Thursday, June 25, 2009

Live Blogging the NBA Draft

The 2009 NBA Draft is underway and we'll be bringing you live coverage and analysis. It's a difficult draft to predict, with pretty much every pick up in the air after Blake Griffin goes first overall. Between the parity between the prospects and the blockbuster trades that seem to keep happening (more on those later), it should be an exciting night for NBA fans.

1. Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin (Oklahoma) [PF, 6-10, 248 lbs, 20 yrs] - And we are underway. The Clippers, as expected, take Griffin. This was really the only pick to make. The funny thing about Griffin is that he doesn't seem to have the upside of your average consensus #1 pick. Don't get me wrong, he's a tremendous talent, but it's hard to see him being much more than Carlos Boozer. But by taking the only sure thing in the draft, the Clippers certainly made the right choice. Now we'll see if they can unload one of their big men to make room for Griffin.

2. Memphis Grizzlies: Hasheem Thabeet (Connecticut) [C, 7-3, 267 lbs, 22 yrs] - Not really sure how Thabeet helps Memphis. He'll provide some much-needed defense, but will he give them anything on the offensive end? Also, the Grizzlies already have a solid center prospect in Marc Gasol and it's difficult to envision Gasol and Thabeet playing together. Like the Clippers and Griffin, this is a case of the Grizzlies wanting to know what they're getting, rather than take a chance on one of the many guards expected to go early. Still, shouldn't they have at least considered Jordan Hill with this pick, considering their lack of depth at power forward?

3. Oklahoma City Thunder: James Harden (Arizona State) [SG, 6-5, 222, 19 yrs] - The Thunder pass up on Rubio. Wow. Love it. After hinting strongly that they'd take Rubio, they instead opt for Harden. This makes me think that all the rumors of them drafting Rubio were just a scheme to attempt to get Minnesota or another team to trade up for the pick. I guess it didn't work, but I still think it's a great manuever.

Much as I like the trickery, I'm not a big fan of Harden. He's a good all-around guard, but he strikes me as an undersized shooting guard, and not an especially athletic one. I keep hearing Brandon Roy comparisons, but Roy is taller and more athletic. I suspect Harden will be a bust, but he's a sensible pick considering the Thunder's need at shooting guard. (Also, I love the bow-tie.)

4. Sacramento Kings: Tyreke Evans (Memphis) [SG, 6-5, 220 lbs, 19 yrs] - Guess the Kings really didn't like Rubio's workout. Needing a point guard, they go for the converted shooting guard. Clearly Evans can play the position, as he excelled in Memphis, but he's earned a reputation as a bit of a selfish player and it's hard to say if he's really suited to be an NBA point guard. Evans has to be singing John Calipari's praises right now because if Evans hadn't been moved to the point, there's no way he would've gone that high.

Evans should be a good fit in Sacramento. He'll give them some scoring out of the backcourt and the tandem of Evans and Kevin Martin will be very tough to defend. Though one does have to wonder if he's up to the task of guarding some of the smaller, quicker NBA guards.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio (Spain) [PG, 6-5, 180 lbs, 18 yrs] - Finally, Rubio is off the board. Well, alright it wasn't that long, but considering he was the consensus #2 pick for months leading up to the draft, it's a little surprising to see him drop to fifth.

This is a great pick for Minnesota. Rubio is going to a young team with a spot for him in the starting lineup and he shouldn't be under any major pressure to produce wins early on. Rubio will need to improve his outside shot, but he should make his teammates better with his passing. Also, I'd just like to point out that I have nailed the first 5 picks in this draft.

6. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonny Flynn (Syracuse) [PG, 6-1, 196 lbs, 20 yrs] - Bit of a head-scratcher here, as Minnesota selects point guards with its back-to-back picks. It kind of makes sense if they think Rubio can defend shooting guards and Flynn can play off the ball effectively, but wouldn't it make more sense to take Stephon Curry here? My guess is they're trading this pick.

7. Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry (Davidson) [PG/SG, 6-3, 181 lbs, 21 yrs] - Nice pick for the Warriors, who trade Jamal Crawford and then acquire the best shooter in the draft. Hard to imagine a player better suited for Nellie-ball than Curry. He should look good running the floor with Monta Ellis. He is greeted by a cascade of boos as the Knicks fans watch Curry slip out of their grasp.

