Pre-Orlando Mock Draft, v. 1.0: Picks 15-30

2008 NBA Mock Draft

Previously I offered some thoughts on which players the lottery teams should select. Here are my thoughts on the rest of the first round.

15. Phoenix Brandon Rush, Kansas, SG

Rush is an excellent jump shooter that has improved his off-the-dribble game substantially. Unlike his older brother Kareem, Brandon is a plus defender with the potential to become an excellent defender. He has great length and moves his feet well. Coming back from the knee injury in such a short time was an impressive feat. However, having suffered the injury in the first place may limit how high he can climb in this draft, even with good workouts, because it’s chock-full-o-wings. Rush would be a fantastic fit in Phoenix, almost regardless of who they hire to coach, because he could contribute right away in any penetrate-and-kick offense. But he also has the skills to be much more than just a spot up shooter.

16. Philadelphia Marreese Speights, Florida, PF/C

Speights is a high upside forward that can really score—both in the post and out on the floor. He may be another player who flies up the charts once workouts begin in earnest. My only real concern is that he didn’t get to the line all that much (.38 FTA/FGA).* For a player who was mostly a post-up option at Florida that’s a concern, though he did manage to shoot a high percentage (.64 TS) and board (13.2 per pace-adjusted 40). I wonder if that indicates a player who got a lot of fast break layups, tip-ins, and put backs in Billy Donovan’s version of the fun-and-run but tended to drift away from the basket on set plays.

17. Toronto D.J. Augustin, Texas, PG

I see Augustin as an insurance policy in the event that Toronto trades T.J. Ford, which may be easier said than done given his medical history. Otherwise, with Delfino perhaps hitting the market, Le Mans (France) forward Nicolas Batum could be the selection.

18. Washington Nicolas Batum, Le Mans (France), SF

This toolsy French import has been compared to Chicago’s Thabo Sefolsha. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them take Roy Hibbert in this spot.

19. Cleveland Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis, G/F

Douglas-Roberts is precisely the kind of versatile wing player Cleveland needs to pair with LeBron: the anti-Damon Jones. It takes versatility—not just three point shooting touch—to play well off a penetrator. CDR plays well paired with a penetrator because he moves well without the ball and while he can make the three point shot he doesn’t need to settle for it. He doesn’t take an inordinate number of three point attempts (less than a third of his attempts) but shoots a high percentage (41% last season). He shoots very well overall (.62 TS), gets to the line a fair amount (.47 FTA/FGA), and is plus defender.

20. Denver Courtney Lee, W. Kentucky, SG

It’s a stretch to call Lee an under-the-radar prospect but he’s probably not quite a household name either. Lee may be this draft’s Rodney Stuckey, the small school player that impresses during workouts and positions himself in the 10-20 range. His efficiency statistics tell a great story about brains, work ethic, and a will to improve—three traits that always translate well to the NBA. Many college SGs with NBA-ready jump shots (Lee hit roughly 40% or better on three point attempts every season at Western Kentucky) never learn that great offense comes at the free throw line. Lee lowered his three point attempts from almost 40% of FGAs as a freshman to less than a third as a senior without sacrificing accuracy. He improved his true shooting each year (.54, .57, .58, and .59 TS as a senior) in no small part by getting to the free throw line more often (from an abysmal .18 FTA/FGA as a freshman to a more reasonable .33 as a senior). On top of that he’s averaged over 6 boards and 2-3 steals per pace-adjusted 40 all four seasons. At 22 he’s probably close to his developmental ceiling but he’s a rock physically and should hold his value for a long time similar to Caron Butler. J.R. Smith is really the only SG on Denver’s roster (depending on how you categorize AI) and a mutual parting of ways may well be in order.

