Early Mock Draft

The 2008 draft could be called 2007 light. There are 2 players, Rose and Beasley, who are clearly above the rest. They’re not quite at the level Oden and Durant were last year, but they’re clearly the top 2 players  and there should be some spirited debate over who goes #1 and #2 during the days leading up to the draft. Like Oden and Durant did for Portland and Seattle last year, Rose and Beasley make Chicago and Miami the big winners in this draft. Also like 2007, this draft class has good depth after the top 2. The next tier of players is deep, but not nearly as deep as the 2007 class, which featured some likely future all-stars and some good players drafted in round two. That doesn’t mean this is a weak draft though. The problem for teams drafting from #3 on will be figuring out who those other impact players are. A strong case could be made for about 25 different players being good prospects, most of them being freshmen and sophomores. The thing is only 5-10 of these players will amount to anything substantial as pros. Because the draft is on the deep side prospect-wise, teams with multiple picks in the top 40 like Seattle, Memphis, Minnesota, New Jersey and Portland are all in a position to do well for themselves.

This mock does not necessarily reflect my opinion of where each player should go. Nor is it in order of how I would rank the players as prospects. All that stuff will come out in June, as usual. This is just one scenario I cooked up after evaluating team needs against available players. 

  1. Chicago: Michael Beasley, Kansas State: While Rose “might” be a slightly better long term prospect, my thinking is the Bulls go for the big guy here. Beasley is the better fit for the Bulls. The Bulls are a supporting cast looking for a go-to guy. Beasley seems capable of becoming that player much sooner than Rose. His presence will take pressure off the rest of the roster and should make the entire team more effective in that way.
  2. Miami: Derrick Rose Memphis: The great thing about having Dwayne Wade and Shawn Marion as your stars is that when healthy they’re both versatile, multi-position players who should be able to adapt pretty easily to either Rose or Beasley. Because of this there will be no need for the Heat to do anything other than grab whichever player Chicago leaves for them. This would also be a better place for Rose to start his career, as he won’t be asked to star right away, just support the two stars while he adjusts him game to the league.
  3. Minnesota: Jeryd Bayless, Arizona: This is where things start to get shaky in the 2008 draft. The gap in talent and potential between the top 2 and #3 is greater than that between #3 and #15 in my opinion. So this pick could end up becoming anything from a player on a par with Beasley and Rose to a memorable bust. Bayless is one of the most dynamic and efficient scorers in the nation. He also has some serious issues with passing the ball and playing defense. He’s the player remaining with the most potential and considering the needs in Minnesota are mainly in the backcourt, picking Bayless is the best move for the Timberwolves.
  4. Seattle: Kevin Love, UCLA: Like the Timberwolves, the Sonics had to be drooling over that top pick and the chance to draft Rose. That would have made things easy for either team. In their situation, the Sonics have to go best available athlete who doesn’t play SG or SF. That’s Love. He’s an offensive force whose passing skills will work well with this young, emerging team. There are enough good PGs out there and the Sonics have enough in the way of future draft picks and cap flexibility that finding a usable one shouldn’t be a huge problem.
  5. Memphis: Brook Lopez, Stanford: First thing to say here is I feel Lopez would be a reach at this point. But Memphis needs help inside and he’s generally considered the highest ranked big guy out there. The Grizzlies are a team that could improve their lot in a big way during the draft and the summer. They have 3 good, young PGs on their roster and several potential trading partners who need a PG. I could see them moving up to 3 or 4 or adding another pick or player while costing the team very little.
  6. New York: DJ Augustin, Texas: This would be another reach, but Augustin makes some sense here. The Knicks biggest need by far is at PG. I would personally prefer Lawson or Chalmers over Augustin, but assuming the Knicks go with a PG I think Augustin is the likely choice. New coach Mike D’Antoni needs a quick player who can score and dish to run his offense. Augustin appears to be the most Nash-like PG available, both offensively and defensively. It’s not like they’re passing up any truly great prospects to take him, so a reach for a player who might best run the new offense makes is probably a good way fo the Knicks to go.
  7. LA Clippers: OJ Mayo, USC: My feelings on Mayo are similar to the way I feel about Bayless. There are some signs of greatness, but more signs of merely slightly-above-averageness at this point. I do like the potential he flashes through his natural ability and on court hustle. He’s the best player left and unless the Clippers plan on dealing Brand there’s no reason to go big here. He’ll create some buzz around town for the Clippers who always need as much of that as they can get. That’s another reason I can’t see him sliding past #7.
