Again, this comes from my friend Shai. It’s long, so take a deep breath, and enjoy:
Evaluating players before the draft is not easy, but at least you know who you are talking about. Predicting who is going to get picked when is harder. Everyone has their own ranking system, but the big question is whether a team is going to pick the best player available or pick the player who best addresses the team’s needs.
The other question is, what on earth was that GM thinking? The most recent “what was he thinking” award goes to the Minnesota Timberwolves, for using the 5th and 6th draft picks on point guards (Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio), followed by having one of them (Rubio) make noises that he would never play for the Wolves, and creating a situation where the other, Flynn, felt unsure of the team’s commitment to him, and for good reason.
So for me to say who will make which pick is guesswork, because every year there are inexplicable decisions made, and there are players drafted in the top 20 whose name you hear when he is selected, but then never again. Comparing mock drafts, I have seen players’ names move twenty spots or more.
Mostly, I’m seeing mocks that describe players, not why they will be picked or what the team is thinking. I already wrote about the players likely to be drafted in the first round, so instead, lets’ discuss what the team should do, not what they will do, because many teams have a weird tendency to pick the same type of player over and over regardless of the results. (Lakers trying to find a point guard, Bulls drafting post players, Houston drafting 3’s, Warriors drafting skilled bigs, etc.) Redundancy makes sense for some teams, but for others it’s stupid. I’ll take those case by case.
1. Washington Wizards: John Wall, PG, Kentucky
It must be so nice to not have pressure. Everyone agrees that Gilbert Arenas’ presence should have no impact on the pick. If Gilbert is healthy, one of them can play off the ball; a deadeye Gilbert could curl off down screens like Ray Ray, and Wall played the 2 with Bledsoe at the point last year.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Evan Turner, G, Ohio State
It didn’t take long to get to the first interesting decision. Do you take the clear-cut second best player in the draft, even though you have a similar proven player on the team, or do you draft a big to address a need (okay, it’s a long list of needs). You have to take Turner here. He might end up better than Wall, and the distance between Wall & Turner and everyone else is huge. I like Iguodala, and I think Turner and Iggy could potentially be fine, especially when you remember the hole the 76ers have at the 2. Having two similar players can cause matchup problems for the opponent. Look at last year’s Magic with Hedo and Rashard at the 3-4, or Charlotte’s Wallace and Captain Jack at the 2-3-4. Even the Warriors’ backcourt of Ellis and Curry put a lot of pressure on teams last year. The 6ers will still need a center, along with half the league, but with Brand, Speights, and Young at the 3-4, Turner and Iggy at the 2-3, and Holiday at the point… it could be something promising. (I did my best, Philly fans. There’s only so much to work with.)
3. New Jersey Nets: Derrick Favors, PF/C, Georgia Tech
I’m not sure the Nets are quite as bad as their record. Harris at the point, Lopez at center, CDR and Terrence Williams have a little experience under their belt (Editor’s note: CDR didn’t get a ton of minutes in the second half of the season, so I’d expect more Courtney Lee in the swing position). You add a power forward next to Lopez, and you can tell him, “just play defense, get some rebounds, and watch tape of Andy Varejo.” Sure, it would have been great to draft Wall, trade Harris for a proven big body, and seduce LBJ, but I don’t think he’s leaving the Cavs to play in a backwater for the next two years regardless.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves: DeMarcus Cousins, C, Kentucky
I could see Wesley Johnson being drafted here, but I think Cousins is too good. I have seen too many great college shooters struggle in the League, including Wayne Ellington, who the Wolves drafted, and he didn’t make much noise last year. Cousins would be a good fit here, much like Favors with the Nets; get rebounds, be a bully, make up for the fact that Jefferson and Love are a bit unathletic and undersized. If Cousins avoids a meltdown, the Wolves have a three-headed front court that could present real problems to most teams.
