Following the NBA combine in Chicago last week, we can now evaluate players even further on skills, measurements, intangibles, shooting ability and defense. The combine caused some variations in my Blue Chips Top 70 list, including big jumps up the board by Enes Kanter (C-Turkey), Chris Singleton (SF-Florida St), Jordan Williams (C-Maryland), Malcolm Thomas (PF-San Diego St), and Marshon Brooks (SG-Providence). Now, this is how I slate each draft pick to fall…
1/ Cleveland — Derrick Williams (PF-Arizona)
I stick by my man, D-Will. All the talk is about Kyrie Irving being the “safest pick” (Quoted) in the draft. You should realize that the No. 1 pick is not about being safe, it’s about taking the guy who could potentially be a stud. That guy is Williams. The only argument I’ve heard against Williams is he is a “tweener” – ESPN’s Chad Ford’s favorite word – but that doesn’t bother me. When I look at D-Will, I see Blake Griffin’s talent in David West’s situation. I don’t make Cleveland’s decisions, but I’m not bothered by a mix of Griffin and West – not at all.
2/ Minnesota — Kyrie Irving (PG-Duke)
There is reason to believe this pick could be trade bait. There is also reason to believe Irving wouldn’t be the pick here. Minnesota would love to have Derrick Williams fall into their hands, to replace Michael Beasley – this would put Williams as a small forward in the T-Wolves system. If D-Will isn’t available, this pick may be traded – reason being, Minnesota GM David Kahn is still a believer in Ricky Rubio, a top draft choice who Kahn is still waiting for to come to the US. Or, Kahn could become obsessed with another point guard, a safe pick, one that doesn’t get him fired. Irving doesn’t get you fired, but he doesn’t get you a John Wall point guard either.
3/ Utah — Brandon Knight (PG-Kentucky)
I like BK a lot more than most people. After D-Will, BK is probably my favorite prospect. I believe he can blossom into not only the best point guard in this draft, but the best player in this draft. He could really be an All-Star. Like I’ve said before, I like the way he performed in the NCAA Tournament, scoring, leading, defending. He seemed to have the whole package. The difference between Knight and Irving is, obviously that Knight played this season. He has proven himself for one year at the highest level. Knight is also a little bit more athletic, quick, and maybe a little bit better shooter; but the “expert” consensus is that he is more of risk. I don’t agree.
4/ Cleveland — Enes Kanter (C-Turkey)
You could definitely see Kemba Walker be taken with this pick. On my radar, Walker is a little overrated for the No. 4 pick in the draft. He showed what he can do in tournaments, which play everyday as one-and-done games, but he didn’t show me the same effort or stardom in the regular season games. There are 82 NBA regular season games, going just about every other night. Until he shows me he can be more consistent, I won’t pick him at No. 4. Kanter, on the other hand, is the best true center in the draft. He plays from the inside and has great skill with his hands and feet. Best, he uses his body well. Pairing him with D-Will could solidify the front line for Cleveland. This team could start looking like New Orleans – West and Emeka Okafor.
5/ Toronto — Jan Vesely (SF-Czech Republic)
The Raptors have never been a team afraid to pick from an international pool. Five player on their team are from overseas. To me, Vesely represents the best international talent in the draft, and the most unique European talent. He’s more athletic, more elusive than other international players in this draft. He reminds me more of a US college small forward than an international player. He made a smart decision by dropping out of the draft at the last minute last season, even though he would’ve been a lottery pick. Now, the Raptors will be getting a much more well-seasoned player, NBA-ready right now.
6/ Washington — Kawhi Leonard (SF-San Diego State)
Sticking by how I slated this pick in my first mock draft, Leonard is what the Wizards need. Giving John Wall another athletic player to ball with will be important. Wall is a point guard, and point guards need outlets. I believe Leonard can be a consistent outlet. I saw him disappear in game for the Aztecs this season every once in a while, but since seeing him in interviews and in the combine, I think he is coming out of his shell. He can’t be a shy player in the NBA. He can be a good player at the next level as long as he stays in games. Right now it appears Leonard will still be available in the draft, but his stock is rapidly rising.
