Who says it’s too early to start looking at next year’s NBA draft?
With the top prospects from last year selected on Thursday, draft experts have begun to put together their rankings for 2010.
Here is a mock draft for next year based on 1) who the lottery teams will be, 2) which teams will make the playoffs, and 3) who will declare for the draft.
**Note** Derrick Favors does not declare for the 2010 Draft in this mock…
Western Conference Playoff Teams (in order of record)
Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Portland Trailblazers, Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz, and New Orleans Hornets
Eastern Conference Playoff Teams (in order of record)
Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, and Indiana Pacers
NBA Lottery Mock Draft
1. Memphis Grizzlies: John Wall, PG, Kentucky
The Grizzlies are putting together a nice group of young players, but, with so much youth and an inconsistent coaching staff, they could struggle next year. If they select first overall, it will be very hard for them to pass on a talent like Wall.
I am a believer that Mike Conley can be the future point guard, but Wall is the best prospect in the draft.
With the No. 2, 3, and 5 positions taken care of for the Grizzlies, Wall is a logical choice. The 6′4″ guard will be playing on an excellent Kentucky team this year that has national title hopes that can only show off Wall’s talent even more.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves: Ed Davis, C, North Carolina
Look for the T-Wolves to be a solid team a few years down the road, but, after trading two of their most proven players in Randy Foye and Mike Miller, the growing pains will be large this year.
With Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn entering the starting lineup, this will be a very young team that will need to gain chemistry over time. If they select in the two spot, Ed Davis is the sure pick.
Listed as a power forward, the 6′10″ sophomore plays much bigger than that and is an excellent shot blocker. He will gang up with Al Jefferson and Kevin Love in the frontcourt to form one of the best young trios in the game.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder: Greg Monroe, PF, Georgetown
Much like the Grizzlies, the Thunder are putting all the pieces together the right way but still need more experience. In what looks to be the last piece of the puzzle, Greg Monroe joins a Thunder team with a ton of potential.
With Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant, and B.J. Mullens as a core, Monroe will be the finishing piece to one of the best young starting lineups in basketball.
Monroe is still very raw, but will add another year of college basketball seasoning before coming out next year.
4. Sacramento Kings: Al-Farouq Aminu, SF, Wake Forest
Aminu is another player who decided to pull his name from the draft this year and will gain some more experience because of it, just like Monroe.
His stock will either rise considerably, once he shows he can be the go-to guy without the likes of Jeff Teague and James Johnson, or it will drop if he fails to become the leader for the Demon Deacons.
If he is drafted to the Kings, he will join fellow small forwards Andres Nocioni and recent draft pick Omri Casspi. Aminu gives the Kings more of a finesse player than a bruiser and would be a great compliment.
5. Los Angeles Clippers: Willie Warren, PG, Oklahoma
Warren would have been a lottery pick last year but opted to go back to school for one more year. Without the Griffin brothers, on paper it would seem Warren will be in for a rough year.
However, a very solid recruiting class will give Warren a good supporting cast that should warrant him a top five selection. He will also meet up with his old teammate Blake Griffin as the heir apparent to Baron Davis.
6. New Jersey Nets: Cole Aldrich, C, Kansas
For some reason, I think the loss of Vince Carter is going to hurt the Nets more than most people believe. He was the glue that held the team together and was by far the most experienced veteran that played.
Now, Devin Harris is left to run the team and get them back to the playoffs. Power forward is now the biggest hole for the Nets, and a guy like Aldrich could fill the void.
While he is listed as a center, his game is set more for a power forward in the NBA. He tears down rebounds and has a solid mid-range game on offense. It would not be surprising to see him go earlier than this in next year’s draft.
7. Utah Jazz: Donatas Montiejunas, C, Lithuania
Montiejunas is projected to be a power forward in the NBA but will be able to play both positions. Utah received this pick from the New York Knicks and will take the best player available at this point. Like most foreign players in the draft, Montiejunas has a ton of upside but may slip on draft day. Still, the Jazz will soon need a replacement for Mehmet Okur and Montiejunas gives them a lot of versatility, much like Andrei Kirilenko.
8. Charlotte Bobcats: John Henson, PF, North Carolina
After selecting a Dukie (Gerald Henderson) in this year’s draft, Larry Brown and Michael Jordan go back to their roots and select the next great Tar Heel. The Bobcats are pretty much set all around at the starting positions, so going with the best player left on the board seems right for them.
Henson is the top rated freshman in this year’s high school class and has all the tools to be great. If he can put on muscle and become more polished, he could make an argument for the top spot in the draft next year.
9. Detroit Pistons: Xavier Henry, SG, Kansas
This is the year in which the Pistons go from constant playoff team to lottery.
With Rasheed Wallace likely to be moved via free agency, Detroit will take a hit and begin to rebuild. They have the core to do it with Rodney Stuckey, Austin Daye, DaJuan Summers, and the veterans Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince.
However, Henry will be the best player on the board at this spot and become the replacement for Hamilton in the future. While he will play third fiddle to Sherron Collins and Aldrich, Henry’s potential is sky high which will make him a lottery pick.
10. Golden State Warriors: Solomon Alibi, C, Florida State
After drafting Stephen Curry with the seventh pick overall this year, the Warriors backcourt is pretty much set. Monta Ellis and Curry will join Stephen Jackson to form a high scoring, fast-paced break.
In the frontcourt, however, there is much more of a problem.
Andris Biedrins is the only sure thing and, unless a trade for Amar’e Stoudemire occurs, more talent will be needed there. Enter Alibi who is one of the lesser known prospects in this year’s crop thus far.
At 7′1″, he runs the floor extremely well and will give Golden State more options down low.
11. Washington Wizards: Evan Turner, SG, Ohio State
Obtaining Randy Foye and hopefully a healthy Gilbert Arenas will help the Wizards next year, but I believe their window of opportunity has already closed and that they are not deep enough as a team to sniff the playoffs.
To help the rebuilding mode, the Wizards go with Evan Turner out of Ohio State.
The handful of times that I watched him play, I couldn’t help but think he will be a very solid NBA player. He is very long for his size and goes to the hole with power and balance.
Because of his versatility (much like Caron Butler), he can play multiple positions, and if he can work on his jump shot, he will be just fine in the Association.
12. Toronto Raptors: Jarvis Varnado, PF, Mississippi State
With Chris Bosh almost certain to leave after this season, the frontcourt will have a huge hole that needs filling. Varnado is the best defensive player in the college game right now and is poised to make run in the NCAA Tournament this year.
He could be the annual player whose stock rises after an outstanding tournament (Tyreke Evans, anyone?), and he is worth the pick.
If he can develop a more consistent post game, he will be a lottery pick. If he does not, he will be a mid-first rounder.
13. Oklahoma City Thunder: Stanley Robinson, SF, Connecticut
The Oklahoma City Thunder have obtained this pick from the Phoenix Suns and go with Robinson here. With Hasheem Thabeet, Jeff Adrien, and A.J. Price all gone from the Final Four-bound Huskies, Robinson becomes the leader of the team and will enter the spotlight next season.
Much like Aminu, Robinson will be a make-or-break prospect this upcoming year. His defense and athleticism is outstanding but his lack of an offensive game might keep him out of the lottery.
14. Milwaukee Bucks: Devin Ebanks, SF, West Virginia
There may be a little bit of bias with this selection, having the Bucks as the ninth place team in the East, but if they stay healthy they will be in the playoff race all year.
However, falling just short means another lottery selection. For the second time in three years, they go with an athletic small forward Mountaineer.
Ebanks has all the potential in the world but is extremely raw in just about every aspect. It would surprise me to see him come out to the draft next year, but on potential alone he could be a lottery pick.
