For the last part of Celtics Town’s pre-draft coverage, here’s our first full mock draft. We’ve already ranked every position (see point guards, shooting guards, small forwards, power forwards, centers), and now it’s time to put it all together and finally project which team will select what player. Enjoy.
If you have any questions regarding the Celtics or the mock draft, please write to our mailbag, and we will respond to your question in our mailbag, which will be published Sunday morning.
1. Los Angeles Clippers - Blake Griffin, Oklahoma (Last year’s stats: 22.7 points, 14.4 rebounds)
The biggest sure thing the 2009 NBA Draft has to offer, Blake Griffin is an absolute freak of an athlete.
6’10” tall, built like an ox, and with a much smaller man’s quickness and coordination, Griffin was a man amongst boys in college basketball, attacking the rim with a ferocious fire and competitive nature which likens him to Amare Stoudemire and a young Shawn Kemp.
Offensively, Griffin has a lot more than merely his superb athleticism. He is far more skilled than most men his size, with a legit handle and the ability to go coast-to-coast after a defensive rebound.
Additionally, Griffin has great court vision, allowing him to make passes that most big men wouldn’t even think of. Still, his best attribute on the offensive end remains his rim-shaking ability to finish. Griffin was by far the best finisher in the country, and should be able to be a terrific finisher in the NBA.
On the other side of the ball, Griffin still has a lot more work to go to become a polished defensive player. Griffin blamed his tendency to get scored on to not wanting to get in foul trouble but, whatever the reason for his defensive inadequacy, Griffin needs to get better.
Despite being incredibly strong, Griffin somehow gives up tremendous position on the block, failing to keep his opponent away from the hoop.
However, it’s tough to nitpick the young beast’s game, as Griffin is both the best player in this draft and the player with the most potential to develop into a superstar. Look for Griffin to be a prime-time player from day one, and to take home the 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year.
The Clippers won’t pass up the opportunity to get the league’s next great power forward, nor should they.
2. Memphis Grizzlies - Hasheem Thabeet, UConn (Last year’s stats: 13.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.2 blocks)
A lot of rumors lately have had the Grizzlies shopping this pick around the league, but it is still likely, according to ESPN’s Chad Ford, that the Grizzlies will hold onto the pick. If they do, expect them to take the 7’3” Thabeet, the 7’3” shot-blocker out of UConn.
Thabeet is a super-long, athletic big that will be able to impact the game on the defensive end immediately. Thabeet is a better fit for the NBA game than the college game for a variety of reasons.
For one, he will not see as many teams playing zone defenses, which will enable him to play more one-on-one down on the blocks. Secondly, the NBA game is not as guard-oriented as its college counterpart, with more isolations in the low post that can be attributed partially to the college game’s super-close three-point line.
At Connecticut Thabeet dominated games from the defensive end, which is extremely impressive seeing as they played in the best conference in the country last season.
Offensively is where he will have to improve if he wants to truly separate himself from the rest of the centers in the league. Showing some ability to finish around the basket, Thabeet was actually fairly efficient when he caught the ball in the post last year.
If he can continue to develop a reliable jump hook and mid-range jump shot, Thabeet could become a very good offensive player, in addition to his already game-changing defensive skills.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder - James Harden, Arizona St.(Last year’s stats: 20.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.7 spg 48.9 FG %)
Imagine the Thunder starting a lineup of Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Nenad Kristic. That lineup would be an unbelievable collection of speed, length, and skill that I’m sure Sam Presti is raving about.
While Ricky Rubio would be the best player available at this pick, Harden would be a better fit for the Thunder, who already have Westbrook to man the point guard position.
The things I like about Harden the most are his play-making ability and his old school savvy. It’s almost like he plays like a modern day crafty veteran. Harden doesn’t possess blazing speed, but he knows how to get past his defender and to the hoop.
He reminds me of Paul Pierce in the way he seems to be going in slow motion as he goes by his defender, all the way to the hole for a layup or dunk. Harden is strong, and utilizes his strength greatly.
Some people will knock him for his underwhelming (to say the least) performance in the NCAA tournament, but seeing Harden for the rest of his college career tells me not to doubt him. He is, in my opinion, the most NBA-ready player in this year’s draft.
He has a great understanding of the game of basketball, and should be ready to step right into an NBA starting rotation.
4. Sacramento Kings - Ricky Rubio, DKV Joventut (Last year’s stats: 10.0 points, 6.1 assists, 2.2 steals)
Like a lot of the picks in the top five, the Kings have been rumored to be looking to trade their fourth pick. If they don’t and Ricky Rubio is still on board, the Kings will certainly snatch him up to improve their situation, where the incumbent Beno Udrih failed to live up to expectations last year after signing a big contract.
