Thursday, May 21, 2009

What of 15-30? Early First Round Projections

The lottery comprises less than 1/2 of the NBA draft's first round. As of now, here's how I see the rest of the picks falling:

15 Detroit Pistons
Soon enough, the Pistons, who already rue the day they dealt Chauncey Billups to Denver, will be in need of a PG more than any team in the league. Virginia Commonwealth product Eric Maynor is a perfect fit due to his ideal size (6-3/185), extraordinary experience, stat-stuffing potential (22.4-6.2-3.6 as a senior). With Rip, Prince and 'Sheed not getting any younger, the Pistons will look for someone who can contribute immediately, and Maynor would make an ideal backcourt mate for future star Rodney Stuckey.

16 Chicago Bulls
With Ben Gordon ready to test the free agent waters, and a plethora of promising young big men, the Bulls will take a good long look at this year's fruitful guard crop, likely leaning towards USC swingman DeMar DeRozan, who could become one half of the most athletic backcourt in the league when paired with ROY Derrick Rose.

17 Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers have a great young core (Iguodala, Young, Williams, Speights) and a couple veterans who still really produce (Miller, Brand). In short, they have no visible holes at this point, but could still use a good shooter to offset the many guards who rely heavily on their athleticism to score. I like the 2009 NCAA Final Four MOP Wayne Ellington here.

18 Minnesota Timberwolves
The Wolves sadly struck out with promising swingman Corey Brewer, it seems, and while Ryan Gomes is a serviceable SF, I don't see him playing a prominent role their future plans. The versatile, experienced Sam Young doesn't have the upside that Brewer had entering the draft, but he certainly doesn't have his downside, either.

19 Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks are a major anomaly in the world of drafting, as they have a knack for expertly cultivating raw talents (Martin Williams, Josh Smith) and wasting proven NCAA superstars (Acie Law, Shelden Williams, though they got it right with Al Horford). Gonzaga forward Austin Daye, projected as the #1 pick in this draft when he entered college by, could benefit from Atlanta's propensity for making unproven prospects into well-rounded ballplayers.

20 Utah Jazz
Boasting arguably the least intimidating bench in the league, Utah is in dire need of a scorer who Kobe can't afford to guard with 10 feet of separation between (I'm talking to you, Ronnie...). Marcus Thornton, who, when on, is the best scorer in this class (21.1 ppg), is a perfect fit. He would add some much-needed firepower to this deflated second unit.

21 New Orleans Hornets
CP3 has probably spent the last three seasons dreaming of having an ally in the backcourt who could scare the defense a little bit and relieve the pressure of organizing the offense every possession. Gerald Henderson's athleticism and constantly improving shot would finally give the second best PG from the 2005 draft class a fellow guard to complement his tremendous skill.

22 Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs might just as well face the fact that most of them are just a bunch of pansies, Nowitzki excluded, of course, who don't want to play defense and chuck the ball. Terrence Williams , arguably the most well-rounded player in the draft (12.5-8.6-5 and 2.3 spg), would add some toughness and unselfishness to this spoiled, slowly regressing team.

23 Sacramento Kings
As I noted earlier, this team has two very good young big men (Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson), and their top 5 scorers are 6-7+, so they should look to go small with their 2nd pick as well (I have them taking Harden 4th overall). Jodie Meeks is a dynamite scorer, arguably the best in this class, and his refined, NBA-ready game would benefit the woeful Kings immediately.

24 Portland Trailblazers
The best drafting team in the league over the past 4 seasons is also exceptionally deep, so they can afford to make a potential pick and maybe stock him overseas for a year or two. 6-10 forward Victor Claver has long been projected to be a first-rounder, and he could be a nice backup to Travis Outlaw at the 3.

25 Oklahoma City Thunder
Which brings me to my 4th favorite player in this draft: St. Mary's PG Patrick "Patty" Mills. The first time I saw Mills play, in a game against Gonzaga, in which he scored 18 in the first half and then got injured, I was stunned like I can't ever remember being. As a backup to Westbrook, or the starter at the helm of this exceedingly talented young team, he's a great fit.

26 Chicago Bulls
The Bulls have essentially no holes, so they can take a chance on UCLA PG/SG Jrue Holiday, who made one of the most bone-headed decision to enter of any player in this draft, but is still quite talented and a respectable defender.

27 Memphis Grizzlies
Hakim Warrick has slowly regressed in each of the last three seasons, meaning the Grizz might be looking for a change of scenery at the 4. Jeff Adrien's toughness (9.9 rpg) would nicely complement Gasol down low, and Memphis' front line a little more intimidating.

28 Minnesota Timberwolves
In letting go of Rashad McCants, the T-Wolves let go of one of their best shooters and weapons off the pine. Florida State G Toney Douglas could average 15 ppg with enough playing time, for he's a real scorer, and true scorers don't tend to lose much in the transition from NCAA to the L.

29 Los Angeles Lakers
LA has seemingly 4 good players at every position except at PF and C, where they might be hurt even more over the summer should Lamar Odom, one of their key big men who excels at post defense, leave as a free agent. Gani Lawal is a little short (6-9/235) to be a fill-in for Gasol or Bynum, but his top-shelf athleticism, 7-foot wingspan, and 1.5 bpg suggest otherwise.

30 Cleveland Cavaliers
3-time Final 4 vet Darren Collison could be the true backup PG the Cavs have been without for far too long.

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