One night, awaking from a troubled dream, you find yourself in a large room of gigantic monitors and digital clocks counting down. Extremely tall men in expensive suits buzz about you like brokers on the floor of the stock exchange. You look down to see a set of large, strange hands where your own should be, and curiously, a gaudy Boston Celtics championship ring floats like a beacon on your right index finger.
Suddenly, two men come toward you, their long strides crossing the length of the room in seconds. "You're on the clock, Mr. Ainge," one says, and then they direct you, somewhat forcefully, to what resembles a voting booth. They ask you to back through the curtain and make your selection. One of the men puts his hand on the shoulder of your charcoal gray suit, looks at you with the watery, solemn eyes of a funeral director, and says "Good luck, you'll need it."
Once inside, you turn to find a worktable with a ticking mass of wires and electronics on top, obviously a bomb. A pair of wire snips hangs from above on a retractable chain. You pull them down and start inspecting the tangle of wires protruding from the device, and you see each wire has a different color and name: Hakim Warrick on the orange wire, Charlie Villanueva on the white wire, Rashad McCants on the light blue wire. Your hand shakes so violently as you prepare to sever the orange wire that your other hand is needed to steady it. Sweat drips from your forehead to the table as the snips begin to cut through the wire's insulating sleeve.
"Wait a second! Hold it! Hold it!" someone screams from behind you. You turn to see a man wrapped entirely in gauze from head to toe being carted on a dolly by a male orderly.
"Dear Lord, man, what happened?" you inquire.
"I was in here back in 2001," the man answers. "I had to make three cuts. I cut the Joe Johnson. No problem there. But then I got cocky. Cut the Kedrick Brown. That's when the timer started counting down five times faster. Oh yeah, wrong wire for sure. Then, I folded under the pressure. I snipped the Joe Forte."
Tears wet the dirty gauze beneath his eyes as the awful memory floods back. The orderly shakes his head and begins to cart the man off. "Take your time, Mr. Ainge," he warns as he is rolled away, "or you'll end up like me."
You turn back to the device, and separate out the wires you are considering. Surely, careful logic and elimination will lead you to the right decision. You resolve to take them one by one.
Orange wire: Hakim Warrick: He can leap a Syracuse snowdrift. He transitions like a cheetah. His game is so far above the rim, he needs an aerial bombardment map just to shoot the ball. Perfect NBA power forward in a running offense. Wait, isn't he a small forward? No, he has the body of a small forward, but no game facing the basket beyond 12 feet. His athleticism will make up for that, though, surely? Won't it? You have a vision of your power forward, Antoine Walker, shooting threes while your small forward is trying to post up Ben Wallace. OK, wrong wire.
White Wire: Charlie Villanueva: Incredibly mobile and athletic seven footer who can run the floor, dribble, shoot and leap. Hey, that sounds pretty appealing. He passes, posts, cuts, defends and boards. Well, when he's paying attention to the game he does, and that's only about 40 percent of the time. Also, what line was he in when they were handing out the eyebrows? He’s like a larger version of Lex Luthor without the supervillain IQ or killer instinct. Ok, wrong wire.
Light Blue Wire: Rashad McCants: Shooting guard who is unstoppable, but can enjoy a good pout when things aren't going his way. Hey, you can't have enough of those, can you? Sure, he compared playing ball at UNC to being in prison, and at 6'2" he isn't really tall enough to play his desired NBA position, but he could light it up in a running offense. You have a vision of "Cants" guarding Tracey McGrady. Ok, wrong wire.
Red Wire: Channing Frye: So soft, that instead of appearing on a Wheaties box, he'll appear on a Kleenex box. In fact, Kleenex will come out with a line of tissues named after him, Channing Softs ®,calling them "our softest ever". Ok, wrong wire.
Blue Wire: Chris Taft: Super talented big man from Pittsburgh who looks lost on the floor and just doesn't seem to care. Hey, you can't have enough of those, can you? See Blount, Mark. Ok, wrong wire.
Enter an apparition of Michael Jordan in a long white robe.
"Who the heck are you supposed to be?"
"I am the Ghost of GM's Past," Jordan answers.
"Well, can you give me some advice here. Everybody on the board seems to have a maddening combination of incredible talent and damning flaws. Is there any possible way to keep this thing from blowing up in my face in about 45 seconds?"
"Sometimes, my friend," the Ghost responds, "the draft can make even the wisest, most prepared GM look like a complete idiot. You can study these guys a thousand years and still not guess how they are going to react to the NBA game. The combination of talent, work ethic, and mental toughness it takes to succeed at that level is probably more than any but a few in this draft can muster. You are like a guy walking through a minefield who has to step on the one mine that will explode into a bouquet of lilies instead of horribly maiming shrapnel."
"Hey, great analogy, pal!" you snarl back. "That really helps right now with about ten seconds on the clock."
"Ten seconds? Hey, look at that, I just got a page from Isiah. Good luck with the bomb and all. Looks like that thing is about to Kwame, er, I mean explode. See you on the other side."
As the clock ticks down to the final seconds, you grab the orange. First instinct, best instinct, you reason. You cut it and all goes dark. When the lights come up, you find yourself seated behind the Celtics' bench as the starting lineup is being introduced. The PA announcer welcomes the crowd to the 2005-2006 home opener. Relieved to be alive, you try to make out the faces of the team you have assembled as they huddle together. Yet, you can't seem to identify any of the players from your vantage point.
The announcer calls out the starting center: Mark Blount. Crap, you think, I really thought I could solve that problem in the offseason. Then the announcer calls out the starting power forward from Pittsburgh. Huh? You picked Warrick not Taft, right? He calls the name Mark Blount again and another Blount runs onto the floor. This can't be! Starting at small forward? Mark Blount. Shooting guard? Blount. Point guard? Blount.
Then you notice, seated to your right, Rick Pitino wearing a red cape and brandishing a pitchfork. He rises up on his cloven hooves and sharpens his horns with a piece of rough sandpaper. "Looks like you didn't survive this draft, Danny boy, and now you're mine for all eternity." You are momentarily transfixed by the perfect composure of his hair, even here in hell. A few devils with TV cameras push through the flames that surround you everywhere to capture the moment. Pitino preens and laughs devilishly as he throws a red arm around you. It wasn't a dream.