Even though the playoffs only ended a week and a half ago, making this Thursday seem very soon to be holding the NBA Draft, we must remember the NBA Season actually ended months ago. The NBA drags its playoffs out through April, May, and part of June, so teams that didn’t make it have actually been in off-season mode for several months. The draft is being held at Madison Square Garden on June 25th from 7pm-12am. There is less hoopla surrounding this draft than is typical, probably because there is no “next big star”-type of player. Blake Griffin, who is at the top of most of the expert’s draft boards, has been compared to Karl Malone, but many say he is more of a Carlos Boozer-like player. While Boozer is a very good player, be is not someone who could carry a franchise. But, while there may be no LeBron, D-Wade, or Rose this year, there are several players who should turn into very good complimentary players and who should be able to to help improve their teams. Here is a breakdown of each team, what picks they have, their needs, and some projected picks.
Team: Los Angeles Clippers (19-63 last season)
Picks: #1 in 1st Round
none in 2nd Round
Needs: These are the Clippers – they need everything, every year
Projected 1st Round Pick: 6-10 PF Blake Griffin, Oklahoma. Griffin is the top rated player in most mock drafts. He is an incredible athlete with size and toughness. He figures to be fierce on the boards, due to his length and power, and he improved his mid-range jumper, and even added some low-post moves last season in college. He is the one player who many analysts think could turn into a top 10 player some day. He has a humble attitude that will serve him well, especially in LA.
Team: Memphis Grizzlies (24-58)
Picks: #2 and #27 in 1st
#6 in 2nd
Needs: The Grizzlies could benefit from some added size up front to help Marc Gasol and Hakim Warick (assuming he returns after free agency). They could use some help at point as well, to have someone to feed the ball to Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo.
Projected 1st Round Pick: The analysts are torn on this one. Either 6-4 PG Ricky Rubio from Spain, or 7-2 C Hasheem Thabeet from UConn would be a good fit for this team. Rubio (or his agent) isn’t high on the idea of going to Memphis, so many experts think they will take Thabeet. He is a tremendous athlete, with a very nice touch on his shots, especially for a big man. His low-post game needs work, but so does that of nearly every big man coming out of college (or even that of the so-called “Best Young Center in the League”, Dwight Howard). Plus, the Grizz can address whichever position they don’t draft at #2 with their later first round pick.
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder (23-59)
Picks: #3 and #25 in 1st
None in 2nd
Needs: The Team that Shall not be Named (for Bill Simmons fans) could use more size and defensive presence up front. With superstar-in-waiting Kevin Durant, Russel Westbrook, and Jeff Green, the Thunder have a decent trio of scorers, but their leading rebounder last season was backup center Nick Collison. They simply must have someone who can control the boards if they expect to improve on what was a surprisingly decent inaugural season.
Projected 1st Round Pick: If the Grizzlies take Rubio, expect the Thunder to take Thabeet. If Thabeet is off the board, the only other big man rated consistently in the top 10 is 6-10 PF Jordan Hill from Arizona. Hill has a good mid-range jumper, and last season became a strong rebounding force. He added size last season, and may need to add a little more strength to contend with the elite NBA bigs.
Team: Sacramento Kings (17-65)
Picks: #4 and #23 in 1st
#1 in 2nd
Needs: The team with the worst record in the league last season picks 4th (go figure). The Kings are in need of a lot of help, clearly. To be honest, I have never heard of most of their players. Their leading scorer was Kevin Martin, who averaged a very good 24.6 per game – who the heck is Kevin Martin? In a nutshell, expect the Kings to take the best player available, because they could use someone at any position.
Projected 1st Round Pick: Few analysts see him dropping this far, but Rubio would be a good fit here. He has drawn comparisons to Steve Nash, as a traditional, pass-first point guard. Having someone like him to control the offense would greatly benefit this young team. If Rubio is gone, 6-3 PG Steven Curry out of Davison also seems like a good fit; however, Curry only moved to the point last season, and is more of a shoot-first guy. This may still work out alright for the Kings, who could use another scorer, but Curry would have to play the point, as he is too small to compete against the typical 2-guard in the pros.