21. New Jersey DeAndre Jordan, Texas A&M, C

Much of what NJ does in the draft will depend on whether they decide to break up Carter & Jefferson. But Rod Thorn also has decisions to make on Nenad Kristic and DeSagana Diop. It’s a fairly safe bet that only one or neither makes it to Brooklyn with the Nets. So drafting yet another big would still be in order for the Nets. I am not a fan of Jordan’s, but frankly I’d be stunned if someone doesn’t take a shot at him long before NJ at 21. You can’t order athletic, post-oriented 7-footers like this kid from a catalog but I think he should go in the 20s because of some major red flags (some of which typically accompany young bigs). I know a lot of Knicks fans are intrigued by this kid but he is a project in all capital letters. He may turn out to be something but you’re probably not gonna know for quite some time. The things he did well at A&M–shoot a high percentage and board–come with substantial caveats. He shot a high percentage but doesn’t have much of a post game. He scored mostly on alley-oops and putbacks. I’ve seen reports of good hands but that was not my impression from the games I saw, and he was certainly turnover prone (3+ per pace-adjusted 40). In this draft class Jordan is a decent but not exceptional rebounder and shot blocker. Consider also that despite rarely being in major foul trouble (he had 4 fouls only once) Jordan only played about 20 mpg, coming off the bench behind a clearly inferior talent. Like a lot of big kids his energy and intensity came and went–and mostly went–so that by the end of the season he was injured and hardly played. Even if he matures, I wouldn’t say the sky is the limit. He may only ever be as good as DeSagana Diop. This is the right kind of gamble for NJ if they keep this pick. They could pair him with their two emerging bigs (Boone and Sean Williams) without asking too much of him, which might be helpful in his development.

22. Orlando JaVale McGee, Nevada, PF/C

Orlando could really use an upgrade at PG, but isn’t likely to find one this late (though keep an eye on Mario Chalmers). Orlando already has this kind of player in Tony Battie and Brian Cook, but McGee may be better than both. He is more athletic, has pick-and-pop skills, runs the floor well, and is a decent shot blocker.

23. Utah Roy Hibbert, Georgetown, C

Hibbert provides Utah with a shot-blocking presence they have not had in the paint since Mark Eaton (AK-47 notwithstanding). He averaged between 3-4 blocks per pace-adjusted 40 all four seasons, along with 0.5-1.0 steals, and 2-3 assists. On the downside he’s a poor rebounder for his size, but this is less problematic for Utah because of Boozer.

24. Seattle Davon Jefferson, USC, SF/PF

Jefferson could easily work his way into the first round based on workouts. He played PF at USC but projects as a SF in the NBA. He’s not especially skilled but has some serious athleticism. People seem to be all over the place about where he should come off the board but all agree he’s got the athleticism to play in the league. (Keep in mind that he’s old for his class, due to eligibility issues.)

25. Houston Kosta Koufos, Ohio State, C

Koufos is a nice project center with some size and a jump hook that could develop with some work as Yao may be entering the break down phase of his career.

26. San Antonio Alexis Ajinca, Hyeres-Toulon (France), PF/C

Ajinca is a long guy, a 7’9” wingspan according to DraftExpress. He is a ways off from playing in the NBA but we have seen this from San Antonio before. They may let him stay over in Europe and bring him over at 23 or 24 (he’s 20 right now).

27. New Orleans Ty Lawson, North Carolina, PG

This Raymond Felton clone could help pave the way for a Janerro Pargo sign-and-trade.

28. Memphis Ryan Anderson, Cal, PF

Anderson is a very good offensive player with good size, good feet, and good hands. He is a lights out shooter and a solid rebounder.

29. Detroit DeVon Hardin, Cal, C

Hardin is a solid but not prolific rebounder and shot blocker. He was much ballyhooed when he came to Cal but now that the hype has settled down, along with his usage, he looks like a solid backup/marginal starter in the NBA.

30. Boston Robin Lopez, Stanford, C/PF

Big Baby and Leon Powe are nice end of the bench players, but Boston lacks any size or Jason Maxiell-type athleticism behind Kendrick Perkins. Lopez is only an adequate rebounder in this class but a pretty darn good shot blocker (3.9 per pace-adjusted 40). He puts also puts something in every column because he has a decent feel for the game and hustles non-stop.

