Charles Barkley: “I hate young kids coming to the NBA, because that’s not what the draft is for.”

June 27, 2011 – 8:30 am by Michael Bean

You don’t think we’d let the 2011 NBA Draft come and go without checking in with Charles Barkley to see what he had to say did you? Of course not. Sir Charles is typically pure gold in his reactions and assessment to the NBA’s major developments, and not just because he’s humorous or unafraid to tell it like it is. His analysis is also sound and prescient and worth contemplating. There’s also a likely and potentially ugly lockout on the horizon worth hearing Barkley’s take on. So let’s get to it.

Barkley joined ESPN Radio New York with Mike Lupica to talk about his reaction to last Thursday night’s NBA Draft, being impressed by Jan Veseley’s girlfriend marking her territory by kissing Veseley after his name was called as the No. 6 pick by the Washington Wizards, why he thinks it’s terrible for the NBA for the bad teams not to be guaranteed to get great talent early in the draft because of the reality that unready, young talent is constantly entering the draft, how he thinks Brandon Knight will be the better than Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette, the other three guards selected in the top ten, how despite thinking Derek Williams is a great talent how he’s concerned about what position Williams is best suited to play at the NBA level, how big of a miracle it would take for David Stern to help avoid a lockout in the NBA, why he thinks Stern is the best commissioner in professional sports the past 25 years, what he believes are the two biggest issues surrounding the looming labor impasse, how he’s advised his good buddy Michael Jordan (and would do the same to other owners) to stop overpaying for mediocre talent in attempt to just squeak into the playoffs and be bounced early, and why he thinks it’s a better strategy to just lose a bunch of games and ensure that you get high draft picks.

On how much of the NBA Draft did he watch Thursday night:

“I watched the whole draft.”

If he caught the kiss Jan Veseley had with his gorgeous girlfriend after being selected by the Washington Wizards:

“I like the fact that she was marking her territory. She wanted everyone to know that ‘this is my millionaire and nobody can have them.’ I like that. Hey, millionaires don’t grow on trees.”

On which of the following four guards taken in the first 10 picks does he feel we’ll be talking about the most in several years time — Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Jimmer Fredette, and Brandon Knight:

“You know, that’s a really good question. I actually think Knight has the biggest upside out of those four myself. I actually think the best player in the draft was Enes Kanter out of Turkey. If I had the No. 1 pick, I’d have taken that kid out of Turkey. But out of those four guards, I think Knight has got the biggest upside in my opinion.”

On if he’d agree that taking European players is the biggest crap shoot beacuse of how little they’re able to watch them:

“First of all, you’re correct. Even if they watched them play, they couldn’t have watched them…I think to watch a guy play, you have to watch him four or five times. But you can say the same about Kyrie Irving; he only played 10 games basically in college. But also, one of the reasons I don’t like the draft is because I would listen…Jeff Van Gundy is very good and Jay and Jon were good, but like, all you hear all night is ‘he’s a project. He’s got potential.’ See, that’s why I hate young kids coming to the NBA, because that’s not what the draft is for. The draft is designed for bad teams to get help; they’re not supposed to get a project. I think it does a disservice to the game, I think it does a disservice to the fans — because if I’m a fan and my team is a crappy team, I don’t want them drafting a guy that I’ve got to wait to see if he’s going to be any good; that doesn’t help me as a fan. The draft used to be designed as okay my team stinks, I’m going to get Hakeem Olajuwon, I’m going to get Tim Duncan, or Michael Jordan or Karl Malone or someone like that. To draft a kid No. 1 that only played overseas, or a kid that’s only played 10 college games or one year, he’s not going to be no immediate help to my team. That’s why I hate all these kids coming to the NBA.”

On what he thinks of Arizona’s Derek Williams, selected No. 2 overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves:

“I think he’s terrific. I think the only problem with him is what position is he going to play. Because in the NBA, you have to be able to play a certain position. The 3 and 4 are like night and day. The 3 he’s going to be chasing guys off picks; the 4 he’s going to clearly be the power forward and supposed to be a dominant defender and rebounder. So I think he’s the classic ‘tweener’. I think he’s good enough to have an impact on the game, but the only reason I wouldn’t have taken him No. 1 is I don’t know what position he’s going to play, to be honest with you because he’s a classic ‘tweener.’”

