The Season of LeBron ended last night, but the Season of Labor Strife and Uncertainty is just beginning. Buffered in between the two is a period of detente otherwise known as the NBA draft.
This week-and-a-half respite ends on June 23 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, but until then, let's delve into the latest mock draft and pretend that July 1, the date when the current labor agreement expires, isn't around the corner.
In this current version, all 60 picks are analyzed, with a couple shakeups in the top five that have repercussions for the rest of the lottery.
In the immortal words of Mills Lane, let's get it on.
Note: All heights and weights via Draft Express.
In a point guard's league, the Cleveland Cavaliers need their floor general of the future. One might subscribe to the "grab Derrick Williams and get the best point guard available at No. 4" theory, but Irving stands as the best pure point guard in this draft and there's other talent to be had at pick No. 4.
Irving has the potential to be a 20-plus-point scorer in this league for a long time if he stays healthy.
Derrick Williams' game is too similar to Michael Beasley's for them to coexist with the collection of frontcourt talent the Timberwolves already have, and unless GM David Kahn wants to trade Beasley to make room for Williams (which sounds somewhat counterproductive), the best player remaining should go here.
Don't let the center designation for Enes Kanter fool you: He will be showcasing a nice outside game and ball-handling skills in the NBA.
*Well, he obviously didn't play for Kentucky, but he was there.
Derrick Williams falls into Utah's lap and immediately supplants Andrei Kirilenko as the small forward of the future. The Jazz can conceivably pick Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker here, but both players have more question marks than the aggressive and explosive Williams.
To play devil's advocate, if the Jazz don't feel that Williams can play small forward on both ends of the floor (does he have the lateral quickness to stick with NBA 3's?), expect the Knight-Jazz connection to come to fruition.
With Derrick Williams off the board, Cleveland takes the non-point guard with the best upside left available. Vesely is going as high as five in most mock drafts and will sneak up to four if the first three picks shake out as they did.
Vesely is competing with Kawhi Leonard to be the second small forward taken off the board, and while Leonard's recent progress on his jump shot brightens his resume, he can't grow four inches to match Vesely's height.
The Toronto Raptors need a large injection of maturity, and Kemba Walker is the best man to fulfill that job description. The shoot-first Brandon Knight is not as NBA ready as Kemba Walker, as he needs to dramatically cut down on turnovers. While Knight may have the early lead in his race to be the second point guard on draft night, this chaotic situation best suits Walker, who led a group of largely freshmen and sophomores to the national title.
The Washington Wizards desperately need any help they can get on the wing, and Kawhi Leonard can potentially fill time at shooting guard and small forward roles for the team. Leonard's 7'3" wingspan would be impossible for smaller shooting guards to ever lob jumpers over, so he can become a shutdown defensive weapon in the NBA as well.
Another Northern California experiment that may be doomed to fail starts with shoot-first guards Brandon Knight and Tyreke Evans sharing the same backcourt, but this deserves a shot based on the raw talent and athleticism of both men alone. Knight is also an upgrade from Beno Udrih, so the team wouldn't be going in reverse.
Unless Sacramento wants to take a chance on Bismack Biyombo, he of the 7'7" wingspan, the Kings go with the best player available.
Buying out Jonas Valanciunas is an obstacle worth leaping for the Detroit Pistons, who need to invest in more size. Valanciunas moves well for his size, and his mastery of the pick-and-roll shows an astute fundamental understanding of the game. Valanciunas and Greg Monroe could be a nuisance to deal with down low, as both players stand at 6'11".
Marcus Morris is a trendy pick here, but despite a very poor workout recently, Bismack Biyombo's upside can't be ignored. He doesn't have an outside jumper at this juncture (or much of an offensive repertoire at all), but a 7'7" wingspan affords the Bobcats excellent flexibility to play Biyombo at either power forward or center.
Draft Express' best-case scenario for him is a 6'9" Dwight Howard—what NBA team wouldn't take a chance on that right now?
No-brainer pick here. The best pure shooting guard goes to a team in desperate need of one. What alarms most about Burks (questionable jump shooting) may actually point to his greatest asset: He is a creative and dynamic scorer who can pour in points in transition or half-court sets.
Plus, picture Burks gaining 15 pounds of muscle and working on his outside jumper all summer and early autumn? He'd be a threat right away. I like his as a dark horse Rookie of the Year.
Let's assume the Monta Ellis rumors, which have dominated Northern California basketball talk for weeks, will lead to him being traded out of town. Enter Klay Thompson, the next-best shooting guard available.
It'll be a battle between Thompson and Providence senior guard Marshon Brooks for the last spot, but while Brooks' freakish 7'1" wingspan is intriguing, his reputation as a poor shot selector isn't, given Ellis' reputation for doing the same thing.
