The past 2 years my post on the NBA Mock Draft has been pretty popular. But, of course, the T-Wolves had high draft picks--#2 last year, with which they got Derrick Williams. Two years ago I predicted they would take Wesley Johnson, and I was correct. Sorry about that. Last year I first said they would take Enes Kanter. But once he was declared ineligible and the Wolves in fact won that #2 choice, I got on the Williams bandwagon.
Well, anyway, my point about this year is, Who Cares? I mean, the Wolves' top draft pick as it stands right now will be #59. Not to mention, this is not a deal-maker draft. With the exception of Anthony Davis, there's no to-die-for type player even in the #1 and #2 slots. I mean #2 could be Andre Drummond, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Thomas Robinson, none of who is anywhere near ready to go. Derrick Williams was a much more mature #2 a year ago. The Wolves were lucky to have the pick they did.
Still I suppose they could move up with a trade. What do they need? Oh, yes, somebody that won't get hurt. Good luck with that. But seriously, if they could package Beasley and Wesley, well, that surely doesn't get you a lottery pick, but say a #15, even, is there any way you make that trade? Well, sure, because you can't use Beasley and Wesley. But if you just end up with another guy you can't use.... But, is there a gem of a guy hidden at #15 or thereabouts? Well, you know, maybe Terrence Ross. Maybe is the guy that Johnson and Ellington and Webster isn't, a guy who brings a little instant offense off the bench and picks up the tempo a little bit. But seriously, who the hell is going to take Beasley off our hands? Once upon a time you could call the Clippers. Now I don't think so. Joisey? N'awlins? I dunno. But the one opportunity worth watching for is Terrence Ross at somewhere around #15, give or take a couple. But it's addition by subtraction. Dumping some dead wood is as much or more a rationale for such a deal as the draft pick himself.
Here in any event is my Mock Draft, not as deeply thought out this year, again for the reason that the T-Wolves aren't much of a part of the proceedings this year.
1. Charlotte. With 7 wins Charlotte just needs the proverbial best available athlete, and there is no question whatsoever that that is Anthony Davis of Kentucky, the only player available who can dominate at the highest level without scoring. But he will score in the NBA and he will be an all-defense type of player as well. Sky's the limit.
2. Washington. Most mock drafts are looking either post Andre Drummond of Connecticut or big strong forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Kentucky. The Wiz like Charlotte need the best available athlete, with the difference that they're set at the point with John Wall. Or, if not, then Wall is one of the bigger busts of recent years and the Wiz are not ready to make that announcement just yet.
Still it is interesting to me that the various profiles have Drummond listed at 6-11 or 6-10, while the new K-G is listed at 6-7 or 6-6. If 6-6, he'll have to be the next Charles Barkley to go this high. He may have a bright future but his perimeter skills are not 1st round much less lottery. He will be picked by somebody who can live with his size inside, meaning somebody who plays at a particularly high tempo. Washington kinda does that. Drummond on the other had has the body that the NBA loves, but unlike K-G his desire and work ethic are regarded as unproven. So maybe you go with Thomas Robinson or you trade down here?
But I gotta go back to my point that the Wiz just needs the best available athlete who's not a point guard. Mock drafts aside--and I don't doubt that many of these folks know more and better than I do--but still I gotta go back to the best available athlete, and that's probably K-G. The Wiz take the new K-G, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Good work ethic, at his best up-tempo, which is what they have John Wall for. So go with the game plan.
3. New Orleans. The Hornets are pretty pitiful. In fact, from a draft standpoint they're worse than the Wiz. There's nobody with a lock on a starting spot. So you go with the best available athlete. And while Drummond and K-G rate more highly, the best available athlete after AD and TR are taken is probably Bradley Beal of Florida. In addition to all-around athleticism, he is perhaps the best jump shooter in the draft. He might be the best scorer in the draft. He won't be better than AD, long term, but he might be the top scorer right from his 1st year, depending in part of who takes him and how many minutes are available and how many missed shots are to be tolerated along his learning curve.
4. Cleveland. Thomas Robinson doesn't drop any farther than this. Not that the Cavs can wait for some additional production but they can probably afford to get Robby a lot of minutes as a rook since they already have Jamison and Varejao in the paint. In other words, Robby joins the starting lineup and somebody's got his back.
5. Portland (from N.J.). Portland needs a dynamic perimeter player to replace the oft-injured Brandon Roy so the next best available athlete (Drummond) might not appeal. Some like Harrison Barnes though his college career has hardly panned out as projected. I mean, he's been merely great, not Kevin Durant great. #5 is too high. Portland, I suspect, hopes that Beal is still around at #5 but I don't see that happening. James McAdoo might have been a possibility but he's decided to stay at North Carolina another year. So I guess you fall back on the best available talent and that surely is Drummond at this point.
