Not everything is sports has so much room for interpretation. Most of the time, your predictions are set in stone—like when a certain correspondent predicted a Magic/Suns finals, and it’s possible neither of those teams will win even one game in their respective conference finals.
Since we now know the order of the 2010 NBA Draft, we’ve got a better idea of how the process might actually unfold.
Teams like Washington and Philadelphia were suddenly given a new chance to re-build their franchises. New Jersey and Minnesota once again saw their futility go to waste as they no longer have the inside track to the two best players; what direction will they choose instead?
So, without wasting any more time, let’s get right into the NBA Lottery Mock Draft.
This one will focus specifically on lottery teams, since this writer tends to excessively ramble on. You don’t need to read a 6,000 word mock draft—there are hundreds of others to read as well.
1. Washington Wizards – John Wall, PG, Kentucky
After all the turmoil the Wizards went through last season, karma decided to throw the Washington organization a bone when they landed the No. 1 pick in the lottery on Tuesday night.
Now, after trading Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler and essentially admitting to their fans that they were in the re-building process, they land a huge piece in their puzzle: consensus top pick John Wall.
Like I said in the previous mock draft, Wall was put on this planet to play point guard. He’s the most natural PG in this draft—his size, athleticism, quickness, and court vision are all the makings of a new generation of point guard in the NBA.
Following the Derrick Rose-mold, his height (6’4″) enables him to see over most defenses. Don’t underestimate this advantage; there’s a reason guys like Rose and LeBron James see things that most other players seemingly don’t.
Maybe more importantly, he can move Gilbert Arenas over to shooting guard. Having Arenas playing PG is like the movie Valentine’s Day: it might look good on paper and in spurts, but in the long run, it’s direction-less and not going anywhere.
With two first-round picks and arguably the most exciting college player coming aboard, things all of a sudden aren’t so bleak for the Wiz.
2. Philadelphia 76ers – Evan Turner, SG/SF, Ohio State
The Sixers are sitting pretty with the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft. In fact, they have the easiest selection; if the Wiz take Evan Turner, they take John Wall. If they take Wall, Philly takes Turner.
Since Wall is gone, the choice is…OK, you get the idea.
Understand that I watched Turner play for three years at Ohio State. I maybe missed five games in his career, so I might be a tad biased in my evaluation of him.
That being said, while everyone thinks that Wall has a higher ceiling than Turner, I think it’s the opposite—Turner still has room to grow and develop.
A 6’7″ swingman that can probably three positions at the next level, Turner’s versatility is what sets him apart from other prospects.
At shooting guard, he has size and strength (an underrated part of his game) to play out of the post against smaller defenders. He’s the best finisher at the rim in the draft.
At small forward, he has the quickness to blow by defenses off the dribble. He also rebounds very effectively for his size, pulling in over 9.0 a game last year.
At point forward, there’s nothing he does better than setting up teammates. Because he commands so much attention, if you know how to play off the ball and get to the open spots, Turner will find you. Honestly, there’s few players at 6’7″ that have comparable passing skills to Turner, other than LeBron James.
3. New Jersey Nets – Derrick Favors, PF, Georgia Tech
The Nets were all ready to take Wall or Turner with their almost-assured top two pick…then the draft Gods decided it wasn’t meant to be.
Now they’re left in a very difficult situation. At No. 3, there probably isn’t a potential franchise player out there. Even if there is, he’ll be a project that won’t fully develop for another three to four years.
So in this case, the Nets go with needs. They need a lot, but an athletic, sizable body down low to complement Brook Lopez would be a good start.
In that direction, there are two options: Derrick Favors or DeMarcus Cousins.
While Cousins might have more upside, and might even be more NBA ready, bringing him into a situation like N.J. with no coach, no GM, and a brand-new direction isn’t the best idea. The Nets go with the guy that’s a little more mentally strong: Favors.
