Last week’s mock draft was formatted to basically be my audition tape to NBA teams, letting them know I’m ready for a job in their scouting department. This time around, I’ll try and be a little more scientific, giving my best guesses at who we think each team is going to take based on the sea of information that’s out there and using, you know, actual logic and research this time.
Also, now that draft day is here, let’s finally put to rest the notion that this is some sort of historically weak draft. It’s a draft that doesn’t have much star power, but there are plenty of guys who project to be very solid NBA players. Check out this tweet from Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey:
Our rankings have 22 1st round quality players in the draft. Normal range is 15-19.
Here are the latest mock drafts by Chad Ford, DraftExpress, NBADraft.net and Hoops Report. Dave Hogg of Fox Sports Detroit, Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press and Justin Rogers and Steve Kays at MLive also weighed in with their mocks today (although none of them were man enough to attempt to pick the second round as well as the first … step it up guys). Coverage of the draft starts at 7 p.m. tonight on ESPN. So, no more setup needed. Let’s dig in.
The Cavs did their best to try and suggest they might take Derrick Williams over Irving. No one is buying it. Irving has been the guy since day one. The only concern was that he didn’t play a full season for Duke due to injury. But when he was healthy, he was the best player in college basketball and he has the most upside of any player in this draft.
As hilariously inept as every move David Kahn makes seems to be (the latest was firing his coach the night before the draft), whoever gets this job is going to inherit a pretty intriguing roster. That is, if the T-Wolves stop leaking fake trade rumors and simply do the right thing, which is pick Williams to be their third building block player, along with Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love.
I don’t think this is the right pick for Utah, and I explained why in the previous mock draft. Knight’s size and ability to play point guard might make him an intriguing prospect for a team that would like a long-term solution at the position, but I just don’t think Knight, though talented, is good enough to pass Jonas Valuncianas or Enes Kanter for. Still though, group think wins out, and virtually everyone who covers the draft has had Knight locked into this spot for weeks.
I think Valuncianas is a better player and prospect than Kanter, who has always looked a little slow-footed to me in the few clips of him actually playing basketball that exist out there. I trust that he’s talented. John Calipari doesn’t recruit players who aren’t talented. I think the active Valuncianas would be another energetic addition to an active frontcourt that includes J.J. Hickson and Anderson Varejao. Instead, Hickson and Varejao will make up for the presence less athletic Kanter, but he might turn into the back-to-the-basket presence they need.
May have pegged Kemba Walker at this spot simply because there’s an assumption Bryan Colangelo, for once, might be staying away from foreign players in this draft. Walker doesn’t make much sense to me, though. They’d like a replacement for Jose Calderon, but Calderon is still serviceable offensively. Instead, they could take an athlete like Leonard, who several teams are coveting and trying to trade up for reportedly, and have a really active forward tandem with Leonard and Amir Johnson.
Grantland’s staff hilariously described both Vesely’s ceiling and cellar as Anthony Randolph. Unlike most Euro perimeter players, Vesely isn’t a particularly elite shooter, but his size and athleticism would make him a nice fit in the Washington lineup. He reportedly isn’t the strongest ball-handler yet, but John Wall should take care of that, creating shots for Vesely so he doesn’t have to do it himself.
I really believe Thompson is going to be the surprising riser in this draft. He’s a shooting guard, but he’s big enough to play minutes at small forward as well, and he’s one of the better perimeter shooters in the draft. If the Spurs are reportedly trying to secure a lottery pick to take Thompson, then I trust that he’ll turn into a pretty good player. The Kings seem to be focused on taking a perimeter player. Kawhi Leonard is off my board, Kemba Walker is redundant to what they already have and Jimmer Fredette isn’t as big as Thompson.
Yeesh, I really can’t imagine what the Pistons will do if they get to this pick and Valuncianas, Bismack Biyombo, Kemba Walker and Tristan Thompson are all still available. They’ve been linked to all of them and reportedly like all of them. I picked Walker in my previous mock because I love Kemba (hey … if people can support a coaching candidate simply because he’s so tough and leadery, why can’t I support drafting a player for that same reason?) and also because he seems like the kind of underdog-fight-for-everything type of guard that Joe Dumars likes. But I no longer believe they’ll take Kemba. I think the right pick would be Valuncianas. I think the wrong pick would be Thompson. So, unless they trade down (not a bad idea, honestly), I think Biyombo is the guy.
