Birth Of A Knick Fan For Life

Today’s article is by Lee Davis, director of the films 3AM and Hoop Realities and life-long Knick fan. Lee won first prize in the “Can You Be A KnickerBlogger?” for this contribution.


I was about eight years old, strolling through midtown holding my fathers hand when we both turned towards the sound of screams. A man plummeted past the side of a building, landing with a thud behind the row of parked cars along the curb. My dad was shaken up. Me? I wanted to get a look at what was left of the guy.

Minutes later we stood in front of the Penn Hotel, just across the street from The Garden. Beside us, waiting for the light to change, was Clyde Frazier, complete with flowing trench-coat and hat. I was in awe. Superhero music played in my head. My Dad smiled, said a coupla words to him, and Clyde reached down and shook my hand with a grin.

Birth of a Knick fan for life. Recently I wonder if maybe it had less to do with meeting Clyde than with the incident that occurred earlier that day. Maybe it was more my own inner fascination with the grotesque. Deep down there is something about a train wreck that captures the curiosity — a need to see how bad it really looks. Maybe thats why the Garden still has so many sell-outs.

Knick fans like myself are hoping for Christmas in July. Ignoring the pundits who speculate one way or the other, I am content to wait. I want LeBron. I want to keep David Lee. But like a magic trick, I think the real action is where the audience is not looking. My eyes are on a deal for Ricky Rubio. D’Antoni needs a player to push the pedal to the metal. Donnie Walsh knows that on Broadway you need characters — with character. Clyde, Bradley, DeBusschere, Reed. It is about winning, yes, but the true goal is to forge a team identity. An aura. A feeling that fans want to be a part of.

Imagine the mop-headed Rubio in a Knick jersey throwing alley-oops to LeBron, or no-look passes to Gallo from three. Lebron encouraging his teammates to believe in each other. Wilson Chandler emerging as the star they keep pleading with him to be.

Suddenly the Mecca of Basketball really is again.

An uptempo team offense is not a cover for poor defense. But a few blowout victories, buoyed by a quick start in exhibition on an international stage, and suddenly D’Antoni is the Coach he really thinks he is, and everyone else is wrong, that is at least until the playoffs.

Hoping for the best here. Hoping for the third seed next year.

Not that it matters. Either way they know we’ll be watching.Even if they acquire no players of significance, and let David Lee walk. We’ll watch. We can’t help it.

We’ll be that eight year old, struggling to get a clear look at the damage.

Hill Fails To Impress (& Knick Tidbits)

Knick fans that hoped the 2009 #8 pick would pay immediate dividends are going to be disappointed. Mike D’Antoni said Jordan Hill “got a ways to go” with regards to being NBA ready. A quote like this would be expected if New York grabbed a teenager from Europe like Ricky Rubio or Brandon Jennings. But Jordan Hill is 22, and spent 3 years in Arizona. Shouldn’t he be ready to contribute to the NBA now?

Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the Knicks recent power forward draftees. Channing Frye, like Hill, was 22 year old #8 overall pick from Arizona and managed an 18.1 PER in 1500+ minutes his first season. David Lee, taken in the same draft, had a 15.4 PER in 1100+ minutes that same year. The 9th overall pick in 2003, Mike Sweetney, was buried on the IR due to incompetent management. But he still was able to perform on an NBA level with a 17.2 PER his first season. Even Nene Hillario who was traded by the Knicks on draft day put up a PER of 15.4 in 2200+ minutes as a 20 year old rookie for Denver.

Hill’s defenders say he started playing basketball late, and that he’s still learning the game. But 2010 is a win now year, with the Knicks not owning their own pick in the upcoming draft. And Walsh didn’t really seem interested in spending money this summer to improve his team, even on his own players. The only trade they made this summer was for a backup center in Darko Milicic. So with no other avenues to improve the team now why would the Knicks take a player who was a project? Surely there was someone that was more ready to contribute this season (Blair seems the part, and Lawson had a nice preseason). Perhaps Walsh didn’t mind taking someone unpolished, but then he should have aimed for someone that was younger or had a bigger upside.

It sounds rough to be critical of a rookie before the season even starts. I can understand Hill not making the rotation, especially with the veterans ahead of him. But I would have liked to hear the coaching staff speak more positively of him. Maybe something along the lines of “he’s good, but he’s going to have to wait his turn.” Perhaps a better showing in either summer league or the preseason would allow me to look past his current state. I’m sure Hill will get some minutes at some point this year, and I can only hope that he can get some positive reviews for his on the court play.

