While the 2009-2010 college basketball season was memorable for its lack of staying power among the elite programs in the country, there are a number of potential stars in this year’s NBA Draft. No, there are not 10 future superstars, but there never are and people who say that this draft is light at the top is simply looking for something to say. With John Wall leading the way, the 2010 NBA Draft has a chance to provide a number of teams with franchise-changing players, with the second round likely to include plenty of well-known college players who could contribute immediately in the 2010-2011 NBA season.
This year’s NBA Mock Draft marks the fifth year in a row that I have tried to predict how the first round will play out, often with very very little success. However, no one is ever that correct, so what makes me any different? If you are interested in my previous mock drafts, simply follow this link.
1. Washington Wizards - John Wall, Guard, University of Kentucky
There will be no shocking move by the Wizards here. They will keep the pick and do whatever they can to make the John Wall/Gilbert Arenas combination work. There is plenty of talk that the Wizards are trying to trade Arenas, but with so little NBA game action for him over the last two seasons, it would be difficult to see why anyone would want to take the plunge to grab Arenas. The player who may be more on the trading block is former Villanova star Randy Foye, who appears to be very expendable now if the team can’t move Arenas.
2. Philadelphia 76ers - Evan Turner, Guard/Forward, The Ohio State University
Derrick Favors has been rumored to be a Doug Collins favorite, but there is no way that the 76ers will pass on Turner, arguably the best player in college basketball last season. With Jrue Holliday running the point and Andre Iguodala on the wing, it’s tough to see exactly where Turner fits in, even though all of the talk about Turner is that he can play four different positions. The talk about Favors centered around the team’s desire to trade Elton Brand, which seems highly unlikely given his injury history, his enormous salary and, maybe most importantly, his amazing loss of skill since getting his Philadelphia pay-day.
Brand, a former college player of the year himself, has four seasons under his belt of averaging at least twenty points and ten rebounds per game, but has seen his scoring average drop over the last four seasons from 20.5 points per game to 17.6, 13.8 and 13.1 last year. His rebounding numbers have also declined to a career low 6.1 in the 2009-2010 season. Given these stats, one would assume that Favors would be the right fit, but without getting rid of Brand, the 76ers have to go for the best talent, and that is Turner.
6/17 Update: ESPN’s Chad Ford is reporting that the 76ers have traded Samuel Dalembert to the Sacramento Kings for Spencer Hawes and Andres Nocioni. While this will most certainly add fuel to the fire that the 76ers will pick Derrick Favors, I still think Turner is the pick.
3. New Jersey Nets - Derrick Favors, Forward, Georgia Institute of Technology
After struggling to finish the season with a 12-70 record, the Nets had the best chance to land the top pick in June’s NBA Draft Lottery. With a guarantee of a top-3 pick, the Nets were hoping to be able to land in the top two spots so they could pick either Wall or Turner. Unfortunately for new owner Mikhail Prokhorov, the Nets landed in the third spot and had to begin working on figuring out who the best of the rest was going to be in the 2010 Draft.
The answer appears to be Favors, who is a very strong power forward with solid athleticism and feel around the basket. While DeMarcus Cousins may have been the best big man in college basketball last season, Favors appears to have more upside. His statistics weren’t outlandish at Georgia Tech, although the team’s guards struggled mightily to get Favors the ball in…favorable positions (sorry, I had to).
4. Minnesota Timberwolves - Wesley Johnson, Forward, Syracuse University
After the surprising back-to-back picks of point guards in the 2009 Draft, the Timberwolves need to pick up a player who can actually play for them on day one. Based on talent alone, the pick should be DeMarcus Cousins, one of the best big men in this year’s Draft. Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, Cousins plays the same position as current players Al Jefferson and Kevin Love, who often struggle to even play together at the same time as it is, so adding Cousins would just make this a disastrous situation.
Luckily, Johnson fits in perfectly. A guy who is able to make an impact without stuffing the stat sheet, Johnson should be able to fit in immediately with fellow former-Syracuse Orange Jonny Flynn and either Love or Jefferson. While one of last year’s point guard picks, Ricky Rubio, has decided to stay in Spain for the foreseeable future, bringing in Johnson would allow the Timberwolves to at least be reasonably competitive in the 2010-2011 season.
