While Tuesday's Nuggets-Lakers game was the NBA's main event (no WWE pun intended), especially for fans of the four remaining NBA playoff teams, the draft lottery promised to help some of the unfortunate playoff bystanders back onto the road to respectability.
The 2009 lottery order is:
1. L.A. Clippers
The always stoic Blake Griffin made a good show of it when Memphis was awarded the second pick, meaning that the man paying Griffin tens of millions of dollars would be Donald Sterling.
While an Eric Gordon-Ricky Rubio pairing in the back-court would be something to watch, Baron Davis would no doubt be less than pleased.
Drafting Griffin would create a logjam with Zach Randolph (whose contract runs until 2010/2011) and Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby (who is tradeable with an expiring contract in 2009/2010) are also owed more than $8 million per year.
But L.A. will most likely still select Griffin and try to trade Camby to create more financial flexibility.
Besides, Griffin is much more likely to be the next Boozer or poor man's Malone than the next Olowokandi...right?
Memphis already has Mike Conley, and there are rumors that Memphis might be considering taking Hasheem Thabeet instead of Rubio. But Rubio has the potential to be much better than Conley, and having too many points guards is a good thing in today's NBA.
A shot-blocking center is definitely an asset to any team, and 7'1" Marc Gasol playing alongside the 7'3" Thabeet would be formidable. But Thabeet, who often dominated on the defensive end, is very raw offensively.
And was 6'7" DeJaun Blair's 23 point, 22 rebound performance against Thabeet a fluke or a sign of future struggles against stronger NBA big men?
In addition, Thabeet improved his .513 free-throw percentage from his freshman year to around 70 percent. But no one will confuse him with Yao at the charity stripe, either, especially after that number declined to around 63 percent in 2008/2009.
Ricky Rubio plays the game with a flair that would compliment O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay much more than the plodding Thabeet.
Besides, if they want to go that route, many more teams would be willing to trade up to get Ricky than Hasheem.
3. Oklahoma City
Third overall, the Oklahoma City Thunder are in a interesting (and possibly uncomfortable) position.
Thabeet could be the answer, but if he turned out to be another Saer Sene or Robert Swift, how would fans react? Conspiracy theorists were proved wrong when OKC didn't in fact receive the first overall pick, and now they might see if another team wants to trade up.
Failing a trade, OKC still has some excellent options other than Thabeet. Jordan Hill plays the same position as Jeff Green but is a good defensive presence, very athletic, and would add overall size.
However, the Thunder just invested money in Nenad Krstic, so OKC might look to shooting guard first. Luckily for them, 6'5" James Harden will still be on the board.
Harden at third overall might be a bit of a reach, but a Russell Westbrook, Harden, and Kevin Durant trio could be too good to pass up. Besides, next year's draft looks to be full of athletic big men.
For Sacramento Kings fans, drafting at No. 4 has to be a huge disappointment.
The No. 4 spot could also be a trade target for other teams if OKC doesn't take Thabeet.
The Kings don't need Jordan Hill as much as they did before the emergence of Jason Thompson late last season.
For the third pick in a row, Thabeet will be discussed, and passed over. The Kings like passing centers, and Vlade Divac or Brad Miller Thabeet is not.
Besides, if Spencer Hawes returns to form after his injury fully heals, Thabeet (although a superior defensive player) would be superfluous.
The Kings' true need is at point guard, where Beno Udrih was a large disappointment. Any PG taken after Rubio will be somewhat of a gamble.
Brandon Jennings appears to be the best available after Ricky, and the Kings would instantly acquire an athletic compliment to Kevin Martin.
In addition, the Kings could either hurt their NorCal and division rivals the Golden State Warriors by snagging Jennings or concoct a trade with them.
The Warriors' seventh pick could be used to take a gamble on Tyreke Evans at the point, or to reach for Ty Lawson.
More than the four teams above them in the draft, the Washington Wizards will be looking to advance to the playoffs next season, thanks to the return of Gilbert Arenas.
While Jordan Hill would help them in the long run as Antawn Jamison ages, Hasheem Thabeet would provide the interior defense and rebounding critical for a playoff run.
Washington has more than enough firepower to overcome Thabeet's offensive deficiencies, and although Hasheem could struggle trying to run the floor when Arenas pushes the ball quickly, it's the half-court possessions that often make the difference in tight games during the stretch run.
Although the sixth pick is not ideal for Minnesota, trading up or down might be a tough sell after the Kevin Love-O.J. Mayo trade last year.
The trade did net Mike Miller, but the Wolves still need a consistent play-maker in the back-court to compliment Randy Foye. Guard Tyreke Evans has shown that he can run the point, and his athleticism would be welcome.
But upside is often king in the NBA draft, and 6'6" guard/forward DeMar DeRozan has the potential to be a dominant force; O.J. Mayo in a bigger body.
Jordan Hill falls once again, since with Al Jefferson and Kevin Love already in the fold, there is little reason for Minnesota to draft a big man.