8. New York Knicks: Jordan Hill (Arizona) [PF, 6-10, 232 lbs, 21 yrs] - Hill is a nice consolation prize for the Knicks, after missing out on Curry. He's a great athlete, good rebounder, and has a decent jump shot, all of which should make him a good fit in the Knicks' offense.

9. Toronto Raptors: DeMar DeRozan (USC) [SG, 6-6, 211 lbs, 19 yrs] - Toronto takes a shooting guard who can't shoot. Let me know how that works out. DeRozan could become a good player, but he's very raw at this point and is basically being picked on athleticism and potential.

10. Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings (Italy) [PG, 6-2, 165 lbs, 19 yrs] - Nice pick for the Bucks, who get one of the top prospects in terms of potential. Jennings has been controversial due to his lackluster performance in Italy, but this guy would have been a top 10 pick last year, out of high school, so unless scouts think he actually got worse in his time abroad, I don't see anything wrong with this pick. Jennings and Rubio should have a slight advantage over the other rookies, having played professional basketball already.

11. New Jersey Nets: Terrence Williams (Louisville) [SG, 6-6, 213 lbs, 21 yrs] - Solid pick for the Nets, who now have a shooting guard tandem of Williams and Courtney Lee, following the Vince Carter trade. Williams has the size and athleticism to play some small forward, so they could play together as well. The Nets are years away from competing, but Williams, Lee, Devin Harris, and Brook Lopez could be a nice core.

Speaking of the Nets, I'm a little iffy of the Vince Carter trade, at least on Orlando's end. They got a talent upgrade, undoubtedly, but they have very little in the way of perimeter defense now. Also, Carter is not really a dead-eye spot up shooter. It's hard to see how this trade does not improve Orlando, but I'm not sure it makes them that much better, or enough so to justify taking on Carter's huge contract.

12. Charlotte Bobcats: Gerald Henderson (Duke) [SG, 6-5, 215 lbs, 21 yrs] - No surprise here, as the Bobcats get some much-needed shooting guard depth. However, I don't think Henderson will be much of a player. His college numbers were not overwhelming and he's a bit undersized at the 2. He seems like he'll be an average shooter with limited ability to create his own shot, with his biggest asset being his defense. Think Brandon Rush, but a worse shooter.

13. Indiana Pacers: Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina) [PF, 6-10, 234 lbs, 23 yrs] - Questionable pick here for Indiana as they add Hansbrough. Hansbrough was a tremendous college player...but so was Christian Laettner. His greatest asset seems to be his hustle. He's a good, but not great rebounder, a respectable mid-range jump shooter, but he doesn't have much of a low-post game. On his ESPN profile it says he must improve "finishing above the rim." My point exactly. He's not a great athlete and that's never going to get better. He'll play hard and grab some rebounds, and that should be enough to keep him in the league, but he's never going to be anything special.

14. Phoenix Suns: Earl Clark (Louisville) [SF, 6-10, 226 lbs, 21 yrs] - I really like this pick for Phoenix. Clark is similar to Boris Diaw and would fit in very well with Phoenix, should they try to get back to their pre-Shaq uptempo offense. Clark isn't here to greet Stern, so instead Brandon Jennings comes out, having just arrived. Better late than never.

15. Detroit Pistons: Austin Daye (Gonzaga) [SF, 6-11, 192 lbs, 20 yrs] - Not really sure how Daye fits into the current Pistons roster, but it may not matter since Daye won't be expected to contribute for a few years. He could eventually be a good player in the Rashard Lewis mold, but right now he probably compares better to Yi Jianlian.

Side note: Dick Vitale thinks Tyler Hansbrough was a great pick. Now I feel much better about picking him as a bust. He also thinks Curry will be Rookie of the Year and a superstar. Has Vitale ever even watched an NBA game? He shouldn't be allowed at the draft.

16. Chicago Bulls: James Johnson (Wake Forest) [PF, 6-8, 257 lbs, 22 yrs] - Nice pick by the Bulls, who get a good face-up combo forward. His shooting ability should make him a good compliment to the Bulls less-offensively inclined big men (Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah).

