1. Sacramento Kings: Blake Griffin, F, Oklahoma
The team with the first pick in the NBA draft always has a lot of thinking to do. This year will be no exception. However, there is not much depth this year behind Griffin, resulting in a little less contemplation. The 2008-2009 NCAA player-of-the-year is a clear-cut choice to go first overall.
Griffin was a flat-out stud at Oklahoma. He averaged a shade under 23 PPG while grabbing well over 14 RPG. An athletic big man such as Griffin does not come often. Griffin scored and rebounded with ease in college, and also has plenty of room for improvement at the next level.
With games where he scored 40, 35, 33 (twice), and 32 points, respectively, Griffin has proven skill that will make him a great NBA forward.
2. Washington Wizards: Ricky Rubio, G, DKV Joventut
Ricky Rubio is well known for his play in the Beijing Olympics for Spain. He started against the U.S.A. at the young age of 17, displaying endless skill as a point guard.
The 6’3”, 18 year-old Rubio's game is shaped around his incredible ball-handling ability, phenomenal passing, keen court awareness, and quick-handed defense.
On the other end of the scale, if you look to Rubio for field goals, you’re in trouble. However, Rubio turns 19 in October, which should give him ample time to improve.
Just like any other international star, Rubio will need time to get affiliated with the NBA, but when he does, he will be a very skilled player.
3. LA Clippers: Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut
Thabeet is the best center in this year’s draft, and has plenty of size for the position. Standing 7’3” tall, Thabeet is a monster of a load in the paint.
The Co-Big East player-of-the-year is much like a less-athletic version of Dwight Howard, in that he will block almost anything that comes in the paint. He also has an improving offensive game that can get him to the free-throw line.
There is one thing that is certain with Thabeet—if you get him the ball close to the rim, it will pay off.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder: James Harden, F/G, Arizona State
James Harden was an outstanding player in college as a freshman, and has proven in just one year that he is a true scorer. The 6’4” lefty can flat-out put the ball in the hoop. 20 PPG, 5 RPG, and 4 APG is an impressive line.
He does not have a set position to fulfill in the NBA yet, and also will need to gel to the NBA game, and learn how to run offense through other players. But Harden also exerts craftiness, in that he can get to the rim at will, pull up and hit the outside shot, or finish in transition.
Harden can provide energy and an obvious scoring ability to any team in the draft.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jordan Hill, F, Arizona
Jordan Hill is the new-age power forward that all NBA teams want.
The slender Hill is extremely athletic and has tons of leaping ability that shows in his rebounding (11 RPG). He has quick and explosive moves down low, which is where most of his scoring comes from (18.1 PPG), and has the ability to block a few shots once in a while.
He should be able to add more muscle to his frame in the NBA, as well as become better in traffic to lower his turnovers. Also, he gets to the line a lot, but needs to improve his free throw shooting.
6. Memphis Grizzlies: Tyreke Evans, G, Memphis
Tyreke Evans had an outstanding freshman season at Memphis, where he started the year as a shooting guard, and ended as a point guard under coach John Calapari. The transition was clean, proving his versatility.
The 6’5” freshman was a high-energy scorer in college at 17.1 PPG. He energized fans by getting to the rim at will, making an acrobatic lay-up or a high-flying dunk. His shooting form might look unorthodox, but he can dial in from long distance.
There are a few kinks in his game that he will iron out in the league. He will need to establish his true position, and when he does, he will be exciting to watch in the NBA.
7. Golden State Warriors: Brandon Jennings, G, Italy
Many scouts rated Brandon Jennings as the best high school senior last year when college teams were making their offers. Jennings was a well-known guard that was set to hit Memphis and play for John Calapari.
Then he just disappeared?
No, he was the first big name high school player to make the big jump to the Euro League.
Jennings is an extremely exciting guard that can push the ball on the break and has great court vision. His strengths include: ball handling, vision, and creating plays for him and his teammates. But his experience is lacking even with leaping to Europe and he needs to add strength to his frame.