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
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut
3. Oklahoma City Thunder: Ricky Rubio, PG, DKV Joventut
4. Sacramento Kings: Jrue Holiday, PG, UCLA
5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Tyreke Evans, PG, Memphis
6. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Harden, SG, Arizona State
7. Golden State Warriors: Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona
8. New York Knicks: Stephen Curry, G, Davidson
9. Toronto Raptors: DeMar DeRozan, SG, USC
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy
11. New Jersey Nets: Tyler Hansbrough, PF, North Carolina
12. Charlotte Bobcats: Gerald Henderson, SG, Duke
13. Indiana Pacers: Johnny Flynn, PG, Syracuse
14. Phoenix Suns: Earl Clark, SF, Louisville
15. Detroit Pistons: Austin Daye, SF, Gonzaga
16. Chicago Bulls: Terrence Williams, SG, Louisville
17. Philadelphia 76’ers: Eric Maynor, PG, Virginia Commonwealth
18. Minnesota Timberwolves: B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State
19. Atlanta Hawks: Jeff Teague, PG, Wake Forest
20. Utah Jazz: DeJuan Blair, PF, Pittsburgh
21. New Orleans Hornets: Sam Young, SG, Pittsburgh
22. Portland Trailblazers: Omri Casspi, SF, Israel
23. Sacramento Kings: James Johnson, PF, Wake Forest
24. Dallas Mavericks: Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina
25. Oklahoma City Thunder: Chase Budinger, SF, Arizona
26. Chicago Bulls: Wayne Ellington, SG, North Carolina
27. Memphis Grizzlies: Derrick Brown, PF, Xavier
28. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonas Jerebko, SF, Italy
29. New York Knicks: Toney Douglas, PG, Florida State
30. Cleveland Cavaliers: Demarre Carroll, PF, Missouri
31. Sacramento Kings: Darren Collison, PG, UCLA
32. Washington Wizards: DaJuan Summers, PF, Georgetown
33. Portland Trailblazers: Victor Claver, PF, Spain
34. Denver Nuggets: Taj Gibson, PF, USC
35. Detroit Pistons: Jeff Pendergraph, PF, Arizona State
36. Memphis Grizzlies: Patty Mills, PG, St. Mary’s
37. San Antonio Spurs: Jerel McNeal, G, Marquette
38. Portland Trailblazers: Josh Heytvelt, PF, Gonzaga
39. Detroit Pistons: Jack McClinton, PG, Miami
40. Charlotte Bobcats: Danny Green, G/F, North Carolina
41. Milwaukee Bucks: John Brockman, PF, Washington
42. Los Angeles Lakers: Rodrgiue Beaubois, PG, France
43. Miami Heat: Jermaine Taylor, SG, Central Florida
44. Detroit Pistons: Ahmad Nivins, PF, St. Joseph’s
45. Minnesota Timberwolves: Christian Eyenga, SG, Congo
46. Phoenix Suns: A.J. Price, PG, Connecticut
47. Minnesota Timberwolves: Sergio Llull, PG, Spain
48. Phoenix Suns: Dante Cunningham, SF, Villanova
49. Atlanta Hawks: Vyacheslav Kravtsov, C, Ukraine
50. Utah Jazz: Leo Lyons, PF, Missouri
51. San Antonio Spurs: Wesley Matthews, SG, Marquette
52. Indiana Pacers: Jodie Meeks, SG, Kentucky
53. San Antonio Spurs: Goran Suton, C, Michigan State
54. Charlotte Bobcats: Patrick Beverly, PG, Ukraine
55. Portland Trailblazers: Dionte Christmas, SG, Temple
56. Dallas Mavericks: Tony Gaffney, PF, UMass
57. Phoenix Suns: Paul Harris, SF, Syracuse
58. Boston Celtics: Nando De Colo, SG, France
59. Los Angeles Lakers: Bryan Mullins, PG, So. Illinois
60. Miami Heat: Jeff Adrien, PF, Connecticut
As I read Scoop Jackson’s latest article on ESPN Chicago regarding how the Bulls could be sitting as the frontrunners for a championship, I couldn’t help but think he is way off on these presumptions. You can read the article here, but let’s break down each of these steps.
1. Draft DeJuan Blair with the 16th pick.
It’s funny that the first step for the Bulls is the one I agree with the most. Being a Big East guy myself, I have had the pleasure (minus the Marquette-Pitt game) of watching Blair for the last two years and have seen enough to know he is going to be a heck of a pro.
When I watch him play, I automatically think David Lee. True, Lee is more athletic and taller than Blair. However, the 6’7″ sophomore has a huge wingspan and is one of the strongest players in the draft. He will make room for himself in the paint and should be a double digit rebounder in the pros.
The one thing I disagree with Scoop on is when he says “together, [Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas, and Blair] could create the best young, three-headed monster in the NBA.” That’s a nice thought and to be honest, those three together are like earth, wind, and fire. You’ve got the scrappy Noah, the athletic Thomas, and the brusier Blair.
However, having three guys who only do one thing well is not going to get you far. Teams (Boston, anyone?) will continue to go inside on Thomas, bring Noah and Blair out to the elbow, and drive aggresively. Blair would be a great start but like I said, he doesn’t make automatically make them contenders.
2. Hire Charles Oakley as a special assistant to player development.
Once again, a nice thought if Blair is brought in, but how much good will it do? Oakley was a pretty good pro who has a storied past in Chicago. Knowing for being hot-headed at times, Oakley might make Blair into a legitimate enforcer and improve his game somewhat, but that’s about it.
My good friend Brian Bakal pointed out that this is not the equivelant to Kareem coming back to coach Andrew Bynum or Patrick Ewing making Dwight Howard into the next Shaquille O’Neal.
Blair will be a nice player in the league and has the potential to start in the future, but due to his lack of height and athleticism, his ceiling isn’t all that high.
Bringing in Oakley may prove to be a good decision, but I doubt it is in the blueprints for a championship.
3. Use the 26th pick in one of these three options:
Option One: Package No. 26 in a Ben Gordon sign-and-trade deal to be announced July 2.
Option Two: Package the pick in a Luol Deng deal that will be finalized by night’s end.
Option Three: Simply select Wayne Ellington with the 26th pick.
Options one and two come into play later, so let’s assume that they go with option number three. Ellington may follow the long list of Tar Heel shooting guards to come into the league and do well, but it sure isn’t going to happen this year. Most players picked at number 26 are not NBA-ready and Ellington is no exception.
He has a great jump shot with NBA range and his athleticism should allow for him to grow as a player. However, he plays shaky defense and doesn’t do a whole lot other than shoot. If he is going to be a good player, it isn’t going to happen this year. Scoop’s article is based on the Bulls taking the crown in 2010, but if Ellington is the pick, he won’t be a contributor this year.
4. Make an agreement with Gordon before Thursday to remain a Bull.
Numbers four and five for Scoop’s article go together and this is the one I disagree with. In an earlier post, I talked about what the Bulls needed to do next year and Gordon was not in those plans. It’s time to move away from Gordon and his one-dimensional game. Especially if that includes getting into a bidding war with the Pistons and (supposedly) the Knicks. Scoop mentions that the Bulls need to do this to have a “sense of stability about their starting lineup”, but I think they can afford to look elsewhere to find that.
5. Or make an arrangement with Gordon before draft day so that he agrees to a future sign-and-trade with Houston to get Tracy McGrady to replace him.
NOOOOOO!!!!!! If Scoop is saying that the Bulls should swap out Gordon for McGrady, I’d buy a Gordon jersey to keep him in Chicago. I started to compare Gordon to McGrady, all things considered, and decided that Gordon is still the better option to have.
First things first, McGrady is expected to miss the first month of the season with lingering knee issues, and once he is back who knows what the future holds. Sure, McGrady brings the veteran leadership and the All-Star talent and the blah blah blah. I’m not buying it and am one person who thinks the fact that McGrady has never gone past the first round in the playoffs is more on him than his teammates.