17. Philadelphia 76ers: Jrue Holiday (UCLA) [PG, 6-4, 199 lbs, 18 yrs] - The Sixers get a tremendous value pick here, selecting a promising young point guard in Holiday. Holiday struggled at UCLA, playing out of position at shooting guard. He should be an excellent fit for the Sixers. He is an outstanding athlete and can defend opposing shooting guards, while also possessing very good court vision. With his size and point guard ability, he should be able to play alongside Lou Williams. He may even have the opportunity to be tutored by Andre Miller, if the Sixers opt to re-sign the veteran and ease Holiday into the league.

18. Minnesota Timberwolves: Ty Lawson (North Carolina) [PG, 6-1, 195 lbs, 21 yrs] - ANOTHER point guard? Minnesota could be going for some kind of crazy all-point guard team. Wouldn't that be fun to watch? More likely, they'll trade the pick.

19. Atlanta Hawks: Jeff Teague (Wake Forest) [PG, 6-2, 175 lbs, 20 yrs] - Solid pick for Atlanta, as they needed a point guard, but they might want to consider trading up for a better distributor. Teague is more of a shooting guard in a point guard's body. I'd suggest trading up for Lawson, but Teague wouldn't do Minnesota much good. They could always trade down to whoevers takes Eric Maynor, though if they were actually interested in Maynor they probably would've just drafted in in the first place.

20. Utah Jazz: Eric Maynor (VCU) [PG, 6-3, 164 lbs, 21 yrs] - Utah adds one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft. Maynor should be a solid backup to Deron Williams as a rookie. Nice pick here.

21. New Orleans Hornets: Darren Collison (UCLA) [PG, 6-2, 166 lbs, 21 yrs] - Another backup point guard is selected. This seems a bit high for Collison, but the Hornets did need a backup for Chris Paul. Collison should be able to knock down open shots and play solid defense, but he may be a bit small for the NBA.

22. Portland Trail Blazers: Victor Claver (Spain) [SF, 6-11, 217 lbs, 20 yrs] - Solid pick for Portland. Claver is very talented and could be a good contributor, but he'll likely stay in Spain for now. Portland doesn't need more youth on the roster at the moment and Claver allows them to build for the future without disrupting the present roster.

23. Sacramento Kings: Omri Casspi (Israel) [SF, 6-9, 211 lbs, 21 yrs] - Casspi is a bit of a project, but he's a good, tough player who draws comparisons to Matt Harpring and Andres Nocioni. Not sure he'll contribute much as a rookie, but the Kings will have the option of letting him stay in Israel for the time being.

24. Dallas Mavericks: B.J. Mullens (Ohio State) [C, 7-1, 258 lbs, 20 yrs] - Good value pick here for Dallas, but they've got a project on their hands. He has a lot of work to do before he becomes a useful NBA player, but he's got good long-term potential. Dallas isn't looking to play a lot of rookies now, so it's a logical pick.

25. Oklahoma City Thunder: Rodrigue Beaubois (France) [PG, 6-2, 182 lbs, 21 yrs] - Apparently this pick will be swapped with the previous one, so Beaubois heads to Dallas and Mullens goes to Oklahoma City. That makes sense, as Dallas needs a backup point guard more than a project center and Oklahoma City could use a true center.

26. Chicago Bulls: Taj Gibson (USC) [PF, 6-10, 214 lbs, 24 yrs] - I don't understand this pick. The Bulls already drafted a power forward in James Johnson and Gibson seems very similar to Tyrus Thomas. If they see Johnson as a small forward, then this makes a little more sense, but wouldn't they be better off adding a guard, seeing as they're probably losing Ben Gordon this off-season?

27. Memphis Grizzlies: DeMarre Carroll (Missouri) [PF, 6-8, 207 lbs, 22 yrs] - Not sure Carroll is going to be much on an NBA player, but Memphis needed power forward help and they got it. Still, this seems like a reach, especially with DeJuan Blair still on the board. I would've picked him just for the sheer comedic value of having Blair and Thabeet on the same team.

UPDATE: Ty Lawson is supposedly headed to Denver. Not clear what Minnesota will get in return. Here's hoping they draft a 4th point guard here.

