Monday, June 23, 2008
The 2008 NBA Draft is this Thursday, June 26th 2008. Though not extraordinarily rich in superstar talent (no Greg Oden's in this draft), this draft is deep on quality players who can play major roles in the league. Here is a go at the Mock Draft through the lottery.
1. Chicago Bulls- Derrick Rose PG Memphis
The Bulls lucked out in getting the top pick and they are in position to add to their impressive stock of young talent. The 6'3'' Rose combines a point guards mindset with exceptional athleticism and size; think Steve Francis, only with top intangibles and a winners mentality (therefore not totally cacked). His feel for the PG position (mainly improving his ability to play slow, not breakneck at every moment) needs some work and so does his jump shot, but #1 overall picks are supposed to have the on-court and off-the-court game of Derrick Rose. The Chicago Simeon graduate comes home in a dream scenario.
2. Miami Heat- Michael Beasley SF/PF Kansas State
Beasley is taking something of a beating right now, with questions about his character and his size for the PF position (only 6'8'') taking center stage. Forget all that: Michael Beasley is a pure talent with rare skills. He can finish with both hands, rebound at both ends of the court and shoot from the perimeter. He has a fearless demeanor and dominated the college game like few in recent memory. Rumor has it that Pat Riley is dreaming of a "Flash and Dash" backcourt of Dwyane Wade and OJ Mayo. Maybe it's just me, but maybe Riles' needs to lay off the tanning booth and put a little less oil-can in that hair, it seems to be affecting his judgment. Miami would be foolish to pass on "Beastley", the 20-10 machine.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves- OJ Mayo PG/SG Southern California
Minnesota might be the most troubled franchise in the NBA, what with their bottom-feeder status in the standings, their apathetic fan support, poor ownership and the trade of their lone great player in franchise history (the indomitable Kevin Garnett). They need talent and have only 1 guy to build around (rising star and low-post beast Al Jefferson). They have combo guards galore with Rashad McCants and Randy Foye, but the 6'4'' Mayo is substantially better than both with his all-around polish and aplomb. He has a PG's handle, a SG's jump shot and plays great defense against both positions. For all the talk about how shady of a guy he is, Mayo appears to be a mature player ready to handle the NBA lifestyle. The Timberwolves should go for the 3rd best talent in the draft.
4. Seattle/Oklahoma City Sonics- Russell Westbrook PG/SG UCLA
This is where the draft gets interesting. The Top 3 players are pretty clear and now there is glut of talented but unpolished players. The 6'4'' Westbrook's stock is on the rise following a string of strong workouts. He plays as hard as anyone in the draft and is as unselfish as they come. He has shown he can play the point and some exceptional defense, even guarding the lightening fast Derrick Rose with some success. However his offensive game is unpolished; his moves to the hoop can be awkward and his jump shot is suspect. Seattle/OK City just needs good players to team with young forwards Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, and Westbrook would be a good young guard to develop.
5. Memphis Grizzlies- Brook Lopez C Stanford
Memphis made the worst trade of the decade last season, shipping All-Star Pau Gasol to L.A. for All-Time Bust Kwame Brown and other clutter. They have some good young talent in Rudy Gay and Mike Conley but they need a lot more. Brook Lopez was projected as the 3rd pick at the end of the college season but has seen his stock fall during workouts. Lopez is not the best athlete as he appears to lumber down the floor at times, but he is reasonably flexible and has tremendous size at over 7'0'' and 260 lbs. He has a tremendous touch from the free-throw line in, has a few legit post moves and can play solid post defense. If he can learn to rebound a bit better, tighten up his shot-selection and improve his agility, Lopez could turn into a rock solid starting center in the NBA.
6. New York Knicks- Kevin Love PF UCLA
This is pick is crucial for the Knicks, who need to change the culture of their team about as bad as Manhattan tycoon Donald Trump needs a new hairstyle. A smart, unselfish big man with the best outlet pass since We Unseld would be a nice start. The 6'9'' Love is pudgy, can't jump and doesn't run the floor with grace. But he can pass, he can rebound and can score inside or out. His basketball IQ is unusually high, and the hope would be that age and an NBA caliber training program/diet would help him grow out of his baby fat. The Knicks need more team-oriented players, so they should pass on flashy but ball-hungry combo guards Jerryd Bayless and Eric Gordon and go with the talented Bruin big man.
7. L.A. Clippers- Eric Gordon SG Indiana
Gordon is an interesting prospect. Short and powerful (some would say a little pudgy), the 6'3'' Hoosier has tremendous knee bend, which allows him to explode for powerful slams in the half-court over larger defenders. He has unlimited range out past the NBA 3, has the first step to blow by his man on the perimeter and the swagger to be a go-to scorer in the NBA. The problem with Gordon is that he regressed after Coach Kelvin Sampson was fired. He began jacking up terrible shots from 25 feet, began caring even less about his defense and his lack of body control was exposed as he began barreling into well-positioned defenders for costly charging violations. Was this because he lost his mojo after losing his beloved coach or was it precursor to his shortcomings? Gordon is something of a boom or bust pick, which is right up the Clippers alley. They need a SG to take over for the aging Cuttino "Cat" Mobley.
8. Milwaukee Bucks- Joe Alexander SF West Virginia
The Milwaukee Bucks, it would seem, have fully embraced the motto "Striving for Mediocrity" over the past 15 years, ever since the decline of the glorious Jay Humphries, Fred Roberts and Danny Schayes era. The fiercely loyal fans who flock to the Fortress on 4th Street every night are weary of excuses and rebuilding plans; they want results now. Which makes Alexander an interesting pick here at #8. Though a Junior, Alexander is a relatively raw talent, save his ripped 6'8'' physique. A tremendous leaper with great knee-bend, he has a very nice mid range face-up game, using both the jumper and the bounce well from that area. He hustles and scraps with the best of them, running the floor well and digging in on defense. Alexander lacks a great feel for the game and his toughness will be tested in The Association, but the Bucks would do well to address their glaring hole at the SF position and take this fast rising Mountaineer.
