The first pick of this NBA mock draft only played 11 games last season thanks to an injured toe. Selection number two personifies the definition of the tweener, people rip on the third for his height, and the NCAA banned the fourth.
In a draft shrouded in mystery and intrigue—preceding a similarly confusing summer that may change the entire landscape of the NBA with a new collective bargaining agreement—the best method to unravel this jigsaw puzzle is to question everything.
In my case, I'll even question myself.
For the first round of this mock draft, I'll tell you why I think a player will fall to a specific team, but I'll also play devil's advocate and tell you why that team won't go that route.
I'll even ask bold and burning questions to end each of the first 30 slides. Well, some of them are bold.
For the second round of the mock draft, we'll keep things shorter and change up the format, just giving you a brief selection and synopsis. Your eyes will be glazing over then anyway.
Let the difficult trek begin, thankfully with an easy start...
Kyrie Irving reigns as the best player in this draft, and it doesn't really matter who Cleveland has at point guard right now. I don't really care if a 37-man platoon is in Ohio; Irving is starting on Day 1.
Derrick Williams is a hell of a ballplayer, and who cares if he's a tweener? No power forward is going to want to run constantly to the three-point line when Williams shoots threes, and what small forward wants to guard Williams when he backs him up down low?
Simply put, Williams is a very good basketball player, but I don't think he'll be a great one like Irving.
Irving will never be as athletic as Rose and Westbrook (well, name any All-Star point guards who ever have been aside from KJ...cue 50-comment debate in three, two, one...) or possess Chris Paul's pure point guard instincts, but he has an underrated ability to score efficiently from his position that may be unmatched throughout his career. He can be a 20-plus PPG scorer while hovering in the high 40-percent range.
Williams is the second-best proven commodity right now, so the T-Wolves can go with what they know, but...
He will not mesh well with Michael Beasley or Kevin Love. Minnesota should trade this pick to the highest bidder. Honestly, who does Minnesota take here? Anybody have any ideas with Irving off the board? Don't say Enes Kanter, he's not a center.
Also, would you blink if GM David Kahn traded down and drafted someone like Donatas Motiejunas? This man gave Darko Milicic a $20 million contract and went to Spain to beg Ricky Rubio—he of the 32 percent field goal rate overseas—to sign with the team. Let it go man.
Question: What position will Derrick Williams play in the NBA?
It shouldn't be a question. Williams would have more success as a power forward in the NBA. Williams' great asset is his inside-outside game, specifically his ability to draw a defender outside before exploding by him. Slow starting power forwards—and a handful reign in the NBA—will have a difficult time containing that. That's why he won't fit here.
However, I've been wrong thousands of times before, and we've all seen that Williams is a dynamite player. Maybe he's the spark Minnesota needs.
Jazz fans, raise your hands if you think Devin Harris is the point guard of the future.
With Ronnie Price and Earl Watson off the books, the Jazz will be in the market for a new guard to bring in. Walker led a rotation largely filled with underclassmen to the NCAA championship and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. Drafting the best player on the best amateur team in the country last season stands as a good continuation towards rebuilding the Jazz.
Would the Jazz rather go for the 6'3" Brandon Knight, who is less developed than Walker but probably has more long-term potential partially because he has three more inches?
Question: Will Walker use speed well enough to his advantage to compensate for height (5'11"-6'0")?
Let's take an uneducated guess. How many starting NBA point guards do you think Walker is faster than right now? The number ranks in the mid 20's for certain. Despite the height issue, Walker can still break his man off the dribble, stop and pop for a mid-range jumper, or slash and kick.
He'll obviously have more trouble getting to the lane for layups, but overall, he may work harder on an outside shot so he can feign defenders out to start.
If Enes Kanter played a full season for Kentucky, I think he'd be a consensus No. 1 pick on big boards. He's 6'11", a muscular 260 and can shoot the three. The only reason why he won't be drafted over Williams is because his most competitive game in America was the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit.
With this in mind, Cleveland takes the best player available here and doesn't look back, regardless of position. Sometimes, you just have to go for value.
I actually don't see any reason for this not to happen. Irving and Kanter have the best upside of any two players in this draft.
Question: What's wrong with Enes Kanter's knees?
Nothing as of now. According to an interview with vaughtsviews.com, Kanter said that he had knee tendinitis in 2008 and was forced to miss five months, but the problem was rectified and has not been an issue since.
Call this my attempt at being a clairvoyant. In a weak draft, Bismack Biyambo—he of the 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks in the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit—should continue to rise up the draft boards to fifth. I also said Biyombo would not be drafted above Markieff Morris a few weeks ago, so don't listen to me.
The Raptors need much help on the boards, and they also need an adrenaline injection. Biyombo should help in both regards.
With a 7'7" wingspan, and at 6'9" and 240 pounds, Biyombo will frighten the hell out of many an NBA power forward, and he may be able to play center too with that sensational length.
Adding a 19-year-old to an already immature Raptors team will not help them succeed next season. Would Toronto want to look for someone more polished to help it grab a playoff spot?
Question: Who is Bismack Biyombo?
Draft Express deserves all the credit for jumping on the Biyombo train first. Follow this link to learn more about the rising star from the Congo.
A 6'11", 240-pound small forward, Vesely has the most upside of any prospect left on the board. He lacks NBA-ready ball-handling and touch right now, but Vesely will ignite a Washington Wizards team in dire need of an overhaul after the dying embers of the Gilbert Arenas era gave out. Everyone in the nation's capitol knows how much wing help is needed there, too, and Vesely is essentially a fireball from the perimeter.
Vesely needs a little time to develop. Would it be better to pick up a more established college star, like Chad Ford's new top-five pick Kawhi Leonard?
Question: How clear-cut are the international rankings this season, and where does Vesely rank?