28. Minnesota Timberwolves: Wayne Ellington (North Carolina) [SG, 6-5, 202 lbs, 21 yrs] - Ellington is a little one-dimensional, but his shooting should be an asset to Minnesota, now that they've got (at least) two point guards to get him open looks.

UPDATE: The Knicks have supposedly swung a trade sending Quentin Richardson to Memphis for Darko Milicic. This is a nice gamble for New York. Not sure exactly what Darko will give them, if anything, but in theory he should fit in well with their system. Regardless of what Darko does for them, they already know what they have in Richardson and they don't need him.

29. New York Knicks: Toney Douglas (Florida State) [SG, 6-2, 183 lbs, 23 yrs] - Douglas is a combo guard who should help shore up the Knicks' perimeter defense. He's also an accomplished three-point shooter; maybe a poor man's Stephen Curry on offense, though Eddie House is probably the better comparison.

30. Cleveland Cavaliers: Christian Eyenga (Congo) [SF, 6-6, 210 lbs, 20 yrs] - Very surprising pick here. Eyenga is a superb athlete but is extremely raw. He'll most likely stay abroad for the next few years. Picking an international project makes some sense, as the Cavs are going for a title and wouldn't have much playing time for rookies anyway. But why not take a gamble of Chase Budinger here? They could probably buy a second round pick if they really wanted Eyenga.

2009 NBA Mock Draft 2.0

Well, it's June 25th. Since the last mock draft we've learned a lot...right? We know Blake Griffin is going first, but after that it's basically anyone's guess. Here's a final version of our mock draft.

First Round

1. Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin (Oklahoma) [PF, 6-10, 245 lbs, 20 yrs] - The only question here is how the Clippers can modify their roster to accomodate Griffin. Sharing the frontcourt with Zach Randolph, Chris Kaman, and Marcus Camby isn't exactly ideal.

2. Memphis Grizzlies: Hasheem Thabeet (Connecticut) [C, 7-3, 265 lbs, 22 yrs] - Memphis really needs a power forward more than a center, but supposedly the Grizzlies are pretty high on Thabeet and they may not be prepared to draft a point guard and effectively give up on Mike Conley. It's hard to imagine Thabeet and Marc Gasol playing together (Thabeet would probably be his backup), but the Grizzlies just need size in general right now.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder: James Harden (Arizona State) [SG, 6-4, 215, 19 yrs] - Many mock drafts have Ricky Rubio going here, but with Russell Westbrook already in the fold, I can't picture Rubio suiting up for the Thunder next season. That said, it's entirely possible that OKC drafts Rubio and then trades the pick. Harden gives the Thunder a natural 2-guard with a nice three-point stroke. Another option would be Stephon Curry.

On a side note, there's been a lot of Ricky Rubio talk surrounding the Thunder lately, despite there being obvious reasons for them not to draft him. My theory is that this is all deliberate on the part of the Thunder and GM Sam Presti, as they want to create the illusion that they will draft Rubio so that a team like Minnesota or the Knicks will trade up for the pick.

4. Sacramento Kings: Tyreke Evans (Memphis) [SG, 6-6, 220 lbs, 19 yrs] - Hard to believe the Kings would pass up on Rubio if he fell to them, but from all reports they were unimpressed with his workout. Instead, they could take Evans, who excelled at the point for Memphis this past season. While he is by no means a natural point guard, he can clearly play the position and, with his size and athleticism, he could provide some matchup problems for opponents.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio (Spain) [PG, 6-4, 180 lbs, 18 yrs] - The Timberwolves would have to be beside themselves if they were able to land Rubio with the fifth pick. While Rubio is not much of a scorer at this point, he's a brilliant distributor and is arguably the most NBA-ready, considering he's been playing professional basketball since he was 14.

6. Minnesota Timberwolves: Stephen Curry (Davidson) [PG/SG, 6-3, 185 lbs, 21 yrs] - Pairing Rubio and Curry would make for one of the most intriguing backcourts in the league, if a bit undersized. Minnesota might be better off with a more natural shooting guard, after taking Rubio 5th, so they could look to trade down with this pick, perhaps looking to land DeMar DeRozan, Gerald Henderson, or Terrence Williams. However, the Rubio-Curry comparison might be too tempting to pass up.

