The Sonics have a lot of choices in the draft, both in terms of selections (six) and possible candidates for those selections.
The 2008 draft is fairly deep, with college freshmen replacing high school draftees in 2007, and about a dozen of them projected into the first round, there are potential stars littering most first round projections.
So considering Sam Presti’s analytical process, oft-compared to Billy Beane for his use of finite statistics in conjunction with physical attributes, who should, or will the Sonics take?
The two most popular independent mock draft sites, nbadraft.net and draftexpress.com, and espn.com’s Bill Simmons and Chad Ford combine to project four different prospects to Seattle at No. 4. Those prospects, in no particular order are O.J. Mayo, Russell Westbrook, Jerryd Bayless, and Brook Lopez.
With varying picks at No. 4, and also at No. 24, it begs the question, who should the Sonics take, and more importantly, why?
Pick No. 4
O.J. Mayo, PG/SG, USC
This is Bill Simmons’ selection. The USC combo guard is a solid outside shooter, and a very good athlete. He’s got the ability to finish at the hoop, but many experts question his ability to get there.
I’m not a huge fan of Mayo’s. He’s got a poor first step, meaning he’ll score a lot of his points from the perimeter. He’s far from a pure point guard, and seems likely to offer somewhat of a “Gilbert Arenas effect.”
Mayo is a one man marketing machine, who plays fairly inefficiently. He’s not a distributor, and while he’s very strong, comparisons to Chauncey Billups are unfounded.
He’d be a decent shooting guard, though he’d essentially amount to a smaller version of Kevin Durant. Mayo is a poor choice at point guard.
Russell Westbrook, PG/SG, UCLA
Westbrook is Chad Ford’s pick. The UCLA guard is considered a combo guard, though he’s had little need to play the point with the presence of Darren Collison. He’s a long, athletic defender.
I like Westbrook. Though he hasn’t shown an ability to be a pure point guard, he’s somewhat raw offensively and hasn’t quite set himself in a position yet. He has an excellent first step, which allows him to drive and kick, something Mayo will struggle with.
Westbrook, if he plays shooting guard, would be an option similar to Leandro Barbosa in Pheonix, when he shares the court with Steve Nash. He’d suck the defense toward him, and has enough PG ability to kick out when he encounters mismatches.
Westbrook is a high flyer, and could be a headache defensively for opposing point guards, while long enough to defend many larger shooting guards. However, he’s a bit of a project at this point and a reach at No. 4.
Jerryd Bayless, PG/SG, Arizona
This is nbadraft.net’s selection. Bayless is perhaps the most versatile of the guards who could be available at No. 4. He’s a solid shooter, has an excellent first step, and is a decent prospect as a pure PG.
Though undersized to play SG, that is perhaps his most natural position. Bayless is a far better PG prospect than Mayo. He’s an independent scorer, meaning he can create his own shot and knock it down.
At shooting guard, Bayless would be far better suited offensively, but his average wingspan would hurt him defensively against larger, longer shooting guards.
Bayless is the definition of a tweener, and has drawn comparisons to Monta Ellis. Fortunately for Ellis though, he’s been paired with a solid distributor in Baron Davis.
Brook Lopez, C, Stanford
Lopez is draftexpress.com’s pick. Lopez is as non-descript as a seven-footer can be. His offensive game is not exciting, he’s not extremely athletic, and he’s slow. Who does that sound like? The “Big Fundamental” Tim Duncan? Perhaps that is a bit of a stretch.
I’m a huge fan of a selection of Lopez. While his upside is less impressive than the three aforementioned guards, he’s less likely to be a liability early in his career. Often times upside, or lack thereof, is mistaken for superiority as a prospect.
There are a lot of things that Lopez will never be able to do that Dwight Howard does with ease, however, he’ll be a far steadier option in the post. Super-athletic bigs often neglect to polish their low-post footwork, and their overall game suffers. That won’t be a problem with Lopez, who has an already-polished post game.
Lopez has an ugly shot, akin to that of Shawn Marion, but in all likelihood he’ll spend most of his time 15 feet and closer to the rim.
Lopez would be my choice at No. 4, he’s a bit of a reach though.
Kevin Love, PF, UCLA
He’s fat and undersized. His post-game is polished, but I see too much Mike Sweetney in Love to warrant that high of a selection.
Michael Beasley, SF/PF, Kansas State via trade
Beasley is extremely athletic, but without a position. Also, how many small forwards can this team really carry? Kevin Durant and Jeff Green are already splitting time at their natural positions, though Durant has played some ill-advised time at shooting guard.
This is the option I like the most, somewhere between 7-11 the Sonics could still be in position to take either Westbrook or Lopez. Westbrook is on par with the other guards available at No. 4, and Lopez is the best center available in the draft.
At No. 24
A lot of what happens at No. 24 depends on what happens at No. 4. If the Sonics take a guard, Serge Ibaka, JaVale McGee, DeAndre Jordan, Kosta Koufos or Nathan Jawai become options at PF and C, both deep positions in the draft. Ibaka and Jawai are both international prospects who could be stashed overseas for a few years.
I particularly like Ibaka, who has drawn comparisons to Shawn Kemp (pre-coke, kids, and weight gain.)
Jawai is an intriguing prospect, who has a huge body, and fluid footwork despite his relative lack of experience playing organized basketball.
Keep in mind that the Sonics only have three roster spots available, so a lot could change on draft day. However, as it sits, an ideal draft, in my eyes, would look like this.
No. 4 - Brook Lopez, C, Stanford
No. 24 - Mario Chalmers, PG, Kansas
No. 32 - Serge Ibaka, PF, Spain
No. 46 - Richard Hendrix, PF, Alabama
No. 50 - JR Giddens, SG, New Mexico
No. 56 - Anton Ponkrashov, PG, Russia
Chalmers would make a solid, low risk, back-up point guard option. The Sonics should be in position to draft Ricky Rubio, a point guard from Spain next year.
Hendrix is a hard working, strong, effort guy from Alabama. He’d have to prove himself in preseason camps, but could be a nice option off the bench.
JR Giddens is a long, decent shooting, good defending, high flying shooting guard. He could develop into a Desmond Mason type of player with a better jumper.
Anton Ponkrashov is an intriguing prospect at 6’7”, and could play multiple positions coming off the bench. He’d likely be stashed overseas for a few years.