New York, NY: With the NBA Draft at the cusp of beginning, mock drafts are beginning to pour in from everywhere in the nation.
Sports writers and "experts" are leading the charge and taking all rumors into account, as the likely positioning players will be drafted at is taking shape. With no assured selections after the consensus No. 1 selection, Blake Griffin, this draft is sure to have a flurry of trades along with a bevy of surprises that will leave fans questioning their teams selections.
Potential is the key to this year's draft, as many players are not ready to offer significant contributions to their respective teams. Not only will there likely be no seniors selected in the top 10, but only two seem to be assured a selection in the top 20.
For teams looking to win now, rather than later, more proven veterans should be on the move to new locations, with today's trade of Richard Jefferson acting as the starting point for teams looking to move contracts like those of Shaquille O'Neal and Ray Allen.
As a result, this draft is not likely to offer plenty of star quality, but rather depth that will leave teams looking to free up salary cap space for the free agent bonanza that many teams are preparing for in 2010.
With those trades not likely to take place until draft night, this is how each team can be expected to draft to prepare for the 2009-2010 season.
No. 1) L.A Clippers: Blake Griffin: Everyone who has seen the Oklahoma Sooners play can attest to Griffin's domination of college basketball. A rare combination of athleticism and back-to-the-basket skills, the young power forward will give the Los Angeles Clippers a face for their franchise.
Whether or not they find a way to rid themselves of Zach Randolph, Griffin will play some role in the rotation with Chris Kaman or Marcus Camby being in every Clippers' rumor available to the public.
If he can improve his defense and develop a 10-12 foot jumper, he could be a dangerous player sooner rather than later.
Comparison: Carlos Boozer/Amare Stoudemire hybrid
No. 2) Memphis Grizzlies: Hasheem Thabeet: With OJ Mayo being the only established player on the team (with Rudy Gay regressing this past year), the Grizzlies have a big decision to make with their first selection.
Mike Conley hasn't developed as quickly as they would have liked. They have no legitimate threat at power forward, and Marc Gasol came on strong last year at center as a rookie.
Drafting Thabeet will likely leave them with the decision as to what to do with Gasol, and they would probably be more than happy if a team came to them with an offer that would allow them to receive a player that fit more of a position of need (Kevin Love?), but that is not likely.
Thus, Thabeet is the choice and gives them a defensive presence that they hope can develop some remnant of an offensive threat.
Blocks and rebounds should come easily to Thabeet, but, if he can put on more weight and develop a more hard-nosed attitude, he will be a good block for Memphis' rebuilding project.
Comparison: Samuel Dalembert/Saer Saene
No. 3) OKC Thunder: James Harden: Harden slowly became one of my favorite players in the draft and is undoubtedly ready to step on an NBA court once he gets drafted. Able to both isolate and create shots for others, the Arizona State product can shoot from the perimeter and get to the basket.
Although he is the not the most athletic specimen in the draft, he is nothing to scoff at.
Blessed with an innate touch for the game, Harden knows how to do it all and can be a 20 point, five rebound, five assist player if he continues to work hard at his craft (particularly his ball handling).
Comparison: Vince Carter (now)/Josh Howard
No. 4) Sacramento Kings: Ricky Rubio: Barring a trade, this is how Sacramento was hoping the draft ended up. The Knicks could still make a move for Rubio, but it is likely they will stay put or move up to No. 5.
Rubio is the flashy point guard that has the potential to become the next Steve Nash. Still only 18, Rubio can pass with the best of players in the NBA right now. Yet, he also can turnover the ball with the best players in the NBA.
If he can limit his turnovers and develop a better shooting stroke, he has the ability to be the best player when this draft is reexamined 20 years from now.
He will, likely, never attain Nash's sweet shooting stroke, but he can become solid enough to pose a serious threat as one of the top five point guards in the league within the next two years.
Comparison: Kirk Hinrich with more playmaking ability.
No. 5) Minnesota Timberwolves: Stephen Curry: With the T-Wolves trading away Foye and Miller, they need a new point guard and shooting guard for the future. Curry provides the team with a scoring punch off the dribble and leadership that it needs for a young team.
