Before rookie Brandon Jennings was making headlines for the Milwaukee Bucks, he was making negative ones for himself leading up to the beginning of the 2009-10 NBA season. Known by just about everyone because of his decision to skip college ball and play in Europe, Jennings had question marks all around him. His upside was immense and GM’s knew that Jennings had the potential to be a franchise-changing player unlike the majority of the players in last year’s draft class. However, they also knew his downside was investing money into a cancerous teammate who would repeat his lackluster performance in Rome.
Before Jennings could even step on the court he was back at it, firing his mouth away about then-teammate Ramon Sessions and Luke Ridnour. On a radio show with rapper Joe Budden, he mentioned being upset with the Knicks passing on him and deeming himself the starter over Ridnour. He also made headlines by calling out Ricky Rubio, saying he was “overrated” and not as good as Jennings after a workout with the Kings.
Bucks’ general manager John Hammond decided that the upside of Jennings was well worth the potential of failure and he selected him with the tenth overall pick in the draft. His cockiness and swagger is something that, to an extent, all great basketball players need to have, and Hammond believed Jennings had that.
What Hammond most likely did not think Jennings had was the ability to average over 20 points per game in his first six games, racking up four wins for the Bucks. In many ways, Jennings is looking like the savior that is going to save the Bucks. Rumors have floated around that have the Bucks leaving Milwaukee, but Jennings could change all that.
His situation in Milwaukee this season is eerily similar to Derrick Rose’s last season in Chicago. The Bulls had reached the playoffs in 2006 before winning just 33 games the next year. When the Bulls defied lottery odds and were awarded the number one overall pick, they selected Rose and went on to win 41 games and make the playoffs.
In Chicago, Rose has seemingly rejuvenated the Bulls and made everyone around him better. Joakim Noah is finally playing up to his potential that we all saw at Florida, Luol Deng is flourishing under Rose’s lead, and he has worked to mold rookies James Johnson and Taj Gibson into role players this season. The talent was there for the Bulls as seen by the three straight playoff appearances before 2007, but the team was growing old and John Paxson’s inability to trade for grade-A superstars had the Bulls wondering where the future would take them.
In the same sense, Jennings has done the exact same thing in Milwaukee. The Bucks made the playoffs during the 2005-2006 campaign with rookie Andrew Bogut, but three years of injuries and inconsistency had left the Bucks with nothing to show for the talent they had. Now, Jennings has utilized Bogut as the big man that every good point guard needs, and vice versa.
Six games into his young career might be a little early to start crowning him the savior for the Bucks, but in basketball more than any other sport, early starts become trends. The great ones usually start that way and do not fade as compared to baseball and football.
His skill set is very raw and at times he plays like the rookie that he is. He doesn’t seem to have picked up on the logistics of the offense yet and many times he will create for himself. But with a big man that can shoot the outside shot, the way he moves off screens has to be considered close to the top of the league, and his closing speed while going to the basket warrants a replay on most possessions.
One of his big question marks coming into his rookie campaign was defense. However, six games in he is averaging over a steal per game and limited Chauncey Billups to 6-16 shooting, gave up just one point to Chris Duhon, and forced Derrick Rose to commit five turnovers. No one will be forgetting about Chris Paul any time soon but positive returns this early in the season are always good.
Just about every aspect of his game is raw right now, but that can be a good thing, too. Sometimes just letting players go out and be athletes can bring success and it seems like head coach Scott Skiles is letting Jennings do that for the most part. It’s been an unbelievable start for a guy who, a year ago, was living out of a suitcase and traveling on a bus to foreign places in Italy to average under six points per game.
He’s got a long way to go, but Brandon Jennings is looking like the real deal.
1. Brandon Jennings is going to be one heck of a talent when he hones in all his skills
After only catching a couple of box scores to start the year, I was able to catch my first Milwaukee Bucks game of the season. While they handed the game away after blowing an 18-point lead in the third quarter to the Chicago Bulls, one guy stood out amongst the rest. Brandon Jennings. Wow, this kid is going to be one special talent. Because there are only a few I’ll start off with the negatives that include a little too much dribbling and some lazy defense that has him trailing off screens.
Now on to the fun stuff. Jennings’ jab shot might not look pretty but he has shot lights out with it. He works so well off the screen and his quickness makes it impossible to guard. I’m going to throw out some big superlatives in the form of players in the NBA, but this is just what his game reminds me off.
His passes have a little bit of Steve Nash to them as he loves to fit the ball in tight spaces. His drive to the lane reminds me of Chris Paul’s: a lot of dribbling and making something out of it at the end. When it comes to his jumper, Allen Iverson comparisons are the first thing that comes to mind. His size is small but his quickness is second to none, and I believe he is already one of the fastest players in the league.
He still acts like a rookie at times and gives the ball away at times, but let’s remember he has played three games in the NBA. The good has outdone the bad tenfold, and for a rookie that’s more than you can ask for. Look out for Jennings in about two or three years when he is able to hit the weight room, adjust to the offense more, and receive more coaching. A spot in the “top five point guards club” might not be too far away.
2. The Packers defense needs to shut their mouth and go play football
Rarely do I ever step out of the Green Bay Packers’ corner, but for the life of me I can not figure out why three well-respected defensive players are freaking out. Charles Woodson, Cullen Jenkins, and Aaron Kampman have all expressed displeasure with the 3-4 defense and feel “handcuffed” by it.
I realize it can be hard to enter a defense where one knows they are not going to be the focal point. In Jenkins’ defense, he would be a stud at the 4-3 defensive end spot and would have many more sacks. Same with Kampman. But Jenkins’ job is to eat up linemen and let linebackers flow in, while Kampman now has some responsibility in pass coverage.
Look, neither are going to go the Pro Bowl even though both have the talent to do so. But when everything is broken down, wins are the most important thing at the end of the day. It’s an extremely humble thing to accept and easy for me to type it out here, but it’s true.
Everything is for the greater cause and in the 3-4 defense there are many spots on the field that are important but will not show up in the box score. What will show up in the box score is the final score. Those defenders need to realize that and shut their anger up.
If they think the defense is the problem and something better could be done, keep it in house and talk to defensive coordinator Dom Capers about it. Don’t cry to the media about how coaches won’t let you loose. That’s not who the Packers are.
3. The Brewers should not trade either Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder
Rumors have swirled, more about Fielder, that one of the Brewers’ 3-4 hitters could be on the move this off-season or in the near future. I can’t believe I am hearing this and hope that it does not come true. Fielder would be more acceptable a loss because he would garner more trade value and his contract is soon up, but the Brewers need to work on an extension.
Breaking the bank for a stud pitcher will be hard to do given the Brewers’ financial restraints, but moving one of your foundation pieces surely isn’t the answer. Fielder is hitting the prime of career and Braun is right on the brink of it as well. It’s the best 3-4 in baseball and kept the Brewers in countless games all year.
Unless they can get a top five pitcher in all of baseball in return, losing Braun or Fielder makes little sense right now. In a year, if Fielder has signaled he will not re-sign then try to go get something. But right now these two players are putting fans in the seats and handing out free baseballs to those in the outfield seats.
Sucks to think that J.J. Hardy more than likely could have been had for someone like Clay Buchholz.