Favors won’t be a featured offensive player in the half-court game, but one of his strong suits is attacking the glass on the weak-side. Lopez can play with his back to the basket or square up from the 12-15 foot range. He commands a lot of attention, which will free up Favors for rebounds and easy put-backs.
It will take him some time to develop. But the Nets have plenty of it.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves – Wesley Johnson, SF, Syracuse
Unlike N.J., Minnesota might actually benefit from not getting a top two pick…well, as much as you can benefit from missing out on two potential franchise players.
(Side note: am I the only one who was rooting for the T’Wolves to get the top pick purely for comedy sake so they’d have to draft John Wall. Three point guards in two years, plus signing Ramon Sessions last year…how great would that be?)
The Wolves need a high-scoring perimeter player, and Johnson is just that. He’s only listed at 6’7″, but plays much bigger than that (at least on offense). He gets tremendous elevation on his jump shot, making it near impossible to defend.
He stepped up his outside game last year as well, hitting 41.5 percent from behind the three-point line.
He reminds me of Kevin Durant—I’m not saying he’s going to be as explosive of a scorer or anywhere near as much of an impact player, but his wingspan and athleticism will make him a tough cover for smaller defenders.
Add in the fact that his outside game will only help his ability to set up his attack off the bounce, and Johnson should help Minnesota’s weak perimeter attack.
There are a few questions about his game. Most notably, he can disappear at times during a game. In the last five minutes of Syracuse’s tournament loss to Butler, he didn’t attempt a shot.
If he wants to be the go-to guy, he has to become more assertive and aggressive down the stretch.
5. Sacramento Kings – DeMarcus Cousins, PF, Kentucky
DeMarcus Cousins (pictured) might be a top-three talent in this draft. He might want to be drafted higher, and he might feel a bit slighted that he dropped so low (if you can call going No. 5 low).
But this could work out perfect for him—he could play with a chip on his shoulder for his career that he didn’t get the respect he felt he deserved in the draft.
And he finds the perfect fit for him.
Cousin’s strengths are prolific rebounding, a physicality and toughness on defense, and converting near the hoop.
Sacramento needs a big guy that can be a physical presence on defense, can clean up the boards, and can finish in traffic.
Sounds like a match made in heaven, no?
If that’s not enough, the Kings play an up-tempo style that should fit Cousins’ strengths, much like he played at Kentucky. Plus, he’ll go from playing with John Wall, the probable to No. 1 pick, to Tyreke Evans, last year’s Rookie of the Year and one of the best young dual-threat guards in the league—as a big man, it’s a dream come true.
He must improve his conditioning; there were games where he looked winded at times and wasn’t as effective as he could have been.
Also, it’s never a good sign when a player has to improve his work ethic and mental focus. But this is a great scenario for Cousins, much better than the Nets—they have a solid foundation with a veteran coach and are an improving young team.
6. Golden State Warriors – Al-Farouq Aminu, SF/PF, Wake Forest
The worst rebounding team in the league, it should be a safe assumption that the Warriors would want to find a big man that could help in that category.
I really think that my man Ekpe Udoh would be a great fit here, but it would be a bit of a stretch.
Instead, Golden State goes with an athletic forward in Al-Farouq Aminu (who also happens to have the best name in the draft, for those interested in facts like that).
He’s a bit undersized at the power forward position, but that’s still probably where the Warriors will use him.
It’s really interesting to see what they do at this spot. Don Nelson will be back for one last season; when he leaves, will it be the end of Nellie-ball?
If it is, what direction will Golden State go? This pick could answer a lot of questions about their future.
7. Detroit Pistons – Cole Aldrich, PF/C, Kansas
Detroit picks up what they’ve been lacking since their Finals run in 2004 and 2005: a true center.
Even though he’s just 6’10″, Aldrich plays the position as well as any other prospect. He’s a strong rebounder (although his numbers did slip last year), has a solid offensive arsenal, and throws a good outlet pass (a la Kevin Love).
