It’s less than 24 hours until the draft and I’m feverishly putting together a mock up of what will surely be one of the most intriguing drafts in years. There is no relatively no certainty after the Clippers select Blake Griffin with the #1 overall pick. Meaning no player is lock to go to any team, no team is a lock to select a player that they will sign or for that matter there it’s quite possible a number of teams will trade away their pick for a veteran player or future pick. That being said I feel the analysis below is just a good of one as you’ll see so close to the NBA’s main post season event. So to borrow a NASCAR term “gentleman start your engines” and let’s rock and roll!
|1.||LA Clippers||Blake Griffin||PF||6′ 10″||250||Oklahoma|
Player Recap: Griffin is a no brainer as the number #1 overall pick. He’s a versatile big man with excellent athletic ability. Can put the ball on the floor and finish with both hands around the basket. He also has a great motor evidenced by his high volume rebounding prowess and ability to run the floor. Doesn’t possess a consistent jump shot but has good mechanics. Needs to work on his defensive skills but has all the tools to be effective on the next level.
Team Impact: It’s no secret that Griffin is the Clippers guy here at No. 1. Blake’s presence with the other LA team creates a rather intriguing frontline rotation with Marcus Camby, Zach Randolph and Chris Kaman. If the Clips are nicked up by the injury bug next season like last season they’ll need all the help they can get on the front line or they can use the flexibility upfront to swing a trade to get help in other areas of need.
|2.||Memphis||Ricky Rubio||PG||6′ 4″||180||DKV Joventut|
Player Recap: Rubio, voted the best Euro young player in 2007, is the prototypical pick & roll PG and probably the second best prospect after Griffin. The 18-year old Italian phoneme has excellent ball handling skills and is equally gifted with both hands (thanks in part to a wrist injury to his right/strong hand). Isn’t particularly fast but has great burst and is adept at using change of speed to beat defenders. He has terrific court vision and anticipation which are assets both in the transition and in half court situations. At one point led the ACB Euro League in assist per 40 min/gm at a staggering 11.5. He must develop a consistent jump shot and, his physique – which should happen naturally as he matures.
Team Impact: The buzz around the NBA is that there are a number of teams looking to move up to the #2 spot in order to draft Rubio so don’t be surprised if the Griz make the young Spanish PG the pick here and quickly trade him for multiple pieces to compliment its young core which includes OJ Mayo, Rudy Gay and Mike Conley Jr.
|3.||Oklahoma City||Hasheem Thabeet||C||7′ 3″||265||Connecticut|
Player Recap: Thabeet is a legit presence around the basket defensively. He shows great explosion and anticipation to block and change shots. The UConn Huskies’ center runs the floor well considering his gargantuan size. He has very little to offer offensively but has demonstrated the ability to use his size advantage to score when in the vicinity of the hoop. Thabeet has strong hands and catches the ball with ease but his footwork has much to be desired as he often gets knocked around in traffic and often loses balance.
Team Impact: Thabeet has what you can’t teach, size. At 7′ 3″ and 265 lbs he is literally the biggest prize in the draft. He would be a welcomed addition to a team with great offensive weapons but poor defensive prowess. With him defending the basket Durant, Green and Westbrook can be aggressive on the perimeter defensively knowing there’s a bonafide shot blocker behind them. The big fella will also allow Nenad Krstic to slide to his more natural position at PF.
|4.||Sacramento||Tyreke Evans||PG/SG||6′ 6″||215||Memphis|
Player Recap: Evans is one of the premier perimeter scorers among this year’s crop of prospects. Can take players off the dribble to create shots for himself or teammates. Led his team to the NCAA tournament by accepting the PG position but is a questionable decision maker and turnover prone. Can be selfish at times and could stand to work on his shooting mechanics. He does display the ability to defend both guard positions.
Team Impact: The Kings are in dire need of a ball handler and perimeter scoring after losing both Ron Artest and John Salmons and Evans immediately fills that void. He can dribble penetrate with ease and create drop off opportunities for the young Sacto bigs (if he doesn’t take the shot himself). Possibility to become the primary ball handler interchangeably with Beno Udric on the floor, be the PG when he and Kevin Martin are paired together in the backcourt, or the scoring machine he was born to be with backups in the game.
|5.||Minnesota from Washington||Stephen Curry||PG/SG||6′ 2″||185||Davidson|
Player Recap: Curry is an exceptional shooter with NBA range. Has the ability to make the tough shot and was frequently called upon to carry his team in college. He’s not only a scorer. He learned to set up his teammates, partially due to other teams concentrating their defense on him, while being the primary ball handler. Not the most physically blessed player which may hinder his defensive ability on the next level however it hasn’t been an issue so far in workouts.
