The 2009 NBA Draft class has been heralded as highly-unspectacular at best by most experts to this point. This could mean that several players that are on the fence as to whether or not to declare for the draft, will. I'm not going to make up any bogus trades for this, just going by team record and past picks acquired via trade.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder-Blake Griffin-PF-Oklahoma
Clearly the supreme talent in this class, the sophomore 6-foot-9 forward has gotten off to a ridiculous start this year for the unbeaten Sooners. His superior athleticism gives him a huge advantage crashing the boards, and his offensive game is explosive and already highly-polished. Unlike Michael Beasley before him, his work ethic and killer instinct are unquestioned and he appears willing to do anything to get the win. Unfortunately for him, it's looking like he'll have to stay in Oklahoma and play for the OKC Durants. Quite frankly, this team needs anything it can get. They wouldn't be doing too shabbily to snag Griffin, though.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves-James Harden-SG-Arizona State
The T-Wolves are in the midst of a huge losing streak, which sticks them here with the second-worst record in the league to this point. They appear to think that their frontcourt is set with Al Jefferson and Kevin Love, and their backcourt could definitely use a boost. third-year player Randy Foye looks like he's made some positive strides this season, and should have the point guard position locked up for a while. The Sun Devils' sophomore 2-guard James Harden has drawn comparisons to Brandon Roy, which isn't a bad thing. He's a prolific scorer and can create his own shot. While a bit undersized at about 6-foot-5, he has long arms and has proven to be a solid perimeter defender. A solid all-around player that seems like one that winning teams can be built around.
3. Washington Wizards-Jordan Hill-PF-Arizona
For some reason, the Wizards went from a playoff team to bottom-five team in the league without losing any major players. $111 million-man Gilbert Arenas hasn't played a minute this season, but they were able to make the playoffs a year ago with basically the same lineups. Oh well, a high lottery pick may not be a bad thing. Antawn Jamison was just re-signed this past offseason, but since the Wizards are so awful, his name has been brought up time and time again in trade rumors. Should they get rid of Jamison, they'll have a huge hole to fill at the 4. 6-foot-11 PF Jordan Hill, a junior from Arizona, would be a good replacement. He's got size to go along with his great athleticism. He's a great finisher around the rim and rebounds like a menace. He hasn't been playing basketball for all that long, however, so his offensive game still lacks polish but is developing quickly. His mid-range game has improved greatly since his freshman year, making him a likely high lottery choice for a lucky team.
4. Sacramento Kings-Ricky Rubio-PG-Spain
The Kings decided to re-sign Beno Udrih in the offseason for far too much money, and, hopefully, they've realized their mistake. In the past few years, it looks like they've made good lottery choices with center Spencer Hawes and power forward Jason Thompson. Sharpshooting guard Kevin Martin has been heralded as the next Reggie Miller, but has missed much of this season with injury. A distributing, creative point guard could be just what the doctor ordered for these Kings. Who better than Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio? He has great size at 6-foot-4, and his flashy style of play has drawn him comparisons to before-his-time legend Pete Maravich. Rubio has been on NBA radars since he was 15 years old, and this is the first year that he is actually eligible. He may not make himself available yet, but if he does, he'll almost certainly be a lottery selection. He has amazing feel for the game, can score whenever he wants, and is a Chris Paul-like defender, getting his hands on almost every loose ball in his area. His jump shot could use some work, but he is only 19.
5. Golden State Warriors-Jrue Holliday-PG-UCLA
This team is in shambles. It seems like head man Don Nelson has had a confrontation with just about every player on the team already, and we're about a quarter of the way through the season. They do, however, have some pretty good young talent. Andris Biedrins is an elite rebounder and has turned himself into a decent scorer at times down low. Anthony Randolph is a crazy athlete who, at 6-11, runs the floor like LeBron and can also shoot it from outside. Monta Ellis, who has missed the entire season after apparently trying to do tricks on his moped, has proven that, when healthy, he is one of the best scoring guards in the entire league. One gaping hole for them is at the point, where CJ Watson has been running the show since the offseason departure of Baron Davis. While having a pretty decent year so far, Watson is likely not the answer for the Warriors in the future. Jrue Holliday was highly-touted out of high school as one of the best point prospects in the nation, and has started off decently for the Bruins. He can play either 1 or 2. He can score as well as distribute the ball, and has good size for a point at 6-foot-4. He's not a great athlete, but he can be relied on to run a team. This type of player could provide the type of stability the Warriors so desperately need.