5. Sacramento Kings - DeMarcus Cousins, Forward, University of Kentucky
There are plenty of people who see Georgetown big man Greg Monroe fitting in perfectly with the Kings, but his lack of girth makes him light on the block, something the Kings need to avoid. While Jason Thompson gives the Kings some strength in the middle, Cousins gives them the toughness that they are missing with current center Spencer Hawes. Despite being listed at 7’1″, Hawes has averaged only 5.5 rebounds per game in his three-year career and is hardly an intimidating presence near the basket. Drafting Monroe hardly provides the Kings the down low presence to compliment ultra-talented guard Tyreke Evans. However, Cousins should be the perfect match to create a formidable inside-outside attack with Evans.
The knock against Cousins is that he’s a bit of a head case, but he has an immense talent that should trump the attitude issues and make the Kings pull the trigger on drafting him.
6/17 Update: As mentioned before, the Kings have traded Spencer Hawes and Andres Nocioni to the 76ers for Samuel Dalembert. While this could lead the Kings to consider going after a small forward, such as Al-Fariq Aminu or Gordon Hayward, I think Cousins is still the pick considering that Dalembert only has one more year on his contract.
6. Golden State Warriors - Greg Monroe, Forward, Georgetown University
Not known for their defensive prowess, the Warriors appear to be much more interested in scoring the basketball, at least for as long as Don Nelson remains the head coach, than stopping others from doing so. As a 6’11″ lefty who can run the floor better than most big men in the Draft, Monroe seems to be a perfect fit for the Warriors. With plenty of shots going up from Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis, if the latter stays in Oakland, the team should be looking for someone who is able to run with them and provide some length in the middle.
The addition of Monroe certainly keeps the team skinny, with Anthony Randolph and Brandon Wright already needing a few weight-gaining shakes, but he has the strength to maintain his position down low. If DeMarcus Cousins falls to this spot, he could be the pick, although he seems to be a little heavier than the players the Warriors like to pick.
7. Detroit Pistons - Ed Davis, Forward, University of North Carolina
The Pistons should love either Cousins or Monroe, but they will be gone by the time the Pistons’ pick comes up here at #7. Al-Farouq Aminu’s name has popped up on a lot of mock drafts in this spot, but I will be hard pressed to be convinced that Aminu is the best fit for a team that already has Tayshaun Prince, Charlie Villanueva, Austin Daye, Jonas Jerebko and Richard Hamilton occupying the minutes at the small forward position. While his 6’9″ frame could allow Aminu to play power forward, why wouldn’t the Pistons just draft a big man that they know can pound the block? The answer: they can with Ed Davis.
Davis has very good size, is a solid defender and has a great feel around the basket. He will likely compete for minutes with Jason Maxiell and Chris Wilcox, but Davis has an opportunity to get on the floor because of his ability to score the basketball from in close.
8. Los Angeles Clippers - Al-Farouq Aminu, Forward, Wake Forest University
While the Pistons don’t necessarily need a swing man who can play the 3 or the 4, it is exactly what the Clippers should be looking to add. With last year’s top pick, Blake Griffin, ready to finally take the court in Los Angeles, the team still needs a small forward to provide some athleticism to an already solid core of young prospects, such as Griffin, Eric Gordon and DeAndre Jordan. While Butler’s Gordon Hayward could also be a pick here because of his outside shooting ability, Aminu has significantly more upside while the Clippers already have Davis and Gordon to throw up as many threes as possible.
9. Utah Jazz - Gordon Hayward, Forward, Butler University
With Carlos Boozer most likely leaving this summer, many people are thinking that the Jazz could grab a big man to fill the void. However, with Paul Millsap still around, the Jazz can afford to go after Hayward who could be a solid upgrade to Kyle Korver, another unrestricted free agent this summer. Hayward has excellent guard skills for someone his size and he could allow the Jazz to go big if he plays the two with Andrei Kirilenko at the 3 or even a super athletic core of Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, C.J. Miles, Hayward and Millsap.
10. Indiana Pacers - Avery Bradley, Guard, University of Texas
The Pacers have a number of needs, but ultimately, the team needs a guard to lead the offense. Bradley is somewhat of a combo guard, but many NBA scouts believe that he can play the point. With Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough can dominate the paint, Danny Granger should be an easy target for Bradley, who will certainly be asked to do some of the scoring as well. Troy Murphy’s days in Indiana are numbered, as his expiring contract and inside-outside skills are desired by many teams in the league. Last year’s leading assist man, Earl Watson, is an unrestricted free agent, so bringing in Bradley allows the team to play him right away, if they want.