Team: Washington Wizards (19-63)
Picks: #5 in 1st
#2 in 2nd
Needs: The Wizards seem to have more talent than their record indicates. The injury to Gilbert Arenas hurt a lot, and they could use some extra size up front, and if Jordan Hill is still available, he would be a very good fit. If not, they could use a SG with solid defensive skills to add to Caron Butler’s and Antawn Jamison’s scoring capabilities.
Projected 1st Round Pick: 6-5 SG James Harden out of Arizona State could still be available, and would be a good fit for the Wizards. He has a strong understanding of the game, and knows when to step aside and facilitate rather than shoot away – something that would be compliment Jamison and Butler nicely. His solid defensive skill would be an asset as well.
Team: Minnesota Timberwolves (24-58)
Picks: #6, #18, and #28 in 1st
#15 and #17 in the 2nd
Needs: The T-Wolves have a whopping FIVE picks in this year’s draft. They would be wise to use them to add some size up front. More than likely, they will take a big man with one of their late first round picks, so with their first pick, they will look to add a shooter to compliment Al Jefferson and surprising Randy Foye. PG Sebastian Telfair was impressive last season, but there is a group of impressive young point guards at this point in the draft board, so the may look to go in that direction.
Projected 1st Round Pick: 6-0 Syracuse PG Jonny Flynn is on the smaller side, but he is long for his size, and possesses tremendous basketball IQ and athleticism. He showed poise under pressure in college (think, UConn, 6OT), and is the type of player most coaches would love to coach. Although some question whether he can be a true point guard, between him and Telfair, the Wolves would have two young, athletic guards who could shoot, and should learn to facilitate.
Team: Golden State Warriors (29-53)
Picks: #7 in 1st
Needs: The Warriors have only one pick this year, so they need to make it count. They have plenty of scorers, but beyond Andris Biedrins, have no real presence up front, where they are also undersized. They need someone who can be a defensive stopper, and is willing to sacrifice on that end of the court.
Projected 1st Round Pick: The next big man on most draft boards is DeJuan Blair, but he may be a it of a reach at this pick. The Warriors may instead go with 6-1 Brandon Jennings, out of Oak Hill Academy, who may be young and small, but is extremely quick, and has good hands and a quick lateral step. If he is willing to be coached, he may have the focus and explosiveness this team needs.
Team: New York Knicks (32-50)
Picks: #8 in 1st
Needs: The Knicks also have just 1 pick this year, after Isaiah traded away most of their picks for the next 25 years for the likes of Stephan Marbury. The Knicks actually showed slight improvement last season, and could potentially be in the playoff hunt in the weaker Eastern Conference. Despite being undersized while playing out of position, C David Lee turned in a very strong performance last season. The Knicks absolutely need more size, but there isn’t likely to be anyone available who wouldn’t be a reach.
Projected 1st Round Pick: 6-7 SG DeMar DeRozan from USC is an incredible athlete who has drawn comparisons to Vince Carter. He is long for a 2-guard, which would be a benefit to a lineup that is undersized overall. DeRozan needs work, but he could be a good fit in Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo offense, and at least the Knickerbockers would have 1 player who was big for his position.
Team: Toronto Raptors (33-49)
Picks: #9 in 1st
Needs: The Raptors could use some help on the perimeter, which is good because that is about all the players likely to be available at this point. They are set pretty well up front, so they will likely be content to take a guard here.
Projected 1st Round Pick: 6-5 Duke SG/SF Gerald Henderson had always been a good shooter, but now has begun to improve at driving to the lane. He is a strong defender, and should be a solid backup on either end of the court.
Team: Milwaukee Bucks (34-48)
Picks: #10 in 1st
# 11 in 2nd
Needs: The Bucks surprised last season, and likely would have made the playoffs without injuries to Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut. They don’t really have a major weakness, and will likely improve as they grow together as a team, and get used to playing with each other. That said, they should look to improve their depth at guard, to help in case Redd should go down again.
