Now that we’ve finally had the lottery and we know where everyone is selecting, we can start to try to predict how this draft is going to go. Unlike our top 16 prospects, our mock draft is a projection of what we think each team will do, rather than what they should do. This first entry is just going to be a projection of the lottery and then we’ll do a follow up entry projecting the entire first round. Off we go (as always, links are to DraftExpress.com):
1. LA Clippers – Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma. No mystery here. The Clippers struck lottery gold and, barring some unfathomable Clipper insanity the Division I Player of the Year and consensus best prospect in the draft will be the pick.
2. Memphis Grizzlies – Ricky Rubio, G, DKV Joventut. The Grizzlies are in dire need of some size and athleticism up front and we can’t say we’d be shocked if they ultimately decide to shop this pick around and see if they can move down a few spots and pick up an extra asset. That said, the Grizz are also giving off vibes that they’re still not totally sold on Mike Conley. If they’re looking to get some depth and create competition, Rubio is a terrific prospect and he’s proven himself at a high level of competition despite being only 18.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder – Hasheem Thabeet, C, UConn. This is the first really interesting spot in the draft. Oklahoma will be faced with a choice between Arizona State SG James Harden and Thabeet. A good case could be made for choosing either. Without having any information yet about their thinking, we’re putting Thabeet in this spot based on GM Sam Presti’s San Antonio pedigree. The Thunder already have some talented, young players who can score it (and Kevin Durant looks like he could average 30 someday). A defensive anchor would really help balance this roster. Arizona PF Jordan Hill could also be a possibility.
4. Sacramento Kings – Brandon Jennings, PG, Lottomatica Roma. In a first blush reaction to the lottery, Jon said Blake Griffin was the only real loser, but now that he’s had a chance to think about it, the Kings are tonight’s biggest losers. Prior to the lottery, the Kings were poised to select either (1) Griffin, and deal with the fallout of having a logjam at the 4/5 or (2) Rubio, and replace Beno Udrih with an elite prospect at PG. My sense was that Kings fans were almost hoping they’d miss out on the top spot and end up with Rubio. Well, unless they can work a trade they’re not getting either one. The Kings will settle for Jennings, a PG with talent reminiscent of Kenny Anderson and Kevin Johnson, but one who also carries some serious red flags.
UPDATE, 12:10 (As an aside, it occurs to us that the Kings and Grizzlies would do well to hook up on a trade. The Kings can offer the 4th and 23rd picks to the Grizzlies for the 2nd pick. The Kings could then take Rubio at 2 and the Grizz could select Arizona PF Jordan Hill at 4 and a backup PG (Lawson, Calathes, Collison) at 23.)
5. Washington Wizards – Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona. There’s a better than good chance that this pick has already gone up for sale. The Wizards are veteran team and, with a healthy Gilbert Arenas, they’re poised to win now. Either one of Hill or Harden would upgrade the Wizards’ roster but a proven veteran with some playoff experience would help even more.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves – James Harden, SG, Arizona State. They probably don’t deserve it but, after choosing Randy Foye over Brandon Roy in 2005, the Wolves get a second bite at the apple with Harden, who may not quite be Roy, but will be a terrific playmaking shooting guard in that mold.
7. Golden State Warriors – Tyreke Evans, G, Memphis. The Warriors have a strange roster and a dysfunctional front office so it’s difficult to project what they might do with a toy as shiny as a lottery pick. However, since they seem to love players with well-developed one-on-one offensive skills and no conscience, Evans looks like a snug fit. Louisville F Earl Clark, USC G/F Demar DeRozan, and UCLA G Jrue Holiday are all possibilities here as well. Clark in particular would fit well with their other frontcourt pieces and, in our opinion, make for a far better pick than Evans.
8. New York Knicks – Stephen Curry, G, New York Knicks. What more can we say about Steph Curry? The 8th pick has never looked so good. However, should the unthinkable happen and Curry is gone before the Knicks pick, Holiday, DeRozan, Clark and Syracuse PG Jonny Flynn would all be possibilities.
9. Toronto Raptors – Demar DeRozan, G/F, Toronto Raptors. The Raptors are in dire need of scoring on the wings and, in this scenario DeRozan falls right into their laps. DeRozan is going to need time to develop and he probably won’t help much right away but in a couple of years this pick could end up looking really, really good. Jrue Holiday is a possibility here as well.
10. Milwaukee Bucks – DeJuan Blair, PF, Pittsburgh. It seems like a lock that PF Charlie Villanueva won’t be back with the Bucks next season and we’ve been reading lately that they might lose PG Ramon Sessions to free agency as well. So the Bucks may end up having to choose between filling a gaping hole upfront or finding a new PG. Blair and Clark are both excellent value here but we’re going with Blair because he’s a Scott Skiles type of guy. If the Bucks opted for a guard, Holiday would fit well here also.
11. New Jersey Nets – Earl Clark, F, Louisville. With Yi Jianlian the only player on the Nets roster that’s even masquerading as a PF, and rumors emerging today that Nets will shop Yi this summer, they are surely going to be in the market for a partner-in-crime for Brook Lopez. In a perfect world, the Nets probably wish Blair was still around to take here but they’ll settle for Clark, a New Jersey native who can do it all on the court, but still seems to be figuring out how to do it all at once.
12. Charlotte Bobcats – Jrue Holiday, G, UCLA. Chad Ford reported in his chat earlier today that Bobcats are high on Henderson and that makes sense. He’s a classic LB player: great pedigree, defensive minded and fundamentally sound. And he played college ball in North Carolina which, in the past, has mattered to the Bobcats. But we’re still not sold and Henderson simply doesn’t merit this high a pick, even in this watered down draft. We think the Bobcats go with Jrue Holiday who, despite not being from North Carolina, is a defensive minded and fundamentally sound prospect with a much higher upside.
13. Indiana Pacers – Eric Maynor, PG, Virginia Commonwealth. The Pacers would love to add an athletic 4 to pair with emerging superstar Danny Granger, so Wake Forest F James Johnson is a possibility here too but, with Jarrett Jack becoming a free agent, the Pacers also need a PG and Maynor, a pure point with great experience, would make for a terrific understudy and eventual replacement for TJ Ford.
14. Phoenix Suns – Jonny Flynn, PG, Syracuse. The Suns are surely disappointed to miss out on DeJuan Blair, but Steve Kerr is also very high on Flynn, a lighting fast pure point guard and born leader. The plan would be for Flynn to learn at Nash’s knee for a season or two and then hopefully take the reins of the Suns’ offensive machine. Johnson (and Earl Clark, should he fall) should be viewed as a possibility here too as a versatile forward that can play some 3 and 4.