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.