After Duke lost to Villanova in March during the Sweet 16, the question on most Duke fans' minds was: Will Gerald Henderson return to Duke or enter the NBA Draft?
Henderson vastly improved from the beginning of the season to the end, specifically with his jump shot and defense away from the ball. As a result, Henderson was named a first-team All-ACC performer his junior season.
Henderson signed with an agent May 19, securing his place in the NBA Draft. Many experts project him to be a lottery pick.
Henderson is probably the most recognized potential lottery pick, aside from Blake Griffin, Hasheem Thabeet, and Stephen Curry, all who have received significant national exposure for their performances this past season.
The Los Angeles Clippers won the NBA Draft Lottery and announced shortly after that the team will select Griffin with the No. 1 overall pick.
So with Griffin a lock for the Clippers, let's see how the rest of the first round projects with analysis for lottery picks and brief commentary on the remainder of the picks.
1. Los Angeles Clippers — Blake Griffin, F, Oklahoma
Again, the Clippers have already announced their intention to select Griffin, who is a wise pick because he fills a need, even though he isn't necessarily the best player in this draft.
Each of the big men for the Clippers have their own problems, making a trade of one of them a sensible option to make room for Griffin both on the floor and financially.
Selecting Griffin will solidify the frontcourt and give the Clippers a foundation for the future.
2. Memphis Grizzlies — Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut
Regardless of whether Memphis trades this pick, Thabeet appears to be Memphis' man. Even though Thabeet missed a recent workout with the Grizzlies, they are quite interested in him.
If the Grizzlies picks Thabeet, I applaud them. He gives them size inside and decent big man who can come off of the bench to substitute for Marc Gasol.
Or, they could trade him to Minnesota for someone like Stephen Curry.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder — Ricky Rubio, PG, DKV Joventut (Spain)
Like Memphis, the Thunder really can't go wrong with this pick. Picking any one of these four, Thabeet, Rubio, Curry, and James Harden would be a great addition to this steadily improving team.
Concern arises about whether Rubio and the Thunder's first round pick last year, Russell Westbrook, can co-exist in the backcourt. I see no problem with it, however.
The Thunder could very well trade this pick to Minnesota or New York. If they keep the pick, the Thunder don't need to worry about Rubio's buyout from his Spanish team, as they are of the few teams in the league with cap room to spare.
4. Sacramento Kings — Tyreke Evans, PG, Memphis
Reports from Sacramento indicate Evans is favored over Rubio. So even if Rubio is off the board, Evans appears to be the Kings' guy. His size would be a great fit for Sacramento since he can play either guard position.
Sacramento certainly needs a point guard. One would probably still be available at No. 23, but Evans will suit Sacramento well. So there is no need to worry about one later in the first round.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves — Stephen Curry, G, Davidson
Minnesota acquired the No. 5 pick Wednesday from Washington as part of a five-player trade. Now with consecutive picks, not drafting Curry is inexcusable if he's still available.
Curry would be a great fit for Minnesota, as he could be the facilitator of the future for the Timberwolves. He'd be an ideal candidate for the pick-and-roll with Kevin Love and for lobbing passes inside to Al Jefferson.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves — James Harden, G/F, Arizona State
Consider getting Harden a steal. The Timberwolves would be the hands-down winner of this draft if these two guys are their selections at Nos. 5 and 6. Harden is a solid player who could contribute right away.
Chances are he could be an immediate upgrade at shooting guard over Mike Miller, who was part of the trade to Washington.
7. Golden State Warriors — Jordan Hill, F, Arizona
Head coach Don Nelson said he wouldn't let Hill get past him at No. 7 if Hill was still on the board. Hill would solidify the Golden State frontcourt. He's about halfway between reaching potential and immediate production.
Brandon Jennings and DeMar DeRozan were also discussed for this pick, but the Warrior didn't want to upset Monta Ellis by drafting a point guard. So the Warriors take Hill, and let Ellis run the team.
Jamal Crawford appears to be heading to Atlanta for two points guards, which makes taking Hill even more sensible for Golden State.
8. New York Knicks — Gerald Henderson, G/F, Duke
Recent news from the Knicks indicates Henderson could be the pick. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski recommended former Duke point guard Chris Duhon to Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni last summer.
So perhaps D'Antoni is sold on another former Duke player.
Henderson brings stability to the Knicks backcourt right away. Jennings was also a possibility for the Knicks, but he probably will take longer to develop than Henderson.
9. Toronto Raptors — DeMar DeRozan, G, Southern California
DeRozan could be the replacement for aging Anthony Parker, who is an unrestricted free agent this summer. DeRozan brings an up-tempo style to Toronto that suits point guard Jose Calderon.
If the Raptors are able to re-sign Shawn Marion, the combination of him and DeRozan could make Toronto one of the most nightmarish fast-paced teams in the league this season.