Rubio burst onto the basketball scene in 2006 at the U-16 World Championships, where he accumulated three triple-doubles, one quadruple-double, and put up 51 points, 24 rebounds, 12 assists and 7 steals to beat Russia in the finals in a double-overtime thriller.
Rubio, is the most can’t-miss prospect in this year’s point guard class. A basketball prodigy since his teenage years, Rubio is also, far and away, the top Europen prospect in the draft.
He is a long, skilled player with tremendous basketball IQ. He has terrific court vision, with the ability to make the simple pass as well as the home run pass.
Unlike most young players, Rubio is already a terrific defensive player, winning the 2009 Spanish ACB League Defensive Player of the Year, averaging 2.2 steals per game in only 23 minutes.
Despite his youth, the young Spaniard is already very accomplished overseas, where he has played professionally since the age of 14. Already, Rubio has won the coveted Mr. Europa Award (in 2008), given to the best European basketball player in the world, regardless of where they are playing, and was also named the ACB League’s top point guard for 2008.
Last year, at only 17 years old, Rubio played on the silver medal-winning Spanish National Team, starting over the second half of the tournament over NBA veteran Jose Calderon.
With his pedigree, potential, and basketball IQ, Rubio should have a long, storied career in the NBA, and should not slip past the top four choices as long as his $8 million buyout does not affect his stock.
5. Washington Wizards – Stephen Curry, Davidson (Last year’s stats: 28.6 points, 5.6 assists)
There has also been talk of the Wizards moving their pick in hopes of acquiring a veteran. If they don’t, the Wizards should pick up Stephen Curry, teaming the sharp-shooting Curry with the returning trio of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison.
The most prolific scorer in recent NCAA history, Stephen Curry is being projected right now as a mid-lottery pick. I wish I could tell NBA scouts not to get awed by his tremendous college stats, and instead focus on Curry as a player.
He has many flaws in his game that I think will hurt him at the next level. First off, Curry is not a true point guard. While he showed a decent ability to play the point during his junior season at Davidson, he is very turnover prone.
Do you really trust him dribbling the ball upcourt against super-quick defenders like Rajon Rondo? I don’t. Curry is also short, super-thin, and doesn’t matchup well defensively with any position. I don’t see him possessing the strength or height to guard shooting guards, nor lateral quickness to guard point guards.
Nonetheless, his production over the past three years was remarkable. He is an amazing shooter, and his great touch and quick release should translate well to the NBA.
Still, I doubt he will ever be a standout performer in the NBA. I am sure his shooting ability will find him playing time and give him a long career in the NBA, but I don’t see star potential.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves – Tyreke Evans, Memphis (Last year’s stats: 17.1 points, 3.9 assists, 5.4 rebounds)
According to sources, the Timberwolves may include the No. 6 pick and Al Jefferson in a deal to acquire Amare Stoudemire. If they don’t trade it away, the Wolves will look to add more talent to their team.
A team attempting to transition away from the Kevin McHale era, the Timberwolves already possess a lot of good, young talent, including Kevin Love, Al Jefferson, and Randy Foye. The only position they are really lacking young talent is at the wing position, a hole that will immediately be filled by the addition of Memphis’ Evans.
Tyreke Evans, in my eyes, is the most interesting point guard prospect in the draft. Though still raw, he is blessed with an incredible combination of height, strength, athleticism, and basketball skill.
Evans is an absolute physical specimen with a 6’11” wingspan to go with 6’5” height and a strong frame. On top of his physical attributes, Evans possesses the ability to create his own shot at any time.
Right now, his jumper is uglier than Tyrone Hill, but Evans’ ability to create his own shot should lead to his becoming a terrific NBA scorer as soon as he fixes that jumper.
He’s not just a scorer, though—Evans excels at getting into the lane and creating scoring opportunities for others, too. He tends to be a bit too ball-dominant, but should improve on that with good coaching.
I see Evans blossoming into an absolute stud down the road, and should produce in transition right away.
7. Golden State Warriors – Jordan Hill, Arizona (Last year’s stats: 18.3 points, 11.0 rebounds, 1.7 blocks)
According to the latest reports from the Golden State Warriors, the Warriors have promised Monta Ellis not to draft another play-making guard, and are looking to either trade their pick or draft a player at another position.
If these rumors are false, expect them to pick up Jonny Flynn, who most teams feel has proved himself to be the top point guard in the draft behind Rubio. If the rumors are true, Jordan Hill will be the Warrior’s guy.
Before this past season, I called Hill one of the more overrated players in college basketball. Boy, did he prove me wrong.
