Rusty’s Mock Draft

Unfortunately, with this blog will come the realisation for most of you that there will be no show this week. As Pmac and I spoke about on the last episode, a general rule from here on out is that if there is a show in a particular week, chances are there won’t be a blog… and vice-versa. So, apologies for the lack of a new episode this week. Pmac has recently started a new job, and it’s crunch time right now in the University semester for me. Rest assured though, as soon as we can work out a day and time that suits both of us, Pmac and I will record a new episode.

Ok, all of that out of the way, on to this week’s blog - my mock draft. It is based on team needs (position wise) and the quality of players that will most likely be still left on the board at the time of a particular team’s pick. In other words, there won’t be any mention of the Nets snaring one of the guys that consensus view has going in the top three or four picks. After the those first few selections though, everything is up in the air. This draft seems like it’ll be full of “Brook Lopez” picks - players that everybody thinks will go in the top few, but might slip down quite a bit.

So, on to my mock draft (which was previewed earlier in the week on the message boards). It’ll just be looking at the lottery picks…
…Oh, and in case you’ve had your heads in the sand over the last fortnight or so, the Nets will be picking at #11 (assuming they don’t trade up or down in the order, or out of the draft altogether).

#1 - Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers)

This is a pick even the Clippers can’t screw up. Yes, they already have somewhat of a front court logjam, but this selection is so much of a no-brainer that the logjam doesn’t matter. Dunleavy, Sterling and co. will somehow figure out a way of clearing the logjam - all that remains is who will remain, of the current crop of bigs, when next season begins. If the Clippers don’t keep this pick (and there’s a chance they won’t, even though no team has ever traded a #1 overall), expect them to look for a legit backup point guard, and one or two guys who can at least spell defense.

#2 - Ricky Rubio (Memphis Grizzlies)

The Grizzlies would have dearly loved to snare the #1 pick so they could take Griffin and place him next to Marc Gasol in the front court. Since that won’t be happening, they’ll take Ricky Rubio with the second pick. This will effectively end Mike Conley’s run as the team’s starting point guard, but it may not happen immediately. Rubio is only 18, so Chris Wallace and Lionell Hollins can certainly afford to be patient with integrating him into the rotation.

#3 - Hasheem Thabeet (Oklahoma City Thunder)

As all Nets fans can attest, as “nice” a player as Nenad Krstic is, he’s not a starting-quality center in the NBA. Sure, he plays a role but nothing he does is spectacular. Effectively, he’s a stop-gap; somebody who will step into the starting lineup if there is no better alternative. Apply everything I just said to Nick Collison. By selecting Thabeet, the Thunder will have that “better alternative”. Thabeet is a defensive minded big man who would compliment the attacking styles of Durant, Green, and Westbrook superbly. Wow… what a young nucleus those four would make up.

#4 - Brandon Jennings (Sacramento Kings)

Yet again, the team with the highest mathematical chance of securing the top overall pick in the lottery, doesn’t. The Kings are no doubt gutted that they missed out in the Blake Griffin sweepstakes. But, even though they slipped as far as they possibly could in the order - to fourth - not all is doom and gloom. They’ll be getting a prospect at #4 that would arguably be worthy of a #2 or #3 pick. The Kings will take Brandon Jennings because they’ll know how poor Beno Udrih was last season, and that he’s not the guy they want leading their charge in the seasons to come. Jennings might be small in stature, but he’s massive in potential.

*Look for the Kings to move heaven and earth to try to get Blake Griffin in a trade… but any attempt they make will be to no avail.

#5 - James Harden (Washington Wizards)

Ideally, the Wizards would love to be in the position to take Rubio or Jennings (so they could play Gilbert Arenas at his natural two-guard spot) but they won’t be. So, look for the lads from Washington to do the next best thing and select the best two-guard prospect in the draft - Arizona State’s James Harden. While Gilly is obviously not the type of point guard the Wizards need, he’s still their best option at the position and their best overall player. A starting lineup of Arenas, Harden, Butler, Jamison, and Haywood is playoff quality in the East with Flip Saunders leading it… provided each of the five guys plays the majority of an 82 game season.