Rich Cho was hired in Charlotte to be the guy who is unafraid to be a yes man to Michael Jordan. MJ has had a tendency to hire his friends for key basketball ops positions, and I would be that those friends tend to think about things in the same ways that MJ does. Cho is an analytical guy, and I would bet if Valuncianas, undoubtedly one of the top three players in this draft, falls this far because of his buyout situation, Cho will make the case to take him here.
The Bucks have been focused on the shooting guard spot as most every draft analyst has Thompson or Burks going in this spot. Thompson is off my board, so we’ll go with Burks, although I think the Bucks would be wise to look at either Marcus Morris or Chris Singleton here. Depending on how serious they are about moving Brandon Jennings, they could also consider Kemba Walker at this spot.
The Warriors have been shopping Monta Ellis hard and new coach Mark Jackson would like the team to be more defensive-minded. Those two things have led many to believe the Warriors would look for bigger shooting guards like Thompson and Burks in the draft. Unfortunately, those guys are off the board here. Morris does fill another need though, frontcourt depth. Anyone whose presence can take minutes from Andris Biedrins is a good thing for the Warriors.
The Jazz could lose free agent defender Andrei Kirilenko to free agency (finally … it seems like that dude signed a 15-year contract). AK was overpaid, but he was also versatile enough to defend multiple positions and bother players with his length. Singleton might not be quite the shot blocker AK was in his better days, but he’s arguably the best perimeter defender in this draft and at 6-foot-9, has good lenth himself.
Thompson has definite weaknesses — he’s a bit undersized and he’s really raw offensively. But the Suns could really use more athleticism in their frontcourt and Thompson is a good finisher. If the Suns really are serious that they are not shopping Steve Nash, Nash will find a use for a player who can run the floor like Thompson. If they are seriously shopping Nash, maybe they’d take Kemba Walker here.
Reports indicate the Rockets would desperately like to move up higher into the lottery to have a shot at one of the bigger names in the draft. Morey’s tweet that I linked to in the intro, however, indicates that the team is confident it can find a solid player at this spot as well. Faried is the best rebounder in this draft, a stat that usually translates well from college to pro, and he’s a favorite player of stats-based bloggers everywhere. Morey is also the favorite GM of stats-based bloggers everywhere. This is a match made in heaven.
Chad Ford has the Pacers picking Jimmer if they stay here. It seems like a totally Pacers thing to do. But they could actually use help at the shooting guard spot. They have been shopping Brandon Rush and Mike Dunleavy is a free agent. I don’t think Fredette is destined to be a starter in the NBA, but I think he’ll be a really solid rotation player and his shooting will fit well in Indiana’s lineup.
It’s no secret the Sixers are shopping Andre Iguodala at this point. They have a guy on the roster in Thad Young who needs more minutes. They could slide him into some of Iggy’s minutes and take a shooting guard like Brooks, who is big and strong and known for his scoring. But the best part about Brooks is his defense. He averaged over one blocked shot per game as a perimeter player. Doug Collins will like that.
It hurts me to drop Walker this low. I don’t think there are 16 players better than him in this draft. But the problem is, if he drops past Detroit, and if Utah uses the third pick on Knight meaning they won’t be looking for a PG with the 12th pick, Knight could free fall because there aren’t many teams after those spots looking for PG help. The Knicks would love to draft him. He’s already a star, and they have Chauncey Billups back for at least one more season to start while Walker spells him off the bench.
Marcus Morris was viewed as the more polished and NBA-ready prospect of the Morris twins. Markieff, however, has impressed teams in workouts and might be viewed as the one with more upside. Detroit loved Markieff when he worked out with the Pistons, for example. Washington got small forward help by taking Vesely earlier and Morris will help bolster their frontcourt, particularly if they decide to move Andray Blatche.
I have the Bobcats getting Valuncianas earlier, a player who might not help them this season. Hamilton, on the other hand, should contribute to their lineup pretty quickly. Some scouts think he’s the best wing scorer in this draft. Charlotte traded small forward Gerald Wallace last season for this pick, and Hamilton might be a guy who is able to replace Wallace at that position for them.
I think the rumors that the T-Wolves are thinking of taking Enes Kanter second overall instead of Derrick Williams are just lies. And if true, they’d be crazy to do it, partially because they can get an impact player like Williams early and then possibly add a really solid big at this spot in Vucevic. Vucevic was underrated because his college team wasn’t all that good, but he’s big, strong, a decent rebounder and he’s someone who at one time was considered a mid-second round prospect who has become a first round lock because of great workouts and combine performances.
