The needs of NBA teams are a bit outside our usual realm of expertise here at The Dagger, but we're smart enough to ask for help when we need it. We've brought in Ball Don't Lie's Kelly Dwyer to help us out with our mock draft. Kelly handled the team needs and we did our best to fill those needs. Here are picks 1 to 15.
What they need: If rumored deals with the Memphis Grizzlies go through, the Timberwolves will have four first round picks to work with on Thursday, used either to bulk up what is a pretty mismatched roster, or to sweeten any offer that would send Al Jefferson (and his large contract) another team's way. The Wolves are deep at the point guard position, and they've plenty of undersized power forwards to go along. But if the best player available turns out to be another big forward, Timberwolves GM David Kahn might end up drafting now, and trading later. Hopefully for another power forward or point guard, which would allow us to make more jokes.
Who's available: This would definitely be a scoring wing if the Timberwolves didn't get Wesley Johnson at No. 4, but Minnesota could go with a big man if the Syracuse wing is already their property. The 6-foot-10 Aldrich gives them a solid rebounder and shot-blocker to pair with their collection of undersized forwards.
The pick: Cole Aldrich
17. Chicago Bulls
What they need: Chicago is one of 30 teams that will be attempting to sign LeBron James this summer, but they'll be one of four or five teams that actually has the cap space and foundation to pull such a deal off As such, with four rookie contracts already on hand, the team might try to sell its first round pick in order to clear more space for a player like James. Chicago will have just over $20 million to spend this summer whether they keep the pick or not. If the team does decide to take part, on Thursday, look for a scorer of some sort, because the Bulls need offense in the worst way. Though I can't remember many 22-point scorers being lifted from the middle of the first round.
Who's available: Nevada's Luke Babbitt probably will never become a 22-point scorer, but the 6-foot-9 forward would be capable perimeter scorer alongside Luol Deng if the Bulls go to a small lineup. That would be an asset for the Bulls even if Babbitt's athleticism and perimeter defense are major question marks.
The pick: Luke Babbitt
What they need: The Thunder have three first-round picks as GM Sam Presti looks to establish depth over last season's biggest surprise. Though the team's youth and potential is admirable, the team needs quite a bit of help at every position. A proper starting power forward. A better starting center. A shooter with size at the shooting guard position. More players, essentially. Three first-rounders will aid in this regard.
Who's available: It's highly likely the Thunder will try to package two of their three picks to move up and nab a starting-caliber player, but if they keep this pick they acquired from Miami on Wednesday then Texas combo guard Avery Bradley is a possibility. Bradley lacks prototypical size for a shooting guard or the ability to get to the rim like a point guard, but he's a consistent perimeter shooter and a fierce defender.
The pick: Avery Bradley
19. Boston Celtics
What they need: Though the team was just a quarter away from winning its second title in three seasons, the Celtics need depth at just about every position. Going to the bench was a teeth-gnashing prospect for Celtics coach Doc Rivers (who might not be back next year) in 2009-10, and even though the team took in some fantastic play from Tony Allen, Glen Davis, Nate Robinson, and Rasheed Wallace at times, this lot still has its faults. Help at any position would, uh, help.
Who's available: A consistent scorer off the bench would certainly improve the Celtics, and Xavier's Jordan Crawford has the potential to fill that role. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard made a name for himself during the NCAA tournament as more than just the guy who dunked on LeBron, averaging 29 points a game and nearly leading Xavier to a Sweet 16 upset of Kansas State.
The pick: Jordan Crawford
What they need: 20th overall must feel like a lottery pick to the Spurs, who have been amongst the NBA's elite since lucking into the first pick in the 1997 Draft and selecting Tim Duncan. An older team, San Antonio badly needs a frontcourt counterpart to Duncan, some sort of center that can be relied up on to use his (or her) six fouls properly and not fumble the ball in traffic. A hard sell for a middling pick like this, but it is San Antonio's biggest need.
Who's available: How fitting that the Spurs need a frontcourt counterpart to Duncan since the best international player in this draft is 6-foot-10 center Kevin Seraphin. The French big man has an injury-plagued past, but his size, length and strength is a good fit for a team looking for a complement to Tim Duncan.
The pick: Kevin Seraphin
21. Oklahoma City Thunder
What they need: See above
Who's available: If the Thunder don't package this pick, Orton could be an option. The Kentucky center has slid down draft boards as a result of a knee injury, a lack of conditioning and questions about his work ethic, but his upside is intriguing enough that it's hard to believe he can fall out of the first round altogether.
The pick: Daniel Orton
22. Portland Trailblazers
What they need: The Blazers don't have many holes when healthy. When the team is at its best, and nobody's sitting out, the squad tends to go ten-deep. But with Andre Miller getting on in years, Greg Oden remaining injury-prone, and Joel Przybilla possibly out for most of 2010-11, the Blazers could use help at point guard, and center. The league's two most important positions, unfortunately, positions that even the first and second picks in the draft can't ably fill. Working with the 22nd and 34th pick (one they spent a good $2 million to move up to), the Blazers will probably go for the best prospect they see as available.
