Today is the NBA’s draft, and brother Mike will be taking over the wheel with his predictions and observations.
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Seems the only consensus that can be drawn about today’s NBA Draft is that, well, there is no consensus. Scouts and GMs do agree that the top two talents in the draft are Memphis PG Derrick Rose and Kansas State F Michael Beasley, but there are at least 20 other names legitimately in play for the rest of the lottery.
And, if the rumblings out of Miami are to be believed, it’s no safe bet that Beasley, if he’s not taken No. 1 by Chicago, will be Miami’s choice at No. 2. According to ESPN, Heat GM Pat (the Bunny) Riley is enamored with former USC employee OJ Mayo, who has wisely spent his off-season working his way onto Dwyane Wade’s Fave Five. In a stretch, Arizona’s Jerryd Bayless could also be in play here.
The last couple of days have only added to the uncertainty. Indiana was said to be in the hunt for the best available point guard at No. 11 – possibly Texas’ DJ Augustin – but that could change after swapping oft-injured Jermaine O’Neal for Toronto PG TJ (Spinal Tap) Ford. In a couple of minor trades yesterday, Charlotte picked up Denver’s No. 20 (a momentary reprieve for Anthony Carter) and Portland got New Orleans’ No. 27. Also, as malihini Chad Ford reported this morning, Memphis and New Jersey could swap Nos. 5 and 10. New York was also believed to be looking to move up.
Here’s my stab at how this afternoon’s festivities could proceed. Consider it a conversation starter rather than an actual prediction.
1. Chicago: Derrick Rose — Given incumbent PG Kirk Hinrich’s struggles last year and the new perception around the league that versatile combo guards are they key to success, most draftniks have Rose pegged here as the prohibitive favorite, and we’re loathe to disagree. Still, don’t be surprised if the Bulls, who spent all last season moaning about their lack of scoring in the post, surprise everybody by picking Beasley, the most productive player in college basketball last year.
2.Miami: Michael Beasley — Riles may indeed be cool on Beasley and hot for Mayo (both have off-the-court character concerns) but I have a hard time believing that the Heat tanked the season for a 6-3 ‘tweener with a bigger posse than AI. Rumors that Miami may trade down (possibly with Memphis) have died down a bit, but that’s also a possibility.
3. Minnesota: OJ Mayo — Kevin McHale may very well pee his shorties if Beasley falls into the Timberwolves’ lap. Standford’s Brook Lopez and UCLA’s Kevin Love have been mentioned here under the assumption that Kevin McHale would like to find a skilled big man to work beside Al (Did-Anyone-Want-to-Kill-Himself-More-After-the-Celts-Won-the-Championship) Jefferson in the post, but No. 3 may be a bit too high for either. The Timberwolves already have Randy Foye and Rashad McCants, but Mayo could be better than both of them.
4 Seattle: Russell Westbrook — The soon-to-be Oklahoma Sonics already have a couple of rising frontcourt stars in Kevin Durant and Jeff Green. Westbrook, who’s stock has gone through the roof lately, is an attractive option to shore up one of the guard spots. Westbrook’s offense is limited, but he may be the first beneficiary of the Rajon Rondo Aura. Like Rondo, he’s a gifted athlete with lockdown defensive ability. Bayless, who’s stock has dropped, could be considered if offense is more of a concern. Then again, after wasting consecutive first round picks on centers Robert Swift, Johan Petro and Saer Sene, Seattle may look to get it right with Lopez or Love.
5. Memphis: Kevin Love — The Grizzlies are in full rebuilding mode and they could do worse than a highly skilled big man with a good feel for the game. Love’s Rambisian outlet passes could lead to 2-3 easy scores per game from rising star Rudy Gay.
6. New York: Danilo Galinari — Wouldn’t you know it? The Knicks finally can Isiah Thomas, and it’s right before the one important decision he might actually get right. Bayless and Indiana’s Eric Gordon (remember when tweener guards were the dumbest pick of the draft? Where have you gone Rodney Monroe?) will get a long, hard look here, but Galinari brings skill and a wealth of international experience, even if he wasn’t coach Mike D’Antoni’s favorite to start with.
