I have covered the pre-Draft period for three or four years now, and I can safely say there has never been as much hardship in predicting what will happen on draft day.  The fact that this is a weak draft, that the NBA has a deeper talent pool now than any time probably in 20 years, and that teams want to get under the salary cap for the super free agency in 2010 means that anything could happen. This is also hampered by the amount of players who have a massive draft range, and the amount of teams wanting trade to gain or get rid of picks. This isn’t ‘mocking’ as much as it is guessing. Anyway, enough of me covering my cute behind, on to the last mock draft of the year.

#1 – The Los Angeles Clippers select Blake Griffin, a 6’10 PF From Oklahoma
Ok. This is a no brainer, and is the only definitive thing that will happen in this years draft.

#2 – The Memphis Grizzlies will select Hasheem Thabeet a 7’3 C From UCOnn.
This was 50-50 to be traded before ‘Sota pulled the Randy Foye for the 5th overall trade. It now makes it 70%+ more likely as now the Wolves have the package (5th, 18th and 28th) or it will spring the Knicks into action as now they are not the favorite to claim the pick if it were traded. However, the Wolves have said previously they want two top 10 picks, which means they stay pat. I’m going to assume they keep it, and will select Thabeet because he has said he wouldn’t mind playing there (he declined workout due to Visa complication supposedly). If this is Rubio, look for a draft day trade to be announced as the night progresses.

#3 – The Okalahoma City Thunder will select Ricky Rubio a 6’3 PG From Spain.
GM Sam Presti and the Thunder organization are one of the best at hiding their thoughts, and as such, this is a pick that’s hard to predict. Harden seemed to be the guy when Thabeet was the consensus second overall, but that has changed with rare information coming that Rubio and his agent have met with the Thunder to talk to Rubio regarding buyouts and other such intricacies. If Rubio goes at 2, this would be Thabeet.

#4 – The Sacramento Kings will select Johnny Flynn, a 6’0 PG From Syracuse.
The Kings were either going to get Rubio if he fell, Flynn or Brandon Jennings. It seems that they are not as high on Jennings are as the other two, and with Flynn being seen as the best point guard still on the board outside of Ricky Rubio, he gets the nod at 4.

#5 – The Minnesota Timber Wolves will select James Harden, a 6’5 SG From Arizona State
If Rubio goes at 2 the draft will see someone fall. If Rubio doesn’t go at 2, the draft will be just as hard to call. But as you can see, the 2nd overall pick is where it all hinges on. If the draft is to go the way I see it going, Harden will fall to the Minnesota Timberwolves either at 5 or 6. Either way, Harden is a talent who would fit and play for both organizations and I cannot see him falling any further.

#6 – The Minnesota Timber Wolves will select Stephen Curry, a 6’1 PG From Davidson
The Wolves lose Randy Foye, but gain a whole new solid backcourt which with Love, Jefferson and like players could make this a fun team to watch – especially when you consider they’d have a lot of pieces. It is possible that if Rubio goes at 2, and Harden at 3 than Thabeet will fall to 5 or 6, but if he doesn’t I’d expect the Wolves will definitely get Curry.

#7 -  The Golden State Warriors will select Jordan Hill, a 6’10 PF From Arizona
The Warriors have said that Ellis is their starting point guard, but you have to question his longevity with the Warriors. His moped indiscretion, followed up by his unhappiness at the team for his punishment, followed up by the mini tantrum regarding his long term vision of himself in a Warrior uniform may start to add up. Either way, the Warriors at 7 will pick a player who will fall, but if not, go for the BPA (Best player available). The player that falls is Jordan Hill, and whilst he is like Randolph or Wright, he certainly is the Best Player Available. Jennings is also a strong option here.

#8 – The New York Knicks will select Tyreke Evans, a 6’5 PG/SG From Memphis
It has been stated that the Knicks wish list is Rubio first, Curry at second then Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday. There is a chance that this could be Jrue Holiday if Rubio falls to the Thunder or Kings at 3 and 4 respectively but in this mock Evans falls. They will still try a power play to get the second overall, but their hope was to get the 5, then package it with this pick for pick 2. The T’Wolves got in first and it now seems likely they are stuck at 8. Expect them to look to buy or trade into to a later first round pick – presumably for Jrue Holiday.

#9 – The Toronto Raptors select Gerald Henderson, a 6’5 SG From Duke
There seems to be a growing discontent with Chris Bosh and the Toronto organization. The easiest way to fix that and at least have a greater chance of retaining Chris Bosh in 2010 is through selecting the best player available who will help them win instantly. They’ll stick with a guard and my bet will be Gerald Henderson, a defensive stopper and a guy who will help them score from beyond the arc. The other possible pick is DeMarr DeRozan, but he’s a 2-4 year project player, and Chris Bosh could be long gone by then. Another possibility is James Johnson from Wake Forrest.

#10 – The Milwaukee Bucks select Brandon Jennings, a 6’0 PG From USA (Played in Italy)
The Bucks pulled a semi-mega trade sending Jefferson to the Spurs and getting essentially Bowen, Amir Johnson and Kurt Thomas. This probably means they will let Villanueva walk in free agency, and if they get Flynn do the same with Ramon Sessions. It seems probable that the Bucks will have either Flynn or Jennings to pick at this point, however if they are gone, DeRozan or Jeff Teague will be likely back up picks.