Great players make it happen and he just isn’t one of them. Combine that with the past injury history, 30 years of age, and swapping out a better, younger Gordon (while saving no money), this looks like the wrong deal.
6. At 10:20 p.m. ET, John Paxson needs to put in a call to Steve Kerr.
I’ll save you the dialouge, but basically Scoop’s next move was to trade Luol Deng, Tim Thomas, and $3.5 million in cash to the Phoenix Suns for Shaquille O’Neal.
And the Suns are going to do this why….?
With teams that are potentially one piece away from being a title contender, the Bulls would have to really up their offer if they want the Suns to pull the trigger on this deal.
Deng is a fine player and has really rounded out his game over the last couple of years, crashing the boards and being more of a team player. But as many league sources have explained, the Suns are not trying to get rid of Shaq to save money.
In this deal, Thomas is a nothing that would most likely be waived, meaning the deal is pretty much Shaq for Deng. O’Neal still has a ton left in the tank and the Suns should expect a lot more in return for him.
I guess what that means is technically I agree with Scoop that if the Bulls can make this deal, they should.
7. Get everyone’s ring size if you can make this the Bulls’ 2009-10 roster:
PG: Derrick Rose
SG: Tracy McGrady/Ben Gordon
SF: John Salmons
PF: Tyrus Thomas
C: Shaquille O’Neal
Bench: Kirk Hinrich, Joakim Noah, DeJuan Blair, Wayne Ellington, Brad Miller, Anthony Roberson, DeMarcus Nelson
Rose, Blair, Thomas, and Noah is an outstanding base to start building the franchise around. The “Baby Bulls” title has to be lifted off some time, but they are still very young with a lot of talent close to blossoming.
To me, it is a question of whether that talent is ready to bloom or whether McGrady and O’Neal will just set the Bulls back two or three years.
Two things still stand out to me as big red flags on the team: Injuries and the lack of defense.
Blair’s knees have caused him to drop down some team’s big boards while others will avoid him completely. McGrady will miss the first month and his knees have been a question mark for a long time now. O’Neal is up there in age and has to take games off at times in the season.
Defensively, the Bulls would be better off with McGrady, but still not good. Last year, guards torched the Bulls all season due to the lack of defense shown by the frontcourt.
If Chicago wants to really improve things, go find a defensive stopper that will play on both ends, not just offensively. Two guys that jump out right away are Terrence Williams or trading both picks for Gerald Henderson.
I applaud Scoop for the article and liked a lot of things that he had to say. It definitely will get people thinking what the Bulls can do to get back to elite status.
However, some of the thinking is inconsistent as Blair and Ellington are more projects while McGrady and O’Neal would suggest a “win-now” mentality.
In an earlier article, I gave reasons why the Bucks needed to take Johnny Flynn. I believe he will be one of the two best point guards to come out of this year’s draft and can help the Bucks right away. He could be the missing piece to a veteran team not that far away from the playoffs and, if he is there at the number ten spot, I would love for the Bucks to nab him.
However, this draft is completely up in the air as to who will be taken and many teams in front of Milwaukee need a point guard as well, including Oklahoma City, Sacramento, Minnesota, and New York. There is a chance Flynn, who has performed extremely well in workouts, will be gone when the Bucks pick, so there are other options they might look at.
Playing the devil’s advocate, I’d like to give reasons why the Bucks would be better off taking a power forward in this year’s draft over one of the many point guards expected to go in the lottery and first round.
If the Bucks were to pass on a point guard, it would need to be that there was a competent player on the roster that would allow the team to not worry about the position. Enter Ramon Sessions. The 23-year-old out of Nevada just completed his second season in the NBA, finishing with 12.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 5.7 assists in 79 games.
The second half of the Bucks’ season saw Sessions enter the starting lineup as he started the team’s last 35 games. For the year, he started 39 games and in those games saw almost all of his averages increase to 15.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 7.6 assists.
He showed that he is clearly ready to take on a starting role in the NBA and has formed a solid chemistry with the rest of the starting unit, something that is hard to come by for a young player.
The Bucks have two key free agents that need to be re-signed this year in Sessions and power forward Charlie Villanueva. General manager Scott Hammond has already said signing both players looks to be out of the question and that one player will not be there next year.
From a financial standpoint, Sessions will be the cheaper of the two to sign at this point in both of the players’ careers. Because of that and the potential that Sessions brings as a starting point guard for a long time, he needs to be re-signed over Villanueva this off-season.
If Sessions were to be brought back next year, there is a very good chance that Villanueva would pack his bags and find a new destination. With this potential move, there would be a gaping hole at the power forward position that the Bucks would need to address via the draft.
Looking at the current roster, last year’s second round pick Luc Richard Mbah a Moute showed a ton of promise for the future as he averaged 7.2 points and 5.9 rebounds off the bench. He proved that he can be a solid back-up for the team but, at 6’8″, probably is not big enough to play every day at power forward.
Other than Mbah a Moute, the Bucks’ roster features journeymen and deep bench players when it comes to power forward, meaning the four spot will surely be addressed on June 25th.
As much as the draft features a potential 11 first round point guards, the power forward position is plentiful as well and there are a few names that could be called when the Bucks pick in the ten spot.
The first option for the Bucks would be Jordan Hill, a 6’10” power forward from the University of Arizona. Before the lottery, Hill was considered a top three pick by many over the likes of Hasheem Thabeet, James Harden, and in some people’s minds, Ricky Rubio.
As a junior, Hill took his game to a completely different level while averaging 18.3 points and 11 rebounds to go with 1.7 blocks. Known as a defensive stopper his first two years, he rounded out his game and led the Wildcats to a Sweet 16 appearance in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
For whatever reason, Hill’s name has slid slightly down the draft boards as pre-draft workouts and combines have taken place. Some believe there is chance he is still taken as high as fourth by the Sacramento Kings, while others think he can drop all the way down to the Bucks.
Hill struggled somewhat during one-on-one drills in a few pre-draft camps and finished dead last at the combine with a lane agility test of 12.23 seconds. However, his feel for the game and blue-collar approach has made him a very likeable player and one that can play in the Association for quite some time.
Names like Tyreke Evans, Stephon Curry, and DeMar DeRozan have all been seeming to jump past Hill these days and it is now a mystery as to where he might go. It could be the less-than-stellar performances at the workouts or that Hill isn’t the flashiest player in this year’s draft, but if he is available at pick ten, the Bucks would be wise to make him their power forward of the future.
With so many teams taking a look at Hill, it would be no surprise to see him selected before the Bucks pick, but there are other players out there worthy of the tenth pick.
The next best option would be Earl Clark, a 6’10” junior from Lousiville. While he does not possess the build of a true power forward, his height and skills allow for him to be a tweener at the position. Much like a Lamar Odom or Charlie Villanueva, Clark can play both positions and play both very well. Prior to last year, Clark was a consensus top-five pick that was ready to carry Lousiville deep into the NCAA Tournament.
While Clark was on the Big East Champion Cardinals that took the title of the number one overall seed in the tournament, his year was somewhat of a letdown. He averaged 14.2 points and 8.7 rebounds but only shot 45.7 percent from the field and did not use his size as much as scouts would have liked him to.
Still, he is one of the rare players whose body might suit him better in the pros than the college game. He has all the potential to be a great player in the league if he puts the time in, and while he is not the traditonal power forward, the Bucks may take a stab at him at number ten.
Pittsburgh’s DeJuan Blair has looked very good in pre-draft workouts and has caught the eye of a few teams in the lottery. However, there are many concerns about his knees being able to hold up in the pros that have scared off a few teams. While he stands just 6’8″, Blair is as tough as they come and uses that to offset his lack of size at power forward.
Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina’s all-time scoring leader, has also seen his stock rise over the last month and is another potential pick for the Bucks. As much as the label comes with him, Hansbrough brings more energy to the game than anyone else in the draft. The athleticism is there and he measured out bigger than most thought, making him an option at power forward.
James Johnson, another undersized power forward from Wake Forest, has loads of potential but has not shown it in workouts thus far. His stock has fallen considerably and would be a huge reach for the Bucks, especially because his name has not been linked to Milwaukee once.
At the end of the day, there is a good chance that the Bucks pull the trigger on a point guard. This is one of the deepest drafts for point guards in recent memory and there are potential gems everywhere. However, if Rubio, Evans, Curry, Flynn, and even Holiday are all taken, it could potentially cause the Bucks to change their direction that they take in the draft. In eight days, it will all be figured out. For now, we can only wait.
On Marquette’s senior day, Wesley Matthews was giving his speech and thanked head coach Buzz Williams for “unleashing” him. For three years, Matthews had played under Tom Crean where he went through the motions in an offense that hardly showed off his penetrating ability and speed on the fast break.
In his senior year, Matthews became a force on offense and played great defense every night, usually against a bigger opponent. Matthews was listed as a small forward on the team’s depth chart but was really the third guard along side Dominic James and Jerel McNeal. He got off to a blistering start on the year and led the team in points during the non-conference schedule and was agruably the team’s MVP during that stretch.
For the year, Matthews averaged 18.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and shot 45.7 percent from the floor and 83 percent from the free throw line, with all those numbers being career highs. While he played bigger on the court than his size indicated he should play, Matthews will move to a shooting guard/small forward combo role in the NBA. At 6’5″, he will have below average height for the position but the question is more based on whether Matthews is fast enough to play and defend at the next level.
Matthews was given the opportunity to play in this year’s Portsmouth Invitational and made the most of it. He played in three games where he averaged 14.4 points and four rebounds per contest. He was put on the Invitational’s All-Tournament team along with the Tournament MVP DeMarre Carroll from Missouri.
When I watch Matthews, he reminds me a lot of Atlanta’s Maurice Evans. The main similarity between the two is on the defensive end where both play undersized at the small forward position. Evans plays very physical and puts himself in good position on the court where he averaged three rebounds per game. Matthews shows the same kind of physicality and will have to add a little more muscle if he wants to go pound for pound with small forwards of the NBA. Offensively, Matthews drives to the hoop more and relies on getting to the free throw line whereas Evans has relied on a jumper most of his career. While Evans probably plays better defensively, Matthews will give NBA teams a lot of options on offense.
If Matthews makes it in the Association, it will be because his ball handling is good enough that he can drive to the hoop. In college, Matthews could use his size to bully his way into the lane and would draw fouls on most occasions because of it. However, going up against giants in the pros means that the undersized Matthews will need to be more agile and have a better handle on the ball. He has always had a knack for getting to the charity stripe and will use that wherever he plays.
Matthews’ jump shot also made great strides this year and he showed off some three-point ability as well, averaging 1.2 threes per game. The place Matthews made his money, outside of the lane, was his mid-range game. Because of Marquette’s small lineup and driving ability, Matthews knocked down a good percentage of 17-footers that he shot. Towards the later part of the Big East season, his fade away on the baseline became a trademark and his seemingly his favorite spot on the court. In the pros, Matthews’ may have trouble getting off shots with his jump shot as he hardly jumps on them. Still, the fact that he is able to make the outside shots he does take gives optimism that he can succeed at the next level.
Defensively, Matthews is an interesting prospect. He excelled in college playing tough defense, doing a great job staying in front of opponents and being in the right spot at the right time going up for rebounds. He also does a nice job getting out on the break and finding an outlet after he rebounds the ball, something that will get him noticed. His size will clearly hurt him some at the next level but if Matthews is quick enough to stay in front of defenders and keeps the same work ethic on defense that he has shown in college, it should not be a huge issue.
If a team decides to take Matthews, they are getting an outstanding basketball player and an even better person. It’s true that he is undersized and does not have as much upside as some of the other players slotted to go late in the draft. But Matthews has the experience, toughness, and discipline that is unmatched by any of those same players. It will probably be a long shot to make a team but any team that takes a flyer on him as an undrafted free agent knows exactly what they are getting.
My Predicition: Undrafted
As we close in on the three week mark until the 2009 NBA Draft, camps and interviews are in full swing, and teams are making notes about players that they like and do not like.
Sitting at the No. 10 spot, the Milwaukee Bucks will have many options to improve its 34-48 squad from last year. Injuries to stars Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut hurt Milwaukee’s playoff hopes, but a good draft—and a healthy offseason—will do wonders for the team.
The Bucks will have to make decisions on free agents Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions, and the draft could affect what they do.
Potentially waiting at the No. 10 pick will be Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn. The 6’0″ sophomore has seen his stock rise since attending the combine in Chicago and is looking more and more like a surefire lottery pick. If he makes it to Milwaukee, there is no reason for general manager John Hammond to pass on the next big point guard in the NBA.
Flynn has all the tools you look for in a point guard, starting with leadership. Despite being in just his second season at Syracuse, Flynn took a leadership role and was the main reason for the Orange’s success last year.
Over the last couple of years, the NBA has seen the point guard position take precedence as the spot to build a franchise around. Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, and Rajon Rondo have all been examples of this new trend.
For the Bucks, Flynn would step in right away as the starting point guard. Helping make the transition would be a veteran group of players in Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson, Andrew Bogut, and Charlie Villanueva.
He would not be joining a young squad full of potential, where he would need to take over games and try to do too much (which he is guilty of at times). Instead, he would rather play within the offense and have help doing so.
Flynn remains the most sure thing in the draft among point guards in this year’s draft. As a sophomore, Flynn is actually one of the older guards in the draft.
In ESPN’s GM rankings of the top 13 point guards, just Stephen Curry, Ty Lawson, Eric Maynor, Darren Collison, and Toney Douglas were older than him.
The good part is that Flynn is older, not old. He is just 20 years old and still has a ton of experience. He has not been to three Final Fours, like Collison, and he has not played overseas, like Brandon Jennings.
However, he has played two full seasons in the rough ‘n’ tough Big East and carried a team on his shoulders to the NCAA Tournament.
Flynn measured out at 6’0″ tall in shoes and had a 6′4″ wingspan, which gave a lot of GMs good reason to believe that he is big enough to succeed in the NBA.
The only thing you could possibly knock Flynn on is his size. But his decent size— comparable to Chris Paul’s—seems to get the job done. Flynn also had the highest vertical leap of anyone at the draft camp, being the only one to reach 40 inches on his jump.
When I watch Flynn play, he reminds me a lot of San Antonio’s Tony Parker. While Parker has two inches on Flynn, his jumping ability makes up for the size disadvantage.
Both go to the hole with a great sense of speed, direction, and ability to find open teammates.
Flynn got to the foul line six times a game, compared to Parker’s five trips per game, and both do most of their damage in the paint.
An added bonus in Flynn’s arsenal is his outside shot. Despite driving to the paint on most of his offensive touches, he has some ability to shoot the three when necessary.
Also, Flynn has about 15 pounds on Parker and is a lot more physical. While he has the ability to put finesse in his game, he will come right at you and draw a foul.
Don’t let his size fool you; his competitiveness drives him and he does not back down from anyone.
Flynn is as complete of a point guard as any team will find in this year’s draft. International players (Rubio, Jennings) are far from being a sure thing, and Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday are one-year wonders from their respective colleges.
There are question marks on whether or not Stephen Curry will be able to play good enough defense in the NBA, and there are more questions about Ty Lawson’s size than Flynn’s.