I told myself I was never going to put Jimmer Fredette on the Utah Jazz in any of my mock drafts, but herein lies a scenario where this will be the case. With Utah filling its small forward hole and the frontcourt set for next season, the Jazz have the choice of taking Fredette or, perhaps, Marshon Brooks.
Utah gives Fredette a shot off the bench with a chance to be the team's point guard of the future. At the very least, he will be a solid bench scorer, and Utah surely needs some more help in that regard.
Out goes Vince Carter, and in comes Jordan Hamilton, who can play both shooting guard and small forward. A smooth and tall shooter, Hamilton will have no problem running with the Suns after two years of working within a fast-paced system at Texas under Rick Barnes. As long as Hamilton doesn't forget how to drill three-pointers, he'll enjoy a prosperous rookie season being the beneficiary of Steve Nash slash-and-kicks.
Marcus Morris recently compared himself to Carmelo Anthony, and while they aren't in the same league, he isn't as insane as you may think. The two do have similar playing styles and body types: Morris has an inch on Anthony, although Carmelo actually has a slightly longer wingspan by two inches.
Still, Morris' versatility, mid-range game (as he wants the world to know) and polish are a bargain at 14. Even with Luis Scola in the mix, Morris can put some time in at small forward and spell Scola to become a key player in Houston's rotation.
Marshon Brooks can come off the Pacers bench next season and score 10 points per game blindfolded. With Larry Bird expressing his desire to strengthen the team's second unit, Brooks can be that guy to get Indiana through the multitude of scoring slumps it suffers through. He set a Big East scoring record by posting 52 points against Notre Dame last season. Playing alongside Danny Granger, Brooks can be a devastating No. 2 option for Indiana as well, with teams not paying as much attention to him.
With a wingspan measuring over 7'1" and an incessant motor, Tristan Thompson has a long future at power forward in the NBA. The 76ers snap up Thompson here after he falls out of the lottery with other teams taking other players to meet positional needs.
He'll take some time to adjust after one season at Texas, but learning behind Elton Brand in Philadelphia, where the pressure will be off for him on the second unit, will ease his transition into the professional rankings.
I've been on the Kenneth Faried or Markieff Morris train for months, but Singleton is faster, longer and stronger than those two prospects. He's also just 10 pounds lighter and a quarter-inch smaller than Morris, and Singleton claims he can guard the 1 through 4 positions on the court.
A little more defensive versatility and size won't hurt the Knicks, and if he contributes a little scoring punch, that's an even greater bonus.
The Wizards took Kawhi Leonard sixth, so Markieff Morris is selected here to beef up the frontcourt. Washington gets two players who can contribute right away in the rotation. Markieff is a little less polished than his brother but may have more upside. He proved his rebounding prowess and three-point accuracy in the Big 12 last year en route to being named on the All-Big 12 second team. On the Wizards, he can bring some more maturity to a frontcourt in desperate need of some.
Jackson played shooting guard in college, but scouts are projecting him as a point guard at the next level. At the very least, he can serve as a competent backup to both D.J. Augustin and Gerald Henderson, suffocating defenders with his long wingspan and energy. At the most, he'll learn the nuances of being an NBA point guard quickly and supplant Augustin as the Bobcats point guard of the future.
The T-Wolves need any help they can get on the perimeter, especially on defense. Tyler Honeycutt's offensive game is too raw for the professional level at this juncture, but he will raise hell for 2's and 3's with his long arms and 6'8" height. He'll jump into Minnesota's rotation right away as a defensive stopper if selected here.
The Blazers have long been connected with Faried, and with him still on the board, they take him here. The concerns against Faried are numerous: He played in the Ohio Valley Conference in the middle of a 2-3 zone, where he was in position to grab many rebounds and beef up his statistics. However, his energy, wingspan, leadership and defensive presence are NBA ready, and while he resembles more of a small forward than a power forward, he has the energy of five players inside of one body to compensate for that.
Motiejunas falls here after a poor workout last week in which he missed most of his jumpers and looked pretty passive doing so. The 7'0" center's passing ability is his greatest trait, but many other parts of his game, such as energy and defensive skills, are still very raw. He won't be able to go down low against power forwards or centers right now, so a team's best bet is to teach him for a season and hope for the best in 2012. He has the raw talent to succeed, but can he put the tools together?
With the New York Knicks passing on Josh Selby, who they have been connected to since May, the Rockets take advantage of the value and grab one of the highest-rated players coming out of high school in 2010.
Selby played off the ball at Kansas and struggled mightily after missing three games due to injury in February, but his speed, skill and athleticism are top notch. If put in the right system, he can be very useful player as a combo guard.
Tobias Harris' stock is rising, so it's hard to imagine him lasting until No. 24 in 10 days. However, the chips fell where they did, so Harris goes to the Thunder, where the depth is virtually nonexistent at small forward and power forward.