7. LA Clippers: Jerryd Bayless — Sam I Am is a C and no one knows what’s left of Shaun Livingston after his horrific knee injury, so the safe bet is the Clips take the best available PG (or reasonable PG facsimile) here. They might also take a flier on a power forward like LSU’s Anthony Randolph as insurance against Elton Brand leaving next year.
8. Milwaukee: Brook Lopez — The Bucks upgraded their small forward position this morning by snagging Richard Jefferson in a trade for Yi Jianlian, but they still have needs to fill. Joe Alexander or Anthony Randolph could be considered if Charlie Villanueva isn’t the answer at PF— and does anybody think he is? DJ Augustine might also get a look as an eventual replacement for Mo Williams. Still, Lopez has size and talent and he seems to be the smart pick here given Andrew Bogut’s lack of development.
9. Charlotte: Eric Gordon Gee, with Tar Heels Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Danny Green and Wayne Ellington all staying put, whatever will GM MJ do? Gordon isn’t a true point guard, but he can bring the ball up and run a basic pick-and-roll, which is more than Raymond Felton seems capable of on too many nights. The Bobcats are said to be shopping Emeka Okafor, so Alexander, Marrese Speights, or Randolph might also make sense.
10. New Jersey: Joe Alexander — If the Nets, now in full LeBron-courting mode, don’t ship this pick to Portland, they’ll likely look to go big. The late-blooming Alexander is an explosive combo forward who might eventually mesh well with Jianlian and Sean Williams.
11. Indiana: Brandon Rush — Ford is one bad fall away from retirement and the Pacers have been listening to offers for Jamaal Tinsley seemingly since the Carter administration, so it’s possible Indiana still nabs D.J. Augustin here. However, Rush is a polished player on both ends of the court and the sort of team-first personality GM Larry Bird covets. He and Danny Granger could give Indiana a whole new look.
12. Sacramento: DJ Augustine — Any team that ended the season with the likes of Rashid Byrd, Nik Caner-Medley, Sergei Monia and Adam Parada on the roster needs serious help. And with 10-year nomad Anthony Johnson as the only true point guard under contract, the first step to recovery should be clear. Augustin is quick, tough, and a proven leader.
13. Portland: Anthony Randolph — No one loves draft day more than Trailblazers GM Kevin Pritchard, but the choices here are treacherous. Despite iffy returns on LSU big men over the last few years, Randolph projects well because of his size, athleticism and offensive skills. The Blazers could also reach for some insurance for Greg Oden by selecting Robin Lopez, Kosta Koufos or JaVale McGee. Donte Green, an intriguing prospect who underperformed at Syracuse, could also get a look.
14. Golden State: Darrell Arthur — Problem: The Warriors could really use a young, physical big man to compete with Tim Duncan, Amare Stoudamire, Carlos Boozer and the other West Coast bullies, but Don Nelson loves rookie post players the way Dick Vitale loves peace and quiet. When motivated, Arthur is a dynamic presence in the paint. He’s also a undersized and a bit of a head case, so Nelson should love him.
15. Phoenix: Robin Lopez — The Suns are hoping Rush is still available here. If he isn’t, they’ll look to shore up their defense with a solid post prospect. Lopez was overshadowed at Stanford by his more offensively skilled twin brother Brook, but he’s a better overall defender and showed flashes of offensive potential. Other possibilities: McGee, Green and Koufos.
16. Philadelphia: DeAndre Jordan — The Sixers are solid on the perimeter with the Andres (Miller and Iguodala), Louis Williams and Thaddeus Young, so they’ll look to add a big guy alongside or behind Samuel Dalembert. Despite his prodigious size and talent, Jordan was such a liability to Texas A&M last year that he barely got off the bench down the stretch. Still, he could develop nicely under a patient but tough coach like Maurice Cheeks.
17. Indiana: Mario Chalmers — The Pacers secured this pick in the O’Neal-Ford trade and will likely use it to grab the point guard they desire. Chalmers is a competent point guard, a tough defender and, as he showed in Kansas’ championship run, a clutch shooter.
18. Washington: JaVale McGee — The Wizards need size and McGee has it. He’ll need to get in much better condition before he can contribute, though. North Carolina State’s J.J. Hickson, a highly talented player who needs to learn how to integrate his talents to a team concept, might be worth a shot, too.