Who's available: The Blazers reportedly have been trying to trade up, but they'd be thrilled if Kentucky point guard Eric Bledsoe fell to them at No. 22. Bledsoe didn't have a chance to prove he could run a team alongside John Wall at Kentucky, but his quickness, transition scoring and outside shooting are intriguing to scouts.
The pick: Eric Bledsoe
23. Minnesota Timberwolves
What they need: See above
Who's available: At this point in the draft, the Wolves will just be looking for a player who can crack their rotation, so Texas' Damion James may be an attractive option. James is solid in all areas but excellent in none, making him a good potential backup at wing.
The pick: Damion James
24. Atlanta Hawks
What they need: The Hawks are an above-average team with a massive payroll, a new coach hired on the cheap, and a "superstar" wingman in Joe Johnson that they're working desperately to overpay as a re-signed free agent this summer. Loaded in the frontcourt, the team badly needs a creative passer in the backcourt, as veteran Mike Bibby has never been much of a set-up guy, Jeff Teague looks a little overwhelmed at this level, and a good backcourt upgrade would help the team move away from a Johnson-centric offense even if Joe hangs around.
Who's available: Memphis guard Eliot Williams is a perfect fit for the Hawks. If the former Duke transfer gets past Portland at No. 22, his developing mid-range game and ability to consistently get to the free throw line should interest Atlanta.
The pick: Eliot Williams
25. Memphis Grizzlies
What they need: It may have been a fluke, or a sign of things to come. But out of nowhere, Memphis' young core enjoyed a standout season in 2009-10. The team still needs help in the backcourt, it could use another shooter to spell O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay at the wing positions (especially if Gay leaves this summer as a free agent, a distinct possibility if another team makes a ridiculous offer Memphis can't match), and it needs someone to take the reins from Mike Conley at the point. Conley has developed into a passable player, but he's not a starter on a good team.
Who's available: Hometown star Eliot Williams might have been a natural fit here for the Grizzlies, but Washington's Quincy Pondexter could be a nice consolation prize. A tweener forward in the same mold as Wake Forest's Al-Farouq Aminu, Pondexter blossomed as a senior after underachieving his first three years of college, improving his outside shooting and perimeter defense.
The pick: Quincy Pondexter
26. Oklahoma City Thunder
What they need: See above
Who's available: Not a whole lot is known about Germany's Tibor Pleiss, but the 20-year-old 7-footer's big frame, soft hands and rebounding prowess make him an intriguing prospect. He's perfect for a team that can take a project on its roster or stash one away in Europe to develop for another year or two.
The pick: Tibor Pleiss
27: New Jersey Nets
What they need: With the Nets sending Chris Douglas-Roberts to the Milwaukee Bucks for a second round pick, they'll likely have just six roster spots spoken for entering draft night. And yet, with all those spaces to fill, the Nets are pretty set at the league's two most important positions, center and point guard. The Nets need a scoring big to work in tandem with Brook Lopez, and some wing scorers to work around Devin Harris. Any forward will do, especially if it will help the Nets take minutes away from Yi Jianlian and Kris Humphries.
Who's available: Ex-Cincinnati star Lance Stephenson's shot selection is miserable and his conditioning and work ethic have raised questions, but the former New York City phenom nicknamed "Born Ready" has two things you can't teach: size and athleticism. At 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, Stephenson looks like a prototypical NBA shooting guard, though he will have to find other ways of scoring at this level than simply overpowering smaller guards on the way to the rim.
The pick: Lance Stephenson
28. Memphis Grizzlies
What they need: See above
Who's available: Since No. 12 pick Paul George is such a high-risk, high-reward selection, the Grizzlies could seek out some insurance at wing by nabbing high-scoring Oklahoma State shooting guard James Anderson here. The 6-foot-6 junior led the Big 12 in scoring this past season, earning Big 12 player of the year honors.
The pick: James Anderson
29. Orlando Magic
What they need: The Magic are already one of the deeper teams in the NBA, but a disappointing finish to the season (losing in the third round after making it to the Finals in 2009) has them looking to make moves and make it back to the championship round. Thus, stuck with the second-to-last picks in the first and second rounds, Orlando's best bet is for the best player available or an overseas prospect to throw into a trade.
Who's available: The best player left on the board here is South Florida combo guard Dominique Jones, a volume shooter who can score in bunches. Jones is a tad small to play shooting guard in the NBA at 6-foot-4, but he can get to the rim and finish as well as anyone in this draft besides John Wall. If he hones his outside shot, he could be a late first-round steal.
The pick: Dominique Jones
What they need: Washington has the first and last picks in the first round, and even with Gilbert Arenas sticking around for a spell, the Wiz will need help at any position. A proper big man, a scoring point, a slashing scorer with size, a beefy post-up demon; anything helps. And when anything helps, the best player available is usually the best option.
Who's available: In case John Wall doesn't sell out Washington's home games, drafting local favorite Greivis Vasquez might help. The Maryland product's lack of speed is a drawback, but his size and jump shot give him a chance to crack the latter stages of the first round.
The pick: Greivis Vasquez