NBA Mock Draft 2.0
It’s “D-Day”…draft day, that is. The culmination of a month’s worth of workouts and interviews, of rumors and smokescreens, happens tonight when NBA commissioner David Stern steps to the podium to announce one of the most obvious No. 1 picks in recent memory. Draft night surely won’t come and go without any surprises. Will the Bobcats and Cavaliers get their trade to swap top picks done? Will the Lakers deal Pau Gasol in order to get into the first round? Will the Rockets’ plan to stockpile high picks in order to somehow obtain Dwight Howard actually succeed? What will happen at pick 2, arguably the first real selection of the draft? The truth is that I don’t have the answer to any of those questions, although my guesses are no, no, and no.
But that’s not why I’m here right now. At this exact moment, there are about ten hours to draft time. Five teams don’t have a first-round pick: the Jazz (whose pick belongs to the Rockets by way of Minnesota), Knicks (Rockets as well), Lakers (Cavaliers), Spurs (Warriors), and Timberwolves (New Orleans by way of the Clippers). But let’s not focus on them. Instead, we take a look at what will happen from picks 1-30, starting from the easiest pick to predict.
1. New Orleans Hornets: Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky (Fr.)
There is no other possibility. New Orleans fans rejoice in the streets, and the era of “The Brow”™ begins. Hornets GM Dell Demps has not said that Davis will be the pick, due to a league-imposed gag order for top-picking teams, but he has been quoted as saying “There’ll be no surprises” come draft time. On a side note, now that Davis’s family has trademarked the whole “The Brow”™ thing, does this mean I have to pay him royalty money for writing this?
2. Charlotte Bobcats: Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas (Jr.)
This is obviously the spot for a shakeup, with Cleveland the likeliest trading partner. If the Cavs move up with picks 4 and 24, it’s for Florida guard Bradley Beal. If the Bobcats stay, Robinson gets the nod over swingmen Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Kentucky and Harrison Barnes of North Carolina, both potential Charlotte targets if the Cats move down to 4.
3. Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal, SG, Florida (Fr.)
The acquisition of Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor took this from a likely landing spot for MKG, Robinson, or Barnes, and turned it into the “perfect” (if you can ever call the Washington Wizards perfect at anything) landing spot for Beal, a tough shooter who has size and rebounding ability from the 2-guard position. He’s been compared to Ray Allen. Big shoes to fill.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky (Fr.)
As mentioned before, the Cavs want Beal in a bad way, but they’ll almost certainly have to give up their other first-rounder to get to 2. Instead, in a deep draft populated by solid players, they opt for the athleticism and defensive ability of Kidd-Gilchrist over the outside game of Barnes, figuring they can still upgrade the perimeter more at 24.
5. Sacramento Kings: Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina (So.)
It’s been said that neither Barnes nor Kidd-Gilchrist wants to wind up in Sac-town. Too bad, fellas; with the low likelihood of the Kings taking UConn center Andre Drummond here, it looks like that will almost certainly be the case. The potential wildcard here is whether Chicago (Joakim Noah and No. 29 for Tyreke Evans and No. 5) or Houston (some package possibly involving Kyle Lowry and/or two of their three first-rounders) decides they want to trade up. If the Bulls step in here, Drummond is the pick. If the Rockets get here, it’s to use this pick to try to entice Orlando into a trade for Dwight Howard. In the very unlikely scenario that said plan actually works out, Orlando takes Drummond here to be D12’s replacement.
6. Portland Trail Blazers (from Brooklyn): Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut (Fr.)
This pick should be Damian Lillard. He’s an electric scorer with far fewer question marks than Drummond, a major high risk/high reward prospect with the potential to get a GM fired if he busts. Also, there’s a possibility (however slim) that Drummond is still around when the Blazers pick at 11. Lillard? Not a chance. But not only has Portland picked the big man with potential over the scorer twice already by taking Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan and Greg Oden over Kevin Durant (please don’t think I’m comparing Lillard to MJ or Durant, though), but GM Neil Olshey is brand new and will probably have some leeway, and the potential for Drummond to turn into a monster down low could be too high to pass up.
