The college basketball season is off to a fast start with more high-profile matchups than I can remember in recent memory. While some (BJ Mullens, Demar DeRozan, Connor Atchley) have struggled out of the gate, others (Cole Aldrich, Gani Lawal) have flourished in new, expanded roles.
As you will note, this is a 1-round draft. Please note that I have omitted a number of players. I may include them in future versions upon further research. Also, unlike MOST mock drafts, nearly all picks here are based on perceived need.
* Victor Claver: Originally tabbed as the 12th pick to Milwaukee, Claver suffered a fracture in his left leg earlier this month. His recovery time is expected to be five months, which may thwart his ability to break into the lottery this year.
* Potential 1st-year phenoms (e.g. Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Devin Ebanks, Willie Warren, Scotty Hopson, Samardo Samuels, Tony Woods, Ed Davis, JaMychal Green, Kemba Walker, etc.): To be frank, I have not seen enough of these players (except Ebanks, who I was vastly impressed with last night against Davidson) to make a solid judgment.
So, who did I leave out? Who did I overrate?
Feel free to comment on this post or write to me (email@example.com).
The draft order below is based on records ending on December 5, 2008.
1. Oklahoma City. Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma. The quintessential power forward, Griffin scores in bunches, fights for every rebound, plays steady man-to-man defense and goes after loose balls. Griffin takes a beating every game, so GMs will examine his health and free throw shooting with a fine tooth comb.
2. LA Clippers. Hasheem Thabeet, C, UConn. Rumors are abound that Chris Kaman is on the trade block, and Marcus Camby isn’t getting any younger. It’s a toss-up between Thabeet’s ability to block a few shots per game and alter many more versus the unfulfilled potential of BJ Mullens.
3. Washington. BJ Mullens, C, Ohio State. I don’t like this pick at all, because the Bullets (yes, that’s what I call them) invested last season’s 1st round pick on JaVale McGee. However, despite struggling early on, Mullens should improve his conditioning and begin to live up to his lofty standards. If not, don’t be surprised if the Bullets select Greg Monroe from Georgetown.
4. Minnesota. James Harden, SG, Arizona State. In a position to select the best player available, Harden is an immediate impact player at the 2. Despite being a tremendous scorer, Harden has shown unselfishness. His stock may drop as a result of limited foot speed. If Minnesota loses all patience with their point guards, Ricky Rubio is an option.
5. Sacramento. Ricky Rubio, PG, DKV Joventut. In need of a dominating force inside, there just isn’t one available at this point. Set at the SG (Martin, Garcia) and SF (Salmons, Greene) positions, the Kings go after the internationally proven floor general.
6. Memphis. Al-Farouq Aminu, SF, Wake Forest. The Grizz continue to stockpile their roster with versatile, agile players who can create mismatches at the drop of a dime. Aminu is no exception. DeRozan earns heavy consideration for this pick, though his game has been described as similar to that of OJ Mayo.
7. Golden State. Greg Monroe, PF, Georgetown. Monroe has plenty to prove, but the Warriors have to like his frame, skill set and desire. Especially after trading Al Harrington, it’s imperative for the Warriors to cultivate this youngster in the blocks.
8. Indiana. Cole Aldrich, PF/C, Kansas. I’ll admit it. When Aldrich played last season, I thought he looked lost. Furthermore, I was critical of his performance, especially at the offensive end. Though he has plenty to develop, Aldrich has been dominant on the interior and fleet of foot. This is perhaps the highest that Aldrich may be selected.
9. Charlotte. Damion James, SF/PF, Texas. The wiry James has among the best inside/outside games in all of college basketball. His ability to run up and down the floor makes him a great fit for the changing NBA. Though undersized at the 4, he has proven that he mix it up with the bigs.
10. Chicago. Demar DeRozan, SG/SF, USC. Since they are on the verge of losing Ben Gordon, the Bulls need a dynamic scorer. DeRozan can do that and much more, but he needs to become more consistent. This pick can turn into Stephen Curry if DeRozan continues to struggle.
11. New York. Stephen Curry, PG/SG, Davidson. There’s one thing I love about Mike D’Antoni. He doesn’t discriminate talent. Stephen Curry has proven against the best competition that he is worthy of playing at the next level. For a scorer, Curry’s shot selection is excellent, and he’s a better defender than anyone gives him credit for.
