Ah, the NBA Draft.
Nothing's better, right? Whether your team is looking to add a potential franchise player or just simply trying to fill in one or two small spots for role players, the draft is a time where organizations and fans alike can be giddy with excitement for a fresh start with new, talented players (unless you're a Knicks fan).
Outside of the top two picks, the 2010 class might be lacking in superstars, but isn't lacking in quality players who could step in and make a significant contribution to a team that's on the verge of making some serious noise (see: Thunder, Oklahoma City or Grizzlies, Memphis).
Alas, with the playoffs tipping off this weekend, NBA junkies will have to wait another two months for the draft to unfold.
But it's never too early to take a peak at who might be the best fits for what team. So it's my honor to present to you the first edition of my 2010 NBA mock draft. A few conditions before you begin reading...
First, obviously there has yet to be the draft lottery, which goes a long way in determining what picks go where. So the order of teams will be based on their final regular season records (and yes, I held my own random tiebreaker between lottery teams with identical records to determine order...I have a lot of time on my hands).
Second, all NCAA players will be included. Take Greg Monroe; he said he was probably returning to Georgetown, but since he still has time to change his mind and go pro, he's fair game.
Now that we're clear, the New Jersey Nets are on the clock...
Let's go into Hubie Brown-mode for a minute. You're the New Jersey Nets. It took a late season push to avoid finishing with the worst record in NBA history. You have enough cap space this offseason to offer a max contract to a free agent, and are more than likely going to get the No. 1 pick, meaning you have a difficult decision between two seemingly "sure things" in John Wall and Evan Turner.
So what do you do?
Do you go with Turner, a more versatile athlete who might fit into the current system better? A Devin Harris/Evan Turner/Brook Lopez trio is a solid foundation to build on.
Or do you go with John Wall, a more natural point guard, use him as bait to entice available free agents, and try to move Devin Harris, either for more draft picks or future cap flexibility?
I think Turner might be a better match for New Jersey, but I just don't see the Nets passing up on Wall. His open court speed is tantalizing, and he plays maturely for someone at his age.
Wall represents the new wave of point guards. At 6'4", he's a matchup nightmare for smaller guards, since he can use his size to see over the defense and more aptly avoid double-teams on pick-and-rolls. He's great in transition and plays confidently at a high level.
From there, the Nets could use Devin Harris as a key piece in a sign-and-trade, and if they are able to land an athletic swingman like Joe Johnson, Rudy Gay, or Ray Allen, they could suddenly become a formidable team in the East.
It's no mystery who the T'Wolves are going to select here—whoever the Nets pass up at No. 1.
In this case it's Turner, and Minnesota gets a steal with "The Villain."
While scouts are allured by John Wall's speed and potential, it's the versatility of the 6'7" swingman that will be Turner's main selling point. He played off the ball for two years at Ohio State before making the transition to point guard in his junior year.
From there, he excelled, averaging 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.7 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game on 51.9 percent shooting from the field. Those numbers are LeBron-esque.
He'd be a perfect fit in Minnesota's system (or any team, for that matter). I think the best bet would be for the Wolves to use him at point forward (in a Hedo Turkoglu-type role) in a lineup with Jonny Flynn, Corey Brewer, and Al Jefferson—quite a young, athletic rotation.
The only major question in Turner's game is his outside shot, but he did shoot over 50 percent from behind the three-point line in March. His mid-range game is excellent, which is a lost art in the NBA.
It might be risky to take three point guards in a two-year span, but the Wolves have to pull the trigger on Turner and sort out the rest as they move along.
In a perfect world, Sacramento will land a top-two pick in the lottery so they can nab Evan Turner and trot out a Turner/Tyreke Evans/Omri Casspi backcourt for the next 10 years. I'd order NBA League Pass just so I'd never miss a Kings game.
In this case, Sacto is picking at No. 3, so their options are a little more limited.
While DeMarcus Cousins might be a bit more polished in his post game, the Kings go with Favors, an athletic power forward who runs the floor as good as any big in the draft.