With such an array of good outside shooters (Redd and Jefferson) and big men with mid-range games (Villanueva and Bogut), Flynn could do wonders in the Bucks’ offense.
With such good shooters on the perimeter, getting a guy that can run the floor like Flynn will create open shots on the break and lead to a much more efficient offense.
Rajon Rondo’s play in Boston comes to mind when thinking about the way Flynn runs the break. His first look is to get right to the hole, but he always knows where his players are (Ray Allen).
Flynn also excels when he slows the ball down and runs the half-court offense. At Syrcause, Flynn saw a lot of zone defense that allowed him to penetrate to the basket but not finish because of defenses collapsing.
When Flynn gets to the NBA, he is going to see a lot more man-to-man defenses and is going to be quicker than most of the counterparts he matches up against on a nightly basis. His ability to finish at the rim and draw fouls will go a long way to making him successful.
Scott Skiles loves a good point guard and Flynn can be the man for the job. Of the “young” point guards in the draft, Flynn is the most NBA-ready and can step in and help right away for a Bucks team that is not that far away from a breakout year.
Ramon Sessions has showed flashes of being a very good point guard in the league, but I still doubt whether he can handle the starting gig all year.
If he does not decide to re-sign with the Bucks, Flynn becomes the best option to start for the Bucks next year. The Bucks have longed for a star point guard that has the fire and passion Flynn does.
The Bucks will look at all their options and decide which point guard they like best and even hope a power forward like Jordan Hill falls to them.
However, if Flynn is available at the 10th pick, it would make all the sense in the world to make him a Milwaukee Buck.
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
During the 2008-2009 college basketball season, no player endured more ups and downs than Marquette University’s Dominic James did. The Golden Eagles were ranked 8th in the nation going into a game against Connecticut, but in the first half James came down funny and broke his foot. He did, however, make a valient return in what would be Marquette’s final game of the year against Missouri in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
That kind of tenacity that James showed throughout the year is the same thing that any NBA team that selects the 5’11” senior from Richmond, Indiana will get. On the year, James averaged 11 points, 3.4 assists, and five rebounds per game and averaged a team high 2.1 steals.
James’ obvious position in the NBA will be at the point guard position and, due to his lack of height but athleticism, would do a well in an up-tempo offense. His court vision was one of the best in the nation this past year and he sported one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in college basketball. With such a point guard heavy draft class, it will be tough for James to find a stop on an NBA roster, but it is hard to deny his positives.
It is very tough to find a comparison in the NBA to James, but the player closest to his type of game is Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks. Robinson is enjoying a breakout season this year, and while he is more of a jumpshooter than James, the similarities are there.
First and foremost, Robinson’s leaping ability is something everyone in the league knows about. Winner of this year’s dunk contest, Robinson can also get up on rebounds and blocks and plays very solid defense, all things (his height) considered. The same goes for James who became Marquette’s best defender last year.
Because of Robinson’s lack of size, the quickness that he shows in games all but made up for it. More times than not, James was the smallest player on the court but consistently blew by defenders that opened up shots for himself as well as lanes for open teammates.
Because of his great leaping ability, Robinson does not get blocked nearly as much as one would think, and James is the exact same way. James plays above the rim and surprises a lot of defenders with his hang time. Neither players shoot great percentages from the field, but neither take that many shots.
In Mike D’Antoni’s system in New York, Robinson was free to run the court and play a lot of transition basketball. When Buzz Williams came to Marquette this year, the tempo was turned way up and the Golden Eagles thrived.
Differences between Robinson and James are seen when jump shots come into play. While Robinson always had a lower field goal percentage, his three point percentage was always very solid and had a nice mid-range game to go with it. His speed allowed him to come off screens and take jumpers, and it has worked for him in New York.
James may struggle with finding his own shot in the NBA because he has trouble with defenders on him. He gets good elevation on jump shots but his body is usually leaning back, causing a miss. If James does not improve his jump shooting, his stay in the Association will be short lived.
The other area that needs a massive makeover is in the free throw shooting department. James shot 46.1 percent from the line last year, something that was really a back breaker considering how many times James went to the line. He is going to make his money off going to the hole, and in the NBA that means getting fouled.
He seems to fade away when he goes to the stripe and hopefully whichever team he goes to will fix the issue. Robinson shoots 84 percent from the line for the Knicks currently, something that has slightly improved for him since his college days.
On the defense side of the ball is where James will start to get looks. Leading your team in steals when you have a guy like Jerel McNeal in the starting lineup is quite a feat. Two times this year James held his opposing point guard to zero points (Cincinnati and West Virginia). James also came up with the occasional block and stepped up great in crunch times situations.
He really stepped up his game defensively when he realized he was really the fourth scoring option behind McNeal, Wesley Matthews, and Lazar Hayward. It’s the kind of selflessness that James showed that makes him such a team player and an even better leader.
One thing that will entice many NBA scouts that may get overlooked in draft camps are the leadership qualities that James possesses. One thing you want from a point guard is confidence, and if there is one thing James has, it’s that. He is a great motivational leader and is very vocal with his teammates helping them out.
Teammate Wesley Matthews attributed his success in the last season to James calling him out and letting him know what he needed to do to help the team win.
When James went out with his injury, head coach Buzz Williams let James sit in his chair for the remainder of the season as a coach. Not only did James encourage his teammates better than any fan could have (as seen in the Villanova game), but he also took on a coaching role that Williams admits helped him a ton.
James has a very high basketball IQ that translates to smart decisions in games. He might not have had the best stats in the nation last year, but no point guard in the nation, minus Ty Lawson, meant more to his team than James did. The value that the senior has to any team that may pull the trigger on him will be the same.
He probably is not going to start in the NBA but can be a valuable asset coming off the bench, a great practice player, and an even better attitude in the locker room.
My Prediction: 2nd Round, 57th Overall to the Phoenix Suns
Up until the last couple weeks of the season, the Milwaukee Bucks remained in the playoff hunt for the final spot and a trip to get abused for four games by the Cleveland Cavaliers. While the Bucks finished the year 34-48, there were a few key factors that make this record misleading.
First and foremost, shooting guard Michael Redd battled two different injuries that caused him to miss 49 games last year. A sprained ankle in November caused him to miss 14 games and on January 24th, Redd tore his ACL, which ended his season indefinitely.
Not to be forgotten was Andrew Bogut, who played in just 36 games this year after a stress fracture in his back ended his year. Bogut was averaging career highs in field goal percentage and rebounds before he went down with the injury.
The Bucks went 12-11 when both Redd and Bogut played and after Bogut went down with his season ending injury (Redd had already been out for the year), the Bucks went 10-21 without their team leaders. The majority of the teams in the league would have a hard time competing without their best outside shooter and best big man. Redd and Bogut were arguably the two best players on the team and the Bucks visibly struggled because of it.
Coming into next year, both are expected to be fully recovered and healthy to begin the season. Two players that may not begin the season in Milwaukee are free agents Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions.
Villanueva took over as the team leader when Redd and Bogut went down with their injuries and had a career year. He posted career highs in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, and free throw percentage and kept the Bucks’ playoff hopes alive up until the final two weeks of the season.
Sessions, everyone’s favorite fantasy basketball point guard sleeper, posted very solid numbers as well. Sessions took over the starting role at the end of January and saw his numbers increase even more.
The issue starts when talking about what to do with Villanueva and Sessions. On one hand, you have Villanueva who was the Bucks best player last year and was the glue that held the injury-depleted team together. He is 25 years old and seems to be coming into the prime of his career.
On the other hand, Sessions has proved that he can be a starting point guard in the NBA and, at only 23 years old, has a very bright future ahead of him. When the Bucks brought in Luke Ridnour, they thought they were going to have their starting point guard, but Ridnour has turned out to be just a solid back-up.
