The NBA Draft is one of my favorite events of the entire calendar year, and although it is still about two months away, I am more excited than ever. A few weeks back I posted up my thoughts on the first lottery picks in the draft with their recent averages from several sites. This week, using what I have learned from other major sites, I will make my first-ever lottery mock draft. I hope you enjoy!
Note: I apologize but this is an incorrect and out-dated draft order from April 1, 2008 when I made my first look at the draft. I hope to do another mock draft just before the lottery sometime next month, and I apologize for the inconvenience.
#1 Sacramento – Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma: The Kings need a little bit of everything right now. The only two pieces of their future they have locked up are Kevin Martin and Spencer Hawes, and Griffin is the most sure-thing to come to the NBA in a couple of years. He will be an immediate force, and a perennial All-Star. Jason Thompson was not a smart pick at their spot last season, but Griffin should compensate for that selection by bringing in a dominant presence in the paint. He is smart, humble, and a fierce competitor, and I have a good feeling that with his help, the Kings will not win the Lottery next year.
#2 Washington – Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona: Washington is bringing Flip Saunders to coach up this team in 2009, fresh off a miserable past 2008 season. Gilbert Arenas is still the future, and their goal this off-season should be to develop the youngsters they have, and find a long-term replacement for Antawn Jamison. Hill fits the bill, and although Rubio will be better in the end, he is a solid pick here. With Jamison, Butler, Arenas and Hill, along with healthy contribution from Brendan Haywood, I think Washington should be in the giant mix of competitive Eastern Conference teams next season. Their prime winning seasons are over, but anything less than 30 wins next season should be considered yet another disappointment.
#3 LA Clippers – Ricky Rubio, PG, Spain: Rubio will not fall past the third pick in the Draft no matter what, and could possibly be the first pick if Sacramento does not feel comfortable with Beno Udrih for the next couple years. The Clippers need a go-to player and Rubio should help to make Baron Davis feel a little more pressured next season. A great position for the young Spaniard, as he will be surrounded by a solid supporting cast. Davis struggled this past season with injuries and because of a lack of team focus. Al Thornton and Chris Kaman are the two other strong players for the future, but Rubio, just like Griffin, gives the Clippers a face of the franchise for many years to come.
Those people who know me personally understand that the NBA Draft is one of my absolute favorite moments of the entire calendar year. While the Draft is still about two and a half months away, the NCAA Tournament got me thinking about the different players who have helped or hurt their status in terms of the NBA Draft. Along with profiles of these players and detailed descriptions of their statistical strengths and weakness, I also include their current projection for the 2009 and/or the 2010 draft.
Boot Up: Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins, Kansas – It is a very logical argument as to why these two youngsters are suddenly shooting up draft boards: in 2008 Kansas won the national championship, then six players were drafted, and these two were entrusted with the reign of the program under Coach Bill Self. Kansas won the Big 12 regular season title again this season, and advanced to the Sweet 16 where they lost to the eventual Final 4 representative in Michigan State. Aldrich became the first person since Shaquille O’Neal to put up a triple double with blocks in an NCAA Tournament game, while Collins drew dozens of comparisons to former Chicago native point guard Tim Hardaway. Both will probably wait one more year until they jump to the pros, but at the rate they are progressing, will be guaranteed locks for the lottery when things are all said and done: Aldrich (Top 10 pick in 2010) and Collins (Mid-to-late first rounder in 2010.)
Boot Up: Toney Douglas, Florida State – One of the best players you have never heard of in the country, as Douglas, a senior, won the ACC Defensive Player of the Year award and was a first-team all conference selection. He was the point guard for the improved Seminoles in 2008-2009, but would be under-skilled point guard in the NBA, and at 6-5 could be an ideal shooting guard and perimeter defender in the mold of Delonte West for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Led the ACC in scoring this year as well at 21.46 points per game, and is an above average three-pointer shooter at 37.2% over the last two seasons. The scouts might not be too high on him, but I have a good feeling about his future success in the pros, and think that he could be a real difference maker on a team like Utah, New Orleans or Phoenix if they give him a chance in the second round: Second round to undrafted in 2009.
Western Conference – Southwest Division
New Orleans (56-26, #2 in conference and lost in seven games in the Conference Semifinals)
Cash considerations from Portland
Traded away the #27 selection in the draft, Darrell Arthur out of Kansas, to Portland for cash considerations.
Star contributors on the team in 2008-2009 are projected to be PG Chris Paul, SG Morris Peterson, SF Peja Stojakovic, PF David West, C Tyson Chandler, PG Mike James, SF Julian Wright, and SF Rasual Butler. Key unrestricted free agents include F/C Chris Anderson, PF Ryan Bowen, PG Jannero Pargo, and SF Bonzi Wells.
Report Card: Chris Paul is a great point guard, and they have one of the best starting lineups in the NBA with Peja, West, and Chandler. The only thing that worries me is that 2007-2008 seems like the ceiling for this group of guys, and Peja is not getting any younger. If they are to ever win an NBA championship, they will need Jannero Pargo to re-sign, and hope for continued improvement from Julian Wright. Their bunch is very weak, and an injury could push them back a slot or two in the conference in no time at all. For now, the median range for them is probably the #4 seed. Projection: #2 in Southwest Division, #4 in West, between 52-56 wins.
Western Conference – Northwest Division
Utah (54-28, #4 in conference and lost in six games in the Conference Semifinals)
The #23 selection in the draft (Kosta Koufos out of Ohio State)
The #44 selection in the draft (Ante Tomic out of Croatia)
The #53 selection in the draft (Tadija Dragicevic out of Serbia)
Star contributors on the team in 2008-2009 are projected to be PG Deron Williams, SG Ronnie Brewer, SF Andrei Kirilenko, PF Carlos Boozer, C Mehmut Okur, SF Kyle Korver and PF Paul Millsap. SG C.J. Miles is a restricted free agent.
Report Card: Utah is stockpiling on their European big men, as the addition of Koufos (Greek, 7-1), Tomic (7-2), and Dragicevic (6-9) to their already strong core of Kirilenko (6-9), and Okur (6-11) gives them the most international frontcourt in the NBA. Not like that really matters, unless the front office was just hoping, and praying one would turn out to be as successful as Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas (chances are unlikely.) Utah had a great year last year as the trade for Korver helped them make an end of season surge to become the #4 seed. Brewer, and Millsap continue to get better, and the duo of Williams, and Boozer is up there for one of the best in the NBA. Projection: #1 in Northwest Division, #3 in West, between 53-57 wins.