gottlieb's big board

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gottlieb's big board

Doug Gottlieb's Big Board

By Doug Gottlieb
Before ranking players on any Big Board, it's important to have a philosophy heading into the draft. So with the June 25 draft just two weeks away, here are five things every NBA general manager should keep in mind:

• Everyone would like to wait till next year. So if you are not in love with what you see on your draft broad, go Chicago Cubs-style and "wait till next year" and its stellar draft class. While most NBA pundits talk glowingly about the free-agent class of 2010, the college basketball world is smitten with the vast amount of returning talent in its game. Potential lottery picks Greg Monroe, Al-Farouq Aminu, Willie Warren, Cole Aldrich, Luke Babbitt, Jerome Jordan, Evan Turner, James Anderson, Kyle Singler, Craig Brackins, Ed Davis, Kalin Lucas and Jarvis Varnado will be joined by a much-better freshman class (John Wall, Avery Bradley, Renardo Sidney, Derrick Favors just to name a few) in what surely will be a very deep draft. ESPN's Fran Fraschilla has called this year's draft class the worst in 25 years. Listen to those who know and get a pick from a potential lottery team for next year.

• If you need help now, value highly productive major college players who are undersized or play an in-between position instead of "upside" guys. Darren Collison, Marcus Thornton, Terrence Williams and Jon Brockman can be very helpful to playoff teams in need of a productive bench player in the late first or early second round.

• Make sure that an evaluation takes into account the surrounding personnel. Take Damion James, for example. He was a lock lotto pick playing with D.J. Augustin, but after a year without a big-time point guard, James' stock has dipped. Bottom line, he is an unreal athlete who needs someone else to set him up. If he does -- someone like CP3, Deron Williams or Steve Nash -- he will excel.

• Do not let the NCAA tournament sway your feelings. From Johnny Morton to Johnny Taylor, Corey Brewer to Mateen Cleaves, NCAA success does not equal NBA skill. From Lawson to Curry to Maynor, don't let the glamour of the Dance sway the quality of evaluation.

• Be wary of the workout warrior. We say it every year in football and it rings true in hoops, as well. Talent evaluators have rightfully been impressed with all the private viewings over the past month, and stocks are rising and falling due to reviews that keep coming in. But let's get real here. The oft-criticized "one-and-done" rule has provided us with ample real-game footage of these guys. A scout's instinct over the last year is no less valuable than anything that might've taken place over the last month.

With that said, here is what the top 30 of my Big Board would look like …

[+] EnlargeJim Brown/US Presswire
You'll be hard-pressed to find a Big Board that doesn't have Blake Griffin at the top.

1. Blake Griffin, Oklahoma

What I like: Beast. Strong as an ox. Tulsa's Jerome Jordan, who played against Memphis for a couple of years with Joey Dorsey, told me recently that Griffin is "far and away the strongest guy I have ever played against and he gets off the floor really quickly." Griffin has played hurt, plays hard and comes from a two-parent home that appears to be the real deal and would keep him on an even keel in Los Angeles (assuming the Clippers draft him). He has a unique type of fluidity for his size and strength, and while he is not the shooter he needs to be, there is not a real flaw in his delivery for that not to improve as his legs start to age. Griffin is a very good passer from the double-team and he seems to enjoy the assist more than others at his position. He blocks shots based on effort and athleticism, not length, which proves his motor is phenomenal.

What I don't like: The best player in a weak draft. Only 6-foot-8½ in bare feet and not long. He is not a good free-throw shooter and not a good shooter, period.

Best case: A more athletic Karl Malone.

2. Ricky Rubio, Spain

What I like: Clever as can be with the ball, he has a Steve Nash-meets-Pistol Pete-feel. Unlike both those guys, Rubio is a below-average shooter, but his form and numbers have improved. If you put a team around him, he will entertain from day one. While he plays no defense and is immature at times in terms of decision-making, the skills seem to be there with good size to overcome his lack of speed.

What I don't like: There is not really a blueprint for a non-defender, below-the-rim point guard who is a poor shooter and average finisher.

Best case: A bigger Steve Nash with the looks and flair of the Pistol.

3. Jrue Holiday, UCLA

What I like: The best high school player in America in 2008, Holiday is a unique guard who can make everyone else better while also getting his. Is as fluid and natural an athlete as there is in the draft.

What I don't like: Is he really a point? He doesn't shoot it that well. Holiday seemed to pout a bit when there was adversity during his freshman year at UCLA.