#6 - DeMar DeRozan (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Assuming James Harden is off the board, in my mind, the choice to select DeMar DeRozan (from Timberwolves point of view) is just about a DeNo DeBrainer. I’m sure just about every T-Wolves fan is disgusted by the prospect of another season with Sebastian Telfair and Kevin Ollie running the show from the point guard spot, and I think the T-Wolves brass is too. Therefore, I think season ‘09/’10 will see Randy Foye given every chance to make the starting PG spot his own with DeMar DeRozan paired with him in the back court. This would give the team the somewhat pleasant dilemma of choosing who they want to start at the three, and who they want to come off the bench in a sixth man role - Mike Miller or the returning Corey Brewer.

#7 - Jrue Holiday (Golden State Warriors)

I know what you’re thinking… “What do the Warriors want with another combo-guard?”. The answer, is defense. On paper, the Warriors seem set at the guard spots with Ellis and Crawford but both are disturbingly bad defenders and for that reason, both will be floated as trade bait over the off-season. Assuming one of them is moved, the Warriors will be able to start the other alongside Corey Maggette in the backcourt with Cap’n Jack up front alongside Drago Biedrins and young Randolph or the one-man block party - Ronny Turiaf. Holiday - one of, if not the best defensive point guard in his draft class - will be able to come off the bench while he becomes acclimatised to the NBA game, but will eventually find his place in the starting five. This Warriors team has a bright future if it continues its rebuild and moves some of its talented, yet superfluous offensively gifted veterans.

*If they decide not to go the guard route, look for the Warriors to select Jordan Hill - a 6′10″ forward out of Arizona.

#8 - Stephen Curry (New York Knicks)

He shoots. He scores. He’s perfect for a Coach Pringles team. Son of Dell is about as close you can get to the ideal player for the Knicks, and you can bet they’ve known it and been licking their lips about it since he became draft-eligible. Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni have a dilemma - how to keep both Nate Robinson and David Lee. Unfortunately for them, they can’t. Lee is just about the most under-paid player in the NBA (if there can be such a thing in such a ridiculously money driven league) with Robinson not far behind. Both those guys, and the Knicks, know that. The fact is, D-Lee is simply more important to the team than Nate-Rob and again, both they and the Knicks know it. So, expect Dwight’s kryptonite to be wearing another team’s green jerseys in future dunk comps, as Stephen Curry continues D’Antoni’s run-n-gun era.

#9 - Tyreke Evans (Toronto Raptors)

If there’s a problem Toronto doesn’t have, it’s scoring. Jay Triano seems certain to push forward with a D’Antoni-esque offense this coming season but for the hideously under-achieving ‘08/’09 Raptors to contend for a playoffs berth in ‘09/’10, they’ll need a defensive boost - one coming in combo-guard form. Tyreke Evans is that player. At 6′5″, he can play alongside Jose Calderon in the back court and more than fulfill the role of a shooting guard in the run-n-gun offense thanks to his go-to scoring mentality. But more crucially, he can defend both guard spots - a skill these maple syrup-guzzling Bubl√©-lovers sorely need on their side.

#10 - Ty Lawson (Milwaukee Bucks)

Pmac and I have crowned him as “The Crossover’s own” - as most of you would know - but Ramon Sessions isn’t any team’s first option at starting point guard. It’s a sad realisation, but it’s true. In another, not so sad realisation, Luke Ridnour isn’t either. The Bucks are set at all of their key starting positions, except the one that arguably matters most. Bogut, Redd, Jefferson, and Villanueva could form a playoff nucleus if provided with a top-shelf PG and Ty Lawson is a chance of becoming that, sooner than some think. If the boy from UNC is still on the board when it’s the Bucks’ turn to pick, expect them to snap up the proven leader, and proven winner (something the Bucks are a little short of).


(I do hope you’ll appreciate the use of caps lock to highlight the significance of a Nets pick in the mock draft of a Nets fan…)

So, assuming that isn’t lost on you dear reader, let’s get down to business. We can’t hope to replicate our efforts of last year’s draft, this time around. We’ll have a similar pick - #11, as opposed to last year’s #10 - but there will be no Brook Lopez for us to snaffle. Yes, a few players will be un-expectedly available when it’s our turn to choose, but none will be of Brook’s calibre. This draft class simply isn’t that strong. Having said that, we’ll still be able to draft a player that can step right in and contribute from the opening game of the season.