6. Los Angeles Clippers-Hasheem Thabeet-C-Connecticut
It seems like the Clips suddenly have a surplus of big men with Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby, and Zach Randolph, but it's unknown how long any of them will remain with the team. Baron Davis came over from Oakland expecting to team up with Elton Brand and turn the Clippers into a Western Conference contender, but everyone knows what happened to that. Eric Gordon, last year's lottery choice, has shown signs of being a legitimate scoring threat from the outside, and Al Thornton has surprised people with the well-rounded game that he possesses. Thabeet, should he drop this far, would probably be a steal for L.A. He's a behemoth at 7-foot-3, and is able to block an inordinate amount of shots that come his way. His offensive skills have improved big-time since a mediocre freshman season, and he is now a huge threat from inside as well as at the free throw line. There are no big men in college today big enough to body up Thabeet, and there are only a handful of players big enough in the pros to be able to stop him. This would be a great choice for the Clippers, and they'll have a nice young core for the future.
7. Charlotte Bobcats-Earl Clark-PF/SF-Louisville
The Bobcats have built a roster full of college all-stars: Emeka Okafor, Sean May, Raymond Felton, Adam Morrison, and DJ Augustin, among others. While Felton has made some strides forward this season, the only two that appear to have worked out are Okafor and Augustin. Okafor has exploded this season following the huge contract he received in the offseason, and Earl Clark could provide some thunder to complement him. He's 6-foot-9, but can play either forward position. He has range out to the three-point line, but is very inconsistent away from the basket. Very quick for his size, Clark is yet another athletic big. He can beat defenders off the dribble facing the basket and is very dangerous. Not a big name player, but another player that appears to be a solid cornerstone of a winner.
8. Memphis Grizzlies-Greg Monroe-PF-Georgetown
This could be a bit of a reach, but the Grizzlies could use some punch down low. Marc Gasol has been a pleasant surprise in his first NBA season since coming over from the Lakers in the trade for his brother Pau. OJ Mayo has been fantastic in his rookie season, and he, along with Rudy Gay, give the Grizzlies two great threats on the wing. Second-year point guard Mike Conley has hardly been notable, but they still believe he can be their 1 of the future. Monroe was among the highest-rated recruits coming out of high school, and has started off decently at G'Town. He's 6-foot-10, but his work ethic and drive have been questioned. He has a quick first-step for a player his size, and often shows how effortlessly he can blow by his defender facing the bucket. He's also a great passer from the low block. His strength is a weakness, as he is listed at just 226 pounds. The Grizzlies are a team on the rise, though, and Monroe would be a pretty good piece to add to the puzzle. I mean, they just added Steve Francis, baby! Ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 NBA Champion Memphis Grizzlies!
9. Indiana Pacers-BJ Mullens-C-Ohio State
Somehow, Ohio State has become a hotbed for elite centers to pass through on their way to the NBA. Greg Oden, Kosta Koufos, and now BJ Mullens. Mullens is huge at seven feet even, and has a game that allows him to knock down jumpers from just about anywhere on the floor. He's not exactly a tenacious player, but has shown some signs of being a strong rebounder and post defender at times. There's no telling how he will turn out, as there is still lots of work to be done, but he has unlimited potential, and Indiana could use a threat down low. They drafted Roy Hibbert a year ago, but his work ethic and skills have been questioned as well. They may end up with Bust Twin Towers.
10. Toronto Raptors-Demar DeRozan-SG-USC
The Raptors started off the '08-'09 season with high hopes. They'd added Jermaine O'Neal to go alongside Chris Bosh in the frontcourt, and a healthy Jose Calderon was set to be the unquestioned starter and leader at point guard. They started 3-0, but since then, they've been awful. They've gone 8-17 since the hot start, and head coach Sam Mitchell has been shown the door. Jay Triano was selected to replace him on an interim basis, and has not been an upgrade at all. One thing they've been reportedly been interested in acquiring all season long is a perimeter scoring threat that can create his own shot off the dribble. USC freshman 2-guard Demar DeRozan fits the bill. He's 6-foot-6 to go along with being a spectacular athlete. While not yet a great shot creator or ball-handler, he has a fluid shooting motion. He struggles from beyond the arc, and is an average defender, but is still very young. He has tons of star potential, but also has tons of work to do to get to that level. A perfect fit for a team lacking an outside scorer.