One man's slightly uneducated opinion, but right now, the early returns have the rankings as Enes Kanter, Bismack Biyombo, Vesely, Jonas Valanciunas and Donatas Motiejunas. Expect them to fall off the board in that order, and for the intriguing Vesely to be picked in the top eight.
The Kings would love another guard to play alongside Tyreke Evans, and the young and brilliant Brandon Knight would be a great option to complement him.
I don't see why not. I like this pairing idea a lot. I'm a big fan of Knight's after watching all of his Kentucky games. Even when he played horribly, like against Princeton in the NCAA tournament, he never took himself out of a game and slumped.
Question: Can Knight ever be a No. 1 option on a playoff team?
Consider that Brandon Knight was 18 years and three months old when he led Kentucky to the Final Four—just two points away from defeating eventual champion UConn in the national semifinals. The biggest knock against him is some poor decision making that led to 4.0 turnovers per game, but with experience comes sharper court vision and fewer mistakes. He'll be very good.
After viewing some tape of Jonas Valanciunas and Donatas Motiejunas, I don't think either have the elite athleticism needed to be drafted in the top 10. However, Kawhi Leonard certainly does, as the 6'7" small forward (he claims in this recent Draft Express interview that he can also play some shooting guard) with a tremendous seven-foot plus wing span can immediately start for the Detroit Pistons with Tayshaun Prince leaving.
I watched a couple San Diego State games this season and wondered where Leonard was on the floor at times. He can be a great complementary player for a good playoff team, but I don't see him ever leading one there. Furthermore, would the Pistons reach for size in Jonas Valanciunas or Donatas Motiejunas?
That being said, in a weak draft, having a freakish athlete like Leonard will be a blessing for the Pistons.
Question: Should people be worried that Leonard did not play in a "BCS" conference?
No. Actually, the Mountain West was the seventh-strongest conference in college basketball, according to Ken Pomeroy, just a hair behind the SEC.
Burks will raise hell if he actually develops a jumper. Burks was arguably the best volume scorer in the power conferences from the shooting guard position in the entire conference last season, and you watched some of his games last season, you saw how he lifted his team time and time again late in the second half with transition buckets and puzzling moves that very few men know how to perform.
He's got the scoring touch, and the Bobcats, one of the worst offensive teams in the league, can count on him down the stretch if he can hit a jumper.
Burks only connected on 30 percent of his jump shots last season, scoring mainly on isolation plays and fast breaks. Jumpers seemed to be his last resort actually, and if you watch the game-tape breakdown on Draft Express, you can see that many of his shots were off-balance, panic-mode put-ups.
It's one thing if this was occurring in the NBA and still scoring 20 a game, but he was in the Big 12, where he won't be having as easy a time scoring right away.
Still, Charlotte needs a scorer, and Burks is their best bet.
Question: Can he develop a jumper?
Listen: We're not debating whether this player has the motor to play in the NBA. You can teach that. We're not debating whether he has the quickness or height. You can't teach that either. You can teach a player how to hit a jumper. Maybe Burks will never be lights-out, but he can be dependable someday. I like his game a lot and think he becomes a 20-point scorer in the league.
Where are you Andrew Finkle, Milwaukee Bucks fan and two-time poster on my mock drafts? I have taken Marcus Morris here twice for you, and you have twice said that the Bucks don't need another power forward. You have convinced me otherwise.
Are you happy with Jordan Hamilton, the smooth wing from Texas who averaged over 18 points and seven rebounds per game while shooting 44 percent from the field and 38.5 from three-point range?
The Bucks do need another scorer, and Hamilton can fit that bill.
Hamilton will not be taking games over for Milwaukee any time soon, though it's not like the Bucks need him to with Jennings aboard. When I saw Hamilton at Texas on the occasional CBS weekend game, I saw a guy who was comfortable in his role as a 20-point scorer, but wasn't about to spring for 35 if his team was going cold for the entire game.
Question: Should Hamilton have stayed?
Hell no! Take advantage of the system, my friend. He's out of the lottery next year, but a potential top-10 pick this year. Hamilton's a nice player. He'll be alright.
Can any Warriors fans tell me what direction your franchise is going after Joe Lacob fired Keith Smart after just one season? I don't know either, but if the Warriors see the 19-year-old Valanciunas, he of the 6'11" and 240-pound center frame, they have to pick him up to match with David Lee. He has too much potential to slip outside the lottery, and ESPN and Draft Express even have him in the top five.
That being said, David Locke's video recaps convinced me otherwise. Does Valanciunas look like he's anywhere near ready to contribute as a starter on an NBA team? He has no post-up game whatsoever, and his offensive arsenal would consist of tip-ins and some pick-and-rolls. He'll need to add some bulk as well.
Question: OK, smart ass. Draft Express has him fourth, so what do you know?
I live in New Jersey and don't see this guy play, so let's be frank here: I don't know a lot about this guy. He can prove me wrong an average a double double for his NBA career. Right now though, he looks like someone who will be in the league as a competent starter for quite some time, but never close to a star.
Bye Andrei Kirilenko and your questionable tattoo choices. Hello Chris Singleton and your amazing defensive prowess. The winner of the ACC's Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and runner-up last year, Singleton will be a long-time, hard-working NBA player known lauded for his hustle and heart. He'll be a fan favorite for the Jazz.
Actually, I kind of hate this pick, because as much as I like Singleton, the Jazz need another scorer. They need to make a play for a point guard and either Alec Burks or Jordan Hamilton. Singleton is a great defensive player, but the Jazz have Gordon Hayward trying out as their small forward of the future right now.
Klay Thompson is the best shooting guard available but is not the best value at 12.
Question: Can the Jazz trade down?
