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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Oklahoma City explores its options

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman had this to say about the current trade winds in the NBA…

With just 10 days remaining until the June 25 NBA Draft, one league source said there has been an unusual silence around the league regarding substantial trade talks. The source said the economy is likely the culprit, with the majority of teams primarily interested in shedding high-dollar contracts.

“Dumping contracts is going to be the principal thing in this draft as far as trades go,” the source said. “You’re not going to see pick-for-pick (trades). You’re going to see pick and bad contract for pick.”

Outside of the run of the mill free agents, I think there might be a few big names changing teams this summer, but my bet is that they’ll mostly be the second-tier stars with bloated salaries. The playoff teams that are willing to spend won’t shy away from adding the salary given that the player may be the missing piece to the championship puzzle.

In another column, Mayberry discusses the importance of different positions in the NBA…

Nine of the 10 teams that finished the season ranked in the top 10 in opponent scoring made the playoffs. The common denominator: all had an interior defender or shot-blocker at the center position. (Nine of the 10 teams that finished at the bottom 10 in opponent scoring missed the playoffs. All but two — Chicago and Phoenix — lacked a difference-maker defensively at center.)

But on the flip side, with its roster under construction, the Thunder isn’t in a position to draft for need. Many observers around the league think the Thunder should select the best player available, regardless of position and in spite of Oklahoma City’s gaping hole in the middle.

“A lot of teams feel it’s way more important to have a Brandon Roy than a center,” said the scout. “A guy who can run the high pick-and-roll, get to the free throw line, make plays for others. It’s not even close. You’re dead in the water if you don’t have that guy.”

The Thunder pick third, so they’re likely looking at Ricky Rubio, Hasheem Thabeet and James Harden. The Rubio/Harden decision comes down to what the team has planned for Russell Westbrook. Is he the point guard of the future (as Chad Ford keeps reporting)? If so, it doesn’t make sense to draft Rubio. If they feel that Westbrook is better suited for off guard, then a Rubio/Westbrook backcourt could also be formidable. I’m guessing that the Grizzlies are going to go with Thabeet at #2, so OKC may very well have to make this decision later this month.

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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2009 NBA Mock Draft Version 1.0

With the NBA Draft Lottery behind us, we now know the exact order of the first 14 picks. The Los Angeles Clippers hit paydirt when they won the right to draft Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin with the first overall pick. The Grizzlies moved up from #6 to #2, and the Thunder moved up one spot to pick #3. The big losers Tuesday night were Sacramento and Washington, who had the best and second-best shot at the top pick, but instead fell to #4 and #5, respectively.

Mock drafts are tough for me because I’m usually thinking about what teams should do instead of trying to predict what they will do. This mock will be more predictive, but if I disagree with a selection, I’ll say so. Over the next few weeks, I’ll update this mock to jive with the latest news from around the league. It’s still very early in the process so things are very fluid. One mock has a player going #11 while another may have him going #29.

I’m just going to make picks for the first fourteen slots on the first go-round and then provide the picks of a few different mocks that I respect for #15-#30, along with a short writeup for each team.

Even Mike Dunleavy can’t screw this one up. Barring something obscenely out of the blue, Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin will be the first overall pick. The Clippers could use a power forward to replace Elton Brand, and Griffin is the only “sure thing” in this draft. He’s strong, skilled and athletic, and he has an improving offensive game. He has star written all over him.
Pick: Griffin, PF

The Grizzlies were reportedly one of the few teams more interested in UConn’s 7’3” center Hasheem Thabeet than they were in Blake Griffin. The Grizzlies already have 7’1” Marc Gasol, so Thabeet wouldn’t fill a need like Jordan Hill, Ricky Rubio or Brandon Jennings would (assuming the team isn’t sold on Hakim Warrick or Mike Conley), but Thabeet has the potential to become a dominant defensive center along the lines of Dikembe Mutombo. But will he be willing to put the work in to become an effective post player?
Pick: Thabeet, C

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Hasheem Thabeet to enter NBA Draft

UConn junior Hasheem Thabeet will forgo his senior season and declare for the NBA Draft.

“After spending time with my family and friends and speaking with Coach (Jim) Calhoun, I have decided to give up my final year at UConn and enter my name in the 2009 NBA Draft,” Thabeet said via a statement. “I have had a great experience at Connecticut and cannot thank my coaches and teammates enough. I look forward to the challenge of playing professionally and know that my time here at UConn has prepared me to be successful in the future.”

The 7’3″ center averaged a double-double (13.6 points, 10.8 rebounds) and an eye-popping 4.2 blocks per game on the season. I think he has the potential to be a very good defensive-minded center (think Dikembe Mutombo). He’s pretty fluid for his size and can get up and down the court with ease. His hands seem small (as he loses the ball often when he brings it down below his waist) and his post moves need a lot of work. Like anyone with his size and natural athleticism, he’ll be as good as he wants to be.

He is a likely top 5 pick, so this decision makes sense.

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