Projected 1st Round Pick: 6-5 Memphis SG Tyreke Evans would be a nice fit here. He plays smart, and although his shooting needs work, he has improved at getting to the basket. His hands make him a threat on defense. He has shot up the board as of late (as high as #5 according to Chad Ford of ESPN). If he is still available here, the Bucks would be hard-pressed to pass him up.
Team: New Jersey Nets (34-48)
Picks: #11 in 1st
Needs: The Nets are set at the point, with Devin Harris, although they could use a suitable backup. Brook Lopez was solid, but needs help up front. Vince Carter still found it in him to average 20 a game, but they need more scoring from the 2.
Projected 1st Round Pick: There are 2 ways the Nets could go here: Go with someone to help their scoring issues and to complement Harris and Carter, or go big. I like them taking a gamble on 6-6 PF DeJuan Blair out of Pittsburgh. Although shorter at 6-6, Blair weighs about 275, and has a game similar to rebounding great Anthony Mason. He can overpower guys 5 inches taller, and has very good hands.
Team: Charlotte Bobcats (35-47)
Picks: #12 in 1st
#10 and #24 in 2nd
Needs: The ‘Cats need some help up front for Omeka Okafor (Boras Diaw is decent, but undersized as a 4), and some depth at shooting guard. They have two solid point guards in Raymond Felton and D.J. Augustin, but they need another scorer.
Projected 1st Round Pick: If Blair is still available here, he would make a lot of sense for this team. He and Okafor would form a formidable duo in the paint. If not, they might reach for center BJ Mullens, or go with 6-8 SF James Johnson from Wake Forest. Johnson is big, and not that quick for a 3, but he has very good ball handling ability, and has played the point forward role in college, running the offense from the forward position. He has good post moves, possibly attributable to his being 2 years older than most sophomores, allowing him to learn more intricate details of the game.
That concludes the lottery picks. Based on who I have going so far, here is a possible overview of the remaining first round picks.
#13 Indiana Pacers (36-46) – 7-0 C BJ Mullens, Ohio State
#14 Phoenix Suns (46-36) – 6-10 SF Earl Clark, Louisville
#15 Detroit Pistons (39-43) – 6-7 SG/SF Chase Budinger, Arizona
#16 Chicago Bulls (41-41) – 6-9 PF Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina
#17 Philadelphia 76ers (41-41) – 6-4 PG/SG Jrue Holiday, UCLA
#18 Minnesota Timberwolves (24-58) – 6-5 SG Wayne Ellington, North Carolina
#19 Atlanta Hawks (47-35) – 6-2 PG Jeff Teague, Wake Forest
#20 Utah Jazz – (48-34) – 6-6 SG/SF Terrence Williams, Louisville
#21 New Orleans Hornets (49-33) – 6-8 SF Derrick Brown, Xavier
#22 Dallas Mavericks (50-32) – 6-0 PG Ty Lawson, North Carolina
#23 Sacramento Kings (17-65) – 6-9 SF Omri Casspi, Israel
#24 Portland Trailblazers (54-28) – 6-8 SF DaJuan Summers, Georgetown
#25 Oklahoma City Thunder (23-59) – 6-6 SF Sam Young, Pittsburgh
#26 Chicago Bulls (41-41) – 6-4 SG Marcus Thorton, LSU
#27 Memphis Grizzlies (24-58) – 6-3 PG Eric Maynor, VCU
#28 Minnesota Timberwolves (24-58) – 6-10 PF Taj Gibson, USC
#29 LA Lakers – (65-17) – 6-9 SF Victor Claver, Spain
#30 Cleveland Cavaliers (66-16) – 6-11 SF Austin Daye, Gonzaga
Dan Mason is an accountant by trade only – he would much rather write. He constantly daydreams about being in the woods or on the water, in the middle of nowhere. He resides in the Rochester, NY, area and is thankful the Adirondacks are only a few hours’ drive away. He is happiest when there is a pen (read: keyboard) or a canoe paddle in his hand.