Replace “Georgia Tech” with “New Jersey” and next fall is closer than you think.
So… Hey guys. Remember that piece I did a week ago? About that Kentucky point guard who was pretty good? Please forget all of that. I hear he’s going to bust. He’s no good. Too turnover prone, too interested in highlight reels, and no amount of cleansing can get John Calipari’s stink off you.
Man, I wish I could believe that.
I was planning on doing an exciting, awesome mock draft where I could put the words “1. New Jersey: John Wall, PG, Kentucky,” and then just laugh jubilantly with the future of our team in mind. But alas, my dreams are for naught, lost in an alternate universe where having a 25% chance and the fact that the Washington franchise is a miserable excuse for a team with no future and who traded away their star player for peanuts at the deadline and had two players brought up on gun charges actually matters. Excuse me while I go shoot myself instead. Actually, Washington could help me with that. Anyone seen Gilbert around?
Anyway, without further ado, the first of my weekly updated mock drafts. You’ll be seeing a different one of these every Wednesday, and while the first couple will only be the top 14, by the end we’ll have expanded to the entire first round (and the Nets pick at 31).
1. Washington Wizards: John Wall, PG, Kentucky. I’m close to throwing my computer, but unfortunately for us Nets fans Wall is a perfect fit in Washington. They’re a team in dire need of a friendly face and a point guard who isn’t interested in guns. Plus, Wall is long enough to guard 2’s, which means that they can play him and Arenas together and not suffer on defense. After the lottery, I spent two hours thinking of potential trades that the Nets could offer (Yi+3+27 for 1? Harris+3 for 1+filler? 20% of Onexim for #1 and Javaris Crittenton’s criminal record?) but frankly I just don’t see it happening. Damnit, John Wall. I hope you enjoy four years being surrounded by mediocrity.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Evan Turner, SG/SF, Ohio State. Just so we’re clear, there’s no doubt in my mind that Turner is the #2 player in this draft. These two picks are the easiest 1-and-2 since LeBron and Carmelo. (Wait, Carmelo wasn’t #2? Wait, who did Larry Brown take? Draco who? Whoops. We’ll just pretend that never happened.) The only issue with this is that the Sixers may be concerned with how Turner complements Andre Iguodala (a player with a similar skill set and half the potential upside), but honestly Philadelphia doesn’t seem sold on A.I. and Turner will likely end up a much better player. On the flip side, my friend David (a Philadelphia native) texted me this after the lottery: “If it makes you feel any better, Evan Turner is exactly the type of player that Sixers fans would run out of town for no good reason.” Right you are, David. Right you are.
3. New Jersey Nets: Derrick Favors, PF, Georgia Tech. A guy who fits all of Thorn’s qualifications, Favors is the biggest question mark of the top 4. Not because he’s not talented, but because unlike the other three we just don’t know how talented he is. Here’s what we do know: he’s got great size, great length, runs the floor like a deer, is an excellent defender at the college level, has a decent midrange game and can finish at the basket at an extremely high rate of efficiency. What we don’t know is just how well Favors can play with a backcourt that knows how to create for their bigs. (Sorry Iman Shumpert, but there’s a reason you’ll go undrafted. Well, actually, there are like 100. But that’s a big one.) Watching him struggle against teams like Duke & Georgia, it was clear that he wasn’t the problem. He was working his butt off, and somehow Georgia Tech failed to recruit one guy who can throw a decent entry pass or set up someone on the post effectively. Near the end of the season, Favors was finally able to break out, averaging 15.8 points and 9.1 boards on 64% shooting and 78% from the line over his last 10 games. None of this was thanks to his team. (I have dreams where i imagine Derrick Favors on Kentucky playing with John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. That team would never lose. Ever. & yes, I dream about college basketball. I’m not weird, I swear.) I’d be happy with either Cousins or Favors here, but right now I think we’ll see Derrick in a Nets uniform next year.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves: PF/C DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky. This team will HAVE to make a move. DeMarcus Cousins is the surefire #4 pick, but with Al Jefferson and Kevin Love already manning the 4 and 5 spots, someone’s got to go. Expect David Kahn to be scrambling at the deadline. Truthfully, he & Favors ould switch after the combine & workouts, where I expect Cousins to do better than expected. Cousins is here because of his great size, insane wingspan (7′-7″), mean streak (which has been overblown by the media into a weakness), and ridiculous offensive skillset – he’s more advanced in the offensive post than Shaq was in his freshman year at LSU. I don’t think DeMarcus is the next Shaq, though – he’s too much of a liability to get into foul trouble and Shaq absolutely dominated the SEC after his freshman year – but it’s a safe bet that Cousins is the next great big man to come out of the Southeastern.
