Monday, June 22, 2009

2009 NBA Mock Draft: It's Blake and bad weather

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - For 16 of the past 22 days here on the East Coast, it has rained.

I'm not sure when we turned into Seattle, but the bleak weather is giving me an ominous feeling about the upcoming NBA Draft.

This year's selection pool reminds a lot of the 2000 draft that produced just two legitimate NBA stars, Milwaukee's Michael Redd, a second round pick, and Orlando's Hedo Turkoglu. the 16th overall selection by Sacramento.

The top 10 that year featured names like Stromile Swift, Darius Miles, Marcus Fizer and DerMarr Johnson. You were ahead of the game if you snared a role player like Mike Miller, Joel Przybilla and Keyon Dooling, or a one- dimensional scorer that gravitates toward losing like Jamal Crawford.

It's hard to convict this year's group just yet, but it's not too early for an indictment.

The 2009 NBA Draft looks like Blake Griffin followed by cloudy skies...

1. - Los Angeles Clippers - Blake Griffin (Oklahoma), Power Forward - Griffin combines a rare work ethic with outstanding athleticism. He lacks polish on the low post, however, and isn't a can't-miss franchise guy like a LeBron James or Dwight Howard. Think: Carlos Boozer.

Blake Griffin isn't a can't-miss franchise guy.
2. - Memphis Grizzlies - Hasheem Thabeet (UConn), Center - The Grizzlies were the big winner at the draft lottery, vaulting from the sixth spot all the way up to No. 2. Mike Conley Jr. hasn't been the answer as the quarterback on Beale Street and Ricky Rubio has conjured up images of the legendary Pete Maravich and Steve Nash, but the Spanish star's agent, Dan Fegan, is clearly trying to steer Rubio away from Memphis. That means Thabeet for the Grizz. Think: Dikembe Mutombo.

3. - Oklahoma City Thunder - James Harden (Arizona State), Shooting Guard - Harden may be the most NBA-ready player in this draft and should be a steady and consistent wing player very early in his career. He has gotten a lot of attention from the Thunder and Washington Wizards. Now, the Grizzlies have put him in the mix and are apparently enamored with what a three-man rotation of Harden, O.J. Mayo and Conley could do. In the end, I think the Grizzlies go big, leaving Harden to team with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Okie City. Think: Brandon Roy.

4. - Sacramento Kings - Ricky Rubio (DKV Joventut), Point Guard - Signability issues have dropped Rubio a few spots. The Maloofs came in from Las Vegas last week to personally watch Rubio work out, and I am sure the Kings' new coach, Paul Westphal, is salivating at the thought of adding the playmaker. Think: Nash.

5. - Washington Wizards - Jordan Hill (Arizona), Power Forward - Hill has been targeted by the Wizards, and there has been quite a bit of trade talk here with Milwaukee and Dallas among the teams mentioned looking to move up. Hill was one of the most improved players in college this past year and has ideal size and length for an NBA power forward. Think: Chris Bosh.

6. - Minnesota Timberwolves - Stephen Curry (Davidson), Combo Guard - It's pretty clear that new Timberwolves basketball chief David Kahn is looking to move up, as the Wolves have glaring needs at center and point guard. A potential deal mentioned has Minnesota sending the sixth overall pick and Kevin Love to Memphis for the second pick. In that scenario, the Wolves would take Thabeet. Another rumor has Minnesota making a strong play for Rubio, offering all three of its first-round picks (Nos. 6, 18 and 28) to get it done. If the Wolves can't move, they will choose between Curry and Tyreke Evans. Evans has the bigger upside but Kahn is far more comfortable with Curry, the best pure shooter in this year's draft. Think: Allan Houston.

7. - Golden State Warriors - Tyreke Evans (Memphis), Combo Guard- The Warriors reportedly assured Monta Ellis that they wouldn't be selecting a guard, and that Hill was on their radar. But, the Arizona power forward will be long gone by No. 7 and there are no other big men worthy of this choice. Golden State likes Curry, 19-year-old point guard Brandon Jennings and Syracuse's Jonny Flynn but I am betting on Evans, the type of ball-handling combo guard that will eventually thrive in Don Nelson's scheme. Think: A more talented John Salmons.

8. - New York Knicks - Jrue Holiday (UCLA), Point Guard - The Knicks love Holiday, the UCLA freshman, but he was outplayed badly by Curry at his pre- draft workout with the club on June 10. Donnie Walsh seems to be falling for Holiday nonetheless, and is bringing him back for another workout early this week. It looks like a three-horse race among Curry, Evans and Holiday in Gotham, with Walsh trying to sell himself on the project. Think: Delonte West.

9. - Toronto Raptors - DeMar DeRozan (USC), Shooting Guard - The Raptors are intent on getting a wing player, and the candidates include DeRozan, shooting guard Gerald Henderson of Duke, small forward James Johnson of Wake Forest and Louisville's Earl Clark. An incredible leaper and explosive finisher, DeRozan already has an NBA body and if everything falls into place, he might be the best player in this draft five years down the road. Think: A young Vince Carter.

10. - Milwaukee Bucks - Jonny Flynn (Syracuse), Point Guard - Flynn has been shooting up various draft boards over the past couple of weeks. The Bucks have plenty of bodies at the point, but not the answer. Flynn could cure that problem. Think: Damon Stoudamire.

11. - New Jersey Nets - Gerald Henderson (Duke), Shooting Guard - Henderson is the type of wing player that can excel next to Devin Harris. Think: Latrell Sprewell.