Other News:

  • You can throw away any chance of Eddy Curry getting into the rotation early in the season to increase his trade value. Curry talked about his offseason conditioning publicly on Twitter, then hurt his foot in the first practice. Although it was initially thought that the injury wasn’t serious and he’d be back quickly, Eddy didn’t play in a single preseason game. The team has told Curry to not come back until he reaches a certain weight, implying that his summer regimen wasn’t as advertised. Curry threw away his 2009 season, and so far he’s on pace to do the same in 2010.
  • Not only are Eddy Curry and Jordan Hill out of the rotation, but it seems that Larry Hughes didn’t make the cut either. Hughes probably didn’t expect this to occur (he started 57 of 68 games in 2008, and 20 of 55 last year), and it’ll be interesting to see how he responds. Although the Knicks could afford to let someone like Stephon Marbury hang in the wind (especially considering Marbury’s actions after the team let him go), the front office and coaching staff could lose serious face if this situation gets that ugly.

    From a simple perspective it seems that Hughes was beaten out by Toney Douglas (and perhaps Danilo Gallinari) who are likely to eat the bulk of his minutes along with Nate Robinson. But it’s more likely that this is just coach D’Antoni going with his youngsters.

  • Looks like the Knicks have a new end of bench guy, for now. Marcus Landry replaces Joe Crawford (and Chris Hunter) as the Knicks rotate in a new 12th man yet again. Sorry if I’m indifferent on this signing, but New York seems to grab these guys and tend to never use them in a meaningful way. The best analogy I can come up with it my 2 year old who’ll snatch a toy the minute another child becomes interested in it, not really play with it, and then casually discard it when the next shiny thing comes along.
  • Knicks 2010 Season Preview Part 2

    [In case you missed it, Part I is here.]

    Larry Hughes SG

    What the Numbers Say
    Through the first 4 preseason games, Larry is 1 fer 20. Yipes.

    What the Team Says
    “Larry Hughes is a guy that can score points and create his own shot. And I think that’s also very good in Mike’s system.” – Donnie Walsh (after the trade deadline deal that netted Hughes for Tim Thomas.)

    What the Player Says
    “I’m a proven scorer in this league, so it’s not a problem for me,” Hughes said after the Knicks held an open practice for fans at Fordham University yesterday. “It’s the preseason. I’m not too concerned.”

    What My Gut Says
    HeyLarryHughesPleaseStopTakingSoManyBadShots.com really just about sums it up. Alas, I fear good old Larry has the potential to be this year’s Marbury. No, I don’t mean he’s going to eat Vaseline, it’s just that he has a history of pitching a fit when presented with less playing time than he believes he merits. Nor does he seem to have a firm grasp on what his own abilities are. Proven scorer, my fanny.

    Wilson Chandler – SG (in name only)/SF

    What the Numbers Say
    I can’t parse the stats for the life of me, but Wilson Chandler pops up all over the place in Dave Berri’s “Overrated players of 08-09” list.

    What the Team Says
    “He’s a great kid that works hard and I really think he has a chance,” D’Antoni said. “That will depend on him and the work that he puts in in the summertime, and he thinks he’s going to do it. I hope he does.”

    What the Player Says
    “Shake ’em up, shake ’em up, shake ’em up, shake ’em. Roll ’em in a circle of fellas and watch me break ’em” (a tweet in response to Nate Rob’s tweet) Apparently they like tweeting Ice Cube lyrics to one another. Good times.

    What My Gut Says
    For some reason, in spite of his rim-rattling dunks and blocks that send the rock into the (very expensive) seats, Ill Will fails to make much of an impression on me. Perhaps it’s because he has fewer facial expressions, succeed or fail, than Paris Hilton. He’s a nice two-way SF who if he develops a more consistent jumper and solid handle could be Shawn Marion-lite. A quality guy to have and could certainly be a part of the rotation on a contender, I’d still have dealt him for the 5th pick/Ricky Rubio in a NY minute (assuming that it was even remotely possible).