Other potential first round selections: D.J. White, Indiana, PF; Mario Chalmers, Kansas, G; J.J. Hickson, N.C. State, PF; J.R. Giddens, New Mexico, G (What’s with all the abbreviated names?)

Final thoughts: I expect to see a fair amount of wheeling and dealing in this draft. Interestingly, I think a number of teams selecting in the late teens and twenties would like wing players but this draft seems thin at SG/SF but deep with rebounding frontcourt players. This is a much stronger rebounding class than last year’s class. Some of the players I have described as “decent but not great” rebounders (e.g., DeAndre Jordan, DeVon Hardin, Robin Lopez) would have looked much better in last year’s class. So teams between, say, 8 and 15 looking to add rebounding depth might do well to entertain offers to trade down.

* Statistics courtesy of DraftExpress.com

Pre-Orlando Mock Draft, v. 1.0: The Lottery

2008 NBA Mock Draft

I’ll update the mock from time to time as the process unfolds but I wanted to get something up prior to Orlando and team workouts. This mock is less a prediction and more a record of what I would do as the GM of each team. Although I anticipate that trades will change the draft order, perhaps radically, my interest is in matching player and team. Therefore I keep the teams in their given draft order but highlight spots where I expect trades.

1. Chicago Derrick Rose, Memphis, PG

Rose is the best overall prospect in this draft. Although Beasley might fill an immediate need for scoring Rose creates scoring opportunities for teammates. And what really moves him ahead of Beasley for my money is his defensive value. I think he’s the 2nd best perimeter defender in this draft (behind Russell Westbrook).

2. Miami Michael Beasley, Kansas State, PF

Beasley is the best offensive talent in the draft. Although he seems more of a mid post than a low post player he gets to the line an impressive amount (.59 FTAs/FGA or 10 FTAs per pace-adjusted 40) and is a beast on the boards (14.6 rebs per pace-adjusted 40).* On the other hand, though I have seen Beasley play only infrequently, he seems like an indifferent defender. Perhaps no franchise is better than Miami though at getting indifferent defenders to exert effort on that end of the floor.

3. Minnesota O.J. Mayo, USC, G

This is obviously where the draft gets interesting. No consensus has emerged on who the 3rd best player in this draft is. Mayo could easily solidify this spot with stellar workouts despite his so-so freshman season. He is very strong, unselfish, and a good defender, all underappreciated aspects of his game that may serve him well in workouts and interviews. He’s also, I think, a better complement to Randy Foye than is Jerryd Bayless. Kevin McHale is close to Mayo’s now-former agent Bill Duffy and has scouted Mayo extensively.

4. Seattle Jerryd Bayless, Arizona, G

Seattle is likely to select whichever of the three top guards remains on the board. Bayless might be the perfect combo guard to complement Durant. Bayless plays well without the ball, shoots a high percentage (.61 TS), and lives at the free throw line (.59 FTA/FGA).

5. Memphis Brook Lopez, Stanford, C

I like Brook Lopez better than many, but I expect him to slide a bit based on workouts. He lacks elite athleticism and has pre-existing back problems, which make him a prime candidate for a slide. What he brings to the table are good footwork and hands. I think he projects to a more-than-competent-but-less-than-All-Star center that provides Chris Kaman-like production.

6. New York Russell Westbrook, UCLA, G

I doubt Westbrook goes off the board at #6. However, none of the remaining forwards (Gallinardi, Randolph, Love, or Greene) after Beasley strike me as having higher upside than Chandler or Lee. I suspect the new brass will try to package this pick with a bad contract (e.g., Randolph, Jeffries, Snacks) and flip it. The player I’d target in a trade down scenario is Westbrook, who has all-NBA defensive potential. If he had any PG skills he’d be a lock for the top ten. I fully expect his stock to rise once workouts start because his athleticism and motor are tailor-made for that process.