12. Milwaukee. Gani Lawal, PF, Georgia Tech. Lawal is still very much a raw talent. A bit of a reach, Scott Skiles may opt for an even larger reach by selecting a one-dimensional project big who is a specialist on the defensive end.
13. Toronto. Raymar Morgan, SG/SF, Michigan State. I’m no expert on the Raptors, but they lack the type of guard who can slash to the bucket, take fouls, and create easy hoops for Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal. With the right coach, Morgan can be an All-Star. Earl Clark, DaJuan Summers, Tyler Smith, Sam Young or Jody Meeks may also receive consideration.
14. Philadelphia. Chase Budinger, SG/SF, Arizona. Since trading Kyle Korver, the Sixers haven’t filled the shooting void. Budinger can shoot (not like Korver) and is an offensive dynamo.
15. Minnesota (from Miami). Brandon Jennings, PG, Lottomatica Roma. At pick #15, Jennings is too good a value not to be taken. He’s a prototypical point guard, but needs to add muscle mass.
16. Phoenix. Earl Clark, SF, Louisville. Clark’s unselfish nature and ability to contribute without scoring make him a huge asset for any team. Versatility is a strength, but Clark can continue to develop his mid-range and deep game.
17. New Jersey. Gerald Henderson, SG, Duke. Henderson’s athleticism and versatility make him an asset. He’ll need to become a better shooter, but he’ll flourish in an open-court set.
18. Oklahoma City (from San Antonio). Jarvis Varnado, PF, Mississippi State. The Thunder needs a defensive presence to complement the selection of Blake Griffin. Varnado averages over 6 blocks per game despite a lanky frame and his offensive game has seen improvement.
19. Dallas. Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina. After an injury set him back, Lawson has shown that he’s healthy. He’s not only healthy, but he’s shown commitment to defense. After JKidd is no more, Lawson has the smarts and ability to take over.
20. Detroit. Eric Maynor, PG, Virginia Commonwealth. Maynor has battled turnovers in this young season, but he can create his own shot and find teammates. A gritty defender who sometimes takes too many chances.
21. New Orleans. Tyler Hansbrough, PF, North Carolina. Known for his work ethic and will to win, Hansbrough fits into any winning team’s lineup. Psycho T will add a much-needed scoring element to the Hornets frontline.
22. Utah. DaJuan Summers, SF, Georgetown. Summers is a multi-talented wing who can do all of the essentials. Though he has yet to put it all together, Summers has shown that he’s coachable.
23. Denver. Luke Harangody, PF, Notre Dame. Though Harangody looks like, well, an unathletic white guy, he can run the floor better than most NBA players who are his size. Having an eye for the hoop, he can also rebound and shoot better than most.
24. Atlanta. Patrick Mills, PG, Saint Mary’s. Mills came onto the scene early last season against Oregon. He did superstardom in the Olympics with the Australian National Team. Precocious with a desire for improvement, Mills still can grow in shot selection.
25. Sacramento (from Houston). Patrick Patterson, PF, Kentucky. Patterson hasn’t quite shown the form he had last year prior to his season-ending injury. Though his stock has dropped since the season started, he remains one of the best players in the sophomore class.
26. Portland. Kyle Singler, SF, Duke. An excellent shooter, Singler bulked off this offseason to withstand the rigors of the ACC. If Singler continues to show muscle inside, expect him to realistically consider leaving school after this season.
27. Orlando. Jonny Flynn, PG, Syracuse. A 6’0” point guard on a good day, Flynn forgets that on the court and penetrates defenses. He shot 46% from the field last season, is up to 55% this season and took 46 free throws in his team’s four toughest games this season.
28. Cleveland. Connor Atchley, PF/C, Texas. The selection of JJ Hickson was the first step in replenishing an aging frontline. Atchley is a great fit for Cleveland, because he can place his mark on a game without having to take many shots.
29. LA Lakers. Tyler Smith, SF, Tennessee. Long, athletic and fearless. Those are the characteristics that can make Tyler Smith SEC Player of the Year and a lottery pick. What’s holding Smith back? An iffy jump shot and occasionally being too unselfish.
30. Minnesota (from Boston). Sam Young, SF, Pittsburgh. A multi-talented forward, Sam Young has shown dramatic improvement since arriving onto the scene at Pittsburgh. Despite that steady increase in productivity, Young still needs to be more judicious with the ball and shoot better from the charity stripe.