On the impending NBA Lockout and what a miracle it would be if David Stern would be able to bridge the huge divide between all the various parties involved:

“Well I think, and I’m not saying this because I’m in the NBA, if you go back and look, David Stern has been the best commissioner in sports the last 25 years. It would take a miracle on his part not to have a lockout and I truly believe that. I think there’s going to be a lockout, I think the owners are dug in, I think they want to send a message to these players. I think they’re really upset by this LeBron James / Chris Bosh situation, because their teams don’t have to be really good, but I feel like if they have a star in their market they can make some money. And if all the stars want to play together…we’re almost becoming like baseball where you’ve got a few good teams and the rest of them stink.”

But wait, even though there’s a handful of powerhouse teams in baseball, there’s still been nine different teams who have won the World Series in the past decade:

“Yeah but it’s different because we make all our money on television. And those teams…like the San Francisco Giants can win the World Series if they’ve got great pitching, but they don’t make any money on television like we do in the NBA. Then we have that rule where you can only show a team ‘X’ amount of times. So now we’re stuck. Why are we going to show the Cleveland Cavaliers? Why are we going to show the Toronto Raptors? We can’t do that. Now you’ve got the thing brewing with Dwight Howard, and now you’ve got the thing brewing with Chris Paul, and it’s like why would we show Orlando if Dwight Howard is not there? And why would we show New Orleans if Chris Paul is not there? I think because they’re upset that some of these players all want to play together…..I think the players are going to have to take a really shoddy deal not to have a lockout. And I shouldn’t say a shoddy deal, but they’re going to put some things in play where all these players can’t play together — that’s first and foremost. And I think they are going to bring these salaries down, as far as ‘X’ amount of years. I think they’re definitely going to do those two things.”

On how he feels his good buddy Michael Jordan is doing trying to build a winner in Charlotte:

“Well I think he made the first step [Thursday] night to be honest with you. I’ve been telling Michael — see, first of all under this current system you are correct — but what I’ve told him, and I actually told him two years ago, that team….Jeff Van Gundy was great during the draft last night, and I’ve been saying this for three or four years, a lot of people got mad at me — I wouldn’t be trying to win games if I were a mediocre team, I’d be throwing games. I want to get draft picks and draft space, the exact same way the Miami Heat and New York Knicks did it. This notion where you’re the No. 6, 7 or 8 seed every year and you’re going to lose, I think that’s the silliest thing in the world. Jeff Van Gundy said it last night — he said I don’t understand why these teams…you know, they gave me a hard time in Philadelphia last year; I said they’re going to be the 6, 7 or 8 seed and they’re going to lose in the first round. I said Philadelphia needs draft picks, young players and cap space. And Jeff Van Gundy said it last night, and I’ve been saying it for three or four years. I told Michael two, three years ago — you’re paying Gerald Wallace, you’re paying Stephen Jackson, you’re paying Okafor, you’re going to be the 6, 7, or 8 seed, and you’re going to lose in the first round of the playoffs every year. I personally think you should do it like Oklahoma City do it — they drafted well every year, and now they’re a legit contender. See this is my philosophy: my best player is going to make the most money. I’m not going to pay mediocre players. I think that’s the stupidest thing in the world. I forget the old baseball analogy, but a guy asks for a lot of money and they say ‘hey man, we’ve come in last place with you, we’ll come in last place without you.’ I 100 percent agree with that. I’m  not going to pay guys $10, $12, $15 million dollars and we lose in the first round of the playoffs every year. I think that’s absurd. And the fans, I would tell the fans ‘we’re not very good; we’re going to start over. You guys are going to have to be patient, because the way the system is now, I’m pay three or four guys $10, $12, $15 million dollars, we’re the 6, 7, 8 seed, we’re not going to get a good draft pick.’ And I think that’s the silliest thing in the world to be honest with you.”

Listen here to Barkley with Mike Lupica on ESPN Radio New York

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