By Ron Jumper
Here is my breakdown of what I feel each lottery team should do with their draft choice (meaning this isn’t predicting what will happen). I have just accepted NBA general managers are crazy and get so wrapped in the draft process itself that they lose touch with actually making their basketball team better on the court where it matters. All the fuss about wingspan and upside, what about basketball IQ or production? I know not to get carried away with that, at the same time, because there are those typical “great college players” that don’t translate to the NBA and so on. However, sometimes it just feels like scouts and GMs just want to do it the hard way by having a project “develop” over three years so they can say “I told you so” or “look what I did” instead of just drafting a guy that could have been just as good much earlier in his career. At the top of the “maybe he isn’t a project and actually just sucks” list is Florida State C Solomon Alabi. For the life of me, I can’t understand why you’d rather have him than some of the other big men in the draft. I am very happy to see scouts coming to their senses and projecting Greg Monroe as a top 5 pick.
I still don’t understand the inconsistencies from year to year on how prospects are ranked. For example, why was Tyrus Thomas a top 5 pick and Epke Udoh is a projected borderline lottery pick? Udoh is taller, more experienced, and more skilled than Thomas was at this same stage. On the other side, while I love Gordon Hayward, can you really justify taking him in the top 10? How many guys like him have really panned out? We have seen plenty of guys like Gerald Henderson, Danillo Gallinari, or Joe Alexander get taken in the lottery only to be no more than role players. I see him struggling to find a position and he really isn’t a great shooter, especially not from NBA distance.
Anyways, on to my thoughts on the lottery:
1. Washington Wizards
PG John Wall, Kentucky
Take him and figure everything else out later. There is no telling what this roster will look like by opening day next season but rebuilding around Wall is a great way to start. If it were me, I’d trade Gilbert Arenas for anything I could get back in return. I’m talking a happy meal or even one of those Shake Weights, take it and run.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
PF Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech
Think about the 76ers roster, they need athletic big men than can play in an up-tempo style. If they can move Elton Brand, they should do it and just go with a young athletic big man like Favors. Many have Turner going here but I just don’t see why. You already have Andre Iguodala and have much more pressing needs elsewhere. In fact, my first choice would be to trade back and take a guy like James Anderson because they could use better outside shooting.
3. New Jersey Nets
PF/C Greg Monroe, Georgetown
The Nets are feeling the pressure to turn this around and win quickly, well adding Monroe is a great way to do that. He complements Lopez very well and is more than willing to be the second or third option offensively. While New Jersey was so bad last year, I do think they have enough talent to be decent sooner rather than later. Monroe would be a HUGE step in that direction.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves
SF Evan Turner, Ohio State
While I don’t see Turner being here on draft night, this is closer to where I would slot him. I look at his game and just don’t see it transitioning to the NBA the same way everyone else does. I see him more as a great college player who will be a good role player in the NBA instead of the All-Star everyone else seems to be projecting him to be. Either way, the Timberwolves clearly have enough point guards and are set inside with Al Jefferson and Kevin Love so small forward is the obvious way to go (which probably means they’ll draft DeMarcus Cousins instead).
5. Sacramento Kings
PG/SG Avery Bradley, Texas
This reminds me so much of when the Oklahoma City Thunder took Russell Westbrook instead of OJ Mayo or Jerryd Bayless, which worked out perfectly. Bradley is more content to be a defender and distributor, which is a necessity playing next to Tyreke Evans in the backcourt. This seems like a reach to most (then just trade back if possible) but team chemistry is so underrated in the draft process. Bradley would be an ideal fit, not to mention an instant upgrade over Beno Udrih.
6. Golden State Warriors
PF Epke Udoh, Baylor
This is highly unlikely to happen but it should. The Warriors could really use an athletic big man like Udoh, who could also play away from the basket in addition to being a shot blocking presence. This way, they can still play a wide open offense but might occasionally stop someone on defense. It makes sense to me, why am I the only that thinks this? I give up…
7. Detroit Pistons
PF/C DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky
Think about the old days of the “Bad Boys” and I really think a guy like Cousins would have fit in just fine. If the Pistons want to get their swagger back, adding pieces that fit what Joe Dumars is trying to do in terms of both personality and style is very important.
8. Los Angeles Clippers
SF Paul George, Fresno State
This guy is the real deal, with a silky smooth game and the ideal size for a wing player. George has the chance to be develop into the star of a young team like the Clippers. While a guy like Al-Farouq Aminu would probably help more in year one, George is the type of talent that could develop into a Joe Johnson or Caron Butler.
9. Utah Jazz
SF Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest
This is why every player has a different value to every team. Aminu could add much needed toughness and athleticism to the Jazz, as well as an insurance policy for the often injured Andrei Kirilenko. Utah really needs a shot blocking center but there isn’t one worth taking at this point in the draft.
10. Indiana Pacers
PG Eric Bledsoe, Kentucky
Not sure why teams are falling out of love with Bledsoe, as he would be a much more obvious lottery pick had he not shared the backcourt with John Wall. The Pacers need to upgrade this position, as it seems T.J. Ford has seen better days. They could also upgrade the power forward position but, in this scenario, Epke Udoh is off the board. Ed Davis is a strong possibility here, but would the Pacers draft back-to-back Tar Heel bigs?
11. New Orleans Hornets
SG James Anderson, Oklahoma State
The Hornets need some fire power around Chris Paul but they have to be careful who they nominate to fill the void. Not just any star or scorer can play next to Paul, as I thought they were INSANE when they were courting Ben Gordon a few off-seasons back. Paul dominates the ball (meaning it is in his hands 90% of the time), so it is a very delicate balance adding talent around him because they have to be able to not only co-exist but make each other better. Anderson is such a natural scorer and he could be that extra punch that brings back the Hornets to respectability. In fact, I project Anderson to be the STEAL of the draft.
12. Memphis Grizzlies
SF Wesley Johnson, Syracuse
With the possibility of losing Rudy Gay in free agency looming, I would take precautionary measures. Fortunately for the Grizzlies, Johnson slides in this scenario (though I don’t think he will on draft night). The Grizzlies are actually in pretty good shape from top to bottom, as they don’t have a lot of glaring weaknesses. Who ever thought we’d be saying that?
13. Toronto Raptors
PF Ed Davis, UNC
With the likely departure of Chris Bosh, I expect the Raptors to take care of themselves here and take Davis. While there is always the possibility of his return, better to be safe than sorry and this is also a great value pick.
14. Houston Rockets
C Hassan Whiteside, Marshall
While Whiteside is very raw, he is skilled and has great size. For the Rockets, they hope Yao Ming comes back but he more than likely will never be healthy for long enough to matter ever again. If it were me, I’d start accepting this as fact and moving on. At this point in the draft, this is solid value.