Last year, the two centers on their roster were Kwame Brown and Ben Wallace. I don’t even have a joke, so feel free to insert your own. Both of their contracts expired, so the Pistons’ only bigs right now are Chris Wilcox and Jason Maxiell.
Originally, I had them taking Hassan Whiteside with this pick since I thought they were years away from competing. But Aldrich is the better fit; him and Maxiell can add a toughness and physicality in the lane that has seemingly been missing in Detroit for years.
8. L.A. Clippers – Ekpe Udoh, PF, Baylor
One of my favorite players in this year’s draft…so take that and the fact that the Clippers snatch him up and that pretty much assures he’ll be a bust, right?
Just kidding. I really like his game.
He’s not going to blow anyone away on offense. He doesn’t have a go-to post move and doesn’t really impose his will on offense.
But strangely enough, I don’t think the Clippers need a guy like that. Chris Kaman is a great weapon in the low post; Blake Griffin will be as well when he returns from his patella injury.
On the perimeter, Eric Gordon is becoming a more explosive scorer year after year. Baron Davis isn’t the player he used to be, but still can create shots for himself and others.
With Udoh, they get a defensive-minded player who doesn’t mind doing the dirty work. Think Serge Ibaka and his impact on the Thunder this year—that’s the kind of impact Udoh can have.
He’s a terrific rebounder and shot-blocker. He’s a capable defender against quicker bigs due to his great footwork. He brings a lot to the table and takes virtually nothing off it.
The Clips need help on the wing, but I think they’ll attempt to address that in free agency (Joe Johnson, anybody?). Now’s the time to go after talent.
9. Utah Jazz – Greg Monroe, SF/PF, Georgetown
A perfect fit for both parties.
It seems likely that Boozer will leave Utah. That leaves a hole at the power forward spot that most likely will be filled by Paul Millsap, who was great in the playoffs, even against the Lakers when he was woefully undersized.
The Jazz do need a shooter on the wing. But Xavier Henry is a stretch here—he’s not great at anything other than spot-shooting and is not the kind of player who would thrive in this system.
Greg Monroe (in photo) is an intelligent player with a high basketball IQ (I hate that term, but I really can’t think of anyway else to describe him). He can play out of the low-post, high-post, top of the key, wing, you name it.
Pair him up with Deron Williams and you have two terrific decision makers on the floor that can not only find the open man, but can put the ball on the floor and get to the tin.
Think Andrei Kirilenko, only a little bigger and not quite as mobile. But he’ll be playing for a fraction of the price. When AK-47′s $17 million contract expires in 2011, Monroe is a great bargain to fill that spot.
10. Indiana Pacers – Patrick Patterson, SF/PF, Kentucky
The Pacers are in an unenviable position with the tenth pick. They have a lot of holes to fill, but didn’t get a great chance to evaluate the young talent on their roster last year.
Plus, the guys that could really help them long-term (Udoh, Monroe, and Aldrich in particular) are off the board at this point.
So what do you do?
I’ve heard Xavier Henry’s name floated around a lot at this spot. I just don’t see it though—he’s a stand-still shooter that will need a solid point guard that can get him the ball or a big that commands double-teams.
Indiana really has neither. Plus, I don’t think Brandon Rush is a terrible bargain for $2 million next year, and a $3 million team option for 2012 (granted, I only saw him against the Cavs, but he averaged nearly 15 a game on 44 percent three-point shooting). At the very least, they can further evaluate him this year.
The Troy Murphy/Mike Dunleavy experiment was an epic fail, partly because they make a combined $22 million a year.
For probably a quarter of the cost, Patrick Patterson can fill their role easily.
He plays very well out of post with his back to the basket. He really improved his outside jumper last year, and when it comes to finishing near the rim, he’s one of the best big men in this year’s class.
I think he’s improved enough defensively to take on the ever-growing small forward class (like Durant, James, etc.), but strong enough offensively to impose his own will.