The 2009-2010 NBA schedules were released last week, and the Milwaukee Bucks received their list of 82 opponents of the regular season. The team went over a semi-makeover this off-season, getting rid of veterans Charlie Villanueva and Richard Jefferson and bringing in the young talent of Amir Johnson, Brandon Jennings, Jodie Meeks, and Hakim Warrick. Here’s a look at the ten most intriguing matchups that the Bucks will face this season in no particular order.
1. Saturday, October 31st – Detroit Pistons vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Charlie Villanueva will return to the Bradley Center in Milwaukee just two games into the season. Villanueva signed with the Pistons this offseason after not receiving a qualifying offer from the Bucks. Along with the additions of Ben Gordon and Ben Wallace, Villanueva and co. will look to spoil the Bucks’ home opener.
2. Friday, November 6th – Milwaukee Bucks vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
Just a week after the season opener, the Bucks will travel north to play the new look Timberwolves. Heading into this year’s NBA Draft, the talent at point guard was the topic of conversation as five point guards were selected in the first ten picks.
Three of those point guards will match up when Brandon Jennings faces Johnny Flynn and Ricky Rubio. Jennings will have the chance to prove to the Wolves that they made a mistake in passing on him, while Rubio and Flynn will show Scott Skiles and the Bucks why the Wolves were right.
3. Saturday, December 26th – San Antonio Spurs vs. Milwaukee Bucks
The day after Christmas, the Bucks will get their second taste of a former player in a new uniform when Richard Jefferson and the Spurs come to town. Traded for Fabricio Oberto, Bruce Bowen, and Kurt Thomas, Jefferson has now made the Spurs contenders again as he joins Tim Duncan and Tony Parker this year.
Jefferson spent just one year in Milwaukee but quickly become a fan favorite and was greatly counted on when Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut went down with season-ending injuries.
4. Friday, December 18th – Milwaukee Bucks vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Bucks will play the Cavs twice on the road (March 31st as well) in what should prove to be huge tests for the young Bucks team. Teamed up with Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James and the front-runner Cavaliers will look to bully the Bucks when they meet at “The Q”.
The Cavs lost just two times at home last year and should be up to more of the same with O’Neal in the lineup. The Bucks will also see an old friend in Mo Williams, who averaged almost 17 points per game against his former team last year.
5. Friday, March 12th – Utah Jazz vs. Milwaukee Bucks
You’re probably confused as to why this would be an interesting game, but Wesley Matthews was extended an offer to the Jazz’s veteran camp this summer and will have a chance to make the team this season.
Matthews, a four year player at Marquette University, was loved by many and called the Bradley Center home for every game played in Milwaukee.
You can bet that if Matthews makes the team there will be a huge fan base in attendance cheering him on. Just ten minutes away from campus, loads of people would come to the Bradley Center to cheer their man on.
6. Saturday, January 30th – Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Staying with the Marquette theme, former standout guard Dwyane Wade will visit the Bradley Center twice this year in his return to Milwaukee. In 2003, Wade led the Golden Eagles to their first Final Four appearance since winning the title in 1977, and has been a big supporter of Marquette ever since.
The matchup will be a tough one for the Bucks, who lost two of three games to the Heat last season. The game will also feature a pair of U.S.A. Redeem Team members in Michael Redd and Wade. Together, they helped Team U.S.A take home the gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
7. Friday, January 8th – Chicago Bulls vs. Milwaukee Bucks
The Illinois-Wisconsin rivalry continues when the Bulls come to town to square off in the third of four match ups between the two teams this season. The Bulls took three of four games last season from the Bucks, but with the loss of Ben Gordon the future is up in the air. Scott Skiles will also match up against his former team, as he coached the Bulls from 2003 to 2007.
8. Wednesday, December 16th – Los Angeles Lakers vs. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks will get their shot at the defending champs at home when the Lakers come to town in mid-December. Last year, Kobe Bryant put up 30 points, eight rebounds, and four assists at the Bradley Center as the Lakers won 104-98.
Milwaukee will look to get their revenge and will hopefully have Michael Redd this time around. Last year, Redd missed both matchups against Los Angeles and Andrew Bogut missed one. If the Bucks are at full strength, an upset could be in the cards.
9. Wednesday, November 25th – Milwaukee Bucks vs. New Orleans Hornets
If Brandon Jennings doesn’t get his first “Welcome to the NBA” moment within the first month of the season, he sure will when he visits Chris Paul and the Hornets.
One of the best, if not the best, point guards in the game, Paul will match up on Brandon Jennings and use his elusive quickness, speed, and strength to give Jennings a lesson on how to play the point in the NBA.
10. Tuesday, January 26th – Milwaukee Bucks vs. Dallas Mavericks
Last season, the Bucks put up a commanding 133 points against the Mavs in Dallas, and will look to do so again when the two teams match up.
The other storyline in the game is the mystery of what the Bucks’ franchise would look like had they not traded away Dirk Nowitzki. Drafted ninth overall in the 1998 Draft out of Germany by the Bucks, he was then traded to the Mavericks for Tractor Traylor.
Every time the Bucks play the Mavericks, it has to sting a little bit knowing what they gave up in the All Star power forward.
Friday was an extremely busy day for general manager John Hammond and the Milwaukee Bucks. Four moves made by the team made the 2009 season a little clearer.
The biggest move of the move day came when power forward Hakim Warrick agreed to a one-year deal with the Bucks, his agent Bill Duffy announced. The terms of the deal were not disclosed but the offer is expected to be more than $3 million.
The 27-year-old was the 19th overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies and spent all four years with them. In those four years, Warrick has averaged 10.2 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field to go along with 4.3 rebounds and 0.4 blocks.
This past season, Warrick achieved career highs in steals and rebounds, and saw himself much improved on the defensive end of things. Playing primarily in a back-up role, he will now have the chance to compete for a starting spot and see many more minutes than his average of just under 25 last season.
For a team running short on cap space as well as depth in the frontcourt, Warrick is a good find for the Bucks and will have major contributions this season. As it is for a lot of players on the Bucks, more playing time will give a few players a chance to shine (Joe Alexander, Amir Johnson, Brandon Jennings, Warrick) and show that their potential can be made into something bigger and better.
Somewhat bigger numbers should be expected from Warrick, but do not expect him to come in and light up the world. His small frame and inability to score on offense has hindered his game his whole career, and neither should change when he suits up for Milwaukee.
My predictions for the 6′9″ power forward are, dependant on Amir Johnson, averages of 12 points and six rebounds per contest. While he is good for the occasional outburst (31 points in a game against the 76ers this year), he is more of a role player and will hopefully play second fiddle to Johnson.
Along with the addition of Ersan Ilyasova, the power forward position is seeing a bit of a logjam but minutes should be available at the small forward position, where Warrick is also capable of playing.
An after-effect of the signing of Warrick is that it more than likely ended the era of Ramon Sessions in Milwaukee. General manager John Hammond has worked his tail off to get his team both competitive and underneath the luxury tax line, and with the signing of Warrick, he sits less than $3 million away from it.
With Brandon Jennings and Luke Ridnour manning the point guard duties, it was almost a sure bet that Sessions would not be back. The Knicks and Clippers have showed plenty of interest in Sessions and would be willing to pay more than the Bucks would want to match.
