We’re a day away from the NBA Draft, and we’re inundated with talks of rising stocks and all. But what if we wiped away all the posturing, all the hype, and simply boiled the NBA Draft down to players and teams and fits and talents?
With that idea in mind, let’s take a look at who each team SHOULD draft. None of the hype. None of the lies. Just players and teams.
A couple notes: All trades are accounted for up to Wednesday evening, the most recent being the Miami-Oklahoma City picks trade. No trades were projected, as that would just lead to a complicated mess. Finally, because free agency could lead to a lot of roster mix ups, not all future rosters could be accounted for entirely, as teams don’t really know how things will shake out.
1. Washington Wizards: PG John Wall, Kentucky freshman
There’s no question about this pick. Wall has to be the guy, as he is hands down the top player in this class. The big question, then, becomes who Wall will play with. Either way, his playmaking abilities should translate to a much-improved Washington immediately. Some are handing Evan Turner the Rookie of the Year trophy, but Wall should have something to say about that.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: PF Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech freshman
There are three aspects that must be weighed in making a pick: How good is the player? How good can he become? How well will he fit? Favors trumps Turner in the latter two categories, which is why he’s the pick here. With Samuel Dalembert out the door, the Sixers have opened the door for the possibility of Marreese Speights starting at center, and Favors would be a perfect longterm compliment at the power forward spot with his athleticism and defensive abilities, while learning behind Elton Brand. Meanwhile, Turner would clash with several of the current Sixers, the most obvious being Andre Iguodala, though Louis Williams or Jrue Holiday would be relegated to the bench as well. I have Favors ranked just a hair above Turner on my big board, and I understand why others would (and the Sixers almost certainly will) go with the Buckeye.
3. New Jersey Nets: SG Evan Turner, Ohio State junior
Unless the Nets believe they will land LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, Turner has to be the pick here. For one, there’s a bit of a dropoff after the college player of the year. But more importantly, Turner is a ball-dominant playmaker, which is exactly what the Nets need right now. His presence would allow Devin Harris to play a more natural role without having to handle distribution duties. Turner and Brook Lopez could form a top inside-out combination for years to come.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves: SF Wesley Johnson, Syracuse junior
The reports are, the Timberwolves want Johnson. And while the soon-to-be 23-year-old may lack the elite potential of several other elite prospects at this spot in the draft, he is the right pick here. Johnson is ready to contribute to a good team, and while the Timberwolves are far from a good team, they are in need of stability, particularly on the wings. He can defend and shoot, both areas of weakness, and he compliments Wayne Ellington and Corey Brewer while also being an upgrade on either.
5. Sacramento Kings: C DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky freshman
Cousins may be the most physically imposing player to come through since young Dwight Howard. He’s overweight, sure, but his production levels in college suggest he could end up the best player in this class, including Wall. I’ll be the first to admit, there are aspects of Cousins’ personality that make me wary, but he’s simply better than any other available player. In addition, the Kings could use a center to play alongside Tyreke Evans and power forwards Jason Thompson and Carl Landry.
6. Golden State Warriors: PF Greg Monroe, Georgetown sophomore
The Warriors have their options, mostly because the franchise is in utter disarray. It might be tempting to suggest they should pick a player with more pace, but that assumes Don Nelson’s “basketball players gone wild” system will continue. It shouldn’t. Monroe, similar to Stephen Curry, provides a steady, proven college player with consummate teammate written all over him. It’s a much needed change for a team known for selfish players dating all the way back to Rick Barry.
7. Detroit Pistons: PF Ed Davis, North Carolina sophomore
The big question with Davis is his health, as he broke his left wrist and missed the final months of his sophomore season. While it’s not an injury that should affect his career, a player as thin as Davis will always be an injury risk. Still, he’s got great upside and any player can get injured, especially big men. Davis is perfect for the Pistons, who desperately need a post player and athleticism. He’s proven capable of scoring, but his value comes in defense and rebounding. To make one thing clear, Davis is not a project in the traditional sense of the word. He’s got a polished skill set and a good understanding of team concepts. Only his body can hold him back, and he may start from Day 1 for Detroit.
