Knee-jerk reaction remains the American way when it comes to sports drafts, and that's as it should be.
We couldn't stand the Indiana Pacers drafting Miles Plumlee and it took us nearly 10 seconds to make up our minds.
Big-time personnel evaluators, such as outgoing Pacers president Larry Bird, get paid handsomely to ignore that reaction and make informed and considered decisions.
So the publicly unpopular pick of Plumlee by the Pacers in the first round in Thursday's NBA Draft was the best of both worlds: Fan outrage and management solidarity. If the Pacers brass gets the last "We told you so" in a couple years, everybody wins.
This pick was perfect fodder for those of us who want to give our opinion quickly and without filter: Plumlee is from Duke. Nobody except Duke fans like anyone from Duke. (We all have our exceptions, of course. Hence my fondness for Shane Battier.)
Plumlee has no awe-inspiring stats to sell. He averaged less than seven points per game, about the same in rebounds. He started less than half the games in his college career. That's not going to make for a huge “on-paper” selling point. And there were all sorts of more popular picks, including Kentucky's Marquis Teague and Michigan State's Draymond Green, still on the board.
So we ranted and moaned for 15 minutes, and then went back to something of more long-term importance: plotting our Fantasy Football draft.
Bird, meanwhile, exits the Pacers knowing he made one final impact – right or wrong – on the organization.
Bird loves Plumlee, Pacers coach Frank Vogel insists, and believes he can come in and play right away. All of the Pacers' brass praised Plumlee for his athleticism, strength, etc. They believe he can fill a needed role.
So, then, once the dust of draft-night settled, those who care about the Pacers have to ask themselves: Do they trust Bird? They should. After all, Bird built the team that gave the Miami Heat all kinds of trouble, vaulting the Heat into the playing level needed for their NBA title.
Earlier this week, I wrote a column praising Bird's skills at putting this latest team together, particularly in light of the hole dug by Ron Artest and company earlier in Bird's tenure.
The fact of the matter is the Pacers picked at No.26. You're not getting a franchise player at No.26. You're finding a piece of the puzzle, and the Pacers can use a 6-foot-10, 245-pound bruiser to bolster their inside game. I still understand those who would have picked Green, the all-time best rebounder at Michigan State, a program that believes in rebounding more than any other.
Bird and the Pacers considered Green. Bird liked Plumlee better.
Ultimately, this was a role-player pick. The Pacers' bigger decisions are on the horizon, trying to lock up Roy Hibbert and George Hill and deciding whether to pursue other players to take the Pacers' roster up a notch. Plumlee will not win the NBA rookie of the year award. If he gives the Pacers 12 minutes of solid work a game, it's a good investment.
The Pacers' decision to trade up for Orlando Johnson – a relative unknown – shows they have no plans to stand pat, even in the role-player part of their roster.
It's a barometer of Bird's success in building a playoff contender that the Pacers were stuck with the No.26 pick. If the Pacers had been mediocre to bad, then they'd have been in the running for someone like Austin Rivers or members of the Kentucky 19U all-stars.
Plumlee was not a sexy pick, for lack of a better term. Plumlee was a general manager's pick, an insider's pick, a basketball scout's pick.
If Plumlee turns into a strong pro, today's critics might eventually hail the move as genius (or at least pretty smart) and forget they ever felt any other way.
At least that's my knee-jerk guess.