Possessing a solid array of post moves and a great motor around the basket, Hill was very productive during his junior season at Arizona. He is a very long, athletic player who can beat almost any big man down the floor.
Still, Hill has a long ways to go before he can become a great contributor on the NBA level.
Right now, he reminds me a lot of Joakim Noah, a player who relies a lot on his superior athletic ability and outstanding hustle to make plays and produce for his team.
Down the road, Hill has the potential to develop into a far better offensive player than Noah, and already has a decent jump hook with both hands.
If he can continue to improve, Hill could be a stud in the NBA, but he still has his work cut out for him. Even without improvement, he should be a good energy guy capable of providing hustle points and solid defense to go along with solid rebounding.
8. New York Knicks – Brandon Jennings, Lottomatica Roma (Italy) (Last year’s stats: 7.6 points, 1.6 assists, 19.6 minutes)
Sitting at the 8th pick, the Knicks are certainly a team rebuilding, centered around the incredible free agent class of 2010, looking to shape their roster to be able to acquire a superstar after next season.
For now, they could use an upgrade at just about every position, so they will certainly be drafting based on who they feel is the best player available rather than searching for help at a certain position. The player who fits most into their plans and has the potential to be a game-changing superstar down the road is Brandon Jennings.
Despite not receiving too much playing time while playing for Lottomatica Roma in Italy, Jennings made it known that he can produce against great competition.
Jennings is a lightning-quick player with the handle and speed to blow by defenders and the athleticism to finish in traffic. Probably the most explosive point guard in this year’s draft, Jennings possesses terrific potential as a playmaker in the NBA.
That said, he’s not there yet. His struggles overseas have pointed out the flaws of his game. He has poor shot selection, is not yet a good shooter, and has some issues with being out of control.
Playing at the highest level in Europe should definitely help Jennings in the long run. It should force him to mature as a player and give him solid experience heading into the NBA.
Whereas most prospects have been playing against guys their own age, Jennings has played against grown men, and lived to tell about it. He should be a star in the league down the road, but I’m not sure how much he’ll contribute immediately.
9. Toronto Raptors - Demar DeRozan USC (Last Year’s stats: 13.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 52.3 FG%)
“With the 9thpick in the NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors select…Demar DeRozan.”
Looking to improve on last year’s 33-49 record, the Raptors desperately need to improve their athleticism. They took steps by trading for Shawn Marion, but their roster is still on the slow, plodding side as far as NBA teams are considered.
Demar Derozan would instantly help make them far more athletic.
In his first season at USC, DeMar showed why he still has a ways to go, but he also showed just how tantalizing a prospect he is. The first half of the year, DeRozan largely disappeared, unwilling or unable to take control of a game.
Once he became acclimated to the college game, DeRozan showed why critics have been raving about him, becoming USC’s best player, a force on offense, defense, and the boards. This athletic freak-show defies gravity when he attacks the basket.
Add to that a great work ethic and you have the formula to create an NBA All-Star. He is not the best defender in the country, however with his size and strength he could become one of the top perimeter defenders in the league.
The sky is the limit for this kid but he will need some time to come into his own in league.
10. Milwaukee Bucks - Jonny Flynn, Syracuse (Last year’s stats: 17.4 points, 6.7 assists)
The Milwaukee Bucks are pleased with the development of Ramon Sessions at point guard, but will have to go with the best player available at this point in the draft. If they do that, they’ll have to draft Jonny Flynn.
Probably the most confident point guard in this year’s draft, Flynn should be even better in the NBA than he was in college. Because of his outstanding athleticism and world-class quickness, Flynn should be able to penetrate at will even in the NBA.
Of all the players I saw play college basketball last year, no other player impressed me more with the ability to break down a defense. Once inside the lane, Flynn can still do a lot of things with the basketball. He is a good passer and, especially for a point guard, an outstanding finisher.
With the NBA’s handcheck rules that have made it easier than ever for point guards to get to the hole, Flynn should thrive at the next level. He is a good scorer with the heart of a lion.
I’ll never forget Flynn’s performance against UConn in the epic six overtime game; Everybody else was too tired to do anything, but Flynn kept relentlessly attacking the basket, unwilling to let his team fall.
Flynn should be a contributor right away, and I see him as being the most NBA-ready of all the point guards in this draft.
11. New Jersey Nets – Dejuan Blair, Pittsburgh (Last year’s stats: 15.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.5 steals)
A young team with solid young building blocks in Devin Harris and Brook Lopez, New Jersey still needs help as far as depth and quality big men. Needing a good big man, the Nets should look no farther than the undersized man-child, Dejuan Blair.