8. Los Angeles Clippers: SF Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest sophomore
One of the biggest enigmas in a draft full of them, Aminu rarely dominated last season, despite being practically unguardable at the college level. It would be nice to see more production from a player of his size, athleticism and talent, but 15.8 points and 10.7 rebounds aren’t bad averages. Aminu does everything well – his handles, in particular, are special for a player of his size. The Clippers need a small forward, and while Paul George might fit the role in a more traditional sense, Aminu can be the selfless star the Clippers need alongside Blake Griffin.
9. Utah Jazz: SF Paul George, Fresno State sophomore
The Jazz are at a bit of a crossroads with the impending free agency of Carlos Boozer. Fans have grown frustrated with Boozer’s uneven playoff performances, but he’s still the team’s clear second-best player, and not a bad second-best player at all. If I’m the Jazz, I’m resigning Boozer if he’s interested, and finally giving him and Deron Williams some help on the wings. Andrei Kirilenko works best in a bench role and is too injury. George would be a great fit in the starting lineup from Day 1, providing dynamic athleticism and a great combination of scoring and defense from either wing position.
10. Indiana Pacers: C Hassan Whiteside, Marshall freshman
It’s time for the Pacers to swing for the fences, and drafting Whiteside is the equivalent of a Dave Kingman at bat – it’ll be a strikeout or a shot to the moon. There is absolutely no denying this kid’s athleticism, length and intruiging potential. He’s not as far behind, skill-wise, as he’s been portrayed, either. Maybe there are attitude problems. Maybe he was bored in a league well below his skill level. Either way, he’s got the most upside of any remaining player, and that’s what the Pacers need.
11. New Orleans Hornets: F Luke Babbitt, Nevada junior
Chris Paul needs this. He needs a better wing than Peja Stojakovic. He needs a real scorer, someone who won’t require an assist on every basket. Marcus Thornton was a start, and adding Babbitt could be enough to get this team back to the playoffs – provided Paul stays healthy, of course. Anything else would just be unfair to the smallest superstar in the NBA.
12. Memphis Grizzlies: SF Devin Ebanks, West Virginia sophomore
Ebanks probably won’t go this high. He didn’t produce nearly enough in his sophomore season, looking disinterested at times for West Virginia. But it’s wrong to judge him for that. Bob Huggins was the wrong coach for Ebanks, who could have thrived in a more fluid system. He was grinded into irrelevance at times, yet still regularly showed flashes of the gifted athlete with the skills to run the point or play on the wings. Defensively, he can be a shut down player. If Rudy Gay is skipping town, he’s the best pick here.
13. Toronto Raptors: PF Patrick Patterson, Kentucky junior
Cousins and Wall have all the hype, but Patterson was the rock that held Kentucky together. With Chris Bosh looking more and more likely to be on his way out, this pick makes so much sense. You can put Patterson into the starting lineup immediately, and he will make up for some of Andrea Bargnani’s defensive and rebounding liabilities.
14. Houston Rockets: C Cole Aldrich, Kansas junior
Yao Ming gets injured. All. The. Time. This should be a simple pick: Chuck Hayes can’t be your backup to Ming. The Rockets could be a playoff team even without Ming next season, but they need to solve the starting center dilemma should their star be out again.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: SG Xavier Henry, Kansas freshman
Corey Maggette is not the answer. The Bucks have some of the pieces in place to be a pretty good team again next year, but if the team expects to replace John Salmons with a notoriously selfish, streaky, poor-shooting wing like Maggette, good luck. Henry makes more sense for the Bucks’ roster. He’s a great fit to replace Michael Redd, who could serve as mentor if he is healthy enough to retake his role next year. And he could be the exact type of wing player who allows Jennings to bloom to full potential.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves: PF Larry Sanders, VCU junior
My best advice: Trade this pick. But since I’m not doing that, the Timberwolves could use a long, athletic frontcourt player to compliment their thick-bodied duo of Al Jefferson and Kevin Love. Sanders provides quickness and shot-blocking, and he’s got a lot of potential.
17. Chicago Bulls: SG James Anderson, Oklahoma State junior
This one is easy: The Bulls were 29th in the NBA last season in 3-pointers attempted. They were 28th in 3-point percentage. Something needs to change. With or without a free agent addition, a proper shooting guard who can actually shoot is a necessary add, and Anderson has all the tools for the job.