7. Golden State Warriors: Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse (So.)
It’s been reported that Warriors owner Joe Lacob is high on Drummond, but in this mock, he’s off the board already. Instead, the Warriors turn to Waiters, supposedly the favorite of consultant Jerry West. The Orange guard has an impressive talent for getting to the rim and could either pair with Stephen Curry in the backcourt or sit behind Klay Thompson for a few years as an instant-offense guy off the bench.
8. Toronto Raptors: Austin Rivers, SG, Duke (Fr.)
Toronto is the only team that Waiters has worked out before, and it’s even possible that the lottery promise reportedly given to Waiters could be from the Raptors. But without him available, Toronto turns to Rivers, who has displayed a similar skill set in terms of attacking the basket. Damian Lillard of Weber State is also possible, although with Jose Calderon still under contract, this might be unlikely.
Am I making this pick just so he’s not even available for the Hornets when they pick at 10? Definitely a possibility. More on that later.
9. Detroit Pistons: John Henson, PF, North Carolina (Jr.)
Grabbing a defensive-minded 7-footer like Drummond to pair with Greg Monroe would have been the dream for Detroit. Instead, stuck between Henson’s defensive mindset and Meyers Leonard’s size and upside, the Pistons go for the need on defense.
10. New Orleans Hornets (from Minnesota): Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina (Sr.)
Austin Rivers has been a popular pick for the Hornets in mock drafts. Much has been made of the connection between his father, Celtics coach Doc Rivers, and Hornets coach Monty Williams and GM Dell Demps, who all played together in the NBA. But I cannot emphasize enough how little I want that pick to happen. This ability to transition to point guard that people have been talking about? I don’t buy it for a second. ESPN’s Chad Ford ripped on Rivers recently, saying that he models his game after Kobe Bryant, but doesn’t have the elite size, athleticism, and drive to back up the (over)confidence. That doesn’t sound like a guy who plays well with others.
Fortunately, this won’t happen with Rivers shipped off to Canada. Instead, the Bees get their dream scenario of having Damian Lillard, the top point guard available, and Zeller, a big man who projects as having a long, steady career, both on the board. Zeller, the top four-year player available, has been more linked with the Hornets lately, and with the need for a big man well publicized, Demps completes the revamping of the Hornets’ frontcourt. Davis and Zeller might play together for ten or 15 years.
11. Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State (Jr.)
Something went totally right for the Blazers when they picked the big man over the scorer. (Did I just say that?)
They gamble by taking Drummond first and luck out in a big way when Lillard is still on the board at 11. They have Austin Rivers (and me) to thank for that. Portland gets both players at the top of its wishlist for the sixth pick, adding the explosive scoring of Lillard to go with Drummond’s seemingly endless potential.
12. Houston Rockets (from Milwaukee): Terrence Ross, SG, Washington (So.)
No one believes that the Rockets will really be making all three of their picks (or any of them, for that matter). But the Dwight Howard megadeal seems so unlikely to happen, and if they don’t then have their sights set on Pau Gasol, then they would be wise to start their draft off with Ross, an athletic wing who can stroke from deep. He won’t get past Milwaukee at 14, and with Kevin Martin soon to hit free agency, a replacement should be procured soon.
13. Phoenix Suns: Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut (So.)
An ankle injury that hampered Lamb’s workout with Phoenix didn’t end up harming his chances, as logic might dictate. Instead, it seems that Lamb’s toughness in going through the workout anyway endeared the UConn prospect to the Suns. Despite his almost sleepy appearance, he can really play. He was thought to be a top 5 pick at the start of the season; has Jeremy Lamb turned into a sleeper? Watch out for Kendall Marshall here as well, particularly if the Suns are more confident that Steve Nash will end up leaving than they let on.
14. Milwaukee Bucks (from Houston): Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois (So.)
With their reported wishlist of John Henson and Terrence Ross off the board, the Bucks go instead for the big man from the Midwest. Leonard is a true seven-footer with good size, but his game is raw as can be. Milwaukee will hope that he can put some polish on his game and become an extremely productive force at both ends. Don’t sleep on the low-post banging skills of Jared Sullinger here, either.