10. Milwaukee Bucks — Jonny Flynn, PG, Syracuse
The Bucks feel they won't be able to re-sign free agent Ramon Sessions this offseason.
Flynn would be somewhat of a steal at this point considering how high he's been on teams' draft boards leading up to the draft.
Flynn's speed and toughness would be an ideal addition to the young Milwaukee team. And with proper pace in his development, Flynn could be one of the best point guards from this draft class in the near future.
11. New Jersey Nets — Tyler Hansbrough, F, North Carolina
The Nets have indicated this pick will either be Henderson or Hansbrough, who will likely be the Nets' pick since New York appears to be leaning toward Henderson.
Though many feel he'd be a reach at this point, taking Hansbrough is defensible because a team like the Nets would want to grab him in case a team behind them wants him badly.
If Hansbrough proves to be a valuable contributor, the Nets will be pleased they didn't let him slip past them at No. 11, since as many as five teams behind them are also interested.
12. Charlotte Bobcats — Terrance Williams, G, Louisville
The Bobcats, namely head coach Larry Brown, merely want the best available fit. Apparently the Bobcats had their eye on Henderson or Williams. And, again, with Henderson going to the Knicks, Williams heads to Charlotte as Raja Bell's backup.
The Bobcats are seeking impact with this pick.
Williams is a nice athlete who appears to be able to make an impact right away. If they feel unsure, however, they have indicated they're not scared to trade out of this position.
13. Indiana Pacers — Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina
GM Larry Bird has identified point guard as a position of need. Bird said he's looking to draft a player with a lot of experience, namely North Carolina's Lawson and Hansbrough or Pittburgh's Dejuan Blair.
Lawson ultimately gets the nod since the Pacers have a mess at point guard right now.
The Pacers can likely do without a big man while they still have Troy Murphy, Jeff Foster, Roy Hibbert, and Josh McRoberts, who apparently has recommitted himself this offseason to being a valuable contributor.
14. Phoenix Suns — Earl Clark, F, Louisville
Most people would believe Phoenix needs a point guard to replace Steve Nash. But Clark is a splendid talent, too good to pass up. Plus, point guards are plentiful in this draft, so Phoenix could get one another way if it needed to.
Clark would bring athleticism to the frontcourt and be a good replacement should Grant Hill or Matt Barnes, or both, leave due to free agency.
15. Detroit Pistons — B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State
The Pistons have reportedly promised Mullens to take him and have yet to deny the report.
16. Chicago Bulls — Dejuan Blair, F, Pittsburgh
Blair would be good insurance in case Chicago loses Tyrus Thomas in a trade.
17. Philadelphia 76ers — Eric Maynor, PG, Virginia Commonwealth
Philadelphia seems to be set on a point guard. And apparently Maynor's been the guy all along.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves — Brandon Jennings, PG, Virtus Roma (Italy)
Jennings will fall because of the uncertainty surrounding his year in Europe, but passing up on his upside would be difficult for Minnesota.
19. Atlanta Hawks — Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina
With so many free agents, knowing where to start is tough. Lawson will be a reliable rookie point guard.
20. Utah Jazz — Sam Young, G/F, Pittsburgh
Head coach Jerry Sloan likes Young because of Young's toughness and experience.
21. New Orleans Hornets — Marcus Thornton, G, Louisiana State
The Hornets will likely either select Thornton or sell this pick.
22. Portland Trail Blazers — Austin Daye, F, Gonzaga
Portland wants toughness, Daye, though undersized, is a rugged, versatile scorer.
23. Sacramento Kings — Jrue Holiday, PG, UCLA
Holiday, like Evans, could play both guard spots, giving Sacramento tremendous backcourt flexibility.
24. Dallas Mavericks — James Johnson, F, Wake Forest
Dallas wants to solidify its frontcourt. Johnson would be a nice pick if he falls this far.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder — Rodrique Beaubois, PG, Cholet (France)
The Thunder can stockpile him overseas as insurance for Rubio without having to pay him right away.
26. Chicago Bulls — Darren Collison, PG, UCLA
Chicago reportedly wants a point guard, meaning it might trade Kirk Hinrich.
27. Memphis Grizzlies — DeMarre Carroll, F, Missouri
Memphis has said it will take Carroll if he's available here.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves — Chase Budinger, G/F, Arizona
Minnesota could punctuate an already tremendous draft by drafting Budinger, who could have been a lottery pick last year.
29. Los Angeles Lakers — Jonas Jerebko, F, Angelico Biella (Sweden)
In case the Lakers can't sign Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza, they like Jerebko. If not, Patrick Mills is a possibility.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers — Derrick Brown, F, Xavier
Cleveland needs a tough, defensive swingman to spell LeBron James. Brown could fill the void if Cleveland can't fill it in free agency or through a trade.