NBA mock draft: Take 4
A few years ago, NBA personnel directors seemed to develop a philosophy of “when in doubt, go with the foreign player.” Since then, the league’s fascination with employees developed outside the United States has dissipated.
Every year since 2000, at least one foreign player who did not play college basketball in the U.S. was chosen among the top 12 picks in the draft. That streak could end this year. Seven-footer Donatas Motiejunas from Benetton Treviso was once mentioned as a top-10 selection then decided to pull out of the draft, probably because he realized where he’d actually be chosen.
That leaves forward Kevin Seraphin as perhaps the most likely first foreign player selected. He’s from the French club, Cholet, which developed one of the surprise rookies from last season, Dallas guard Rodrigue Beaubois(notes). So there are still quality players overseas. Maybe this is just a down year.
1. Washington Wizards – John Wall, PG, Kentucky: A number of draft prospects have episodes of questionable behavior in their past. During a predraft camp interview, Wall was up front about learning to manage the anger that swallowed him after he lost his father at age 9. “In school, people had little jokes about moms and dads. I just heard the one wrong joke and I went after the person. I felt my anger had to be released on somebody,” Wall said. “I had so much anger and frustration built up into me. My mom sat down and told me one day, ‘If you want to play basketball, if you want to do something special and change your life around, you have to change your attitude.’ Once I figured it out, I just said basketball was my escape route.”
2. Philadelphia 76ers – Evan Turner, SG, Ohio State: Turner’s agent, David Falk, has said his client plans to work out only for Philadelphia. The Sixers are also bringing in Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins for a big-man workout, but Turner remains a logical choice. Asked where he’ll play in the NBA, Turner didn’t want to limit himself. “I don’t feel I have a natural position,” he said at the predraft camp. “Sometimes I’m going to have to handle the ball maybe and sometimes I’m going to have to be on a wing coming off screens. I can’t really say what’s my natural position, to tell you the truth. I just want to play.”
3. New Jersey Nets – Derrick Favors, PF, Georgia Tech: Favors was often rated as the top high school player in the Class of 2009, so maybe he has a chance to be the best pro. The Atlanta native was named MVP of the McDonald’s All-America Game and co-MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic at Madison Square Garden. As a freshman at Georgia Tech, he averaged 12.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and got better as the season progressed.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves – Wesley Johnson, SF, Syracuse: Johnson might be seen as a safe pick here, coming off an impressive season at Syracuse. Looking back at his career, it’s tougher to determine where he stands. A year ago, he sat out as a transfer after playing most of his sophomore season at Iowa State with a stress fracture in his foot. He still managed to average 12.4 points while often playing out of position for the Cyclones.
5. Sacramento Kings – Greg Monroe, C, Georgetown: If there is no substitute for production, Monroe makes sense. He posted quality numbers during two years at Georgetown and is viewed as a solid citizen. The New Orleans native is also uniquely skilled for a big man. His eye-popping assist average of 3.8 might draw comparisons to one of the Kings’ best centers, Vlade Divac.
6. Golden State Warriors – Ekpe Udoh, PF/C, Baylor: Udoh’s stock is on the upswing after he fared well at the predraft camp. He measured 6-feet-10 with an impressive 7-5 wingspan. Even though his statistics weren’t overwhelming during the NCAA tournament, scouts thought he was the catalyst behind Baylor’s run to the Elite Eight. Overall, he averaged just below 10 rebounds a game last season, along with 3.7 blocks and 2.7 assists.
7. Detroit Pistons – DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C, Kentucky: Questions about conditioning and maturity are bound to follow Cousins for a while. NBA teams probably aren’t as concerned with the forearm shiver he threw at a Louisville player last January as they are the in-game oral confrontations with coach John Calipari. He often bullied opponents in college, which might not be feasible in the NBA.