7. Golden State Warriors: Jordan Hill (Arizona) [PF, 6-10, 235 lbs, 21 yrs] - A point guard seems like the way to go, but Monta Ellis is dead-set on remaining the starting point guard, so instead the Warriors could grab a versatile power forward in Hill. With his athleticism and shooting touch, he should be a good fit in Don Nelson's system.

8. New York Knicks: Jonny Flynn (Syracuse) [PG, 6-0, 175 lbs, 20 yrs] - Flynn would be a very popular pick in New York, having bolstered his reputation at MSG during the Big East Tournament. A great distributor with a good all-around offensive game, he should look good in Mike D'Antoni's system.

9. Toronto Raptors: DeMar DeRozan (USC) [SG, 6-6, 200 lbs, 19 yrs] - As one of the best athletes in the draft, DeRozan is considered to have as much upside as just about anyone out there. However, with mediocre shooting numbers in his one year at USC, there are questions about how he'll fare in the NBA. He also rated exceptionally poorly in John Hollinger's draft rater, but, as Hollinger admitted in the article, his draft rater struggles to predict players with a small sample size of data.

10. Milwaukee Bucks: James Johnson (Wake Forest) [PF, 6-9, 245 lbs, 22 yrs] - After trading Richard Jefferson, the Bucks have likely cleared enough salary to re-sign both Ramon Sessions and Charlie Villanueva, so they can opt for the best player available here, rather than drafting out of need. That player would likely be Johnson, who is a versatile combo forward.

11. New Jersey Nets: Gerald Henderson (Duke) [SG, 6-4, 215 lbs, 21 yrs] - This picks likely comes down to either Henderson or Terrence Williams. Williams is probably the better overall prospect, but Henderson is a better shooter and a more refined player, making him a better fit in New Jersey.

12. Charlotte Bobcats: Terrence Williams (Louisville) [SG, 6-6, 220 lbs, 21 yrs] - According to reports, Williams wowed the Bobcats during his workout, outperforming Henderson, though the Bobcats are still very interested in Henderson as well. They will probably take whichever of the two is available, with Williams taking precedence.

13. Indiana Pacers: Jrue Holiday (UCLA) [PG, 6-4, 200 lbs, 18 yrs] - The Pacers are in need of a point guard and Holiday is probably the best available here. He had a so-so freshman year at UCLA, but that can be attributed to playing out of position and in a primarily halfcourt offense. Ty Lawson is another option here, but Holiday's size and defensive ability make him a better fit in Indiana.

14. Phoenix Suns: Eric Maynor (VCU) [PG, 6-3, 175 lbs, 21 yrs] - The Suns need a backup for Nash and Maynor should excel in that role. He is perhaps the most NBA-ready point guard in the draft, which makes this a sensible pick, especially if the Suns think they can still compete in the West. However, after trading Shaq to the Cavs, the Suns may be in full-scale rebuilding mode and could opt for more of a project player, like Brandon Jennings or even B.J. Mullens.

15. Detroit Pistons: DeJuan Blair (Pittsburgh) [PF, 6-7, 250 lbs, 20 yrs] - As it is, Detroit will likely lose Rasheed Wallace to free agency and they will need to shore up the frontcourt. It's hard to say if Blair will ever be much more than a potent rebounder in the NBA, but his girth and inside scoring could make him a good fit, when paired with Jason Maxiell.

16. Chicago Bulls: B.J. Mullens (Ohio State) [C, 7-1, 260 lbs, 20 yrs] - Mullens may be a few years away from being a valuable contributor, but his size and scoring ability should be an asset to the Bulls, who are currently using defensive-minded big men like Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas.

17. Philadelphia 76ers: Brandon Jennings (Italy) [PG, 6-2, 165 lbs, 19 yrs] - The Sixers would have a very tough call here between Jennings and Ty Lawson. Lawson is accustomed to playing in an uptempo offense and has to be considered more NBA-ready than Jennings, but Jennings has more sizzle and upside. What this decision might come down to is the perceived status of Andre Miller. If Miller re-signs and sticks around for a few more years, he could mentor Jennings until he is ready to take the reigns, but if they think they will lose Miller, they could take Lawson, hoping that he can play major minutes at point guard as a rookie.

