While Tyler Honeycutt settled into his seat at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Thursday evening for the 2011 NBA draft, Malcolm Lee was at a movie theater across the country, choosing to keep his draft day draft-free.
And while Honeycutt was there to hear his name called, Lee stayed in Southern California and heard of his selection through a friend but not until he had finished watching “Super 8.”
The two Bruins who left UCLA early for the pros had vastly different experiences taking in the draft, but by Thursday night, both had found landing spots as second-round selections. Honeycutt was selected by the Sacramento Kings with the 35th overall pick, while the Minnesota Timberwolves acquired the rights to Lee ““ taken just eight selections later ““ during the draft.
Neither player achieved his goal of going in the first round, but neither had regrets about leaving UCLA early.
“I entered this draft not based on where I was going to go,” Lee said. “I’m just trying to get in the league because it’s been my dream ever since I was little.”
First-rounders are guaranteed five-year contracts according to the NBA’s rookie wage scale, while second-round picks are not. Honeycutt and Lee hoped to join former Bruins Jordan Farmar (No. 26 in 2006), Arron Afflalo (No. 27 in 2007), Russell Westbrook (No. 4 in 2008), Kevin Love (No. 5 in 2008) and Jrue Holiday (No. 17 in 2009) as early entry first-round selections but failed to do so.
Getting picked in the second round is far from an NBA death sentence, however. The pair find themselves in a situation similar to that of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who passed up his senior season at UCLA and was selected with the 37th pick in 2008. Mbah a Moute has become a starter for the Milwaukee Bucks and one of the best defensive small forwards in the league.
“It might be a blessing in disguise for me,” Honeycutt said of his selection.
When he declared for the draft in late March, projections had Honeycutt as a mid-first round pick. By Thursday, he knew there “wasn’t really any telling of where I could go.”
Despite the late selection, Honeycutt was pleased where he ended up. Sacramento ““ which selected Brigham Young standout Jimmer Fredette with its first-round pick ““ had a need for a small forward, and for Honeycutt, being just a short plane ride away from his hometown of Sylmar doesn’t hurt either.
“The only thing better could have been the Clippers or the Lakers,” said Honeycutt, who averaged 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game as a sophomore last year while leading the Pac-10 in blocks.
The 6-foot-8-inch, 200-pound Honeycutt knows that most of the concerns about him revolve around his slender build, which could have caused him to slip out of the first round. He won’t get the benefit of the rookie summer league in Las Vegas, which was cancelled this year as an NBA work stoppage looms, but he is focused on packing on some bulk.
“Now I’m going to have a lot of time ““ especially with no summer league ““ to make sure I’m eating right and take care of my body and make sure I’m doing what I need to do to gain weight,” he said.
Six players from the Pac-10’s 2011 all-conference first team were selected: Arizona’s Derrick Williams (No. 2, Minnesota), Washington State’s Klay Thompson (No. 11, Golden State), USC’s Nikola Vucevic (No. 16, Philadelphia), Washington’s Isaiah Thomas (No. 60, Sacramento), Honeycutt and Lee.
Lee, who made his name as a tough perimeter defender, said he’s looking to play point guard for Minnesota. He saw time at the position in the 2009-2010 season with UCLA but was used almost exclusively as a shooting guard in his junior year. Lee joins a team that has two other point guards under contract, including Spain’s Ricky Rubio, who signed with the Timberwolves on Friday.
“I’m a (point guard), but I can play off the ball. If I end up playing off the ball, it is what it is, but I just wanted to show people I can play the point,” said Lee, a Pac-10 all-defensive team selection in 2011.
Lee was faced with the challenge of guarding the opposing team’s best player every night in college, but even he couldn’t come face a television when it came time to move on to the pros.
“The whole feeling of suspense, just watching, hearing the names called ““ I just felt like my nerves would be better if I didn’t watch it.”