The versatile Harris will see playing time at both forward positions during the season.
The best center available goes to the Boston Celtics. Vucevic is just a hair shy of 7'0", and while some may like Jeremy Tyler in this spot, the C's just don't have the time to watch him develop.
Vucevic is more ready now to contribute while the window is still open, and he can even start by the end of the season.
With Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson coming off the books, Mark Cuban is crossing his fingers that the NBA doesn't go to a hard cap. Hence, the draft is a bit of a tricky proposition for Dallas, because it doesn't have the best idea as to what its roster will look like.
Justin Harper is a stretch 4 who can knock down an open three-pointer. Jason Kidd can find him open even if the Mavs were playing 5-on-15. They should take the sure thing.
The Nets need all the help they can get at every position, but the team needs a drastic overhaul at wing and some frontcourt depth. The Big Ten Player of the Year can probably help with both in the NBA. Given that the team needs to improve right away prior to the Brooklyn move in 2012, it's best to get an NBA-ready senior rather than a green freshman who needs a year or two.
A pretty easy pick given Tyler's dramatic stock rise lately. He can relax behind Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Omer Asik as he learns under the tutelage of Tom Thibodeau.
Tyler was under a tremendous amount of pressure to succeed after his decision to leave high school following his junior year made him a potential guinea pig for any other players thinking of the same thing. But funny enough, he'd have less pressure on him as a member of the Chicago Bulls...in the NBA...in the country's third-largest media market.
Another player whose stock is steadily rising as the pre-draft season progresses. Jimmy Butler is saying and doing all the right things, and his most notable achievement came when he was named the MVP of the Portsmouth Invitational.
Butler seems to have that Spurs mentality of keeping his head down and putting in incredible work to succeed, so he'd fit like a glove in San Antonio.
The last time the ACC Player of the Year in men's basketball wasn't drafted in the first round of the NBA draft was in 2000, when Chris Carrawell was taken 41st overall by the San Antonio Spurs.
Don't let Smith's last game against Arizona fool you—his heroics in lieu of Kyrie Irving's injury this season were sensational, and he can be a very good combo guard off the bench for an NBA team. If he's still there at No. 30 (and Tyler is off the board, of course), the Bulls take him here.
Note: Before you ask why Davis Bertans and Nikola Mirotic were not included in the first round, via this Draft Express tweet (look to the left and scroll down to the fourth), it looks like they may withdraw today.
31. Miami Heat: Hofstra PG/SG Charles Jenkins (6'3.5", 188)
The most offensively efficient player in the country lands on a team looking for a long-term point guard and reeling after its championship loss.
32. Cleveland Cavaliers: Georgia SG/SF Travis Leslie (6'4.25", 205)
After drafting the 6'11" Jan Vesely at small forward, the Cavs draft Leslie, who sports a 40.5" max vertical and a 6'10.5" wingspan.
33. Detroit Pistons: Butler PG Shelvin Mack (6'2.5", 209)
Iman Shumpert may be an physical freak of nature, and Darius Morris may be the hometown star, but Shelvin Mack is a winner.
34. Washington Wizards: Estudiantes C Lucas Nogueira (7'0", 225)
He's been labeled as raw and immature throughout the whole pre-draft process, and even though he's 7'0", those red flags may be enough to knock him out of the first round.
35. Sacramento Kings: Wisconsin PF Jon Leuer (6'11.5", 223)
The sharpshooting big man can be an annoying mismatch off the bench for a decade if he keeps hitting his shot.
36. New Jersey Nets: Maryland C Jordan Williams (6'9", 247)
The New Jersey Nets desperately need frontcourt help behind Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries (if he re-signs). Through JaJuan Johnson and now the boulder known as Jordan Williams, the Nets are off to a good start.
37. L.A. Clippers: Duke SF Kyle Singler (6'8.5", 228)
The best player on a national championship team from two seasons ago can't drop that far, right? Singler will find a role as a solid bench player.
38. Houston Rockets: Georgia Tech PG Iman Shumpert (6'5.5", 222)
I can't keep shunning Shumpert, as his physical tools (42" max vertical, 18 bench presses) are off the charts for a point guard. The Rockets go for value here.
39. Charlotte Bobcats: Purdue SG E'Twaun Moore (6'4", 191)
The Charlotte Bobcats need any three-point shooting help they can get, and Moore is a nice find at 39.
40. Milwaukee Bucks: Iowa State PG Diante Garrett (6'4", 190)
The Bucks wake up Brandon Jennings by drafting a point guard who averaged 17 and six last season.
41. L.A. Lakers: Cleveland State PG Norris Cole (6'1.75", 174)
The Lakers take the best point guard remaining and throw him into the carousel, but Cole is no slouch. He outplayed Jeff Teague in the 2009 NCAA tournament and averaged 22 points and five assists per game this season.
