]1) LAC- Blake Griffin- PF (Oklahoma)
The easiest pick to project- even the Clippers can’t screw up this one.
2) MEM- Hasheem Thabeet- C (Connecticut)
This is the first change in my mock. Thabeet is hands down the best center in this class, and has proven to be an engaging and likeable prospect during the interview cycle. The change here, though, has less to do with Thabeet and more to do with Ricky Rubio. Rubio’s stock has been sliding lately- there are still questions about his durability and the impending buyout from his Spanish club. There is also a little dissention from some regarding his absence from the Pre-Draft Combine and the Reebok Eurocamp, and his reluctance to participate in individual or small-group workouts.
At first, I thought Rubio had too much value to fall past #2, but I get the sense that some teams are beginning to sour on the young Spaniard, meaning the safe bet for Memphis is to draft the player they really want- Thabeet.
3) OKC- James Harden- SG (Arizona State)
OKC is reportedly very high on Harden and with Thabeet coming off the board at #2 this is really a no-brainer for the Thunder.
4) SAC- Ricky Rubio- PG (Spain)
This is a tricky pick as Sacramento is reportedly very high on Tyreke Evans, and vice versa. However, the Kings would have considered Rubio at #1 had they won the lottery, so I’m hard-pressed to believe they would pass on him at #4.
5) WAS- Tyreke Evans- SG (Memphis)
There’s a very good chance that someone other than Washington will occupy this spot come draft night. Who that team might be is anyone’s guess at this point, but Evans is the guy moving up on most people’s draft boards, so I think he’ll be the pick here if a trade does occur.
6) MIN- DeMar DeRozan- SG (Southern Cal)
Stephen Curry fills more of a need for Minnesota, but their front office seems to be blinded by potential from time-to-time, and this has all the makings of one of those cases. DeRozan will fill a need on the wings for Minnesota, who will look to find a point guard with one of their other two first-round picks.
7) GSW- Jonny Flynn- PG (Syracuse)
Flynn is a great leader and a capable scorer, who really excels in the open court. Golden State could use a true point guard who can get up and down, and Flynn seems to be a great fit.
8) NYK- Stephen Curry- PG (Davidson)
Curry could be the pick at 6 to Minnesota or at 5, depending on who jumps into that spot (Charlotte would be one possibility), but if he’s on the board at #8, don’t expect him to be there at #9.
9) TOR- Jordan Hill- PF (Arizona)
This is a tough spot for Toronto if Hill falls to them. He’s basically Chris Bosh Light, so they don’t have much of a need for him (at least in the immediate future), but he’s the only player with value at #9. Toronto has made draft day trades each of the last two years, and this year could be no exception. If the draft falls this way, look for Portland to try and package Travis Outlaw, Sergio Rodriguez, and the #24 pick to move up to this spot.
10) MIL- Jeff Teague- PG (Wake Forest)
Milwaukee is reportedly very high on Teague, and while they would have loved to land Hill with this pick and re-sign Ramon Sessions, drafting Teague and re-upping Charlie Villanueva will have to suffice.
11) NJN- James Johnson- PF (Wake Forest)
It’s no secret that New Jersey is looking for a banger with their selection in the lottery, but DeJuan Blair has been tumbling down draft boards because of injury concerns, and Tyler Hansbrough is just not a lottery-level talent, which means Johnson will be the pick at #11.
12) CHA- Jrue Holiday- PG (UCLA)
This would be a good situation for Holiday, because playing with Raymond Felton and DJ Augistin puts him in a low-pressure situation, and would probably allow him to get some run at the off-guard. If Charlotte can put together a suitable offer to move up, it could be Washington picking here, but I think the pick would be the same.
13) IND- Brandon Jennings- PG (Italy)
Indiana would love to land Jonny Flynn and is another possible trade partner for Memphis, Sacramento, Washington or New York. Assuming they stay at 13, Indiana will be luck to land a player of Jennings’ ability.
14) PHO- Terrence Williams- SF (Louisville)
With all of the lottery-level point guards off the board, and a thin crop of available big men, Phoenix will turns it’s sights to the wings. Williams is a versatile ball-handler, who will be a great NBA player and a great fit with the Suns if he can iron out the inconsistencies with his jump shot. Gerald Henderson and Earl Clark are also possibilities here.
