Friday, May 29, 2009

2009 NBA Mock Draft v2.0 (Round 1)

DraftExpress, Hoopshype and some other sporting news outlets are reporting that the Thunder are leaning towards James Harden with the third pick in the upcoming 2009 NBA draft. Consequently, I’ve updated my mock to take this into account. Also, notice that the Thunder’s indifference toward Ricky Rubio drops the young Spaniard to Sacramento at #4, which negates the need for the Kings to move up to #2 and restores the original draft order.

1. LAC- Blake Griffin- PF (Oklahoma)
2. MEM- Hasheem Thabeet- C (Connecticut)
3. OKC- James Harden- SG (Arizona State)
4. SAC- Ricky Rubio- PG (Spain)
5. WAS- Jordan Hill- PF (Arizona)
6. MIN- Brandon Jennings- PG (Italy)
7. GSW- DeMar DeRozan- SG (USC)
8. NYK- Stephen Curry- PG (Davidson)
9. TOR- Gerald Henderson- SG (Duke)
10. MIL- DeJuan Blair- PF (Pittsburgh)
11. NJN- James Johnson- PF (Wake Forest)
12. CHA- Tyreke Evans- SG (Memphis)
13. IND- Johnny Flynn- PG (Syracuse)
14. PHO- Earl Clark- PF (Louisville)
15. DET- Jrue Holiday- PG (UCLA)
16. CHI- Terrence Williams- SF (Louisville)
17. PHI- Eric Maynor- PG (VCU)
18. MIN- Wayne Ellington- SG (UNC)
19. ATL- Ty Lawson- PG (UNC)
20. UTA- Chase Buddinger- SG (Arizona)
21. NOH- Austin Daye- SF (Gonzaga)
22. DAL- Jeff Teague- PG (Wake Forest)
23. SAC- Omri Casspi- SF (Israel)
24. POR- Victor Claver- SF (Spain)
25. OKC- BJ Mullens- C (Ohio State)
26. CHI- Marcus Thornton- SG (LSU)
27. MEM- Tyler Hansbrough- PF (UNC)
28. MIN- Sam Young- SF (Pittsburgh)
29. LAL- Darren Collison- PG (UCLA)
30. CLE- Gani Lawal- SF (Georgia Tech)

Honorable Mention: Patty Mills- PG (St. Mary’s), Damion James- SF (Texas), Derrick Brown- SF (Xavier), Tyler Smith- SF (Tennessee), DaJuan Summers- SF (Georgetown), Jermaine Taylor- SG (UCF)

On the Clock: Los Angeles Clippers


The Clippers have been the butt of jokes around the NBA for decades, and they find themselves in familiar circumstances, with the top pick in the lottery in 2009. With the 2009-2010 NBA salary cap expected to drop to around $57 million, the Clippers are already over the cap by nearly four million dollars, not to mention the $4.9 million they will soon owe the top pick.

The Clippers have a number of bad contracts on their books, including Zach Randolph ($33 million over the next two years), Baron Davis ($54 million over the next four years), and Chris Kaman ($34 million over the next three years). Finding a way to move any one of these contracts would be a great first step, but with the salary cap dropping for the first time in seven seasons, this seems more and more unlikely.

Short of moving one of those monster contracts, the best course of action for the Clippers would be to shop Marcus Camby and his expiring deal ($7.65 million) for some cap flexibility and future draft considerations. It’s always nice to get a player in return, especially for a guy who was once the Defensive Player of the Year, but given the economic climate in the NBA and Camby’s age, the Clips aren’t really in a power position. Getting under the cap and putting some future pieces in place would be compensation enough, considering that no one player would be able to single-handedly turn things around in La-La Land (at least this year).

For all the struggles that LA’s second team has endured during the Donald Sterling era, one can’t help but to cheer (at least a little) for the NBA’s ugly ducklings. After all, the last two drafts have been relatively kind to the Clippers. 2007’s first-rounder, Al Thornton, has been very promising, averaging nearly 17 points per game in his second season, while approaching nearly a steal and a block per game. Last year’s first-rounder, Eric Gordon, answered questions about his size and toughness by averaging over 16 points per game, while making 131 three-pointers, and being named to the NBA’s All-Rookie 2nd team.

