This time of year is always great for NBA draft junkies like myself. This year, however, is even better than most because of the mass uncertainty extending all throughout the 1st round. Last year, Russ Westbrook was a curveball and no one saw Jerryd Bayless falling as far as he did, but for the most part dudes went where they were supposed to, especially in the lottery. This year will be nothing like that. Everything after the 1st overall pick (and even that isn’t a given) is up for grabs and it is exhilarating. Here is a sampling of the rumors that are abound about various prospects, collected from columns, articles, fan forums, nerps, message boards, etc…
Blake Griffin PF OKLAHOMA - Very likely to be #1 but some think there is a chance the Clips really want Rubio and his star power to compete with the Lakers on a dollars level. Basically, they’re looking for an excuse to not take Griffin.
Ricky Rubio PG EUROPE - He has become less of a lock to go #2. For one, the Grizzlies apparently do not have good standing in Spain due to poor relations with the Gasol bros and Juan Carlos Navarro. Two, word got out that Rubio was not interested in playing in Memphis or OKC, which draft #2 and 3 respectively. He denies this but you never know. Three, analysis of his strength and lack of consistent jump shot have intensified and become more critical. Some mocks have him falling to the Kings at #4, but I’d still bet on Memphis at #2.
Hasheem Thabeet C UCONN - Almost no buzz around this guy. Maybe that’s because there are no other centers worth a damn so he doesn’t really have any competition. Too bad Cole Aldrich didn’t come out. He could go as high as #2 to the Grizz or as low as #6 to the Wolves. The Thunder at #3 and Wizards at #5 are ideal.
James Harden SG ARIZONA STATE - Also difficult to peg. Word out of the Chicago pre-draft camp is that he raised red flags when he refused to work out against Tyreke Evans. He also apparently rubbed several teams the wrong way by refusing to personally workout for any team drafting after #4. Awfully presumptuous for a guy who had a terrible NCAA Tourney performance and is by no means a lock to go in the top 4. Rumors have him going to OKC at #3, Washington at #5 or Minnesota at #6.
Jordan Hill PF ARIZONA - The sky is sort of falling for this guy. After Griffin he is the only real lottery worthy PF in the draft, although a lot of teams think DeJuan Blair PF PITT is a better value in the mid-teens. Some reputable mocks have Hill falling to Milwuakee at #10 or possibly beyond, which I think would be a Brook Lopez-like steal. Washington should take him at #5. He’s NBA ready and fits their exact need in the post. He would also be a good fit in OKC, Golden State at #7 or Toronto at #9 (yes, foreshadowing Bosh’s departure).
Stephen Curry PG/SG DAVIDSON - He’s skyrocketing up the charts. He impressed the hell out of a lot of GMs at the Chicago camp and apparently showcased some passing skills that have people believing he could get by as a shoot-first PG. His basketball pedigree and knowledge for the game are working for him, as well. OKC has scheduled an all day workout for him and the word is that they have no plans to trade down. Charlotte is also very interested in moving up to snag him. I’ve seen him mentioned going to every team between #3 and #8, but never after that.
DeMar DeRozan SG USC - The most recent rumor is that DeRozan has a promise from Toronto at #9. He also fits the profile of a Golden State sort of pick. Talk of going in the early lottery has faded but some think he is still being considered by OKC and Minnesota.
Tyreke Evans SG MEMPHIS - He played PG for most of his final season in college but NBA execs apparently don’t think he can cut it as one at the next level because if they did he’d probably be projected in the top few picks. His ceiling pick is Washington at #5, but Minnesota or Toronto remain the two most likely destinations.
Johnny Flynn PG SYRACUSE - Not quite at the same rate as Curry, but he’s climbing the charts, as well. His charisma translates to leadership and his clutch ability in the NCAA tourney was the stuff of legends. He’s a true point guard with the speed, strength and tenacity to guard any point in the league. Until now I’ve always projected him at #10 to Milwaukee but I’ve recently seen him as high as #4 to Sacramento. I’ve even heard his name whispered in a few Minnesota rumors.