15. Philadelphia 76ers: Terrence Jones, PF, Kentucky (So.)
Jones, Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones III of Baylor, and Arnett Moultrie are all possibilities with this pick, and all are still on the board. Terrence Jones rises to the top of this crowd with his outstanding size (6-10, 252), versatility (can play SF as well), and ball-handling ability for a forward. Sullinger is probably the next in line.
16. Houston Rockets (from New York): Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State (So.)
Let me preface this by saying that I am not a Jared Sullinger fan. I don’t particularly like the way he plays, I’m frightened by the medical red flag doctors put on him (Chad Ford has said that in the eyes of personnel departments, back injuries might be the worst ones possible), and quite frankly, I don’t think 17 points and 9 rebounds a game is outstanding for a star player whose offense, without a doubt, ran through him. But ESPN statistician John Hollinger’s Draft Rater formula (which aims to project efficiency in the NBA) calls Sullinger not just worthy of a lottery pick, but the second highest-rated player in the entire class. In the back half of the first round, the potential reward really starts to outweigh the risk, and a stat guy like Houston GM Daryl Morey could be just the person to pounce on Sullinger. Perry Jones and St. John’s forward Moe Harkless could also be the pick here.
17. Dallas Mavericks: Perry Jones III, PF, Baylor (So.)
Jones is a HUGE question mark in the NBA. Will he discover the competitive drive to put forth the effort every day? What position is right for him? He’s far too thin to be an effective power forward in the post, but hasn’t displayed the full complement of perimeter skills necessary to move out to the wing. But a team like Dallas, who is heading into major rebuilding mode, can afford to take a flier on a guy with huge potential if everything clicks. Carolina point Kendall Marshall could also be in play here, as could Terrence Jones or any of the top shooting guards if they fall.
18. Houston Rockets (from Utah via Minnesota): Moe Harkless, SF, St. John’s (Fr.)
Again, the Rockets don’t seem to expect to be picking at 12, 16, and 18 come draft time. Again, I think they’re mistaken. Harkless has been referred to as a “young Trevor Ariza”: a small forward with strong size who projects immediately as a solid defender, but whose offensive game still has some serious maturing to do. A great value pick here for Houston.
19. Orlando Magic: Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure (Sr.)
With Jameer Nelson perhaps on his way out of town soon, a point guard could definitely be a possibility here, and Kendall Marshall and Kentucky’s Marquis Teague are both still available. But the possible departure of stretch 4 Ryan Anderson might hurt more. In Nicholson, a big man with excellent range and touch as well as solid rebounding ability, the Magic snag a capable replacement. Think David West, minus a little bit of D-West’s toughness, plus a few extra feet on the shooting range.
20. Denver Nuggets: Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina (So.)
With the end of Andre Miller’s career surely just around the corner, the Nuggets will be in the hunt for a backup point guard. Marshall would likely be just as good an option as any reserve point Denver could find in free agency. He could learn the ropes behind fellow Tar Heel Ty Lawson, and the Nuggets’ mix of athleticism (JaVale McGee) and shooting (Danilo Gallinari) would be an ideal on-court environment in which Marshall could thrive.
21. Boston Celtics: Royce White, SF, Iowa State (So.)
White is a supremely talented point forward who could be lottery material (hell, if Lillard and Zeller were both off the board at 10, I’d happily see the Hornets trade down a few picks, pick up an extra asset or two, and take White in the teens), but scouts and GMs have been scared off a bit by his anxiety disorder and concerns about maturity stemming from his departure from the basketball program at Minnesota. Boston is an ideal landing spot for him, though; he can learn from Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett (if he re-signs) and eventually become the successor to Pierce as the heart and soul of the Celtics.
22. Boston Celtics (from LA Clippers): Doron Lamb, SG, Kentucky (So.)
With Nicholson off the board, the Celts bypass Mississippi State’s Arnett Moultrie with their second pick and go for perimeter help instead, as Ray Allen seems likely to join the Superfriends in South Beach instead of re-upping in Boston. Doron Lamb is more widely regarded as an early second-round prospect, but gets the nod earlier over Memphis’s Will Barton, Frenchman Evan Fournier, and even Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins (largely regarded as the top pure shooter available) with his combination of lights-out shooting and excellent defensive skills.