6. Toronto. The Raptors look fairly well set up at the 2 and 4 spots. Beyond that it will be a clear case of whaddya got. And what the 2012 draft has got at #6 is size. One of the Zellers, Sullinger, Perry Jones, Terrence Jones? Your choice. And the preference among that group seems to be Cody Zeller, the Indiana version. Yet most people seem to prefer Sullinger as the best player in the Big 10. The trade-off is size and long-term potential versus a guy who is a known commodity with greater strength and less downside. I figure at #6 you go with upside and that is Zellers.
7. Sacramento. For a 19-36 team, these guys seem to have some pretty fair talent in the post and at the guards, so the forward and wing spots would be the obvious focus. That brings to mind Sullinger at the big forward and Barnes at the wing. If the future is now, then Sullinger is probably the safer pick even if he doesn't fit the need quite as well.
8. Detroit. A big forward tops of the wish list but the Pistons just missed out on Sullinger. Tyler Zeller is more of a true post, Perry Jones is next on that list but his stock has fallen pretty dramatically (as high as #2 a year ago), and Terrence Jones has lost a little luster, too. So if they decide on the best available talent then I think Damian Lillard of Weber State looks good, or if they draft to need then I guess I would go to Perry Jones. I mean, most people seem to think #8 is too high now, but like I said, a year ago they thought he was #2.
9. Utah. Still looking to replace Deron Williams at the point, and pretty sure Devon harris is not the guy, then is is not possible that they would pass on the top-rated pure 1 in the draft, Lillard.
10. New Orleans, again. If they took Beal at #3, then look for the best available front-court player at #10, and that if my top 9 are correct is either Tyler Zeller or Terrence Jones. Their stats are similar but Zeller has had 4 years of college experience and Jones just 2, so the upside potential would be advantage Jones while the more cautious pick with less downside would be Zeller. I guess I think with their 2nd pick in this draft the Hornets will eschew caution and go with Terrence Jones.
11. Portland, again. If Portland has gone inside with its 1st pick, then Harrison Barnes and Jeremy Lamb would be the top perimeter possibilities with their second pick of the 1st round. Barnes has a little more mileage on him and is probably the safer pick, and I think that's the way Portland will go.
12. Milwaukee. The Bucks moved Andrew Bogut with no obvious backup , certainly no really beefy, space-occupying type of backup, so they go for size if possible. Tyler Zeller is the obvious alternative and I can't think of a better one.
13. Houston. The Rockets are doing it with mirrors, I mean their 30-25 W-L record. (This is the Knick's draft pick.) They need a little bit of everything, which is another way of saying best athlete available. But seriously, best inside athlete? That's John Henson. Or best outside athlete? That's Kendall Marshall or Austin Rivers. A couple Tar Heels and a Dookie. And if outside, scorer (Rivers) or distributor (Marshall)? Well, Houston needs it all. So which one is the best athlete? I like Kendall Marshall, so let's just say Marshall. He's got one of the best assist to turnover rates there is. He's not a big combo guy, not yet anyway, he's more of a pure distributor. I think the Rockets can live with that.
14. Phoenix. Imagine Phoenix picking 14th? This is their own pick! When was the last time that happened? Probably the last time they needed a point guard. Rumors of Nash's departure are too persistent to ignore, I think it's gonna happen. So Kendall Marshall woulda been the perfect pick, but Houston beats 'em to the punch. And there's no pure "1" worthy at this spot. So whaddya do? You go for Jeremy Lamb, the 6-5 UConn guard with lots of range.
15. Utah. Got their point guard at #9 so here you go for the best available athlete. I know, broken record. Again that's either Henson or Rivers and I think Utah opts for size this time around.
But here's the good news. If the best you can do is Henson, maybe you're open to a deal. Of course if we're smart enough to be eyeing Ross at #15, maybe so is Utah. Still, I give 'em a call!
16. New Jersey. They're probably gonna lose Deron Williams so it's back to the drawing board. But there's no pure "1" worthy here? All together now: Best available athlete. And now that's Rivers. But again, maybe there's deal to be had--package Barea or Ridnour with Beas? No, I didn't think so. I would probably prefer Rivers myself.
17. Denver. There's a bit of a break here. The obvious blue chippers, the household names, they're pretty much gone now that Marshall and Henson and Rivers are gone. What next? OK, no more of this best available athlete stuff. These are teams that have a nucleus. So both the needs and the pool dictate that you draft to need. And in Denver, where they play uptempo and already have the league's highest scoring team, you play to your strength. That means Terrence Ross of Washington, a skinny scorer who won't get overexposed defensively in Denver's schemes. Great pick for Ross, good pick for Denver.