8. Los Angeles Clippers – Gordon Hayward, SF, Butler: As a freshman, Hayward shot an impressive 44.8 percent from 3-point range, then dipped all the way to 29.4 percent during his sophomore season. That’s probably a sign that college defenses made keeping him off the 3-point line a top priority. His stock appears to be rising during draft workouts.
9. Utah Jazz – Paul George, SF, Fresno State: One scout described George’s physical tools as “outrageous.” His size and athleticism have drawn comparisons to Shawn Marion(notes), but George also might have the skills to play guard. George is still a work in progress and needs to improve his work ethic. After Ronnie Brewer(notes) was traded away last winter, he’d be a nice fit for the Jazz.
10. Indiana Pacers – Ed Davis, PF, North Carolina: Davis didn’t bench press at the predraft camp because of a broken wrist that caused him to miss 13 games late last season. Some teams might question whether he has the strength to excel as an NBA power forward. He did test well athletically and averaged 9.2 rebounds, to go with 2.7 blocks, last year in the ACC.
11. New Orleans Hornets – Luke Babbitt, SF, Nevada: Babbitt might be an unfamiliar name to basketball fans, but the scouts who visited Reno the last two years know all about him. Babbitt should fit the same concept that caused the Hornets to sign free agent Peja Stojakovic(notes) in 2006: Point guard Chris Paul(notes) needs to be paired with a reliable outside shooter.
12. Memphis Grizzlies – Xavier Henry, SG, Kansas: Henry’s father, Carl, was a two-year starter for Kansas in the 1980s, while his mother, Barbara, was KU’s leading rebounder in ’83. Older brother C.J. was a first-round draft pick of the New York Yankees. Xavier originally committed to Memphis on his way out of high school, but changed his mind when John Calipari left. Maybe he’ll get a second chance to make Beale Street his basketball home.
13. Toronto Raptors – Hassan Whiteside, C, Marshall: There were some questions about Whiteside’s strength, but he did 12 reps on the bench press at the predraft camp. Not bad for a guy with a 7-7 wingspan. Some might also wonder why a heavily recruited center ended up at Marshall. “I didn’t really think it’s about the name, I thought it’s about the team,” Whiteside said at the predraft camp. “I had some friends at Marshall that I was close with already.”
14. Houston Rockets – Al-Farouq Aminu, SF, Wake Forest: Growing up, Aminu received several driveway beatdowns per day from his older brother Alade, who played at Georgia Tech. Alade made it to the NBA last season, but spent most of his time in the D-League before being signed to a 10-day contract by the Miami Heat. Al-Farouq will take a much easier path to the pros.
15. Milwaukee Bucks – Kevin Seraphin, PF, Cholet (France): A knee injury is expected to keep Seraphin out of summer league, but NBA teams were already familiar with this impressive 6-10 athlete. He grew up in French Guyana playing soccer, so he’s relatively new to basketball and figures to start out as a project.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves – Patrick Patterson, PF, Kentucky: During the 2008-09 season, before Kentucky’s talented crop of freshmen arrived, Patterson averaged 17.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks while shooting 60 percent from the field. He’s seen as a player who will contribute right away in the pros, with perhaps a limited upside.
17. Chicago Bulls – Larry Sanders, PF, VCU: As a high school freshman in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Sanders was more interested in drawing comic strips than playing basketball. He was convinced to join the JV team a year later and kept improving. Sanders made steady progress at VCU, with at least 2.5 blocks and 50 percent shooting in all three seasons. If he continues to show progress, this could be a smart pick.
18. Miami Heat – Craig Brackins, PF/C, Iowa State: Many believed last year would have been the right time for Brackins to join the draft, after averaging 20.2 points and 9.5 rebounds as a sophomore. He decided to stay in Ames, and the results were disappointing. Iowa State had a rough year as a team and Brackins’ numbers dropped: his field-goal percentage dipped all the way to 42 percent. He’s still tall, skilled and athletic, though, so many believe he’ll be picked in the first round.