12. - Charlotte Bobcats - Earl Clark (Louisville), Combo Forward - I get the feeling Larry Brown is convinced he needs a wing player with some serious offensive skills, and the 6-foot-10 Clark is a small forward who can fill it up, has great vision and strong interior passing ability. Think: Rashard Lewis.

13. - Indiana Pacers - Brandon Jennings (Lottomatica Roma), Combo Guard - Jennings struggled mightily overseas but has lottery-type skills, and would be a nice gamble at this point in the draft. Like many young point guards, Jennings needs to develop a more consistent jumper so he can take advantage of his speed and ability to penetrate. Think: Rajon Rondo.

14. - Phoenix Suns - James Johnson (Wake Forest), Small Forward - Johnson is the rare college player with a solid mid-range game and should fit in nicely now that Phoenix has reverted back to an up-tempo offense. Think: Corey Maggette.

15. - Detroit Pistons - B.J. Mullens (Ohio State), Center - Mullens has the size and soft hands to develop into a legit center and help Michael Curry start rebuilding his frontcourt. A number of sources say the Pistons have a promise in place to take Mullens, so if anyone else has designs on the big man, they will have to move up past No. 15. Think: Robin Lopez.

16. - Chicago Bulls - DeJuan Blair (Pitt), Power Forward - Blair makes a lot of sense in the Windy City and should work well with the longer and more versatile Joakim Noah at power forward. Blair's toughness and ability to rebound would fill a huge void for a team that was 20th in rebounds last year. Think: Anthony Mason.

17. - Philadelphia 76ers - Ty Lawson (North Carolina), Point Guard - Andre Miller looks like he wants out of Philly and Lou Williams is a turnover machine, so the Sixers need a legitimate point. Lawson has the speed and quickness to rival a Rondo or Harris, but his size will be a detriment on the defensive end. Think: T.J. Ford.

18. - Minnesota Timberwolves - Jeff Teague (Wake Forest), Point Guard - I'm guessing the Wolves will move up and deal one of their picks, but if they stand pat and choose quantity over quality, why not remake the whole backcourt with Teague? The Wake guard is a solid player who could team with Curry as interchangeable parts. Think: Kevin Johnson.

19. - Atlanta Hawks - Eric Maynor (Virginia Commonwealth), Point Guard - The point guard run continues as Atlanta takes the heir apparent to veteran Mike Bibby, who is a free agent and on the downside of a very good career. Think: Andre Miller with a jumper.

20. - Utah Jazz - Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina), Power Forward - A weak draft has people starting to warm up to Hansbrough. The North Carolina star is never going to be a star at the NBA level but his energy would be great for any team and a perfect fit for Jerry Sloan. Think: A more skilled Mark Madsen.

21. - New Orleans Hornets - Chase Budinger (Arizona), Swingman - The Hornets could use a weak-side shooter that can knock down the three consistently off Chris Paul's penetration. Think: A more athletic Kyle Korver.

22. - Dallas Mavericks - Terrence Williams (Louisville), Small Forward - The aging Jason Kidd is a free agent, while Jason Terry and JJ Barea are both limited on the defensive end, so you would think Rick Carlisle would like a combo guard but Williams is tough to pass up at this point. Williams is a great athlete with a solid basketball IQ. Think: Derek Smith.

23. - Sacramento Kings - Omar Casspi (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Small Forward - Casspi is a shooter that can handle the ball very well for a wing player, and anybody who can put the ball in the basket should be considered by the Kings. Think: Turkoglu.

24. - Portland Trail Blazers - Austin Daye (Gonzaga), Combo Forward - The Trail Blazers are very deep and will likely go the "best player available" route, and that's Daye. Daye's skill set and 6-foot-10 frame have NBA scouts intrigued but he does lack physical strength. The Blazers can afford to take the plunge since they have the time and talent on hand to let him develop. Anyone could use a frontcourt player that can space the floor. Think: Mehmet Okur.

25. - Oklahoma City Thunder - Wayne Ellington (North Carolina), Shooting Guard - Ellington was a great college player that projects as a 20-minute guy in the pros. Think: Aaron McKie.

26. - Chicago Bulls - Marcus Thornton (LSU), Shooting Guard - Detroit is already sniffing around Ben Gordon, so there is no guarantee the sharpshooter will be back in the Second City. Thornton would be a nice insurance policy. Think: Ronnie Brewer.

27. - Memphis Grizzlies - Sam Young (Pitt), Combo Forward - A tough, athletic guy who likes to bang in the paint and has a plus jumper. Think: Trevor Ariza.

28. - Minnesota Timberwolves - Taj Gibson (USC), Power Forward - The slender Gibson is a nice athlete with length and a soft touch around the basket, but he needs to fill out. Think: Vin Baker before the weight gain.

29. - Los Angeles Lakers - Victor Claver (Pamesa Valencia), Small Forward - The world champs are trying to re-sign both Lamor Odom and Ariza so they have no need for a guaranteed contract. In fact, GM Mitch Kupchak has already acknowledged he'll likely trade his picks or use them on foreign players who can remain overseas for at least a year. Claver is a 6-foot-9 guy who can shoot and the Lakers can stash. Think: Jorge Garabosa.

30. - Cleveland Cavaliers - DaJuan Summers (Georgetown), Small Forward - Normally there would be no use risking a luxury tax on the 30th pick so you would expect the Cavs to take a Euro player and leave him overseas. But, their implosion in the East finals puts pressure on GM Danny Ferry to get more contributors and Summers, an athletic wing player with an NBA body, may be worth a shot. Think: Dahntay Jones.

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