Although he doesn't provide much athleticism or defense, he could provide a team like the Knicks with a longtime point guard to run the offense if the Wolves decide to trade the pick.
Comparison: Mike Bibby
No. 6) Minnesota Timberwolves: Tyreke Evans: The true definition of a combo guard, Evans gives the Timberwolves a shooting guard that would allow Stephen Curry to play the point, but not have to maintain full control of point guard responsibilities.
Evans sometimes forgets about his teammates and goes into an isolation mode, but knows how to create plays for them at the same time. His defensive presence is what could allow him to make a major impact as he has the potential to be a consistent thief in the passing lanes.
Demar Derozan is another possibility.
Comparison: Larry Hughes
No. 7) Golden State Warriors: Jordan Hill: The Warriors have all but guaranteed Hill that they would draft him. Hill would offer a nice complement to Nellie's uptempo system.
A raw, but natural rebounder, Hill can provide energy off the bench if he ever gets on the floor in Don Nelson's not so rookie friendly team.
His average defense and excellent athleticism will give him an advantage over the multiple players Golden State has played out of position at the four spot. If Hill can become more mature and stay away from Josh Howard-like acts once he reaches the NBA, he could have potential to help the Warriors reach the playoffs in a few years.
No. 8) New York Knicks: Johnny Flynn: Although the Knicks would rather have Curry or Hill, they have no choice but to accept Flynn as the consolation prize, barring a trade.
Flynn can excel in the fast-tempo game that Coach Mike D'Antoni runs. Extremely turnover prone, he has no problem taking bad shots and is a non-factor defensively.
Sounds like a perfect-fit for New York, otherwise Flynn has the speed and playmaking ability be a solid point guard.
Comparison Monta Ellis/Sebastian Telfair
No. 9) Toronto Raptors: Demar DeRozan: This match between DeRozan and the Raptors almost seems as perfect as Flynn and the Knicks.
Replacing the recently departed Vince Carter with someone who claims to be more athletic than Vincanity will give the Raptors a shooting guard that can jump out of the building and offer a threat besides Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon.
Defensively, he has the tools to be a better defender than Carter, but offensively he will likely take time to develop the range out to the three-point line.
His upside is as high as anyone's in the draft, but his reliance on athleticism may limit his ceiling.
Comparison: Vince Carter (younger version)/Nick Young
No. 10) Milwaukee Bucks: Jrue Holiday: Another match made in heaven leads the Bucks to choose Holiday to lead their team at the point. With Scott Skiles as the coach, the Bucks have been preaching defense and they need a point guard to eventually replace Luke Ridnour.
Holiday gives the team a defensive point guard and someone who can also play off the ball as he grows into a starter.
Although Holiday is raw offensively, he was limited at UCLA like Russell Westbrook before he entered the NBA. The more time Holiday receives, the more likely he will be able to reach that potential of being at least a key sixth man off the bench.
Terrence Williams could also be an option with Richard Jefferson on the way to San Antonio.
Comparison: Russell Westbrook (less athletic)
No. 11) New Jersey Nets: Earl Clark: The more I read about Terrence Williams, the more I think he will become a Net.
Yet, the more I read about him, the more I think he will also be a player who has limited potential.
That, along with the fact that he has said that at the end of draft day, hopefully, I will become a Bobcat, led me to believe that the Nets will take another wing player.
Although James Johnson impressed the New Jersey brass as well and offers a more physical game, Clark can give them a player that can become a legitimate star. With the Nets closer to rebuilding than contending, Clark gives New Jersey a versatile defender and rebounder who has already said he wants to be a Net.
If he can keep motivated and build more muscle, he could offer the team a do-it-all small forward.
Comparison: Danny Granger
No. 12) Charlotte Bobcats: Terrence Williams: Williams is a Larry Brown type of player through and through. He plays hard-nosed defense, is multi-dimensional, and is one of the most NBA ready players in the draft.
Yet, Williams also does not offer the scoring punch the Bobcats need from their starting shooting guard.
This will likely limit him to being a role player unless Charlotte can find a true star to play alongside him on the perimeter and allow him to play a supporting role. Gerald Wallace is a very good player, but isn't the type of player that will allow Williams to be a true complimentary player.