Point guards like Iman Shumpert and Darius Morris have also been discussed here. Those guys are fine prospects, but I think Jackson is a much better prospect who might be undervalued some because an injury kept him out of the combine. If the Blazers are looking for a point guard, Jackson is the best of the bunch.
Four mocks (DE, NBADraft, Chad Ford and Hoops Report) have the Nuggets taking Tobias Harris here. His versatility would fit well with Denver’s roster full of versatile, fun-to-watch players. But the team might also need backup point guard help because it seems likely at some point, the Nuggets will trade Raymond Felton. Shumpert needs some refining of his skills as a PG, but he’s a great defensive player and a good athlete who could learn from two smart PGs in Felton and Ty Lawson.
Motiejunas was a lock for the lottery last season before he pulled out of the draft. Scouts told him to work on getting bigger and stronger. He did get bigger and stronger. That also made him get a bit slower. Thanks a lot, scouts. His stock has fallen this year, but he’s still really young and talented and it’s hard to see Houston passing up a guy here who was considered a lottery talent in a draft that had more talent at the top last year than this year’s does.
Harris falling this far would be a great gift to OKC. Harris can play either forward spot, he’s smart and he’d be a nice option for some offense off the bench if the team needed to spell Kevin Durant for a few minutes. He’d also allow the Thunder to go small at times, play fast and fill the floor with potent offensive options.
I’m assuming most of you read this amazing profile on Butler by Chad Ford. If not, take a few minutes. It’s one of the best things I’ve read in a while. That, combined with the fact that Butler is a hard-nosed, tough defensive player and decent scorer makes me hope he’ll last until the second round when the Pistons pick. He won’t. He’s exactly the kind of mentally tough, young wing player the Celtics could’ve used over the last two years or so in the playoffs.
Most outlets have Morris falling to the second round. I don’t buy it. He’s a big, young point guard who in one college season improved from not even a starter on a terrible team to best player on a surprise NCAA Tourney team. I can’t think of a better situation for Morris, sitting behind a PG like Jason Kidd, getting better in practice and possibly giving the Mavs a PG of the future when Kidd decides to retire.
The Nets didn’t really get much out of last year’s “prize” free agent acquisition, small forward Travis Outlaw. Parsons is a smo0th-shooting small forward who, at 6-foot-10, has great size for the position. He was a decent rebounder in college for a perimeter player and, along with Anthony Morrow, would give the Nets two nice floor-stretching players for Deron Williams.
Harper, much like Parsons, is a tall yet slender forward with a nice shooting touch. The Bulls are obviously still going to be one of the best defensive teams in the league again next season, but they need more offensive firepower to compete with a team like Miami in the East. Harper would be a tough matchup off the bench because of his height and, along with Kyle Korver, should make it harder for teams to cheat off of their men to clog the lane on Derrick Rose.
The Spurs are reportedly shopping both of their point guards, Tony Parker and George Hill. I don’t think they’ll trade both of them, but even if they trade just one, they could use a backup PG. Jenkins is exactly the kind of player the Spurs find in the draft. He’s an unknown because he played at a small school, but his shooting efficiency was amazing (50 percent overall/over 40 percent from 3) for a guard, especially considering he was the focal point of Hofstra’s offense, always facing multiple defenders.
The lesson Eastern Conference teams should learn after playing Miami: you can never have too many long, athletic defenders to throw at Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. The Mavs were able to beat Miami in the Finals primarily because they had a parade of active perimeter guys who were always fresh going at James and Wade. Honeycutt will need to get stronger, but he was extremely versatile for UCLA, a good passer and a long-armed defensive player.
(Second round after the jump)
Cole, another small school PG, might be a bit of a reach here, but the Heat need more bodies at PG and with Jackson, Shumpert, Morris and Jenkins off the board, Cole is the next best guy available. They could look at a big like JaJuan Johnson here, but I’m not sure Johnson is a huge upgrade over what they have in Joel Anthony defensively.
Bertans slips out of the first round in my mock mainly because I think there will be a run on point guards late in the first round that will push a couple of guys down. The Cavs have two young players in Irving and Kanter. Bertans gives them a first round talent who isn’t even 20 yet and who will stay overseas for another season or two. Perhaps he’ll develop in that time into a big-time shooter/scorer to compliment Irving and Kanter in a homegrown big three down the road.
The Pistons aren’t going anywhere this season. Mirotic won’t be able to join a NBA team for another year or two. He, like Bertans, is a first round talent. The Pistons could take a decent, but limited, big like Johnson here, or they could take a player like Mirotic, a 21-year-old who is 6-10 and highly skilled, let him stay overseas and develop and get stronger, then have an asset in a couple of seasons who can come over and hopefully bolster an already improved lineup.