19. Cleveland: Kosta Koufos — Greg Oden’s successor at Ohio State quietly put together a solid freshman season and has reportedly shown well in pre-draft workouts. He’ll justify this pick if he can get Zydrunas Ilgauskas a few extra minutes of rest.
20. Charlotte: Roy Hibbert — The Georgetown center could have gone 10 spots higher last year. No matter. The Cats will be purring if his combination of size, passing ability and smarts falls into the late-round bargain bin.
21. New Jersey: Donte Green — Green, a 6-9 small forward, may need a couple of years to reign in his game, but he’s too good a prospect to fall any lower.
22. Orlando: Courtney Lee — Reports out of Disney World have the Magic split between Western Kentucky’s Courtney Lee and Florida’s Speights. Dwight Howard needs a better partner up front than Tony Battie, but probably not as much as the team needs a shooting guard better than Keith Bogans or J.J. Redick. Lee is is.
23. Utah: Chris Douglas-Roberts — CDR has a funky, syncopated game but he knows how to get the ball in the hoop via slashing drives or a reliable pull-up jumper, and he’s a solid defender.
24. Seattle: Marreese Speights — The Big Gator didn’t exactly make anyone forget Al Horford and Joakim Noah, and Florida coach Billy Donovan wasn’t quite head over heels in love with his effort and concentration, but Speights is still a solid bargain this late in the draft. Congolese big man Serge Ibaka might also be worth the minimal risk here.
25. Houston: J.J. Hickson — What the Rockets really need is a point guard, but the pickins are slimmer than slim at this point. They could go with a center to replace Dikembe Mutombo as Yao Ming’s backup — in which case Rider’s Jason Thompson should be the guy — but Hickson has better upside. France’s Alexis Ajinca, who has lottery talent but a prep school body, also merits some thought.
26. San Antonio: Bill Walker — If the Spurs hope to wring another championship out of their Big 3, they’ll need to start developing some young, athletic talent to replace Michael Finley, Robert Horry, Brent Barry and Bruce Bowen. Walker’s history of injury has killed his stock, but his talent is considerable and if he can bounce back from his latest boo-boo, he could pay big dividends down the line. If not Walker, or possibly Ibaka, count on the Spurs grabbing yet another foreign prospect you’ve never heard of and with the intent of stashing him until the next decade.
27. Portland: Nicolas Batum — The French prodigy was mentioned as a possible lottery pick at the beginning of the season, but a disappointing campaign in the Euroleague and concerns about the health of his heart have diminished the excitement. Still, he’s athletic and he possesses a mature all-around game. An interesting darkhorse possibility here is Washington State’s Kyle Weaver, a defensive ace in the backcourt.
28. Memphis: Alexis Ajinca — Ajinca will need time to develop his body and his game, but at this point, the Grizzlies have all the time in the world
29. Detroit: Jason Thompson — As deft as he’s been in his dealings, GM Joe Dumars hasn’t been one to stray too far from the box, especially after the Darko Disaster of 2003. Thompson isn’t spectacular, but he’s big, physical and quick enough to eventually provide decent minutes in the paint.
30. Boston: Serge Ibaka — As Kendrick Perkins’ injury in the Finals revealed, the Celtics are in serious need of a reserve big man. Ibaka is the sort of big, athletic but raw phenom that can get a GM fired if taken too early. But, as the last pick of the first round, he’s low-risk gold. Ibaka’s agents prefer that he go in the second round so they can shop for an ideal situation, but Boston looks like a good match and the guaranteed money that comes with a first-round selection can’t hurt. Another possibilities: Ante Tomic of Croatia or Mississippi State guard Jamont Gordon.
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In the spirit of the draft, here’s a picture of offensive lineman Raphael Ieru wearing a Celtics jersey:
And here’s cornerback Jameel Dowling wearing an MJ jersey:
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You never know who you’ll see while wandering around campus. Here’s former UH QB coach Dan Morrison with his successor, Nick Rolovich, and then with defensive coordinator Cal Lee:
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And here’s Dennis McKnight:
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The SMU/UH group departed for American Samoa this afternoon. Here’s some guy who used to coach at UH:
Here’s a guy with four Super Bowl rings:
And here’s a Tomboahi’s favorite player:
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By request, here are Liane and Kortney. Both will attend the blog anniversary party July 10.