2009 NBA Mock Draft Version 3.0 + Updated Consensus

The draft is just a few days away, so it’s a good time to take one final stab at mocking the first round of this draft. I’ll continue to update the consensus draft this week, but this will be my last attempt at predicting what will happen this Thursday.

First, let’s take a look at the most recent consensus. Chad Ford released the most recent version of his mock draft today, NBADraft.net also updated today, while DraftExpress updated their mock yesterday.

Now I’ll go, pick by pick, through the first round, taking the consensus into account while also throwing in my $0.02 here and there.

The Clips have shown no signs of trading away their opportunity to draft Blake Griffin. There is much fluidity with the next few picks, but the Oklahoma product is pretty much guaranteed to be the first pick. The Clippers will then (reportedly) try to move Zach Randolph or Chris Kaman, though it might be wise to move forward with Kaman and Griffin in the front court, Baron Davis at the point, and Eric Gordon and Al Thornton on the wing. Randolph is going to be tough to move. (I still can’t believe that Mike Dunleavy traded for him last season.)
Pick: Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma

The consensus says that Hasheem Thabeet will be the pick and I don’t disagree, even though he just pulled out of a workout with Memphis due to a shoulder injury. DraftExpress thinks that Memphis will go with James Harden and move O.J. Mayo to the point, which they say is his natural position. I don’t know that they’ve given up on Mike Conley yet, so I think they will go big with this pick. Their biggest need is at power forward, so trading down and drafting Jordan Hill is a possibility. But if they stand pat, Thabeet could very well be the pick, even though he doesn’t seem to want to play in Memphis.
Pick: Hasheem Thabeet, C, UConn

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John Hollinger’s Draft Rater likes Lawson

Earlier in the day, I wrote about how Chad Ford is hearing that Ty Lawson is shooting up some draft boards, and now John Hollinger’s Draft Rater (where he takes college statistics and a few other metrics to predict a player’s production in the NBA) says that he’s the top player in this draft. Yes, he’s even ahead of Blake Griffin.

Lawson, who is coming off an electric performance in leading North Carolina to the championship, grades out highly for several reasons: Although he’s short for a point guard, his shooting numbers (47.1 percent on 3-pointers), strong assist rate and microscopic turnover ratio (9.1, first among point guard prospects) all point to him as an NBA keeper.

The Draft Rater puts Lawson slightly ahead of Griffin for first, but this doesn’t mean a team should take Lawson first. The standard error in the projections for point guards is higher than it is for big men, which means random noise could be putting Lawson ahead just as easily as on-the-court performance. If the consensus is that Griffin is the better player, I don’t think Lawson’s statistical record alone is strong enough evidence to refute it. Additionally, we’ve heard questions about Lawson’s work ethic and injuries.

But the rating is emphatic enough for me to say Lawson should be at the top of the college point guard ladder, ahead of Jonny Flynn, Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague & Co. (If you’re wondering about Ricky Rubio, I’ll have more on him next week.)

Hollinger’s Draft Rater isn’t error-proof but it’s not a bad second opinion when trying to pick a player out of a group of two or more.

Or when you’re trying to avoid a bust…

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2009 NBA Mock Draft Version 2.0

It has been about two weeks since I published my first mock draft, so it’s a good time to check back in with all the news and rumors and take another stab.

Like I said in the intro of my first mock, it’s tough for me to make predictions about what teams will do because I’m constantly thinking about what they should do. These are obviously two very different things.

For this go-around, I’m going to try something a little different. I’ve compiled the picks for four mock drafts from sites that I respect — ESPN (Chad Ford), Dime Magazine, DraftExpress and NBADraft.net — and then I’ll provide my own picks taking their picks into account, to form some sort of consensus.

Let’s get on with it…

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NBA free agency and draft rumors

Charlie Villanueva is open to joining the Cavs, and given the current state of the economy, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the best he’ll be able to do is a deal at the mid-level (~$5.8 million). The Bucks first have to decide whether or not to make the qualifying offer (~$4.6 million) and they may elect not to in order to avoid going over the luxury tax threshold (~$71 million, and could drop). Without Villanueva (and Ramon Sessions, who is also slated to become a restricted free agent), the Bucks’ payroll is at about $61 million with only eight players under contract. Villanueva would give the Cavs a good matchup for Rashard Lewis. Both players are slender power forwards who can shoot the ball, though Charlie V isn’t known for his defense.

– UFA Andre Miller doesn’t have a problem with the Sixers’ hire of head coach Eddie Jordan. The Sixers are over the cap but well under the luxury tax, so I’d expect them to sign the 33 year-old to a one- or two-year deal in the $6-7 million range. He is unlikely to get that on the open market, but Portland is a team with cap space that could use his leadership.

– Toronto GM Bryan Colangelo plans to keep Chris Bosh and try to surround him with better players, unless the talented power forward expresses serious doubts about re-signing. By sending Jermaine O’Neal to the Heat for Shawn Marion (and his expiring contract), the Raptors have about $10 million in cap space heading into the summer. While that may not be enough to land someone like Carlos Boozer, it is enough, coupled with the team’s mid-level exception, to add two or three pretty good players to the roster. How about Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva/Chris Andersen? I’d expect the Bosh rumors to heat up next season if Toronto struggles again early on.

– Hoopsworld says that there’s a rumor making the rounds that the Thunder might take DeMar DeRozan #3. This sounds a little fishy to me because everything I’m seeing shows DeRozan slipping a little after poor agility and sprint tests at the combine. James Harden has the better standing vertical and is just 1.5″ off of DeRozan’s max vertical. Harden also beat DeRozan soundly in the agility and sprint tests and is the much more polished offensive player at this point. DeRozan is 1.5″ taller, but Harden has a higher reach because he has a longer wingspan.

– With Jonny Flynn and Jrue Holiday climbing the draft charts, Ricky Rubio is suddenly open to interviews and workouts with teams picking #2 to #4, which includes Memphis, Oklahoma City and Sacramento. Rubio apparently didn’t play very well in his season finale, and his camp may be worried about him slipping out of the top four if those teams in question find a guy they like better.

NBA Rumors: Draft Combine

The NBA draft combine started yesterday and here are some of the rumors and observations coming out of Chicago (from Draft Express and ESPN’s Chad Ford).

James Harden might go #3 to Oklahoma City or #5 to Washington. Sacramento #4 is a no-go because the Kings already have a star shooting guard in Kevin Martin.

James Harden for example has elected not to conduct any interviews with teams drafting outside the top five, canceling a scheduled interview at the Westin Hotel with the Cleveland Cavaliers for example. He also reportedly will not be conducting any competitive workouts with anyone anywhere in the draft process. A source close to him tells us he feels very good about the possibility of being selected by Oklahoma City or Washington, and for right now is not planning on visiting the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Most teams we’ve spoken to in Chicago are indicating that they believe Oklahoma City is indeed leaning towards picking Harden. They also believe the Thunder are not enamored with Rubio at all, as they are committed to developing Russell Westbrook at his natural position—point guard.

This seems high for Harden, who had a great season but completely disappeared in the NCAA tournament. He is a very skilled scorer and he should thrive if open shots are created for him by a playmaking teammate. I don’t know how good he is at getting his own shot.

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