18. Minnesota Timberwolves: Earl Clark (Louisville) [SF, 6-9, 200 lbs, 21 yrs] - With four first round picks, it's hard to imagine that Minnesota will keep all of them. That said, they might want to hang on to Clark, who is one of the most intruiging prospects in the draft, as a 6-10 swingman who can play both forward positions, plus a little point forward.

19. Atlanta Hawks: Ty Lawson (North Carolina) [PG, 5-11, 195 lbs, 21 yrs] - Atlanta would be fortunate to get Lawson this low. He seems like an ideal fit to run their offense and would be a good long-term replacement for Mike Bibby. With Lawson and Jamal Crawford joining Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Al Horford, the Hawks could be a very dangerous team next year.

20. Utah Jazz: Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina) [PF, 6-9, 250 lbs, 23 yrs] - With Carlos Boozer most likely on his way out, Utah will need power forward depth. Hansbrough doesn't have a great deal of upside, but he should be a solid contributor right away and would be a good fit under Jerry Sloan.

21. New Orleans Hornets: Sam Young (Pittsburgh) [SF, 6-6, 215 lbs, 24 yrs] - Young should give New Orleans some much-needed help on offense and, at 24 years old, he should be one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft. The Hornets need a guy who can provide an instant impact. Another posibility here could be Chase Budinger.

22. Portland Trail Blazers: Nick Calathes (Florida) [PG, 6-5, 185 lbs, 20 yrs] - Portland could use an upgrade at point guard, but they are looking more for veteran help than a rookie, at this point. Calathes is set to play in Greece next year, so this gives Portland a very promising point guard prospect who can join the team in a few years after getting some valuable experience in Europe.

23. Sacramento Kings: Jeff Teague (Wake Forest) [PG, 6-2, 180 lbs, 20 yrs] - The Kings can further shore up their backcourt with this pick. Neither Teague nor Evans is a pure point, but the combination of the two should significantly improve the Kings' point guard play.

24. Dallas Mavericks: Darren Collison (UCLA) [PG, 6-1, 165 lbs, 21 yrs] - Dallas could use another point guard, especially if they don't think they can re-sign Jason Kidd. Collison is a bit undersized, but his defense and three-point shooting should make him a useful role player in Dallas.

25. Oklahoma City Thunder: Austin Daye (Gonzaga) [SF, 6-10, 190 lbs, 20 yrs] - Daye is a very difficult player to project, but the upside is definitely there and, this late in the draft, he's worth a look. If nothing else, he should be able to provide some shooting and shot-blocking. If he can add some muscle and toughness, he could be a very good pro.

26. Chicago Bulls: Toney Douglas (Florida State) [SG, 6-2, 183 lbs, 23 yrs] - The Bulls are probably losing Ben Gordon this off-season and adding Douglas should help to off-set that loss. He won't start as a rookie, but he could be a solid role player off the bench.

27. Memphis Grizzlies: Patrick Mills (St. Mary's) [PG, 5-11, 175 lbs, 20 yrs] - Memphis could use a backup point guard and Mills has shown flashes of being a very good one. He's considered a scoring point guard, but that should make him a solid compliment to Mike Conley off the bench, who better fits the pure point guard mold.

28. Minnesota Timberwolves: Chase Budinger (Arizona) [SG, 6-7, 205 lbs, 21 yrs] - As previously mentioned, one has to think Minnesota trades one of its first round picks, but they would be hard-pressed to if they could land Budinger here. Budinger hasn't improved at Arizona the way many had hoped he would, but he's still an excellent athlete and a very talented scorer, although he leaves much to be desired on the defensive end.

29. New York Knicks: Derrick Brown (Xavier) [SF, 6-9, 225 lbs, 21 yrs] - Brown is an excellent athlete with a much-improved three-point stroke and should be a good fit in the Knicks' run and gun offense.

30. Cleveland Cavaliers: Danny Green (North Carolina) [SF, 6-6, 210 lbs, 21 yrs] - Green hasn't gotten much draft-day hype, but he's proven to be a winner and a very solid role player. He's a good three-point shooter and defender and should be an asset to the Cavs.