No. I don't think there is a prospect worth trading up for at this stage, unless someone is in love with Donatas Motiejunas' abilities, but Singleton's versatility is unmatched at this juncture of the draft.
With Steve Nash's contract running out, the Suns need a replacement. Aaron Brooks may be that replacement, but he already ran himself out of Houston, so bringing in another guard to become Nash's eventual successor isn't a bad idea, even if the fan opinions ranging on Fredette range from superstar to three years and Greece.
The Big 12 Player of the Year, Marcus Morris, still sits waiting for his name to be called, as does Donatas Motiejunas. Both would fit quite well in the Suns' system because they are big men who can shoot the three-pointer, helping spread the floor. Still, Phoenix lacks depth at guard and goes with the best one available.
Question: Does Jimmer Fredette really have a max vertical of 36 inches?
We'll see, but I doubt it. Still, one of the better articles I've read on B/R does a good job debunking this with facts if this is actually a myth.
No small forward prospect, easily the Houston Rockets' biggest need should they find themselves unable to re-sign Chuck Hayes, left on the board deserves to be drafted here. Unless the Rockets want to move up for Jan Vesely or Kawhi Leonard, they might as well take the best player available, the intriguing Donatas Motiejunas, who can do two things very few seven-footers can: shoot the three-pointer and pass incredibly well. The best part? He's only 20.
That being said, while he does have a nice spin move you can find in his YouTube resume, his current post game won't fly in the NBA, and he'd probably scoff at playing the traditional post center role in the NBA. Therefore, even if Hayes goes elsewhere, I don't see a Scola-Motiejunas partnership forming.
Question: Can the Rockets trade up?
Houston has the 14th and 23rd picks. If there are any fellow stat geeks out there far superior than me in determining trade value for draft picks, let me know. I think Houston can go as high as five, using the NFL draft chart as a model. Flawed, yes, but it's a start.
Indiana needs a shooting guard, and Klay Thompson presents good value in the middle of the first round. Paul George is probably best suited coming off the bench and spelling Granger and a more pure scorer at the shooting guard spot, and Thompson should get a look here. He averaged over 21 points per game on 43.6 percent shooting last season for Washington State.
Still some good size available in the Morris twins, Tristan Thompson and Tobias Harris, but the Pacers need a scorer first and foremost.
Question: Is Thompson the scorer the Pacers need to be a 45-to-50 win team?
As you saw from this past postseason, the Pacers are not that far away from being a consistently good team. With the right coach and the right mix of players, they can lay claim to being second banana to the Bulls for the next 10 seasons in the Central. So yes, I think this might be the case.
Young fella! Thompson has tremendous upside, at 6'8" and 235 pounds following one season at the University of Texas in which he averaged 13 points, eight rebounds and over two blocks per game. The 76ers are a young team filled with energy, so why not add another such player to the mix, especially one who can fill in for the injury-prone Elton Brand?
Marcus Morris is further along in his development at this point and the better player. The Knicks are also going to scoop him up if Philadelphia doesn't.
Question: Does it matter that Thompson is 6'8" and therefore undersized as a PF?
Answer: No, because he has a 7'2" wingspan. Holy hell.
See what's going on here? That's Marcus Morris, Big 12 Player of the Year, being swarmed by three guys. Kind of reminds you of Amar'e Stoudemire in the beginning of the 2010-11 season right? Anyway, Morris was the No. 1 option on Kansas despite mediocre-at-best guard play and only his brother to consistently count on. On the Knicks, teaming with Amar'e Stoudemire down low, he'll have much better looks, and so will STAT.
Because he's not the center the Knicks want, but Lucas Nogueira is New York's best bet right now, and he's a few years away from contributing anything. If the Knicks think someone else is the best player available, then they should get that best player available, perhaps even the Boston College dynamite Reggie Jackson. But I'm a big Morris twins fan and see Marcus Morris dropping here...for now.
Question: How did Marcus Morris drop to 17?
I've done at least five mocks, and this is the only one where Marcus Morris fell this far. But Bismack Biyombo rose up the boards, Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson declared and Klay Thompson and Chris Singleton may be taken earlier than they should because of the dearth of first-round talent at their positions.
Andray Blatche's bloated contract will be moved for another bloated contract elsewhere in the league. I know I took Bismack Biyombo here earlier, but more frontcourt depth can't hurt, especially when wing depth is dire (who's the next best option, Travis Leslie maybe?) and Markieff Morris can stretch the floor and play the five.
Like I said, would the Wizards want to grab two power forwards?
Question: Who is the better Morris?
An intriguing question on the message boards. You still have to go with Marcus right now, but that race is not over yet. World-winning analysis, I know. Mind is hazy after not having seen them playing since the VCU game.
This Charlotte Observer article, that's why. Also, DJ Augustin's underwhelming point guard play proves that he is not the answer at floor general in the future. If Jackson, who played shooting guard at Boston College, can learn how to play point guard in the NBA, the Bobcats inject some much-needed excitement into a dormant offense.
Take a shooting guard in a point guard's body, cross your fingers, tick off your franchise player and hope for the best? That might not work, but a lot of things aren't working in Charlotte. Roll the dice.
Question: Can Jackson play point guard in the NBA?
From the Boston Herald: “I played the 1 my whole life,” Jackson said. “People consider me a 1 now. But just like college, it doesn’t matter. I just want to go out and compete and show I can play and also rack up wins. That’s the main focus I have."
I guess he thinks so, and it starts with confidence. It's a good start.
I really liked Chris Singleton in this spot, because everyone knows the Minnesota Timberwolves need some defensive intensity and maturity. This is as close to Singleton as the T-Wolves will get. Honeycutt is an inch shorter and gives up 20 pounds, but his incredible length helped him lead the Pac-10 in blocks. He'll be able to guard his man anywhere on the court without issue.