    Danilo Gallinari SF

    What the Numbers Say
    Danilo Gallinari (2009, Age 20) .448 FG, .444 3FG, .963 FT, 4.8 reb/36, 14.9 pts/36
    Dirk Nowitzki (1999, Age 20 ) .405 FG, .205 3FG, .773 FT, 6.1 reb/36, 14.9 pts/36
    (Full player comparison at Basketball-Reference.com)

    What the Team Says
    “He’s the best shooter I’ve ever seen” — Mike D’Antoni

    What the Player Says
    “Wake up at 9.02 (because I do not like alarms perfect!) … Breakfast with milk and Nesquick … accompanied with biscuits or cornflakes in the morning … I need a lot of carbohydrates! Then long session in the bathroom to get ready, get dressed, I put the lenses, a bit of hair gel and so ready to go to training.” — Il Gallo

    What My Gut Says
    I amo Il Gallo! So, ciò sembra un po’gaio, ma è il suo soprannome. Che sono intendendo fare? One of the things that’s actually disappointed me in Danilo’s development is that his English has really improved. As a result, he sounds a lot less like Roberto Benigni/Chico Marx. It’s too bad. I was really looking forward with the post-game interview with Jill “Gimme A Minute” Martin where he screeched, “I want to make love to the firmament!” That said, I think he puts up Nowitzki-like #’s in year two (15 ppg, 6 rpg)

    And even though he hasn’t officially made the team yet, I have to say that I‘m seriously pulling for Marcus Landry. Maybe it’s because he’s making the transition from undersized college center to SG/SF and the last player I can think of who pulled this off successfully was Earl Monroe, who played the pivot/with his back to the basket at Winston-Salem in the 60’s.

    2009 Report Card: Donnie Walsh

    It was with fanfare befitting a peaceful transfer of power from despotism to enlightenment that Donnie Walsh inherited Isiah Thomas’ job as New York Knicks president of basketball operations in the spring of 2008.  But as with so many European monarchs, African generals, and Spinal Tap drummers before him, the excitement surrounding Walsh’s arrival soon gave way, at least in part, to the grim realization that the pitfalls of previous years had not all departed with his predecessor.  An impossible cap situation, a meddling owner, and a frequently unmotivated core of players were all holdovers from the Isiah era which Walsh has been forced to address, with varying degrees of success.

    Walsh’s first Knicks team finished with a record of 32-50, worse than three of the five Knicks squads that Isiah oversaw.  But Walsh’s job was never about 2009 and, unlike Isiah, he immediately proved willing to accept that short term failure was a necessary and acceptable side effect of true progress.  To this end, it is undeniable that the poker-faced Bronx native has moved a dysfunctional franchise in the right direction, but his advances have not come without missteps.  That these mistakes have come with little popular backlash is cause for gratitude to Isiah – critics of Walsh would be far more vocal had his hiring not come on the heels of such unmitigated failure.

    If Walsh’s patience and indecipherability are his greatest qualities in negotiation, they may also be his best assets in avoiding the kind of criticism that is typicaly heaped upon New York pro sports executives by media and fans.  His stern demeanor and unshakable calm suggest to observers, even at moments of seeming misjudgment, that he knows more about the situation than they do and so deserves their trust.  A move-by-move analysis of Walsh’s Knicks tenure reveals a well-reasoned overall plan that has been tarnished by some truly baffling decisions.  With the belief that the moves a general manager doesn’t make are as important as the moves he does make, I offer this chronological assessment of Walsh’s first season-plus on the job:

    May 10, 2008: In his first, and thus far best, major move as Knicks president, Walsh signed Phoenix Suns coach Mike D’Antoni to a 4-year, $24 million contract.  D’Antoni’s hiring has resonated with fans (seen in the sense of pride that came with a prized coaching commodity choosing the Knicks over a handful of other suitors, as well as the entertaining brand of basketball to which they are treated each night), Knicks players (seen in the career years put up by David Lee, Al Harrington, Nate Robinson, Wilson Chandler, and, for the first 50 games, Chris Duhon), and players around the league (D’Antoni’s relationship with soon-to-be-max-contract-signers LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Kobe Bryant may prove to be his most important asset as the Knicks’ coach).

    Grade: A, and if LeBron’s affection for D’Antoni leads him to New York, it becomes an A-plus.

    Draft Night, 2008: With the sixth pick, Walsh chose Danilo Gallinari, whose struggles with back trouble and flashes of promise have both been well-chronicled on this and other sites.  While the jury remains out on Gallo, we have a better idea about some of the guys Walsh could have taken.  Of the lottery picks remaining on the board at #6, Eric Gordon (chosen 7th, 14.98 rookie PER), Brook Lopez (chosen 10th, 17.94 rookie PER), and Anthony Randolph (chosen 14th, 16.94 rookie PER and an absolute monster of a summer league) have looked the most promising thus far.

