reasonable chance of making. Could he displace an Adam Morrison, who is scheduled to make nearly $7 million for L.A. next year? He'd certainly be a cheaper option. Does Derek Fisher, a 13 year vet who will be 36 on opening day, return? While his spot certainly won't be guaranteed, the Lakers' need for a better defensive option on the wing gives Ebanks a good shot at making it. He'll also be surrounded by players with a championship mentality.
With the draft now complete, the next stage of preparation for the 2010-11 season – free agent season – begins. These moves will go much further than the two round draft in determining the roster makeup and spots available for both of WVU's alums. And although the draft probably didn't play out quite as they expected, they each have their shot – and that's pretty much all that anyone can ask for.