5. Sacramento Kings: Wesley Johnson, SF, Syracuse
Wesley Johnson is a nice fit for the Kings now that they traded Kevin Martin away. With Tyreke their anchor at the two, they don’t need Xavier Henry or James Anderson. They could use help up front; I like Jason Thompson and Carl Landry, but I have no faith in Hawes. If Cousins is available here, they’ll snap him up, but guys like Aminu, Udoh, Favors, Ed Davis, and Monroe are all going to be better 4’s than 5’s. Wesley can be their spot-up shooter from 3 as Evans bulls into the lane. Udrih is a passable point, and Hawes is a bench player at best, but with Johnson they are in good shape at the 2, 3, and 4.
6. Golden State Warriors: Greg Monroe, C, Georgetown
I would be surprised if Monroe doesn’t get picked here. He matches Brandan Wright and Anthony Randolph, who are all-potential, no-experience guys who might still be contributors, but not with the Warriors, where they will probably wash out of the NBA.
Oh Larry Ellison, oracle of Oracle, won’t you please buy this team, ditch Nelly in Hawaii, punch Chris Cohan in the face, and turn the Warriors into an actual team? If you have seen one regular season Warriors game at the Oakland Coliseum, you will agree that no fan base deserves a competitive team more. Even this year, when at times the injury-ravaged Warriors couldn’t suit up the league-minimum eight players, the crowd treated every game like the conference finals.
Until then, expect Monroe to be drafted here, and expect Nellie’s mind games to drag him down to the D-League. I think Monroe could be great on the right team, but he is too similar to Anthony Randolph, and that experience has been painful to watch.
7. Detroit Pistons: Donatas Motiejunas, PF, Benetton Treviso
This is my foreign pick in honor of Darko. I don’t know anything about Motiejunas, and I have absolutely no idea what the Pistons are up to, so it’s a perfect match. After years of being hailed as a great GM, everyone is wondering if Joe Dumars just got unbelievably lucky and stumbled into a championship. The Billups trade ended their run, and then Dumars used the cap space to sign Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon for 5 years and $98MM. And then Motor City had to watch that team play. It’s so sad. Let’s move on.
8. Los Angeles Clippers: Al-Farouq Aminu, F, Wake Forest
On paper, the Clippers are actually good, which is why their name pops up in the LeBron discussions, though no one is serious. If Griffin succeeds, they have him at the 4, Kaman at center, Gordon at scoring guard, and Baron Davis debating daily whether to play like an All Star or zone out and watch the Clipper Girls giggling on the baseline. They have Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw, the Rhino (SWB’s favorite Fairfax alum and a league leader in FG% — Editor’s note: While I do love me the Rhino, I’ve got no idea what other players graduated from Fairfax, so all you other Fairfax alum shouldn’t feel slighted) and a still-improving DeAndre Jordan coming off the bench. Aminu is raw, but he is a nice back-up for Griffin (or replacement if Griffin’s woes continue) and if he improves his shooting and handle, he and Griffin will be a handful at the 4.
9. Utah Jazz: Xavier Henry, SG, Kansas
Wesley “Don’t call me Wes” Matthews Jr. was a pleasant surprise at the 2, undrafted but good enough to make Ronnie Brewer and his heinous jump shot expendable. He played respectably against Melo and Kobe in the playoffs this year. Still, having an acceptable player is no reason to skip drafting a good one, and the Jazz have been weak at the 2 for years. Henry could be a very good shooter and slasher. The Jazz desperately need some size, too, but I think they are all set for
foreign centers with no game.
10. Indiana Pacers: Cole Aldrich, C, Kansas
I don’t like the Pacers, and I don’t like Aldrich. It’s a perfect fit. The team is losing millions of dollars and threatening to leave Hoosierville, but no one wants to watch TJ Ford and Roy Hibbert trying to give Danny Granger some help. I would never draft Aldrich, but an actual GM will. Will Aldrich ever be a starting center in the NBA?