7. Golden State
It would be an understatement to say that the Golden State Warriors don't need another shooting guard on their roster. So it would be a relief if the temptation to take DeRozan was removed before their pick.
Instead of DeRozan, the Dubs might be tempted by Jordan Hill, who would bring power and athleticism to the front-court.
Some say Earl Clark is the next Anthony Randolph, but if Clark was drafted in a reach at No. 7, the Warriors would be probably be lighting their torches and sharpening their pitchforks. The need for a legitimate point guard is too pressing.
Don Nelson loves tall, athletic ball-handlers who can score. Stephen Curry has shown himself to be one of college basketball's greatest pure shooters, and yet also could effectively distribute of needed.
But although defensive prowess isn't a prerequisite for receiving playing time with the Warriors (Curry is not a great defender), the lack of success experienced by J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison might hurt Curry's draft stock.
In addition, Anthony Morrow is an incredible three-point shooter, nullifying some of the need for Curry's sharpshooting.
Jordan Hill would be a tremendous pick if he fell to the seventh spot, but Nelson would love having a 6'5" point guard running plays in Oakland.
Tyreke Evans' height, athleticism, and upside would be too much for the Warriors to pass up. If Evans is gone, the Dubs might take a look at Eric Maynor, Jonny Flynn, Jrue Holiday, or Ty Lawson.
8. New York
New York seemed set on taking Curry, although a new rumor has them trying to trade up to get Ricky Rubio.
As with Golden State, Jordan Hill could be used as part of a trade package for the No. 2. However, if they keep the pick, many of the players that New York is supposedly interested in would still available, including Jrue Holiday and Ty Lawson.
However, Stephen Curry's combination of size, NBA pedigree, and shot-making ability, which could be used to space the floor for you-know-who, should make him the Knick's pick come draft day.
The Raptors will need an athletic forward to replace Shawn Marion, who will probably not stay in Toronto much longer, or (even worse) Chris Bosh. Jordan Hill drops to them in this scenario, although Earl Clark might be a more realistic possibility on draft day.
Wayne Ellington, Gerald Henderson, or even Chase Buddinger would be an option if the Raptors opted for depth at Shooting Guard.
Milwaukee needs someone to replace Yi Jianlian and probably Charlie Villanueva. Although Jordan Hill is gone, Earl Clark is big, versatile, and athletic, able to play both small forward and power forward.
Once Michael Redd comes back, a distributor would be nice as well. If Clark is gone, Jrue Holiday, Eric Maynor, or Jonny Flynn could attempt to fill in for Ramon Sessions, who Milwaukee might not be able to re-sign.
11. New Jersey
The Nets are one of the few teams in the lower lottery that is set at the point guard position (with Devin Harris). However, with Vince Carter aging (or not caring), shooting guard will become an issue soon.
Although Gerald Henderson would most likely still be on the board, Chase Buddinger can play shooting guard and small forward and is a player in the mold of last year's pick Ryan Anderson.
The Bobcats need a replacement for Jason Richardson. Wayne Ellington is big, skilled, and played at UNC. If he's available at 12, Ellington could be one of the most automatic non-Griffin picks of the draft.
If the Bobcats draft for need at other positions, forwards DeJuan Blair and James Johnson are options as well, but Ellington or Gerald Henderson (even though he's from Duke) would probably be able to make more of an impact sooner.
When the Jermaine O'Neal trade netted T.J. Ford, the Pacers had a point guard they could rely on—except when he was injured. Ty Lawson most likely will be available, and his speed and ability to steal the ball could help get Danny Granger out on the break more effectively.
The Roy Hibbert pick last year might rule out someone like Blair, although Blair is in some ways the opposite of Hibbert (short but effective) and could help replace some of O'Neal's production down low.
Earl Clark would have been nice, but Indiana will probably go with a point guard.
The Suns are in the lottery for the first time in a while and could miss out on the quick Lawson by a few spots.
Just like New York, Phoenix could blow up the entire draft by trading up to No.2 to get Rubio as a replacement for Nash (Amare anyone?). If they swapped picks in the trade, they could take a gamble on a project like Austin Daye, or go with a beast down low like Blair to replace Amare.
Assuming that the Suns don't trade up, it would be a tough choice between the usual point guard suspects: Jrue Holiday, Eric Maynor, and Jonny Flynn.
Flynn, the Big East Tournament MVP, had 13 games with eight or more assists last season and proved his tenacity in the thrilling win over UConn. Learning to play the point with Steve Nash should help Flynn cut down on turnovers and maximize his potential.
The 2009 NBA Draft may be somewhat low on star power, but it could prove to be a deep draft for solid, if not exceptional, guards.
Some high-profile veterans (such as Amare Stoudemire) could find themselves on different teams.
Some teams outside the lottery could find that prospects such as Jrue Holiday have fallen into their range.
As draft day draws nearer, the picture will most likely become clearer, but for now, teams are rightfully scouting a wide variety of potential draftees.
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