Now that we’re through the combine and we’ve had some official measurements, we’re going to take our second stab at mocking this draft (as in predicting it, not making fun of it). At this point I think things are probably only a little bit clearer than they were and teams’ plans are sure to change as the workouts progress (though, as you know, we think it’s misguided to prioritize workouts over what you’ve seen from these guys in the games). At any rate, here goes :
1. LA Clippers – Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma. After checking in at 6’10 in shoes (albeit with some pretty short arms), Griffin keeps the top spot. Unless he measured below 6’6, his position as the top pick in the draft was never in any danger.
2. Memphis Grizzlies – Hasheem Thabeet, C, UConn. After learning from Ricky Rubio’s camp that he doesn’t want to play for them, the Grizzlies seem motivated to move this pick. But we aren’t going to try to project trades in our mock. So for the time being, we’ll buy the numerous reports out there about the Grizzlies’ purported interest in Thabeet and project him to Memphis. He fits a need there as a defensive anchor who doesn’t need the ball to impact the game. If the Grizz should find a trade partner and move a little further back in the lottery, Rod Tillery of the Memphis Commerical Appeal is reporting that the Grizz are high on local product Tyreke Evans and Steph Curry.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder – Ricky Rubio, PG, DKV Joventut. With Thabeet off the board, the Thunder are going to have to look in a different direction. During our last mock, we had a difficult time choosing between Thabeet and Harden here and yesterday evening Bill Ingram of Hoopsworld reported that the Thunder have been smokescreening big-time about their interest in Harden and USC wing Demar DeRozan. While we’re tempted to believe the smokescreen and give the Thunder Harden, since teams rarely telegraph their interest in a player, and Ingram insists the Thunder would take Rubio if the draft was today, we’re giving them Rubio. Harden’s a better fit and it’ll be interesting to see how this actually goes down.
4. Sacramento Kings – Jrue Holiday, G, UCLA. The Kings narrowly miss out on their dream scenario of Rubio faling to them at 4 (though, truth be told, we think their dream scenario is a half-decent bet to actualy happen). Holiday, the fastest rising player in the draft right now, is a good fit in the Kings backcourt next to Kevin Martin and a nice consolation prize.
5. Washington Wizards – Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona. The Wizards are still more likely to trade this pick than make it, and it’s even possible that they may look to blow up their core if the right deal comes along, but for now we’re projecting Hill because he gives the Wizards energy, defense and toughness–qualities that their current crop of big men aren’t really giving them (though Javale Mcgee has shown flashes). Harden makes some sense here too, especially if the Wiz are going to break up their big 3 but, as presently constituted, we think they need Hill more.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves – James Harden, G, Arizona State. When we started this mock, we were positive that Harden wouldn’t be here for Minny this time around but lo and behold, here he is. Frankly, we don’t think this is how it goes down on draft day but based on what’s buzzing out there right now, the Wolves strike gold yet again. The combine really couldn’t have gone better for Harden as any suggestions that he might be undersized to play the 2 were emphatically put to rest. If Harden is gone, DeRozan and Earl Clark could get some consideration here and so could PGs Brandon Jennings, Jonny Flynn and Steph Curry.
7. Golden State Warriors – Earl Clark, F, Louisville. We were tempted to give the Warriors Clark in our first mock but couldn’t believe they’d pass up the chance to draft a guard with Evans’ tantalizing one-on-one skills. After Clark measured 6’10 1/4 with a 9’2 standing reach at the combine though, we’re going out on a limb and projecting him here. Forwards with Clark’s size and versatility are rare and a frontcourt of Biedrins, Randolph and Clark could be devastating. We suspect Evans, Brandon Jennings and Jonny Flynn will all get a serious look here too.
8. New York Knicks – Stephen Curry, G, Davidson. When we started working on this mock, we promised ourselves we’d be honest and project the draft the way the information out there is suggesting it’s going to go, as opposed to the way we hope it will. That said, while we’re by no means confident that Curry will be here when the Knicks pick, we’re having a hard time envisioning which team in the top 7 might take Curry before them. If you strain, Curry does make some sense for Sacramento, Minnesota and Golden State, and it’s always possible that a team like Charlotte could trade up to take him but, until we start seeing evidence of something more than soft interest from a team that chooses before the Knicks, we’re keeping Curry here. If Curry was gone, Flynn, DeRozan, Jennings, perhaps Evans and any one of the players currently in the top 7 would be considerations.