Honeycutt's offensive production in the NBA will be null in the halfcourt to start, even though that's UCLA's bread and butter. His game is simply too undeveloped right now, and it's to perplexing to understand why his shooting percentages dropped from 49.6 to 40.6.
If The T-Wolves want to shake things up, how about Justin Harper, a 6'10" tweener who can shoot the three?
Question: Can Honeycutt ever develop into a complete player?
If he ever plays with an elite point guard who can feed him the ball in the right opportunities on fast breaks and slash and kicks, yes.
If he's playing in a system like New York's, where everyone kind of hangs out while they watch Carmelo Anthony, then no.
The Portland Trail Blazers need more help on the glass, sporting a negative rebounding differential this regular season. Enter Kenneth Faried, the best rebounder in the history of Division I men's college basketball statistically.
While LaMarcus Aldridge will man power forward until he damn well feels like stopping, Kenneth Faried can spell him or come off the bench and play alongside Aldridge if the Blazers want to go small. He lacks an offensive dimension to his game, but his rebounding, motor and leadership are top class.
Nolan Smith initrigues me here, simply because the Blazers need a backup and eventual successor for Andre Miller. Smith ended his career on a terrible note in the Sweet Sixteen, but he never gets enough credit for leading Duke to an ACC title after Kyrie Irving missed the entire conference slate with a broken toe.
Question: Does it matter that Faried has no NBA post-up game, played in the Ohio Valley Conference and was in a 2-3 zone down low?
No, no and no. Faried is not going to be asked to carry a team offensively, the best rebounder inch for inch in the history of basketball went to Southeastern Oklahoma State and playing man isn't that much different than playing zone once a man actually gets into your zone.
Brazilian Bash Brothers! Kenyon Martin is not coming back, so Denver needs some depth down low. Enter Lucas Nogueira, who is a few years away from contributing but has excellent length and speed for a 6'11" center. He has much room to develop and grow, as he'll turn 19 this July.
If Nene opts out of his contract but still re-signs, expect Nogueira's transition to the NBA to be much smoother thanks to a fellow Brazilian countryman showing him the ropes.
Tobias Harris is still on the board, but Wilson Chandler can be re-signed to fill the three-four tweener role Harris would wish to fulfill. Still, Harris would come cheaper if the Nuggets aren't impressed with Nogueira and wish to grab the best player available.
Question: How many years will it take for Nogueira to make a rotational impact in the NBA?
At least two to three full seasons. He needs a year in an NBA weight room with a nutritional program while also developing some post-up moves too. Right now, it seems like his offensive arsenal is limited to the hustle points or shots right around the basket.
As a power forward, Harper will be a complementary, stretch bench player who comes in to shake things up for outside scoring.
As a small forward, I really see some potential in him, posting up smaller threes and having no trouble shooting over others. In some circles of the NBA, defense is overrated anyway, so even if he does not have the lateral quickness to stay in front of his man, who cares if he is being called off the bench to score 10 quick points in 25 minutes or so?
Houston needs help at small forward desperately, and while I think the Rockets will try and package this picks for either Jan Vesely or Kawhi Leonard, a tweener may not be the answer. The best player available here is probably Nolan Smith, but he doesn't fit with Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin in Houston's short-term plans.
Question: Can Harper continue to be an efficient shooter in the NBA?
If Harper just fulfills a role as a scorer off the bench somewhere, taking spot-up shots from three over small forwards three inches shorter than him, he'll have one of the easiest jobs in the league and be great at it.
But if he's asked to play 25 minutes a night at power forward and bang down low, Harper will have a hard time adjusting to the NBA. It all depends on the task at hand here.
The Thunder scream for joy when Tobias Harris drops to 24, as they lack depth quantity at small and power forward. Averaging over 15 points and seven rebounds per game last season while accruing nine double doubles, Harris would have been a lottery pick had he stayed in school for another few years. Still, Harris will provide efficient scoring and depth off the bench for the Thunder should he land here.
No reason. This would be an excellent pick, a classic Sam Presti move that would fill value and need.
Question: Is Harris more of a power forward or a small forward in the NBA?
Answer: A power forward in a small forward's body in the NBA, if that makes sense.
Boston Celtics fans are kidding themselves if they think GM Danny Ainge is finding any of the Big Three's eventual successor's in this year's draft, but I don't think they are stupid enough to be kidding themselves.
However, Duke point guard Nolan Smith can be the bench player Doc Rivers could not find in the postseason, but did not need in the first round of the playoffs as the Celtics swept the Knicks playing four on 12.
Smith can fulfill roles as the team's backup at point and shooting guard and can be trusted to run the offense for a few minutes at a time. Can an ACC Player of the Year and AP First-Team All-American do that? I think so.
Could they reach for a project center here to replace Shaquille O'Neal? Keith Benson maybe, even though he got schooled by Tristan Thompson in the NCAA tournament?
Question: What did the Sweet Sixteen game this year for Arizona, when Smith went 3-for-14 with eight points and six turnovers in a 93-77 Duke loss, say about him?
That people have terrible games sometimes, and that unfortunately, those games define careers. He also scored seven of Duke's last nine points in the Blue Devils' 73-71 win over Michigan the prior weekend to avoid a catastrophic disaster, but no one remembers that.
What the hell, shoot for the moon at 26. The 6'10" small forward Davis Bertans looks like he will develop into an excellent NBA shooter and turns 19 in the fall. With nearly the entire Mavs roster coming off the books in two seasons, the Mavs can stand to stash Bertans on the bench to give him some time to develop at small forward.
What about Shelvin Mack to eventually replace Jason Kidd if Jose Juan Barea does not work out? Mack physically and mentally willed Butler to two national title games and proved to be a sensational on-court leader.