42. Indiana Pacers: Fresno State PF/C Greg Smith (6'10", 251)
The Pacers take a chance on a guy nicknamed Juju who just so happens to be 6'10" with a 7'3" wingspan. At the 42nd pick, it's a risk worth taking.
43. Chicago Bulls: Illinois SF Jereme Richmond (6'7.25", 207)
The Bulls get a player who may have been a lottery pick had he stayed in school for a couple more years. Chicago can wait for a few years to let him develop.
44. Golden State Warriors: Oakland PF/C Keith Benson (6'11", 217)
Losing a one-on-one battle to Tristan Thompson in the NCAA tournament and playing in the Summit League hurt Benson's draft stock, but being 6'11" in a watered-down league helps immensely.
45. New Orleans Hornets: Florida SF Chandler Parsons (6'9.75", 221)
The straw that stirred the drink down in Gainesville will be a key cog in the Hornets machine if drafted here, as his versatility and basketball savvy will be key assets should any players go down.
46. L.A. Lakers: Fenerbahce SG/SF Bojan Bogdanovic (6'7", 216)
The Lakers make another smart move, stashing a player who will be staying overseas for at least another season or two. He's a great scorer albeit in the weak Adriatic League.
47. L.A. Clippers: Ohio State SG David Lighty (6'7", 216)
The Clippers' motives in this draft are made clear by taking Lighty, as they pursue two respected veteran college players who will add more maturity to the rotation as rookies.
48. Atlanta Hawks: Georgia PF Trey Thompkins (6'9.75", 239)
Trey Thompkins fell like a stone when he showed up out of shape at the combine (15.5 percent body fat). The Hawks grab a player who was being valued as a mid-first-rounder as early as a month ago.
49. Memphis Grizzlies: Tennessee SG Scotty Hopson (6'6.75", 202)
With O.J. Mayo exiting stage left, why shouldn't the Grizzlies stay in state to find another shooting guard for the rotation? Hopson is well known for his speed and athleticism, showcased every night in Bruce Pearl's up-tempo system.
50. Philadelphia 76ers: Ohio State SG Jon Diebler (6'6.5", 200)
I feel like I'm the only member of the "Jon Diebler Will Be Drafted" fan club outside of Ohio. The 76ers can use another shooter. Why not the best pure 2 left?
51. Portland Trail Blazers: Washington PG Isaiah Thomas (5.10.5", 187)
My second disclaimer in as many mock drafts: Do not compare him to Nate Robinson. Thomas is more mature at this stage with better point guard skills. Whatever team drafts him will not be disappointed.
52. Detroit Pistons: Kentucky SG DeAndre Liggins (6'6.5", 210)
The Pistons grab a defensive stopper who made a name for himself hitting clutch shots in the NCAA tournament. Keep an eye on Liggins—he could have a sneaky-long career.
53. Orlando Magic: College of Charleston PG Andrew Goudelock (6'2", 200)
The Magic may have Jameer Nelson, but if they still plan to live and die by the three, they might as well grab someone who made a living doing that in college. Goudelock's range is to the half-court line.
54. Cleveland Cavaliers: San Diego State PF Malcolm Thomas (6'9", 218)
We have officially reached the point of the mock draft where I'm just throwing darts at a board, and anyone's guess is as good as mine. Why Malcolm Thomas? A 7'2" wingspan and two blocks per game last season should get him a good look from some team.
55. Boston Celtics: Notre Dame PG/SG Ben Hansbrough (6'3", 203)
OK, back to pretending like I know what I'm doing. With the Celtics taking Nikola Vucevic, they go for some much-needed scoring help for the bench.
56. L.A. Lakers: Illinois PG Demetri McCamey (6'3.25", 204)
With McCamey on the board, the Lakers decide to enter two rookies into a competition to see if one can possibly hold down the starter's role until the end of the Kobe Bryant era.
57. Dallas Mavericks: Chalon PF Joffrey Lauvergne (6'10", 220)
Back to throwing darts. The Mavs stash this 19-year-old away in the D-League or Europe for a few years until he's ready to contribute.
58. OKC Thunder (from Lakers): UCLA PG/SG Malcolm Lee (6'5.5", 198)
The Lakers aren't using all four second-round picks here, so play Russian Roulette and pick a team to buy one of their selections. Thunder GM Sam Presti is smart and knows the value of a good buy, so he sees Malcolm Lee still on the board and grabs him while he still can.
59. San Antonio Spurs: Kentucky C Josh Harrellson (6'9.5", 279)
Can Harrellson be drafted based on his NCAA tournament performance and sterling reputation as a blue-collar player alone?
60. Sacramento Kings: Syracuse PF Rick Jackson (6'9", 242)
When in doubt, go with a player who is known for defensive prowess. Rick Jackson was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, averaging a double-double last season.