Favors' two biggest upsides are his athleticism and (get ready to hear this word a lot) potential. He loves to get up and down the court, and would fit in great in Sacramento's system. He can finish with both hands near the rim and, while he isn't the most aggressive low-post player, can handle going one-on-one against almost any other power forward.
His major question marks are how he handles double-teams and his passing out of the block. But in Sacramento's system, with Evans commanding so much attention and Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson with relatively effective outside shots, he won't face too many double-teams.
His athleticism and tenaciousness near the hoop will complement the Kings' outside game nicely.
Good news for the Wizards: they cleared up a bunch of cap space for the offseason, they've seen great development in Andray Blatche, and are probably going to get a top-five pick in next year's draft.
The bad news: ummm...everything else.
Washington has a lot of holes to fill, most notably at the forward position. Enter Wes Johnson, who is a versatile swingman that can consistently hit the outside shot.
He gets good elevation on his jumper, making him pretty difficult to defend out on the perimeter. He averaged over 16 points a game, shooting over 50 percent from the field and over 41 percent from the three-point line.
He's quick and can get into the lane fairly easily; when he does, his hops help him become a great finisher at the rim. He has a Kevin Durant-like wingspan, making him not only a tough player to guard, but a difficult player to score against as well.
He's a good rebounder for his size as well, pulling down over eight boards per game with the Orange last season.
They could consider DeMarcus Cousins, but I think the Wiz will be wary of drafting someone with potential character issues after last year's affair. Johnson won't solve all of Washington's problems, but he's a good start.
Golden State is an interesting situation. It's unclear whether Don Nelson will be coaching this team next year, they seem to be shopping Monta Ellis, and the run-and-gun era may be coming to an end in the Bay.
It seemed like they had an athletic, versatile power forward in Anthony Randolph, but a combination of injuries and Randolph being in Nelson's doghouse has resulted in a lack of development.
If he improves his conditioning, Cousins would be a terrific fit for the Warriors' current style. He would be asked to clean the boards, be physical and intimidating on defense, and convert scoring opportunities underneath the hoop—three areas in which Cousins excels.
My only concern would be how he well he gets along with Don Nelson, should he coach next year. Nelson hasn't been known to be a great mentor for rookies, and Cousins will need an appropriate amount of teaching and tutoring to properly develop his game.
Should he find a coach that can keep him in line, Cousins will be a double-double machine at the next level.
I could try and paint a pretty picture for Detroit, but when you trade away a leader like Chauncey Billups and give two role players over $50 million in contracts, the future isn't exactly bright and shining.
Hassan Whiteside isn't the sixth best player in this draft. He's probably not in the top 10. He played at Marshall against competition that wasn't exactly daunting, and few opponents had anyone who could counter his size.
In short, he's a work in progress and has a ways to go.
But it's not like Detroit is a blue chipper away from returning to prominence in the East. With their current contracts, they are going to struggle for a few years.
In Whiteside, the Pistons get a solid defender, a good weak side shot blocker, and a potential Marcus Camby-like difference maker on defense and on the boards. It's going to take time, but the Pistons would be wise to snatch him up and try to develop him over the next two or three years.
This is one of the toughest picks to project, since the Sixers don't seem to be going in one direction in particular.
They'll have three expiring contracts (Samuel Dalembert, Jason Kapono, Willie Green) that they'll undoubtedly try to unload. They expressed some interest in moving Andre Iguodala this year, though it's not certain they'll try and move him again this summer or next year. It's highly unlikely they'll find a buyer for Elton Brand's massive contract.
Greg Monroe seems like a logical pick here. He's a great passing power forward with an underrated skill set. He plays excellent out of the high post/top of the key and is a great decision maker; Georgetown ran their offense through him frequently.
Monroe is a guy that can get others involved frequently. He would increase scoring chances for the low-post players, and I think he would take some pressure off of Iguodala as a distributor and give A.I. a chance to be a more potent scorer.
I originally had Al-Farouq Aminu here, but Monroe fits the mold just a little better.