Question: Should the recent growth spurt bother people?
Not really, but if you watch his tapes, you can tell he is still growing into his body. Bertans should sit for a year and develop more physically before getting ready to contribute in 2012-13.
We're going to take a quick break from the format of this mock draft and look at the New Jersey Nets depth chart. This is Exhibit A why the NBA needs to contract.
Where do you begin the rebuilding process there? Holy hell. What happened to the Garden State's team, and when it moves to Brooklyn, will anyone care?
Anyway, back to the 'show.
Because Johan Petro, Brandan Wright and Dan Gadzuric aren't going to cut it for frontcourt depth. The 6'9", 245-pound Thompkins has his red flags, namely that he slightly regressed from his sophomore to his junior seasons, but he can't hurt.
The Nets have nine holes in their 12-man active roster...if Kris Humphries re-signs. Two other wild cards: Travis Leslie and Jereme Richmond at the wings.
Question: What was the cause of Thompkins' regression?
Here's what went down: Scoring, free throw, rebounding, three-point numbers went down, as did his PER and efficiency.
Quite honestly, I don't have a theory. Georgia fans, little help?
Danny Granger shoots over Deng from the top of the key, no good. Boozer with the rebound. Outlets to Rose. He sprints down the baseline. Sees Leslie for the 30-foot alley-oop, two-handed slam!
Rose won't throw 30-foot alley-oops to Kyle Korver and Keith Bogans, will he? Nothing against those guys, but the position could use a jolt of athleticism.
Another intriguing wing who can land in Chicago is Jereme Richmond, who left Illinois after just one season. Also very athletic, will the Bulls be swooned by the hometown kid?
Question: Is Leslie the most athletic player in the draft?
From Draft Express' Matt Kamalsky, one of the more unique prospects around, Travis Leslie could easily be called the best athlete in college basketball. He plays way above the rim whenever he has a chance to and does so effortlessly, despite standing just 6'4. Extremely strong and possessing elite explosiveness, Leslie is still the same largely raw forward in an undersized two's body that we wrote about last season."
A replacement for Tim Duncan? Hell no. But the Spurs get the Big Ten Player of the Year* at No. 29 and someone who can throw down in transition from either the three or four. Don't expect him to post up from power forward like the Big Fundamental, but he's a nice cog in the machine at this juncture of the draft, someone who can shake things up if the Spurs are down 41-29 in a dreary game against the slow-paced Bobcats or something.
The upside is not up, for lack of a better way to put it. I don't see Johnson as an NBA starter, but at this point, everyone is a role player or a tremendous reach if the stars align.
Question: No threes from 2007-2010, but 15 in 2010-2011. Can Johnson continue that development?
Teams aren't going to respect Johnson once he enters the league, so the opportunity will be there. It depends on what facet of his game he wants to work on, but he needs to focus more on strength training and post-up moves though to see if he can become more of a traditional four first.
*We all know Jared Sullinger should have won that award. Moving on.
Phone message, late June 2011:
"Hi Keith. My name is Tom Thibodeau, your new coach. We drafted you to back up our franchise center Joakim Noah. If he goes down, we need you to be ready.
"You're 6'11"? Good start there. But 225 pounds? Add 15 pounds of muscle. We can take care of that with our world-class trainers.
"I also don't like the lack of energy and motor you play with at times, and your defense can be a bit lackadaisical. Tristan Thompson ran circles around you in March.
"Those are very tough to teach and motivate, but Joakim Noah will intimidate you on a daily basis, and no one in the league teaches better defense than I do.
"You've come to the right place. Enjoy the Windy City."
One other big man I like here to shake things up: Jon Leuer. He's 6'10", 230 and shot over 37 percent from three-point range last season. But I like Benson in Chicago a lot.
Question: Could Benson ever be a full-time starter?
As I come to the end of my first-round question series, I realize that most of these answers are quite optimistic given a draft of few stars. This one isn't. I don't think so, but Benson can contribute well in Chicago, because his weaknesses are strengths that can be rectified by peers and teachers alike.
Best point guard available for the Heat obviously. Shelvin Mack will be brought in to contend for the starting job, and he'll win it because he has the bulldog mentality that Mario Chalmers does not possess.
Maybe I'm still bitter that Chalmers cost me $500 in my March Madness pool three years ago, maybe not. Regardless, all Mack needs to do is show the intangibles and intelligence that led Butler to those title games while providing hustle and heart on defense. If he does that, he has a job in Miami during the Big Three era.
Because any time you can get a guy nicknamed Juju who also happens to be 6'10" and 250 pounds, you have to pull the trigger in the second round. Cleveland takes a chance on a project and stashes him on the bench until he learns to develop more offensively.
Photo courtesy of fresnostate.scout.com
If only all of these picks were so easy.
Detroit needs a point guard, and Morris stays in the state where he broke the University of Michigan single-season assist record. One can easily see him sneak into the first round.
Look for Morris to challenge for the starting role. He has an uncanny knack to break defenses off the dribble and kick to the open man for the threes, a John Beilein staple, partially why he had so many assists.
The Wizards come away with Megatron Ben Wallace (Bismack Biyombo), a 6'10" inside-outside guy (Markieff Morris) and a veteran wing in David Lighty, who can come in off the bench and play lockdown defense. He received much praise throughout the season as a player who simply comes in and does all the right things the right way.
Was that preceding sentence vague, and did it look like it was written like an eighth grader? Yes, but that's Lighty's game. Sue me. If you want colorful personal portraits, go read Vanity Fair.
Three rotation players: Good start towards building the franchise around John Wall.
The 6'10" Real Madrid power forward received rave reviews from Draft Express for his production and polish as a 20-year-old playing for one of the best Euroleague teams, but he is signed through 2015-2016 and has a $2.84 million buyout. At this point, the Nets have nothing to lose on Mirotic, who went for 14 and seven in the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit. Stash him now and be patient.