15) DET- BJ Mullens- C (Ohio State)
Mullens began canceling workouts recently, stating that he’d received a promise in the top 16. That has fueled debate over the source of the promise, but I believe it has to be either Detroit at 15 or Chicago at 16. Chicago could use an upgrade at center, but Aaron Gray and Joakim Noah are still on the roster, which leads me to believe Mullens will land in Detroit.
16) CHI- Tyler Hansbrough- PF (North Carolina)
Hansbrough’s stock has been rising because of his strong showing at the Pre-Draft Combine and his solid workouts. He will also be aided by the relatively thin class of big men, the injury concerns surrounding DeJuan Blair, and Chicago’s history of success when drafting players from UNC.
17) PHI- Eric Maynor- PG (Virginia Commonwealth)
The 76ers could use a replacement for Andre Miller, and Maynor is a great option. He can stretch the defense with his shooting ability, and is arguably the most NBA-ready point guard in a very deep class at the position.
18) MIN- Earl Clark- SF (Louisville)
Minnesota is still in search of their point guard, but with a top 10 talent like Clark still on the board at 18, it’s tough to pass on him, especially with a third first-rounder still to come.
19) ATL- Ty Lawson- PG (North Carolina)
Atlanta needs to find the heir to Mike Bibby and Lawson is clearly the best point guard still available. He provides leadership and quickness to an already very athletic basketball team.
20) UTA- Gerald Henderson- SG (Duke)
Henderson, like Earl Clark, is a player with lottery talent who will fall on draft night because he is relatively enigmatic. He has good athleticism, but has below average size and an inconsistent jump shot. Utah could use him to platoon with Ronnie Brewer and create a very athletic and capable off-guard rotation.
21) NOH- Marcus Thornton- SG (Louisiana State)
The Hornets have only worked out guards, so there is no mystery what they’ll look to do if they keep this pick. Thornton had a very strong showing in his workout in New Orleans, distinguishing himself against the likes of Henderson and Chase Buddinger.
22) DAL- Derrick Brown- SF (Xavier)
Josh Howard may have worn out his welcome in Dallas, and Brown offers a lot of the same qualities. He is a long and lean, can guard the three and the four, and scores in bunches.
23) SAC- Austin Daye- SF (Gonzaga)
Daye has a lot of upside but is light-years away from being a productive NBA player. It’s likely that he’ll go much higher come draft day, but for now, I’m sticking with my instincts and slotting him with a rebuilding team sporting multiple first-round selections.
24) POR- Omri Casspi- SF (Israel)
Portland is still looking for their long-term answer at small forward. Point guard is still a possibility, but the Blazers should have a pretty full roster next year, making a European player like Casspi the perfect fit.
25) OKC- DeJuan Blair- PF (Pittsburgh)
I fear that Blair could experience the same kind of tumble down the first round that Darrell Arthur did due to injury concerns last year. He would be a good fit with the Thunder, allowing them to play Durant and Green at the two and three from time-to-time, instead of the three and the four, where they are slightly outmatched physically.
26) CHI- Wayne Ellington- SG (North Carolina)
With their second pick, the Bulls grab another National Champion and another Tar Heel. Ellington showed a lot of competitiveness and heart in UNC’s championship run, and I’m convinced he’ll be a very productive NBA player. This is a great pick for Chicago- maybe the steal of the first round.
27) MEM- Taj Gibson- PF (Southern Cal)
With Thabeet slotted in as the second pick, Memphis still has a need at power forward. Gibson was productive in his career at USC and had a very solid NCAA tournament performance this past year (Including a perfect shooting performance against Boston College in the first round.), as well as a strong showing at the Pre-Draft Combine.
28) MIN- Darren Collison- PG (UCLA)
Collison was a steady performer in his four years at UCLA. He is a true point guard with good speed and solid athleticism. In a year with less depth at the point guard position, Collison would have landed somewhere in the mid-teens. As it stands, he’s a great pick for the Timberwolves, who finally get their point guard.
29) LAL- Sam Young- SF (Pittsburgh)
Young has an NBA body and a very respectable jump shot. He is one of the more NBA-ready players in this draft and would soften the loss of either Trevor Ariza or Lamar Odom, or both.
30) CLE- Chase Buddinger- SG (Arizona)
Buddinger is another enigma in this draft. He is a great shooter and has above average athleticism, but had very unimpressive measurements at the Pre-Draft Combine. He has very short arms, which may make him a defensive liability, but there’s no question that he’s an upgrade over the departing Wally Szczerbiak.