7/ Sacramento — Bismack Biyombo (PF-Spain)
NBA scouts hope he is the next Serge Ibaka, which would make him one of the best potential picks in this draft. Biyombo is another big man to go along with DeMarcus Cousins and Samuel Dalembert. My hope for the Kings is that Cousins can become their center, to replace Dalembert. Biyombo has not been scouted too intesely until now, but scouts say he’s a good rebounder and say he has scored almost prolifically in Spain. If he’s a good rebounder and good defender, he’d be a good fit in Sacramento. They don’t take Kemba Walker here, like you might have originally guessed, because there comes a time for a franchise when you have too many scorers and ball hogs. Tyreke Evans at shooting guard, and Cousins at power forward temporarily, they represent enough selfishness. Maybe Biyombo can help them work together better. Maybe he can compliment them well.
8/ Detroit Pistons — Tristan Thompson (PF-Texas)
This is a no-brainer for the Pistons if Thompson is available, and he should be. If Thompson can turn into Ben Wallace, who is still on the Pistons, then this will be a great addition for this team. The Pistons were winning championships when Wallace was a regular on the All-NBA Defensive team list. Thompson has a freakish wingspan of 7-foot-2, and has all the makings of a Ben Wallace model. Different than Wallace, Thompson has potential to develop a better offensive game than Wallace ever had, but Thompson will grow to be known for rebounding and blocking shots. He will fit in perfectly at power forward because Detroit’s current PF, Chris Wilcox, is nothing special – neither are any of their back-ups.
9/ Charlotte — Kemba Walker (PG-Connecticut)
Because he is available, this is a dream marriage for both Kemba and team owner Michael Jordan. MJ would want Kemba. Kemba has drawn comparisons, many times this season, to his Airness. So why not make this pick? Charlotte could also use a couple big men, and there is one still available in this mock, who would fit – Jonas Valanciunas. Also, despite having DJ Augustin as “their guy” at point guard, Kemba would be a much better scorer than Augustin. Think of it this way: Kemba is the scorer, DJ is the distributor. If this team can find a happy-medium with that rotation, that remains to be seen. If they can, this could be a great fit – Kemba in Charlotte, with the MJ as a tutor.
10/ Milwaukee — Jonas Valanciunas (PF-Lithuania)
Alec Burks is available, and tempting, but the Bucks need an answer at power forward because I don’t think Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is the answer at that position. Also, despite, Larry Sanders impressing me this season (after I thought he was too high of a draft pick last season) at power forward, I don’t think he’s the answer either. However, I think Jonas and Sanders are a good duo for the position. They both offer some of the same things, length on defense and intangibles all around, Sanders is a little more of a physical specimen, but that should create balance. Some experts even think Jonas is the best European talent in the draft.
11/ Golden State — Jordan Hamilton (SF-Texas)
Picking Hamilton immediately causes concern because this is a team with two ball hogs already. Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry are having trouble enough sharing the ball, so add Hamilton to that mix and it could cause trouble. I only mention this because I came to know Hamilton as a bit of a selfish player at Texas. He had bad shot selection at times; however, he is still a scorer. Golden State needs to get their team figured out. Ellis and Curry cannot coexist, and I’m afraid to say Curry might be the one on the chopping block – reason being, he may be the more attractive piece to other NBA teams. Now, get rid of Curry and things might open up a little bit more for Hamilton. He’s a prolific scorer, but maybe Ellis taking some shots away from him could be a good thing.
12/ Utah — Jimmer Fredette (SG-BYU)
There is a lot of pressure on Utah GM Kevin O’Connor to pick Fredette here, while he’s still available. He’s an in-state kid, who might spark more interest in the franchise as a whole. Utah doesn’t necessarily need a shooting guard, but it wouldn’t hurt to add a guy who can be the face of Utah for you. If taken with this pick, Fredette will be a lucky man. He gets to stay home, get paid, and know he overachieved in the draft. He overachieved because I could see him dropping up to eight picks if the Jazz don’t take him – he could be picked anywhere from 12-20. My biggest worry with him is that he will not create his own shot – he’s not quick enough, agile enough, or athletic enough to do it against the top shooting guards in the NBA; however, he can make a spot up jumper and he can probably drive into the lane every once in a while to create free throw opportunities. It’s smart to take him if you’re Utah because of the public exposure attached to him.