However, is Sessions does not get a multi-year contract that he is satisfied with, reports say he might be willing to sign a one year deal with the Bucks.
Other moves the Bucks made on Friday included the release of 13-year veteran Bruce Bowen. Bowen, who has spent the last eight seasons as a defensive stopper with the San Antonio Spurs, was part of the deal that him, Fabricio Oberto, and Kurt Thomas to Milwaukee in exchange for Richard Jefferson.
Bowen was set to make $4 million this upcoming year, and releasing him before Saturday saves the Milwaukee Bucks $2 million of that.
The Bucks also requested waivers on point guard Salim Stoudamire. After looking for a change of scenery from the Atlanta Hawks, where he spent the last three seasons, he never made it to a regular season game while on the Bucks.
He struggled in the Summer League, fighting for minutes with rookie Brandon Jennings, who stole the show.
The last deal of the busy Friday the Bucks made was a trade involving veteran Malik Allen, who was traded to the Denver Nuggets for shooting guard Sonny Weems and power forward Walter Sharpe. Weems is expected to be waived in the near future and Sharpe is a youngster with some potential.
The moves once again show John Hammond’s determination to keep the roster young and rebuild while the talent and potential blossoms.
With the games completed and recapped, it is now time to grade out the 2009 Milwaukee Bucks roster. It was an important summer for the young squad that needed a lot of questions answered during the five-game span in Las Vegas. Let’s see how it all went down.
Jodie Meeks, SG: Drafted in the second round, 41st overall, Meeks was expected to fight for a roster spot behind shooting guards Michael Redd and Charlie Bell.
In order to do this, he was going to have to shoot lights out and show he was capable of playing defense at an NBA level despite his slightly undersized frame at 6’4″. Well, After five games in the Summer League, it is looking more and more like Meeks was a huge steal in the draft and should have no problem making the roster.
During the five games, Meeks averaged a team-high 19 points while shooting a blistering 55.7 percent from the field. The junior from Kentucky showed a complete range of shooting as just eight of his 39 field goals were from behind the arc. Known for being a pure shooter in college, scouts wondered whether or not he could contribute in other areas of the game.
Defensively, Meeks had a steal in all five games and, from what I saw, did not look overmatched at all. He only averaged 2.2 rebounds per game, but that number did not need to be any higher than that.
Originally, I thought Meeks could be the second coming of Eddie House for the Bucks, but not I believe Meeks could be something special to come out of this draft. He reminds me a lot of Michael Redd who was also a pure shooter in college selected in the second round. In fact, Meeks (41st) and Redd (43rd) were taken by the Bucks in almost the exact same spot.
For whatever the Summer League is worth, which admittedly lacks on the defense, Meeks proved he is here to stay. GRADE: A
Brandon Jennings, PG: Despite Meeks’ hot shooting, most eyes were on the 10th selection in this year’s NBA draft. Many wondered how Jennings would play in his first “American basketball” game in over a year. After struggling in Europe in his only year there, Jennings showed that he is fully capable of playing and succeeding in the NBA.
After a shaky first game, Jennings ended the summer averaging 14.6 points and 8.2 assists. He looked blazing fast in the games as one scout said he “was the fastest player on the court, with or without the ball”. He showed glimpses of Steve Nash on his passing ability, Deron Williams on his range from deep, Chris Paul with his ability to get to the lane and finish with a floater, and a little bit of Allen Iverson in his pick-pocketing abilities playing on the ball.
Jennings will have to shoot better in the regular season (37.9 percent) but in a shot-happy summer league, that number is not completely accurate. His turnovers were also up at 4.2 per game but his passing abilities were not questioned during the week.
He is still raw and will need some work, but after a week it looks like the Bucks made nicely on their gamble of Jennings. GRADE: B+
Joe Alexander, SF: Many believe that general manager John Hammond decided to trade Richard Jefferson to 1) save money and 2) put in on Joe Alexander to become a starting small forward in the NBA.
Over the week, Alexander showed flashes of talent but also played out of control at times. What this means is he might be a year or two from completely breaking out but will need to harness his athleticism and turn it into a basketball player.
Alexander averaged 16.6 points and 6.4 rebounds to go along with 1.4 assists and 1.4 blocks per contest. The number that jumps out to me is the rebounding display that Alexander put on. In the games I watched, he positioned himself well and was aggressive on the glass.
He shot just 39.7 percent from the floor but went to the basket strong, averaging 7.6 free throws per game. He also turned the ball over just five times in the 160 minutes he played. GRADE: B
Amir Johnson, PF: Everyone in Milwaukee and their grandmothers are expecting a breakout season for Amir Johnson this year, but last week was not a good start.
Johnson really had just one game that could be considered a plus, occurring against the Bulls when he went for 17 points and eight rebounds.
Fouls were a problem for Johnson all week, however. In the four games he played in, he racked up eight, six, six, and seven fouls in each of the contests. It looks as though he will need to add more strength to survive in the NBA post.
Offensively, he shot 60 percent from the field and averaged 10.5 points per game. He is smooth and finesse down low and can really get up as seen in the alley-oop dunks thrown from Jennings. He reminds me a lot of a Tyrus Thomas that will play more in the post.
Johnson had his highs and lows during the week, but much more will be expected out of him over the course of the season. GRADE: B-
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, F
I was very excited going into the summer to see if Mbah a Moute could build on his fantastic 2008 campaign. Unfortuantely, he struggled to find his rhythm over the week and did not improve much. For the week, he averaged 7.8 points and 6.4 rebounds but failed to stand out amongst everyone else.
It seems as though we can expect much of the same from Mbah a Moute next year, which isn’t neccesarily a bad thing but just not a better thing. GRADE: C
Will McDonald, C
Outside of the starting five for the Bucks, no one else made much of a splash. McDonald was the “best of the rest”, averaging 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in an average of 16 minutes in the three games he appeared him. He is a longshot to make the team but had a decent week. GRADE: D
Following draft night on June 25th, Bucks’ general manager John Hammond must have been excited about the upcoming year. After trading last year’s most consistent starter in Richard Jefferson and letting fan favorite and starting power forward Charlie Villanueva walk away, it was clear the team was moving in a different and younger direction.
The additions of Amir Johnson as well as Brandon Jennings and Jodie Meeks through the draft gave the front office a positive attitude heading into the future. Throw in Joe Alexander, an athletic forward who showed promise and a lot of athleticism at time last year, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute from last year’s draft class, and this was a team worth getting excited about.
A week and five summer games later, Hammond must be feeling A LOT more excited.
The Bucks finished up their Summer League mini-season Thursday with a last second loss to the Toronto Raptors. It marked the fifth game in Las Vegas for the Bucks who finished a very respectable four and one on the trip. Here’s an entire recap of the week that was.
Game One: Bucks 65, Mavs 59
Both the Bucks and Mavs showed a good amount of rust in the first game for each team, with the Bucks pulling away down the stretch. Jodie Meeks and Joe Alexander led the Bucks with 14 points apiece and Brandon Jennings put in ten points of his own.
Both teams matched up fairly evenly the whole game, but the big difference was at the charity stripe where the Mavs shot just 56.5 percent (13-23) compared to the Bucks 75 percent (18-24).
