Are we going deaf, or did Kevin Love actually say, “My passion bucket is running high” when he appeared on camera at the NBA Draft Lottery? Whatever K-Love was depending on to get his squad the top pick, it didn’t work: The Clippers were tonight’s big winner, snagging the No. 1 spot, followed by Memphis and Oklahoma City. Now that we know the order, here’s our first official 2009 mock draft:
1. L.A. Clippers — Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma
Their frontcourt isn’t as loaded as you think. With a chance to get a future superstar in Griffin, the Clips would gladly trade Zach Randolph, Marcus Camby and/or Chris Kaman in a second. The big-city squad adds another quiet, solid-character Midwestern kid to hang out with Eric Gordon.
2. Memphis — Ricky Rubio, PG, Spain
And so ends the Mike Conley era.
3. Oklahoma City — Hasheem Thabeet, C, UConn
Another easy choice. OKC fills its most glaring hole with a guy who can either be the next Mutombo or the next Dalembert. Either way, they’re getting a better center than anyone they have currently, and ideally an interior anchor for Scott Brooks’ defense.
4. Sacramento — Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy
They were ready to start printing Blake Griffin jerseys tonight, but now that the pipe dream is gone, the Kings can fill another need by getting Beno Udrih’s eventual replacement. ARCO Arena is one of the League’s most dynamic places to watch a game when there’s something to be excited about. Sacramento will come back to life once (not)White Chocolate 2.0 comes to town.
5. Washington — Jordan Hill, PF/C, Arizona
A tough-minded rebounder and defensive presence that’s needed on a team that’s all about offense. Hill and JaVale McGee are a nice pair of young bigs to build on.
6. Minnesota — James Harden, SG, Arizona State
Here’s Minnesota’s chance to make up for trading O.J. Mayo on draft night last year. Though Harden might not flirt with 20 points per game his rookie season, he’s still the best scoring guard in the draft.
7. Golden State — Jonny Flynn, PG, Syracuse
Though it would make sense for the Warriors to add a franchise point guard, no one knows what Don Nelson, Robert Rowell, Larry Riley or some other masked man who runs the Warriors will decide.
8. New York — Stephen Curry, PG/SG, Davidson
No matter what the Knicks’ public relations mouthpieces say about the “guarantee” that they supposedly didn’t give to Stephen Curry, that story didn’t appear out of thin air. Steph fits with Mike D’Antoni’s pace, and goodness gracious the kid can shoot.
9. Toronto — Earl Clark, SF, Louisville
Toronto needs to find a new face of their franchise. Earl Clark is the one guy not named Blake Griffin with superstar potential in this class. And recently he’s proven to be a high character guy who is seeking out advice from scouts and GMs to help himself improve.
10. Milwaukee — Tyreke Evans, PG/SG, Memphis
At No. 10, there really isn’t a marquee power forward who would be a significant improvement over Charlie Villanueva. Thus they’re better off addressing their questionable point guard status. Why not go for a kid who some have compared to Brandon Roy?
11. New Jersey — DeMar DeRozan, SG/SF, USC
The Nets are looking to move Yi. DeRozan might not be ready to contribute offensively right away, but this Draft’s best athlete would help to make the Nets much better defensively. Plus, his acrobatics will help to sell tickets in Jersey (and eventually in Brooklyn).
12. Charlotte — Gerald Henderson, SG/SF, Duke
Would MJ allow his squad to take a Duke product with a similar UNC standout (Wayne Ellington) still on the board? Henderson can slot in at the two or three, and he’s going to be a much better defender than Ellington.
13. Indiana — Eric Maynor, PG, Virginia Commonwealth
They need a true low-post scorer more than anything, but there’s not really one available at this spot who justifies going 13th. Maynor will be a steady influence on both sides of the court, plus he can help lighten the scoring load on Granger.
14. Phoenix — Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina
Unfortunately Goran Dragic looks more like a career backup than the alleged replacement for Steve Nash. Lawson has the same explosive step that Dragic was supposed to possess, but he can also put the ball in the basket.
15. Detroit — Wayne Ellington, SG, North Carolina
Joe Dumars knows what he’s doing; if he can get another Rip Hamilton, he should jump at the opportunity. Ellington is a sensational pure shooter. And he’d benefit so much from learning even more about moving without the ball from Hamilton.