If the Nets take Williams at 11, Gerald Henderson will likely be the pick.
Comparison: Ron Artest (worse shooter).
No. 13) Indians Pacers: Brandon Jennings: The Pacers have been searching for a true franchise point guard for years, and may have finally found one in Jennings.
Ranked as a top five player not that long ago, Jennings provides Indiana the same flair that Flynn would provide the Knicks.
Although he sometimes has terrible shot selection, he can be a potent scoring weapon and has very good court vision. If he can keep his head in the game and focus on passing more than scoring, the Pacers could finally rely on a lead guard to compliment Brandon Rush and Danny Granger.
Comparison: Allen Iverson (early 30s version)
No. 14) Phoenix Suns: James Johnson: The Suns will likely hope that Earl Clark lasts to their pick and would likely select him to replace Grant Hill and Matt Barnes. But, with Clark on his way to New Jersey, the Suns select another highly ranked and versatile small forward.
Johnson offers the Suns true mismatches for them to utilize. Not only can he post up the smaller defenders, but he can also dribble by bigger defenders or take them out to the perimeter.
The tweener label, however, might limit him to a bench role.
Comparison: David West/Ryan Gomes
No. 15) Detroit Pistons: B.J. Mullens: Mullens has been on Detroit's draft list for a while and being the only seven footer with a first round grade, outside of Thabeet, will likely keep him there.
A true project, Mullens will be a nice stalwart for Detroit's future, but will have trouble keeping up with the game next year. More likely to ride the pine than get starting time, Mullens can eventually provide Detroit with an inside-outside option at the five spot.
Until then, his raw ability and lack of drive will keep Mullens from getting time next year.
Comparison: Kosta Koufos/Chris Kaman
No. 16) Chicago Bulls: Dejuan Blair: With questionable knees and size, Blair slips all the way to the Bulls at 16. Blair's toughness will be an important cog to the Bulls immediately.
Not only does he offer toughness, but he out-hustles his opponents for rebounds. Offensively he knows how to establish position in the paint, but his lack of athleticism will probably keep him from becoming more than a very good option off the bench.
Comparison: Paul Milsap
No. 17) Philadelphia 76ers: Eric Maynor: Although Jeff Teague is a possibility, Maynor is a better leader on the court and has better court vision. Replacing Andre Miller is of primary importance, and, like Miller, Maynor offers natural playmaking ability and a good jumper (as well as sub-par defense).
He also has the tendency to go for the win as he showed as the leader at Virginia Commonwealth last year.
Comparison: Andre Miller
No. 18) Minnesota Timberwolves: Austin Daye: As thin as Daye is at 6'10", he still has massive potential. With outstanding shooting ability outside on the perimeter, Daye can become a major part of the Wolves in a few years.
Yet, his frail frame will likely be a major hindrance when guarding other players at his position. Minnesota has been rumored to offer him a guarantee at this spot.
Comparison: Rashard Lewis/Brian Cook (somewhere in between)
No. 19) Atlanta Hawks: Jeff Teague: With Mike Bibby a free agent, the Hawks need a point guard to either take over or backup Acie Law. Teague is more built for the off-guard position, but he is aggressive enough as a point guard to play the position in the NBA.
With most guards focusing on scoring rather than passing, Teague would fit in perfectly. If he can improve his point guard skills and show the maturity to put in the effort to improve, he could prove to be a steal in the draft.
Comparison: Monta Ellis
No. 20) Utah Jazz: Tyler Hansbrough: The Jazz will likely lose Carlos Boozer and will need some strength behind Paul Milsap. A high energy player in college, Hansbrough's toughness and hustle could never be questioned.
He will make his living around the basket, but has been developing a solid 10 foot jumper. He is likely a role player as of now, but can become a solid starter on a team like the Spurs eventually.
Comparison: Luis Scola
No. 21) New Orleans: Gerald Henderson: The Hornets get a steal in Henderson if he drops this far. It is more likely that the Nets will take Williams and the Bobcats will take Henderson, but there always seems to be someone that drops that no one expects to.
It is also always possible that there is a trade up for Henderson, who is one of my favorite players in the draft. Not only can he play in the NBA from the start, but his aggressiveness and defense would be perfect for a team set at point guard.