Villanueva will be more costly than Sessions, and general manager Scott Hammond has made it clear that it does not look like both players can be re-signed. Also, the Bucks will not be big players in this year’s free agency signing so it looks as though they can focus on keeping their in-house players.
Villanueva is more important to Milwaukee’s success and I believe he will be the player that the Bucks keep. Sessions is showing early signs of being a Jason Kidd-type player but at this stage in the game, Villanueva is a better player. Another reason that Villanueva will be re-signed over Sessions is looking at the NBA Draft and which positions will be available for the Bucks come June.
In my most recent mock draft, 11 point guards were taken in the first round. This draft class is one of the deepest in recent memory at the point guard position and, with the Bucks projected to pick tenth, a franchise point guard will be available when it is their turn to select.
Leading the rankings at the point guard position is 19-year-old Spaniard Ricky Rubio.
After dominating the Redeem Team in the Olympics, Rubio got the national attention he deserved. His strength lies in his passing and the way he runs the floor in transition. He is very raw and may take a few years to pan out, but his ceiling is as high as anyone else’s in this draft.
There is almost no chance that Rubio slips to number ten for the Bucks, but the next three point guards on my list are pretty much ranked the same and could be available depending on who slips. Brandon Jennings, the point guard who chose Italy over Arizona, enters the draft as my second highest rated point guard. Jennings is more of a scorer than a passer which might not make him the ideal fit in Milwaukee, but his overall talent and potential is something the Bucks could use right away.
In my mock draft, I had the Bucks selecting Syracuse point guard Johnny Flynn. Something about him makes me believe that he is going to be the next great point guard in the NBA. The way he leads his team with such confidence, despite being just a sophomore, is unbelievable. He finishes at the hoop with power and has an improving jump shot.
Ty Lawson is a step behind Flynn in my book, but that is no knock on the North Carolina point guard. Lawson had an amazing season and tournament that ended with a National Championship and looks to be a sure fire lottery pick.
As it pertains to the Bucks, Rubio would be the best fit for the Bucks based solely on him being the best point guard. After Rubio, Flynn and Lawson both distribute the ball excellently and can become leaders on the court. They both differ from Jennings who is more of a combo guard, but there is a good chance one of these four will be taken by the Bucks if Sessions is not re-signed.
If Sessions is re-signed and Villanueva is let go, there is a huge hole left at the power forward position. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute proved that he is capable of playing a good 25 minutes a night but is not a starter.
Unless the Bucks win the Lottery, Oklahoma power forward Blake Griffin will not be available anywhere else. After Griffin, Arizona power forward Jordan Hill is the next best option. While I see him going in the top five after his much improved 2009 campaign, he would be a great pick for the Bucks to team up with Bogut in the frontcourt.
James Johnson out of Wake Forest is a project that has a lot of upside because of his athleticism and strength.
DeJuan Blair is an interesting prospect because he does not quite have the athletic game style that you look for in an NBA power forward. He is as hard of a worker as you will find in the draft, but his height might be a concern.
The Bucks have the 41st selection in the draft and the second round is loaded with height. I have the Bucks taking Temple shooting guard Dionte Christmas but other big men of note are Xavier’s Derrick Brown, Arizona State’s Jeff Pendergraph, and North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough.
If the Bucks can stay healthy next year and hit on a good point guard in the draft, there is reason to believe the Bucks can fight for a playoff spot next year. Richard Jefferson and Joe Alexander are holding down the small forward position and, despite some rumors, there is a good chance Jefferson stays put in Milwaukee.
Redd and Charlie Bell formed a solid shooting guard combo with Keith Bogans, and Luke Ridnour gives very solid minutes at the point guard position. Scott Skiles is a good enough coach that he can get the Bucks to where they can potentially be next year: the NBA Playoffs.
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
This year’s draft class is one of the weaker in recent memory, but a lot of teams are one piece away and there are great role players in this year’s draft who have the experience to come in right away and see minutes. Round two will be up tomorrow but for now, enjoy my 2009 NBA Mock Draft 2.0!
1. Sacramento Kings: Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma
Unlike the NFL, when you have the first overall seed in the draft you go with the best player nine out of ten times. Count this one as one of those nine times as the Kings grab the best player in the draft in Griffin to tag-team with Spencer Hawes in the front court. NBA Comparison: Amare Stoudemire
2. Washington Wizards: Ricky Rubio, PG, DKV Joventut
Ever since his Olympics performance against the United States, scouts have been drooling waiting for Rubio to declare for the draft. Now that he has entered his name, the Wizards can start building around him to get back to the playoffs. Moving Gilbert Arenas to a Dwyane Wade-type shooting guard role will help both players out and make the Wizards that much better. NBA Comparison: Rafer Alston
3. Los Angeles Clippers: Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona
Hill was one of the most improved players in the NCAA this year and will be rewarded for it in the draft. Hill is an outstanding scorer and and even better shot blocker. Hopefully Los Angeles can reverse their Lottery luck and start to build a core around Hill, Eric Gordon, and Deandre Jordan. NBA Comparison: Al Jefferson
4. Oklahoma City Thunder: Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut
The Thunder are growing excellent young talent right now with Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook, but there appears to be a gaping hole at the center position. Thabeet was the best defensive player in the NCAA last year and if he can add a some muscle to his frame, he will be the next big shot blocker in the league. NBA Comparison: Sam Dalembert
5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy
A lot of people are underrating Jennings because of his decision to play internationally instead of going to Arizona, but do not deny Jennings’ talent for one second. He excels on his jump shot and getting to the hoop, where he finishes with great power. Minnesota can move Randy Foye to shooting guard to make room for Jennings. NBA Comparison: Allen Iverson
6. Memphis Grizzlies: James Harden, SG, Arizona State
I am not a huge fan of Harden as I wonder how good he can be without having top end speed. Still, you can not overlook his outstanding ability on jump shots. He needs to work on creating more offensively and he plays pretty good defense for his size. His potential is huge and despite having O.J. Mayo, the Grizzlies believe in Mike Conley and will build on more depth in getting Harden. NBA Comparison: Ben Gordon
7. Golden State Warriors: Tyreke Evans, PG, Memphis
Evans was one of my favorite players to watch this year, and for good reason. He has great size for a point guard and uses it very well getting to the hoop. He is also able to guard bigger players on the defenders, something Golden State has been known to give up on most nights. Evans also improved his jump shot as the year went on and will develop it even further in Don Nelson’s system. NBA Comparison: Dwyane Wade
8. New York Knicks: Jeff Teague, PG, Wake Forest
Teague is the definition of a combo guard as he has a knack for scoring baskets but also handles the point very well. He should thrive in Mike D’Antoni’s run-n-gun offense because of it, and with the uncertainty of Nate Robinson and Chris Duhon next year, Teague makes a lot of sense here. NBA Comparison: Gilbert Arenas
9. Toronto Raptors: Gerald Henderson, SG, Duke
Toronto really struggled to find a steady and consistent shooting guard this year, but Henderson should solve all thier problems. Henderson is unbelievably athletic and a smart player who will benefit greatly from an up-tempo style that he was not able to see while playing for coach K. NBA Comparison: Joe Johnson
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Johnny Flynn, PG, Syracuse
I don’t know if Flynn will end up going over Ty Lawson in the draft come June, but he should. Not only did Flynn have a better statistical season (by a hair), but I believe that he is the next big thing to come and has more potential than Lawson. Flynn plays much bigger than he really is and the Bucks could use a starting point guard on a team full of back-ups in Luke Ridnour and Ramon Sessions. NBA Comparison: Tony Parker