An absolute beast at the college level, Blair was a force of nature on the glass at both ends. Possessing great hands and an unbelievably long wingspan (7’2”) to go along with his preternatural strength, Blair carves out space in the lane like a Mack Truck, attacking the ball like a hawk attacks his prey.
Though he was a terrific rebounder in college, Blair still has to show he will be able to translate his game to the NBA, where he will be facing taller, stronger opponents than he’s ever faced on a nightly basis.
In college, Blair showed the ability to perform against much taller players, thoroughly destroying the draft’s top center prospect, Hasheem Thabeet, in both of their matchups.
Still, standing only 6’6” tall, Blair will be up against much bigger players every night, and must prove that his rebounding, low-post scoring, great defensive footwork, and solid face-up game will translate to the NBA. I believe it will, and Blair should be a devil to keep off the NBA boards for a long time to come.
12. Charlotte Bobcats – Gerald Henderson, Duke (Last year’s stats: 16.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.2 spg, 45% FG)
Narrowly missing out on the playoffs last year, the Bobcats and coach Larry Brown are probably looking for someone to help immediately, looking to bring Charlotte to the playoffs for the first time. Gerald Henderson would be a guy who would be able to step in right away and help any team, especially defensively.
Henderson has all the credentials to be a star in this league. He played at Duke, under arguably the greatest basketball coach of all-time. He has a real defensive mindset to go along with superior athleticism.
He can be a force in the NBA on the defensive end for years to come if he fulfills his full potential. He has a good mid-range shooting ability. He can score in a variety of ways including creating his own shot.
He is already matured coming out of college as a junior and he is the type of player willing to do the intangibles. The only knock on Henderson is the range on his jump shot and the fact the he doesn’t posses a killer instinct offensively.
This can easily be fixed as NBA workouts can truly help a player like Henderson. Henderson has a high ceiling and he should certainly be a lottery selection. I must note in this that Gerald Henderson has an array of dunks that I have not seen out of such a complete player.
13. Indiana Pacers – Jeff Teague, Wake Forest (Last year’s stats: 18.8 ppg, 3.5 apg, 1.9 spg, 48.5 FG % 44.1 3P %)
Nobody wants to play for the Pacers as badly as the Indiana-born Jeff Teague. In an interview following his workout for the Pacers, Teague said that in five years he would love to be playing for the Pacers in his hometown state.
He doesn’t fit the Pacers most pressing needs (which are at center and power forward), but this draft is deprived of good big men.
When I see Mr. Teague play, I can only imagine what it would be like to be guarding him. He terrorizes defenders by using his quickness and his ability to get to the rim. He is built more like a point guard, which could hurt his stock in the draft.
He is similar in a way to Allen Iverson when you actually think about it. He is not a natural point guard. but can score in bunches in a variety of ways. He is fearless attacking the basket and he will finish above the rim on defenders. All of his weaknesses come into effect when he is put into the roll of point guard.
His only weakness at the shooting guard position is the fact that he is too small to guard the position in the NBA. Ideally, he is the best fit for a team that has a bigger point guard that can defend the shooting guards.
Teague possesses the tools that NBA scouts love at the shooting guard position. His quick release and ability to get to the free throw line should land Teague somewhere in the lottery. Indiana will find it tough to take a pass on the player born right down the road.
14. Phoenix Suns – Earl Clark, Louisville (Last year's stats: 14.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists)
With the fourteenth pick, the Suns will likely attempt to improve their depth and add a replacement for the possibly departing Grant Hill, the aging Steve Nash, or the old Shaq. Look for the Suns to pick up Earl Clark, a multi-talented player with an incredibly versatile skill set.
A tantalizing prospect, Earl Clark has oodles of athletic ability and a myriad of skills. Nonetheless, he's frighteningly inconsistent, fading from production throughout a lot of games.
When he puts his package together, Clark can be devastating, with the ability to create more or less any shot he wants, and a pretty good mid-range game.
Clark is a lot like Julian Wright, a multi-talented player who oozes talent but doesn't necessarily bring his "A" game every night. In the NBA, Clark could either struggle to get minutes, like Wright, or he could learn to bring constant effort for the full 48 minutes and become an instant impact player with his skills, height, and energy.
Clark has all the talent in the world, but he has yet to fully utilize it. Whether he does will determine how productive an NBA career he has.
15. Detroit Pistons – B.J. Mullens, Ohio St. (Last year’s stats: 8.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.1 blocks)
After fading from the top of the Eastern Conference in 2008-2009, the Pistons are at a critical juncture for their franchise. The trade of Chauncey Billups for the washed-up Allen Iverson shows that the Pistons are looking to rebuild, hoping to cash in on the 2010 free agency bonanza.
