Saturday, June 20, 2009
THE 2009 NBA Draft Preview
This is not a mock draft. This is the tuesday before the draft, the last possible day for me to churn something of depth out before the crazy, supposed "promises" to players start hurdling out and the player pool gets one big shake-up, highlighted by sure-seeming trades and buyout controveries. This is my getting a feeling for the draft and who each team will take. I'll post a rather bland looking mock hopefully a couple hours before the draft takes place.
1. Los Angeles Clippers
The question concerning the #1 pick in this year's draft is not who the Clippers will pick, but what kind of impact Oklahoma PF Blake Griffin will make, and how the team will change to accommodate him.
2. Memphis Grizzlies
I think Ricky Rubio is a better fit here, but the Grizz are supposedly enamored of Hasheem Thabeet, who would comprise the best combo of young bigs in the league when paired with sophomore Marc Gasol. Playing alongside the offensive-minded Gasol would mean Thabeet wouldn't have to take it upon himself to score, and focus more on defending the hole while he gets comfortable scoring on bigger and more skilled NBA defenders...but unfortunately, Thabeet is not enamored of them. I think the likeliest scenario here is that the Timberwolves trade up to acquire him or Rubio and reluctantly let go of Kevin Love.
3. Oklhoma City Thunder
The Thunder would love to draft a big man who actually likes to play inside, but seeing as this is the shallowest class of centers and power forwards in memory, they'll likely scoop up Arizona State All-American James Harden, who they believe will mesh nicely with Russell Westbrook in the backcourt, and act as a solid distraction for opposing defenses that aim to swarm Kevin Durant night in and night out. I believe that what this team needs most is a point guard, but apparently they're set on Westbrook, who's reportedly warning them not to draft another one. Still, don't be shocked if they scoop up Ricky Rubio - or Thabeet, is he's available - and accept Westbrook's displeasure as a casualty of moving this team forward.
4. Sacramento Kings
Beno Udrih proved to be serviceable, but Ricky Rubio is a franchise-type talent that a team as desperate as Sacramento can't afford to pass up on. Rubio's playmaking ability and uninhibited flash will be welcomed with open arms by a team that was stomped on, by even the dregs of the Western Conference, for the entirety of the 2008-09 season. Adding a true scorer to relieve the pressure on star Kevin Martin would be nice, but Rubio is the best fit. Should they back off in fear, though, considering the possibility that the Spanish-speaking teenager is not yet equipped to run a 17-65 team, they might turn towards the experienced Johnny Flynn, the even more experienced Stephen Curry, or the more versatile Tyreke Evans.
5. Washington Wizards
This is the pick that will decide that will most radically alter the draft, from the 6th pick on down through the early second round. Because I can't possibly organize my thoughts well enough on this matter to write a coherent paragraph, I'll just have to break down the prospects they're most seriously considering - all five of them - and hope that something comes of this.
Jordan Hill - Scouts and websites love him here, but he doesn't make as much sense as a point guard. He could get some run with the Wizards chaotic lineup, but seeing as they've gotten surpsingly solid production out of young bigs Andray Blatche and Javale McGee - with Oleksiy Pecherov in waiting - I have trouble seeing them adding Hill to that rotation.
Stephen Curry - The Wizards' opinion of my second favorite player in the draft depends on how they think he would mesh with Gilbert Arenas. Neither is a true point guard, and starting two offense-minded combo guards might prove disastrous for Washington, which has great chemistry when Arenas, Jamison and Butler are all healthy.
Tyreke Evans - The same can be said about Evans, though he's more versatile than Curry and probably more unselfish. That's not to say he's better, but I think he's a slightly better fit. Keep in mind this team has Nick Young at the 2 as well, so a combo guard, despite his worth, might be out of the question entirely.
Johnny Flynn - I love him here. His ability to run a team from, and only from, the point guard position would do wonders for this team which is occasionally out of whack when Gilbert tries to make everything happen bringing the ball up court.
Ricky Rubio - If he falls to 5, he's not falling any further.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves
Tragically, it appears that Stephen Curry will not become a Knick - at least not on draft day. Without a venerable offensive threat to draw defenses away from powerhouse Al Jefferson, the Wolves will certainly be hunting for a guard, and Curry is their man. Having Randy Foye and Sebastian Telfair on board means Curry won't necessarily have to run the point from day 1, as he adapts to the professional game and settles in. This situation was complicated slightly, though, by a massive PG workout that saw Tyreke Evans possibly steal their hearts (Curry had canceled a week prior), and Flynn, Ty Lawson and Brandon Jennings impress in their own ways (Jrue Holiday, predictably, was not in the same galaxy as these guys). Despite these last lunges, Curry's their man.
7. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have a terribly difficult decision to make here. By all accounts this team is in need of a true point guard, but Monta Ellis is intent on ensuring that he's the only floor general in town, despite his performing much better when he has someone to set him up and create, a la Baron Davis. Should the Warriors heed this threat, their man is Jordan Hill, who would add muscle inside to nicely complement Andris Biedrins, run the floor with the guards, and develop at a more comfortable rate as there will be less pressure for him to produce on the offensive end. And yet another problem presents itself: the Warriors last two lottery picks were Brandan Wright ('07) and Anthony Randolph ('08), both of whom showed flashes of their enormous potential last season and could still become stars - and they're both 6-10 forwards, just like Hill. I see Johnny Flynn as the best fit here - he was born to run this offense - but the Warriors, to their credit, have been great about not letting anything on.
8. New York Knicks
Hungering for a point guard for the future, which Chris Duhon, though serviceable, cetainly ain't, the Knicks won't be able to pass one up this year, drafting in the top ten in a deep PG class. Johnny Flynn, with his playmaking ability, 40" inch vertical and toughness, is a perfect fit. There's been talk of Jrue Holiday, but I think the Knicks are just too smart for that, as they not only want somebody who can competently play the game, but will be ready to contribute, and who can be used as bait when LeBron James becomes a free agent in '010. And you thought that 6OT game was the last of the memorable moments Flynn would have at MSG...
9. Toronto Raptors
Anthony Parker performed admirably for the Raptors in his tenure over the past few seasons, but its come time to replace him. DeMar DeRozan would be a nice fit in the Raptors offense, and best of all, he wouldn't have to start right away, and could soon fill out a dynamite backcourt with the inhumanly efficient Jose Calderon. Similarly, Duke off-guard Gerald Henderon fits the mold as well, and DeRozan's aversion to playing in Canada might encourage them to go with the more manageable of the two.
10. Milwaukee Bucks
Hoping against hope for the opportunity to draft Johnny Flynn, the Bucks pick will inevitably come down to whether they choose to keep PG Ramon Sessions or Charlie Villanueva. It appears that they're more eager to dispose of Villanueva, but because they're less likely to find a replacement for him, with Jordan Hill assumedly off the board, they may have no choice but to go small. Ty Lawson makes sense here, and though they supposedly are high on Jeff Teague, I doubt they have the guts to take him this high. Earl Clark and James Johnson are real sleepers here.
11. New Jersey Nets
The Nets have apparently narrowed it down to Tyler Hansbrough and Terrence Williams, but you've got to think others are still in the mix, as neither of those two are really expected to be lottery picks. Hansbrough makes sense, as playing alongside Lopez would mean his size and athleticism, though he measured better than expected, would not be so much of a factor, and his intensity and love for the game ensure that he wouldn't have the same debilitaitng mindset as Josh Boone or Sean Williams. Terrence Williams is hard to figure, seeing as they have Ryan Anderson and Yi at SF, both of whom appear to have a future in this league, and Bobby Simmons and Jarvis Hayes locked down for at least another year. Don't be surprised if they take a chance on the potentially injured Dajuan Blair, who would add muscle to a relatively weak front line.
12. Charlotte Bocats
Scouts and analysts across the board are projecting a SG here, but I just don't see it, as they have a very solid guard rotation in Felton-Bell-Augustin, and no true PF to aid Okafor in the post (Diaw is more of a SG than a big man). NBADraft.net, Draft Express and ESPN all vote Gerald Henderson, but we here at NBAnalysis feel that Dajuan Blair should be their main target.
13. Indiana Pacers
Brandon Jennings is a plausible choice here - NBADraft.net, Draft Express and ESPN all agree - but the Pacers, who got an astonishing 31.7 ppg in PG production last season from the combination of T.J. Ford, Jarret Jack and Travis Diener, don't appear too desperate for another point man. Admittedly in search of an athletic big man to pair with Troy Murphy down low, we could see Dajuan Blair, or even Earl Clark set Jennings back even further.
14. Phoenix Suns
What'll it be? A PG for the future? A more athletic wing player? A big man to platoon with the oft-injured Amare and Shaq, who may soon be gone? Any way you slice it, the Suns need depth, and fast, as this team might be utterly unrecognizable in a couple years. Earl Clark seems to be the best fit to me, though he's eerily similar to Boris Diaw, whom they threw tens of millions at and then shipped off soon after, recognizing their failure. I think this is going to boil down to a dogfight between Ty Lawson , Eric Maynor, Brandon Jennings, and Jrue Holiday to become Nash's apprentices, though they'll strongly consider the versatility James Johnson offers at the forward position.