    However, simply lining Gallo up against these three doesn’t quite create a proper lens for evaluating Walsh’s choice.  Looking back through Chad Ford’s archives reminds us that Gordon and Joe Alexander (chosen  8th, 10.19 rookie PER) were the two most likely Knicks picks had they passed on Gallinari, and the early returns suggest that Walsh may have dodged a bullet by passing on Alexander’s unique, but extremely raw, skill set.

    Grade: C-plus.  We all love Gallo and it’s tempting to give Walsh an incomplete here.  It’s also probably unfair to criticize Walsh for passing on Lopez and Randolph, as the former was universally regarded as low on upside and the latter as a potential bust.  Still, it’s impossible to ignore how well Gordon, Randolph, and Lopez would all fit into D’Antoni’s system, and one would be hard pressed to find a non-Knicks fan who would put an unproven 21-year-old who already has back problems on the same level as any of these three.  I think there are decent odds Gallinari will prove this grade wrong but at the moment this looks like an OK, but not great, pick.

    July 4, 2008: Walsh signed former Bulls PG Chris Duhon to a 2 year contract at the full mid-level ($12 million).  The price tag here looks high now, given the lower salaries being handed out this offseason and the incredibly frustrating second half to Duhon’s 2008-09 season.  Still, the Knicks have never minded paying out  luxury tax dollars and Walsh brought in a point guard who generally stays out of his own way and makes his teammates better on the offensive end.  If Duhon’s ability to create easy baskets can turn Curry into a tradable commodity this season (it’s a long shot, but hey, a guy can hope), it becomes a great signing.  Until then, Duhon is a player who doesn’t set his team back on the court, creates reps for a young core in need of development, and doesn’t set the franchise back in its hunt for prime talent in 2010.  Pretty good move for the mid-level in a lackluster free agent summer.

    Grade: B.

    November 21, 2008: Walsh put on his Kevin Pritchard hat for a day and swung two trades that cleared up $27 million in 2010 cap room.  In sending Zach Randolph to the Clippers and Jamal Crawford to the Warriors in exchange for a useful forward in Al Harrington, a useless forward in Tim Thomas, and a soon-to-retire combo guard in Cuttino Mobley, Walsh dismantled the slim playoff hopes of what was then an above-.500 team.  More importantly, however, he overhauled the team’s long term cap position, picked up a trade chip in Mobley’s tax-free contract, and rid the team of two shoot-first players who were almost certainly stunting the development of their younger, more promising counterparts.   A complete no-brainer.

    Grade: A-minus.  It’s a move any good GM would have made if it was available but, what can I say, it’s a good career move to succeed Isiah.

    February 19, 2009: An unstoppable force (the Bulls’ desire to trade Larry Hughes) met an immovable object (Jerome James’ contract) and the unstoppable force won as the Knicks flipped James and Tim Thomas for Hughes.  Largely seen as a garbage for garbage deal, the move was supposed to make the Knicks slightly better in the short run without helping or hurting their long-term cap situation and, mainly, sparing their fans the nightly sight of James smiling and joking around on the end of the bench during 20-point losses.  A mostly useless move in the long run and maybe a net negative, as Hughes took some minute that would likely have gone to Nate and Chandler otherwise.  Hughes also brought back some of the poor shot selection and general grumpiness that had mostly departed with Crawford and Stephon Marbury, respectively.  In the end, the trade’s impact, positive or negative, was minimal and we stopped having to listen to Jerome James jokes.

    Grade: C (in a one-credit class with little effect on overall GPA).

    Trade Deadline, 2009: The Knicks engaged in a well-chronicled negotiation with the Sacramento Kings, who asked for Nate Robinson and Jared Jeffries in exchange for Kenny Thomas’ soon-to-expire contract.  With the Knicks still loosely in playoff contention, Walsh turned down the offer and chose not to rid himself of the nearly $7 million committed to Jeffries in 2010.  A puzzling, disturbingly Isiah-esque move whose questionability has been compounded by the complete disinterest that Walsh has displayed in re-signing Nate this offseason.  If Robinson is truly so expendable, and it’s likely he is, then why endanger the future for only a few months of his services?  This inaction made little sense at the time and makes even less sense now.