Game Two: Bucks 80, Cavaliers 69
The two teams stayed neck and neck in the first half before the Bucks went on a 25-3 run in the third quarter to pull away from the Cavs in the second Summer League game. The star of the night was Brandon Jennings who had 23 points and eight assists to go along with five steals on the night.
The Bucks played arguably their most efficient game of the summer, turning the ball over just ten times compared to 23 Cavalier turnovers. Joe Alexander struggled from the field for the second straight game while Jodie Meeks shot lights out for 16 points, including eight in the decisive third quarter.
Game Three: Bucks 91, Kings 86
Joe Alexander finally broke out of his shooting slump to score 24 points on eight-of-13 shooting while adding a team-high seven rebounds and Brandon Jennings showed off an array of talent that led to 13 points, 14 assists, and seven steals.
Jennings, the tenth overall pick in the NBA draft, improved his statline for the third straight game as he seems get more and more comfortable with the NBA game flow. It was the best game offensively for the Bucks who won their third straight game of the summer.
Jodie Meeks continued his tear with 20 points on eight of 12 shooting.
The Bucks matched up against two familiar faces in Marquette’s Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal. Matthews poured in 14 points while McNeal added two of his own.
Game Four: Bucks 87, Bulls 72
The Bucks won their fourth consecutive game of the Summer League in their most spread out fashion as four players scored in double figures. Amir Johnson posted his best line of the week with 17 points and eight rebounds against some pretty stout talent in James Johnson and Taj Gibson.
Brandon Jennings posted 14 points and nine assists against the border rivals and Jodie Meeks went for 16 points.
The Bucks led for the majority of the game which allowed reserve Will McDonald to log 18 minutes of his own. He made the most of it, scoring nine points and hauling in five assists.
Game Five: Raptors 84, Bucks 83
The Bucks were one shot by Quincy Douby away from ending the Summer League with a perfect 5-0 record, but fell to the Raptors in the league finale.
Jodie Meeks stayed red hot this summer, scoring 29 points on 12-23 shooting, including four from downtown. Joe Alexander finished up nicely, scoring 14 points on 7-14 shooting for the Bucks.
Brandon Jennings struggled to take care of the ball as he committed eight turnovers, but finished the game with 13 points and seven assists.
Meeks was awarded first team All-Summer League honors after his performance in the game and wowed many Bucks’ front office personell.
Tomorrow player breakdowns can be found right here.
The Milwaukee Bucks currently stand at 1-0 in this year’s Summer League after a 65-59 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Second round pick Jodie Meeks led the way for the Bucks with 14 points on six-of-nine shooting while second year player Joe Alexander added 14 points of his own and seven rebounds. It was a good start for the Bucks, who will need a big summer out of a few players to get ready for their semi-makeover this upcoming season.
With Richard Jefferson being dealt to the Spurs and Charlie Villanueva bolting to the Pistons this offseason, a few young players must step up and show that they are worthy of receiving the minutes left by Jefferson and Villanueva. Along with the voids that need to be filled, depth at point guard and power forward will be very important next year, and the summer should give the Bucks a better grasp of where they stand.
Let’s take a look at the five players that need to prove they belong this summer.
1. Brandon Jennings, PG, First Round Pick in 2009
Not only does the 19-year-old Jennings need to prove that he was the right selection for the Bucks at number ten, but he must also prove that his game transitions over to the NBA. Last year, Jennings skipped out on the University of Arizona to play in Italy where his stats dropped but his upside remained.
This summer, Jennings will have starting point guard duties and need to prove he can handle the reigns of leading a team. Head coach Scott Skiles puts a lot of trust in his point guards, meaning Jennings will need to make good on this responsibility if he wants to see the court in the upcoming season.
In his first game, Jennings scored ten points in 25 minutes on three-of-12 shooting to go along with three rebounds, three assists, and two steals. He turned the ball over just two times and nailed a three pointer in the contest. In his first actual game on American soil in about two years, all of his points came in the second half as he seemed to calm down throughout the game.
The Bucks are hoping Jennings will shoot out of the gates like Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook did last year and prove himself to be an All Star in the making this summer.
2. Joe Alexander, SF, First Round Pick in 2008
In his rookie year, Alexander was buried in the depth chart that saw him log just over 12 minutes a game where he averaged 4.7 points and 1.9 rebounds. Drafted based on his freak athleticism and upside, Alexander will get a chance to shine this summer and find a spot in the Bucks’ rotation and potentially starting lineup.
Part of the reason John Hammond felt comfortable enough trading Jefferson this offseason was because he believed Alexander can be the small forward of the future. He has no problem getting to the rim and has an above average jump shot, but he needs to use his size better and add muscle to his frame.
If the first Summer League game was a sign of things to come, Alexander had seven rebounds in the contest including five on the offensive end. Despite going 4-18 in the contest, it showed that Alexander is gaining confidence in his shot as well as getting to the rim as he seen by his seven free throw attempts.
3. Amir Johnson, PF, Acquired via trade this off-season
The acquisition of Johnson was easily John Hammond’s biggest dice roll this year. Many experts believe that he will thrive in a new setting and seeing consistent minutes, away from the bench role he saw for three years in Detroit, but his first game in the Summer League was anything but a breakout performance.
Johnson started at center for the Bucks, logging 21 minutes while totaling four points, four rebounds, seven turnovers and seven personal fouls. It was hardly a good start for the 22-year-old California native, who has the potential to be the next Josh Smith on defense if he can harness his potential.
The best part about Johnson is that he is still young and will have many opportunities to get better on a Bucks team that lacks depth and needs a power forward to step up and start. His full potential is probably two or three years away, but the Bucks could really benefit from him making improvements this summer.
4. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, F, Second Round Pick in 2008
Of all the returning players coming to the Bucks next year, Mbah a Moute tops the list as the one I am most excited about. As a second round pick last year, he was not expected to be much more than a practice body that could provide good minutes off the bench if needed. However, he proved to be much more than that, playing in all 82 games while starting 51 of them.
This season, he will look to improve on last year’s success and fight for the starting small forward position. Despite being a tweener at both forward positions, Mbah a Moute showed that he is capable of playing multiple positions and roles on the team. As he works on a better post game and adds muscle to his frame, he has the potential to be a double-double threat every night.
5. Salim Stoudemire, PG, signed this off-season
Call this my major sleeper pick, but I believe Stoudamire still has a whole lot of potential in him and can make the Bucks roseter this year and have an impact. His rookie season was the best of his three year career, but battling the likes of Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby for playing time isn’t the best way to show off your skills.
In the first Summer League game, Stoudamire played 13 minutes and contributed six points with a rebound, assist, and two steals. While it was nothing spectacular, the point guard position will be a big time mystery heading into the season and Stoudamire can make his case for minutes this summer.
Ramon Sessions and Jennings will head the depth chart and Luke Ridnour will see decent minutes as well, but if Stoudamire can prove his point in the summer, he will find a spot on the Bucks roster.
As this year’s group of rookies set out to begin their respective summer camps, it is never too early to project the rookies in regards to how they will fare next year.
Top Scorer: Stephen Curry, PG, Golden State Warriors
What better place for the best scorer in the draft to go than the free-shooting Warriors? In Don Nelson’s system, Curry is going to have a lot of freedom to roam around the floor and find open looks. Helping him out will be point guard Monta Ellis whose penetration in the lane will free up Curry.