11. New Orleans Hornets: Ekpe Udoh, PF, Baylor
I’m not sure Udoh drops this far, although I read that he scores poorly on the new-school basketball metrics. When you have Emeka Okafor on your roster, how can you pass up Ekpe Udoh? Since they do similar things on the floor, but Udoh has a much higher ceiling, this has high comedy potential (Ed’s note: Sounds like a bad foreign sitcom, “The Wacky Adventures Of Emeka & Ekpe!”). Udoh is 6’10”, but he’s no center, so this pick will also prove the Hornets’ continuing determination to be thin and undersized.
12. Memphis Grizzlies: Avery Bradley, PG, Texas
I have heard that the Grizzlies are trying out OJ Mayo at the point in summer league, but there is nothing I have seen in his game (and I watched him at SC) that makes me think this will work. I would much rather have him as a small shooting guard who can shoot and slash than a 6’4” point who can’t handle, pass, or guard Nash or Aaron Brooks. I like Bradley’s speed, strength, and athleticism. I am reaching here, arguing to draft based on need and not just talent, but this is also a weak draft for point guards after Wall. Considering how solid the Grizz are from the 2 to the 5, and with workers like Young and Carroll on the bench, a real point guard could make a huge
difference for them.
13. Toronto Raptors: Ed Davis, PF, North Carolina
Toronto could use a power player. Or three. Ed Davis impressed me more as a freshman than he did this year, and has a tendency to blend in instead of stand out, but with or without Bosh, Davis is a skilled 6’11” guy with nice touch, and he can rebound and block shots. He would make a decent Euro-style combo with Bargnani.
14. Houston Rockets: Patrick Patterson, PF, Kentucky
Houston is another team that, even though Morey has drafted and traded cannily, seems to have a lot of the same players, long 3’s who don’t rebound or pass well. They did shockingly well considering their roster, but a team with Ariza, Battier, and Chase Budinger does not need Gordon Hayward (a name I have seen predicted for them). Patterson has a great work ethic and could give them just what Carl Landry did, energy and rebounding and a decent jump shot off the
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Hassan Whiteside, Marshall
I don’t know Whiteside well, since Marshall is a high school team, but an athletic shot-blocking big would be a great change of pace for the Bucks, who are suddenly a threat. At this point in the draft, getting a Serge Ibaka-type would be great for the Bucks.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jordan Crawford, SG, Xavier
This is another reason I like the Wolves picking Cousins early. Crawford really improved his draft position in the tournament. If he pans out as a slasher and scorer, suddenly they have an imposing frontcourt, with Corey Brewer guarding the other team’s best wing player and Flynn running the show. They still won’t make the playoffs, but ownership hasn’t made a serious move to show it’s interested in winning since trading KG.
17. Chicago Bulls: James Anderson, SG, Oklahoma State
James Anderson was a little under the radar at OK State, but he showed he can score and slash in the physical Big 12; between Xavier Henry, Crawford, and Anderson, they are similar and they all have potential. You have to wonder which will be Kobe and which Von Wafer, but without Salmons, the Bulls have a hole at the 2 that Anderson could fill.
18. Miami Heat: Solomon Alabi, C, Florida State
This pick depends on the Heat’s offseason plans. I don’t think Wade is going anywhere, so for their summer to go well they need Bosh, Boozer, or Stoudemire. If that happens, an athletic defensive-minded big makes sense, even though the Raptors, Jazz, and Suns didn’t seem to realize it. (Ok, the Suns get partial credit for Robin Lopez.)
19. Boston Celtics: Damion James, F, Texas
I am still amazed that James was a freshman with Kevin Durant. This is one reason he is underrated, that and playing for a poorly-coached team. Bill Walker was a similar player for the Celtics, but James is a better rebounder, banger, and shooter. They traded Walker to get Little Nate, who is trying to decide if warming the pine in the Finals will be better than dancing at the All-Star game (Ed. note: Actually been contemplating writing about this as a post. It might still happen. Better to be playing & losing than winning & watching?). If James does well, it could mean watching fewer of Glen Davis’ shots get blocked. Did you know Big Baby leads the league in getting his shots blocked? James is more of a 3/4, but a back-up to PP makes sense too, since Tony Allen is a 2, not a 3.