From what is being reported by ESPN columnists and Nets beat-writers, Thorndeweghe (the Rod Thorn/Kiki Vandeweghe two-headed beast) has its eyes open to all possibilities - as far as the new rookie’s position is concerned. Point guards such as Ty Lawson and Jonny Flynn, combo-guards such as Jrue Holiday and Stephen Curry, and forwards such as DeJuan Blair¬† and Jordan Hill are all being considered. Hell, even B.J. Mullens (a Center) is in the mix. Why we’d go after him with Brook Lopez already a cornerstone of our team, I have no idea. Point is, nothing and no one will be ruled out and that’s just the way I like it.

All of the aforementioned players (aside from Brook, because it would be rather needless) have been or will be brought in for individual workouts and interviews with Thorndeweghe before the draft. Thing is, I don’t think any of them will have their names called by the Nets on draft night. That honour will be bestowed upon Earl Clark - a 6′9″ combo-forward out of Louisville.

Why Clark? Because our front court needs some adjusting. Brook is the only big man on our roster I wouldn’t consider trading, and that troubles me somewhat. Josh Boone and Sean Williams haven’t contributed at all to the levels expected of them, Yi Jianlian could yet be anything (but is looking more like a nothing with each passing day), Ryan Anderson - while handy - is a project player, and Eduardo Najera is only still a part of the roster because of his great locker room presence and leadership. We need a guy that can slot straight into the starting lineup, contribute in his first year, and show that he can be Brook’s front-court buddy for years to come. Because, as of right now, Lopez is our only starting-quality big. Clark looks like he could be the exact sort of player we’re looking for. He scores, rebounds, defends, blocks shots, passes and has still has a great upside ahead of him.

#12 - James Johnson (Charlotte Bobcats)

Charlotte has half of a very good starting front court. Problem is, they’ve been trying to fill the other half for years now. Boris Diaw, Vladimir Radmanovic, Juwan Howard, Sean May, DeSagana Diop, Nazr Mohammed and of course Emeka Okafor all see minutes in the rotation. That’s um… an issue, to say the least. Some of these guys need to be traded to teams that can make better use of their skillsets so that the ‘Cats can get some veteran backcourt help in return. Knowing that to be the case, Rod Higgins and Fred Whitfield need to look towards drafting a young forward - with skills on both ends of the floor and with great potential - to pair with Okafor to bring some stability and direction to the team’s front line. James Johnson fits that description perfectly.

#13 - Gerald Henderson (Indiana Pacers)

Consider, if you will, the Pacers as an over-achieving version of the Raptors. Gerald Henderson and Tyreke Evans would fill the exact same void for the Pacers and Raptors respectively. Yes, Henderson is more of a pure two-guard and is - in many ways - a better scorer than Evans, but his presence for the Pacers will definitely be felt on the defensive end. Last season, the Pacers were one guard with defensive skill away from making the playoffs. Next season, with the likes of Henderson on board, the already overachieving Pacers should take that next step and make them.

#14 - Jonny Flynn (Phoenix Suns)

The Suns are still a very good team, make no mistake about it. With a healthy Amare Stoudemire, they would probably have returned to the playoffs this season, but his injury isn’t the only reason the Suns failed to advance. STAT’s injury aside, one of the main reasons they failed to make it is the minutes played without Steve Nash on the court. The Goran Dragic experiment didn’t work - which was plain for all to see - and the Suns were really hurting in the minutes when Nash was taking a breather. So, as I see it, Steve Kerr’s biggest priority with this draft should be to snare the best available backup for the fearless leader. That player (by process of elimination according to my mock draft) should be Jonny Flynn. The 20-year-old pocket rocket isn’t the shooter or ball handler that Nash is, but he has a great ability to get to the free throw line like Nash and is highly confident with a winning mentality and passing game like him as well.

*If the Nets decided against drafting a forward to pair with Lopez, I’d hope they’d seriously consider Flynn as a legitimate backup point-guard to Devin instead.

So, there ends my mock draft. I’ve shown you mine… now you show me yours! (at The Sports Stuff’s message boards)

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