11. New Orleans Hornets – Luke Babbitt, Forward, University of Nevada
The Hornets are in trouble. They play in the always competitive Western Conference but lack the talent to compete with up and coming teams. They are not the Oklahoma City Thunder or the Portland Trail Blazers and they are in an awkward position to be over taken by the Sacramento Kings and possibly the Golden State Warriors. Chris Paul has only scattered talent around him and is a big question mark to leave after the 2011 season when he hits free agency. They drafted former UCLA guard Darren Collison to replace Paul if he departs, but the rest of the team is sketchy, at best.
David West appears to have already hit his peak, Peja Stojakovic is way past his prime and Emeka Okafor may have been his best while at UConn. So what to do with this draft pick…
Babbitt appears to be the best talent left on the board who could probably play right away. He is moderately athletic and has solid range, which should be exploited when Chris Paul penetrates. The Hornets could always go with an unproven and raw big man like Hassan Whiteside from Marshall or Daniel Orton from Kentucky, but they need guys who can contribute sooner rather than later and Babbitt becomes that guy.
12. Memphis Grizzlies – Xavier Henry, Guard, Kansas University
Henry was one of the top prospects coming into his freshman year at Kansas and while he wasn’t exactly a dominating player like John Wall, he did enough to show that he can thrive in the right situation and on the professional level. The Grizzlies are in an interesting situation because they know that Rudy Gay will most likely leave via free agency as soon as he can find a team dumb enough to overpay him, and yet it’s possible that the team is better without him.
The Grizzlies need a big man who can clog the middle, but after last season’s disastrous pick of Hasheem Thabeet, the Grizzles absolutely cannot afford to bring in another big man prospect who will likely not pan out. They drafted point guards in back to back years, which left them with Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley before they saved Lowry’s career and sent him to Houston. Last year’s pick of O.J. Mayo worked out well and the re-emergence of Zach Randolph allows the Grizzlies to go after another swing player and Henry fits the bill perfectly.
13. Toronto Raptors - Cole Aldrich, Center, Kansas University
With the odds of Chris Bosh returning to Toronto as high as Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds being the #1 overall pick, the Raptors will be desperate for someone who can plug the middle so that they can keep Andrea Bargnani at the power forward slot. While there are a number of big man options for the Raptors, Aldrich seems the most ready and the Raptors will be looking for someone who can play immediately.
14. Houston Rockets – Ekpe Udoh, Center, Baylor University
The Rockets are a dominant team in the NBA when they are fully healthy…unfortunately, that has rarely been the case, especially with 7’6″ center Yao Ming, who continues to battle foot issues that have plagued him for a majority of his career. After missing the entire 2009-2010 season, the Rockets are still not quite sure what Yao can bring them moving forward. However, other than Yao, the team is very strong, athletic and competitive with the likes of Trevor Ariza, Kevin Martin, Aaron Brooks, Luis Scola, Shane Battier and Kyle Lowry.
The missing piece appears to be a big man who can spell Yao and help the team defensively. While there are a number of big men in this draft that are raw, but still improving, Udoh appears to be the most mature and ready to contribute. He is older than the other available big men and could become the new Dikembe Mutombo for the Rockets. No, I am not saying Udoh is the next Mutombo, I am saying that he may be able to replicate the role that Mutombo played in Houston for the four-plus years he was there.
15. Milwaukee Bucks – Paul George, Forward, Fresno State University
After an extremely surprising season that saw them make the playoffs and strongly compete against the Atlanta Hawks, the Bucks may have to continue rebuilding without one of their better players, John Salmons, who is expected to leave Milwaukee for a more lucrative contract elsewhere. With the point guard slot locked up by Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut owning the lane (if he can recover from a horrific elbow injury), the Bucks will need a new wing player to open up the driving lanes for Jennings or the key for Bogut. While Michael Redd is still on the roster, the Bucks have (hopefully) learned not to rely on their lefty sharpshooter.
Overall, the team has some nice pieces with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Carlos Delfino, but they need a little more offense to keep the team running and George is a nice addition that can presumably handle some of the scoring load.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves – James Anderson, Guard/Forward, Oklahoma State University
After picking up Wesley Johnson with the #4 overall pick, the Timberwolves look for another wing scorer who can help them put the ball in the basket. ESPN’s Chad Ford remarked that Anderson was one of the best scorers in college basketball last season, which seems to be exactly what the Timberwolves need after seeing how much difficulty Corey Brewer has in that role.
