2009 NBA Basketball Draft Preview/Predictions
The NBA Draft Lottery is a form of socialism designed to help weaker teams get better.
The NBA’s dirty secret is that the lottery can’t do a lot for stupid teams.
That said, not even the Los Angeles Clippers can mess this up.
Assuming the Clippers are able to find their way to Madison Square Garden in New York, a little after 7 p.m. next Thursday, the front office will use its hard-earned first overall pick to take Oklahoma forward Blake Girffin.
It takes only one big trade to blow everyone’s mock draft to smithereens, but if GMs get cold feet and no blockbuster is made, the first round could go something like this:
1. LA Clippers – BLAKE GRIFFIN (Oklahoma) PF
Cheapo owner Donald Sterling hates to spend money, but he’ll have to dig deep to sign Griffin. The big forward is agreat finisher at the rim and is so active no one will want to guard him once he figures out the NBA game. The ghosts of former overall No. 1s Michael Olowokandi (1998) and Danny Manning (1988) welcome Griffin to a franchise that has had only four winning seasons in four decades.
2. Memphis Grizzlies – Jordan Hill (Arizona) PF
There are rumors involving Ricky Rubio and a trade with Boston involving Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen, but GM Chris Wallace is still getting heat for the Pau Gasol giveaway a few years ago and likely will make the pick. Rubio is only 18 and may be years away, and the Grizz need a scorer now. Hill is a legitimate post player with quickness. The knock on him is that he doesn’t always play hard, so he’s obviously NBA-ready.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder – Hasheem Thabeet (Connecticut) C
Good match here. The Thunder have a nice blend of maturing players (Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant) and can score, but haven’t been able to get stops late in games. Thabeet will protect the rim and his awkward ball-handling won’t kill a team whose offense is built around Durant.
4. Sacramento Kings – Ricky Rubio (Spain) PG
Assuming Memphis doesn’t make a move at 2, this makes sense on a several fronts. Rubio immediately becomes the face of what has been a dull franchise in a downward spiral, creates some excitement in northern California, and teams well with shooting guard Kevin Martin. If Rubio is the real deal, it solidifies the Kings’ backcourt for the next several years.
5. Washington Wizards – Stephen Curry (Davidson) G
Just a hunch here. Washington is still not certain that Gilbert Arenas will come back at 100 percent after missing most of 2008-09. The Wizards are desperate for a big and will grab Hill if he’s there. If Hill is gone, Curry can score a ton and should stretch defenses. The Wizards are loaded with average players, and that’s not good enough in a division in which Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Charlotte are all improving.
6. Minnesota – James Harden (Arizona State) SG
This franchise is cursed. The Wolves never were able to backfill talent around Kevin Garnett, and their best player – Al Jefferson – is coming off major knee surgery. They could have had Brandon Roy a few years ago but wanted Randy Foye. They just need talent, and Harden appears as ready for the Association as anyone still on the board.
7. Golden State Warriors – Brandon Jennings (Virtus Roma)
Maybe the light will go on in Don Nelson’s mind and he’ll realize that the worst defensive team in the league can’t ever, ever get to the playoffs. Jennings will at least pressure the ball on the perimeter. He went from high school to Europe to get ready for the NBA, and should have enough talent to get minutes on a team that has no real point guard.
8. New York Knicks – Tyreke Evans (Memphis) SG
Assuming Curry is off the board, the Knicks could do a lot worse than Evans. As long as Mike D’Antoni is the coach, NY will play uptempo 80 percent of the time, and that suits Evans’s game. NY will resist pressure to draft Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn, who is only 6-0 and could not be put on the court the same time as 5-9 Nate Robinson.
9. Toronto Raptors – Gerald Henderson (Duke) SG
The Raptors need to strengthen their rotation. Henderson probably can’t start for these guys, but he’s better than any guard off the bench and might get some minutes at small forward if the Raptors want to put a speed team on the floor.
10. Milwaukee Bucks – Jeff Teague (Wake Forest) PG
Teague’s ball-to-the-wall style of play seems badly needed in Beertown, where no one seems to care all that much about a team that has averaged 31 wins a year and has 5 consecutive last-place finishes. Teague would give a veteran team a badly needed shot of adrenaline.
The rest of the first round and draft possibles:
11. New Jersey - Jonny Flynn (Syracuse)
12. Charlotte – DeJuan Blair (Pittsburgh)
13. Indiana – Jrue Holiday (UCLA)
14. Phoenix - DeMar DeRozan (USC)
15. Detroit - Earl Clark (Louisville)
16. Chicago — James Johnson (Wake Forest)
17. Philadelphia - Ty Lawson (North Carolina)
18. Minnesota - BJ Mullens (Ohio State)
19. Atlanta - Derrick Brown (Xavier)
20. Utah - Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina)
21. New Orleans - Wayne Ellington (North Carolina)
22. Dallas – Chase Budinger (Arizona)
23. Sacramento - Omri Caspi (Israel)
24. Portland - DaJuan Summers (Georgetown)
25. Oklahoma City - Victor Claver (Spain)
26. Chicago – Sam Young (Pittsburgh)
27. Memphis - Terrence Williams (Louisville)
28. Minnesota - Eric Maynor (Virginia Commonwealth)
29. LA Lakers – Toney Douglas (Florida State)
30. Cleveland – Jermaine Taylor (Central Florida)
Note: Some teams have more than one first-round round pick due to trades.
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Lawrence Paul is a regular contributor to the Cappers Picks Blog, and is a free-lance gambling and travel writer from Massachusetts.