#11 – The New Jersey Nets will select DeMarr DeRozan, a 6’6 SG/SF From USC
The Nets are high on three players it would be indicated through NJ media outlets. Tyler Hansbrough, Gerald Henderson and Terrance Williams. My guess is that they would take Henderson, Williams and Hansbrough if those players are available. But in saying that, if they aren’t available someone will fall. For me that would seem to be DeMar DeRozan. With Vince Carter in trade rumors (which will pick up as the year goes on I would assume) the Nets may look to take a project player for the future with this pick.

#12 – The Charlotte Bobcats will select Terrance Williams, a 6’6 SG/SF From Louisville
The same three players that are linked with the New Jersey Nets seem to be linked with the Charlotte Bobcats (Hansbrough, Henderson and Williams). As a Bobcats fan, I’d be happy to see either of those three in the carrot-vomit orange. But with Henderson gone, I’d say it would be Williams here. If it turns out to be Tyler Hansbrough, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bobcats made a trade. A rumor that I have heard is Raja Bell for Kelenna Azebuike and Marco Bellinelli.

#13 – The Indiana Pacers will select Tyler Hansbrough, a 6’9 PF From UNC
I think the consensus now is that Hansbrough is the best Power Forward on the board after Griffin and Jordan Hill. I’d say that the Pacers would value him higher than Blair and see him as a better overall player to play alongside Danny Granger and Brandon Rush. However, if Jennings or Flynn were to fall I’d see Larry Legend take those players over anyone else (as he should).

#14 – The Phoenix Suns will select James Johnson, a 6’8 SF/PF From Wake Forrest.
James Johnson is an enigma to me. I have no idea what he could be as an NBA player -  he’s strong and a good power forward in college, but is only 6’8. My bet is that the Suns will take the BPA out of points and wings, and that for me would be James Johnson.

#15 – The Detroit Pistons will select BJ Mullens, a 7’0 C From Ohio State.
There is a rumored promise that the Pistons have made with BJ Mullens. For me, this link has been strengthened with the trading of Amir Johnson to the Milwaukee Bucks, and with Rasheed Wallace off the books, I’d say Mullens is the best bet for the long terms front court of the Pistons. It would also indicate they’ve officially given up on the championship window. Which we half suspected after they traded Chauncey Billups.

#16 – The Chicago Bulls will select DeJuan Blair, a 6’6 PF From Pittsburgh
The Bulls really have a need for an interior presence with offensive prowess, but really in this draft, the only foreseeable options are Hansbrough or BJ Mullens. Both may be gone at this point. But that would mean DeJuan Blair would drop. It may allow for the Bulls to get a guy like Villanueva in free agency, but if not, they will get an effort player who will give them extra possessions and be a different type of interior defender

#17 – The Philadelphia 76ers will select Ty Lawson, a 6’0 PG From UNC
Ed Stefanksi, Philly GM has basically said we are taking a guard. My guess is that it will come down to three players, Teague, Lawson and Eric Maynor. Lawson is the guy with the most chance of being a facilitator and a guy who can push the tempo which the 76ers have been known for. He also is a more complete point than the others.

#18 – The Minnesota Timber Wolves will select Earl Clarke, a 6’10 SF/PF From Louisville
How many 6’10 players have the ability to handle the ball, shoot it fairly consistently and crash the boards? That’s they type of player Clarke is, and if it wasn’t for some issues regarding decision making and off the court stuff, he would be a top 10 player in this draft. But at pick 18, whether that remains the Wolves’ or it goes to the Grizz, Clarke is the type of player that is warranted at this pick.

#19 – The Atlanta Hawks will select Jeff Teague, a 6’1 PG From Wake Forrest.
Some have mentioned Teague with the 10th pick, as the Bucks are rumored to be extremely high on him. However, if Flynn or Jennings is available, I can’t see the Bucks taking Teague. If that happens, he could free fall all the way to the Hawks at 19. They already have Bibby, but with his contract out and Josh Smith being very hard to trade (Smith has to agree with it), the Hawks may take a chance on Teague as their long term point (and their insurance if Bibby isn’t re-signed).

#20 – The Utah Jazz will select Wayne Ellington, a 6’5 SG From UNC
The Jazz could go in multiple directions with this pick. Realistically, they would have to be worried about Boozer announcing he could see himself in a Pistons uniform, and that Brewer, CJ Miles and AK47 won’t handle the offensive needs on the wing. My guess is they’ll go with a shooter who can play ying to Deron Williams’s yang, and give them more versatility and structure to their line-up. That could be Budinger, but Ellington encompasses all that the Jazz are looking for.

#21 – The New Orleans Hornets will select Chase Budinger, a 6’7 SG/SF From Arizona.
I think the Hornets will look for another scoring option on the wing. Chandler/West/Armstrong are three capable players in the front court, and you add combo forward Wright and Posey into that mix your front court looks healthy. But when you have a player like Paul who can execute the Pick and roll or pick and pop with Chandler or David West, spacing the floor is vital. Thus I think they’ll go with a capable shooter. First choice would be Wayne Ellington, second would be Chase Budinger.