Team Impact: The T-Wolves acquired this pick by shipping off PG Randy Foye and sharpshooter Mike Miller to the Wizards. This gives the Wolves two lottery picks and four total in the 1st round. I fully expect Minnesota president of basketball operations David Kahn to use these picks to bring in another PG whether it be Curry here or another PG as well as another big to help spell the Al Jefferson by packaging one or two picks to use in a trade. Either way expect the Wolves to be active as Kahn has stated that he is looking to make a big splash in his first draft as the head basketball personnel decision maker in the twin city.
|6.||Minnesota||James Harden||SG||6′ 4″||220||Arizona State|
Player Recap: Harden is a savvy player whose basketball IQ overcomes his physical shortcomings. At 6′ 4″ he is undersized at SG but lacks the foot speed to keep up with PGs. Still, he plays the game with comfort and ease while rarely forcing the action and can create plays for his teammates. Has a good stop and start game and uses hesitation moves to free himself from the defense to get good looks at the basket. He’s primarily a set shooter which explains why he’s inconsistent shooting off screens and in catch & shoot situations. Plays smart pesky defense but physically does not grade out to be a defensive stopper.
Team Impact: Harden is the best option on the board for Minnesota should the draft play out this way but I happen to think there will be quite a bit of movement at the top of the order. Still Harden fits in nicely with T-Wolves who are in need of a perimeter scorer after the trade that sent Mike Miller to Washington. Harden is smart enough to pick his spots and get open looks to score or create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Also, his learning curve should be minimal – good news for a young and inconsistent team.
|7.||Golden State||Jordan Hill||PF||6′ 10″||235||Arizona|
Player Recap: Freakishly gifted athlete who plays bigger than his physical stature. Is still raw in terms of basketball skills but he has noticeable improved between his sophomore and junior years – particularly with his footwork. Good but not great rebounder. He needs to work on his shot especially from the free throw line. Can run the floor but is known to take plays offs. Projects to be at the very least a key role/rotational player.
Team Impact: Golden State seems to be having a bit of an identity crisis at the moment and it’s been rumored that they made a promise to their young dynamic combo guard Monte Ellis not to draft/add another player to their already full backcourt. If those rumors are true Hill becomes the obvious choice as the team is lacking in size and he’s the type of tough scrappy big that thrives in a Don Nelson system because he’s active and runs the court well and should seamlessly fit into an up tempo style of play. Hill’s lack of offensive polish won’t be an issue as the Warriors backcourt draws most of the defenses attention because they scores a ton which allow Hill to slip in between cracks for offensive rebounds and put backs.
|New York||Brandon Jennings||PG||6′ 1″||165||Virtus Roma|
Player Recap: Jennings, the consensus #1 high school player last year, possesses world class speed, natural instincts and a never say die mentality. He’s a terrific ball handler that can get to the basket with ease and finish in traffic due to his amazing bounce. Jennings has excellent vision and is a willing passer who can make the spectacular play. He could use some more bulk especially because he’ll be going against more physical guards in the NBA. Needs to learn to play within himself and polish his jump shot. Defense is a concern with him.
Team Impact: If both Curry and Hill are off the board at #8 look the Knicks to decide between the plethora of PGs in the this years class if they don’t make trade first. All indications are that Knicks brass were unimpressed with UCLA’s Jrue Holiday after his workout and Johnny Flynn/Ty Lawson do not seem to be on New York’s radar. With the Mike D’Antoni experiment just beginning in the “Big Apple” the team will need an instinctive passing PG and Jennings fits the mold. Incumbent Chris Duhon performed well but the team began to sputter in the latter part of the season when he was injured, and Nate Robinson is more suited to his role – providing scoring off the bench. Jennings’ year playing pro ball for Roma could also prove to be advantageous as the young man adjusts to the bright lights and big stage in NYC. Plus D’Antoni has an affinity for Italian-league players as he was star in the country during his playing days.
|9.||Toronto||DeMar DeRozan||SG/SF||6′ 6″||210||USC|
Player Recap: DeRozan has an NBA ready body but needs his game to catch up to his physique. At 6′ 6″ 210 he has the quickness and speed to guard NBA SG’s and the height and strength to guard SF’s. Not an excellent ball handler or shooter but can be an effective scorer in the right system. Relies heavily on physical talents and sometimes bails out opponents by not playing up to his potential. However he is still very young and has great upside and unlimited potential.