While Curry’s natural position is at the point, Nelson’s system calls for athletic guards who can do it all. His range is there and he proved this year that he can pass the ball as well as he can shoot. With Jamal Crawford being traded to the Hawks before the draft, Curry should be a starter from day one.
The Warriors averaged 108.6 points last year, good for second in the league, and that average could very well go up next year with Curry in the lineup. PROJECTION: 16.5 points
Top Rebounder: Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers
A no-brainer here for the first overall pick in the draft as Griffin should have plenty of minutes to rack up the boards every night. Center Hasheen Thabeet might be a close second but he does not project to play as many minutes as Griffin this year.
For the Clippers, Griffin will have to compete with Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby for boards, but the 6’10″ power forward should have no problem ripping down missed shots. Last year for the Sooners, Griffin averaged 14.4 rebounds per game to lead the nation.
While those numbers will obviously go down, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Griffin to average close to double-digit rebounds. He has the size, athleticism, and instincts that attract him to the basketball on every possession. PROJECTION: 8.6 rebounds
Top Passer: Jrue Holiday, PG, Philadelphia 76er’s
Kind of a wildcard pick here and if Ricky Rubio is traded to the Knicks, then I would put him in this spot. However, Holiday is put on a team where he is going to pick up huge minutes and be playing around good talent.
Projected as a lottery pick in almost every mock draft, a shoulder injury scared teams away that allowed the 76er’s scoop him up. With Andre Miller leaving to free agency, the keys to the car are now given to Holiday with high expectations.
Last year, the 76er’s were in the top ten in field goal percentage so Holiday should have plenty of chances to pick up dimes. If Elton Brand can stay healthy, he will join Andre Iguodala as the two main cogs for Holiday’s success. Starting on a playoff team that shoots good percentages will lead to good things for Holiday. With excellent court vision and a jump shot in the works, all signs lead to Holiday handing out a lot of assists this year. PROJECTION: 5.9 assists
Top Teammates: Ricky Rubio and Johnny Flynn, Minnesota Timberwolves
This seems like an obvious choice here but there is still a chance that Rubio is traded elsewhere. The Wolves’ front office clearly believed that the two can co-exist in the same backcourt and if this is true, they should form a fantastic duo. Rubio has a very raw shot that needs work but has court vision unlike any other prospect in the draft. His teammate Flynn is more of a scorer that looks for his shot more than passing lanes.
If the two are on the court at the same time, size will be a problem but it will be interesting to see how they work off of eachother. Both have great speed, are tough as nails, and have played on the big stage.
If Flynn can improve his jump shot range just a bit more, he will become a legitimate scoring threat from outside that will, in turn, make Rubio that much better as well.
Top Defender: Hasheem Thabeet, C, Memphis Grizzlies
The best defender in college basketball last year will be the best rookie defender in the NBA next year as well. One more time, the term of “altering shots” (that I first coined) is where Thabeet makes his money, and while it will not be the same in the much bigger NBA, 7’3″ is 7’3″ and Thabeet will get his fair share of blocks and boards.
He will need to gain some more weight and muscle if he wants to battle down low with the Dwight Howard’s and Shaquille O’Neal’s of the league, but for now he remains a long, athletic big man that will succeed on the defensive end of the floor. PROJECTION: 7.4 rebounds, 1.7 blocks
Best Backup: Eric Maynor, PG, Utah Jazz
The Jazz’s biggest need going into the draft was finding a backup for Deron Williams and they got their man. Maynor has great experience and is one of the more NBA-ready point guards in the draft class that can see minutes right away.
Not only will he see the court, but he will learn from Williams that should improve his game even more. Much like a rookie quarterback in the NFL, being able to sit back and learn as a backup point guard will slow down the game for a guy like Maynor.
A close second place in this category was Ty Lawson of the Denver Nuggets. Much like Maynor, he will be joining a team with a veteran point guard and a team that can shoot the lights out. Both have experience, good basketball IQ’s, and a mentor that should make them decent pros at worst.
Biggest Sleeper (first round): Toney Douglas, SG, Florida State
If Douglas can put everything together, he could become an excellent pro in Mike D’Antoni’s system. Along side Chris Duhon, he will have a chance to start and see good minutes right away.
Douglas is a tad bit undersized at 6’2″ but makes up for it with his excellent shot and even better defense. He runs the court exceptionally well which is always a plus for a fast-paced offense, with the outside range being an added bonus.
He slipped due to his size and age (23), but if he can overcome his lack of size and continue to work on his defense, he has the chance to start one day.
Biggest Sleeper (second round): DeJuan Blair, PF, San Antonio Spurs
For a guy that was projected to be a late lottery pick, it sounds weird to say that Blair is a sleeper. While many know about him, I completely expect him to exceed expectations of a second rounder and become the next Anderson Varejao.
Jamie Dixon, Blair’s coach at the University of Pittsburgh, said he talked to all 30 teams to let them know Blair never missed a practice or game because of his knees, but clearly some teams still thought it was an issue that let him slip 36 slots.
I don’t think that his offensive game is good enough for him to ever start on a consistent basis, but his rebounding skills and brute strength is good enough for him to play big minutes off the bench.
Playing in San Antonio next to Tim Duncan can only help Blair’s success as well. With the trade obtaining Richard Jefferson, the Spurs are contenders in the West once again and now have Blair to help the run.
Best Foreign Player Other Than Ricky Rubio and Brandon Jennings: Omri Casspi, PF, Sacramento Kings
It goes without saying that Rubio and Jennings are expected to outperform all other international players, but after that Casspi is next in line. I’d be lying if I said I have ever seen him play outside of his draft clip after he was taken, but from what I hear he can be a good role player for the Kings.
When I saw his reel, I saw a more athletic player than Andres Nocioni who he has been compared to for a while. He has the same tenacity and wreckless play that Nocioni has, but I liked his smooth shot a little more and felt like he played much longer as well.
Everything I hear says he should stay and play in the NBA this year and could have an impact right away. The transition to the Association will be different, but a player of his talent should make it.
Biggest Difference Maker: Brandon Jennings, PG, Milwaukee Bucks
This might be a bit of a homer statement, but I believe that is Jennings can step in right away and play to his tenth pick potential, the Bucks are a playoff team next year. The Luke Ridnour experiment failed miserably and the selection of Jennings all but said goodbye to Ramon Sessions. If Charlie Villanueva is re-signed, the Bucks should have a solid nucleus capable of winning 41 games, even without Richard Jefferson.
As for Jennings, he joins a solid group of veterans including Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut, and should create messes for defenses. He is a score-first point guard that plays very well in transition, two things the Bucks lacked last year.
Injuries riddled the Bucks last year but if they can stay healthy, the playoffs are not out of the question and Jennings will be a big reason why.
Rookie of the Year: Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers
Year in and year out, the Rookie of the Year comes from inside the top ten and this year will be no different. Griffin was the one bright spot in a draft full of potential and will have the biggest impact on any team this year. The Clippers are quickly putting together a solid core group with Griffin, Eric Gordon, and Al Thornton that could be very good in a few years. Griffin should average around 15 points and 9 rebounds and be a highlight reel every time he steps on the court.