  8. Milwaukee: D’Andre Jordan, Texas A&M: The Bucks are still pretty well set in the backcourt, so going big and raw at this point seems smart. There are several players who fit that description and Jordan looks like the best of the bunch right now. He’s not ready to play, but a few years down the road he could turn into something special. It’s never a bad move for a team to stockpile youthful 7-footers when there aren’t many other options available. Another factor in Jordan’s going to Milwaukee is the 2009 Bucks aren’t as much about bringing in immediate help, but to get the current roster to up their level of play defensively.
  9. Charlotte: Roy Hibbert, Georgetown: Hibbert has had somewhat of a down senior year, but this match seems like a good one. Hibbert is a strong defender who can probably come in and play a useful role immediately. The Bobcats just hired a coach who’s pushing 70 and probably has little use for a developmental prospect. The Bobcats are in desperate need of inside help of any kind and new coach Larry Brown has always worked well with a defensive grinder like Hibbert. Hibbert’s presence will allow Okafor to play more PF, which is his best position. Sometimes seniors get downgraded too much. Hibbert is a reasonably athletic 7’2” player who is clearly capable of being a strong post defender in the NBA. If he can’t get himself into the top 10 of an ordinary draft, then it’s clear that NBA GMs have collectively lost their minds going ga-ga over some moderately talented freshmen. He’s a great fit here and the Bobcats should draft him.
  10. New Jersey: Jevale McGee, Nevada: There are several players remaining who would fall into the “long, athletic, intriguing, young specimen” category. McGee may not be the best, or most promising of that bunch, but he has the best size and can play center. Those things make him a little more valuable than what else is out there and the likely pick for the Nets at this point.
  11. Indiana: Ty Lawson, North Carolina: The Pacers have been short on quality PGs for a long time now and there are a few good ones remaining. Lawson is much better than advertised and should eventually be an upgrade on Tinsley. At the very least he’ll give them some depth and the flexibility to move Tinsley during the season.
  12. Sacramento: Marreese Speights, Florida: Best big man on the board at this point. Speights is a little raw and had some trouble staying on the floor at Florida, but few players were as productive when they played. He should be able to give the Kings some help inside immediately and has some potential as a starter/impact player down the line.
  13. Portland: Anthony Randolph, LSU: The Blazers now find themselves in the fortunate position of having youth, depth and talent at every position. For such a team, drafting a player like Randolph is the best way to go. Randolph has great athleticism, but unlike some of the other freshmen, some semblance of a usable NBA player hasn’t taken shape yet. He’s just a big athlete who might be good someday, but right now doesn’t look like much more than a defensive role player. Thanks to some astute drafting the past 4 years, the Blazers have the luxury of gambling on such a player.
  14. Golden State: Joey Dorsey, Memphis: Dorsey may not be the best prospect left on the board, but he seems like a great fit for the Warriors. The biggest need in Golden State is rebounding and he’ll add lots of that. He’s also a strong inside defender who’s much more ready to contribute than some of the younger, more highly-thought-of players. That has to be important to a Warrior team that is close to crashing the playoffs. The final thing is he never shoots the ball, so the mad bombers on the Warriors would welcome a guy who’s happy doing the dirty work while not taking the ball out of their hands.
  15. Phoenix: JJ Hickson, North Carolina State: With Steve Kerr apparently on a quest to make Isiah Thomas look like Jerry West, it’s anybody’s guess which direction they go with this pick. Hickson stands out here and would be a good fit with his athleticism on the inside. Hickson is sort of a forgotten player. He’s been better than some more-touted freshmen and sophs who will dominate this part of the draft, but isn’t as well thought of. He can play though and would be a good fit for the Suns here.
  16. Philadelphia: Richard Hendrix, Alabama: Hendrix reminds me of Carlos Boozer in that I wonder if some NBA team will wake up to how good he is before he becomes a round 2 bargain. This seems like a good place for him to go. PF has been a nagging problem for Philly for a few years now. Hendrix is a player who can offer some immediate help and might even surprise some people by starting and doing well.
  17. Toronto: Jason Thompson, Rider: I know they love those Euros and Gallinari and Batum are still theoretically on the board of this theoretical draft. But the Raps desperately need some help on the. Thompson is an OK banger who can hit the trey. Such a player fits well in this offense.
  18. Washington: Russell Westbrook, UCLA: Whether Arenas returns or not, the Wizards are going to have to bring in help at PG. Westbrook is more athlete than player at this point, but he’s solid enough that he should be able to bring some immediate help. Playing next to a combo guard like Arenas might be the best way for him to break into the league.