9. Toronto Raptors – Tyreke Evans, G, Memphis. Evans had been sliding down the board a bit in recent days as rumors swirled that he was contemplating pulling out of the draft. Then, this week, two things happened: (1) he hired an agent, putting those rumors to rest and (2) he measured 6’5 1/4 at the combine with longer arms than Blake Griffin. We have him two spots lower than we did in our first mock, but only because this time we’re projecting the Warriors to take Clark instead of adding yet another ball-needing guard to their backcourt. He’s a perfect fit for the Raptors, though, as they’re in dire need of a 2 that can create his own shot and take some pressure off Chris Bosh. DeRozan will get serious consideration here as well but Evans’ shot creation skills make him the better fit. And we’ve seen the DeJuan Blair rumors. They make some sense but we don’t believe them just yet.
10. Milwaukee Bucks – Jonny Flynn, PG, Syracuse. With the Bucks now apparently facing the reality that they’re going to lose both Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions, a buzz is building that the Bucks are prioritizing PG in the draft. In this scenario the Bucks would be free to choose between Flynn and Jennings. We think Flynn is the pick and that Skiles is going to love him.
11. New Jersey Nets – DeJuan Blair, PF, Pittsburgh. This would be an ideal scenario for the Nets as Blair’s brute force would be a nice compliment to Brook Lopez’ finesse. We’ve read that they’re also high on Earl Clark and James Johnson. And as DeRozan slides, it becomes harder and harder to pass on that upside.
12. Charlotte Bobcats – Demar DeRozan, G/F, USC. The Bobcats badly need some depth and size at the 2. There’s a lot of buzz right now about DeRozan potentially being drafted in the top 5 (though only the Wizards seem like a fit that high). Getting him at 12 is like robbing Fort Knox.
13. Indiana Pacers – BJ Mullens, C, Ohio State. In our last mock we projected Mullens to go to the Wolves with their second first round pick at 18. This may seem too high for Mullens, but there’s reason to believe that he’s rising up the board after an impressive combine and some really glowing reports in the media. The Pacers biggest need is a dynamic big man and, aside from Griffin, Mullens is the only big in the draft with that kind of upside. So the Pacers take a swing for the fences here. Brandon Jennings, Eric Maynor and Jeff Teague are factors here too.
14. Phoenix Suns – Brandon Jennings, PG, Lottomatica Roma. We don’t really believe Jennings falls this far (a recurring theme in this mock) but, in this scenario, the Suns get a high-upside successor to Steve Nash who’s drawn comparisons to Kenny Anderson and Suns legend Kevin Johnson. Incidentally, with Jennings sliding to 14, we’re starting to think that calling this draft weak is a bit of a bum rap. It may not be top heavy with stars like some other recent drafts, but it’s deep with intriguing NBA talent.
15. Detroit Pistons – James Johnson, PF, Wake Forest. We had Johnson pegged here in our first mock and we’re keeping him here for now. The Pistons are in the market for bulk (though they’re probably hoping to address that need in free agency) and Johnson has enough versatility to play both forward spots. If Mullens were still available, they’d be another good candidate to take him as a risk/reward pick and we think Austin Daye could be a factor here too, even though he’s probably a few years and 30 lbs away from making a contribution as a pro.
16. Chicago Bulls – Jeff Teague, G, Wake Forest. Teague measured an inch or two shorter than expected but made up for it with a great wingspan. We had him here in the first mock and still think he makes sense as a Ben Gordon replacement.
17. Philadelphia 76ers – Eric Maynor, PG, Virginia Commonwealth. Aging PG Andre Miller is a free agent and, even if they bring him back, the Sixers don’t have a capable backup/long-term replacement on the roster. We had Lawson going here in our first mock, but with Maynor still available in this scenario, he’s the pick.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves – Austin Daye, F, Gonzaga. The Wolves are painfully thin at the 3 and Daye is just paintfully thin. He’s among the most talented players in this draft though, and with a couple of years on an NBA training regimen he could prove to be a steal.