13/ Phoenix — Marcus Morris (PF-Kansas)
Marcus can’t apologize for lacking size, he can only make up for it with what he can do on the floor. What he can do is something a little different than what Channing Frye can do for the Suns right now. Frye is obviously taller and a lot better shooter from outside, but Morris is an inside guy. He’ll get dirty with the bigs, trying to make up for his lack of size – which both he and his brother (to be drafted later) suffer from. Marcus may have better low post intangibles than Frye. Morris is a better athlete is has better low post moves than Frye does. So that right there is a balance for Phoenix. Morris is not athletic enough, however, to be a small forward so the Suns shouldn’t put him in that position – ever. But he will make a good spell power forward for Frye, or vice versa.
14/ Houston — Donatas Motiejunas (PF-Lithuania)
Kyle Lowry just had the best season of his career, finally getting the starting job at point guard for Houston. Averaging 13.5 point per game, 6.7 assists and just over 4 rebounds, I don’t think you can turn him down of the starting job anymore, until he falters. That bounces Alec Burks from Houston’s table, which opens up the pick for Donatas, who will add depth to the front line for the Rockets. Donatas is a European player who is trained as a power forward, but might be able to play some small forward – not on a regular basis, however. The Rockets have had health concerns in the past with their front line – Yao Ming being exhibit A. Now, Houston has a lot of depth already, especially at the position Donatas will try to play. But the Rockets probably don’t know if they have the answer yet. They have Luis Scola, who lacks an all around power game. They have Jordan Hill, who might be the answer if he can develop better (5.6 points per game doesn’t cut it). And they have Patrick Patterson, who is a solid player, but not a starter. Donatas might be the answer, or he might be another player to add to the depth chart.
15/ Indiana — Kenneth Faried (PF-Morehead State)
Faried struck me as grounded and educated at the combine last week. A lot of the talk is about is volatile offensive game, even though his defensive prowess can stand alone. He said in an ESPN interview that he hoped to be like a Ben Wallace-type of player, which is more than exciting for anyone who wants to draft him. Faried said he wants to win championships and get paid, and if he can do that by being a defensive specialist – great. He gave an honest answer. Everyone wants to get paid, and Faried could get paid a lot. In Indiana, I don’t know that Faried will be in a position to win titles quite yet, but he can be a cornerstone, which is something I like about him. As I said earlier, the Detroit Pistons won championships when Ben Wallace was at his best. Yes, they had a couple other moving parts, which Indiana needs, but Faried can be Wallace.
16/ Philadelphia — Chris Singleton (SF-Florida State)
If the Sixers can pick Singleton, they should be elated. Singleton is not an offensive powerhouse like Andre Igoudala or Evan Turner at the two and three positions, but he is something totally different and definitely needed. Singleton is widely raved about as the best defender in the draft this season – Kenneth Faried is a great low post defender, while Singleton is more for the outside. Turner and Igoudala are also not as good of defenders as Singleton is, so it’s like he is the missing link. The Sixers need defense; in fact, any team could use an add on to their defensive game plan. Singleton is a guy you can player per defensive possession. If he develops a good offensive game in the NBA, look out.
17/ New York — Alec Burks (PG-Colorado)
The Knicks’ front office would be sweating and adjusting their collars if Burks started to fall this far. In this mock draft, he has. Burks is a perfect fit for them. They need a point guard, even though they are likely to go after Chris Paul or Deron Williams in the future free agency markets. At this moment, Chauncey Billups is aging and Toney Douglas is no the answer. Burks might be, at least for a while. He is a good size and build for the point guard position, definitely not undersized like a lot of point guards. Plus he was ranked 10th on my Blue Chips Top 70. He is a scorer and a distributor. He can learn from Billups, which will help him develop to the life and styles of the NBA.
18/ Washington — Josh Selby (SG-Kansas)
They added one athletic specimen earlier, Kawhi Leonard. They add another one with this pick. Selby is a hyper athletic shooting guard. He needs to mature much more to be successful in the NBA – he didn’t even finish his spring semester at Kansas after the basketball season was over (showing a lack of commitment). However, his athleticism, shooting ability and skills above the rim are too much to pass on him. Adding Selby, the Wizards will turn into a OKC-type young team. Leonard and John Wall are older than Selby, but not by much; in fact, I think only a year. Expect these three to try to grow together, at least that’s what this franchise will hope to happen after this draft.