Leslie is one of the most ridiculous athletes in this draft. He’s undersized at only about 6-foot-4, and he doesn’t have a skillset befitting of a guard, but he’s a fantastic defensive player, he runs the floor and he does things like this. When you have an up-tempo point guard like John Wall, putting as many finishers and athletes around him as possible is never a bad idea.
Selby doesn’t really fill a need for the Kings, but his talent is really intriguing for the second round. He hasn’t shown he can play point guard and he had a bad season at Kansas, but he’s just a year removed from being one of the best high school prospects in the country and reports indicate he’s worked hard on his game since he declared for the draft. He’s worth taking a second round flier on to see if he can improve.
Smith is a tough, intelligent, winning college player. He’s probably not a full-time PG, which is why he’s going in the second round, but he can play both positions in stretches in the NBA and he’s a good defensive player. If he continues to improve as a shooter, he’ll have a spot in a NBA rotation for a long time.
The Clippers probably wouldn’t mind moving Chris Kaman’s contract at some point and DeAndre Jordan, although they’d most likely want him back, is a restricted free agent. Johnson has work to do in the weight room if he’s ever going to be more than a backup in the NBA, but he’s one of the better shot blockers in this draft and he has a reliable jump shot. That’s enough to be a rotation big.
A big scorer in Europe, Bogdanovic is another player whose contract issues will keep him overseas for another season or two. Still though, according to Chad Ford, he’d be a first round talent if not for those contract problems. This is great value for the Rockets at this spot.
A big guard capable of playing PG, Lee would help Charlotte solidify the backup spot behind D.J. Augustin, who was counted on to play a lot of minutes last season. Because he’s 6-foot-5, Lee could potentially play backup minutes at both guard spots for the Bobcats.
Leuer is an OK rebounder and really good shooter for a big man. The Bucks don’t really have a stretch four. They are also shopping combo forward Ersan Ilyasova, potentially opening up some minutes for Leuer. It doesn’t hurt that Leuer was a college star at Wisconsin.
I’m interested to see how Mike Brown merges the Lakers from the Triangle Offense to a more traditional system. One of the ways he’s doing that is reportedly shopping Lamar Odom. Another way I would assume he does it will be finding a point guard. I’m not sure Mack qualifies as a PG yet, but he’ll have to learn to play it full-time if he’s going to stick in the NBA. His toughness and defense will certainly endear him to Brown. Maybe Mack can become the next Eric Snow.
Because of the Palace Brawl and several other off-court incidents, the Pacers had been very leery of even the slightest whispers of character issues the last five years or so. They jettisoned every player who got in trouble in Indiana for much less controversial (and much less talented, incidentally) players. Tyler, because of some of the maturity questions surrounding him, might have been a player they avoided in the past. But he seems to have worked hard to get his shot at the NBA and the Pacers seem to have the stability in the locker room now to help him grow. Traditional centers don’t grow on trees, after all. He’s worth taking a flier on.
Does Derrick Rose have a backup? Did he even come out of a game this season? I can’t remember. Garrett’s value if he makes it in the league will be defensively. He played PG in college, but he’s 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan. It seems like Tom Thibodeau could find a use for a defensive player with those measurables.
The Warriors added Marcus Morris in the first round and Thompkins is another PF who would have a shot at earning minutes immediately, since things in Golden State are kind of think up front behind David Lee and Ekpe Udoh (no offense, Lou Amundson). Thompkins has first round talent, but there were questions about his conditioning in college.
Williams is one of the free-fallers in this draft. At one time, he was considered a mid-first round prospect. He’s a back-to-the-basket center with good size, but he’s not super athletic and he’s also had questions about his conditioning arise. On top of that, he has had some not so great workouts. Still though, at his size and with his ability to score in the paint, he’s worth a look this late in the draft.
I don’t know much about this guy, but I’m gonna go with Chad Ford on this one. He’s the only guy who has Shermadini listed in his mock. Ford describes him as a talented big man who can score, but like some other foreign players in this draft, he might not come over for a couple seasons. Seems like the Lakers had some success with a former second round pick named Marc Gasol who became really good once he hit the NBA.
Eric Gordon is going to take the bulk of the minutes at shooting guard, but Moore is a smart player who is a really good shooter. The Clips could use a couple more guys with range to, if nothing else, give some options to Blake Griffin when he faces multiple defenders. Moore is hurt by the fact that he didn’t play much PG in college, and he’s undersized to play SG for big minutes. Maybe he can learn to play both spots for the Clips.
