Tuesday night before the Los Angeles Lakers took the court for Game One of the Western Conference Finals their arena-mate the Clippers were awarded the first pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. The Clippers have had the first pick in the draft twice before choosing Danny Manning in 1998 and unfortunately Michael Olowkandi in 1998. The “Kandi Man” averaged 8.3ppg and 6.8rpg in his nine year career; and was named the third biggest bust in NBA Draft history by Sports Illustrated when he was taken over Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, and Paul Pierce. This season it looks like the Clippers pick has already be made by them as every expert and draft publication has projected Oklahoma power forward Blake Griffin as the consensus top prospect in the draft.
This years draft is a fairly weak and will never be mistaken for the 2003 draft that produced LeBron, Carmelo, D-Wade, and Chris Bosh; every prospect including Griffin have some questions or concerns about their games.
While this isn’t the most talent heavy draft, it is full of point guard talent. As many as six point guards could be selected in the lottery this year. Which should be music to the ears of NBA general managers as the NBA has gone from a big man dominated league to a point guard driven league. Last years first pick and Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose took the Bulls from a lottery team to pushing the Celtics to seven games in the most exciting playoff series in NBA history. Other point guards like Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Rajon Rondo have lead their teams to deep playoff runs and have turned the point guard into the most important player on the court.
While I think the first three picks are a forgone conclusion the rest of the draft lottery should be pretty exciting. I decided to debut my initial NBA Draft Mock Draft with a breakdown of each player and how they fit into their new teams roster. Here is are pick one through seven; with picks eight through fourteen coming tomorrow.
1. L.A. Clippers – Blake Griffin 6-10 252 Power Forward Oklahoma
Griffin would join a Clippers team that is loaded in the frontcourt with Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman, and Zach Randolph. I can not see the Clippers keeping all of frontcourt talent; I think they will have to make a deal to sort out their frontcourt before the season starts. I think Griffins freakish athleticism will push him into the starting lineup from day and will make a good tandem with last years first round pick Eric Gordon.
- Griffin is a freakish athlete who can jump out of the gym.
- A great rebounder averaging 14.4 rebounds per game last season.
- Probably the strongest player in the draft with room on his frame to add bulk.
- Runs the floor extremely well
- Great finisher around the basket, he attempts to tear down the rim with every throw down.
- Isn’t a great shooter and needs to improve his face up game to become a real offensive threat.
- Is an atrocious free throw shooter; and it hurts his game as his physical style of play gets him to the line a lot.
- NBA Comparison: Karl Malone
2. Grizzlies – Hasheem Thabeet 7-3 265 Center UConn
Spanish superstar Ricky Rubio would have been the pick here before the All Star break but Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley came on strong in the second half of the season. Conley averaged 14.4ppg and 5.6apg after the break and has solidified himself as Memphis’ point guard of the future. The Grizzlies have two great one on one scorers in Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo which will allow the offensively challenged Thabeet to do what he does best, control the paint with his size. Thabeet will team up with Marc Gasol to give the Grizzlies two seven footers that can control the paint and dominate the boards.
- First and foremost Thabeet is a defensive stopper whom not only blocked 4.2 shots per game but altered another five or six shots.
- Thabeet has great timing and rarely bites on pump fakes which helps to keep him out of foul trouble.
- Runs the floor well for his immense size and does a good job of establishing initial offensive position on the blocks.
- Has good hands and catches the ball well in traffic.
- An above average defensive rebounder with good upper body strength that should only improve.
- Thabeet is very raw offensively and his footwork is a work in progress.
- Loses where he is in relation of the basket which leads to poor and rushed shot.
- Needs to improve his blocking out on the offensive glass.
- NBA Comparison – Dikembe Mutombo
3. Thunder – Ricky Rubio 6-4 180 Point Guard Spain
With the two elite post players off the board the Thunder take the best player available. Rubio will fit in well with Oklahoma City’s up-tempo style and allow last years first round pick Russell Westbrook to move to a more comfortable position as a combo guard. Rubio passing ability will only help to improve the scoring numbers for Kevin Durant and Jeff Green.
- Amazing vision; a creative passer who knows how to get the ball to teammates in a position to score.
- Has good speed and body control which make him a terror in the open court.
- Gets to the line a lot and converts over 80% of his free throws.
- His mid and long range jumpers are both solid with plenty of room to improve.
- Is a vocal leader on the court who has been playing with professionals in Europe.
- Has played for the most competitive team outside of the NBA since 2005 so he has more high level experience than any player in the draft.
- Needs to improve his outside shot.
- His youth sometimes allows him to play out of control
- His assist to turnover ratio should improve with maturity and experience.