7. LA Clippers Kevin Love, UCLA, PF

Love is all over the place in terms of how he’s regarded. Certainly, the gushing about his outlet passing is a bit overdone by his supporters but the concerns about his athleticism are a bit overstated too. Lots of guy that are not cloud-piercing athletes play PF in the NBA. Love does not project to be a primary offensive option because his post offense doesn’t translates all that well, but his emerging mid-range jump shot, his excellent rebounding and interior passing absolutely do. Some teams will not place a premium on such a skill set but Love is perfect for LA, who may very well lose Elton Brand and/or Corey Maggette this off-season. He doesn’t need a lot of shots to provide value and they don’t need another guy who demands the ball.

8. Milwaukee Danilo Gallinari, Armani Jeans Milan, SF

Perhaps the most impressive thing I have seen about Gallinari is that he took free throws on 59% of his FGAs in just under 34 minutes per game. That’s 8 FTAs per pace-adjusted 40. For a teenager without otherworldly athleticism or size that is an impressive feat. Draftexpress compares him to Hedo Turkoglu.

9. Charlotte Anthony Randolph, LSU, F

Larry Brown isn’t going to play any rookie chosen at this spot anyway, so if Randolph is available at this point in the draft it seems wise to gamble on his upside. He has a lot of tools but doesn’t know how to play the game just yet. The best situation for him is one where he can sit and watch for a while (and keep Adam Morrison company).

10. New Jersey Donte Greene, Syracuse, F

I doubt Rod Thorn keeps this pick. He appears ready to blow up that roster. So, I see #10 and 21 packaged to get a player or to move up. Like Randolph, Greene is a high upside forward with size and skill but lacking experience.

11. Indiana Eric Gordon, Indiana, SG

I think Gordon’s skill set translates best to running teams. He is not a Nate Robinson combo guard that can run the point passably. He is more like Ben Gordon (i.e., strictly an undersized SG). Gordon is a shooter that unfortunately shot poorly in the second half of the season (coinciding with the Kelvin Sampson furor). I see him as one of the bigger gambles among the players that appear destined for the lottery. For its part, Indiana’s entire backcourt situation is unstable. So I would not be surprised to see Indiana move down and perhaps target a point guard (e.g., Augustin, Chalmers).

12. Sacramento Darrell Arthur, Kansas, PF

Sacramento has a gaggle of part-time post players (i.e., Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Mikki Moore, Kenny Thomas, Spencer Hawes, Shelden Williams, John Salmons, and Ron Artest). So Darrell Arthur would fill a clear need and is a much better prospect than any of the available centers. He is a solidly built PF who can post up and step out to shoot the mid-range jumper. He can become overly reliant on that jumper as evidenced by a low number of fouls drawn (.29 FTA/FGA). Though talented, he is a bit of a gamble because he disappears for stretches but is probably worth a look late in the lottery for a team desperate for youth in the frontcourt.

13. Portland Chase Budinger, Arizona, SG/SF

Budinger is an uber-athletic wing that definitely should have stayed in school. He runs the floor, plays without the ball, and shoots well but appears to lack the aggressive makeup typical of focal offensive players. He seems more like a late bloomer who will develop into an excellent complementary scorer, much like former University of Arizona and Spurs great Sean Elliot. Budinger doesn’t defend yet, but should work out well enough to get into the fringes of the lottery or just outside.

14. Golden St. Joe Alexander, W. Virgina, SF/PF

Alexander is something of a ‘tweener with an excellent mid-range game and jump out of the gym athleticism. He would work well in Nellie’s fun-and-run system.

Next: The rest of the first round

* Stats from player profiles at Draftexpress.com

Recent #6 Picks

With the Knicks slotted to pick 6th in this year’s draft, I was curious what kind of player the team might expect to get with that position. So I looked at the #6 picks in the last 10 drafts.

I Buoni (The Good): Chris Kaman, Martell Webster, Josh Childress, Brandon Roy, Shane Battier
Unfortunately there are no superstars in this group. Chris Kaman had a break out season this year, but it was “the best player on a bad team” syndrome. Roy and Webster are young pieces in Portland’s future, but neither have eye-popping stats. Battier has always been a solid defender, but hasn’t contributed enough on offense to make him more than an average starter. Josh Childress became Atlanta’s 6th man.