(Well, unless Mikhail Prokhorov has some unknown oil stash in Moscow, talks to Real Madrid's owner and flies Mirotic over to Newark on July 1. If any team convinces Mirotic to come here, it will be the Nets.)
The Sacramento Kings have plenty of room to re-sign center Samuel Dalembert if they so choose, so they can go with the best player available at 36 instead of reaching for a project five.
Kyle Singler has slipped out of the first round here, but it would be a surprise to see him go past 40. The 6'9" forward offers the Kings numerous options off the bench, guarding small forwards, shooting threes, helping increase the tempo, etc.
As for talk that Kyle Singler regressed a little bit, I don't put much stock into shooting slumps. These things happen to everybody, and part of the reason may have been the increased burden of overcompensating for the loss of Kyrie Irving, so I don't think it's that big of a deal.
I hate making territorial mock picks (Jimmer Fredette is a Mormon and played at BYU? He must go to the Jazz!) but the 6'10" Nikola Vucevic makes sense for the Clippers because Chris Kaman's time in Southern California is nearly done (is DeAndre Jordan's as well?) and the Clips need some more frontcourt depth behind Blake Griffin.
Sorry, Nikola, just not a lot to say about here. Oh well.
Genius GM Daryl Morey, he of the Northwestern and MIT degrees, knows the value of statistics, so I'm sure he's well aware that grabbing the most offensively efficient Division I men's basketball player with the 38th pick presents excellent value, even if Goran Dragic currently backs up Kyle Lowry.
Charles Jenkins played 37.3 minutes per game, averaging 22.3 points on 51.7 percent shooting. He also dished 4.8 assists and made 1.7 steals per contest. He also shoots over 42 percent from three and 82 percent from the free-throw line.
No disrespect to Hofstra, but can you name anyone else on Hofstra?
I saw Jordan Williams play live at Madison Square Garden once, and he plays like the personification of the Rock of Gibraltar. That's great if you're poker player Dan Harrington, a run-stuffing left tackle or George Mikan before NBA paint rules were altered against him, but Williams is going to drop out of the first round because he doesn't have the athleticism and length to hang with other NBA bigs.
Still at 39, the Bobcats need frontcourt help behind starters Boris Diaw and Kwame Brown (Starters Boris Diaw and Kwame Brown? Exhibit B on why the NBA needs to contract.) and Williams can offer that much.
Hey, Andrew Finkle! Are you still there? You want more scoring? Is the Big East's top scorer at 24.6 points per game good enough for you? He scored 52 against Notre Dame, who ruined my chances of winning the Fox Sports national pool after I was tied for 12th in the entire nation going into the first Sunday night of the tournament, but the Irish lost to the Florida State by 14! Don't worry, I'm not bitter Ben Hansbrough.
Back from another gambling tangent and back to the 'show, a tandem of Marshon Brooks and Brandon Jennings would mean that no one else on the Milwaukee Bucks would ever touch the ball again, but they can still contribute in other ways, like setting screens for Brooks and Jennings as they shoot 30-foot three-pointers.
The Scene: 2009 NCAA tournament, first round.
Player A: 22 points, 8-for-18 shooting, four assists, one turnover, 37 minutes.
Player B: 10 points, 4-for-7 shooting, five assists, seven turnovers, 37 minutes.
Player A is Norris Cole, who played for No. 13 seed Cleveland State as the Vikings shocked Player B, Jeff Teague, and No. 4 seed Wake Forest 84-69. Teague was drafted 19th overall in 2009 and now starts for Atlanta at point guard. He scored 21 points three separate times in the Hawks' playoff series against Chicago.
One game doesn't make or break a player, but Cole is still a very solid prospect. Like Shelvin Mack, he got knocked down the draft board for playing in the Horizon League, but the 6'2" Cole averaged over 21 points, five assists and five rebounds per game last season. Doug Gottlieb also has him as the third-best point guard in this draft. Better than Kemba Walker. Better than Jimmer Fredette. I love Gottlieb's analysis, but that's nuts.
Still, the Lakers need to take the best point guard available. Cole deserves a shot.
The 6'11" power forward was once the No. 1 prospect in the high school class of 2010, but he decided to skip his senior season of high school and play a year in Israel for Maccabi Haifa. When the two sides decided to part ways, Tyler traveled to Tokyo, where he found his niche.
Tyler has a long, long way to go, but the opportunity in Indiana might be there. Roy Hibbert certainly hasn't solidified a slot in the frontcourt for the long term just yet with his recent play, so if Tyler finds his niche, you just never know.
Why so serious Jereme? You probably left school a year too early and didn't get selected in the first round, but you're staying in state with the Chicago Bulls!
Imagine if Tom Thibodeau puts out a supreme athlete lineup of Derrick Rose, Travis Leslie, Jereme Richmond, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah? Name an NBA team who can conceivably match that lineup athletically, man for man. You can't.
The 6'6" Richmond is raw but long, fast and explosive. I'd love to see him on the fast break in a lineup with Rose.
I realize I cite Draft Express once every 10 slides or so, but if you want to learn the most about these guys, go there first and foremost (before stopping back at B/R, of course). Start here with Jimmy Butler.
The Buzz Williams Marquette teams are always lunch-pail bunches, getting the maximum amount out of their talent every year in a bruising Big East in a broader national landscape where everyone would rather go to Tobacco Road or Hollywood than Milwaukee.
Jimmy Butler personifies Marquette, and he had a great showing at the Portsmouth Invitational, earning MVP honors. He led Marquette to the Sweet Sixteen, and while he won't be asked to do nearly as much with Golden State, Butler can bust his ass for 15 minutes, put his head down, fill up a scoresheet and do it again the next night. The Warriors need more guys like Jimmy Butler, and he will probably slip to 44.