But, again, would the Nuggies maybe like the idea of Beasley and somebody for this here pick? Doubtful, but again I spend a dime on a call. But once Ross is off the board, I just put my heels up on the table and wait my turn (in another 40 picks or so. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.)
18. Philadelphia. The Phillies have been a big surprise this year--though not so much of late--and they're the exact opposite mirror image of Denver, a team that excels in the half-court and really slows down the other's guys big weapons, and thus has given up the fewest points in the league. Well, I'm old fashioned. In this scenario you shore up your weakness. You look for a little scoring. And at #18 that means Tony Wroten, a 6-5 combo guard and another U-Dub guy. What are the odds, a team that didn't even get into the NCAAs coming in at #17 and #18?
19. Houston. Having gone small at #13, now's the perfect time to go big, but Meyers Leonard or Arnett Moultrie? Leonard is bigger at 7-1, Moultrie (6-11) is 2 years older and more ready. I mean, both are projects as all 7-footers are. But it says here Moultrie plays in 2013, with Leonard it could be 2015. And I don't think the upside is much different, so Moultrie is the obvious choice.
20. Memphis. Now here, finally, is a team that must be thinkin,' If I can just put one more piece of the puzzle in place, why, I can go places. But what piece is that and why do I think I can find one at #20. Well, what I really think is there's somebody somewhere in the NBA who is that piece, and you best your ass I'd move a #20 for that guy. So Memphis trades down for a veteran not named Michael Beasley. But since I don't know who their trade partner is, I just gotta fall back on the best available athlete, and at this point, that means Quincy Miller, the 6-9 frosh from Baylor.
21. Boston. It's very hard to tell what the Celtics are going to want to do, because I don't know who will be back next year. They're really ooooolldd and the old KG and Pierce and Allen and even Rondo are rumored to be moving. And at #21, it's not like you're gonna get somebody to build a franchise around. So Boston could be looking to move up but, if so, we're talking about really moving up, into the top 5. And for that your old-timers don't get it done, you gotta move Rondo for that. So watch for that. But failing a blockbuster, meaning Rondo is still on board, you don't need Marquis Teague. In that case you're looking at Dion Waiters, 6-4 soph guard from Syracuse.
22. Atlanta. The Hawks have been just one-more-piece short of a powerhouse for years now and can't get over the hump. So a blockbuster is a possibility here, too. But failing that, it might be time to replace Joe Johnson, or at least to find an eventual replacement, or else some inside scoring punch would be good. That means Moe Harkless, 6-8 frosh from St. John's.
23. Orlando. Here again, who knows where this team is headed, with or without Dwight Howard. If Howard is gone, you're looking for size. If he returns, you're looking for a coach. Er, no, this is the draft. You're looking for a guard. So let's just say, again, everybody, best available athlete: Marquis Teague, 6-2 point guard from Kentucky.
24. Indiana. I think the Pacers are looking for perimeter help, right about the point in the draft where size predominates again. So what to do? Best available athlete. And now we're talking Jeff Taylor of Vandy, 6-9 forward.
25. Boston. Again, it's hard to say where the Celtics are headed so let's just take the, well, you know what or who. Andrew Nicholson, 6-9 frosh from St. Bonnie.
26. Cleveland. The Cavs got Thomas Robinson at #4, so now it's, well, a guard if somebody worthy is out there. Wow, another Kentucky Wildcat, Doron Lamb.
27. Golden State. This is of course not the Warriors' own pick, it is San Antone's. David Lee is the only guy who's set so other than a big forward..... The best available might be 7-footer Fab Melo of Syracuse anyway.
28. Miami. Actually Miami's needs are severe. They're a 3-man team and 3 is not enough. Against 5, 5 is gonna win. Still, don't need a forward or a shooting guard. What they need is a "1" but there just aren't any in this part of the universe. Tyshawn Taylor of Kansas is staying in school, otherwise he is Miami's guy. In the end, if Miami cannot trade up, or then they will trade down. Houston and Kendall Marshall would be good, or Utah and Austin Rivers is acceptable; then whoever trades down can have Royce White.
29. Oklahoma City. Doesn't need anything; or, needs everything except Durant and Westbrook. How about Mason Plumlee, 6-10, Duke.
30. Chicago. Needs everything except a cruise director. Ya can't teach 6-11 so I'll go with Festus Ezell, the 6-11 post from Vandy.