19. Boston Celtics – James Anderson, SG, Oklahoma State: The Big 12 player of the year averaged 22.3 points last season as a junior. One concern is he was such a focal point of the Cowboys’ offense, often running through several screens before getting a look at the rim. NBA teams are seeking shooting guards that can create their own shot, and Anderson might have trouble with that task in the pros.
20. San Antonio Spurs – Damion James, SF, Texas: The Spurs should know his game well, since James spent four years playing just up the highway in Austin. He might have the stigma of being the rare college senior picked in the first round, but James can bring defense, rebounding and a steady effort. Nothing wrong with that.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder – Cole Aldrich, C, Kansas: Aldrich proved to be a competent scorer and rebounder during three years at Kansas. If NBA teams see him as a backup instead of a potential starting center, he’s likely to slide out of the lottery. He did average 3.5 blocks last season, which speaks well for his defense.
22. Portland Trail Blazers – Quincy Pondexter, SF, Washington: One reason Pondexter stayed in school four years was the experience of his father, Roscoe. After playing at Long Beach State for coaches Jerry Tarkanian and Lute Olson, Roscoe Pondexter left school early, was drafted in the third round and spent 10 years playing professionally overseas. His uncle Cliff also left Long Beach State early and logged three seasons with the Bulls in the 1970s.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves – Dominique Jones, SG, South Florida: Jones nearly carried South Florida into the NCAA tournament, averaging 21.4 points last year as a junior. What stands out on his stat sheet are 8.5 free-throw attempts per game. He got to the foul line 10 times or more in 14 contests last season. Against Providence on Jan. 23, he piled up 46 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
24. Atlanta Hawks – Terrico White, SG, Mississippi: At 6-5, White has the size to play two guard and he recorded the highest vertical leap at the predraft camp. Consistency was an issue during his sophomore season at Mississippi. White’s older brother, Shun, was a 1,000-yard rusher at Navy and will join the New England Patriots when his military service is complete.
25. Memphis Grizzlies – Armon Johnson, PG, Nevada: Johnson was a high-scoring guard coming out of Hug High School in Reno. During his three years in college, he increased his assist average from 3.4 to 5.6, so he’s getting the knack of playing point guard. With his long arms and lateral quickness, Johnson has a chance to be chosen higher.
26. Oklahoma City Thunder – Tibor Pleiss, C, Brose Baskets Bamberg (Germany): Listed at 7-1 and 242 pounds, Pleiss averaged 8.5 points and 5.5 rebounds last season in the German Bundesliga. Soft hands, quick feet and a sizable wingspan make this 20-year-old a decent prospect.
27. New Jersey Nets – Eric Bledsoe, PG, Kentucky: Though he didn’t get to play much point guard last year at Kentucky, Bledsoe has been impressive during individual workouts. Questions were raised about his high school transcript, but outside of any controversy, Bledsoe demonstrated plenty of fortitude by surviving difficult circumstances growing up in Birmingham, Ala.
28. Memphis Grizzlies – Tiny Gallon, C, Oklahoma: Modern technology seemed to eliminate shattered backboards in recent years, but Gallon defied the odds. He smashed the glass in a game at Gonzaga last season during an incomplete alley-oop pass. The ball was batted away before it got to Gallon and he grabbed the rim on his way down. He was measured at 6-9½, 302 pounds at the predraft camp, though, so it’s understandable how Gallon did so much damage.
29. Orlando Magic – Jordan Crawford, SG, Xavier: Crawford became famous last summer for dunking against LeBron James(notes) at a basketball camp. A story spread that video of the play was confiscated by security. The dunk eventually found its way to the Internet and it was impressive. The 6-4 Crawford averaged 20.5 points overall last season, including 29 points in three NCAA tournament games.
30. Washington Wizards – Daniel Orton, C, Kentucky: Quality big men are a rare commodity, but selecting Orton will be a leap of faith. He missed most of his senior year in high school with a knee injury, then averaged 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in limited action as a freshman at Kentucky.