Best case: Gary Payton

4. DeMar DeRozan, USC

What I like: Freaky athlete with massive upside. Began to "get it" at the end of the season. One of the few players in the draft who will not have to change position in the NBA -- he is a much more natural 2 than Harden. Poster child for "upside" and may spend time in the D-League, but in a draft of uncertainties, he seems to have the measurables to eventually live up to his massive talent.

What I don't like: Below-average 3-point shooter in college, very raw in terms of basketball acumen, and may need the right tutoring from a veteran coach/player, as he has some hangers-on he needs to part with.

Best case: David Thompson

5. Brandon Jennings, Italy

What I like: Jennings can be as dynamic with the ball as Chris Paul, and like Paul, he can finish at the rim. No question there's a lot of talent here.

What I don't like: Carried himself with a major attitude when last seen in the States, and fell flat in Italy. Shoots a lot, but does not shoot it that well. His shot selection and decision-making leave a lot to be desired. Has a slight build and does not look like he will put on weight.

Best case: Jason Williams meets Damon Stoudamire

6. Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut

What I like: Huge, long and with great timing while blocking shots, Thabeet has some very intriguing attributes. He is a very good teammate, has not played a ton of basketball and has rapidly improved his hands along the way. Thabeet is also a low-maintenance guy in that he is not used to being the focus of an offense, thus he will not be offended when he doesn't get the ball early in his career.

What I don't like: His hands are suspect and his "feel" is just not there. Thabeet struggles to catch in traffic, hold position against stronger players and can be a liability on ball screens.

Best case: Dikembe Mutombo

7. Jeff Teague, Wake Forest

What I like: Teague can finish at the rim and has a very sound midrange game. His first step far exceeds that of Stephen Curry. Not a true point but has the makings of the most underrated player in the draft. Can shoot the 3, but needs work on the catch-and-shoot game off screens and from deep.

What I don't like: As a leader, his team fell apart at midseason and was never the same. Also, Teague is not nearly as good without the ball or in a half-court game.

Best case: Devin Harris with a jump shot

[+] EnlargeSteve Mitchell/US Presswire
After playing 181 minutes in four games at the Big East tourney, Flynn still had enough to lead Syracuse to the Sweet 16.

8. Jordan Hill, Arizona

What I like: Has played basketball for only the past six years competitively. Hill has played hurt, played tough and loves a physical game. Hill, like Thabeet, is more used to getting his points off the rim and not off the pass, making it an easier transition as a team's fourth or fifth offensive option.

What I don't like: Is not great at any one thing, and seems more like Etan Thomas than Brian Grant.

Best case: A Brian Grant-type

9. Jonny Flynn, Syracuse

What I like: Ultra-quick and a very strong scoring point guard. Flynn is difficult to keep out of the lane and, unlike many other point guards, he will finish above the rim. He is a great competitor and winner who can lift a team to five more wins on his drive alone.

What I don't like: Needs to be a better shooter and make fewer turnovers, and his defense is a bit raw.

Best case: Kevin Johnson

10. James Harden, Arizona State

What I like: Good competitor and a player you want with the game on the line. Harden has a pretty diverse game on the offensive end. His body and game are mature, and he gives and takes contact well. Harden knows how to score.

What I don't like: Rarely goes right, not really a guard, and he is an average athlete.

Best case: Manu Ginobili

11. Patty Mills, Saint Mary's

With better players around him, Mills is a terror to contain. Apparently, scouts did not see the obvious difference in speed with the ball as he dismantled Steph Curry in the NIT, but among those who did -- and those watched the Olympics -- they get this ranking. The knocks against Mills are:

1. He got hurt (it was his wrist in a freak fall, not a knee)
2. His shooting can be erratic (sure, but he has improved steadily)
3. He is a defensive liability (this is true, but that is due to effort, not skill)

12. B.J. Mullens, Ohio State

Huge body and a vicious dunker in traffic. Mullins seems to be two years from putting it together, but if/when he does, look out. He can shoot a pick-and-pop and is fearless in terms of competition.

13. Tyreke Evans, Memphis

A great driver off the bounce, Evans uses his body really well. Decent passer who showed a marked unselfishness in his stint at Memphis. The bad? No position, finishes below the rim and is not a great athlete. Evans can score, but it will take a good fit to work.

14. Earl Clark, Louisville

Long, skilled and athletic, Clark has all the vitals to be a 10-year NBA player. He has the ability to play either a long 3 or a face-up 4 and can guard several positions. Clark is as up and down as the stock market, not from game to game, but within each game. He seems to lack a basketball IQ to put it all together.