It's hard for the Clips to assess their needs since they were so injury-plagued this year.
In case you've been in a time capsule for the last six months, you know last year's number one overall pick Blake Griffin missed the entire season, but L.A. needs to count on him for 2010 since they have only six players under contract.
Baron Davis and Eric Gordon seem set as the backcourt, while Griffin and Chris Kaman should represent the frontcourt.
So what does L.A. do at SF?
They could look for a strong shooting swingman, but there aren't too many available this high, unless they really reach and go for Xavier Henry (and since they're the Clippers, they might).
Drafting someone like Aminu gives the Clips an insurance policy should Griffin not be ready to go by the start of next season. He can score using a wide array, from jump shots to crafty scoop shoots in the paint.
He's an aggressive rebounder and good weak side shot blocker. Kaman, Griffin, and Aminu in the middle should solidify L.A.'s interior for the next couple of years.
This pick is like found money for the Jazz. But now that they've got it, they should spend it wisely instead of frivolously wasting it.
I flip-flopped on this pick about 623 times. In the end, it all depends on what happens with Carlos Boozer. If he re-signs, then Utah probably doesn't need another big like Aldrich, and instead might go with Patrick Patterson, a more versatile power forward who can stretch the defense with a 15-18 foot jump shot.
If Boozer isn't back, then Aldrich should be the guy.
We saw in the NCAA Tournament that Aldrich shouldn't be depended upon to carry a team. You know what you're going to get from him: A solid presence in the paint, decent low-post skills, and someone that can consistently put up double-doubles.
Utah does need a shooter at the two-guard, but I don't see Xavier Henry or Eric Bledsoe really fitting in at this spot. The Jazz are a team that does draft value, and Aldrich could bolster the front line and be a bigger asset down the line than any of the available guards.
The Pacers are in an unenviable position—other than Danny Granger, do they have another position that they are completely satisfied with?
Tough to tell with Tyler Hansbrough since he missed a majority of the season.
At times, Roy Hibbert appeared to be a viable center; other times, he was buried at the end of the bench.
T.J. Ford became the best $8 million bench player who never plays in the league.
The Mike Dunleavy/Troy Murphy experiment didn't work (that's putting it nicely) and Pacer fans have to be counting the days to 2011 when their contracts go off the books.
So what to do at No. 10?
PG might be a pressing need, but there's no serious options available. I've heard Xavier Henry multiple times, but Brandon Rush isn't exactly horrible, and at less than $3 million for this year and next (team option), he's a good value player.
The Pacers go with Patrick Patterson, an athletic power forward who loves to post up, but can step back and hit the mid-range jumper pretty efficiently. He can attack the rim and score off contact, something that Indiana desperately needs to complement Granger.
While he's a bit undersized as a bit of a SF/PF tweener, having a big like Hibbert defending the rim strengthens his value a bit.
New Orleans really needs help in the backcourt. Marcus Thornton might have emerged as a legit starting two-guard, but the small forward position is key. The Morris Peterson/Peja Stojakovic combo can only take you so far.
But again, I just don't see the value at this position here. Xavier Henry isn't the answer—he's not big or strong enough to guard NBA small forwards, which is the most versatile and explosive position in the league.
I love Ekpe Udoh. This is higher than I've seen him on every mock draft I've read, but I don't care. He's a great defender that can make up for David West's occasional lapses.
As a shot blocker, he knows what angles to take and how to keep the ball in play instead of belting it into the third row. He's also a good offensive rebounder (averaged over three per game) and in an offense like New Orleans' where the defense tends to scramble and be out of position, he'd mesh well.
The Hornets can try to address their swingman needs in the second round, when guys like Willie Warren or Lance Stephenson could still be on the board. They showed last year that they can find value late in the draft when they nabbed Marcus Thornton.
If Chris Bosh bolts, the Raptors will be desperate for another body inside.
They could look at Donatas Motiejunas (from what I can tell, he has no affiliation with the pizza chain), a 7'0" big from Lithuania, but he plays very similar to Andrea Bargnani.