Although he will never be a star, Henderson will become a solid starter that no one will argue wasn't worth a first round pick.
Comparison: Courtney Lee/Richard Jefferson
No. 22) Dallas Mavericks: Ty Lawson: Jason Kidd is on his way out and Ty Lawson could be on his way in. The Mavericks have been trying to trade up in the draft and will probably try to trade up for a bigger guard like Maynor, but Lawson is the same blur of a player that they drafted in Devin Harris a few years ago.
Smaller than Harris, but built more solid, Lawson would give them insurance in case Kidd heads elsewhere. If not, they also have the option of playing Lawson alongside Kidd or Jason Terry if they desire to have a scoring threat on the fast break.
Comparison: T.J Ford (more muscular)
No. 23) Sacramento Kings: Sam Young: The Kings grab one of the most NBA ready players in the draft, and possibly my favorite late round pick. A defensive stopper and the perfect sixth man winger off the bench, the only problem with Young is his age, which is much higher than the rest of the class.
Comparison: James Posey
No. 24) Portland Trailblazers: Chase Budinger: Portland could always trade out of this spot, especially for a veteran. Yet, with Martell Webster not panning out and a lack of a real threat from the perimeter, outside of Rudy Fernandez, Budinger gives them a potent scorer with plenty of athleticism.
Although he has problems creating his own shot, he is the prototypical shooter off the bench. Don't expect Budinger to use his athleticism much, but his shooting touch will be noticed immediately.
Comparison: Brent Barry (younger version and eventually the older vision)
No. 25) OKC Thunder: Viktor Claver: An offensive commodity with limited defensive potential, Claver will likely be stashed in Europe for some time before the Thunder call on him a year or two from now.
Expect the Spurs to trade up for Omri Casspi either to Portland sport or here at OKC's pick. More of an outside than inside threat, Claver could be good in a few years from now.
Comparison: Jorge Garbajosa
No. 26) Chicago Bulls: Omri Casspi: By having two picks, the Bulls are able to invest in the future. Although Wayne Ellington is a possibility, Casspi has more potential to have a major impact in the long-run.
Not blessed with defensive quickness, Casspi relies on his toughness and aggressiveness against smaller forwards.
Comparison: Andres Nocioni
No. 27) Memphis Grizzlies: Wayne Ellington: Ellington is a complete steal at this position by the Grizzlies. Looking for more firepower behind Ellington, Memphis gets a young dead-eye shooter who at times can get into the paint.
Coming off of screens and pulling up for the jumper is what Ellington does better than few in this draft class. His defense won't impress anyone, but Ellington is deadly from the outside.
Comparison: Ray Allen (older version)
No. 28) Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonas Jerebko: Jerebko will likely be stashed in Europe by the T-Wolves who have three picks in the first round. He doesn't commit unnecessary fouls, but is one of the most defensively intense players in the draft.
If he can develop an inside game offensively, the Wolves could have a solid player three years from now.
Comparison: Matt Barnes
No. 29) L.A. Lakers: Dajuan Summers: The Lakers will likely lose either Lamar Odom or Trevor Ariza this offseason, and Summers provides them with another versatile winger to place in the rotation.
In a system at Georgetown that limited his potential, Summers could eventually take over a significant role in the Lakers' mixture of Phil's triangle offense. His shooting touch can eventually improve, but the tools are there to succeed.
Comparison: Jeff Green (less energy)
No. 30) Cleveland Cavaliers: Marcus Thornton: With Thornton shooting up the draftboards along with Jodie Meeks, it could be either player heading to Cleveland to help ease the scoring load off of Lebron James.
Thornton, however, gets the nod because of his ability to catch and shoot, and the fact that he's much better when someone else is helping him create his shot. James will, eventually, make him a better player and possibly an eventual Sixth Man of the Year candidate.
*Although there will undoubtedly be trades within the next two days up until the 30th pick of the draft, this is only one of the many possible ways the first round can go.
With a harsh economic climate and no clear guarantee past Blake Griffin, it will surely be one of the most dynamic drafts over the past few years, which will bring the movers and shakers of the NBA to the forefront.
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