  19. Cleveland: Kosta Koufas, Ohio State: Cleveland is another team that is best served taking a big, young prospect and hoping he develops some day. The Cavs are deep enough inside, but old. Koufas brings some youth to that mix and his ability to step outside and fire will make him a good fit next to the likes of Wallace and Vareajao and another player who will benefit from James’ ability to drive.
  20. Denver: Mario Chalmers, Kansas: Chalmers is the type of player Iverson has always had some success playing next to. The key factors about Chalmers in Denver are he can play both backcourt positions and he’s willing to do the dirty work on defense. Chalmers also shows potential to become an offensive force in his own right. He’s one of the few players remaining who will be able to offer something in the way of immediate help, which should be an important consideration in Denver.
  21. New Jersey: Danilo Gallinari: Young foreign players haven’t exactly lived up to their pre-draft hype the last few years. Gallinari looks like another one of that lot. His numbers are OK, but they don’t blow me away. I think he’ll slide about this far. I don’t know that the Nets will be looking for anything other than the best available here, so this seems like a good spot for him to go.
  22. Orlando: DJ White, Indiana: The biggest need here is some inside help. Every now and then Hedu Turkoglu just isn’t going to be the right match up at PF. White isn’t a great prospect and not even the best PF left. He is someone who can provide 10-15 minutes of decent inside play off the bench though and that might be the biggest need the Magic have.
  23. Utah: Eric Gordon, Indiana: Of the highly-touted freshmen, Eric Gordon seems most likely to become a bust and slip to around this level on draft day. There are some players I don’t much care for, like Lopez and Augustin, who I concede that I could be wrong about. I can’t say that about Eric Gordon. He just has too many red flags in his numbers and these things usually become more obvious by draft day. For that reason, I feel he’ll slide into the 20s. He can gun though. Jerry Sloan discovered the 3-pointer can be a very good thing last year. Gordon can provide more of that.
  24. Seattle: Ryan Anderson, California: They probably would have liked to take Lawson, Westbrook or Chalmers here and may trade up to do so, what with all the picks they’ve been piling up. If they keep the pick, they’ll go with the best young player remaining and Anderson is as good as anyone. He’s a terrific inside/outside scorer, who might be the most defensively-challenged player in the draft. The Sonics are still in the phase of accumulating as much young talent as possible, so Anderson should fit in with what they’re trying to do.
  25. Houston: Alecks Maric, Nebraska: The most pressing thing for the Rockets would seem to be finding some inside help in the event Yao’s recurring injury woes continue to be an issue. Maric is a decent enough prospect. He may never be a starter, but he’s big enough to play center and is someone who can contribute from the get-go. He’s ready to play immediately and offers enough in the way of rebounding and passing skills that he is certainly capable of being a useful 4th or 5th big man on a roster.
  26. San Antonio: Nicolas Batum: The Spurs prefer to draft foreign players and it works for them. If Batum slips this far, I suspect they’ll jump all over him. Batum looked pretty solid last year. This year he wasn’t as good. The same could have been said about Marco Bellinelli at this time last year, for whatever that’s worth. With Finley, Bowen and Barry all past 35, some youth is a definite need on the wing.
  27. New Orleans: Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis: The Hornets are still a little shaky on the wing. Stojakovic and Peterson are more snipers than slashers. CDR offers a nice changeup off the bench. Douglas-Roberts, Hibbert, Hedrix and Chalmers should all be bargains for where they end up going if the current buzz is accurate. They’re good players who have been passed on the boards and in the rumor mills by the frosh phenoms. What few mention is that most of the phenoms would do well to be where these players are by the time they’re juniors and seniors.
  28. Memphis: Darrell Arthur, Kansas: I had the Grizz going big with their first pick and I think they’ll do the same here considering their needs, even though the best players remaining are mostly wing players. Arthur isn’t big and his numbers leave a lot to be desired. But he’s still just a soph and he can run the floor like the Grizzlies plan on doing. This is probably a good place for him.
  29. Detroit: Chase Budinger, Arizona: The Pistons have done a pretty good job of stocking their bench with good young players for the future in Maxiell, Johnson and Stuckey.  So good, that it’s no stretch at all to think they’ll be a formidable force well into the next decade. Budinger is another player in that mold. Good potential, but needs to spend some developmental time before he’s ready. The Pistons can afford to wait on him.
  30. Boston: Shan Foster, Vanderbilt: They don’t have too many needs, but another gunner is always a nice thing to have around. Ray Allen seems like the most likely of the big 3 to start to slip or suffer an injury, so bolstering this part of the team makes sense. Foster won’t add much other than scoring, but he can fire it.

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