    Grade: D-minus.

    2009 Draft, Lead-up: Another instance in which Walsh seemed to contradict his general mission statement of financial flexibility, as he reportedly rejected an offer of the #5 pick and some expiring contracts for Wilson Chandler, Jeffries, and Hughes.  This rumor always seemed a bit sketchy from the Wizards’ side, but if this offer was truly on the table, I can’t imagine Walsh’s resistance to it.  Trading Jeffries is a desirable goal, Hughes has no long-term value, and Chandler, while a promising young player, is more likely than not to become an effective wing who is generally indistinguishable from any number of other small forwards in the league.  The negligible , if even existent, talent drop off from Chandler to the #5 pick in the draft (which turned out to be Ricky Rubio, though no one would have guessed it at the time) seemed a small price to pay for the disposal of a considerable financial obstacle.

    Grade: D.  It’s worth noting that a few different versions of this trade were bouncing around during draft week, some of which would have been less of a windfall for the Knicks.  None of them, however, seemed particularly logical to reject as the Wizards displayed genuine interest in both Jeffries and Hughes.

    Draft Night, 2009: Walsh played the hand he was dealt at #8, picking Jordan Hill after watching Rubio and Stephen Curry disappear in rapid succession.  An uninspiring, but far from disastrous, summer league performance has left Hill as a general mystery to Knicks fans at this point, but he’s big and athletic and he got enough numbers in college (although his FG% leaves something to be desired, considering his layup-and-dunk-heavy shot selection) to suggest that he’ll be a useful role player at the worst.  Walsh’s bigger coup on draft night was the effective purchase of Toney Douglas’s draft rights from the Lakers, just the kind of low-risk, solid-upside maneuver that the Knicks never seem to make.  If Douglas develops into a serviceable back-up point guard with a jump shot and an above average defensive skill set, which seems likely, this pick is a success.

    In a final draft night move, Walsh acquired Darko Milicic from the Grizzlies by sending Quentin Richardson off on the first leg of his summer-long tour of NBA mediocrity.  Another low-risk move that might suit D’Antoni’s system well.  Given what he had to work with, a sound if unspectacular draft night for Walsh.

    Grade: B-plus for draft night in a vacuum.  However, if you consider that Walsh could have had Rubio or Curry at five had he made the Wizards trade, it’s a C-minus.

    Free Agency, 2009: I don’t know.  Do you?  I think Walsh was right not to pay for Iverson.  I would have loved a year or two of Nash at the mid-level, but I get the feeling that was never as close to a reality as we all were hoping.

    If Walsh wins his ongoing staring contest with Ramon Sessions (17.65 PER, 23 years old) and signs him for two years at a low 2010 cap number, it will be a way better long-term move than signing Jason Kidd (16.95 PER, 36 years old) would have been, as the Knicks will acquire a young, affordable point guard who can defer to his teammates and can wait until after the Knicks make their big free agent splash to receive his long-term payout.

    Additionally, Walsh has done well not to give in to unrealistic demands by either Lee or Robinson in a depressed market, but until their situations are resolved (ideally with Nate walking or taking a cheap one-year deal and Lee staying on for something near the mid-level), it’s hard to get a read on Walsh’s current plan or his level of confidence in the LeBron/Wade/Bosh sweepstakes next offseason.

    Grade: Incomplete.

    All told, Walsh’s tenure got off to a promising start but has suffered from several moments of seeming hesitance to take the final plunge and commit to any one comprehensive strategy.  Walsh has clearly leaned toward building for the future at the expense of the present, which is a welcome change from the Isiah era, but his unwillingness to part with anyone of value as a pot-sweetener in the unloading of bad contracts has stunted the Knicks progress toward an ideal 2010 cap situation.  As it stands, the team has a top-flight coach and more young talent and long-term financial flexibility than anyone could have realistically expected 16 months ago.  But one worries that Walsh has hedged his bets a bit too much and will fall short of a free agent jackpot next summer.

    Overall Grade: B

    Mock Three

    Since last we talked mock draft the Lakers dispatched with the Orlando Magic and the off-season has kicked into full gear. I was out of town on business and have thus pretty much missed basketball from the past week or so. I suppose that’s fortunate in some ways.

    I hope the third version of this mock is less impacted by the rumors, smokescreens, subterfuges, and misinformation that normally clouds my mocks this time of year. My gut tells me that this draft will be the 2006 draft (Bargnani, Aldridge, Morrison were the top 3) of 2009. There will be tons of busts, but a smart front office will be able to find good players late.