Adding a dominating low-post presence would be a great fit along with two athletic scorers on the wings. Assuming that Griffin measures out around 6’8” rather than 6’6”, as some fear, he should be capable of filling this role for a long time. (Whether in LA or elsewhere.)

If Davis and Kaman can stay healthy next season and Griffin can manage not to pick up bad habits from Randolph, the Clippers should be well on their way to being competitive. They’ll probably be a lottery team again in 2010, but a lineup of Davis, Gordon, Thornton, Griffin, and Kaman would be a huge improvement over the Clippers of 2008-2009.

THE PICK: Blake Griffin- PF (Oklahoma)
THE OUTLOOK: D (27- 55)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pre Pre-Draft Camp Top 10

1. Ricky Rubio- Rubio has great size (6’4”) and unreal upside (he’s only 18). It’s conceivable that he’ll be one of the top three point guards in the league (along with Chris Paul and Derrick Rose) inside of his first 3-4 years in the league. The buyout of his contract with DKV Joventut is an issue, especially in the current economic climate, but a talent like this is too valuable to pass on because of dollars and cents. Rubio will almost undeniably land in the top two, with the #1 pick a real possibility.
NBA Comparison: Jason Kidd

2. Blake Griffin- Griffin is the other can’t miss prospect in this draft class, but questions are swirling about his true height. He’s listed at 6’10”, but some believe he may be much smaller, possibly in the 6’6” range. These were similar concerns when Michael Beasley fell to #2 last summer. Unlike Beasley, however, Griffin has a huge motor. The 20-year old also spent a second year at the college level, meaning he should be ready to contribute right out of the gate at the NBA level. Depending on his measurements at the pre-draft camp, Griffin could seal his fate as the #1 pick. On the other hand, if things go the way many fear, the door would open for Rubio to go #1.
NBA Comparison: Charles Barkley

3. James Harden- The 6’4” Harden averaged over 20 points per game as a sophomore at Arizona State this past season, and eclipsed the 20-point plateau in 17 of 35 contests. He has all the ability to score the ball from all over the floor, and is without a doubt the best pure scorer in the draft. He was a little inconsistent throughout the season, and questions remain about his defense, but Harden seems like a safe pick for any of the teams drafting in the top 5. Oklahoma City will definitely take a long look at Harden, as will Washington at #5, but I don’t see Harden falling past the Timberwolves at #6.
NBA Comparison: Jason Richardson

4. Hasheem Thabeet- I’m not as high on Thabeet as some, but there’s no doubt that the 7 foot 3 inch center will have no problem making an impact at the next level. Size is always at a premium, especially early in the draft, and Thabeet will be the first beneficiary. Defensively, Thabeet will likely thrive in the NBA, just as he did at UCONN, but the issue is whether or not he can improve enough offensively to stay on the floor consistently. His hands have improved, but he is still limited by a lack of mobility in the low post, and will likely be an offensive liability, at least at the beginning of his career. Thabeet would be a great fit for the Thunder or the Wizards, but will also get a close look from Memphis and Minnesota. Thabeet won’t fall past the Wizards at #5.
NBA Comparison: Dikembe Mutombo

5. Jordan Hill¬ Hill rounds out the second tier of players in this draft, which also includes Harden and Thabeet. He’s a long, super athletic power forward, who can really get out and run. He has above average court vision and an ability to finish at the rim. He needs to put on some weight and he could be a very good player at the next level, especially in an up tempo system that will allow him to use his athleticism. He could go anywhere from Memphis at #2 to the Warriors at #7, with the Kings at #4 and the Wizards at #5 as possibilities as well.
NBA Comparison: LaMarcus Aldridge

6. Tyreke Evans- Evans has been one of the most difficult players to rank as the draft approaches. He has great quickness and fantastic size for a combo guard type. He ran the point very effectively in his only season at Memphis, and was truly responsible for Memphis’ stellar run down the stretch. He is very strong and finishes well at the basket, but questions linger about his readiness to play at the next level. Evans strikes me as a very similar prospect to Russell Westbrook last year. A lot of people will overlook him, but his size and athleticism will be at a premium at the next level, and someone will likely pick him earlier than many anticipate. I think Evans would be a great fit for Minnesota at #6, Golden State at #7, or Toronto at #9.
NBA Comparison: Monta Ellis

