PICKS 11-20 NBA DRAFT 2009

July 24, 2009

Welcome back Sports Fans!  Picks 11-20 are not reserved for the leagues bottom rung.  The teams involved in this stage of the draft are typically teams that either just fell short of their playoff aspirations or they made the playoffs and were eliminated because their ingredients were not up to par with the leagues elite.  The draft at this point, is about stepping back and reevaluating the talent on your team’s roster.   Teams that are donned with any of these picks are keen on acquiring a player based on need for a position, their system,  best player available or as or most of these picks are about, at least until they find their way, adding depth to your squad through versatility.

Gentlemen... You've Been Drafted

Gentlemen... You've Been Drafted

Terrence Williams- G- New Jersey Nets

The New Jersey Nets punctuated their rebuilding process by trading Air New Jersey (Vince Carter) to Disney World for Courtney Lee, Tony Battie, Rafer Alston and two Mickey Mouse Collectible Cups.  I recently read an article on ESPN.com that was about to talk about the Nets but then said “no one watches the Nets anyways, so let’s move on”.  Well, I watched the Nets last year and they’re not all that bad, even after trading VC.  They are nowhere near playoff contention but their are some strong, young pieces in important positions and as noted by Brandon previously in POTENTIAL DEAL MAKERS, they have the cap space to make a splash next season.  Terrance Williams brings a dynamic elements to the Nets.   Williams is a 4 Year College Player, who was a leader of Big East League Champion Lousiville, making First Team All Conference in leading Lousville to the #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.  Williams is a Point-Forward who stands at 6 foot 6 and can do a little bit of everything.  It is his overall game that lead GM Rod Thorn to grab the sweet shooting, skilled ballhandler and hard nosed defender for the reclamation project in New Jersey/Brooklyn.  It is the hope of Thorn and Coach Lawrence Frank (who is back after being on the hot seat for most of the season) That playing T. Williams at the 3 while being draped with floor general and All-Star Devin Harris, newly acquired, second year stud Courtney Lee at the 2, Chinese Project Yi Jianlian at the 4 and the most pleasant surprise of last year’s draft class, 2nd Year Center Brook Lopez.  Terrence Williams will most certainly see playing time this year, but how much is the question.  Coach Frank is used to mixing and matching veterans from his roster, dividing playing time amongst them to try and maximize their skill set.  Jarvis Hayes, Trenton Hassell and Bobby Simmons all play the SF position that T. Williams will be eyeing, so he will need to earn every minute this season and learn from these veterans.  It is the hope that Terrence Williams is up to the challenge and that his wide-ranging skill set and maybe he can, but I myself on wary that he will be the next Antoine Wright rather then the next Richard Jefferson.

Early Verdict:  Could Get Ugly

Gerald Henderson- G- Charlotte Bobcats

When the Bobcats duo of Michael Jordan & Larry Brown, Alumni of the University of North Carolina decided to take the leading scorer from Duke (especially when UNC Champs Ty Hansborough & Lawson were still on the board), you knew it had to be because Gerald Henderson can be a special kind of player.  It is well chronicled that rookies do not usually crack Coach Larry Brown’s rotation but with PG extraordinaire D.J. Augustin, logging some solid PT last season, there is hope for Henderson this year.  With incumbent SG Raja Bell getting older, look for Henderson to display a similar type of skill set, with a highflying act,  mid range game and fast break savvy that will either compliment or clog the progress of star SF Gerald Wallace.  Henderson should thrive in the half court set, playing with the unselfish likes of Center Emeka Okafor and SF/PF Boris Diaw, who will be looking for Henderson all year on backdoor, baseline baskets for him to dunk home.  The Bobcats are trying desparately to re-sign leader Raymond Felton, but if they can strike a deal remains to be seen.  This team lacks depth.  Henderson at #12 provides depth and another serviceable option on both sides of the ball, while bringing Cameron Crazies to the stands.  Larry Brown will have his hands filled this season in trying to bring the much improved Bobcats to the playoffs.  If Gerald Henderson can continue the progression that he showed at Duke for 3 seasons, then there is reason to be optimistic about the upcoming season and seasons to come for a young squad looking for it’s way.