For now, though, the Pistons need to focus on the draft, where they have an unenviable position—their main needs for next year are big men, which the draft has very little to choose from. Look for the Pistons to select the top big man left on the board, B.J. Mullens.
At this time last year, Mr. Mullens was a definite lottery selection and potentially a top five pick in this year’s draft. Then his freshman season happened, and Mullens produced lackluster numbers, especially for a player who came to school surrounded by so much hype.
Even though Mullens didn’t produce much at all during his freshman season, he will still likely be drafted in the first round, based solely on his potential.
Mullens has good hands, good touch, the ability to establish early post position, athleticism, and can run the floor really well for a post player—all great qualities for a potential first round center to have.
Still, I doubt that Mullen will put it together in the NBA. For someone to produce so little in the NCAA, there must be something wrong. To add to his offensive struggles at Ohio State, B.J. is not good on the defensive end of the court at all.
He will need to make improvements there before he sees any playing time for any team that actually wants to win ball games. Mullens is a project, and for a team looking to stockpile talent for the future, he is the perfect selection.
16. Chicago Bulls – Chase Budinger, Arizona (Last year’s stats: 18.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists)
After a captivating series with the Celtics, the Bulls are looking to capitalize this offseason and prove next season that they are a team of the present as well as a team of the future.
With young, athletic players at almost every position and a budding superstar in Derrick Rose, look for the Bulls to select a player they know can become a solid role player. Enter Chase Budinger.
As a scorer, Budinger has every talent you’d want. He is super smooth with solid ball-handling skills and a soft touch from the outside. He moves very well without the basketball and has a nice vertical leap to be able to finish inside.
However, Chase lacks the mentality of a star, preferring to get his points in the flow of the game rather than truly taking over and forcing his imprint upon the game. Budinger could be a very good role player in the league, but the true questions about him reside on the defensive end of the floor.
Defensively, Budinger hasn’t shown the lateral quickness to guard a soul in the NBA. He is a good positional help defender but often fails to stay in front of his own man.
If Chase can become tougher and learn to keep his man from scoring, whichever team drafts him could have a huge steal.
17. Philadelphia 76ers – Jrue Holiday, UCLA (Last year’s stats: 8.5 points, 3.7 assists)
With Andre Miller expected to leave Philly after skipping their mandatory postseason meeting, the Sixers will have a hole at point guard that backup Louis Williams may or may not be ready to fill.
With new coach Eddie Jordan looking to push the pace, the Sixers will likely look to draft a more pure point guard than Williams, who is more of a scorer. Look for them to draft UCLA’s Jrue Holiday.
I really don’t know why Holiday is climbing draft boards around the country. He did nothing, repeat: NOTHING, in his time at UCLA. Averaging 8.5 points and 3.7 assists per game in his lone college season, I am still very skeptical of Holiday’s skills.
Yeah, his stats might be low because he had to share the backcourt with Darren Collison, but he’s going to be playing with much better point guards in the NBA.
Holiday clearly has a lot of holes in his game, which he will need to fill to become an NBA contributor. Anyways, after bashing him for a little while, now I’ll tell you the other side of the story. I realize why NBA scouts are drooling over the guy.
He is an unselfish point guard offensively, with the tools to be a lock-down defender and a pure distributor. He has an NBA-ready body, even though he just turned 19. He has as much upside as just about anybody on this list.
Despite all his physical tools, I am not sure an NBA team would be making the right choice drafting Holiday. They would likely have to wait at least a couple years to see him develop into the player he can be. At the 17th pick, though, the gamble is well worth it.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves – Eric Maynor, VCU (Last year’s stats: 22.4 points, 6.2 assists)
With their second of three picks in the first round, the Timberwolves will attempt to continue stockpiling young talent. Right now, while starting the combustible Sebastian Telfair, point guard is the Timberwolves most pressing need.
They can’t go wrong with Eric Maynor. Whenever I watch Maynor, I’m struck most of all by the patience in his game. He takes his time, seems to play slow, and then somehow he ends up blowing by his defender into the lane. In that way, he reminds me a lot of Brandon Roy.
I’m not saying that he’s going to be as good as Brandon Roy, or even that they play similarly, but the poise and deliberate nature of their games is very comparable.
Maynor is a very good shooter, and was a tremendous scorer in college, but I think he can make the transition to become more of a distributor in the NBA. Maynor changes speeds so well that it’s very difficult to stay in front of him.
Maynor is already a crafty offensive player, great off the pick-and-roll, and as productive in college as any player on this list. Look for his skills to translate well to the NBA, and for him to be a solid player from day one, wherever he ends up.