5. Sacramento Kings: SF Wesley Johnson, Syracuse. The first five picks are all no-doubters in some order. Not as good as the top four, clearly better than the rest, Wes Johnson is (barring GM boneheadedness, which actually isn’t too unlikely) destined to be the #5 pick in this year’s draft. He’s a great scorer, but doesn’t draw contact much (or well). He’s a solid rebounder, but a poor passer. He took advantage of mismatches playing the PF position in college, but those mismatches will be gone in the NBA. His athleticism and length would give him a fair amount of upside, but he’s already 22 and will be 23 before tipoff 2010.
I could go on for a while, but I think I’ve made my point. Some people see his ceiling as a Shawn Marion-type player, and I don’t really agree with that – I think he’s much more explosive and has a better shot from midrange and distance. I don’t think he’ll ever be great, but he could certainly be a top-10 swingman in the NBA.
6. Golden State Warriors: Al-Farouq Aminu, SF/PF, Wake Forest. So we’re clear, I am NOT sold on this guy. But an athletic 3/4 tweener who runs the floor well with a questionable jump shot? Come on, they basically invented the Warriors so he could play for them. While other people see him succeeding, I have serious doubts. I think he’s too much of a tweener. He’s far too raw on both ends of the court and still relies too much on his inconsistent outside game. He certainly has talent – his body type is extremely coveted at the next level, especially by run-and-gunners like the Warriors – but I don’t think he’s going to turn into a Josh Smith-type player like some say he might. He could end up being a top-5 talent in this draft if he can harness his athletic ability, but I think he’s more likely to be the Jordan Hill of this draft.
7. Detroit Pistons: Cole Aldrich, C, Kansas. The Pistons have two centers: Kwame Brown and Old Ben Wallace. Ouch. I’ll attempt to steer clear of loaded words like “fundamental” and “hard-nosed” and “Hansbrough-like toughness” and all those other code words that really mean “unathletic and white.” As a center, Aldrich is a great two-way player who does all the little things well on offense and provides an imposing presence on defense. Although they are completely different players, Ben could probably teach him a few things on the defensive side of the floor. His ceiling isn’t the same as some of the other forwards due to his lack of explosiveness and the fact that he’s really not improved much in three years at Kansas, but with his skillset he should be a serviceable center for the next decade in Detroit.
8. Los Angeles Clippers: Xavier Henry, SG/SF, Kansas. Clearly, Los Angeles is in a bind here. The only players worth taking at this spot are power forwards, and word has it that they drafted some guy to play PF for them last year who’s pretty good. That leaves Henry, who the Clippers will have to reach three or four picks too early for and who plays the same position as their other young potential star, Eric Gordon. My guess is that they try to play Henry at the 3, which could potentially work; it’s just a winding road that will assuredly have its bumps along the way. As for Henry, he possesses a great body, great touch from outside, and good slashing skills. He’s a Paul Pierce prototype without the scorer’s mentality, which means he’ll never be a top threat but he’ll still scare defenses. Can play off the ball with the best of them.