With the power forward barrage occurring in picks seven through 11, the cupboard is a little bare. But Ed Davis still remains, a young player with a comparable skill set to Bosh.
Davis is 6'9", 225 lbs., a bit smaller than Bosh. But his low-post game is similar; he's very crafty around the hoop and doesn't let his lack of dominant size deter his ability to score. He's not as effective from 15 feet and out, but that part of his game can be developed.
He's not afraid to do the dirty work inside, which is something that Bargnani, well...he doesn't like to do. They could complement each other nicely.
And if Bosh stays, then Toronto has quite a boisterous frontcourt.
Memphis was one of the league's pleasant surprises for three-quarters of the year, but just ran out of gas down the stretch. Part of that was a lack of depth; most of the Grizzlies production came from their starting five.
But with three picks in the first round in 2010, they have a real chance to address their depth problem.
Let's start at the SG/SF position. Rudy Gay will be a free agent, and it will probably take a big check to keep him around. One guy to potentially fill the gap is Xavier Henry.
While he doesn't have the athleticism or quickness of Gay, he is a better outside shooter. He's got a great shooting form and moves relatively well without the ball.
More importantly, he doesn't need the ball in his hands a lot to be an effective scorer. With guards like Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo, he'll have to rely on spot-up shooting and slashes to get a majority of his points.
Since those are his strengths, and since he's not incredibly explosive off the dribble, he should do well in Memphis.
I'm not going to lie, I know absolutely nothing about this guy, other than he's a 7'0" European that is a finesse player who would rather take outside shots than bang bodies inside...sounds familiar, right?
Houston hasn't been afraid to take guys like this in the past, as GM Daryl Morey is about collecting as much talent as possible then turning that talent into team needs.
If Yao returns next year on schedule, then Houston will have plenty of size inside with him, with Luis Scola, Jordan Hill, and Chuck Hayes (team option). They can allow Motiejunas time to develop, even overseas in necessary.
Hayward announced Wednesday night that he's testing the draft waters but won't sign with an agent, leaving the door open for him to return to Butler.
Maybe this is a bit high for him, but I don't care. I love this guy. He plays the game the right way. He's crafty, lanky, explosive, smooth...you name it.
He can get his shot off from any spot on the floor. He's too quick to guard with a power forward but too big to stick a 6'6", 6'7" small forward on him. His jumper is pure—fundamentally sound and beautiful to watch.
I'm not saying he's going to jump in and score 20 points a game for his career. But he contributes in other ways. He facilitates the ball nicely and makes sure it moves from corner to corner. He's a strong ball-handler and can take pressure off of his point, which in this case would be Brandon Jennings, who struggled at times this year.
Andrew Bogut's injury might want to make the Bucks look at depth inside, but a player like Hayward who can step in and contribute right away is too difficult to pass up.
***Note: Milwaukee has the rights to swap first-round picks with Chicago this year. This is assuming they choose to do so.
Bledsoe's stock has slipped a bit since his stink bomb against West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament (3-for-9 FG, 1-for-6 FT, 0-for-5 3PT).
But I don't think it's too much to read into. All it proves is that he wasn't comfortable playing the go-to role for Kentucky, which is fine because he's not going to play that role at the next level.
And let's get another thing straight—don't play this guy at point guard. He's a better shooter than distributor, and is better at creating his own shot.
He's undersized for a two-guard, but drafting Evan Turner helps that. Turner can play point and Bledsoe can play shooting guard, and on defense, Bledsoe can guard the point and Turner can guard the SG/SF.
His three-point shooting is exactly what Minnesota needs, since they are lacking in perimeter game. With Bledsoe, Turner, Flynn, Brewer, Wayne Ellington, and Kevin Love, the T'Wolves have players with plenty of NCAA Tournament experience and are only going to grow with NBA experience.
The Bulls are another team with only six players under contract for 2010-11: Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, Joakim Noah, James Johnson, and Taj Gibson.
