At #56, the Lakers pick a complete unknown - Chukwudiebere Maduabum, who fortunately is able to go by "Chu Chu," although Adam Silver pronounced his name to sound a lot like "Chuck Berry." (If neither of those nicknames work for you, try "Bumchuck.")
One of the pages of this website that no one ever looks at is the D-League transactions page. There are other D-League transactions pages out there on the internet, including the D-League's own one. But those other pages miss certain transactions, and this site's one does not. It is as exhaustive and as comprehensive about things as I am about anything, an exhaustiveness which, as this post testifies to, is unlimited.
One such overlooked transaction occurred on March the 18th of this year, when the Bakersfield Jam, seeking to replace Kenny Taylor, acquired Bumchuck from the available player pool. Having never ever of the man - and I like to at least know of everybody out there - I spent half an hour looking for anything there was to find about Chukwudiebere Maduabum.
I found absolutely nothing. Nada, nil, zip, zilch. There was absolutely no record of him anywhere, ever. As far as I could tell, Chucky had gotten straight off the plane from his native Nigeria and signed a contract with the D-League. There was nothing to find. Given that Bumchuck went on to total three games, 21 minutes, 2 points, 1 rebound and 3 fouls in his time with the Jam, I didn't see any reason look again.
And yet here we are now. This D-League garbage time player is an NBA draft pick.
The ESPN panel are clearly stumped. They have nothing to say about Chu Chu, nothing to show, nothing to discuss other than Stu Scott's mildly xenophobic highlighting of the weirdness of his name. [I realise I did the same just now, but then, I'm mildly xenophobic.] Fran Fraschilla gets as far as "he's 6'9......he's a project.....", before abandoning any further discussion and angrily cursing out GM's for not drafting David Lighty and Ben Hansbrough. No one else has anything to offer, and the Lakers' strange move is moved on from.
The truth is, the Lakers didn't want him either. Instead, they just scored themselves a free pick. The only person to know, see or like anything about Maduabum before he came to the Jam was Masai Ujiri, Denver Nuggets GM. As a Nigerian native himself, and a former head of the NBA Basketball Without Borders Africa program, Ujiri has many African connections. Therefore, despite the complete nothing that Chu Chu has done so far, Ujiri clearly believes there is something to be tapped into. It is he who got Chukwudiebere to America, him who got him into the draft process, him who wanted to sneak him through it so that he could be free to develop his own project. But the Lakers spoiled it by taking him. And so Denver had to trade a future second round pick to the Lakers for Masai to get his boy back.
If the Lakers want Hansbrough or Lighty, as Fraschilla wanted them to, they still can. They can sign them once they go undrafted. But by taking Chuck, and immediately giving him away, they got themselves a free second round pick, a pick which may well be higher, and/or in a better draft. It cost them nothing except a shot at the next four guys picked. It was a shrewd if potentially irrelevant piece of business.
The only slight risk the Lakers faced is of looking bad if Maduabum goes on to become an NBA contributor one day. The Lakers were comfortable with that risk. You can see why.
(Because he's genuinely funny and genuinely flummoxed, Jay Bilas turns to humour. "The Bakersfield Jam. Tough lineup to crack.")
The two previous players to have been drafted in the NBA from the D-League were Mike Taylor and Latavious Williams. Never of them had averaged 0.7ppg the year before. The drafting of Chukwudiebere Maduabum smacks of the drafting of Ejike Ugboaja back in 2006, with one important caveat to consider - it is even more ambitious.