15. Stephen Curry, Davidson

A prolific shooter with range and an improving off-the-dribble game. Curry has a prodigious work ethic, and his body and game seem to respond with substantial improvement. He is very comfortable on ball screens, as he is coming off screens in order to shoot or show a deft passing touch. The problem is, he's in between a 1 and a 2. He's a high-volume shooter who will have to adjust to far fewer looks in the league and an average athlete who may struggle to contain both positions.

16. James Johnson, Wake Forest

Terrific build and skill set, and can score in bunches both inside and out. Not as good an athlete as some may believe. Really struggles to guard on the perimeter.

Chris Keane/Icon SMI
Douglas averaged 21.5 ppg and led FSU to its first Big Dance in more than a decade.

17. Gerald Henderson, Duke

A poor man's Kobe who does a very good Kobe impression. (Remember when Kobe used to talk like MJ?) Henderson is a terrific athlete who is an improving shooter to go with his midrange game.

18. Toney Douglas, Florida State

This year's Courtney Lee. Big-time scorer who can play the 1. Though not nearly as good a defender as his rep, will be able to contain other teams' point guards with his lateral speed and strength. Additionally, Douglas is ready right now to be a Ben Gordon-type of off the bench -- a guard who can give you points in a hurry.

19. Damion James, Texas

Uber-athlete who will be much better in an open court and with a viable point guard. James can defend and rebound at a high level and his shot is not that far off.

20. Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech

Played without a true point in college and that hurt his game and his team's win total. Can block shots and board, and can score when given the ball and space. A solid backup post in the NBA with a chance to eventually be a starter.

21. Darren Collison, UCLA

Very sound backup point guard who knows how to lead and win. Unlike Lawson, he is very good off ball screens. Collison is slight of build and may never start, but he is solid and sound and can really defend.

22. Derrick Brown, Xavier

Long, lean and really active, Brown can defend inside and out, is good on the break and eventually will become a legit 3. His game is a bit unorthodox, but that makes him better and more intriguing. His shot-blocking and tip-ins sometimes go unnoticed.

23. Omri Casspi, Israel

Face-up 3 or 4 who must get stronger, but he is fearless at attacking the rim. Has a ton of valuable experience in the high-level Euro league that other prospects have struggled in.

24. Terrence Williams, Louisville

Good player who does everything well, nothing great. Should be a fine passing 2 coming off the bench -- a guy who can play some point in a pinch. Versatility makes him valuable.

25. Sam Young, Pittsburgh

Desmond Mason-type who is a great competitor and athlete. Needs to guard better on the perimeter with his feet, but will finish way above the rim and can play some undersized 4. Will post smaller guards.

Thornton was a prodigious scorer at LSU and could be a boost off the bench for a playoff team.

26. Eric Maynor, VCU

Great midrange pull-up shooter and a good leader. Does not handle, pass or shoot from distance as well as his rep, but a good point and productive player to take late.

27. Wayne Ellington, North Carolina

Smooth wing who lacks the burst to be a legit lottery pick.

28. Marcus Thornton, LSU

Big-time scorer who goes on binges of 30-point games, but he is smaller than listed and is not as consistent as needed to go higher.

29. Ty Lawson, North Carolina

Do not think I am hating on Lawson, but he is small and not as creative a playmaker as others in this draft. Lawson was great at Carolina and will play in the league for a long while, but he most likely will be a backup for the vast majority of his career.

30. Austin Daye, Gonzaga

Not sure what all the hubbub is about. Daye is young, thin and, yes, soft. Durant was weak at this stage too, but he wasn't soft. Daye looks like he has the talent to be a star, but only a great team that can stow him away should take the risk of waiting.

He certainly has a few curve balls in there and I dont like Harden at #10, but we get so certain guys are going at certain numbers and to see an espn writer totally shake it up is interesting.
[quote:e5e7b9ff74="willeatfire4playoffsinmil"]-= original quote snipped =-

emunney was close. General Board, thread "Did the NBA fumble the Ball Tonight?"

D Hamp
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Hubie Brown

This was posted yesterday.

Dhamp...the greatest basketball mind in the world. Next to Hubie Brown anyway.

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DeJuan Blair isn't in his

DeJuan Blair isn't in his top 30?

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Hardem Griffin

Why does height in bare feet matter they are playing in shoes, so the height in bare feet is not important, and harden proved he is an athlete, and is strong, so how can you call him nonathletic. How can Daye be a star, he can not jump, and has no muscle, how can this guy knock Harden for being not being an athlete, but not mention it when Daye is a much worse athlete. Hardens max jump is 37.0 inches and dayes max jump is 28.0.

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Ricky Rubio is a good defender...that's one of his best attributes

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