While they may still struggle in the Western Conference, the core of Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Wesley Johnson, James Anderson and Jonny Flynn should at least get some positive attention. Now if they could only solve that Ricky Rubio problem…
17. Chicago Bulls – Damion James, Forward, University of Texas
Whether they actually sign LeBron James or not, the Bulls will have to make this pick before they know who the King has chosen to be his team. With Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah as the centerpieces around the “see, we have the pieces to make LeBron a champion” pitch, there doesn’t seem to be much need to draft a point guard nor a center. While they could be looking for a big man, one would think that the failure to make Tyrus Thomas into a legitimate star would make the team second guess a new project. Luol Deng has been a nice little piece in Chicago, but he doesn’t seem to elicit the fear that his teammates do.
So, where does that leave us? With a different James, who can score and is one of the most athletic players in the Draft. He’s a very solid defensive player and at 6’8″ can defend a number of positions. While this is not exactly the “James” that Bulls fans were hoping for, they should be happy with this pick.
18. Miami Heat – Eric Bledsoe, Guard, University of Kentucky
Miami’s primary goal this offseason is to bring back Dwyane Wade and try to convince either Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire or Carlos Boozer to join him. Former #2 overall pick Michael Beasley has been somewhat of a disappointment in Miami, but there isn’t a ton of talent left in the Draft to replace him. Patrick Patterson could be an interesting fit in this spot, but I can’t see Miami drafting Patterson with the knowledge that they are going to go all out for a big man that would play his position and potentially glue him to the bench.
The Heat could also go after one of the raw big men still left on the board, but bringing in a project isn’t exactly sending Wade the message that they are ready to compete now. So, we come to Bledsoe, who has been compared to Russell Westbrook by Bill Simmons, who admittedly does not watch a lot of college basketball.
Bledsoe played mostly off the ball in college because John Wall was running the point, but he did show occasionally that he is able to run the show. Mario Chalmers has been serviceable for the Heat, but Bledsoe is much more athletic and should be able to provide a little more skill to show Wade that the Heat are serious about contending soon.
19. Boston Celtics – Patrick Patterson, Forward, University of Kentucky
The Celtics don’t have a ton of holes to fill, although the team overall is getting old quickly. While Ray Allen’s return is a huge question mark, I’d put my money on him wearing the Celtics green after this season. They certainly don’t need a point guard, which is good because there aren’t many in this draft who could grab minutes in Boston. While the team has Rasheed Wallace for a few more years, along with Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Patterson allows them to be a little more flexible with their second unit. He can play the three or the four and forms a pretty solid up-front line up with Wallace and Davis.
A few of the unproven big men are still available, but the Celtics have to simply grab the best available talent who can play right away.
20. San Antonio Spurs – Hassan Whiteside, Center, Marshall University
There are a number of trade rumors swirling the World Wide Web now that Tony Parker will be shipped out of San Antonio because of the emergence of George Hill. While I personally think that is a mistake, it does give us a clue that they probably won’t be drafting a point guard with this pick. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exactly lead us to a specific player. After last year’s fantastic second round pick of DeJuan Blair, the team doesn’t necessarily need a whole lot of girth down low. Or do they? The team seems pretty full along with wings with Richard Jefferson, Manu Ginobili, Keith Bogans, Roger Mason and Matt Bonner (he may be a PF, but he’s hardly inside the three point line). Tim Duncan’s minutes continue to decline and so the team should be looking for someone who can replace those minutes. If Blair is that player, who will be guarding the hoop?
The answer is Whiteside, a player that is particularly raw but measures at seven feet tall and already has a great feel around the basket on the defensive side of the ball. With DeJuan Blair banging the boards and Whiteside protecting the rim, the Spurs should have a solid second team when Duncan has to sit and rest his legs.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder – Daniel Orton, Center, University of Kentucky
Orton has been somewhat of an enigma for many people because he is a first round talent and yet averaged less than four points and four rebounds per game at Kentucky. Yes, Kentucky has four other first round talents, but the last time I checked, you play five guys at a time and Orton wasn’t one of those for the Wildcats.
Nevertheless, he is a good prospect and should provide a nice down low presence for the Thunder, who have tons of talent on the wing and in the backcourt, but only a little near the basket. Nick Collison isn’t exactly the center of the future and Serge Ibaka is really better off as a power forward, so Orton fits in nicely in the Oklahoma City lineup.