18. Oklahoma City Thunder: C Daniel Orton, Kentucky freshman
The Thunder aquired this pick for pretty much nothing, so they can afford to take a risk. Orton is an unknown quantity, but workouts and his high school days have shown a lot of potential. He’s tough and physical, albeit a bit out of shape. The Thunder are looking ahead to the future, and Orton makes a lot of sense with their giant hole in the middle.
19. Boston Celtics: G Avery Bradley, Texas freshman
Bradley rates as the best available player this late in the draft. He has lottery talent, but combo guards lack value in a league loaded with them. The Celtics have the luxury of a true point guard with good size and a need for more shooting guards. Bradley will fit right in with their defensive system, too.
20. San Antonio Spurs: SF Gordon Hayward, Butler sophomore
Richard Jefferson didn’t work out so well. Now San Antonio needs some assurance on the wing. Hayward is a polished player who should be good right away and fit in with the Spurs’ defensive demands while also hitting corner 3-pointers in the Bruce Bowen role. His rebounding ability will help a lot, too. Hayward should have an immediate impact off the bench, or even as a starter.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: PG Eric Bledsoe, Kentucky freshman
The Thunder don’t have a ton of immediate needs – besides a good center, which they hope to have addressed with Orton – so they can take a flier on a player like Bledsoe. A second straight risk, yes, but the Thunder would love a solid backup for Russell Westbrook, and Bledsoe is a good value now.
22. Portland Trailblazers: PF Kevin Seraphin, France
With Donatas Motiejunas and Jan Vesely withdrawing from the draft, Seraphin became the top international prospect. That works for Portland, which, when healthy, is overloaded with good role players. The Blazers could use a backup big man, and they’ve had a lot of success with international players, including fellow Frenchman Nicolas Batum.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves: PF Ekpe Udoh, Baylor junior
Udoh has risen up the boards, but his stock is based on unique abilities that stand out in workouts. While Udoh’s length and timing are valuable and he has developed enough offensive skill to not be the liability he once was, the 23-year-old junior is still raw and awkward. He doesn’t move well and isn’t strong enough. At his age, it’s difficult to imagine Udoh making the necessary improvements and becoming anything more than what he is. With that said, he’s still worth a late-first pick.
24. Atlanta Hawks: G Terrico White, Mississippi sophomore
White is the highest-reward player left in this draft. With his incredible athleticism and natural feel, he could become a perrenial all-star. He was buried by selfish teammates and an overload at guard at Ole Miss, but he could become the perfect replacement or compliment for Joe Johnson.
25. Memphis Grizzlies: PG Greivis Vasquez, Maryland senior
The Grizzlies are loaded with selfish players. Vasquez is the best passer in this draft, and his size will allow him to play naturally with O.J. Mayo. Vasquez won’t be a star, but Memphis simply needs a distributor and a leader. Even as a rookie, Vasquez can provide those things.
26. Oklahoma City Thunder: G Nemanja Bjelica, Serbia
As previously mentioned, the Thunder don’t have any dire needs they can fill in the draft, and if they actually keep all three first-round picks, they would be well advised to use one on a foreign player with some upside. Bjelica is an elite passer, and quality shooter but he is still developing other skills.
27. New Jersey Nets: PF Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech junior
Lawal was lost while playing alongside Favors, but he was projected as a lottery pick at one time, and the athleticism and length are still there. At best, he cleans up his raw skills and overtakes Yi Jianlian for the starting job in New Jersey. At worst, he should be a suitable backup.
28. Memphis Grizzlies: PF Trevor Booker, Clemson senior
Booker would be the perfect counterpoint to Zach Randolph: He works hard, plays smart and can dominate defensively. Booker probably won’t develop into a good starter, but he should be a valuable bench player for years.
29. Orlando Magic: SG Dominique Jones, South Florida junior
With J.J. Redick up for free agency, Jones could take his role as Vince Carter’s backup while also playing some point guard. Jones has all the tools to be a good scorer in the league, but some of his other skills are in question. The Magic should be familiar with a fellow Floridian.
30. Washington Wizards: C Damion James, Texas senior
James is a steal this late in the draft. Getting a senior who can step in and replace Mike Miller right away off the bench will be a big boost for the Wizards, and James joins a young team with a lot of talent.