11. New Jersey Nets: Earl Clark, SF, Louisville
Clark is one of the most intriguing prospects in this year’s draft and one of my favorites. I got to watch him quite a bit as he played in the Big East, and from what I can tell he has all the tools. His size matched up with his athleticism is unlike any other player in the draft. If he can focus on becoming a true forward (settles for too many jump shots), his outstanding defense and versatility will carry him far in the league. NBA Comparison: Josh Smith
12. Charlotte Bobcats: Wayne Ellington, SG, North Carolina
Ellington’s permiter game is outstanding and he has pretty good size for a shooting guard. Charlotte lacked a true two guard after the Jason Richardson trade, and it never hurts to have a little home-grown talent to bring some people to the stadium. NBA Comparison: Richard Hamilton
13. Indiana Pacers: Stephen Curry, PG, Davidson
The value that Curry brings falling to number 13 is too hard to pass up. Curry formed himself into a combo guard this year, taking over point guard responsbilities. This will be a key asset for NBA scouts to see as last year he was more of a pure shooter that did not do anything else very well. NBA Comparison: Mike Bibby
14. Phoenix Suns: Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina
Lawson will become the heir apparent to Steve Nash and he should thrive in the Suns up-tempo system, somewhat similar to what he played in at Chapel Hill. Lawson lacks ideal size for a point guard but his combination of speed and strength should make him a very good player in the league. NBA Comparison: Deron Williams
15. Detroit Pistons: Demar DeRozan, SF, Southern Cal
DeRozan has filled up many a Youtube videos with his athleticsm and speed to go with it, but the question is whether or not he can translate that into a solid basketball player. At Southern Cal, DeRozan had an efficient year and, with so much potential on his side, Detroit should be able to turn him into a stud. NBA Comparison: Josh Howard
16. Chicago Bulls: Terrance Williams, SG, Louisville
I do not expect the Bulls to re-sign Ben Gordon this off-season, leaving somewhat of a hole at the position. Williams has the best intangibles and leadership qualities of anyone in the draft and plays excellent defense, which is something the Bulls could use more out of their guards. If Gordon is re-signed by the time of the draft, this pick could easily be Patrick Patterson. NBA Comparison: Andre Iguodala
17. Philadelphia 76ers: Chase Budinger, SF, Arizona
Budinger has significantly increased his stock since coming out of high school with Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, and has become a much better all around player because of it. Philadelphia could use depth at the position but would also consider Flynn or Lawson if either of them were to fall this far. NBA Comparison: Luol Deng
18. Minneosta Timberwolves:James Johnson, PF, Wake Forest
While Minnesota has entrenched their front court with Al Jefferson and Kevin Love, Johnson is a project that can sit and wait in the wings for a few years becoming a full time player. He flew under the radar all of last year because of Jeff Teague and Al-Farouq Aminu but his athleticism and strength are two great traits that could make him a stellar defender in the NBA. NBA Comparison: Al Thornton
19. Atlanta Hawks: B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State
Mullens was the top prospect coming out of high school but did not have an unbelievable year at Ohio State. Still, he has a ton of potential that could very easily translate to the NBA game. He is very raw but has good size and is fluid in the paint and is one of the few true centers that could go in the first round this year. Atlanta could use some depth behind Zaza Pachulia and keep Al Horford at the power forward position. NBA Comparison: Sam Dalembert
20. Utah Jazz: DeJuan Blair, PF, Pittsburgh
If Carlos Boozer is not back for the Jazz, which I do not expect him to be, depth at power forward will be a major concern. Paul Millsap proved that he is more than capable of starting, but behind him there is little talent on a team that runs on having depth. NBA Comparison: Paul Millsap
21. New Orleans Hornets: Marcus Thornton, SG, LSU
The Hornets are really lacking at the shooting guard position and Thornton is a project that could stem into something very positive if he continues to work on his game. He does a great job coming off of screens in offensive sets and even has a decent post game that he can use in the NBA. NBA Comparison: Ray Allen
22. Dallas Mavericks: Patrick Patterson, PF, Kentucky
Other than Brandon Bass, the Mavs do not have very man post-up forwards, and that is exactly what Patterson is. Injuries plagued him but when he is playing good basketball, he is a top-10 pick. He averages close to three offensive rebounds per game and works very hard in the post to fight for rebounds despite still being a very raw player. He could easily be the steal of this draft. NBA Comparison: Al Horford
23. Sacarmento Kings: Jrue Holiday, PG, UCLA
After addressing the power forward position, the Kings pick up a big-time project in Holiday. He has the potential to be a starting point guard in the Association but will really need to polish up. He struggled late in the season but gives good versatility as a combo guard. I would not be surprised at all to see Holiday come back to the Bruins for another year of work in college. NBA Comparison: Rodney Stuckey
24. Portland Trailblazers: Sam Young, SF, Pittsburgh
Young is one of the most polished players in the draft that can come in right away and get minutes. He will be coming to a team in the Blazers that has some of the best young talent in the league, so player that can see the floor from day one will be important. Young plays great defense and really improved his jump shot this year. NBA Comparison: Brandon Rush
25. Oklahoma City Thunder: Eric Maynor, PG, VCU
Despite having standout rookie Russell Westbrook, the Thunder have shaky depth at the point guard position. Maynor benefited greatly from the NCAA Tournament and was one of the most well-recognized names in March. He is a veteran player and a great leader that can translate to the young Thunder team. NBA Comparison: Nate Robinson
26. Chicago Bulls: Austin Daye, PF, Gonzaga
Daye is a very interesting prospect that, like most Bulls forwards, will be a project in the making. The one difference is that Daye is an outstanding defender and very strong in the post. Too many times this year the Bulls were “out-physicaled” and it cost them points in the paint. Daye also has a nice mid-range game on offense. NBA Comparison: Jared Jeffries
27. Memphis Grizzlies: Patrick Mills, PG, Saint Mary’s
Mike Conley showed flashes of starting capability, but just in case he is not the answer for the Grizzles, Mills will be a very good pickup with good value. Mills takes too many outside shots right now and will need to work on that, especially if he keeps missing them, but over time could prove to be a solid option at the point. NBA Comparison: Rafer Alston
28. Minnesota Timberwolves: Gani Lawal, PF, Georgia Tech
With three selections in the first round, Minnesota will likely not have three huge needs to address, so they will either go with the player with the most potential or simply the best player on the draft board. Lawal’s potential is through the roof as he plays above the rim on most possessions and has thunderous dunks in most games he plays in. While he is still raw and not mechanically sound, he could be a star. NBA Comparison: Jason Maxiell
29. Los Angeles Lakers: Darren Collison, PG, UCLA
Just like they did with Jordan Farmar, the Lakers go back to a UCLA point guard and get a great floor leader in Collison. Staying for his senior year hurt his draft stock but he still produces at a high level and had three Final Four appearances, showing he knows how to win. Derek Fisher will be 36 and has stopped producing for the Lakers, while Farmar is strictly a backup. NBA Comparison: Chris Duhon
30. Cleveland Cavaliers: Tyler Smith, SF, Tennessee
The Cavs are in good hands with LeBron James, but injuries to Wally Szczerbiak and J.J. Hickson this year really exposed the Cavs lack of a bench at the forward position. Smith is definitely a project and there is a good chance he will return for his senior year, but regardless of when he comes out, he has the athleticism to make it in the pros, if only as a great defender. NBA Comparison: Tyrus Thomas
In one of the most exciting and entertaining first-round matchups that the NBA has seen in quite some time, the Chicago Bulls showed poise, maturity, and an extremely high ceiling for improvement in their series against the Boston Celtics that they will build on heading into next year.
The Bulls were one of the more consistent teams in the East and hovered around the six through eight seed the whole year.
That’s not to say at all that it was an easy road, even in the much less competitive Eastern Conference.
Breaking down each player on the Bulls has to go past looking at the seven game series with the Celtics, as hard as that may be.