The Bulls get plenty of scoring from their backcourt and could look to boost their inside scoring, but any big at this point is either a long-term project or not offensively efficient.
Stanley Robinson is a nice addition for the Bulls. He's a quality defender whose athleticism allows him to keep up with explosive offensive scorers. He's a strong rebounder and can occasionally knock down the three-ball as well.
While he's not overly aggressive on offense, I think he fits Chicago's style. He won't take shots away from anyone on offense, and will do a lot of the little things (boxing out, finishing in the lane) well.
It'll be like having another Joakim Noah on the floor...only Robinson's nowhere near as obnoxious.
Ebanks seems like a Pat Riley-type of player: an athletic, resourceful swingman who can guard multiple positions.
Having played for Bob Huggins, Ebanks is tough-minded and pretty well-disciplined. He shot 46 percent from the field this year and also averaged eight rebounds.
But it's his value as a defender that is his premier asset. He has the ability to guard explosive shooting guards and taller smaller forwards. The Heat don't really have a defensive stopper, and Ebanks could easily step in to fill that role.
I've seen Pondexter projected as a second-round pick in a few mock drafts I've come across. My question is...why?
He's quick, physical, and can score at will. He can get into the paint at will and is a strong finisher around the hoop. He also performs well out on the break and in transition, something that will fit into Oklahoma City's style.
More importantly, he's been around school for four years. There hasn't been a defense he hasn't seen before. He knows when to attack, when to defer, and when to be the man.
He'll probably jump in as Kevin Durant's backup, but can play along side him as well. He'd be a great change of pace with KD on the bench, or could complement Durant's outside game by relentlessly attacking the hoop and setting himself up to grab a few offensive rebounds.
Whatever the best value left at this spot is, you can be sure the Spurs are taking it.
Anderson took some flak for his performance in the NCAA Tournament, and deservedly so. You can't be expected to carry a team on your back, and then put up a 3-for-12 FG, 0-for-6 3PT performance in the biggest game of the year.
That being said, on a team like San Antonio, he won't have to worry about carrying the load. He'll be nothing more than a role player—someone expected to come in off the bench and contribute a few meaningful minutes.
He's an excellent long-range shooter, which is something San Antonio lacks outside of Manu Ginobili. With Roger Mason and Matt Bonner's contracts up after this year, the Spurs will need some explosion off the bench.
Anderson can provide that.
You might remember Jordan Crawford from his incredible NCAA Tournament performance (29 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.7 apg, 50.8 percent from the field, 40 percent from three), including the shot in the picture that he put up from about 40 feet to send the regional semifinal against Kansas State into double overtime.
Hard to forget a run like that.
Crawford is an explosive scorer, averaging over 20 points per game on the season and scoring in double-figures in every contest but one (nine points in a loss to Marquette). He can get it done from the three-point line, but is surprisingly an aggressive finisher when attacking the rim as well.
With Ray Allen a free agent and the Celtics just looking old, they could use some fresh blood in the lineup.
It might seem odd that the Blazers, a team full of forwards, would go after another one in the first round.
But Portland returns a number of players from this year's squad, meaning there aren't many holes in their roster; they just need to get healthy for a full season.
James is a great athlete who relentlessly attacks off the dribble. He's not a strong outside shooter, but his mid-range game is a positive aspect.
He has the ability to guard multiple positions as well as score in spurts. Portland does need someone who can attack the rim and score, as they are a finesse team that does settle for too many jump shots.
Joe Johnson's a free agent and Mike Bibby isn't the same player he was two or three years ago, so the Hawks should look for another player to boost their backcourt to go along with Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford.
Bradley is a combo guard that's more of a scorer than facilitator. Still, even if Johnson leaves, the Hawks would have four guards that complement each other well—Bibby and Teague as the facilitators, Crawford and Bradley as the scorers.
Another guy with tons of potential (damn that word, it's everywhere), it was hard to measure Orton's body of work last year. He averaged 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in just 13 minutes a game; per 40 minutes, it basically averages out to 11 points and 10 rebounds.