9. Utah Jazz: Greg Monroe, PF, Georgetown. With Carlos Boozer likely skipping town, the Jazz will have to consider the draft to fill that need. Monroe is the kind of guy who can mix well with Deron Williams – a fundamentally sound post player who also has great passing skills. He’s not a high-flyer by any means – his athletic tools and ability are pretty pedestrian for a top-10 prospect – but he’ll provide an interior presence which can allow Okur to float outside, where he excels. They may also consider Davis or Motiejunas here, but Davis’s wrist may scare them and Motiejunas isn’t the inside force that Monroe is. This is a guy many see as a poor man’s Brook Lopez, as he’s got a soft touch and a beautifully sound back-to-the-basket game. He’ll have to work hard this summer – this past year he came in pretty out of shape for a top prospect, and a guy with his weaknesses (not very athletic, inconsistent shooter) can’t afford not to work his butt off.
10. Indiana: Ed Davis, PF, UNC. Frankly, I’m expecting deals all over the place in the next ten picks. I put Davis here because he’s the best available, but truthfully he’s not much of an upgrade for Indiana at the PF spot and where they really need help is the backcourt. They might also reach and take Whiteside here if they’re not sold on Hibbert (read: I’m not sold on Hibbert), but truthfully I don’t see Indiana standing pat come June 24th. As for Davis, he’s a big question mark. He’ll really need to shine in combine workouts to justify being taken in the lottery at all, since he’s still skinny as a rail, had a disappointing season while healthy, and is now returning from that wrist injury. Once he fills out though, he could potentially be a force.
11. New Orleans Hornets: Donatas Motiejunas, PF/C, Benetton Treviso. Frankly, I think this guy is the sixth-best player in this draft. While some have been scared away by European big men in the past, Motiejunas has some excellent basketball tools and has stood up well to scrutiny. European bigs generally have a higher rate of busting than other bigs, but Motiejunas is extremely skilled and has played against American prospects before with success. I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone take a chance on him early. He could turn out to be what Darko was supposed to be: An Andrea Bargnani-type player, not as good as someone like Dirk but I don’t see him busting like Milicic or Tskitishvili.
12. Memphis Grizzlies: Daniel Orton, C, Kentucky. Despite the fact that they’re the Grizzlies, Memphis actually had some of the best roster stability in the league. Four guys (Randolph, Mayo, Conley, & Gay) all started in at least 80 games, and Gasol started in 69 (the other 13 manned by Hasheem DeBacle). Compared to the Nets rotations, which changed from quarter to quarter, that’s pretty impressive. Like most of the teams before them, Memphis’s strength is in its frontcourt, but the best players here are all frontcourt players. I don’t think they take Whiteside after seeing Hasheem ThaBeaten (that’s right, two puns on his name in one paragraph. Tip your waiters.) fail so horridly last year, but they could use bench help pretty much everywhere. Orton has been rocketing up draft boards in the last few weeks (mostly since Jonathon Givony of DraftExpress started rightfully hyping him up). He looked extremely impressive in limited time behind Cousins and Patterson, and would potentially shine with more touches. He could be one of the best backup centers in the league next year, and should blossom into a starter (in or out of Memphis) with seasoning.
13. Toronto Raptors: Ekpe Udoh, PF/C, Baylor. With Chris Bosh’s imminent departure (sorry Raptors fans) in mind, Toronto will have to look to find a replacement for him at PF. Udoh isn’t flashy but gets the job done. While he’s a little old for a prospect – he’ll be 23 the first time he plays in an NBA game – he’s a great face-up PF and definitely has NBA talent. He could contribute to a bad team (like the Raptors), but there’s not too much upside.
14. Houston Rockets: Hassan Whiteside, PF/C, Marshall. Another team both a) involved in draft trades every year and b) rumored to be moving up, I almost feel silly making a pick for them when I doubt Daryl Morey will be here when the dust settles. That’s why I’ve slotted my best available here, regardless of position. Easily the single largest wild-card of this draft, Whiteside has scouts either drooling or vomiting. Some say he can be a Marcus Camby-type with a better jumper, and I can see it. He came out of nowhere – Whiteside was a backup in prep school, signed to relatively unknown Marshall, and started putting up triple-doubles with points, rebounds, and blocks. Hopefully this isn’t just an aberration from playing lower-level D1 schools. Very intriguing as a prospect.
Watch out for an updated mock draft next Wednesday!