The 2009 NBA Draft has come and gone with many picks that came as surprises (Minnesota selecting four PG’s) and some picks that did not (Blake Griffin to the Clippers). Staying in the Midwest, let’s break down the Bucks and what they did last night to improve their team.
First Round, 10th Overall: Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy
One of the biggest stories of this year’s draft was where Jennings would end up. Having one of the biggest ceilings of any player in the draft made him an option as early as number four to the Sacramento Kings, but his decision to play in Europe instead of college, making him somewhat of an unknown, meant that there was a chance he slipped out of the lottery.
However, when the Bucks’ pick came around, Johnny Flynn, Ricky Rubio, Tyreke Evans, and Stephen Curry had already been selected. Jennings was the next highest ranked point guard in front of the likes of Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, and Jeff Teague.
Why I Liked the Pick: Jennings’ stats in Europe (5.5 points, 1.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists in 17 minutes) do not reflect the kind of player he is. His senior year at the prestigious Oak Hill Academy, Jennings set a school record for total points and scoring average in a single season. This is the same high school that has had Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Josh Smith, and Rajan Rando attend, among others.
His best asset is his ability to score, giving the Bucks a scoring point guard that they lacked last year. With a 37 inch vertical, Jennings’ athleticism was second to none in the draft which should make up for his lack of size (6’2″, 165 pounds). Another one of Jennings’ traits is his ability to push the basketball and find open teammates.
He is a playmaker on offense and gives the Bucks a threat at the position every night. His lightning quick speed makes it near impossible to stay in front of him and he is an excellent finisher at the hoop. With Rubio and Flynn off the board, the Bucks took the player with the next biggest upside and a player that could be the steal of the draft as he becomes more polished.
Why I Didn’t Like The Pick: Jennings is a bit of a showboater and a “me-first” player which is not going to fly in Milwaukee. It’s true that in the NBA, one needs to have an ego to succeed and keep up with the rest of the crowd, but if Jennings comes in with too big of a head, he will be in for a very quick and large reality check.
With Jrue Holiday still on the board, taking Jennings might be a questionable call. The freshman from UCLA slipped all the way to the 17th pick but easily could have been swiped up by the Bucks. Like Jennings, Holiday has tremendous upside and more of an NBA frame to build on.
Jennings is also very raw and might take a few years to develop, especially if he can not come in and shoot the ball well. He needs a more consistent jump shot and needs to make better decisions on the court. He has been in the spotlight his whole career, so he should be able to make the jump fairly easily.
Defensively, he will need to bulk up a bit more in order to play night in and night out against what will usually be a much bigger point guard (in terms of weight). His scouting report says that he is a defensive gambler which could be a good thing if he perfects it.
Overall Breakdown: With Flynn and Jordan Hill off the board, Jennings was most likely at the top of the Bucks draft board. It probably meant that Ramon Sessions has played his last game as a Milwaukee Buck, while management will likely begin negotiating with Charlie Villanueva. Jennings has superstar potential if he can harness his ego, continue to work on his game, and become more consistent. OVERALL GRADE: A-
Second Round, 41st Overall: Jodie Meeks, SG, Memphis
One of the group of players who was leaning towards pulling his name out of the draft before the deadline was Meeks. With the number one recruiting class in the nation back at Kentucky, his senior year awaiting, and the chance to be a favorite for the National Championship, Meeks had many reasons to go back to school and see what could have been.
In the end, Meeks decided to stay in the draft and wound up on a rebuilding and improving Milwaukee Bucks squad. With a potential future point guard already in the bag, the Bucks stayed in the backcourt and selected one of the purest shooters in the draft not named Stephen Curry.
Why I Liked The Pick: At number 41 overall, Meeks was excellent value for a Bucks team that was looking for the best player available and not neccesarily a need. Last year, the Bucks ranked 18th in the league in bench scoring with 26.4 points per game and will likely get a boost with Meeks.
Despite being one-dimensional for the most part, that one dimension is the only thing Meeks will need to succeed in the NBA. His long-range shooting was unbelievable this year as he averaged 23.8 points per game, good for eighth in all of college basketball. Meeks is able to shoot from any spot on the floor and will give the Bucks an Eddie House-type player that can come off the bench and make up baskets.
Why I Didn’t Like The Pick: When looking at Meeks’ game, one could say that he is a poor man’s Michael Redd in the sense of other than scoring, he isn’t going to bring much on a given night. With a guy like Chase Budinger still on the board who could potentially fill in as a replacement for Richard Jefferson, the pick seems questionable.
Charlie Bell will be back for the Bucks next year as a solid back-up shooting guard so the pick was hardly a need.
Overall Breakdown: Meeks was the best pure shooting guard left on the draft board and will be a scorer in the league. I doubt he will ever be able to start just because he can’t do much other than shoot, but if he can be Eddie House for the Bucks, the pick will be worthwhile. I just wonder if Budinger or Danny Green would have been a better decision. OVERALL GRADE: B
1. Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma
The Clippers were the fortunate winners of the 25th NBA Lottery and are now coasting through the draft process as they wait to officially draft Griffin. The consensus number one pick, Griffin will step in nicely with a core of young Clippers that could make some noise in a few years.
NBA Comparison: Amare Stoudemire
Other Options: Ricky Rubio
Previous Pick: Jordan Hill at #3
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut
The Grizzlies jumped a lucky four spots in the Lottery and have to be pleased. I still have a lot of faith in Mike Conley and I think the Grizzlies do as well. Marc Gasol had problems on defense last year and should form a very good duo with the defensive star Thabeet.
NBA Comparison: Sam Dalembert
Other Options: Ricky Rubio, Jordan Hill
Previous Pick: James Harden at #6
3. Oklahoma City Thunder: Ricky Rubio, PG, DKV Joventut
A no-brainer here for the Thunder who take the next best player on the board and address a need. Russell Westbrook can be moved to the shooting guard position and form a great core of young players. The Thunder showed signs of greatness last year and may be just a few years away from turning the corner.
NBA Comparison: Rafer Alston
Other Options: James Harden
Previous Pick: Hasheem Thabeet at #4
4. Sacramento Kings: Jrue Holiday, PG, UCLA
I am not too high on Holiday as of right now, but he has the biggest ceiling of any point guard in the draft and fits the biggest need for the Kings. After losing out on the top spot in the draft, Holiday is a boom-or-bust pick with loads of potential and will get the chance to start right away.
NBA Comparison: Rodney Stuckey
Other Options: Jordan Hill, Johnny Flynn
Previous Pick: Blake Griffin at #1
5. Washington Wizards: James Harden, SG, Arizona State
No one has helped their draft stock more than Harden, and he will fit in nicely with the Wizards. In my last mock, I had Washington drafting a point guard and shifting Gilbert Arenas to shooting guard, but now a healthy Arenas can stay at the point and have the hot shooting Harden on the wing.
NBA Comparison: Ben Gordon
Other Options: Jordan Hill
Previous Pick: Ricky Rubio at #2
6. Minnesota Timberwolves: Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy
The Timberwolves fell back a place in the NBA Lottery but still get the chance to land their point guard of the future in Jennings. Despite a poor season overseas, Jennings still has all the talent in the world. He will form a great backcourt with Randy Foye as the Timberwolves continue to rebuild.
