Over the past month and a half, I have read and written so much about the NBA Draft that I sometimes imagine that Nick Young and Thaddeus Young get into a tag team fight against Brendan Wright and Julian Wright. This draft has been crazy, especially because of the recurring rumors out there about teams possibly trading into the top-10. Superstar Kevin Garnett might both be traded before tomorrow night’s draft, which would certainly shake up the order. Making matters even more complicated is the fact that Phoenix is rumored to be making a move. There is a decent chance that the Suns might trade Shawn Marion or Amare Stoudamire to either get Garnett or a top-10 pick. In fact, the Phoenix recently worked out two of the Florida kids, Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer, both of whom would fit nicely alongside of Steve Nash. So how does one make a mock draft with all these possibilities out there? You got me. Here is my best shot, assuming that no trades are made before tomorrow. If something huge happens in the meantime, I will try and update it to the best of my ability.
1. Portland Trailblazers – Greg Oden, C, Ohio State – Everything makes sense for Portland to select Kevin Durant. Durant was the better player in college and would fit in nicely with the trio of LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy and Zach Randolph. Oden might have lingering injury problems that were exposed during a recent workout while Durant’s workout with the Trail Blazers last week was apparently extraordinary. However, all reports indicate that Portland covets Oden like Andrew McCarthy’s character from St. Elmo’s Fire coveted Ally Sheedy. Every champion over the last 20 years with the exception of Michael Jordan’s Bulls had a superb man in the middle. That is why Portland will not pass on the best center to enter the draft in several years.
2. Seattle Supersonics – Kevin Durant, SF, Texas – You certainly can’t go wrong with the best player in college basketball. Durant plays the same position as Rashard Lewis, but Lewis’s days in Seattle appear to be numbered. There is a decent chance that the Supersonics will move to Oklahoma City with the next five years, and having Durant makes them a very attractive option. This is the biggest no-brainer in the entire draft.
3. Atlanta Hawks – Al Horford, PF, Florida – Atlanta passes on point guards like Britney Spears passes on showering. Most likely, the Hawks will pass on Mike Conley, Jr. and instead take Horford. Horford is definitely a solid player, but Atlanta is a complete mess, and needs a good point guard to help rebuild.
4. Memphis Grizzlies – Mike Conley, Jr., PG, Ohio State – Here are where things start to get interesting. There are increasing rumors that Memphis is enamored with Brandan Wright. That would make sense especially if the Grizz want to start thinking about the future and want to trade Pau Gasol. However, I just think that a game-changing point guard is just too valuable to give up. In recent years, we have seen points like Chris Paul and Deron Williams have turn around their respective franchises. In addition, guys like Raymond Felton, Rajon Rondo and Marcus Williams seem like they will have good careers. Memphis will make the right decision and pick Conley.
5. Boston Celtics – Yi Jianlian, PF/C, Guandong Tigers – Everybody’s recent “sleeper” pick is that Boston will take Jeff Green. There are other reports that the Celtics want to trade this pick to Phoenix, Minnesota or Indiana. However, I think that if Boston stays put, it will take Yi. Yi (apparently he likes to be called this) has a lot of untapped potential, and who can resist a player who posts up so well against the 5-10 stiffs he plays against in his workouts? There are other concerns about Yi, including the fact that no one knows his real age, and he might be a card-carrying member of the AARP. Interestingly, the Milwaukee Bucks are annoyed at Yi for refusing to work out for them; apparently he does not like Milwaukee (or maybe he just hates Laverne and Shirley).
6. Milwaukee Bucks – Brendan Wright – PF, North Carolina – Wright didn’t show much at North Carolina, and he might not be an impact player until Rocky VII is released. Wright showed many flashes of greatness in college, but he had a lot of trouble against the better defense teams in college basketball. In addition, he has very little upper-body strength. Wright is certainly a project, but Milwaukee would not pass on his potential. The Bucks probably hope that Wright will one day make a formidable front line with Charlie Villanueva and Andrew Bogut.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves – Jeff Green – SF, Georgetown – This pick is very hard to pin down, especially given the uncertainty about Garnett. Minnesota certainly hopes that Randy Foye puts it together at some point, and can team with Green for years to come. The big knock on Green is sometimes he disappears in big games and does not have that killer instinct. Despite this, he was the best player in the Big East last year and will be a very good NBA player.
8. Charlotte Bobcats – Joakim Noah, PF, Florida – Charlotte loves taking great college players like Sean May, Raymond Felton, Emeka Okafor and Adam Morrison. Since Morrison would rather cry than rebound, and May has been the subject of recent trade rumors, Noah makes sense here. With Noah and Okafor, the Bobcats will have toughness in the middle and maybe the best front line in the Eastern Conference.