7. Stephen Curry- Curry is an interesting prospect because the jury is still out about his ability to run the point guard. At 6’3”, Curry is much to small and slight of build to handle NBA 2-guards, so he’ll need to play the point at the next level. He moved to the 1 this past season, and nearly doubled his assist output (from 2.9 to 5.6), while increasing his scoring to an NCAA best 28.6 points per game. I’m high on Curry not only because of his all-world jump shot or improving court vision, but also because of his intensity and passion for the game. I’m convinced that Curry will be a consistent and clutch scorer at the next level. He should land somewhere in the late lottery. He could land with the Knicks at #8 and be a good fit alongside LeBron James (…) or at any of the subsequent lottery picks.
NBA Comparison: Derek Fisher (with a better jump shot)

8. Brandon Jennings- Jennings is undoubtedly the biggest question mark of the players expected to land in the lottery. There is no question about Jennings athletic ability or court awareness, but his character and NBA-readiness are huge concerns. Jennings definitely has the potential to be a great player, if he can find the right fit. He has a ton of confidence, and a tendency to be arrogant, and will need to be kept in check by a capable veteran leader. Jennings could fall anywhere from #4 (Sacramento) to #8 (New York), or possibly to Milwaukee at #10.
NBA Comparison: Kevin Johnson

9. Earl Clark- Clark is an intriguing prospect because of his style of play. At 6’10” and 200 pounds, Clark is very long and athletic, with an affinity for handling the basketball. He’s tough to project because he might play the 3 or the 4 at the NBA level. His jump shot is a little sub par at this point, but he has a great understanding for the game, and would be a great fit in an up tempo system. Clark would be a good fit for Golden State at #7, Toronto at #9, or New Jersey at #11.
NBA Comparison: Lamar Odom

10. DeMar DeRozan- DeRozan is a freakish athlete who seems to make at least one highlight reel player per game, but often seems disinterested and disengaged on the floor. He has all of the tools to become an NBA superstar, but his desire remains a question mark. He is the definition of a “boom or bust” prospect- he could turn out to be the next Gerald Green or the next Vince Carter.
NBA Comparison: JR Smith

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

2009 NBA Mock Draft v1.0 (Round 1)

1. Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin- PF (Oklahoma)
The Clippers have made it clear that they intend to take Griffin with the first overall pick, but a trade remains a possibility as well, according to's Chad Ford. The Clippers would love to move either Zach Randolph or Chris Kaman to make room for Griffin, but both moves seem highly unlikely, as Randolph is owed 33 million the next two years, and Kaman is owed 34 million over the next three seasons. (Moving Baron Davis and drafting Ricky Rubio is another possibility, albeit an unlikely one.)

2. Memphis Grizzlies: Ricky Rubio- PG (Spain)*
Rubio doesn't fill a need for a young Memphis team who drafted a top 5 point guard two years ago, but I think he'll be the pick at #2 regardless. Mike Conley Jr has been a nice player for the Grizzlies, and he still has a lot of room to grow. (He's only 21.) The Grizzlies are reportedly crazy about Hasheem Thabeet, but he would be a bit of a reach at #2. He also occupies a spot already filed by Marc Gasol, who had a productive rookie season in '08-'09. The best fit for Memphis would seem to be Jordan Hill, an athletic big man who can get out and run the floor and play defense. The scenario I see unfolding is a trade between Memphis and Sacramento, which owns the #4 pick. The deal could involve players or simply draft picks, as both teams have first-rounders in the twenties as well as their respective top 5 picks.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder: Hasheem Thabeet- C (Connecticut)
If Rubio lands at #2 as expected, the Thunder will have a tough choice between two players who would fill needs and provide a great fit for the team. Thabeet would provide the muscle behind a group of talent young perimeter players including Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green and that Kevin Durant fella. The other option for the Thunder is Arizona State shooting guard James Harden. Harden is the best pure scorer in the draft and would be a great compliment to Durant, but what the Thunder really needs is size and defense- areas where Thabeet thrives.