Al Horford has never wanted to be a center, yet every year, there he is, playing huge minutes against bigger players in the middle for the Hawks. Benson isn’t going to be a guy who can handle a lot of minutes at center in the NBA until he gets stronger, but he will be able to block shots and his offensive game has evolved beyond anyone’s wildest imagination at Oakland. He’d have a chance, with hard work, to help the Hawks in a year or two.
Joseph, like a Texas guard last year in Avery Bradley, probably should’ve stayed in school another season. Joseph didn’t, and it’s a stretch to expect he’s ready to contribute in the NBA now, but the Grizzlies have Mike Conley and Greivis Vasquez getting the bulk of the PG minutes right now, meaning a player like Joseph could sit on the bench and hopefully develop.
Smith is one of the more raw players in this draft, but his hands are so big and his physical skills so impressive that a team like Philly, with a veteran big like Elton Brand around to beat up on Smith in practice, has a shot at helping Smith reach his potential without the pressure of trying to force him to play before he’s ready.
Kawhi Leonard is the better prospect, but San Diego State had another energetic, defensive-minded forward in Malcolm Thomas. He might not be quite as athletic as Leonard, but Thomas can rebound some, play defense some and run the floor. He could develop into a solid defensive option for Portland.
I don’t know how closely the Pistons have looked at Dunigan, but Scott Schroeder at Ridiculous Upside made the case that although he’s raw, he’s comparable to Jeremy Tyler. A plus with Dunigan, who played overseas after leaving Oregon, is that he might be willing to go back overseas to a better league for a season or two while the team that drafts him holds his rights. The Pistons aren’t going to get immediate help at this spot, so going this route with a player like Dunigan is a good option.
Chris Duhon was not the answer at backup PG for the Magic last season. Duhon just doesn’t shoot well enough for Stan Van Gundy’s system. Hansbrough, on the other hand, is a really good shooter. He’s smart, takes pretty good care of the ball and, playing for two years in the Big East, he’s used for facing good guards. It’s conceivable that he could earn minutes in Orlando more quickly than expected for a second rounder.
Hopson is another player who, had he stayed in school one more year, might have improved his stock. The knock on him has been consistency. But he’s got good size for a perimeter player at 6-foot-7 and he’s a good outside shooter and athlete. The Cavs have serious needs on their perimeter (Anthony Parker is a free agent and other guys who got big minutes on the wing last year just didn’t play well), and Hopson is the type of talent who might help them immediately.
I’ve mentioned that East teams should be stocking up on wing defenders if they plan to compete with Miami over the next few seasons. Liggins isn’t much of an offensive player, but he’s one of the best defensive players in college basketball. If the C’s add Liggins and Jimmy Butler, who I gave them in the first round, they’d have two guys with the skillset and mentality to become lockdown guys over the next year or so.
I gave the Lakers Shelvin Mack earlier believing that Mike Brown might want to look for both an eventual replacement for Derek Fisher and a more traditional PG. Mack has to work on becoming a PG, so maybe they also draft a player like McCamey, who is a better PG right now but has to work on his defense. McCamey is limited athletically, but he actually became a really good shooter at Illinois, something that will always be important to any guard who plays next to Kobe Bryant.
Richmond doesn’t bring much to the table other than great athletisicm after spending only one season at Illinois. But the Mavs, undoubtedly, could use more athleticism. Whoever they draft with either pick is not going to play much anyway. Stashing a player like Richmond on the bench or in the D-League, letting him learn from someone like Shawn Marion, and seeing if you can turn him into something isn’t a horrible strategy.
Who knows if the guy can make the Lakers’ roster, but he can really shoot the ball. If the Lakers’ pace slows and offense becomes more iso-heavy under Mike Brown, they will definitely need more guys capable of spreading the floor.
I know it’s unlikely he gets drafted, but unless the Spurs take someone who will stay or go overseas, there’s not much help left here. A high IQ player from a small school like Skeen fits the profile of guys Greg Popovich likes. He’s a good shooter, solid rebounder and smart defender. Maybe he can turn into another Matt Bonner.
Reports have indicated the Maloofs like Jimmer Fredette in the lottery because he’s a big name and they’ve totally heard of him. It sounds like the basketball side will win out, though, and they’ll pass on Jimmer. So here’s a consolation prize, they can take their big name in the second round and then try and figure out how to utilize him.