    Onto the picks…
    2009 Mock Draft, 3.0

    1. Clippers – Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma
    Nothing to see here. Moving right along.

    2. Grizzlies – Ricky Rubio, PG, Spain
    Poor Grizz. This isn’t the draft to have the #2 pick. I still say they’re looking to move this pick to someone who wants Rubio.

    3. Thunder – Hasheem Thabeet, C, UConn
    I don’t think Thabeet is a top three talent but this draft couldn’t have worked out any better for him. He’ll be an excellent defender and he can run the floor a bit. The Thunder don’t need another guy who needs the ball to be effective.

    4. Kings – James Harden, G, Arizona State
    I’m guessing the Kings just go best player available regardless of position. I think they wouldn’t mind getting out from under this pick.

    5. Wizards – Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona
    Hill will provide some rebounding and a big that runs the floor.

    6. Timberwolves – Tyreke Evans, G, Memphis
    It’s hard to know what Minny will do with a new management team and a lot of picks. Nothing they do would surprise. The 6-10 area just seems about when Evans should go off the board.

    7. Warriors – Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy
    The Warriors want no part of Jamal Crawford and don’t think Ellis can run the point. Jennings seems like the right fit for this group.

    8. Knicks – Stephen Curry, G, Davidson
    I just don’t know that there will be a big man available Walsh will like more than Curry. I suspect that a big man is probably the only real competition for Curry.

    9. Raptors – Jrue Holiday, G, UCLA
    Ultimately, defense, ball-handling, and floor vision will keep him in the league but Holiday is one of the biggest question marks in the draft.

    10. Bucks – DeJuan Blair, PF, Pittsburgh
    If Milwaukee takes Blair they’ll be putting together a nice little frontcourt.

    11. Nets – Demar DeRozan, SF, USC
    Lottery pick least likely to live up to expectations. What does he do?

    12. Bobcats – Austin Daye, F/C, Gonzaga
    I love this kid’s game and maturity but he may not be a player until he’s on his second contract (after he’s filled out a bit). He’s thinner than Anthony Randolph. Just let that roll around in your head for a bit.

    13. Pacers – Ty Lawson, PG, UNC
    I won’t be surprised to see him go higher in this draft. The way people dismiss his production doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not like Carolina does anything particularly unorthodox. They just play a fast pace.

    14. Suns – Jonny Flynn, PG, Syracuse
    Flynn is a pure point guard, yet I’m not crazy about his decision making.

    15. Pistons – Earl Clark, F, Louisville
    I hate his offense but Clark’s a very capable defender.

    16. Bulls – Gerald Henderson, G, Duke
    The Bulls have claimed that their top off-season priority is to re-sign Gordon. Mmm. Yeah.

    17. 76ers – Chase Budinger, G/F, Arizona
    Budinger is a nice fit for that roster, especially as a decision-maker should they lose Andre Miller.

    18. Timberwolves – B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State
    Given Al Jefferson’s health, this would be a decent gamble on size and provide some depth.

    19. Hawks – Sam Young, F, Pittsburgh
    Young would be a nice fit on Atlanta; a tough guy who can defend both forwards and hit an outside shot.

    20. Jazz – Tyler Hansborough, PF, UNC
    Hansborough is good value at this point in the draft. He’s going to rebound and run the floor and he’s developing a faceup jumper.

    21. Hornets – Jeff Teague, G, Wake Forest
    Teague would bring a bit of what Jannero Pargo did, for better or worse.

    22. Mavericks – Terrance Williams, G/F, Louisville
    Should Williams fall this far he’d be exactly what the doctor ordered Dallas: perimeter defense and depth.

    23. Kings – Eric Maynor, PG, VCU

    24. Trailblazers – James Johnson, F, Wake Forest
    Portland could really use someone that can score in the post–at least a little bit.

    25. Thunder – Darren Collison, PG, UCLA
    He’ll be a quality backup point in the league.

    26. Bulls – Nick Calathes, F, Florida (Greece)
    Somebody is going to select Calathes and hold onto his rights. Presumably it will be a team with multiple first rounders that has difficulty moving a late pick. Any number of these late picks may be guys already overseas who can be stashed away.

    27. Grizzlies – Wayne Ellington, G, UNC
    Right now he’s a one dimensional shooter with a long windup, but worth a late first round gamble.