- NBA Comparison – Steve Nash
4. Kings – Brandon Jennings 6-1 170 Point Guard Italy(Originally California)
The Kings are the worst team in the NBA; other than Kevin Martin and Jason Thompson they have little talent on the roster. Sacramento has nothing at the point guard position, last years starter Ben Udrih is a decent backup at best. The Kings will be praying that Rubio falls to fourth but there is no shot their prayers will be answered.
- Jennings is an extremely quick and explosive player.
- His combination of speed and leaping ability make him a terror in the open floor.
- Moves as well laterally as any player in the draft.
- Very dangerous of the dribble with nice handles and a quick first step.
- A player who likes to get up and pressure the ball handler and has great anticipation jumping the passing lanes.
- Played in a very competitive EuroLeague where he wasn’t allowed to display many of the skills that make him a top prospect.
- His jumpshot is a disaster allowing defenders to play off of him and clog the lanes.
- Plays at one speed all the time, needs to learn how to change gears to be an effective point guard in the NBA.
- Doesn’t take care of the ball opting to attempt the flashy play rather than the easier correct one.
- NBA Comparison – Stephon Marbury
5. Wizards – Jordan Hill 6-10 235 Power Forward Arizona
The Wizards are loaded at the wing position with Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson, and Nick Young so I think they will pass on James Harden or DeMar DeRozen. Washington simply has no presence on the blocks; JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche don’t have the bulk or the mean streak to bang with bigger players. And I am not a fan of Brendan Haywood who I have thought was soft since he was a Tar Heel. Hill would give the Wizards an athletic big man who isn’t afraid to play down low and do the dirty work their other post players refuse to do.
- Prototypical size and length for an NBA power forward.
- Has worked to add bulk to his frame while not losing any of his quickness or explosion.
- Can operate from the high post where he can hit a consistent midrange jumper or put the ball on the floor and attack the basket.
- Good rebounder especially on the offensive glass.
- Cut down on his fouls during his junior season and increased his blocked shot production.
- Struggles operating in traffic turning the ball over too much.
- Shot just over 65% from the line this season.
- Hill is still very much a work in progress who reverts back to bad habits when he is challenged.
- NBA Comparison – Chris Bosh
6. Timberwolves – James Harden 6-5 220 Shooting Guard Arizona State
With Kevin Love, Craig Smith, and the return of a healthy Al Jefferson Minnesota is pretty well set down low. Al Jefferson is one of the most underrated players in the NBA, he is a superstar who averages 23 and 11 but is rarely in the discussion as a top tier big man. The Timberwolves are also set at point guard as Randy Foye had a breakout season in 2008 averaging 16.3ppg and 4.3apg. The only place Minnesota has a hole is at the wing position where Harden could team with sharpshooter Mike Miller to create a dangerous combination. With the addition of Harden the Timberwolves could be a potential sleeper next year in the Western Conference.
- Harden is a crafty player whose offensive game seems to be a bit of a throwback.
- Probably the most NBA ready players in the draft on both ends of the court.
- Extremely unselfish player who knows when to be a scorer and when to be a facilitator.
- Has a very mature body that he has worked to sculpt since entering the draft.
- Has greatly improved his midrange jumper and has true NBA range behind the arc.
- A tremendous one on one defender who loves to use his superior strength against his opponent.
- His leaping ability and quickness are only marginal.
- Needs to continue to improve his midrange jumper.
- Was asked to d everything for the Sun Devils last year which lead to too many turnovers, this should be cut down once he gets to the NBA.
- NBA Comparison – Brandon Roy
7. Warriors – Ty Lawson 6-0 195 Point Guard North Carolina
The Warriors are a team in desperate need of leadership and a winning attitude, Ty Lawson brings both. Jamal Crawford and Monte Ellis are both good combo guards but the addition of Lawson would allow both to play off the ball and slash to the basket. I must admit I am not a fan of the team that is currently constructed in Golden State; I would like to see them attempt to become more physical and defensive oriented in the paint. I don’t think that player is going to be available at seven and I don’t know if Warriors general manager Larry Riley (who is a disciple of Don Nelson) would even take him if he were there.
- Lawson is the fastest player from free throw line to free throw line in the draft.
- A pass first point guard who knows who to get the ball to.
- Great control even when pushing the ball at break neck speed.
- A fast break waiting to happen with excellent decision making in the open floor.
- Always looking to push the ball and attack the defense while rarely turning the ball over.
- An improving shooter who has the ability to keep the defense honest with his J.
- A leader who brings a winning attitude and great collegiate resume with him to the NBA.
- Is a bit undersized and doesn’t have great length which prevents him from being a great finisher around the basket and make it difficult to get his shot off over bigger defenders.
- Has very a very flawed shooting motion and must work on getting a high release point on his jumpshot.
- Is not the most dedicated player on the defensive end of the court and becomes lackadaisical at times.
- NBA Comparison – T.J. Ford