11. New York Knicks-Brandon Jennings-PG-Italy
Perhaps the top-rated player coming out of high school, Jennings couldn't cut it academically to go to Arizona, so he decided to go and play in Rome. He has the attitude and carries himself like a star. He's 6-foot-1, but yet another freak athlete with all the talent in the world. His decision making has sometimes come into question, but he has exceptional court vision and can make the impossible pass look easy with LeBron-style simplicity. He can score whenever he wants, inside or outside the arc. He's had a rough time so far in Italy, but his talent is unquestioned. The Knicks would be insanely lucky to land Jennings with this pick, but you never know. His stock may have dropped a bit so far, but around draft time, expect him to be a little higher. This would be a perfect fit for the Knicks, and his elite skills could prove to be a huge asset when LeBron James potentially decides to make Madison Square Garden his new home in a year and a half. A perfect fit for Mike D'Antoni and his up-and-down style.
12. Philadelphia 76ers-Stephen Curry-SG/PG-Davidson
Everyone's favorite baby-faced college player, Steph Curry has proven this year that his run in the tourney last March was no fluke. He leads the nation in scoring, and appears to be unstoppable. His shooting stroke is flawless, and his range is unlimited. His size is a bit of an issue if a team wants him to be an off-guard at 6-foot-3, but has shown flashes this season of being a capable option at point guard as well. However, when he is playing point, he appears to be turnover-prone and is probably better suited to be a shooting guard at the next level. He is extremely confident and there isn't a player in the country that can shut him down. This would be a good player for Philly to get to complement the inside prowess of Elton Brand. The Sixers have been a huge disappointment this year, and are one of several teams to already have fired their head coach. This team could turn it on at any time, however, and I still don't think they will miss the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Don't expect them in the lottery, even with Brand missing a month.
13. Chicago Bulls-Austin Daye-SF-Gonzaga
Everybody knows the Bulls' story from a year ago. Came from nowhere to win the lottery and get the first overall pick, and they snagged phenom Derrick Rose. Rose has gotten off to an unbelievable start and appears to already be a top-five point guard in the league. However, the rest of the Bulls' draft choices have not turned out so well. Ben Gordon has had a resurgent season, but it's unknown where he stands in the Bulls' future plans. Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni are the current small forwards, but neither is all that outstanding. Daye has had a great season for the 'Zags. He is 6-foot-10, but is a twig, listed at just 190 pounds. Not a supreme athlete, but is quick enough to beat his defenders off the dribble. On defense he has appeared lackadaisical at times, and struggles to guard quicker, smaller players, as well as bigger, stronger players. Scoring is where his specialty lies, and is likely the reason he will be chosen in the first round of the upcoming draft. He'd be a nice fit feeding off of Derrick Rose for Chicago.
14. Utah Jazz-Kyle Singler-SF-Duke
Carlos Boozer's days in Salt Lake City may be limited, but the Jazz have a decent crop of players remaining that make them a threat down the road, even if he leaves. In the time that Boozer has missed this season, Paul Millsap has emerged as a quality player at the 4 that can carry the load whenever necessary. Deron Williams is locked up in Utah for years to come. The Jazz have never really had an explosive winger than can run the floor, and Duke sophomore Kyle Singler seems to be just what they need. He can score from anywhere on the floor, and is a surprisingly explosive athlete that can get to the rim. He struggles defensively, but who doesn't nowadays? Solid role-player type that Sloan would love.
15. Milwaukee Bucks-Gani Lawal-PF-Georgia Tech
Lawal is an undersized 4 at 6-foot-8, but reportedly possesses a wingspan of 7-1, that allows him to make up for his lack of height. He also weighs in at 233 pounds, and is strong enough to push around smaller defenders with relative ease. He's very raw on offense, but plays extremely hard and that allows him to do things that he probably shouldn't be able to, given his limited abilities to this point. Strong post defender, and excellent rebounder. Milwaukee lacks a punch down low to go with Andrew Bogut, and Lawal could be a good snag for the Bucks. At the moment, they sit at the No. 8 seed in the East, but are playing very well of late and could see themselves move up in the standings before season's end.
