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