They faced ups and downs all year, acquired and lost players, and in the end finished the year with a very impressive showing, which leads me to believe they will be in the hunt for the Eastern Conference Championship come this time next year.
Derrick Rose proved this year that he is more than capable of becoming the leader of the Bulls for years to come. Nothing stands in the way of Rose joining the next great wave of point guards in the NBA maybe except himself.
As most rookies that are thrown into the setting Rose was of starting from day one, he played a little out of control at times and made a few costly mistakes.
Still, down the stretch, Rose was the reason the Bulls were back in Boston for a game seven. Ben Gordon and John Salmons were fine but the constant of Rose, as it was all year in the regular season, kept the Bulls in the series.
In my post on Rajan Rondo during the series, I took quite a bit of heat for supposedly hating on Derrick Rose and, while the article was more meant to praise Rondo, because of the criticisms I’ll explain how I feel on Rose.
He played better than any rookie has the last two years, culminating in his Rookie of the Year Award. He was a very consistent guard but not the all star that a few people were making him out to be.
After game one, I was talking to someone who wanted to put Rose in the argument for top three point guards in the NBA.
This pre-mature worship of Rose is fine if you take it with a grain of salt, with that grain being that he is 20 years old and is only going to get better.
It remains to be seen, but Rose could easily be the best point guard in the league in five years. But for now, he is JUST one of the up-and-coming stars in the league, and there is no shame in that.
Next year, Rose will progress even more as the Bulls should be at least one of the top four teams to come out of the East after Cleveland, Orlando, and potentially Boston or Miami.
One of the biggest off-season decisions for head coach John Paxson will be what to do with free agent Ben Gordon.
Remember that Gordon played more than the seven games in the playoffs when I say that the Bulls should let Gordon go off to another team and here’s why.
Every year a big name comes out of the playoffs in basketball who is playing in his contract year and goes bonkers in the second season. Last year it was James Posey and this year it is Gordon.
When that certain player enters free agency, there is usually a team that is willing to throw the bank at him and make him grossly overpaid.
Posey was signed to a four year, $25 million contract which to give you an idea, is more than John Salmons. The Celtics wanted no part of Posey if he was going to cost that much and are doing just fine without him.
The reason Gordon does not need to come back is that, while he excels from the outside, he is pretty one-dimensional and brings nothing to the table defensively.
He is more of a No. 3 option on offense and with the Bulls has been the number two behind Rose.
John Salmons will likely be on his last year with the Bulls in 2009-2010 as they continue to clear cap space for the “2010 Sweepstakes” with the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Vince Carter, and Steve Nash just to name a few.
However, Salmons absolutely dominated with the Bulls after coming over in the Andres Nocioni deal and, despite the inconsistencies and injuries, really helped the Bulls make it to the playoffs to battle the Celtics.
There is an outside chance that if John Paxson decides not to pursue one of the big prizes in the 2010 free agency pool combined with another solid year from Salmons, that he might stay on with the Bulls for a few more years.
The young guns in the front court in Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas really came on late in the year and gave promise to the future.
While Noah is not going to be able to play the Kevin Garnett-less Celtics every game next year, his strength and will to fight in the post was evident in the playoffs.
Noah averaged 7.6 rebounds per game in the regular season in just over 24 minutes and will more than likely see those minutes increase big time next year.
While Thomas is more of an athlete and a project, Noah’s game is still very raw but his improvement over the course of the year is a great start.
Thomas made even bigger strides this year as he became much more of a basketball player rather than an athletic freak that could swat shots into the third row.
His jump shot improved somewhat but still needs some polishing and his all-around defense could as well. His strength is still an issue and he does not have much of a post game, but remember, he is still just 22 years old.
The outlook is bright for the Bulls and can only improve this off-season with the draft. The Bulls are slated to pick in the No. 16 spot and they must improve their defense with that choice.
Potential draftees are James Johnson, a 6-foot-9 Ron Artest-type player who is like a more ready Tyrus Thomas.
If Louisville small forward Earl Clark were to drop to 16, the Bulls could get a guard-forward that is destined to do great things in the Association.
Other names include shutdown defender Marcus Thornton from LSU who plays the shooting guard position and North Carolina shooting guard Wayne Ellington.
Whatever happens in the off-season, one thing is sure: the Chicago Bulls took great strides this year, matured greatly, and are still one of the youngest teams with the brightest futures in the league.
Last year, Jerel McNeal had one of the best individual seasons that the Marquette University program had ever seen. He led the team in points in a year at 19.8 per game, pulled down 4.5 rebounds and handed out 3.9 assists. Defensively, he was outstanding once again this year, averaging two steals per game and .6 blocks. He scored a career high 30 points in a loss to Missouri in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament to end his career, and now has his sights set on pre-draft camps and ultimately having his name called on June 25th.
McNeal will have to play the shooting guard position in the NBA unless he makes a drastic change to become strictly a point guard which I can not see happening. He is listed at 6’3” but is really closer to 6’2”, which could drop his draft status for being undersized. While McNeal plays bigger than he is and is very physical, the height itself will be a problem in the draft process because players like Nick Calethes, Jermaine Taylor, and Jodie Meeks possess close to the same skill set but are two inches taller.
I liken McNeal’s potential talent level and characteristic skill set to that of Jason Terry of the Dallas Mavericks. Terry stands at 6’2” as well and is known for his excellent outside shooting and quick release on jump shots. Terry is also considered a combo guard that can really play the point guard position but play it like a shooting guard. His deceptive quickness off the dribble combined with his great jump shot makes for a deadly combination. When Terry gets to the rim, he goes up with force and at the same time is smart, knowing where his teammates are. Dallas loves to run the fast break and Terry leads the break with both quickness and power.
When I watch Terry, I see a lot of McNeal. McNeal’s best quality is his outside shooting and he will live and die with that in the Association. Despite his lack of size, McNeal has an extremely quick release and never leaves the ball low where shot blockers could get a hand on it. Because McNeal was asked to do so much scoring for the Marquette Golden Eagles, his passing abilities were not always seen as one of his strong points, but I can tell you that this is not the case. McNeal has one of the strongest passes on the team and seems to thread the needle better than most while still making good decisions with the basketball. I can see him being very valuable in the passing game especially if he can get a little quicker off the dribble and draw the defense in. In half-court sets, McNeal will have to be more patient and not force shots and use his dribble more. His aggressiveness going to the hoop will result in continued free throw attempts that make his NBA stock that much more valuable.
Defensively, McNeal is going to thrive in the NBA guarding the shooting guard position. While he will always lack the height to match up fairly in that category, his tenacity and on-the-ball defense make him valuable to teams. Because he is quick enough to stay very close to his man with his hands in the air, some of that size disadvantage is taken out of the equation. His break on the ball is outstanding as well and, when players put the ball on the ground, McNeal always has a hand going for the ball. He is not lazy by any means but can get lost in the crowd when he is not guarding his man. Fortunately, that does not mean as much in the NBA but is still something McNeal will need to work on. On the boards, McNeal has good leaping ability and is a smart player that seems to always be in the right position at the right time to grab boards, but I would not expect to see much from him in this department at the next level.
Places that I could see McNeal going in the draft include the Bobcats who do not have much depth at the shooting guard position, the Heat who love combo guards (remind you of any Marquette player on their current team?) and the New Orleans Hornets. While all these teams would look at McNeal in the second round, a good draft camp could vault him into the first round. The one thing going against McNeal is that he is 22 years old and while he gained a lot of good experience due to four years in college, there are a lot of younger players that can produce like he can. Still, that experience factor as well as being a clutch player that can lead his team will undoubtedly get himself a roster spot on the team and, with a few years of seasoning, McNeal could be a very serviceable role player in the NBA.
My prediction: 2nd Round, 42nd overall to the Miami Heat