I Brutti (The Bad): Dajuan Wagner, DerMarr Johnson, Robert Traylor
Traylor looked good his first year, but ate his way out of the league. No one can say what DerMarr Johnson’s career might have been if not for that car accident. Despite the accident he managed to stick around in the league for a few seasons, but never lived up to his pre-injury potential. Dajuan Wagner has his picture in the dictionary next to the word “bust.”

I Giovanni (The Young): Yi Jianlian
A little too early to judge the foreigner, especially since he’s not yet old enough to order a Milwaukee’s Best.

It seems that the Knicks aren’t likely to get a great player here, but the odds are they can get a quality starter. There’s the possibility of All Star talent available as Richard Hamilton, Luol Deng, and Damon Stoudamire were recent #7 picks. The last time the Knicks picked 6th was 1982 when they grabbed shooting guard Trent Tucker.

Opting Out a Pipe Dream

In today’s Newsday, Alan Hahn wrote a column on how D’Antoni’s up-tempo system could help New York rid itself of a few big contracts. This theory is that a faster pace will make the players’ statistics inflated hence giving them a higher value. In order to get under the cap, the Knicks will have to move a few key contracts for ones of the same amount but less years. The prevailing thought is that the players that would hurt salary cap would be dumped for expiring contracts so that they can make a play in free agency.

However Hahn brings a different spin to the table, he suggests that Crawford, Curry, and Richardson might opt out of their contract because they would garner more on the open market. According to Hoopshype, Crawford and Richardson could forgo $9M in 2010 to become free agents a year early. Meanwhile Curry has the option to leave in the summer of 2009 in lieu of $10M or the summer of 2010 instead of earning $11M.

It’s feasible that Jamal Crawford could get a long term offer for that much, as he would only be 29 and many teams could use a shooting guard that can score. But I can’t imagine any NBA team offering Eddy Curry enough to tear up his current contract. Even if you put aside that Curry is a one trick pony with major flaws, his heart issues make him a major risk. And the odds that Quentin Richardson could earn $9M for a year of playing basketball is on par with the chance that Dick Cheney could win American Idol.

The problem with Hahn’s logic is that these players would have to fetch more on the open market than their final payment for the move to make sense. For instance let’s assume Eddy Curry is really worth $7M a year. In this case Curry wouldn’t opt out his deal, because he’d earn more by staying with New York until 2011 and signing a 3 year deal ($22M + $18M = $40M) than he would if he opted out & signed a 5 year deal ($35M). This isn’t to say that the Knicks will be stuck with these players until 2010, but trading them is a more feasible option. A team might deem it worthy to have the services of Curry, Richardson, or Crawford for a year or two, especially if it would come at the price of an expiring contract that doesn’t fit their team construct. Additionally one of the less palatable players (Richardson) could be moved with a valued commodity (like a young player or draft pick).

But I think hoping that Curry or Richardson get offers that make it worth leaving money on the table is highly improbable. If the Knicks want to shed themselves of these deals, they’re going to need to make an effort to move them.

Statistical Analysis Request

So, I’m watching both of the games tonight, and in both of the games, a team has the ball down either 5 or 6 points with about half a minute left. In both instances, the announcers were stating “You don’t have to go for a three here,” and in both instances, the teams did not, in fact, go for threes.

Here’s my request. From my perspective, I think it is absolutely absurd to not go for three when you’re down five-six points with thirty seconds or less left (presuming your opponent can hit free throws with some expertise – my strategy might be different if I was playing, say, the Memphis Tigers).

Obviously, because two different sets of announcers think otherwise, and two other professional basketball coaches agreed with the announcers, some people who are very knowledgeable about basketball disagree with my position.

So my request is some statistical analysis on what is a better statistical move down five-six points with thirty seconds left. Does it make more sense to go for the quick two? Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a way to measure it, so I thought I’d toss it to you brilliant readers out there.