Brandon Jennings PG EUROPE - When players like Curry and Flynn start to climb, someone else has got to fall. That someone in this case is Jennings. He refused to participate in the Reebok Euro Camp, which doesn’t look good for a guy trying to prove he’s hungry, and his limited workouts so far haven’t looked good. He’s got plenty of time to turn it around but at this point he’s probably a late lottery pick.
BJ Mullens C OHIO STATE - The last pick or two of the lottery is the absolute best he can hope for but he has done enough in workouts so far to salvage his draft stock. A few weeks ago he was cruising towards the bottom of the 1st round but he’s been able to showcase his natural talent enough in order to stabilize.
Jrue Holliday PG UCLA - Tougher to project than any other top prospect in the draft. If you like him, he never got a fair shot at UCLA and was used out of position. With his size and skill set he should be the second or maybe even first PG off the board, possibly to Sacramento at #4. If you don’t like him, he got thoroughly outplayed by Darren Collison at UCLA and has no business even entering this draft. He’s a total underachiever with unproven skill and if you take him higher than #20 you’re wasting your pick. That’s how differing opinions are on this kid.
DeJuan Blair PF PITTSBURGH - An undersized banger PF in the mold of Craig Smith but with a better overall game. Would be perfect for Detroit at #15 or Chicago at #16, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he went higher to maybe New Jersey at #11.
Earl Clark SF/PF LOUISVILLE & James Johnson SF/PF WAKE FOREST - Both of these guys will probably go between picks #10 and 15. New Jersey and Phoenix seem like likely destinations for either. Both have that tweener forward game that was clearly powerful enough in college but will be difficult to project as pros.
Ty Lawson PG UNC, Eric Maynor PF VCU & Jeff Teague PG WAKE FOREST - By all accounts, these three have fallen to the back of the PG rankings for their own various deficiencies. Of the three, Lawson gets the most love but at this point they all look like they’ll go somewhere between #13 and #25.
Gerald Henderson SG DUKE, Terrance Williams SG LOUISVILLE & Marcus Thornton SG LSU - The second tier of SGs, probable will go in that order. Henderson could go as high as Charlotte at #12. Williams will probably go in the mid to late teens with Chicago at #15 being a real possibility. Thornton has Courtney Lee/Chris Douglas Roberts written all over him, meaning he’ll either be a solid late 1st round pick or a steal in the early 2nd.
Chase Budinger SF ARIZONA, Sam Young SF PITTSBURGH & Austin Daye SF GONZAGA - All wing players with uniquely different games but will probably be sought after by teams looking for similar things. I’ve seen Budinger rated the highest with Phoenix at #14 being a possibility. Sam Young could sneak into the mid teens but will more likely go somewhere in the 20s. Austin Daye is a boom or bust, freak athlete/raw talent type player all the way. He could easily slip to the early 2nd round ala DeAndre Jordan or go as high as #15 to Detroit, who has worked him out a couple of times.
Patrick Mills PG ST. MARY’S & Darren Collison PG UCLA - Safely in the third tier of PGs and looking like fringe 1st round picks. Could easily be targets of the Wolves at #28 if they don’t take a PG with either of their first two picks and/or keep the 28th pick, neither of which is likely.
Tyler Hansbrough PF UNC, Gani Lawal PF GEORGIA TECH, Taj Gibson PF USC & Jeff Pendergraph PF LSU - The distant second and third tier PFs. Pendergraph should be a 2nd round pick for sure but I love him as a super steal. Seriously, keep your eye on him. Anyone of the other three could sneak into the late 1st round but it wouldn’t at all be surprising to see them fall into the 2nd. My sneaky call is that Hansbrough breaks the trend of college stars equals terrible pros and actually becomes a serviceable player in the NBA.