19. Atlanta Hawks – Wayne Ellington, UNC (Last year’s stats: 15.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.7 apg, 48.3%FG)
The Atlanta Hawks are one star away from being a true championship contender, but they won’t be able to add a star with the 19th pick. Instead, they will draft a player who can contribute as a role player to their team, and Wayne Ellington is a player who matches that description.
The NCAA tournament MOP will not let down, I repeat will not let down, the GM that decides to take him. I have seen him all over draft boards but honestly he is the type of player that will make an impact immediately at the next level.
He possesses a skill set that can drive NBA scouts wild, he just did not get to show it as much as some other guys, as he was on a loaded UNC team that rolled through most of their opponents.
I saw Wayne four years ago and he has improved his all-around game. He can shoot in a variety of ways from off the dribble, coming off screens and spotting up anywhere on the floor.
Ellington really knows how to play the game which should translate to solid minutes for someone next season. He should make an immediate impact in the NBA solely off his shooting ability. In some ways, I see a little bit of Joe Johnson in him, and if the Hawks are smart, they won’t pass on him if he is still on the board at No. 19.
The dude is simply a winner and he knows what kind of work he must put in to be successful at the NBA level. I believe that Ellington is an underrated athlete, as a lot of scouts say that is one of his weaknesses.
20. Utah Jazz – Tyler Hansbrough, UNC (Last year’s stats: 20.7 points, 8.1 rebounds)
According to rumors, Carlos Boozer will decide to opt out the last year of his contract and will join either the New Jersey Nets or the Detroit Pistons. If that’s the case, Paul Millsap will move into the starting lineup and the Jazz will need a new backup power forward. There’s a power forward who comes to mind who Jerry Sloan would love because of his tenacious play : Tyler Hansbrough.
One of the most celebrated NCAA performers in recent history, Hansbrough had an absolutely marvelous college career, winning every award a college player can possibly win.
After three straight All-American years to start his storybook college career, Hansbrough could have easily rested on his laurels over the offseason. Instead, he took it upon himself to develop a dependable mid-range jumper to go along with his bruising low-post repertoire, making himself even more difficult to guard.
Because of his improving mid-range game, I am no longer as skeptical about Tyler Hansbrough’s professional prospects. Before, when his only means of scoring were bulling into or through his defender for either a layup or two free throws, I felt his NBA potential was very limited.
Now, as his skill level increases, Hansbrough should be able to carve out a very solid career in the NBA.
Hansbrough will be able to score in the NBA, but his success at the next level will depend on how much he can improve defensively. Not possessing great quickness or leaping ability, Hansbrough will have to rely on his basketball IQ to make improvements defensively.
If he can show the ability to defend NBA post players, Hansbrough should see a lot of playing time early on and throughout his NBA career.
21. New Orleans Hornets – Terrence Williams, Louisville (Last year's stats: 12.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists)
The Hornets had a big hole at small forward last year, where Rasual Butler tried his best to fill in but just isn’t a starting-caliber NBA player. At this point in the draft, only one small forward will be able to come in and challenge Butler for the starting position, Terrence Williams.
Williams possesses every skill you would want in a player besides a go-to scorer's mentality and a consistent jump shot.
Coming into last season, the only knock on Williams' game was his ability to shoot the three-pointer, but he vastly improved his shot, finishing at 38.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Still, Williams has a lot of work to do in order to complete his improvement from three, as his form isn't very consistent, and he remains a streaky shooter from deep.
Despite his two shortcomings, Williams should be able to help any team. With the ability to play point-forward, T-Will has amazing playmaking ability and the explosiveness to translate that area of his game to the next level.
If he ever develops a consistent jump shot with NBA range, Williams will be hell to guard, and he should already produce as a great passer and energetic defender in his rookie year.
22. Dallas Mavericks – James Johnson, Wake Forest (Last year’s stats: 15.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals)
The Dallas Mavericks, despite a strong end to the season, still have plenty of questions regarding their roster. First, will Jason Kidd still be able to play at a high level even though he’s another year older?
Also, the Mavericks desperately need an upgrade at small forward, where James Singleton and Antoine Wright played the bulk of the backup minutes. At this point in the draft, the Mavericks’ surest bet is to improve their small forward position by drafting James Johnson, Wake Forest’s versatile playmaking power forward.
Johnson is a highly skilled, physical player with the ability to create offense for himself or others.
He has a very good handle for someone as strong as he is and also possesses above-average court vision, making him a good passer. Johnson isn’t an amazing athlete, but makes up for what he lacks in athleticism with physical strength, great toughness, and versatility.
He opens up the floor for others and is very unselfish.