23. Atlanta Hawks: Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi State (Jr.)
Washington point guard Tony Wroten has been talked about a lot here, but the value and versatility of Moultrie, who could go as high as 13 to the Suns, are too good to pass up. He provides cover for Josh Smith (or Pau Gasol, if that trade rumor comes to fruition) and Al Horford with his ability to play both frontcourt positions, and gives the Hawks a rebounding presence off the bench.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers (from LA Lakers): Fab Melo, C, Syracuse (So.)
The Cavs went perimeter with MKG early on; now it’s time to address the inside. Melo is a 7-footer with shot-blocking ability, which perhaps makes it a bit easier for a building team like Cleveland to look past his offensive limitations and the issues surrounding his suspension while at Syracuse. Perhaps fellow Brazilian Anderson Varejao, a fellow post player, can step in as Melo’s mentor and ease the transition to the NBA.
25. Memphis Grizzlies: Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky (Fr.)
With no entrenched backup for Mike Conley at the point (Josh Selby and Jeremy Pargo certainly don’t count), the Grizzlies turn to Teague to take over that role, and perhaps eventually the starting slot. Teague is one of the more puzzling one-and-done early entries, as many scouts felt he could have played his way into a high lottery pick if he went back to school for one more year.
26. Indiana Pacers: Draymond Green, F, Michigan State (Sr.)
Indianapolis native Teague might have been the desired pick for Indiana, but with him off the board, they instead roll the dice that restricted free agent George Hill will re-sign, and they go for Green, a versatile player who does a lot of things well but no one thing exceptionally well. He is a supremely coachable player who works hard and has a high basketball I.Q., exactly the type of player the Pacers are trying to build around.
27. Miami Heat: Evan Fournier, SG, France (1992)
The primary need for the Heat after the championship victory is more inside presence, so Fab Melo (if he slides a few spots) or Vanderbilt’s Festus Ezeli could be viable options. But with Fournier sitting on the board, the Heat can’t pass up a guy that they can stash in Europe for a year or two while he perfects his shot. Then, when Shane Battier, Mike Miller, and company have moved on, Fournier can head to the NBA. Or, if the smoke leads to fire about Miller’s potential retirement, Fournier could start his NBA career right away and apprentice under Battier (who could teach him defense) and perhaps Ray Allen (if he signs with Miami, of course). Never fear, Grantland, the streak of international players being drafted in the first round will not be broken.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jeffery Taylor, SF, Vanderbilt (Sr.)
The Thunder are another team that would love a crack at Fournier, especially in case the impending contract dilemmas that will face OKC force the team to give up James Harden. Instead, they bring in Taylor, who is blessed with outstanding size, athleticism, and strength that allow him to defend almost every position on the court. His shot, while still a work in progress, is improving. Taylor is one of the top three perimeter defenders in this class; think a younger, stronger version of Thabo Sefolosha.
29. Chicago Bulls: Will Barton, SG, Memphis (So.)
While Barton is extremely slight (6-6, but just 174), many scouts rave about his toughness, athleticism, and defensive ability. He provides the slashing 2-guard that the Bulls need in the wake of the somewhat-failed Rip Hamilton experiment. Barton could take on scoring responsibility very early with Derrick Rose set to miss at least the early portion of the season.
30. Golden State Warriors (from San Antonio): Festus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt (Sr.)
With Dion Waiters in the fold, Golden State needs to address its frontcourt. Sure, the Warriors acquired Andrew Bogut from Milwaukee in the unexpected deal that sent Monta Ellis to the Bucks, but the big Aussie has proven to be rather injury-prone, and if Andris Biedrins really is the top inside backup in Golden State, the Warriors are up a certain creek if Bogut gets hurt again. While his offensive game is not particularly strong, Ezeli is a bull inside on the defensive end, using his massive frame (264 pounds, 7-4 wingspan) to alter shots and protect the rim.
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