4. Sacramento Kings: Jordan Hill- PF (Arizona)*
Assuming the trade I mentioned earlier, I think it'll be Memphis taking Hill with this pick. Hill is still a possibility for Sacramento if they pick here, but the more likely scenario is that Sacramento reaches for a point guard. Brandon Jennings or Jrue Holiday may not have great value here, but the fill a need for a rebuilding Kings franchise.

5. Washington Wizards: James Harden- SG (Arizona State)
Washington would love to transform this pick into a proven NBA commodity, preferably a big man. Depending on how the first four picks work out, Detroit could be a possible trading partner. (It's no secret that Joe Dumars is looking to revamp his roster, and a top 5 pick would be a great start.) If all else fails, though, Harden would be a good fit for the Wizards. A starting five of Arenas, Harden, Butler, Jamison, and Haywood could score with anyone in the league.

6. Minnesota Timberwolves: Brandon Jennings- PG (Italy)
The Timberwolves really need to find an upgrade at point guard and small forward, and with three first round picks, they should be able to do just that. They would love to move up and grab Rubio, and would probably jump at the opportunity of taking Harden if he fell to them. Otherwise, Jennings, Tyreke Evans, DeMar DeRozan, Earl Clark, and Stephen Curry would all make sense here.

7. Golden State Warriors: DeMar DeRozan- SG (Southern California)
DeRozan is a great athlete and a pure scorer. He has as much upside as anyone in this draft and could be a superstar down the line. Don Nelson loves athletic scorers who can run, and he has several options here- DeRozan, Earl Clark, Tyreke Evans, and Johnny Flynn all fit the bill. DeRozan's potential is what puts him over the top and makes him the pick at #7.

8. New York Knicks: Stephen Curry- PG/SG (Davidson)
Curry is a tough player to project at the next level because of his lack of size and strength, but he showed the ability to play the point guard as a Junior at Davidson. He has a ton of heart and a great pedigree, and I expect him to become a very successful NBA player. If LeBron James does end up in New York next summer, Curry would be a suitable replacement for Mo Williams.

9. Toronto Raptors: Tyreke Evans- PG/SG (Memphis)
Evans is a slasher and a good scorer at the basket, which makes him a great compliment to Jose Calderon. On a roster flush with shooters and above average big men, Evans' drive and kick ability will be even more important.

10. Milwaukee Bucks: Jrue Holiday- PG/SG (UCLA)

11. New Jersey Nets: Earl Clark- PF (Louisville)

12. Charlotte Bobcats: James Johnson- SF (Wake Forest)

13. Indiana Pacers: Johnny Flynn- PG (Syracuse)

14. Phoenix Suns: Eric Maynor- PG (Virginia Commonwealth)

15. Detroit Pistons: Gerald Henderson- SG (Duke)

16. Chicago Bulls: Wayne Ellington- SG (North Carolina)

17. Philadelphia 76ers: Ty Lawson- PG (North Carolina)

18. Minnesota Timberwolves: Terrence Williams- SF (Louisville)

19. Atlanta Hawks: Patty Mills- PG (St. Mary's)

20. Utah Jazz: DeJuan Blair- PF (Pittsburgh)

21. New Orleans Hornets: Chase Buddinger- SF (Arizona)

22. Dallas Mavericks: Jeff Teague- PG (Wake Forest)

23. Memphis Grizzlies (From SAC Kings): BJ Mullens- C (OSU)*

24. Portland Trailblazers: Omri Casspi- SF (Israel)

25. Oklahoma City Thunder: Marcus Thornton- SG (Louisiana State)

26. Chicago Bulls: Sam Young- SF (Pittsburgh)

27. Sacramento Kings (From Mem Grizzlies): Derrick Brown- SF (Xavier)

28. Minnesota Timberwolves: Darren Collison- PG (UCLA)

29. Los Angeles Lakers: Toney Douglas- PG (Florida State)

30. Cleveland Cavaliers: Gani Lawal- PF (Georgia Tech)

* Memphis trades the rights to picks #2 and #27 to Sacramento for the rights to picks #4 and #23, and two future second-round picks.