Johnson has tons of skills but must improve on his shooting to be a truly effective pro. On the defensive end of the floor, Johnson lacks elite quickness but still manages to do a pretty good job guarding either small forwards or power forwards. He projects to be a solid NBA defender, but not a lockdown one.
If the Mavericks select him, look for them to be happy with his performance and lucky to have such a versatile player.
23. Sacramento Kings – Sam Young, Pittsburgh (Last year’s stats: 19.2 points, 6.3 rebounds)
The Kings are a team urgently in need of an infusion of athleticism. With perhaps the least athletic team in the league, the Kings need somebody at this point in the draft who can help them match up with the more athletic swingmen in the league. For that, the Kings should select Sam Young, the seasoned, proven veteran out of Pittsburgh.
If you’re looking for the most NBA-ready small forward, look no further than Young.
Possessor of an incredibly lethal shot fake (where he nearly comes off the ground himself), Young has a very advanced offensive game.
He is a strong, physical player able to score in the post, off the dribble, or in catch and shoot situations. He knows what he can and can’t do and plays to his strengths rather than his weaknesses.
A jack of all trades but a master of none, Young can do a little bit of everything offensively and showed go-to-scoring ability in college. In the NBA, however, Young will likely never be a No. 1 option, but should still be a solid performer capable of putting up big numbers on any given night.
Defensively is where Young should really shine in the NBA. He has great quickness, strength, and a nearly seven-foot wingspan, giving him the ability to cover a wide array of offensive players. Young is also super-tough, demonstrating his readiness to get down and dirty throughout his college career.
With his complete package on both sides of the ball, Sam Young should be an instant impact player and could develop into a special player down the road.
24. Portland Trailblazers – Derrick Brown, Xavier (Last year’s stats: 13.7 points, 6.1 rebounds)
Over the last few years, the Trailblazers have stockpiled draft picks and become a team for the future, loaded with talent at every position. With such a deep and talented team, the Blazers should look to acquire a player who is willing to do the dirty work, someone who can compete for spot minutes and perhaps develop into a serviceable pro.
The Blazers should pick Derrick Brown, who’s athleticism and defensive versatility should be coveted.
One of the least polished players in the draft, Brown relies almost solely on his outstanding athleticism for his production. Standing 6’8” with an outrageous 7’3” wingspan, Brown attacks the rim with reckless abandon, resulting in 73 dunks over last season.
Other than his athleticism, Brown has few skills that are ready for the NBA. His jump shot needs major work, only making 11 total three point shots last season and only attempting those shots when the defense left him no choice.
Defensively is where Derrick Brown is ready to make his greatest contributions. Because of his great physical attributes, Brown is a truly versatile defender, quick enough to stay in front of smaller players and strong enough to guard larger post players.
Brown is not yet ready to make contributions at the NBA level, but his outstanding athleticism make him a very intriguing prospect looking into the future.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder – Ty Lawson, UNC (Last year’s stats: 16.6 points, 6.6 assists)
With Russell Westbrook already established as their point guard of the future, I don’t think the Thunder should select a point guard with their first selection, the third pick in the draft. If Ty Lawson is still around at the 25th pick, though, the Thunder will have a tough time passing him by.
Before last year, I felt Lawson was an overrated, mistake-prone point guard who couldn’t hit a jumpshot. Boy, was I wrong. Lawson proved me, and all his detractors, wrong during an incredible junior season that saw him completely take the reigns of college basketball’s top team.
Tyler Hansbrough got a lot of the credit for North Carolina’s championship, but Ty Lawson was the guy who made them go. Because he played for North Carolina, Lawson gets compared to Raymond Felton, but I see a lot more Jameer Nelson in him.
Like Nelson, Lawson is a strong, physical guard with a lot of strength, and he developed a jumpshot during his junior season. This past year, he became a far better player than he ever had been, continuing to push the tempo to breakneck pace but still playing controlled basketball.
It was beautiful to watch Lawson play this season although, being a Duke fan, it wasn’t fun to see Greg Paulus, Elliot Williams and Nolan Smith try to guard him. I look for Lawson to be a starter in the NBA, and he could have a very good rookie year depending on where he gets drafted. With the Thunder, he wouldn’t be a starter, but he could be a nice sparkplug to bring off the bench.
26. Chicago Bulls – Dajuan Summers, Georgetown (Last year’s stats: 13.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals)
With the 26th selection, the Bulls still need a low-post scorer more than anything, but will be hard-pressed to find one in the paltry collection of big men in this draft.
With that said, they should look to increase their depth and athleticism, adding a versatile, talented player in the process. Expect them to pick Dajuan Summers.