15. Detroit Pistons
There's been talk of a promise to B.J. Mullens, which in most cases would sound preposterous - he's the least NBA-ready prospect - but a franchise such as this, in the midst of a massive overhaul, can afford to take the plunge. Should they come to their senses, though, Earl Clark would be a great fit.
16. Chicago Bulls
Fearing Ben Gordon's departure, the Bulls will likely target an off-guard, such as Gerald Henderson or Chase Budinger, and are even considering dealing their two first round picks - #16 and #26 - to the Nets for pick #11. A big man capable of banging inside like Dajuan Blair or Tyler Hansbrough is also a pressing need.
17. Philadelpiha 76ers
This forward-heavy Philly team's outside shooting woes might be eased by the arrival of Jason Kapono, but they're still in search of a guard who can shoot the rock. Chase Budinger and Wayne Ellington fit that description to a T, and Ty Lawson's name has popped up in discussions as a possible successor to Andre Miller.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves
In search of depth in the backcourt, the Wolves will likely target the 'supposedly' versatile Jrue Holiday, who's 'supposed' ability to run a team will be key, especially should they trade up for Thabeet and remain saddled with Sebastian Telfair at the point.
19. Atlanta Hawks
With Bibby set to become a free agent and Acie Law not performing up to snuff, expect the Hawks to go small or reach for a big man to eventually supplant ZaZa Pachulia down low. Jeff Teague would make sense even if they do decide to keep Law on board, and Victor Claver, though more of a finesse type, could provide immediate assistance.
20. Utah Jazz
Pining for a someone who can come off the bench and score points, especially with Kyle Korver prepping to test free agent waters and Paul Millsap gearing up for a starting role should Carlos Boozer depart, the Jazz will look for a scorer with this pick. LSU's Marcus Thornton, one of the best scorers in this draft class when he's feeling it, might be the answer, as could Chase Budinger, who's ever-improving stroke and dynamic offensive game undoubtedly appeal to the Jazz.
21. New Orleans Hornets
It will either be a SG or a SF for the hornets, as Rasual Butler is struggling to justify playing next to CP3 and Peja continues to wrestle with injuries. They're said to be very high on local product Marcus Thornton, who would be an ideal fit, but the potential of a guy like Austin Daye will be hard to ignore.
22. Dallas Mavericks
Of deep concern in Dallas is the team's point guard situation, as many experts speculate that Kidd won't play another full season in Big D, which would leave J.J. Barea, who's much more effective off the bench, in control of the team. You couldn't blame them for drafting Eric Maynor , but the defensive toughness and leadership chops UCLA point man Darren Collison would bring to the table should be even more enticing.
23. Sacramento Kings
In need of another impact guard but also without any real post presence outside of starters Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes, the Kings will consider a host of big men with their second selection, with James Johnson, Taj Gibson, and Jeff Pendergraph at the top.
24. Portland Trailblazers
You never know what Portland will do on draft day, but you can be sure that whatever they will do will be genius. In the enviable position of laying back and drafting the best player available, the Blazers will still target a SG, as Martell Webster missed the entire '08-09 season, and Toney Douglas of FSU would be a nice addition.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder
This team is drafting a PG whether Russell Westbrook likes it or not, meaning you can expect Patty Mills, Darren Collison and the L-ready A.J. Price to get equal consideration here.
26. Chicago Bulls
Chi-Town's stacked from PG-SF, and though they could use a little bit of help down low, they'll opt to go small again in this weak big man class. I like Sam Young as an immediate contributor, especially with Luol Deng's future up in the air.
27. Memphis Grizzlies
You've got a real problem on your hands when you only have one PG on your depth chart, and he's awful young and inconsistent. I hope GM Chris Wallace loves Patty Mills as much as I do.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves
Odds are the Wolves aren't going to keep three first round picks. Should that be the case, they can take Rodrigue Beaubois and stock him overseas.
29. Los Angeles Lakers
With no holes to fill, the defending champs take the best player available and steal the highly-regarded Israeli swingman Omri Casspi.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs will probably be focusing more of their energy on the draft than any team that's ever picked last before, as they're desperate for an impact player to liven James' confidence in their front office even the slightest bit, which means going with a more experienced talent. I love Jodie Meeks, who proved to be capable of putting up 40, or even 50 points on any night, and whose silky smooth J should translate fine to the NBA. Taj Gibson would make a fine complement to Ilgauskas down low - they're dying for a reliable post scorer - and Toney Douglas, who drove every ACC team nuts, could be of use right away.