    28. Timberwolves – Omri Casspi, F, Tel Aviv
    I’d be stunned if Minny keeps all its picks, but if it does I figure they’ll select Calathes or a player they can stash overseas.

    29. Lakers – Marcus Thornton, G, LSU
    Thornton is a potent offensive player and a solid rebounding guard who is better in short spurts because of his questionable shot selection.

    30. Cavaliers – DeMarre Carroll, F, Missouri
    I’m going out on a limb and saying that Mizzou’s version of the “Junk Yard Dog” works his way into the late first round. Carroll has Anderson Varajao’s energy as a combo forward. He’s really improved his jump shot. He has a high basketball IQ, and is a very good passer as well.

    Pre-Draft Camp Mock and Draft Thoughts Part II: L-O-T-T-O!

    If you haven’t already done so take a look at Part I, done prior to the lottery.

    Now that the ping pong balls have bounced, leaving our beloved Knickerbockers no better or worse off than they’d have been just based on record, I’ll re-work the lottery picks and post the remainder of this first round mock.

    1. LA Clippers – Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma: If Mike Dunleavy’s recent declaration of undying love for Blake Griffin is true then he’ll probably trade players to clear room for his new beloved. If it’s not true then the #1 pick may represent a rare opportunity to clean up a roster that is a mess, possibly in one fell swoop. (Previously: Ricky Rubio)

    2. Memphis – Ricky Rubio, PG, Spain: Choosing Rubio has its advantages, regardless of whether he wants to play in Memphis. His rights become an asset for the asset-starved Grizz. Even though Memphis should do this, no player in this draft generates more ambivalence for me than Rubio. The talent is evident, but there are lots of reasons it may not work out for the team that drafts him. (Previously: Demar DeRozan)

    3. Oklahoma City – Hasheem Thabeet, C, UConn: Thabeet may be a one-trick pony but his trick is precisely what OKC needs. He’s a defensive anchor, with a decent shot at becoming a more athletic Mutombo. The downside is that he will probably never be even an average offensive player. But, in this draft there’s something to be said for being fairly certain of a player’s “floor”. (Previously: Brandon Jennings)

    4. Sacramento – Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy: Sactown will most likely take the best PG left on the board. I suspect Rubio would prefer Sactown over Memphis, and perhaps a deal can be struck. (Previously: Blake Griffin)

    5. Washington – Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona: The Wiz is the team I think most likely to deal its pick. If they keep it they’ll be looking for depth that could help in a pinch, but with some upside. Hill is a lot like Chris Wilcox. (Previously: Hasheem Thabeet)

    6. 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 also be Hill, Jennings, DeRozan, or Lawson. Almost literally nothing they do would surprise me, which I hope they interpret as a challenge. (Previously: Evans)

    7. Golden State – James Harden, G, Arizona State: I’ve loved to watch this kid play since he was a junior in high school. To me he’s the 6’5″ Paul Pierce. Other mocks have him higher right now, but I expect that on draft night he’ll slide in between 5 and 8. (Previously: Jordan Hill)

    8. New York – Ty Lawson, G, UNC: I almost pulled the trigger on Lawson in the previous version. Now that I think Nate Robinson most likely will be signed-and-traded this July, Lawson becomes a better fit. He used to be just a fly-down-the floor guard (and frankly, there is something to be said for that) but his screen roll game has really evolved. I expect him to shine in workouts. He may be this year’s Westbrook–an already well-regarded player who vaults up the board based on superior workouts. Oh, and I really hope Walsh can find a 2nd round pick this year. This draft has some potentially very useful role players. (Previously: James Harden)

    9. Toronto – Stephen Curry, G, Davidson: Is it possible to NOT love Steph Curry’s game? He fits Toronto like a glove, even down to his weaknesses (i.e., lateral quickness, overall athleticism, defense). He’s also the right kid to play outside the lower 48. This is a makes-too-much-sense-NOT-to-happen move if Curry is available. (Previously: Stephen Curry)

    10. Milwaukee – Dejaun Blair, PF/C, Pittsburgh: Blair’s rebounding and long arms may get him to the top ten. (Previously: Ty Lawson)

    11. New Jersey – Demar DeRozan, SF, USC: I think DeRozan is the biggest gamble this draft. It’s just not clear if he’s really good at anything yet. Add to that, he may be leaving town one step ahead of the sheriff with allegations of payola hanging over Tim Floyd at USC. Having said that, I’d honestly be a bit surprised if someone doesn’t pull the trigger on him earlier. (Previously: Jeff Teague)