Early Verdict: Good

Tyler Hansborough- PF- Indiana Pacers

Tyler Hansborough is one of the most decorated college athletes to enter the NBA in recent memory.  Throughout his Four Year Career at UNC, Psycho T was drapped with every accolade that the ACC and NCAA could bestow him with.   Rookie of the Year, First Team ACC, First Team All-America, John Wooden Award Winner as a Junior and NCAA Champion, Hansborough made great use of his college basketball career.  In College, Hansborough’s glass would overflow with compliments but in the circles of the NBA GM, criticism was more often then not what would tip Tyler’s glass.  Many feel as though pick #13 was too high for Hansborough, that the Pacers reached for a high energy player, that does not have STAR written all over his forehead.  In many ways Hansborough epitamizes this Draft Class, which is littered with underappreciated players who have fallen under the “weak draft” moniker.  I for one did not and do not believe that this is a weak draft class and Hansborough has an opportunity to prove a lot of people wrong.  He will get a chance to prove his worth for the Indiana Pacers, with Most Improved Player from last season, Danny Granger at SF, two talented but injury prone players in Mike Dunleavy Jr. & T.J. Ford,  a duo of underrated players in Troy Murphy,  and newly acquired Dahantay Jones, as well as two talented and on the rise Sophomores in Brandon Rush and Roy Hibbert.  After letting Jarret Jack and Marquis Daniels slip away, playing time will be up for grabs and Hansborough will have the chance to showcase his abilities.  The teams who passed on him will be watching with a close eye because he has the ability to make a lot of General Managers look bad, as his GM Larry Legend looks on lovingly.

Early Verdict: Good

Earl Clark- F- Phoenix Suns

Earl Clark dropped out of the lottery, but dropped into a perfect situation for his talents in the NBA.  It is true that the Phoenix Suns are not the same run and gun team that they once were, but Clark can be  Shawn Marion 2.0, with a better jumper if given the opportunity to shine in the desert.  There will be ample opportunity for minutes throughout the season as a backup to Grant Hill or potentially as a starter to replace the departed Matt Barnes (who signed with the Magic for 2 Years).  With Steve Nash agreeing with to a 2 year extension, there is peace in Phoenix who can build with a skilled roster going forward.  Addition by subtraction by dealing Shaquille O’Neal, who was the complete opposite of how the Suns play basketball.  Couple that with the signing of PF Channing Frye, who’s game should be in full force in this system, as well as the return of talented guards Barbosa and J. Richardson.  The Suns are still going to be burning brightly in the West, but they are an Amar’e Stoudameire clean bill of health away from being a playoff team again.  The Suns picked up a valuable and versatle piece in Earl Clark on draft night, who’s strength will be to cause matchup problems on both ends of the floor for opposing teams.  Early Verdict: Good

Austin Daye- F- Detroit Pistons

Austin Daye would not normally be drafted as the #15 pick in this or any draft after 2 mediocre seasons at Gonzaga but since you can’t teach height and the Pistons still think that Rodney Stuckey is a point guard, Daye heard his name called by David Stern, sending him to Motown.  Those who find the pick to be suitable, point to Daye’s ability to stretch the floor by bringing bigger players out to guard him and liken his body type to Pistons star Tayshaun Prince.  Prince is 2 inches shorter but weighs 15 pounds more the Daye, who stands at 6 Feet 11 inches and 200 lbs.  It’s not that I don’t think Daye can be a good player in the NBA, it’s that I don’t think he fits into Detroit’s brand of basketball.  They are a hard nosed, physical team that plays team defense and controls the ball, which doesn’t exactly fit into Daye’s skill set.  I thought that James Johnson would have been the pick here, but the Pistons lucked out in grabbing a similar physical specimin in DaJaun Summers in the 2nd round, who based on his Summer League performance, may be closer to helping the Pistons then his lottery companion.  Austin Daye had a fine summer league as well, impressing players and scouts alike with his range with had to be a pleasantry for the Detroit brass.  Daye will be on the bench for the most part because the Pistons signed Charlie Villenueva to a big contract, to do the same thing Daye would be doing, only better.  Austin Daye is a project and so are the Detroit Pistons at this point.  The core of Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Gordon, Villenueva, Stuckey with Maxiell coming off the bench, can still play major minutes, but over an 82 game span, there will be an opportunity for Daye to play as a 2nd, 3rd or 4th option off the bench, I just think the Pistons would have been better suited to have selected someone else. 