9. Charlotte Bobcats- Jerryd Bayless PG/SG Arizona
The Bobcats should be thrilled about Bayless being on the board, as he could go as high as #4 to the Sonics. The 6'3'' Bayless fits the mold of the dynamic combo guards who are tearing up the league right now. He has a full arsenal offensively, including a buttery pull-up J and explosive open court quickness. There are very few guards in the league who possess his raw talent; he is similar to Monta Ellis in his ability to blow by helpless defenders. The problem with Bayless is that he is not a real PG. As great as these combo guards are, true PG's like Tony Parker, Deron Williams and Chris Paul are the ones who are getting their teams deep in the playoffs. Still, a team like Charlotte needs front-line talent. Bayless could be a spark off the bench to start out and eventually push the underwhelming Raymond Felton for time at the point.
10. New Jersey Nets- Danillo Gallinari SF/PF Italy
The Nets need a spark. They have a nice nucleus of talent with Richard Jefferson, Devin Harris and Vince "Half-Man Half-Amazing" Carter. What they could use is an unselfish facilitator who can shoot from the perimeter. Enter the 6'9'' Gallinari, who very well might be off the board at #6 to the Knicks. He has drawn comparisons to Toni Kukoc for his versatile game, as he has the vision to play point-forward and the outside shot to stretch the defense. He will not be a traditional physical PF and like most Euros will need to work on his defense, but he has the type of game that can fit in well on most teams.
11. Indiana Pacers- DJ Augustin PG Texas
Indiana needs a PG. They were trotting out Travis Diener as their starter last year and though he boasts nice assist/turnover ratio, he shoots a miserable percentage and is a defensive liability. I have serious reservations about Augustin's viability as a lottery pick but teams need PG's and Augustin is a real point. He distributes handles and shoots very well, and shows the type of offensive creativity teams covet at the PG spot. However, the 5'11'' Augustin is very undersized and does not possess top end athleticism to compensate. I think Augustin can play in the league, but the Steve Nash comparisons are ridiculous; think Jameer Nelson.
12. Sacramento Kings- Darrell Arthur PF Kansas
The Kings are stuck in no-mans land. They have great fans, one of the best home-court advantages in the league, and some functional pieces in Kevin Martin, Brad Miller and Ron Artest. But they are stuck at the 35 win level, good enough to be competitive but not good enough to make the playoffs. What they do need is some frontcourt help and Arthur is a talented prospect. The 6'9'' Jayhawk has a smooth, athletic game, reminiscent of a smaller LaMarcus Aldridge. He has a nice mid-range game, equipped with a quality first step and a very good mid-range shot. But he is undersized and slight for the PF position and does not have the perimeter skills of an SF. He may be destined to become a valuable offensive specialist in the league, which is not ideal but good enough for the 12 spot.
13. Portland Trailblazers- Brandon Rush SG/SF Kansas
The Blazers are on the verge of becoming a top-flight contender, even in the rugged Western Conference. The much-anticipated debut of phenom C Greg Oden could send Portland deep into the playoffs next year, what with their already strong young nucleus of Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge and the superb coaching of Nate McMillon. The do need a PG and could look at Kansas PG Mario Chalmers, but Brandon Roy is a combo guard who alleviates some of the need for a true PG. They do have a need for an athletic wing who can play a role and do a little bit of everything and Rush is the perfect fir for the winning culture being built in Portland. The 6'7'' Jayhawk can hit the 3, finish on the break and play lock-down D on the perimeter. He may never be superstar because of his tendency to float during games, but the Blazers don't need a superstar, they need a championship caliber role player. You would be hard pressed to find a better one than Brandon Rush.
14. Golden State Warriors- Marresse Speights PF/C Florida
The Warriors love to run-and-gun and don't have the biggest need for a traditional big man, but Nellie-ball is all about creating mismatches and the 6'10'' Speights is the kind of rugged low post scorer a team can turn to for a few efficient buckets a game against a weak post defender. He shot well over 60% from the field for his college career and has the girth to play solid post D and box out for defensive rebounds. He needs to polish his game and gain more game experience, but Speights could be a steal at this point of the draft.
(Rare photo of Beasley playing street-ball in his native Philadelphia)
Preeminent sports journalist KC Johnson has noted that Beasley's off court troubles "run the gamut from stereotypically abhorrent behavior as a 12-year-old—slashing tires to a dead rat in a teacher's drawer." And new allegations of deliquent High-School behavior are still leaking from basketball blogs on a daily basis. This blurry camera-phone picture shows him in the act stealing his dean's (possibly Scott Skiles?) cap and showing a blatant disregard for Bel-Air Academy's strict dress-code. Michael was also found guilty of academic fraud after plagarizing several poems from well-known urban wordsmith Raphael De La Ghetto, including Street Beat, and several other modern classics.
(Beasley, left, was known as a high-school prankster)
But is Beasley getting a bad wrap? Several of his high school shifts can be attributed to his move from West Philadelphia to Bel Air, where Beasley relocated in order to live with his affluent uncle Phillip Banks and avoid trouble from area gang members. Life in Bel-Air wasn't all Cross Colours and "fly honey dips" either. Beasley has also overcome numerous hardships on his path from Philly to the NBA. Few NBA scouts are talking about the time Michael was shot in a february 1995 episode while being robbed with alongside his cousin Carleton.
(Beasley takes the tip during K. State's first victory at KU in more than 20 years)