    12. Charlotte – Gerald Henderson, SG, Duke: With Larry Brown making personnel decisions, there is simply no way to anticipate what he’ll do. What I can probably write down is “scrappy, hard-nosed defender with a high basketball IQ” and just wait to fill in the name. I like Henderson as a solid sixth man who plays both ends. (Previously: Gerald Henderson)

    13. Indiana – Jrue Holiday, G, UCLA: Holiday was probably among the most shocked when Darren Collison return to UCLA for his senior season. That moved Holiday to SG, where he struggled playing limited minutes out of position for a team with a style that doesn’t exactly fit his strengths. I’m not an “everyone should play one year!” guy, but Holiday should go back to school for another year. He’d definitely move to PG this year and could vault himself into the top 5 of next year’s draft. He may yet do so in this draft based on workouts, but the new format doesn’t allow as many chances for teams to see players as in the past. As of this writing he hasn’t hired an agent, but everything I have read suggests that he’s in the draft to stay. (Previously: Earl Clark)

    14. Phoenix – Johnny Flynn, PG, Syracuse: The rumor mill says that Phoenix likes him. We’ll take that as a baseline pick. (Previously: Johnny Flynn)

    15. Detroit – Earl Clark, F, Louisville: I am not a fan of Clark’s offensive game, particularly shot selection, but he’s a good defender. (Previously: Wayne Ellington)

    Once we get out of the lottery, beauty will be in the eye of the beholder. I expect trades galore and one or two “who the hell is that guy!?” selections as well.

    16. Chicago – Jeff Teague, G, Wake Forest: Teague is an undersized SG, a high-usage player both years at Wake but improved his TS% from 59% to 62% almost exclusively by getting to the line. He looks like Ben Gordon with a clue.

    17. Philadelphia – Chase Budinger, SG/SF, Arizona: I posted a fairly extensive take on him at Arizona Desert Swarm. At this point in the draft he’s a bargain as a 6th or 7th man. It’s also worth noting that Philadelphia currently puts absolute blechhh! on the floor at SG.

    18. Minnesota – BJ Mullens, C, Ohio State: This would be a reasonable gamble on size, athleticism, and potential in the high teens.

    19. Atlanta – Terrance Williams, SG/SF, Louisville: Like his Cardinal counterpart, Williams brings much more to the floor in defense and other areas unrelated to scoring. For its part Atlanta doesn’t need another mouth to feed on offense. Williams could bring back a little of what they miss since Josh Childress left for Greece.

    20. Utah – Sam Young, SF, Pittsburgh: He plays a similar game to Matt Harpring; a little jump shot and a lot of bruises.

    21. New Orleans – Marcus Thornton, SG, LSU: I’m not a huge fan of Thorton as a playmaker, where he was often miscast in college. As the new (better) Janero Pargo I like him a lot better.

    22. Dallas – James Johnson, F, Wake Forest: I think the Mavs take the most athletic front court player they can find at 22.

    23. Sacramento – Tyler Hansborough, PF, North Carolina: Hansborough isn’t a first or even second option in the NBA, but he will rebound, run the floor, get to the line, and should be a decent pick and pop player. DraftExpress’ comparison to Luis Scola sounds about right.

    24. Portland – Jermaine Taylor, SG, Central Florida: What Portland needs is a slashing small forward to better compliment Roy, but they won’t get one unless they trade. They’ll probably end up moving this pick, but if not Taylor is a player that could develop into the kind of slasher they need.

    25. Oklahoma City – Darren Collison, PG, UCLA: He would join former backcourt mate Westbrook, and projects to a very solid backup PG.

    26. Chicago – DaJaun Summers, SF, Georgetown: Gamble on upside.

    27. Memphis – Wayne Ellington, SG, UNC

    28. Minnesota – Eric Maynor, G, VCU

    29. LA Lakers – Jodie Meeks, G, Kentucky

    30. Cleveland – Gani Lawal, PF, Georgia Tech

    Note: Austin Daye would definitely be in the first round, but right now I am unsure about whether he’ll return to Gonzaga. I hope he does. I love his game. He just needs to put on some muscle.

    Pre-Draft Camp Mock and Draft Thoughts Part I: The Top 15

    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