22. Portland Trail Blazers – Quincy Pondexter, Forward, University of Washington
The Blazers are in an interesting position here at #22. They have talented players at nearly every position on the court, but they just can’t seem to keep them healthy. We all know about Greg Oden’s issues and Brandon Roy isn’t exactly winning any Ironman trophies. Nevertheless, LaMarcus Aldridge has really come into his own as a legitimate power forward in the NBA and the point guard situation is relatively solid thanks to Andre Miller and Jerryd Bayless. While Nicolas Batum has been…good, his ceiling isn’t astronomically high and adding Pondexter could give the Blazers a little more offense out of the small forward position.
Pondexter is a mature player who has had a solid career for the Huskies and that maturity should play well in Portland.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves – Kevin Seraphin, Forward, France
With their third pick in the first round, the likely direction is that the Timberwolves will select a European player who they can leave in Europe until he develops. While past Drafts have been packed with European players, this one is rather light and the Timberwolves end up with the only one worthy of a first round pick.
The future is starting to look brighter in Minnesota with a nice young core at home and Rubio and Seraphin abroad.
24. Atlanta Hawks – Dominique Jones, Guard, University of South Florida
Joe Johnson is gone. There is no reason for him to re-sign and the Hawks know it. They have Jamal Crawford to plug into Johnson’s spot in the starting lineup, but that still leaves a hole in the second unit. The Hawks are rather weak at point guard, with Mike Bibby showing his age more each day. Jeff Teague had a forgettable first season, but it was good enough that he shouldn’t have to worry about the Hawks drafting another point guard. Luckily for the Hawks, Jones is a scorer available who could replace Crawford on the second unit.
Jones proved he could put the ball in the hoop, averaging over 20 points per game in the tough Big East Conference. He is a little shorter than the prototypical NBA shooting guard, but he makes up for it with his strength. While he most likely will not be a 20 point per game scorer on the professional level, he should be a good contributor off the bench.
25. Memphis Grizzlies – Devin Ebanks, Forward, West Virginia University
After picking up Xavier Henry earlier as someone who can score from the wing, the Grizzlies turn to the other side of the floor and grab a player who, on paper, is someone who should be able to strongly defend the wing. While he appears to be incredibly long, Ebanks’ measurements are actually quite ordinary and he doesn’t provide much on the offensive side of the ball. However, he is incredibly athletic and has a good feel for playing defense after two season of playing for Bob Huggins. Plus, with Zach Randolph and O.J. Mayo, it might be good for the Grizzlies to bring in a player who can contribute without taking too many shots.
26. Oklahoma City Thunder – Larry Sanders, Center, Virginia Commonwealth University
The Thunder recognize that their weakness is down low and Sanders should be able to provide them with a solid defensive stopper near the basket. While he is a bit of a project, he works hard, runs the floor well and should develop into a nice role player for the Thunder, who already have some significant building blocks for the future. With their core already in place, the Thunder can afford to draft two big men in the first round with the hope that one of them can turn into a solid contributor.
27. New Jersey Nets – Eliot Williams, Guard, Memphis
While Devin Harris has been good for the Nets, he has been less than they were hoping for when they traded Jason Kidd to Dallas. Harris should remain in New Jersey for the foreseeable future, which is good news because Williams is not ready to lead the team from day one after two years at the college level. The Nets have a ton of perimeter players and by adding Favors and Williams in this Draft, they must feel like they can build upon a dreadful 2009-2010 season.
28. Memphis Grizzlies – Willie Warren, Guard, University of Oklahoma
The Grizzlies have plenty of scorers but their point guard situation remains iffy. After trying a combination of Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley, the Grizzlies sent Lowry to Houston and have slowly discovered that they may have chosen the wrong guard. Luckily, they can begin to fix the problem by taking Warren, a player who was predicted to be a top-10 pick before his two seasons at Oklahoma dampened his expectations. However, he is still a first round talent and should be able to develop into a nice player for the Grizzlies, either in the starting lineup or off the bench.
29. Orlando Magic – Armon Johnson, Guard, University of Nevada
The Magic need a new backup point guard, as Jason Williams is obviously not the answer for backing up Jameer Nelson. Johnson is not a terrific shooter, but if they put him on the floor with any of the eight guys on the roster who can shoot the three, he should become a solid contributor. He knows how to penetrate effectively and is able to find the open man, which happens a ton in Orlando.
30. Washington Wizards – Solomon Alabi, Center, Florida State University
Alabi’s fall is exactly what the Wizards needed to finish off the first round after starting it with John Wall. Alabi should provide a solid defensive presence in the middle for the Wizards, something they have lacked in recent years.