I could never really get a good read on Summers’ game. At times, I was struck by his NBA-ready physique, terrific athleticism, and smooth jump shot.
Summers put together streaks within games where he would make a great block, grab the rebound, outlet, sprint the floor, and finish with a dunk at the offensive end. During those plays, Summers would look like a future NBA All-Star, capable of igniting his team with his energy and leading with his skills.
However, Summers had a tendency throughout his career of disappearing for large portions of games, somehow failing to impact the game despite his vast array of skills and physical attributes.
Summers still has all the physical tools you’d want in a small forward, but he has to learn to put it together for the entire game.
He could start by improving his ball-handling skills, which are more or less nonexistent. Because he has a poor handle, Summers can’t create his own offense and has to rely on hustle plays and his jump shot to score.
Based on his physical tools, Summers should still be a solid player in the league, but he’ll have to work to round out the rough edges of his game.
27. Memphis Grizzlies – Taj Gibson, USC (Last year’s stats: 14.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.9 blocks)
After drafting mammoth center Hasheem Thabeet with their first pick, the Grizzlies will be very pleased with their starting lineup of the future—Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and Thabeet.
At their second pick, the Grizzlies will look to get a defensive-minded player who will be able to affect games even when he isn’t scoring.
Extremely effective in and around the paint, Taj Gibson possesses some physical skills that will be very attractive to NBA GMs. Super long, with above-average athleticism, Gibson will have prototypical athletic ability for a power forward if he can add some weight to his 6’9” frame.
Offensively, Gibson possesses the makings of a very nice post game. He has a good arsenal of back-to-the-basket moves, with the capability to turn to either shoulder and make plays. Gibson has also shown signs of a decent face-up game.
If he can ever fully develop his face-up game to match the level of his post game, Gibson will be a very well-rounded offensive performer.
Still, without a developed face-up game, Taj has been an incredibly efficient scorer throughout his college career, shooting a scorching 60.1% from the field this past year.
On the other end of the court, Gibson also displays his immense physical tools. With great timing while blocking shots and a long wingspan, Gibson averaged almost three blocks per game for the past season.
Despite his great shot-blocking ability, Gibson could struggle guarding defenders in the post at the next level because of his frail frame. If Gibson can add weight, he should be able to develop into a game-changer defensively, and could be a very complete player in the NBA.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves – Austin Daye, Gonzaga (Last year’s stats: 12.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks)
Minnesota has the enviable position of having three draft picks in a draft that looks to be a lot deeper than people imagined. After selecting Tyreke Evans and Eric Maynor to play guard, look for the Timberwolves to pick a versatile swingman to help them add depth to their young roster.
This late in the first round, there is at least one small forward remaining with the talent to potentially become a great player in the NBA.
Probably the most talented small forward in the draft, nobody questions Austin Daye’s skills.
At a legitimate 6’10”, Daye can handle the ball, pass the ball, and shoot the ball like a smaller player. He has great jab step moves and a highly advanced offensive repertoire. He has incredible size and an amazing skill set to go with it.
Still, Daye wasn’t as productive as he should have been at Gonzaga. While he was an impact player, Daye was nowhere near the star his size and skill say he should be. Daye needs to become physically and mentally tougher in order to compete in the NBA, but he might be the only remaining small forward who has star potential at the next level.
If Daye can get in the weight room and had 20-30 pounds to his frame, he could immediately be an impact player and a huge mismatch similar to Rashard Lewis. Otherwise, look for him to fail to live up to his tremendous potential.
29. Los Angeles Lakers – Omri Casspi, Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel) (Last year’s stats: 8.8 points, 3.1 rebounds)
After the Timberwolves take Austin Daye, look for the Lakers to be very excited about picking Omri Casspi. The Lakers will have the opportunity to stash Casspi overseas for a couple years if they’d like, or they could bring him over to help their team right away.
Apparently, Casspi and Daye both took part in the same workout for the New Jersey Nets, and Casspi just murdered Daye, muscling him time and time again.
Playing for a European powerhouse, Casspi has yet to play major minutes overseas. Only 20 years old, Casspi has a ton of potential, but like almost everybody at the small forward position, he looks to be more of a role player in the league than a star.
Like the rest of the small forwards on this list, Casspi is more of an opportunistic scorer than a guy who creates offense. He finds his offense by running the floor in transition, spotting up for open jumpers, and making hustle plays around the basket.
Casspi still has far to go to be a productive player, but he has a very high skill level and has been a productive role player for one of the elite European teams at a very young age.
Look for him to also be productive once he moves his game to the NBA.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers – Jeff Pendergraph, Arizona St. (Last year’s stats: 14.5 points, 8.2 rebounds)