NBA Comparison: Allen Iverson
Other Options: Demar DeRozan, Jordan Hill
Previous Pick: Brandon Jennings at #5
7. Golden State Warriors: Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona
A pure value pick here for the Warriors who get a steal with Hill here. While he is rising up many draft boards, his potential is not as high as others drafted before him which may cause him to slide. Golden State gets a very good defensive player with a developing offensive game. What better place to go to develop your offense than Golden State?
NBA Comparison: Al Jefferson
Other Options: Tyreke Evans, Johnny Flynn
Previous Pick: Tyreke Evans at #7
8. New York Knicks: Stephen Curry, PG, Davidson
The one place where Curry’s defensive struggles will not be exposed as much is in New York so the Knicks take a chance on him. His offensive game needs no introduction and in Mike D’Antoni’s system, his numbers could be off the chart on offense.
NBA Comparison: Mike Bibby
Other Options: Tyreke Evans, Gerald Henderson, Johnny Flynn
Previous Pick: Jeff Teague at #8
9. Toronto Raptors:Tyreke Evans, PG, Memphis
Tough pick here for the Raptors as I have them going with value. Anthony Parker is more than likely leaving the Raptors next year via free agency and Evans is a good replacement. He can play both guard positions and has outstanding size. He is also great value right here.
NBA Comparison: Dwyane Wade
Other Options: Earl Clark, Demark DeRozan
Previous Pick: Gerald Henderson at #9
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Johnny Flynn, PG, Syracuse
I kept this pick the same for the Bucks because I really believe he should be the pick here. The outside shot of nabbing the overall first pick is gone, so the Bucks should look to addressing the point guard position. With Rubio and Jennings gone, Flynn is the next best option.
NBA Comparison: Tony Parker
Other Options: Earl Clark, James Johnson
Previous Pick: Johnny Flynn at #10
11. New Jersey Nets: Demar DeRozan, SF, USC
Another value pick here as the Nets grab the best all-around athlete in the draft. DeRozan will win many dunk contests in the future, but a championship may be another story. He is very raw and will take a few years to develop, but could be a defensive star.
NBA Comparison: Josh Howard
Other Options: James Johnson, Earl Clark
Previous Pick: Earl Clark at #11
12. Charlotte Bobcats: Gerald Henderson, SG, Duke
Henderson is the best shooting guard left and is the biggest need for the Bobcats. A good draft could push the Bobcats into the playoffs next year, and they hope Henderson is the answer. He really came on in the second half of the year and warrants a spot in the top 15.
NBA Comparison: Joe Johnson
Other Options: Wayne Ellington, James Johnson
Previous Pick: Wayne Ellington at #12
13. Indiana Pacers: Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina
The Pacers were hoping for a pure big man, but at this spot no one jumps out at me as warranting a pick. Lawson will come in and share time with Indiana who loves to rotate their point guards. He lacks ideal size but should do a nice job in the NBA as he plays solid defense and runs the break very well.
NBA Comparison: Deron Williams
Other Options: James Johnson, DeJuan Blair
Previous Pick: Stephen Curry at #13
14. Phoenix Suns: Earl Clark, SF, Louisville
Clark is big enough to play the power forward position but athletic enough to be a small forward. Sounds a lot like Shawn Marion, doesn’t it? Clark’s size didn’t fit in well with the college game all the time, but if he can improve his jumper and get a little quicker, he could be the steal of the draft.
NBA Comparison: Josh Smith
Other Options: James Johnson, Austin Daye
Previous Pick: Ty Lawson at #14
31. Sacramento Kings: DaJuan Summers, SF, Georgetown
After addressing their two most glaring holes at power forward and point guard, the Kings select Summers, who has great value. Summers is a player whose size may suit the pros better than it did in the college game. Considering how well he played for the Hoyas, he could be a very good player in the NBA.
NBA Comparison: Tim Thomas
32. Portland Trailblazers: Nick Calethes, PG, Florida
Calethes is a very interesting prospect as he learned the point guard role after Jai Lucas transferred to Texas last year. I have seen him play only a handful of times, but he’s very efficient and has great athleticism. He takes the ball strong to the hoop and also plays well in transition. His size, 6′5″, doesn’t hurt either.
NBA Comparison: Rajon Rondo
33. Washington Wizards: Omri Casspi, SF, Maccabi Tel Aviv
I really believe that if Gilbert Arenas can stay healthy and Nick Young can step up to a bigger role next year, the Wizards are very close to a playoff berth. Depth in the front court can only help this projection, and Casspi gives it to Washington. He is reportedly a very efficient player who plays long and wide on defense. I have never seen him play and am simply going off of scouting reports.
NBA Comparison: Tayshaun Prince
34. Denver Nuggets: Jermaine Taylor, SG, Central Florida
The Nuggets do not have many needs, so they go with the best player left on the board. Going up against weaker talent, Taylor averaged 26.2 points per game last year and was even better at the recent Portsmouth Invitational. He should fit in perfectly with the high-scoring Nuggets.
NBA Comparison: Jason Richardson
35. Memphis Grizzlies: Tyler Hansbrough, PF, North Carolina
Many have wondered how Hansbrough will do in the NBA. I am one of the few who believe he can make a big impact right away. Everyone knows his tenacity, toughness, and ability in college. I think it will transition. Memphis would be smart to take a flyer on him here.
NBA Comparison: Rasheed Wallace
36. Detroit Pistons: Toney Douglas, PG, Florida State
Much like Rodney Stuckey, Douglas is a combo guard who brings a lot to the table. Despite Will Bynum’s surge toward the end of the year, Allen Iverson’s uncertainty leaves a lot of questions that Douglas will be able to answer. From what I saw of Douglas, he has the body of a point guard and the ability of a two guard.
NBA Comparison: Gilbert Arenas
37. San Antonio Spurs: Jeff Adrien, SF, Connecticut
Adrien is one of my favorite players in this draft. His toughness is unparalleled in this draft, and I am sure he will make it at the next level. Despite his height, Adrien has great leaping ability and great technique, which could make him a double-double machine in the pros.
NBA Comparison: David Lee
38. Portland Trailblazers: Sergio Llull, SG, Spain
Whoever Portland’s international scout is deserves a raise. They have hit on a ton of great international players. Llull, a combo guard, will add to that list. From what I have heard, he has the ability to play both guard positions and does a great job off the pick-and-roll.
NBA Comparison: Tony Parker
39. Detroit Pistons: Jonas Jerebko, SF, Spain
The Pistons are not going to have many roster spots open next year, so they take a flyer on Jerebko, whom they can have play overseas for a few years to develop his game. Again, I do not know international players very well, but he supposedly plays more like a power forward and could use some work offensively.
NBA Comparison: Kevin Durant
40. Charlotte Bobcats: Dante Cunningham, SF, Villanova
I got to see Cunningham play a lot last year and came away very impressed with the Big East’s Most Improved Player. His work in the post could use a bit of shaping up, but his ability to knock down 15-footers was probably better than most 6′8″ players in the nation not named Tyler Hansbrough. He will, however, need to get a little faster.