19. Atlanta Hawks – Ty Lawson, PG, UNC. Mike Bibby’s a free agent and even if he re-signs, there doesn’t appear to be a capable backup on the roster. At 19, the Hawks take a worthwhile gamble that Lawson’s terrific production at the college level will translate to the pros.
20. Utah Jazz – Tyler Hansbrough, PF, UNC. We resisted putting Hansbrough here in the first mock because it almost felt like a cliche. But he measured out just as tall (and longer) than Blake Griffin and, considering the Jazz’ likely need for a backup 4 with the expected departure of Carlos Boozer, this time it just makes too much sense to resist.
21. New Orleans Hornets – Gerald Henderson, SG, Duke. Henderson’s yet another guy who fared well at the combine and wouldn’t seem likely to be available this late. Still, Henderson is a perfect fit with the Hornets as an athletic 2 who can finish in transition, has a developing jump shot, and shows some surprising ability to create shots for his teammates. Gani Lawal could be a factor here also.
22. Dallas Mavericks – Chase Budinger, G/F, Arizona. Josh Howard struggled to stay healthy this season and, in his absence, the Mavs showed that they’re a little thin on wings. Budinger would be a nice compliment to what Howard and Antione Wright already offer and he’d be good insurance in case Howard has more trouble with injuries. Terrence Williams makes sense here too if the Mavs are looking for a different type of wing and PGs Darren Collison and Patrick Mills could be considerations as well.
23. Sacramento Kings – Terrence Williams, G/F, Louisville. After having shipped John Salmons off to Chicago at the trade deadline for cap space and Andres Nocioni, the Kings get a steal here in Williams, an NBA-ready wing who does everything well except score.
24. Portland Trailblazers – Nick Calathes, PG, Florida. The Blazers are likely to be in the market for veterans this offseason and will probably shop this pick in a package for a starting PG or SF. If they keep it though, Calathes (who’ll be playing in Greece this year) would be a classic Kevin Pritchard pick as someone the Blazers can stash overseas for a few seasons until a roster spot or a trade arises.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder – Gani Lawal, PF, Georgia Tech. What the Thunder really need is a big man who can be their defensive anchor. Lawal isn’t it but he is 6’9 and a tremendous athlete. With a little seasoning, he could develop into a contributor up front behind Jeff Green and Kevin Durant.
26. Chicago Bulls – Sam Young, F, Pittsburgh. Lawal would have been a good fit with the Bulls but in this scenario they’re one pick too late. Young entered Pitt as an interior player but has expanded his perimeter game to the point that he’s a very capable 3. He’s also a strong defender. The past two seasons Luol Deng has played in 63 and 49 games, respectively. Young would be insurance. DuJuan Summers makes sense here too.
27. Memphis Grizzlies – Omri Casspi, F, Maccabi Tel-Aviv. The Knicks have evidently offered to purchase this pick from the Grizzlies for $3 million and it wouldn’t surprise us at all if the Grizzlies do ultimately trade or sell this pick. The Grizzlies passed on the Knicks’ offer for now, probably because they’re waiting to see if they can use this pick as ammo in a bigger trade. If they keep it, Casspi makes sense as a gritty forward in the Nocioni mold who can replace Hakeem Warrick as a sub at the 3 and 4. (If the Knicks are able to acquire this pick or a different one in the 20s, we bet the plan is to use it on UNC wing Danny Green.)
28. Minnesota Timberwolves – Darren Collison, PG, UCLA. The T’Wolves get a floor general to run the show. Collison is a terrific on the ball defender, competent distributor and is ready to help right away. Patrick Mills is a possibility here too.
29. Los Angeles Lakers – DuJuan Summers, F, Georgetown. With Lamar Odom’s and Trevor Ariza’s contracts both expiring this summer, the Lakers get some insurance. At the combine Summers showed that he has the size and length to play the 4 and he’s already shown at Georgetown that he has the requisite skill and athleticism to play the 3.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers – Danny Green, G/F, UNC. Chad Ford wrote the other day that numerous GMs at the combine identified Green as an underrated player, but that he’d yet to encounter one who was actually considering taking Green in the first round. Well, the Cavs were eliminated last night in large part because they lacked players with enough size and athletic ability to defend Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu on the wings. Green isn’t quite as big as those guys but he’s got long arms, he’s a tenacious defender, and he’s one of the few players in this draft who might be ready to contribute to a championhip caliber team as a a rookie.