16. Chicago — Terrence Williams, SF/SG, Louisville
The Bulls plans with Ben Gordon should dictate how they approach this draft. T-Will couldn’t replace his offensive output, but he’d be an eager perimeter defender who could make John Salmons life easier.
17. Philadelphia — Jeff Teague, PG, Wake Forest
Andre Miller is going to be on the open market this summer. Instead of paying him in that $8-10 million per year range, Philly would be better off finding someone in this draft. The question is whether Teague is the right guy. He’s a bit of a scoring PG who could end up just like Lou Williams. That’s not an ideal situation.
18. Minnesota — Chase Budinger, SF, Arizona
Mike Miller has a 2010 expiring contract worth more than $9 million, and he can shoot your face off. You don’t think some contender will convince Minny to unload him before the deadline? The Wolves can get some depth on the wing with Budinger, to go with the returning Corey Brewer.
19. Atlanta — B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State
Hawks fans would love a point guard, but do they take Patty Mills here if everyone else is off the board? Mullens is a great option for the Hawks, as he would allow Al Horford to play the four, where he seems to be much more comfortable offensively.
20. Utah — James Johnson, PF, Wake Forest
With Carlos Boozer likely headed out of town, the Jazz need to find a way to replace his scoring. Paul Millsap can pick up a portion of Boozer’s 20-point haul, but he won’t fill his shoes entirely right off the bat. Johnson is a former kick-boxing champion who could very well develop into a Brandon Bass-type player.
21. New Orleans — Jrue Holiday, PG, UCLA
Holiday could end up being the steal of the draft, perhaps this year’s Rodney Stuckey. Some believe that he was seriously hindered by Ben Howland’s slow, grind-it-out offense. If Jrue goes to the Hornets, who desperately need a real backup for Chris Paul, he’ll go back to the position that earned him such a high ranking in the first place: point guard.
22. Dallas — Patty Mills, PG/SG, St. Mary’s
Jason Kidd’s days are limited in Dallas. Though the team might re-sign the aging PG, the Mavs would be well-advised to start working on a successor. Mills possesses some of the qualities that everyone likes in another PG who spent time in Dallas, Devin Harris.
23. Sacramento — Marcus Thornton, SG, LSU
This might be a bit of a reach, but in Sacramento’s effort to create some more offense, they’d be smart to add another guard who can score. At the end of the season, it became apparent that they really missed the offense that Johnny Salmons provided. Here’s a solution.
24. Portland — Gani Lawal, PF, Georgia Tech
The Blazers have a plethora of small forwards, all of whom can score. But none of them can bruise the opposition down on the block. Lawal is a man who will play defense and rebound. He would have been a great guy to stick on Luis Scola in their first-round matchup.
25. Oklahoma City — Sam Young, SF, Pittsburgh
Jeff Green will be a really good pro one day. Sam Young offers one way to accelerate that progression. Young will put the pressure on any NBA three to perform in practice. He plays D, and if you aren’t careful, he’ll bang one on your head. He’d offer nice depth here.
26. Chicago — DeJuan Blair, PF, Pittsburgh
Tyrus Thomas and Brad Miller were great during the playoffs holding down Chicago’s front lines. But they need some help on the block for the 82-game haul. Blair was one of the best offensive rebounders in college basketball history; he’ll help out on the glass in the League.
27. Memphis — Derrick Brown, PF, Xavier
It’s worth taking a chance on the 6-8 Brown here. Though he might just add to a gluttony of power forwards, he could end up as a special player. Between his junior and senior seasons, he added a formidable three-ball to his arsenal. That’d be a welcome addition to this squad.
28. Minnesota — Taj Gibson, PF, USC
Al Jefferson and K-Love are studs, but they aren’t exactly world-class athletes. The Wolves could use somebody with some spring in their legs up front.
29. L.A. Lakers — Omri Casspi, SF, Israel
He could very well pull out of the draft if he doesn’t receive a guarantee as he did last year. Casspi could give L.A. great depth at the three, especially since it looks like Adam Morrison is never gonna get a chance to play. He shot 45% from deep for Maccabi Tel Aviv this season, and has drawn comparisons to Hedo Turkoglu.
30. Cleveland — Tyler Hansbrough, PF, North Carolina
A smart player who will toe the line in LeBron’s army.