Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Early NBA Draft Lottery Mock

1 Los Angeles Clippers
Blake Griffin could not have landed in a better position, as he preps to play for a major market team with a veteran PG (Baron Davis), plenty of special young talents (Eric Gordon, Al Thornton), and a couple established big men to teach him how to buckle down on the block (Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman). If they're smart, they'll get rid of Zach Randolph ASAP - he's a bad influence both on and off the court, but even if he should encroach on BG's development, at least the Clippers know they don't have another Kandi Man on their hands.

2 Memphis Grizzlies
Shockingly, Memphis has a very neat lineup set for the next few years, with Conley (10.9-4.3) at the point, Mayo (18.5-3.2) at the 2, Rudy Gay (18.5-5.5) at the swing, Hakim Warrick (11.6-5) at the 4, and Marc Gasol (11.9-7.4) down low. There isn't much toughness to speak of in that lineup, but their most dire need lies at the point, where a mid-season trade sent a promising Kyle Lowry to Houston and left 21-year old starter Conley without a backup. There has been much talk of the Grizz dealing him, and even if that never comes to fruitition, having Spanish gem Ricky Rubio would make for a nice safety net, because I can promise you no set of guards in the Association will ever look forward to a date with a guard rotation of Conley, Rubio and Mayo.

3 Oklahoma City Thunder
There isn't a more perfect fit in this draft. The Thunder have enough young stars dying to get their shots as it is, and their only real hole is at the center position. Hasheem Thabeet would be asked to do nothing more than block as many shots as possible and rebound like a fiend, which suits his game, and the Thunder's style, just fine.

4 Sacramento Kings
The Kings' top 5 scorers in the 2008-09 campaign were all over 6-7, which suggests they're certainly leaning towards going small on draft night. With Beno Udrih locked in at the point, Arizona State All-American James Harden would be a perfect fit alongside bonafide star Kevin Martin. Harden, unlike fellow lottery-hopeful SG's Tyreke Evans and DeMar DeRozan, is ready to contribute immediately, something the league-worst Kings will undoubtedly have in mind when they pick fifth.

5 Washington Wizards
This is the pick that will most drastically alter the course of the draft. Expecting to be in a position to at least draft Ricky Rubio, the commanding PG they've been without since Rod Strickland departed for Portland in 2001, the Wizards instead find themselves in a major bind. In an attempt to make up for the gap between picks 2 and 5, they might do something irresponsibly brash and take a DeRozan or a Holiday in the hopes of striking gold - that would be an irreparable mistake. Still in need of a PG, I see North Carolina product Ty Lawson as the perfect fit. Many will suggest they draft Brandon Jennings, but I just don't see the trigger-happy, exceptionally immature Jennings lasting more than a week with Arenas, Butler and Jamison, all of whom demand at least 16 shots per game. Lawson is exceedingly unselfish, poised, always under control...and, oh yeah - he's a champion. That's the type of player the Wizards need right now.

6 Minnesota Timberwolves
If I hadn't already made this clear, let me reiterate: I am not a fan of Brandon Jennins. I don't ever see a team winning with him, and I wouldn't draft him if he inexplicably dropped to 53. But in this case I'm thinking as I suspect the T-Wolves GM might think, and I think he's thinking he needs a PG to spice up a squad that, despite having a couple talented low-post players in Al Jefferson and Kevin Love, looks to be the Western Conference's punching bag for the next few years. And, well, If you need spice, Jennings is you're boy, and he'll make this team very hard to manhandle.

7 Golden State Warriors
The Warriors, like the Wizards, are chock full of born scorers who want nothing less than a young stud stealing their shots. This team needs a player like Jordan Hill, a real bruiser who can run with the guards and put a body on the opposition's bigs. Hill is not yet a proven scorer, and being on a team like the Warriors where he won't be expected to produce immediately on the offensive end will help him in the long run.

8 New York Knicks
There's been speculation in the media that the Knicks have promised to select Stephen Curry, my favorite player in this draft, at #8. I don't know that he'll make it that far - I think Sacramento and Minnesota will definitely have him in mind even as their clock winds down - and they're no way he's slipping any lower. I've never seen anyone like him in college, and he may well be the player that revives the Knicks, a challenge that I'm sure he'll welcome with open arms.

9 Toronto Raptors
Memphis combo guard Tyreke Evans and USC swingman DeMar DeRozan have already begun battling for the right to become the Toronto Raptors SG of the future. Anthony Parker worked out well for a few years, but this team has big plans, with Chris Bosh entering his prime, former #1 pick Andrea Bargnani finally playing close to his potential, and PG Jose Calderon arguably the most efficient player in the league (4.2 A/TO, 98.1% FT). Evans is the dynamic guard who, despite leaving after his freshman season, has the appearance of a seasoned pro, leading Memphis to a 35-4 record last year, and seems to me to be a real difference maker, not just a potential pick.

10 Milwaukee Bucks
There's no getting around it: the Milwaukee Bucks are a boring, boring team that really nobody wants to watch. That could easily change in the coming months, though, should the Bucks select an exciting PG with the potential to turn this team upside down and justly complement the fine talents of Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson and Andrew Bogut. Syracuse PG Johnny Flynn is that player, a surprisingly mature spark plug who could one day become a force in the league. I really like him here.

11 New Jersey Nets
As my dad, a lifelong Nets fan pointed out, this up-and-coming NJ team is one player able to set a rock hard pick for Devin Harris away form contending in the East, and I think he'd surely agree that Pitt PF/C Dejuan Blair is that player. The Nets have gone after pure rebounders in the past with Josh Boone and Sean Williams, but neither had Blair's pedigree, his winner's mentality or his smooth 16-foot J. He's the blue-collar big man who will make Harris' and Vince Carter's lives a lot easier as they prepare to make their first run since JKidd's departure.

12 Charlotte Bobcats
For probably the first time in franchise history, the Bobcats, coming off their best season in franchise history, don't feel the weight of the world resting on their lottery pick. With two franchise PGs (Raymond Felton and D.J. Augustin) and a couple other stars worth mentioning in Gerald Wallace and Emeka Okafor, the Bob Johnson Cats can rest easy and take a player such as Louisville's Earl Clark, a swingman with the potential to play 4 positions and will eventually contribute, for he has all the tools and experience you could hope for picking at this spot.

13 Indiana Pacers
I'm not the biggest James Johnson fan, but I feel he fits in really well here, on team whose tallest starter is 6-10 with the rest standing 6-8 or below. Johnson is versatile on both ends of the floor, and would likely get some run on a smallish team such as this.

14 Phoenix Suns
Considering the success Rajon Rondo (the 21st overall pick by Phoenix in 2006) is having in Boston, one thing's for sure: the Suns certainly aren't selling this pick. Not only does Chase Budinger fully deserve to be drafted in the lottery due to his commitment to improving his game on the college level even after being projected a top-10 pick after his freshman and sophomore seasons. Budinger's versatile offensive game and superior athleticism should allow him to fit in fine in Phoenix.

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