19/ Charlotte — Markieff Morris (PF-Kansas)
The Bobcats could have taken a power forward of the likes of Jonas Valanciunas with the 9th pick, earlier in the draft, but Kemba Walker was too good to pass up at that spot in the top ten. After picking Walker, the Bobcats could still use a power forward, and they’ll take one similar to Jonas – in Markieff. His brother got taken before him, but both will offer a lot of the same things. Charlotte needs to add this guy to their frontline, to try to bolster that unit. They’ll be happy to see that Morris, who I had being taken one pick earlier in my previous mock draft, is still available. Morris can offer them a solid low post presence. He’s not going to jump out at you, or be a preliminary All-Star, but he can add validity to the frontline.
20/ Minnesota — Nikola Mirotic (PF-Serbia)
T-Wolves GM David Kahn is convinced Ricky Rubio is the answer at point guard, as I said earlier. He is also convinced that Darko Milicic is a good NBA center. So don’t expect them to draft a center, like Jordan Williams, with this pick. If Kahn can see into the future, he should know that Kevin Love is not going to be around for much longer. He is not going to sign another contract. So when do the T-Wolves start thinking about his replacement? Well, Anthony Randolph and Anthony Tolliver are not the answers on their depth chart right now. Expect Kahn to take a risk on Mirotic here. Mirotic is a “tweener” as Chad Ford would say and I’m not sure if his 6-foot-10 frame fits with the power forward position or a tall small forward. Kahn should try to take the route of power forward, to begin developing a replacement for Love.
21/ Portland — Darius Morris (PG-Michigan)
I will stick by my original projection of this pick and slate Portland to take Morris from Michigan. He’s good value for the No. 21 pick and is said to have the best vision of any point guard in the draft. His vision could come in handy; after all, he is going to have to distribute the ball evenly to Brandon Roy, LeMarcus Aldridge, Gerald Wallace, and the rest of the bunch. He may not be a starter like some of the earliest picks in this draft – and like Kyrie Irving, the point guard picked way ahead of him – but he could be a good sixth man. Portland is loaded with depth, especially unproven draft picks. Morris might become one of those draft picks, but given the chance to prove himself he might be all right.
22/ Denver — Tobias Harris (PF-Tennessee)
The Nuggets will clamp onto this big-bodied power forward. Harris is a banger inside with the big boys. Denver could use another good inside presence to pair up with Nene. Kenyon Martin is an athletic player, getting old, doing a lot more from the outside instead of the inside. Harris is a guy that is going to back down his man starting with one foot, or both feet in best cases, in the paint. Martin can back players down from further out, but settle for jumpers. Harris doesn’t have the privilege, but he doesn’t need it. You can’t really even compare the two, but Harris will definitely be a good player coming off of the bench for a while, creating second chance points, grabbing defensive rebounds and scoring in spurts.
23/ Houston — Reggie Jackson (PG-Boston College)
At pick No. 14, you don’t take a point guard if you’re the Rockets. You take Motiejunas. At pick No. 23, go ahead and take a point guard. I think Kyle Lowry still has to be your guy, but Jackson offers competition to him. He also offers a totally different mold of point guard. Jackson has a 7-foot wingspan, much longer than Lowry’s. Lowry is the short scrappy point guard, Jackson is not. While Lowry is your starter for the time being, Jackson is the guy who will come off the bench as the No. 2 point guard, and he’ll get good minutes in that position. The Rockets will be able to sleep peacefully knowing that if anything happens to Lowry, Jackson could be more than just a replacement off of the bench, pushed into a starting role.
24/ Oklahoma City — Davis Bertans (PF-Latvia)
Where is the happy medium between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant? Westbrook dribbles too much and Durant doesn’t demand the ball enough. That is not something that can be solved right away in this draft. One thing that can be attempted to be solved is the power forward position. Serge Ibaka is one of the best picks of the draft a few years ago, when OKC was still in Seattle. He’s the starter at power forward, but he’s not an outstanding offensive player. He does a lot of things defensively, though. Bertans might be an option as a more offensive player at power forward, because Nick Collison, OKC’s other power forward, is not an offensive mastermind either. And maybe Bertans isn’t either, but it’s worth a shot. No matter who they pick here, it’s not going to get them to the finals automatically. OKC needs to solve that problem in free agency.