9. Chicago Bulls – Spencer Hawes, C, Washington – Someone is going to be stupid enough to take Hawes, and that team is probably Chicago. Ben Wallace is not getting any younger, and the Bulls need someone to take his place. Hawes projects as a possible dominant big man, but he has not shown any such prowess in college. In fact, his team did not even make the NIT. For such a good rebounder, he also only averaged 6.4 boards per game. I have a feeling that Hawes might be the next Greg Ostertag or Luc Longley, so if Chicago is looking for a stiff, Hawes is the man.
10. Sacramento Kings – Corey Brewer, SG/SF, Florida – There are a lot of good players in this draft and someone is going to slide. I have a feeling it will be Brewer. Brewer is an outstanding defender, but lacks a dominating presence on offense. In addition, he is a bit on the small side. Despite this, Sacramento would throw a celebration rivaling any of the parties on My Super Sweet 16 if Brewer is still available at the 10 spot. Ron Artest’s days in the capitol of California are numbered and Brewer is a good, athletic player to build around.
11. Atlanta Hawks – Acie Law, PG, Texas A&M – I joked before about Atlanta proclivity towards eschewing point guards. However, if the Hawks use both these top-15 picks on non-point guards, look for a spike in Atlanta Thrashers season ticket sales. Law had a tremendous senior season for Texas A&M and is ready to play in the NBA right now. He might not have a lot of upside, but will surely be a solid player. Apparently the Clippers really want Law, so look out for the Clips to possibly make a move into the top-10 to get him.
12. Philadelphia 76ers – Al Thornton, SF/PF, Florida State – Philadelphia is in dire need of an inside scorer and Thornton fits that bill, although he certainly has a lot of problems. He does not have a high basketball IQ and he could use some work on the glass. Thornton also never really was a winner on the college lever, but he did go to Florida State, so no one can fault him for that. The other problem is Thornton’s age; he will turn 24 during the season, and teams tend to shy away from players almost old enough to rent a car. Despite this, he is too good to pass up at No. 12.
13. New Orleans Hornets – Nick Young, SG, USC – I think Nick Young is the sleeper of the draft. If he could somehow fall to the Nets at 17, I would do cartwheels. Young can create his own shot, is a prolific scorer and has a great fadeaway jumper. With his size, the 6-6, 206-pound Young is also a solid defender. Outside of Durant, I think that Young is going to be the best player to come out of this draft, and the Hornets will reap the benefits.
14. Los Angeles Clippers – Javaris Crittenton, PG, Georgia Tech – Julian Wright is the better player here, but Los Angeles has a huge need at the point. Sam Cassell is getting old, and Shawn Livingston has had worse injury problems than Aneesa from The Real World/Road Rules Challenge. Crittenton is not ready yet to make an immediate impact in the NBA, but he can learn from Cassell and one day become a very good NBA point.
15. Detroit Pistons – Julian Wright, SF, Kansas – There has been a lot of talk about Rodney Stuckey going here, but if Wright slips this far, it would be hard for Detroit not to take him. He is an amazing athlete, and is a tremendous lock-down defender. With a wingspan of 7-2, he could team with Tayshawn Prince to possibly cause the lowest-scoring game in NBA history and cause the NBA’s TV ratings to rival those of Andy Barker, P.I. Wright’s Achilles Heel is his shooting, but he has too much potential to slip past the top-15.
16. Washington Wizards – Thaddeus Young, SF/PF, Georgia Tech – With stars Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison nearing the ends of their respective contracts, it might be time for Washington to think about rebuilding. Aside from asking Alex Ovechkin to switching sports, I think that Young makes the most sense in this spot. Young is a similar player to Julian Wright, with a huge wingspan and unbelievable potential. However, Young is a long way away from being ready for the NBA, as he does not have good ball-handling skills. Apparently though, he performed really well in workouts, so this would be a good pick for the Wizards. Although they already have Caron Buter at the same position, Young is too good not to take.
17. New Jersey Nets – Jason Smith, PF, Colorado State – I have joked repeatedly about what I would do if New Jersey, my favorite team, takes Smith. I think that if the Nets do take him, I will have a tantrum akin to Brooke from The Real World: Denver after Davis told her she had a double chin. Even though New Jersey obviously needs a big man after giving up about 3000 offensive rebounds to Cleveland in the playoffs, it should not delude itself into thinking that any big man will do. Guys like Smith are more offensive-minded players and have rebounding deficiencies. Since most of the better rebounders in the draft are too much of a reach at No. 17, the Nets should either trade down or take the best available player, no matter what the position. Despite my sentiments, most of the players the Nets worked out were big men, which is why I think they will roll the dice on Smith.
18. Golden State Warriors – Tiago Splitter, PF, Brazil – The new fun-and-gun Warriors could use a big man to run with them. Splitter fits the bill. He is very quick, and knows how to finish. The problem with him is that no one knows whether Splitter can get out of his contract in Spain, which might spark an international incident. He recently claimed that he would come to the NBA no matter what, but no one wants a repeat of Orlando’s Fran Vazquez debacle, in which a high draft pick was wasted on a player who didn’t leave Europe, so teams might be wary of him.