One of the highest-rated prospects coming into the 2010-11 season, Murphy's Law inflicted his worst pain on Josh Selby this season between a suspension and slumps. He left Kansas at a bad time, looking like nothing more in his development than a spot-up shooter who was having trouble shooting. Obviously, Selby is capable of much more, but can teams shake the fact that he averaged fewer than four points per game after Valentine's Day?
Still, New Orleans is a nice landing spot for Selby, especially with world-class point guard and citizen Chris Paul showing him the ropes.
I'm not putting Chandler Parsons here because he'll become friends with Luke Walton, surf the Pacific every day and appear on all the soaps that shoot in Hollywood, but those things will most likely happen.
Still, Parsons plays like a pinball, bouncing around the floor and making his teammates better through superb screening skills and deft passing for a 6'10" forward. Mark Twain once said that there are lies, damn lies and statistics, and while that's true to an extent, it's probably the reason why Parsons won't be a first-rounder, as he averaged just 11 points and eight rebounds a game.
Still, if the Lakers ask him to raise hell and be a pinball for 10 minutes, he'll be fine. No one is asking for 15 a game from Parsons.
With word coming out that Bogdanovic is signing with Fenerbahce of the European League, per Draft Express, teams may be halting their pursuit of the 6'7" small forward, but this man is a pure scorer, who averaged over 18 points per game last season in Europe.
However, as you can attest in the video, he is slow-footed to the rack and doesn't have the length or muscle to get away with his lack of NBA foot speed right now. He also is an inefficient scorer, with percentages in the low-to-mid 40's.
Still, the Clips can do much worse here. Bogdanovic is slated to the Bulls at No. 30 in Chad Ford's NBA mock draft and 35th in Draft Express, so this is a good value pick even if he stays overseas for a few years.
The name of the game in the first round of the NFL draft, after teams reached for quarterbacks a bit too high, was getting good value regardless of position. The New York Giants snatched Nebraska CB Prince Amukamura, a top-10 selection to some, even though the Giants' top-two cornerbacks are set next season. The Detroit Lions grabbed Nick Fairley to play alongside all-universe defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Necessary? Probably other holes to fill more, but you can't ignore that.
The Hawks have Josh Smith and Al Horford down low for most of the game once Jason Collins takes a seat, but why not throw in Jon Leuer, who averaged over 18 points and seven rebounds per game last season. He's 6'10", 230 pounds, shot 37 percent from three, played in the Big Ten for four seasons and can easily go before this slot, so the Hawks should give him a shot.
Isaiah Thomas doesn't compare to Nate Robinson as much as you think. They are both undersized combo guards that went to Washington, but that's about where the similarities end. Nate Rob has football player-like athleticism, immaturity issues and can't run an offense; Thomas is the exact opposite in all three spheres.
Thomas can take over for Mike Conley, keep the tempo of the game up, the turnovers down and hand the ball back when he's done.
Like many other players in this draft, Thomas will be fine if he's not asked to do a whole lot right away.
Like Josh Selby, Malcolm Lee has a world of talent but dropped like a stone in my mock draft because the on-court results simply didn't justify a high pick. Sitting at 50, the 76ers can't pass him up any longer. Lee is long and can defend the point guard and shooting guard positions easily, but what position is he on offense? He shot only 29.5 percent from three-point range and is a bit undersized for an NBA two at 6'5" and 190 anyway. An assist to turnover ratio of 2.0/1.7 is pretty abysmal, so where does Lee fit?
Regardless, he should have stayed in school, but if he can learn how to play point guard, he's a nice backup in Philadelphia.
So I guess the Luke Babbitt era is going to come to a quick and unceremonious end? If that is the case, the Blazers need to look elsewhere for more scoring punch from the wing. Enter E'Twaun Moore, who averaged 18 points per game on 45 percent shooting (40 percent from deep) last season for Purdue.
With Wesley Matthews locked up until eternity, Moore's three-point shooting can certainly translate to the next level as his backup. I also wonder if Moore can play a little point at the next level too, but right now, he can definitely come off the bench and knock down a couple outside shots a game for a playoff team as part of their rotation.
Story of the second round it seems: Great college players become decent rotation guys.
Scotty Hopson, the hero of Tennessee's near Final Four run in 2010, escapes Rocky Top and lands in the massive rebuilding project that is the Detroit Pistons. Hopson averaged 17 points per game last year, leading all Vols, and is known for being a very athletic wing with a nice outside shot (45 percent from the field).
Still, Hopson's range is not deadly (37 percent from three) and he benefitted greatly from Bruce Pearl's up-tempo system, so he may not be ready to make an impact in an NBA rotation just yet. However, Hopson has shown that he has the stamina and athleticism to run and play hard, so while he'll have to adjust to an 82-game schedule, his adjustment period won't be as severe as someone who walked up and down the court in the Big Ten.
The Orlando Magic chose years ago to live and die by the three-pointer and whatever Dwight Howard can manage to do down low. That philosophy will not change next year, so might as well get this Charleston point guard, Andrew Goudelock.
Goudelock made 131 of his 322 three-point shots last season. He scored 23.7 points per game while shooting 45.5 percent from the field, 40.7 from three.
Meanwhile, Jimmer Fredette made 124 of his 313 three-point shots last season. He scored 28.9 points per game while shooting 45.2 percent from the field, 39.6 from three.
In some ways, Goudelock was more efficient, how about that? Still, SoCon play is just a tad weaker than the Mountain West, and BYU literally ran its offense around Fredette.
This would not be a bad pick for Orlando at all at 53. The Magic should definitely consider it given their offensive philosophy.