20. San Antonio Spurs: Quincy Pondexter, F, Washington
This is an overreaction to Richard Jefferson’s disaster of a season. Pondexter can run, finish, score, and defend. He’s also a veteran college guy from Brandon Roy’s program. He’s a scoring 2/3, not a passing 2, but the Spurs need youth, scoring, and defense. And size. And for Duncan to re-discover his lateral quickness.
On a side note, how do you think the Mavericks feel now? At first, losing in the first round wasn’t that bad, because the Spurs are the best 7-seed ever. Then, the Spurs get swept by the Suns. Then, the Suns look totally outmatched in two games against the Lakers. Is Mark Cuban curled up in the fetal position somewhere, or is he telling himself the playoffs are all about match-ups?
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Daniel Orton, C, Kentucky
Orton is a big question mark, considering how little he played, but OKC needs to upgrade from Collison and Kristic. If Orton can give them some offense at the center, OKC is even more scary, and considering Presti’s moves so far, it’s entirely possible he knows what he’s doing.
22. Portland Trail Blazers: Paul George, SG/SF, Fresno State
They have Webster and a rapidly-improving Batum at the 3, but without Steve Blake to play back-up 2 in a pinch, they could use a back-up for Roy. As much as the ladies love him, I’m not sure Fernandez is going to blossom. If the Blazers management are not nervous about him after the Suns series, they should be.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves: Lance Stephenson, G/F, Cincinnati
Stephenson has been projected really late, but I don’t know why. He can handle, pass, and score, and he stepped up for his team in the clutch. Like a passing Richard Jefferson (before this season). Now my T-Wolves dream team is set in the front court, they are dunking on LeBron from the 2, and something from the Flynn/Rubio draft has got to pay off for them, or their fans will never forgive them.
24. Atlanta Hawks: Jarvis Vanardo, PF Mississippi State
If Jeff Teague can replace Bibby (and he has a head-start because he’s alive), the Hawks will need to re-sign Joe Johnson (easier than expected after his playoffs no-show) but Horford is no center. Vanardo is a great weak-side shotblocker (Ed.note: Better than Josh Smith???), but any offense from him will be a bonus. At least that means he won’t take any of Jamal Crawford’s shots away. Oh, and the Hawks should hire a coach with eyebrows, who occasionally runs a play. Though none of it matters, because they are the 4th best team in the East, and that’s as good as it will get for a while.
25. Memphis Grizzlies: Corey Fisher, PG, Villanova
Fisher isn’t a great athlete, but he’s got a magician’s handle, can finish among the trees, and can run a team. He could be like Eric Maynor at OKC, insurance if Avery Bradley doesn’t work out.
26. Oklahoma City Thunder: Gordon Hayward, SG, Butler
Is this another genius Presti move? I think Hayward’s ceiling is Keith Van Horn, but at this point in the draft, that’s a compliment. If Hayward gets picked 10 spots earlier, I think it’s an overreach.
27. New Jersey Nets: Eric Bledsoe, G, Kentucky
Playing behind John Wall, like Orton behind Cousins, didn’t give Bledsoe a lot of publicity, but he sometimes played PG while Wall played the 2. He has the speed and shooting ability to be a starting PG.
28. Memphis Grizzlies: Luke Babbitt, F Nevada
Babbitt could be a really good scorer, a back-up plan if the Grizzlies lose Rudy Gay to someone who convinces themselves that Gay could be a star.
29. Orlando Magic: Darrington Hobson, F, New Mexico
The Magic have so much depth that taking a chance on an all-purpose player like Hobson to see how he works out could make sense. He is not an athletic stud, but he led New Mexico in points, rebounds, and assists last year.
30. Washington Wizards: Larry Sanders, PF, VCU
The rebuilding continues…