#22 – The Portland Trailblazers will select Jrue Holiday, a 6’4 PG/SG From UCLA
Jrue Holiday is another enigma player, some scouts are very high on him because of his potential, others are not because to this point he has achieved nothing. It also doesn’t help that he is talking himself up as a point guard without actually playing the position. But he is a handy player and worthwhile taking a chance on.

#23 – The Sacramento Kings will select Austin Daye, a 6’10 SF From Gonzaga.
A better-than-decent shooter from the wing, and at 6’10 with a decent skill set has the potential to be a very handy player at the next level. This would be a good pick if they could combine it well with whoever the Kings get at 4, and if it were to be a guy like Daye who could be an X-factor type player in a couple of years time, it could bode very well for Sacramento’s future.

#24 – The Dallas Mavericks will select Toney Douglas, a 6’1 PG/SG From Florida State.
The Mavericks really wanted Terrance Williams, but when it became obvious he wouldn’t fall to them at 22, they traded the pick for a lower first rounder and a second round pick fairly early in the round. My bet is that they will take the BPA, and specifically a player that can help at the point as Jason Kidd won’t be around forever. Douglas is a guy similar to Terry who can shoot it, but also play multiple positions despite being undersized.

#25 – The Oklahoma City Thunder will select Eric Maynor, a 6’3 PG From VCU
If the Thunder selects Ricky Rubio this could be a more interesting pick. But I’m going to say they don’t and will pick up a solid back-up point with their second pick. Maynor falls a little, but the lack of shooting touch and the fact he’s a senior who went to a relatively small school means he does. A solid player that will probably only be a back-up.

#26 – The Chicago Bulls will select Marcus Thornton, a 6’4 SG From LSU
The Bulls will be sweating on Ben Gordon’s free agency decisions, but regardless of what they do in that respect, they would probably like to add more 3-point shooting threats to their perimeter to give players like Rose, Deng and John Salmons more room to operate off penetration and picks. Thornton is the best 3 point scoring threat still on the board, and maybe second or third overall.

#27 – The Memphis Grizzlies will select Darren Collison, a 6’0 PG From UCLA
The Grizzlies currently hold this pick, and if the draft day trade action goes down like it could, the Grizzlies may trade this pick as they will have relatively no use for it. But assuming they take it, they would be smart to find a back-up point guard for Mike Conley Jnr. Collison is a better fit than say Beaubois or Patty Mills as he can shoot the ball but is a very good defender – the perfect person to play as an off-guard when OJ Mayo has the ballin his hands.

#28 – The Minnesota Timber Wolves will select Omri Cassipi, a 6’8 SF/PF From Israel.
Cassipi is a very interesting prospect, and whoever has this pick at the end of the day would be getting a player who has talent and some very unique and serviceable skills. A combo forward at 6’8 he possesses a funky shooting stroke and as a result is fairly inconsistent from out there, but he is a tough, grind like player who can be very effective facing up and putting the ball on the floor. Gives whoever drafts him a player that could give a different look every now and again.

#29 – The Los Angeles Lakers will select Jonas Jerebko, a 6’9 SF/PF From Sweden
Jerebko was the star player at the Treviso camp, and possesses a nice array of skills which could see him be a very valuable role player to the Lakers in the future. He sort of sprang up into first round talks after the Euro camp at Treviso, and when doing research for him came across the Draftexpress.com interview with him, and sounds like he knows what it takes to be a role player. With the fact that he is European, he may be left to simmer overseas, and for the reigning NBA champs, that is probably the best idea.

#30 – The Cleveland Cavaliers will select Josh Heytvelt, a 6’11 PF From Gonzaga
[NOTE: This was written before the Shaq trade]. The Cavaliers won’t be going much further than last season when you consider that Illgauskas and Wallace are pretty much done as NBA players. Whether or not they play on this season (Wallace has indicated that he may not) and Big Z has a player option (which I would assume he would take) then probably be on his way out after next season. For a replacement, Heytvelt isn’t to bad. Is tall at 6’10/6’11, but can hit the mid-range shot consistently, allowing the Cavs to extend the defense like they cannot do if Varajao is the prime offensive tall on the court.

Patty Mills sadly falls to the second round, but I can’t see him not being taken in the first 5-6 picks. I wouldn’t be surprised if either Portland or New York made a bit of a play for Patty as McMillan and D’Antoni both were ‘witnesses’ to Mills’ play in the Olympics being assistant coaches. Either way, he’ll find a team that he has more of a good chance of playing some minutes for and having a role – which is I suppose better for us Aussie NBA fans in the long run.

No doubt that between me finishing this, sending it to Rob, Rob actually making it readable on the blogosphere, and the actual posting of this on NBAMate, many more draft rumors and draft day trade rumors or actual trades will happen (thank you Shaq) which will make a large portion of this invalid. But hey, that’s what we love about the draft, right?

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