A 6'5" point guard is always something to revel in, but 40 percent shooting percentages throughout a college career most certainly are not, especially with assist-to-turnover ratios hovering between 1.3 and 1.5. Shumpert can use his long and athletic frame to get to the basket in the NBA, but what else can he do at the next level?
At 54, it stands for the Cavs to stow him away on the bench to at least find out simply because of his excellent physical attributes.
Of statistical note, Shumpert made a big leap last season to 17.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game from 10.0 points and 3.6 rebounds the season prior.
A great defender who can punish teams by sticking an open three if they leave him open. We saw what happened in the Elite Eight when UNC wasn't careful enough defending Liggins, as his late three have Kentucky a crucial four-point lead.
Liggins can defend point guards, shooting guards and small forwards with his wiry 6'6", 210-pound frame, and versatility will be key for the Celtics off the bench, who may need players to fulfill multiple roles should any of the Big Three miss time due to injury next season.
During Kentucky's Final Four run, Brandon Knight's theatrics received most of the attention, but it was DeAndre Liggins' unheralded defense (and Josh Harrellson's excellent low-post play) which led the 'Cats to Houston as well.
This is part of GM Mitch Kupchak's master plan to trade Pau Gasol as part of a package to Orlando for Dwight Howard. Jamie Skeen and Dwight Howard will be teaming up down low for the rest of the decade.
Not at all actually, but I'd remiss to not include Skeen here somewhere. The Lakers will probably sell one of their four second-round picks, or at least package some of them for a higher choice (I like the former idea a lot more).
I think the bad memories of this awful postseason wash away for the Lakers, but if the whole team does blow up and Pau Gasol takes off, Jamie Skeen can make a case for time at power forward. He's 6'9", 240 and shot 36-of-86 from three-point range this season. His overall shooting numbers were exceptional, ranking at 52 percent from the field and 72 percent from the line.
The Demetri McCamey I saw at Madison Square Garden, albeit against a mediocre Maryland team, looked pretty promising. He scored 20 points while taking only nine field goals, pitching in seven assists in the process.
This McCamey disappeared as the season wore on, as he had some miserable Big Ten performances. He went 2-for-11 twice and 1-for-10 once within a month's time, and ended his career with a six-point, four-turnover game against Kansas in the NCAA tournament.
What happened? McCamey has excellent length, height (6'3") and weight (200 pounds) to play NBA point guard, and he shot 45 percent from three-point range while averaging over 14 points and six assists per game. But seven games from this past season, including his most important one, are certifiable, Grade F duds.
Regardless, with Jason Kidd riding into the sunset soon, the Mavs need to make some decisions at point guard. Demetri McCamey will not be an NBA starter, but he can be a backup somewhere in the league. Dallas can work.
I need to get creative. The Lakers aren't using all four of their second-round picks, and I'd like to insert my New York bias here to get through the drudgery that is the end of the NBA draft.
On the top-10 list of my angriest memories from the Celtics sweep was a terrible play Bill Walker made with the Knicks up 91-90 late in Game 2. He took a contested three-pointer instead of passing to Roger Mason, who was wide open for a corner trey.
Bill Walker and Roger Mason received crunch-time, postseason minutes for the Knicks. Let that sink in for a minute.
Neither Walker nor Mason should be trusted to make crunch-time shots or decisions. If the Knicks buy back into the second round and take a true two in Jon Diebler, at least they have a pure shooting guard who they know has ice water in his veins and will make good decisions.
I know this much: Jon Diebler is passing to Mason if he's in Walker's shoes, and if he's in Mason's shoes, he's drilling the shot. If that happens, the Knicks are probably winning that game (and losing the series triumphantly in five instead of four).
Who played better for Kentucky in the NCAA tournament, potential lottery pick Terrence Jones (if he entered the draft) or Josh Harrellson?
Easy answer. Harrellson was simply sensational, averaging 13 points and eight rebounds during the NCAA tournament, serving as inspiration for the Cats to their run to the Final Four. He was especially important against Princeton in the round of 64, when he went for 15 points (7-for-8), 10 rebounds and four steals in 37 minutes. A 17 and 10 night against Ohio State's giants of Jared Sullinger and Dallas Lauderdale was equally impressive, but Harrellson even contributed 12 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks against Tyler Zeller, ACC Defender of the Year John Henson and the UNC Tar Heels in the Elite Eight.
Can Harrellson use this momentum to propel himself to an NBA team? I think if any team will give him a shot, it's San Antonio, because Gregg Popovich loves and respects blue-collar guys who just go to work.
As an added bonus, he did go against a future top-three NBA draft pick every day in practice...
Rick Jackson played in the middle of Syracuse's 2-3 zone for four seasons and was named the Big East's Defensive Player of the Year last season after averaging 13.1 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks last season.
To be frank, a large part of his defensive success was due to his immense girth (he is 6'9", 246 and has a 7'1" wingspan) and a down Big East year, which was surprisingly bereft of solid and consistent power forwards and centers last season.
However, give credit where's it's due. While Jackson won't be creating his own offense on the next level, if he puts a body on an opposing power forward, that four is going to have a tough time overcoming Jackson's length and motor.
Why the Kings? Why not? Little more defensive help never hurt anybody.
This is NOT one of the weakest drafts in NBA history. We'll find that out in five years.
At first glance, it really does not seem that way either. Yes, the All-Star talent is lacking, but as Charlotte Bobcats general manager Bob Higgins said to the Charlotte Observer, "I think [the draft] is full of Landry Fields-type players. Landry Fields, before his late-season slump, was an excellent role player who became an overwhelming fan favorite in New York. At one point, he was the second-best rookie in the league behind Blake Griffin.
The draft is littered with Landry Fields-type players up until the late second round; the problem is that they will start getting picked in the lottery.