25/ Boston — Jordan Williams (C-Maryland)
The ongoing complaint about the Celtics is that the trade, which sent away Kendrick Perkins and added Jeff Green, was a bad one. Danny Ainge sticks by his move and says it was a fine trade. However, head coach Doc Rivers acknowledged that Perkins might have been a missing link of sorts. So what to do now? By drafting Jordan Williams, the Celtics will regain their big body in the middle who is there for mainly defensive purposes. Williams will be the Perkins of old, meant to keep people, like Lebron James, away from the rim. He’s a big body and will be able to do that. He might not have the best offensive game, but I don’t think Ainge or any Celtics fan for that matter cares what he can do offensively as long as he can replace Perkins.
26/ Dallas — Marshon Brooks (SG-Providence)
Marshon picked up a lot of attention at the combine last week because he looked like the one of the best, if not the best, shooting guard. He was making all of his shots and he was doing in stride. The Mavericks are made up of role players who can score 20 points on a given night. Brooks probably wont be a starter on Dallas’ team, but he’ll be one of those role players, who will be able to provide a lot of spark off of the bench. He’s a high energy guy, which will fit in with the Mavericks roster perfectly. Plus, he fits in very well on the shooting guard depth chart as a solid second or third. Deshawn Stevenson and Jason Terry have earned their spots, but Brooks can build up to those spots too.
27/ New Jersey — Tyler Honeycutt (SF-UCLA)
The Nets need just about everything besides a center and point guard. They should start at small forward because Travis Outlaw is a joke and has a contract that the Nets need to dump. This pick is a way they can do that. Honeycutt is young, but has the intangibles to be a productive small forward. He doesn’t have the body that’s going to be able to battle with Lebron James, Kevin Durant or Paul Pierce, but then again nobody with the No. 27 pick is going to find an answer to that. The Nets also need a power forward and a shooting guard, but at this point their best option is Honeycutt, instead of reaching for a power forward like Robin Benzig or a shooting guard like Nolan Smith.
28/ Chicago — Klay Thompson (SG-Washington State)
The playoffs have exposed Derrick Rose and the Bulls. They have shown that it’s not a smart game plan to make Rose have to do all of the scoring. If he becomes more of a distributor, he can make an even more effective scorer. Thompson impressed scouts at the the combine because like Marshon Brooks, taken ahead of this pick, he made just about everything. He showed a lot of range on the outside arc. He needs to prove further that he can drive into the lane and create a shot, but I believe he can. He has good size for a shooting guard, and he has good range and athleticism. The Bulls can use him as another scorer, allowing Rose to do a wider variety of things on the court.
29/ San Antonio — Lucas Nogueira (C-Brazil)
The Spurs need to get a lot younger, quickly. Their point guard, Tony Parker already came out in French newspapers saying that the Spurs’ championship winning days are all over because they are too old as a team. Parker needs to realize that he shouldn’t have said that because he might be on the chopping block for this team. He might be the player the Spurs are most willing to give up for youth. Lucas creates some immediate youth on the Spurs squad, although he needs to take some time to develop. He doesn’t have the frame or the strength to be an effective center in the NBA. He does have height, but he needs to grow a little bit more.
30/ Chicago — Malcolm Thomas (PF-San Diego State)
Thomas has climbed up my big board because he impressed me at the combine last week. With his length, speed and athleticism, he could make for a power forward similar to David West in that he’s sort of a “tweener” but needs to pick one position of focus. Thomas can run the floor with this Bulls team perfectly, which makes him a nice fit for the team. He’s similar to Taj Gibson, who is a solid bench player for the Bulls in that he’s going to be a solid defensive player, but you can’t sleep on him offensively. The Bulls could have gone a number of ways with this pick. The Bulls will be considering a number of power forwards at this pick, including JaJuan Johnson and Justin Harper. I have Thomas as a better prospect than either of those two.