He's a strong offensive rebounder, but someone who doesn't have a go-to low post move and probably will struggle to score against defenders his own size. While Orton is a presence in the lane, he still is very raw and undisciplined.
He's a project that's going to take a few years to develop, but if he pans out, he'd make a decent third wheel inside, behind Love and Jefferson.
The Grizz add another big in the middle in Larry Sanders, a dominant defensive player.
His rebounding went up each year at VCU, finishing at 9.1 this year. He averaged 2.6 blocks in 2010, and that was the lowest average of his career.
He's a terrific one-on-one defender; he's lanky but moves his feet really well and picks and chooses his spots nicely. He knows when he needs to give help on defense and when he can go after the block.
If you can rebound, you can play in the NBA; look at Paul Millsap and DeJuan Blair. Sanders can do that and play defense—he'll find a nice home in Memphis.
I was really excited at first because I had Larry Sanders slotted to this spot for Oklahoma City. But when Phoenix beat Denver, it assured that the Nuggets would draft ahead of the Suns, meaning that the Grizzlies (who have Denver's pick) will pick ahead of the Thunder (who have Phoenix's pick).
Instead, the Thunder select Gani Lawal, a hard-working power forward who is great at cleaning up misses under the hoop.
Lawal benefited from playing alongside lottery pick Derrick Favors but proved last year that he could rebound soundly without him, as he put up 9.5 rebounds per game in 2008-09.
He's a hard worker on defense, but could find himself undersized going against traditional Western Conference power forwards like Amar'e Stoudemire or Carlos Boozer. Still, Oklahoma City gets two solid contributors in Lawal and Quincy Pondexter.
After getting John Wall, the Nets add a smooth scorer in Kyle Singler, who has a potent offensive game and a deadly jump shot—if you leave him open, he's going to knock it down.
He doesn't do one thing great, but does a lot of things really well. His basketball IQ will help him adapt to the NBA level.
There are real questions floating around about whether or not Vasquez can play in the NBA.
I think he can, and be a decent role player, for two reasons. The first is that he's an unbelievable scorer; he can score off the dribble, by moving without the ball, on catch-and-shoots...he's got a great feel offensively. There's always room on any team for a guy who can score.
The second is his energy. He always plays his rear off on both ends of the court at all times. He rarely sulks or disappears. He steps his game up when it matters and plays with unbridled intensity and enthusiasm.
The Grizz would be well-suited to add a guy like Vasquez, who could provide energy and a scoring spark off the bench, since that was one area where they were severely lacking this year.
This is a sentimental pick, and one that probably is not going to happen at all. Butler is probably a mid second-round pick and has some red flags because of his injury (torn ACL) in the Final Four.
But put that aside. The Magic aren't going to need quality minutes from him in the first half of the season, giving him plenty of time to rehab and come back strong.
The injury isn't going to hurt his explosiveness either—he wasn't that quick off the dribble in the first place.
The bottom line is that Butler, much like Vasquez, is a scorer. He finds ways to score, whether it's on catch-and-shoots, pull-up jumpers, or strong, physical drives to the tin.
And what's the difference between him and Marcus Thornton? Both were big time college players that carried their teams.
Both hit big shots throughout their careers.
Both move well without the ball and when they get hot, they can light it up.
Thornton might be a little more explosive, but that's the only significant difference. Don't underestimate four-year stars who might have shown their potential already; they can still make an impact on the right team.
In Orlando, he'll be playing behind Vince Carter and with the Magic's offensive arsenal, he will hardly be the focal point of many defenses. This will give him chances to attack the rim, and hit open shots playing off Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, and even Marcin Gortat.
He could add a little more depth to one of the best benches in the NBA.
The last pick of the first round goes to Armon Johnson, an explosive 6'3" point guard out of Nevada who is adept at getting to the rim.
Johnson has decent size and good court vision. With Gilbert Arenas as the only other point guard on roster for next year), it could be helpful for Washington to grab another one.
This would also give them flexibility to let Randy Foye sign with another team, freeing up more cap space for the Wizards to use in free agency.