From Anthony Davis all the way to Robert Sacre, it was the most uneventful of NBA drafts Thursday night. Uneventful in terms of chaos, that is. Chaos, as we know, is the NBA way.
Chaos begins at midnight Sunday.
That's when the floodgates open on the first full-fledged free agency period since the lockout, and there is a lot of bottled-up chaos just waiting to burst forth.
That didn't happen Thursday night in Newark, N.J. The blockbuster trades never happened. Dwight Howard is still in Orlando, Josh Smith in Atlanta, Lamar Odom in Dallas -- though not for long, one way or another.
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There were a few surprises. The Cavaliers picked Dion Waiters at No. 4, proving that sometimes smokescreens aren't smokescreens; they're real. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist went to Charlotte at No. 2, and Terrence Ross to Toronto at No. 8. There were some non-surprises. The Sacramento Kings, with only 11 players under contract amounting to near the league-minimum payroll, sold 36th pick Orlando Johnson to the Pacers for cash. Despite the NBA's new model of competitive balance, the poor get poorer.
The Celtics got Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo with the 21st and 22nd picks and felt pretty good about that. Now, they await Kevin Garnett's retirement decision (which he has promised before the start of free agency) and the possible free-agent departure of another Hall of Famer, Ray Allen.
Times change, names change. Sometimes, only the first name. Austin Rivers, son of Doc, wound up with New Orleans on a night when the Hornets nearly completed their climb back to interesting -- and quite possibly competitive -- only six months after trading Chris Paul. It was as if Doc Rivers had picked the one coach other than himself that he'd want coaching his son. I've seen Doc smile after many a Celtics victory, but never quite the way he did Thursday night when the Hornets picked his kid. Family ties notwithstanding, the Hornets will be fun to watch again with Davis, a presumably re-signed Eric Gordon and Rivers.
So enjoy this rare spasm of normalcy and calm, for the free-agent cauldron is roiling. It starts with Deron Williams' decision -- Brooklyn or Dallas? -- and only gets more intriguing from there. How long does new Orlando GM Rob Hennigan wait before trading Howard? Assuming Williams stays with the Nets, will he be enough of a magnet to lure Howard and perhaps former Net Jason Kidd?
Williams has said he wants to make a decision before he leaves July 5 for Team USA training camp in Las Vegas. Long before that, his only real suitor besides the Nets -- Dallas -- will either send Odom to the Clippers or be forced to buy him out. Odom's $2.4 million guarantee for 2012-13 becomes $8.2 million Friday, so it's easy to see where that is going. A deal sending Odom to the L.A. team that drafted him has been agreed to and is awaiting approval from Mo Williams on whether he will pick up his $8.5 million player option for next season in conjunction with being traded to Utah. Two people involved in the deal were cautiously optimistic Thursday night that Williams would go along with it, though his agent, Mark Bartelstein, was continuing to evaluate potential free-agent possibilities if Williams declined the option.
And these are merely the free-agent formalities. Looming large in the decisions to be made in the coming days will be both competitive issues -- the Mavs, for example, needing to make a different kind of splash if they don't land Williams -- and financial ones. With a vastly more punitive luxury tax coming into play in 2013-14, more deals like the one that saw Detroit unload Ben Gordon's $25.6 million over the next two seasons will be discussed, and discussed and discussed.
The Bulls may be able to stomach Luol Deng's $14.3 million in '13-'14. But for a team that never wanted to pay the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax, how are the Bulls going to accommodate Carlos Boozer's $32.1 million over two years starting in '13-'14 when the new tax is $1.50 for every dollar up to $5 million over the tax, and goes up from there?
How are the Lakers -- with one pick Thursday night, the last one -- going to get younger or better with Pau Gasol making $38.3 million over the next two seasons, not to mention combining with Kobe Bryant to earn $50 million in '13-'14?
With the Rockets shifting gears from making a run at a major trade to building with draft picks, how can Luis Scola make $30.7 million over the next three seasons? In Golden State, David Lee's $57 million over the next four seasons doesn't look so good in the NBA's new collectively bargained world.
The list goes on. Oklahoma City, one of the most shrewdly built teams in the league, will have to make difficult decisions on how to fit extensions for James Harden and Serge Ibaka into a small-market budget without the big-market ability to fork over millions in luxury tax. And if the Kings would rather have money than the 36th pick in the draft, how can they afford the three years and $22.7 million left on John Salmons' contract?
In about 48 hours, the day of reckoning arrives. The feel-good stories from draft night -- Rivers to the Hornets, Sullinger to the Celtics, the Rockets selecting Royce White despite anxiety disorder and the often-injured Robbie Hummel going to Minnesota with the 58th pick -- will fade. Then, chaos will ensue.
In other words, things will be back to normal.