I’m a lover of non-war related drafts. The NBA draft is my Superbowl, if you can wrap your mind around that. This is my current First Round mock with analysis for the top 14 talents. Why 14? Because the lottery is the first 14 picks, silly. In about 24 hours we’ll know the actual draft order and things can get a bit more team specific. Until then, it's more of a best overall sort of affair. Feast…
1. Ricky Rubio PG EUROPE - Yep, I put him ahead of Blake Griffin. On a prospect scale of 1-100 I’d rank Griffin as a 93 and Rubio as a 90. That difference is negligible when you consider the Wolves dire need for a playmaker, a point guard and star personality. I am Morpheus-like in my belief/hope that Rubio is The One. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Steve Nash/Jose Calderon.
2. Blake Griffin PF OKLAHOMA - He’s a star in wait. I’m much higher on him than I was Michael Beasley and I was high on Beasley. His main knock is that he doesn’t have a jump shot, which not many bigs do when they enter the Association. His athleticism is first class for his size and his 'team first' attitude is what you need out of a leader. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Tim Duncan/Carlos Boozer.
3. James Harden SG ARIZONA STATE - He doesn’t look flashy or particularly quick but he’s highly creative and efficient when it comes to putting the ball in the basket from anywhere inside of 24 feet. His defense and positive attitude are right on, too. His criticisms are exactly like the ones Brandon Roy was subject to when he was drafted and we’ve all seen how that played out. Gamers game and ballers ball. It’s that simple. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Brandon Roy/James Posey.
4. Ty Lawson PG UNC - I might be the only person without the last name “Lawson” that ranks him this high but I’ve looked closely at his game and beyond being somewhat undersized at 6’0” I just don’t see many flaws. His strengths, on the other hand, are plentiful. His speed is elite, great court vision, a tenacious defender, strong, great at slashing to the rim, fiery competitor, clutch performer and stood out at a major college program. His major knock coming into last season was that he was a poor jump shooter. All he did to answer that was shoot 53% from the field and 47% from 3 point land. I love him. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Chris Paul/TJ Ford.
5. Tyreke Evans SG MEMPHIS - This guy is both a big time talent and a need position for the Wolves. At 6’5” he can play the wing, yet has PG skills. Memphis used him at point last year during a stretch where the team went 27-1. He’s a great scorer but not necessarily a great shooter. He gets to the rim with ease and is prone to drawing fouls. His perimeter defense is outstanding, which comes from his great quickness and sneaky reach. All that being said, he is a bit of a raw talent and does have some boom or bust potential. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Latrell Sprewell/Ronnie Brewer.
6. Brandon Jennings PG EUROPE - A pure point guard. Everything you’d want in one, to boot. Great speed, vision and passing ability with a very high ceiling (star potential). Character concerns arose with his decision to play in Europe instead of go to college but that was due more to poor grades and test scores than personal choice. Apparently he showed a lot of maturity and humility overseas playing with veterans. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Gilbert Arenas/Sebastian Telfair.
7. Hasheem Thabeet C UCONN - You can’t teach height and in a draft deprived of it Thabeet’s 7’3” frame is at a premium. No one can question his elite shot blocking ability, which is a major need for the Wolves, but in my opinion he failed to show enough progression in other areas this year to warrant a top 5 pick. He too often looks soft and passive when rebounding. I’d rather throw an expiring contract out for a guy like Tyson Chandler, which is all it would take, and draft any of the above players instead. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Dikembe Mutumbo/Michael Olowokandi.
8. Jonny Flynn PG SYRACUSE - This is a bit of a reach but I am enamored with his A+ intangibles and leadership. He’s got the overall skill set and demeanor you’d want from a point guard, although his jumper needs some work. He's sort of like Lawson, but slightly less good at everything. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Jameer Nelson/Antonio Daniels.
9. DeMar DeRozan SG USC - Based on athleticism and natural born talent this kid has more upside than anyone in the draft. On that along he should be a top 3 pick. Of course, that won’t happen because he’s a major project. So much so that he could fall out of the top 10. Flashes of greatness last season will keep him in the lottery and depending on how his workouts go he could approach as high as #5. Regardless, he’ll be in the dunk contest next year. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Vince Carter/Gerald Green.
10. Earl Clark SF LOUISVILLE - Another guy with freakish tools and notable question marks. He has the quickness and slashing ability of a wing along with the strength and power game of a post player. The problem is he rarely put it all together last season and often appeared to mentally check out of the game. The “Lack of Aggression” label is a tough one to shake. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Lamar Odom/Marvin Williams.
11. Jordan Hill PF ARIZONA - Next to Griffin, he’s the only other true power forward worthy of a first round pick. As a result, he’ll actually go much higher than this, perhaps as high as #3, but since my rankings are skewed towards the needs of the Wolves this is where he goes. He’s a very solid big man with a fast motor and all around skills. I just don’t see much star potential. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Al Horford/Chris Wilcox.
12. Stephen Curry SG DAVIDSON - I think anything beyond expectations as a role player, and a good one at that, are a bit unrealistic. He was extremely effective against double and triple teams all throughout his college career, has great intangibles and his shot will definitely translate to the NBA but other than that, he has as a lot of factors working against him. He’s short with a small frame, not particularly fast or athletic, comes from a small school/conference and cannot run as an effective point. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Mike Bibby/JJ Reddick.
13. Eric Maynor PG VCU - Not many people saw him play but he’s both talented and skilled. There’s a difference. Things that stand out: high basketball IQ, great on court leader, effective shot creator, clutch performer, all around offensive game. I like that he had a lot of big games against big teams. His defensive abilities are in question. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Mo Williams/Rafer Alston.
14. Jrue Holliday PG UCLA - He had huge buzz heading into last season and did nothing but underwhelm everyone who cared to watch, averaging 8 PPG and 3 APG. Still, he’s got a ton of talent and a lot of “experts” claim he was terribly mismanaged within the UCLA system. The only thing that stood out was his great skills as a defender, which is nice but not enough. He’s an upside pick. HIGH/LOW COMPARISON: Rodney Stuckey/Shaun Livingston.
15. Gerald Henderson SG DUKE
16. Jeff Teague PG WAKE FOREST
17. Terrance Williams SG LOUISVILLE
18. Sam Young SG PITTSBURGH
19. Nick Calathes PG FLORIDA
20. Chase Budinger SF ARIZONA
21. James Johnson SF WAKE FOREST
22. Patrick Mills PG ST. MARYS
23. Marcus Thornton SG LSU
24. DeJuan Blair PF PITTSBURGH
25. Dionte Christmas SG TEMPLE
26. BJ Mullens C OHIO STATE
27. Taj Gibson PF USC
28. Austin Daye SF GONZAGA
29. Wayne Ellington SG UNC
30. DeJuan Summers SF GEORGETOWN