NBA Comparison: Jeff Green
41. Milwaukee Bucks: Dionte Christmas, SG, Temple
Christmas let me down in the NCAA Tournament. I had the Owls going to the Sweet 16 with wins over Arizona State and Syracuse. But he has a shot to be a pretty decent pro. Although he is still very raw in terms of fundamentals, his offensive game is one of the best in the country, and he has great size. The Bucks have a lot of depth after Michael Redd, but no one really warrants minutes other than Charlie Bell.
NBA Comparison: Manu Ginobili
42. Los Angeles Lakers: Derrick Brown, PF, Xavier
Brown is another intriguing prospect who plays very a very athletic type of game for his size. Although he does not have the size of a true power forward, as with Jeff Adrien, his physical play will warrant him minutes in the post. Whether Los Angeles has room for him on it roster is another question, but Brown should fare just fine.
NBA Comparison: Luis Scola
43. Miami Heat: Jerel McNeal, SG, Marquette
Yes! I can only hope McNeal will be suiting up next year next to his Marquette counterpart Dwyane Wade. Other than my wish coming true, this move makes sense. Miami really lacked depth at shooting guard last year (among other spots), and I believe he can be a very good player in this league. His defense is outstanding, and if he can develop his dribble a little more, he can be a good role player.
NBA Comparison: Jason Terry
44. Detroit Pistons: Jeff Pendergraph, PF, Arizona State
The Pistons round out their second-round draft picks with Pendergraph. He is a smart player who produced good numbers at Arizona State and is looking to gain a better jump shot to go with his back-to-the-basket skills. Whether he can obtain a roster spot with the Pistons will depend on how well he progresses, especially on defense.
NBA Comparison: Antonio McDyess
45. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jodie Meeks, SG, Kentucky
Minnesota has a bunch of picks in this draft, some of which will be traded. The Timberwolves will look to continue to find gems. No one denies Meeks’ shooting range, but the other aspects of his game are suspect. He does not do anything else extremely well.
NBA Comparison: Ben Gordon
46. Cleveland Cavaliers: A.J. Price, PG, Connecticut
Mo Williams was arguably the biggest off-season acquisition in the NBA this year and has paid huge dividends for the Cavs. However, with Delonte West playing more of a shooting-guard role this year, the Cavs could use another true point guard in the rotation. That is exactly what Price could provide.
NBA Comparison: Deron Williams
47. Minnesota Timberwolves: Nando De Colo, PG, Cholet
I really do not know a whole lot about De Colo other than he is the best remaining prospect. Minnesota has a ton of picks (five) and should go with the best player available. De Colo is a Randy Foye-type who can play both guard positions fairly well. His game is still very raw and will need to improve if he wants to make the final roster.
NBA Comparison: Brandon Roy
48. Phoenix Suns: Leo Lyons, PF, Missouri
Lyons had a great year followed by a great tournament and is extremely athletic for his size. The Suns will look to add depth behind Amar’e Stoudemire. Lyons is a great fit for the Suns’ up-tempo offense. Lyons’ toughness and strength may be a concern, but overall he looks to be a decent prospect.
NBA Comparison: Drew Gooden
49. Atlanta Hawks: Danny Green, SF, North Carolina
After addressing the center position in Round One, the Hawks get a great small forward here. Green has outstanding length, plays exceptional defense, and has improved his offensive game out to the perimeter. Whether he will be quick enough in the NBA remains to be seen, but he has all the tools.
NBA Comparison: Gerald Wallace
50. Utah Jazz: Damion Jones, SF, Texas
Utah stays big in Round Two, opting to go with the versatile and athletic James. Although I can definitely see James going back to Texas for his senior year, he would be a good option as a big man for the Jazz. At the three position, the Jazz are not very big and could use a good post presence.
NBA Comparison: Ron Artest
51. San Antonio Spurs: Milan Macvan, C, KK Hemofarm
The Spurs are almost as good as the Trailblazers at finding international talent, and although I do not know a whole lot about Macvan, he would give the Spurs another good big man. The Spurs can probably let him play overseas for a few years and see how he progresses.
NBA Comparison: Pau Gasol
52. Indiana Pacers: Wesley Matthews, SF, Marquette
The second Golden Eagle goes off the board at No. 52. Matthews played great in the Portsmouth Invitational and showed some moves that may convince scouts he can succeed as a shooting guard. The size is there, but the quickness might not be. Matthews developed an excellent outside shot this year that will also help his chances of being drafted.
NBA Comparison: Grant Hill
53. San Antonio Spurs: Alex Ruoff, SG, West Virginia
The Spurs find a lot of their talent in young players who are very smart. Ruoff fits this description perfectly. He may not have all the athletic tools, but he plays smart and is very efficient. With so much talent at the shooting-guard position, it may be hard for Ruoff to find a spot, but it won’t be because he didn’t try.
NBA Comparison: Kirk Hinrich
54. Charlotte Bobcats: Taj Gibson, PF, Southern Cal
The Bobcats finish out their balanced draft with the best player available. Gibson did not improve a whole lot while at Southern Cal, but his consistency shone through as he became a go-to option this year for the Trojans. The Bobcats should find a spot for him on the roster as Sean May experiment is all but over.
NBA Comparison: Leon Powe
55. Portland Trailblazers: Michael Washington, PF, Arkansas
The Trailblazers have four second-round picks, so to end it I will give them the best player available. That happens to be Washington. Playing for the Razorbacks last year, Washington filled up the stat sheet and was great on offense. Defensively, he is still a little out of control, but he has great size to go with his skills.
NBA Comparison: Al Horford
56. Portland Trailblazers: Greivis Vasquez, PG, Maryland
Another best-player-available selection, Vasquez has played in big time games and stepped up in a big way. He does a little bit of everything and may fly under the radar as a guy who can make a roster. Portland is filled with young guards, but you never know what will happen with injuries and trades.
NBA Comparison: Jason Kidd
57. Phoenix Suns: Josh Heytvelt, PF, Gonzaga
The Suns took Leo Lyons earlier in the round, but Heytvelt is too good of value to pass up here. Despite his great offensive game, his defensive struggles really concern me. Will he be good enough to defend centers in the NBA? If he is, he could form a very nice duo with Robin Lopez in the Suns’ front court. Having a platoon of Lyons and Heytvelt would give the Suns a little bit of everything.
NBA Comparison: Zydrunas Ilgauskas
58. Boston Celtics: Dominic James, PG, Marquette
Maybe I’m being a bit of a homer pick here, but I could see the Celtics going with a point guard, and James is the next best one. James has been through a ton in his career and has maintained a positive outlook. That will transition to the next level in the Celtics’ locker room. If James can improve his free-throw shooting and jump shooting, he can start in the NBA. His defense is that good.
NBA Comparison: Nate Robinson
59. Los Angeles Lakers: Lee Cummard, SG, BYU
Cummard will be a long shot to make the team with such a deep unit for the Lakers, but he has great size for a shooting guard with a nice jump shot. He will need to improve his defense, but if he can, he could be a nice end-of-the-bench guy.
NBA Comparison: Matt Carroll
60. Miami Heat: Robert Dozier, SF, Memphis
Dozier had a decent year at Memphis, but last year’s losses clearly exposed him. Miami can use all the depth it can get, and Dozier plays nice defense with good length in his arms. Mr. Irrelevant for the NBA actually has a pretty good shot to make the team if the Heat stay at this position.
NBA Comparison: Tyrus Thomas