8. New York Knicks: Demar DeRozan, G/F, USC
When you watch Demar DeRozan play, you think of one adjective: well-rounded.
The 6’6” DeRozan is a very fundamental player with God-given athleticism. His high-flying dunks and smooth jumper highlight his game. He has been compared to Richard Jefferson, which is realistic, since both DeRozan and Jefferson are players who can either pull up for a jumper on any spot on the floor, or use their strength to get to the rim.
However, DeRozan will not make an instant difference in the NBA because of his lack of defensive fundamentals and inability to create his own shot.
9. Toronto Raptors: Stephen Curry, G, Davidson
Stephen Curry will grace the 2009 NBA draft with his extremely wide arsenal of offensive talent. He quite possibly may have the best offensive game in the draft class. Averaging over 28 PPG and six assists, Curry has made a name for himself.
The 6’3” Curry flip-flopped from shooting guard to point guard in the past season, but is naturally a shooting guard. As a junior at Davidson, Curry hit the 20-point plateau 30 times, the 30-point plateau 15 times, and the 40-point plateau four times.
Weighing in at just 185 lbs, he needs to bulk up quite a bit. However, he will be ready to make a statement in the NBA for a team that is in need of a scoring threat.
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Johnny Flynn, G, Syracuse
Johnny Flynn was one of the top three guards in 2008-2009 college basketball who can make a difference in the NBA quickly.
He has a well-rounded game that includes his strong jump shot, ability to break down defenses in transition, and either take it to the basket, or find an open teammate.
At 6’0” his height is a minor concern, and his defense looks to improve as he prepares to forgo the rest of his college career and make the jump to the NBA.
11. New Jersey Nets: Earl Clark, F, Louisville
After a disappointing season for the Louisville, Earl Clark has decided to take his talent to the NBA. He is the rawest of talents in the draft, acting as an athletic, new age big man that can’t score at will, but can face up and score in the post.
At 6’9” Clark has plenty of size for a power forward spot in the NBA. His shot-blocking ability is exceptional to go along with his solid defensive game.
He took bad shots in college and did too much ball-handling, but he should develop in the NBA. He will be a non-factor on any team in his first few seasons, but once he crafts a solid jumper, he will be an eventual star.
12. Indiana Pacers: Tywon Lawson, G, North Carolina
Around this time last year, Ty Lawson was on draft boards too. He would have been drafted, but he is probably happy with his decision to come back to Carolina for his junior season.
He's quick, ball-handling specialist that could go coast-to-coast on you in a heartbeat, and played extraordinary basketball last year, leading his team to a national championship. He averaged roughly four more points, one more assist, and less turnovers per game his junior season than he did his sophomore season.
Lawson is an explosive guard that lacks size, but can make up for it with his lightning-quick reflexes and finishing style around the basket. If you are a running team and you have an early draft choice, you want this guy on your side.
13. Charlotte Bobcats: Terrence Williams, G/F, Louisville
Along with Lawson, Terrence Williams is another player that has improved his draft stock tremendously in just one year. From his junior to his senior season, Williams improved in points, rebounds, assists, turnovers, steals, field goal percentage, and three point percentage.
Basically every aspect of his game was sharpened, and it showed. The biggest problem with this 6’6” athlete one year ago was that he needed a solidified jump shot.
Well, let's just say he got that, improving his percentages from the field and the three point by a combined .7%.
Williams will be a contributor during his rookie season. He will put fans in the seats with his ridiculous leaping ability, allowing him to sky and catch anything near the rim. But he will also need to learn how to work in an offense that does not always require him to get the ball.
14. Phoenix Suns: Gerald Henderson, G/F, Duke
Gerald Henderson was a fan favorite as a Duke Blue Devil and should bring that same energy to his NBA destination, with his defensive presence and beautiful mid-range game. He is equipped with athleticism, slashing ability, and terrific on-ball defense.
He has been criticized for being passive, but he continued to grow and extend his jump shot, evolving into the go-to man for the Blue Devils. He has potential to be a great player in the NBA, but, unless he adds more to his arsenal, all indications point to him being a sub-par NBA talent.