Team Impact: DeRozan gives the Raptors a young athletic wing they can mold to replace the void left by Vince Carter oh so many years ago. In fact he draws comparisons to Carter and Gerald Wallace at their age and stage of development. He has the potential to be the high-flying finisher for Jose Calderon, a nice running mate for Shawn Marion and a good athletic wing to complement Anthony Parker
|10.||Milwaukee||Jrue Holiday||PG/SG||6′ 3″||185||UCLA|
A consensus top 5 high school prospect and potentially the best California PG prospect since Baron Davis, Jrue failed to have that break out season as a freshman at UCLA and decided that he wouldn’t stick around for a second season to wait see if it would be the one. However most of Holiday’s ineffectiveness is credited to his playing out of position alongside all-American candidate Darren Collison last season. Still Jrue has all the tools to be effective in the NBA. At 6′ 3″ 185 he has the ideal size for a PG. He also possess quick feet and long arms which point to his him having the ability to lock down opposing PGs defensively. If he can get into the grove and show some of the nature feel for the game he displayed back in high school at Campbell Hall in N. Hollywood, CA he’ll be just fine in the pros.
Team Impact: Everything I’ve heard and read implies that the Bucks will draft a PG with the #10 pick. The question is which one will be available at that pick. Holiday seems to be the best fit because Milwaukee could stand to have a more defensive minded presence at that position and Holiday’s athleticism should upgrade a the Bucks in that area after trading away their most athletic player in Richard Jefferson and allow him to slide to the two where he can score and guard opposing SGs as well.
|11.||New Jersey||Earl Clark||SF/PF||6′ 9″||220||Louisville|
Player Recap: the Louisville combo forward has the skills set and the size to really impose his will on the game both offensively and defensively. The question is will he? He is known to be turnover prone and doesn’t always play up to his potential. Needs to develop a reliable jumper and maybe a little more of mean streak before becoming a key contributor however he has made strides with his consistency and could prove to be a steal if developed properly.
Team Impact: Most draft boards have New Jersey selecting a player from Louisville but it usually Clark’s Cardinal teammate Terence Williams. However it’s my opinion that the Nets need a more of a presence on the front line and while guys like Yi Jianlian and Jarvis Hayes are nice players they haven’t done much in the Garden State. Clark could easily slide into the rotation to replace either of those two players if he plays to his potential and because he comes from an up tempo system with Rick Pitino keeping up with Devin Harris or the high flying Vince Carter shouldn’t be an issue.
|12.||Indiana||Jonny Flynn||PG||6′ 1″||172||Syracuse|
Player Recap: An explosive athletic PG with good court vision and the ability to push the tempo and make plays. Flynn also has excellent command dribbling the ball with both hands and has displayed a knack for getting into the lane to create scoring opportunities. Earlier in his career he was more known for his passing but took on a larger scoring last year for the Orange averaging 17 ½ ppg. Jonny also dispelled questions about his defensive prowess coming from Jim Boeheim‘s zone scheme in pre-draft workouts.
Team Impact: Although the Pacers could use some help in the frontcourt (Larry Bird said so himself a couple of days ago) Flynn is way too good to pass up on which just goes to show how deep the PG talent pool is this year. Jonny’s explosiveness and ability to get the ball up and down the court could be a nice shot in the arm for a looking for a more permanent solution at PG depending on what they decide to do with Jarrett Jack and TJ Ford.
|13.||Charlotte||Gerald Henderson||SG||6′ 4 1/2“||212||Duke|
Player Recap: Smooth athlete with a quality all around game. Henderson isn’t a great ball handler but is explosive and can finish in through contact. Inconsistent on offense but that’s primarily due to his tendency to defer to teammates. He has an above average basketball IQ and he’s good 1 on 1 defender. He’s slightly undersized as an NBA SG.
Team Impact: College allegiances aside this Dukie’s game is perfectly suited to the style of coaching of former UNC Tarheel Larry Brown and to the Bobcats team built by, the most famous Tarheel of them all, Michael Jordan. He’s very smart and coachable and fills a couple of roles including dribble penetration, defending perimeter players and being able to play off others while maintaining good flow on offense. In time Henderson will be a solid replacement for Raja Bell.
|14.||Phoenix||Terrence Williams||PG/SG||6′ 5″||213||Louisville|
Player Recap: Williams is an all-around gifted athlete whose stats don’t necessarily reflect his impact on the game. Not especially good at any one thing Williams’ game is predicated on his physical gifts which everyone he has a lot of. Lacks a steady jumpers but can get up and down the court both offensively and defensively and can fill the stat sheet in a number areas. At times can score bunches but not a great scorer.
Team Impact: His shooting ability maybe a liability for a team that lives and dies by the 3 like Phoenix but he definitely will bring a perimeter defensive presence that the Suns have been lacking since sending Raja Bell to Charlotte. Also Williams can go under the radar and provide a lot of the hustle and effort plays allowing Shaq, Nash and other to do their thing.