16. New Jersey Nets-Chase Budinger-SF-Arizona
The Nets have been one of the major surprises to this point in the NBA, due in large part to the emergence of PG Devin Harris, in his first full season in New Jersey. He leads all point guards in scoring with about 24 ppg. The Nets got a steal of a pick last year at No. 10 when Brook Lopez of Stanford dropped to them. He's gotten off to a decent start for a rookie big man, same with forward Ryan Anderson from rival Cal. The Nets look to build on their recent draft success with swingman Chase Budinger from Arizona. At 6-foot-7, he's a fantastic athlete with great leaping ability. He's a very unselfish player and a good distributor for his size. Likely won't be a star player at the next level, but has all the makings of a great role player. He isn't very quick and is not a good ball-handler at all, which makes scoring off the dribble quite the chore. His mid-range game is lacking, but on the upswing. Still has lots of potential given his physical tools.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves-Patrick Patterson-PF-Kentucky
The Wolves got this pick from Miami a couple years ago with the Ricky Davis trade. The Heat traded a future first round pick to get Ricky Davis, perennial loser? Bad job. Good for McHale and the baby Wolves, though. In this draft they've already selected off-guard James Harden, and could add another big to go on the front line. Sophomore Kentucky forward Patrick Patterson has drawn some comparisons to Drew Gooden. Patterson is 6-foot-8, and very strong around the basket. He has the ability to bully defenders around as well as finish with touch. He still has some work to do, but already has very impressive skills for a guy his size. He would be a nice complement to the bigs the Wolves already put on the floor.
18. Detroit Pistons-DeJuan Blair-PF-Pittsburgh
Detroit initially struggled after the trade for Allen Iverson, but the Pistons have since started to get things rolling a little bit. At 6-foot-7 he is an undersized big forward, but has the work ethic and most of the time just outworks his opponent down low. He is quite similar to Rockets forward Carl Landry in that regard. He doesn't have much of a perimeter game to speak of, but is very good and efficient around the basket on both ends of the floor. He would be a nice player to run out along with Jason Maxiell should the Pistons decide to go small. Solid choice.
19. Phoenix Suns-Ty Lawson-PG-North Carolina
Unusual to see Phoenix this high on the draft board, but the Suns may not be here for long. Since acquiring Jason Richardson, they have hit their stride a little bit and I think they'll be higher up in the standings once everything is done. However, they have a gaping hole at point guard behind the aging Steve Nash. Goran Dragic has been horrible this season and, although still only 22, has shown very few signs of being able to compete in the NBA. Ty Lawson would give Phoenix a point guard for the future, as well as a capable backup for Nash in what could be his final year as a Sun. While only 5-foot-11, Lawson is incredibly quick and can get from basket to basket faster than perhaps any other player in the nation. He is a true point guard who also possesses the ability to score when necessary. He's very strong for his size, which he uses to his advantage when getting to the rim. His decision-making could use a little work in the half-court game but few question his potential. This would be a steal should he drop this far.
20. Dallas Mavericks-Patrick Mills-PG-Saint Mary's
This is likely Jason Kidd's last year in Dallas, and the Mavs don't appear to have a point guard of the future at this point. Little JJ Barea has shown flashes this season but nobody truly feels that he's good enough of a true point guard to claim the spot in the future. Patrick Mills from St. Mary's is the only real challenger to Lawson for quickest player in America. Mills played for Australia during the Beijing Olympics and was very impressive as the floor general for that team. He has tons of offensive ability and leads his team in scoring. His outside jumper can be inconsistent at times and, at six feet, he has a tough time scoring very often in the paint. Dallas could use a player like him.
21. Portland Trail Blazers-Damion James-SF/PF-Texas
As everybody knows, Portland has the league's finest crop of young talent. They seem to have a good, young prospect at all five positions, so anyone they could add would just be icing on the cake. The most shallow position, however, appears to be small forward. Damion James out of Texas is strong player, and at 6-foot-7, can bang around the basket or score from the perimeter. He's a great rebounder despite his lack of size, as well as a tenacious defender/shot blocker down low. His skills are still developing, but, should he continue to improve, could prove to be a fantastic steal near the end of Round One.
22. Atlanta Hawks-Eric Maynor-PG-VCU
When was the last time Atlanta had a pick this low? Was it in any of our lifetimes? This is quite the shocker, should they stay here all season. What Atlanta has always been lacking has been a point guard. They have Mike Bibby for now, but he won't be there forever. Hopefully, Hawks management finally realizes this and takes one. Acie Law was a lottery pick a couple of years ago but has not shown signs of much. Little-known Eric Maynor from Virginia Commonwealth is a terrific scorer at just 6-2. He can be turnover prone, but he is the kind of clutch player that Atlanta thought they were getting when they selected Law. He's very athletic and has a great basketball IQ. Seems to be a winner.
