I thought it would be a good idea to put up an initial first round mock, along with a few thoughts about the draft overall, before we are fully into the throes of team workouts and the pre-draft camp.
Overall thoughts. I generally come down on the side of Hubie Brown about the draft. You can find good players in every draft. Some guys who are drafted early will eventually blossom. Others drafted late will really surprise. Nevertheless, this draft is probably typical or slightly below typical in terms of likely superstar talent. Once you get past Blake Griffin little consensus exists about who the 2nd best prospect. We don’t know for certain whether Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio will declare and stay in the draft. For that matter, if Blake Griffin measures under 6’9″ there may be no consensus on the top pick either. If there is any consensus on this draft it is that there are guards aplenty; the deepest position by far. It’s a tricky draft in that a lot of guys are upside-only players and just as many probably only fit certain schemes.
Mock Draft. I’ll try to get another mock up following the pre-draft camp and then a final one up just prior to draft night. The lottery obviously hasn’t been set as of this writing, so the order here is based on regular season record. This initial mock is to spell out what I think each team would do if the draft were held today, with no other roster changes other than expiring deal players allowed to walk.
1. Sacramento – Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma: Barring something catastrophic, the top spot is Griffin’s to lose. The Kings have recently drafted Jason Thompson, but not much else at the position.
2. Washington – Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut: I expect Washington to throw the first curve. I think they’ll opt for pure fit–Thabeet’s shot-blocking and ability to run the floor–over the high upside youngster Rubio. They think they’re a contender with a healthy core and a defensive upgrade.
3. LA Clippers – Ricky Rubio, PG, Spain: There might not be a team for which Rubio could be more helpful. Is there a bigger collection of ballstoppers in the league than Baron Davis, Zach Randolph, and Andre Thornton?
4. Oklahoma City – Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy: OKC needs to add is a young PG that can remove some of the ball-handling burden from Durant and Westbrook and get them into the transition game.
5. Minnesota – Tyreke Evans, G, Memphis: I think Minny opts for the highest upside player on the board regardless of position. It could be Evans, depending on workouts. It could be Jordan Hill, Brandon Jennings, or Demar DeRozan.
6. Memphis – Demar DeRozan, SF, USC: Memphis will similarly opt for highest upside player, and preferably best small forward available to provide some leverage with Rudy Gay (who is about to come off his rookie deal). At this point though, I think DeRozan is the biggest gamble on the board. It’s just not clear what he’s good at yet.
7. Golden State – Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona: Hill is an athletic PF who rebounds, runs the floor, and will block the occasional shot. He’s mostly an energy player in the NBA but a great fit for Nellieball.
8. New York – James Harden, SG, Arizona State: Concerns about Harden’s overall athleticism may push him down some teams’ boards. If so, NY would be lucky to find him available. Harden is athletic enough and has a high enough basketball IQ to play in any system, but he excels in the running game despite the slow pace his college team played. Harden is a slasher, and the Knicks haven’t had a slasher since Latrell Sprewell [insert bad joke here]. I will assume that NY does NOT have a promise out to Stephen Curry, as I think Harden is the better prospect. (Another guy I debated at this spot is UNC PG Ty Lawson, who I see as this year’s Russell Westbrook. By the end of the “draft season” Lawson will be comfortably in the top ten in most mocks, maybe even top five. His game is tailor-made for the post-season evaluation process.)
9. Toronto – Stephen Curry, G, Davidson: I LOVE Steph Curry’s game. He fits Toronto like a glove. This is a makes-too-much-sense-NOT-to-happen move if Curry is still on the board.
10. Milwaukee – Ty Lawson, PG, UNC: The Bucks really like Ramon Sessions the incumbent, but then so do a lot of other teams. At the least Lawson would provide them with an up tempo guard to bring off the bench who isn’t the complete defensive giveaway that is Luke Ridenour.
11. New Jersey – Jeff Teague, G, Wake Forest: Teague is another candidate for a Russell Westbrook-style rise up the boards. An undersized SG, Teague was a high-usage player both years at Wake but improved his TS% from 59% to 62% almost exclusively by getting to the line more as a sophomore.
12. Charlotte – Gerald Henderson, SG, Duke: I anticipate that Larry Brown is making personnel decisions. So there is just no way to know what he’ll do. What I can probably write is “scrappy, hard-nosed defender, high basketball IQ” and just wait to fill in the name. I like Henderson as a sixth man.
13. Indiana – Earl Clark, F, Louisville: I am not a fan of Clark’s offensive game, particularly shot selection, but he’s a good defender.
14. Phoenix – Johnny Flynn, PG, Syracuse: The rumor mill says that Phoenix likes him. We’ll take that as a baseline pick.
15. Detroit – Wayne Ellington, SG, UNC: Who knows what Detroit will do this offseason? My guess is that Dumars will break up his core, moving one or more of Wallace, Hamilton, Prince, and McDyess along with some role players. Ellington’s jump shot makes him a useful addition to almost any roster.
Up next: Picks 16-30