19. Los Angeles Lakers – Josh McRoberts, PF, Duke – After someone leaked Kobe Bryant’s profanity-laced video deriding Los Angeles for taking the untested Andrew Bynum, the Lakers would have to be complete morons to take anybody who played less than two years in college. In fact, there have been increasing rumors recently that the Lakers are trying to move this pick in order to acquire a running mate for Bryant. Possibly targets include Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal, Paul Pierce and Michael J. Fox’s character from Teen Wolf. If Los Angeles keeps the pick, McRoberts makes sense. Even though he sulked through his too years at Duke with the maturity of Angelica from Rugrats, he is still a solid player who will contribute.
20. Miami Heat – Derrick Byars, SF, Vanderbilt – You know what you are getting with Byars, who always plays hard but is not going to reinvent the wheel. Miami would really like to draft a point guard to ultimately replace Jason Williams, but if Law and Crittenton are gone, I don’t think the Heat would reach for Gabe Pruitt. Instead, Byars would be the best player available and would be ready to contribute significant minutes immediately.
21. Philadelphia 76ers – Rodney Stuckey, PG/SG, Eastern Washington – Stuckey is the classic “tweener.” No one is sure if he is a point guard or shooting guard, especially at 6-5. However, the guy can flat out score. Some people have compared him to Dwayne Wade with his style of play and size. I think he would be better suited to shooting guard, as he his passing skills leave something to be desired. If he fell all the way to No. 21, Philadelphia would be smart to pick him up.
22. Charlotte Bobcats – Rudy Fernandez, SG, Spain – With two picks in the first round, Charlotte can afford to be a little creative here. Fernandez has been compared to Manu Ginobili, and the shooting guard is very athletic with a tremendous shot. While he could work on his defense and bulk, Fernandez would fill a need at the shooting guard position for the Bobcats, and would be a departure from their history of taking established American college players.
23. New York Knicks – Daequan Cook, SG, Ohio State – Cook clearly should not have gone pro. He did not have a very good freshman season at Ohio State, but he was probably jealous of his teammates Conley and Oden. No one doubts Cook’s potential; he has a great shot and has an explosive presence. However, his lack of ball-handling skills as well as his poor performance during the season prevents him from being a lottery pick. As they proved last year with Renaldo Balkman, the Knicks would take Anthony Michael Hall if he was draft eligible, so Cook makes sense.
24. Phoenix Suns – Marco Belinelli, SG, Italy – There is a good chance that Phoenix will trade this pick, possibly to move into the top-10. If they don’t make a deal, Belinelli would be a good fit (although really anyone is a good fit playing with Steve Nash). He is a good shooter, and moves well without the ball. He apparently played poorly at the first day of Eurocamp, but played better the next day. Belinelli is still a bit of a project, but he is a good pick for the Suns.
25. Utah Jazz – Morris Almond, SG/SF, Rice – After a great season, Utah can afford to pretty much take any player it wants. Almond is a bit of a sleeper, but is a solid all-around player and is a hard worker who coach Jerry Sloan probably likes. While Almond won’t be making any All-Star teams, he should be a good player and is a good value pick for this late in the first round.
26. Houston Rockets – Gabe Pruitt, PG, USC – There are a lot of good point guards who might go in the middle of the first round, and Pruitt might go in the late teens, depending on what other teams do. He is a very athletic player, although at this point is more of a shoot-first point guard, which is being devalued in the current NBA.
27. Detroit Pistons – Nick Fazekas, PF, Nevada – Fazekas has been moving up draft boards in the last week, and could possibly land as high as No. 17. He is a very good rebounder, and given the fact that he played all four years of college, could contribute immediately. Despite his lack of athleticism, the Pistons always appreciate “blue-collar” players, and Fazekas certainly fits that bill.
28. San Antonio Spurs – Marc Gasol, C, Spain – Given that center Fabricio Oberto decided to become a free agent, San Antonio might be looking for a replacement. The Spurs might look at Sean Williams, but Williams is a huge head case and was kicked off Boston College midway through the year. San Antonio usually values character guys (well, character off the court at least), so Gasol might be the safer pick. Marc Gasol is the brother of Pau Gasol, and the Spurs will hope that as younger brothers go, Marc is more Vincent Chase and less Don Swayze.
29. Phoenix Suns – Aaron Afflalo, SG, UCLA – With two picks in the first round, and given that Phoenix is already an excellent team, it can afford to just take the best player available. Affalo should have stayed another year at college, where he would have had a decent chance to win a title, but he is a good prospect nevertheless. With a great jump shot and good defense, he is a good value pick.
30. Philadelphia 76ers – Taurean Green, PG, Florida – Green is like Wormtail from Harry Potter; he is the least-talented member from a heralded group of friends (although I seriously doubt Green is hanging out with Voldemort). Green is a decent player and a good shooter, but is small at 6-0 and does not show much interest on defense. Despite this, he proved to be a winner in college, and Philadelphia could use a good quarterback to help in its rebuilding.
So there you have it. Enjoy the draft and I’ll be back on Friday with my thoughts.