11. New Orleans Hornets – Xavier Henry, SG, Kansas
I’ve mentioned Henry as possible selections for the last two teams, but didn’t either like his potential fit into a certain system (Utah) or thought his weaknesses would be too exposed on another (Indiana).
New Orleans needs help inside, but the last six selections have all been in the power forward/center breed. There’s no need to try to hit a home run with someone like Ed Davis or Daniel Orton.
Instead, they go with Henry, a dead-eye shooter who can really spread the floor.
There’s only so long you can go with Morris Peterson and Peja Stojakovic as your wing players. Eventually, you need some new blood.
Marcus Thornton was a fantastic pick-up for the Hornets last year. Add Henry to the mix, and the two have the size and speed to switch between the shooting guard/small forward position.
Plus, they complement each other’s games very well. Thornton is someone who can score in bunches, and when he gets going, he goes to the hoop strong.
Henry can knock down outside shots and slash off the ball well.
Add in the fact that Chris Paul and Darren Collison will be getting these guys the ball, and New Orleans has a fresh, young backcourt for the next five to 10 years.
12. Memphis Grizzlies – Ed Davis, PF, North Carolina
With three first-round picks, Memphis has a chance to build their roster around an O.J. Mayo-Marc Gasol nucleus.
The top offseason priority is signing Rudy Gay, but with the money that’s being floated around in one of the biggest free agency class in NBA history, he’s going to get a lot of money, and it’s probably in Memphis’ best interest if they let him go and use that cap space to sign someone like Gasol long-term.
If that’s the case, they’ll need another swingman. But with picks at No. 25 and No. 28, they can target guys like Quincy Pondexter, Devin Ebanks, Willie Warren, or Greivis Vasquez.
Since Gasol and Zach Randolph are only under contract through next season, adding another big might not be a bad idea.
Ed Davis is in the Chris Bosh-mold: lengthy, athletic, strong frame, is comfortable playing away from the hoop, and has great leaping ability. Because he’s left-handed and crafty, he’s a sneaky-good finisher as well.
Like so many other prospects, he’ll need time to develop. But playing behind Gasol and Randolph for a year will help, and the Grizz desperately need some sort of contribution from their bench.
13. Toronto Raptors – Larry Sanders, PF/C, VCU
He’s my first-round stretch, but hear me out.
If Bosh leaves Toronto, there’s a gaping hole at the power forward spot. Reggie Evans should never be counted on to play meaningful minutes if you expect to be a contender.
Offensively, I don’t think they need someone to come in and do what Bosh did. With Hedo Turkoglu, Andrea Bargnani, and a Jose Calderon/Jarrett Jack point guard combo, they should still be a fairly potent team.
What they need help with is defense. They gave up 105.9 points per game, good for 28th in the league and tied for last in the Eastern Conference. They also were a poor rebounding team, and losing Bosh won’t help that.
Bargnani is a finesse big man, one who doesn’t want to bang bodies inside—he wants to float around the perimeter on offense and use his size to shoot over people.
Larry Sanders is the ideal complement to him. He doesn’t mind going after rebounds, blocking shots, playing help defense, and not receiving a lot of shots on offense.
He’s quick enough on defense to keep up with more agile power forwards, but long enough to protect the rim (he’s estimated to have a 7’4″ wingspan).
A win-win situation.
14. Houston Rockets – Donatas Motiejunas, PF/C, Lithuania
Like I said in a previous mock draft, I don’t know much about this guy.
From scouting reports I’ve read, he’s a lengthy, versatile big who prefers to play from the outside-in rather than inside-out.
He’s got good range, but isn’t always aggressive as he should be.
Regardless, he might not even play in the states next year. Of any lottery team that has the luxury of waiting on a player to develop, it’s Houston. They have Yao Ming coming back from injury along with Jordan Hill and Chuck Hayes inside.
They have time to wait for him to (can you guess the word again?) develop.