23. Denver Nuggets-Andrew Ogilvy-C-Vanderbilt
The Nuggets have had a resurgence since acquiring Chauncey Billups, and are looking very good at this point in the season. They don't really have a true center, as Nene is more of a 4. Ogilvy has great size and a very polished offensive game. He's proficient at drawing fouls and getting to the line, where he shoots at an excellent clip. He's not a very good rebounder despite being a 7-footer, but has begun to show potential of adding a midrange game as well. Denver could use a productive low-post threat with Nene and K-Mart.
24. Oklahoma City Thunder-Darren Collison-PG-UCLA
OKC got this pick from the Spurs in the Kurt Thomas trade. Yet another point guard in a draft laden with them. This would allow OKC to move Russell Westbrook to the 2 and slide Green and Durant up to 3 and 4, respectively, if they so chose. Collison is a very good game manager and has proven this throughout his college career. Very experienced, he knows the game and doesn't make many mistakes. Not an outstanding talent, but he is a great on-the-ball defender. He's the type of non-flashy point guard that gets the job done. Hopefully, he could provide some stability for the Thunder.
25. New Orleans Hornets-Jonny Flynn-PG-Syracuse
Since losing Jannero Pargo in the offseason, the Hornets have lacked a real backup for Chris Paul at the point. No surprise that they will try to find themselves a point guard, as there are tons in this class. Another quick and undersized guard, Flynn has been turnover prone so far in his college career, but is highly proficient in running a transition game. He sometimes takes bad shots, but if he can harness that, many believe he has the ability to be a decent player in the NBA.
26. Sacramento Kings-Willie Warren-SG-Oklahoma
The Kings got this pick from Houston in the Ron Artest trade. They already have Kevin Martin at the 2, but he's been struggling with injuries, so this may be a position they try to shore up. He's a great scorer with decent size at 6-foot-5. He can score from the outside as well as get to the rim. His shot selection is sometimes questionable, but is obviously something that can be improved. Yet another below-average defender. Given all the below average defenders, shouldn't the average be lowered? Maybe he's average given all the other below-average guys. Who knows?
27. Orlando Magic-Tyler Hansbrough-PF-North Carolina
Although many question his ability for the NBA game, the Magic would be getting a huge steal with Hansbrough dropping this far. He's a tremendously skilled player to go along with being 6-foot-10. He's the hardest-working player in the country. He's extended his range to be able to shoot the college 3. He's a great athlete despite not looking like one. He would fit perfectly with Orlando opposite "The Commander in Chief" Dwight (Eisen)Howard. Hansbrough is a threat from all over the floor, he would be a fantastic choice.
28. Los Angeles Lakers-Tyler Smith-SF-Tennessee
Given the likelihood that Lamar Odom's days as a Laker may be numbered, the Lakers could address the hole at his position late in the first round. Smith is 6-foot-7, with incredible wingspan and is a great defender. That's rare. His offensive game is improving and he rarely takes a bad shot. He lacks ball-handling skills, but if he's playing with Kobe Bryant, he won't be handling the ball. He's played some power forward in college but is unlikely to be able to at the next level. This would be a nice fit for Los Angeles. Smith is a player that has all the tools of a player that wants to win.
29. Cleveland Cavaliers-Omri Casspi-SF-Israel
Cleveland has been an elite team so far this season, and has shown no signs of slowing down. The Cavs have very few weaknesses, but they don't really have any backup for LeBron James. Not that they really need one. Casspi has a very similar game to Danilo Gallinari, who was a lottery pick by New York a year ago. He is 6-foot-8, with great ball handling skills and footwork. His shooting ability is lacking at this point and his game thrives on him getting to the rim and scoring easily from there. Not a particularly active or quick defender, either. At just 20 years old, however, there is obviously plenty of time for him to drastically improve his areas of weakness. Should the King decide to bolt Cleveland in 2010, Casspi could give them a player to fill part of the void at the 3.
30. Minnesota Timberwolves-Sam Young-SF-Pittsburgh
The T'Wolves make their third appearance in the first round, this time courtesy of the Boston Celtics in the KG trade. I'm sure the Celtics were fine with letting go of this pick given what they've already done with Garnett. With three first round picks, Minnesota will be gushing with young players going into next season. Young is a great shooter and just a natural scorer. Scores from beyond the three-point line, as well as just about anywhere else on the floor. He's 6-foot-6 and very strong. He's not proficient at creating for himself, thriving off of the catch-and-shoot. Not a great ball-handler either. He is a solid defender that can body up smaller players effectively. He projects as a James Posey-type player—a winner.
Obviously things will change between now and the draft in 183 days. However, if I somehow manage to pull these all out 100% correctly, be impressed.
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