Early Verdict: Bad

James Johnson- F- Chicago Bulls

James Johnson was an all around presence for Wake Forest for the past 2 seasons.  Johnson was the muscle of a young but skilled Demon Deacons team that was a team to watch entering the NCAA Tournament, especially because of their NBA talent.  Unfortunately for the the Deacons and all those who wanted them to go far (including me), if only to see if their pegged NBA prospects were legit.  With the loss, teams were lead to look at the facts and the information about James Johnson was that his body and game are NBA ready.  With a report like that, Johnson spent a lot of time being pegged as a lottery pick by teams such as the Nets and Bobcats but was unable to impress them enough to warrant a selection.  In coming to the Bulls, Johnson is stuck behind a number of young, yet experienced veterans at the forward spot such as Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas, John Salmons and Joakim Noah.  Where Johnson will rank as the season inches closer will depend on if the Bulls end up making a splash in the market and trade for Carlos Booker.  Johnson is a do it all kind of player with strength and poise to create matchup problems for the other team.  The only problem for the Bulls is that they already have a number of players similar to him, but I cannot fault them for grabbing him, since he was the best player available considering that Chicago doesn’t need a PG with Derrick Rose in town.

Early Verdict: Good

AND THEN THERE WERE THE POINT GUARDS

Jrue Holiday- PG- Philadelphia 76ers

Ty Lawson- PG- Denver Nuggets

Jeff Teague- PG- Atlanta Hawks

Eric Maynor- PG- Utah Jazz

Here are 4 Point Guards, who have the skill level to have terrific careers and were the right fit for each of the teams who chose them.  These 4 were the best available players, all with great low risk, high reward potential, which led to these teams drafting them consecutively.  At the time of the draft, each player was in line to be backing up a proven NBA PG in Andre Miller, Chauncey Billups, Mike Bibby and Deron Williams.  It was not until today that Jrue Holiday found out that his predacessor would not be there to teach him a lesson or two in training camp.  Andre Miller was given a 3 Year $21 Million Dollar contract by the Portland Trailblazers and in leaving, left the keys to Sixers to Holiday.  Jrue Holiday was a prime prospect who was being spoken about being drafted by the Knicks at 8, which shows that he has great talent, but him falling to 17 shows that GM’s were wary of his skills and the fact that he didn’t even have the keys to his own college team.  Regardless of this, he is a big guard, who can dazzle.

From a big guard to a small guard with a big heart.  Ty Lawson, Starting PG for the NCAA Champion UNC Tar Heels.  A toe injury and many scouts claiming that he does not have a high ceiling, led to him being drafted by the T-Wolves and then traded to the Nuggets.  The Nuggets come out smelling like a rose in this pick because it just adds to their depth.  Anthony Carter is a servicable player in backing up Chauncey Billups but the speed and leadership qualities that Ty Lawson posseses, may lead him to be a fan favorite in Denver long after Billups has left the team.  Lawson has shown a lot of heart playing injured, but it is his bruised ego that may light a fire under him to be great and lead the Nuggets to another run at playoff promenence.

The Atlanta Hawks made the mistake of passing up PG Chris Paul and it has been well chronicalled ever since.  In drafting PG Jeff Teague from Paul’s alma mater, it shows that they are taking their PG deficiencies more seriously.  The Hawks were hoping that Speedy Claxton or Acie Law would end up being their floor general but they did not play up to expectations and had the Hawks trading for Mike Bibby, who has perfomed very well for the Hawks and was rewarded with a contract extension for doing so.  Jeff Teague is a flash and could create a spark off the bench and a change of tempo for an already athletic squad everytime he steps onto the court.  The Atlanta Hawks have been a steadily improving team every year and Teague will make them an even better all around team by adding depth to their bench.

Eric Maynor was unheralded when he came to VCU to be their PG but after two gutty and sensational performances in consecutive NCAA tournaments, NBA teams knew that they had a rocksteady point guard to bank on if Maynor was available.  Deron Williams is in the top 2 Point Guards in the league, so it would not seem that Maynor will get a lot of playing time but this may not be the case.  Williams was injured for a large portion of the regular season last year, leading Coach Jerry Sloan to look towards his bench for Point Guard guidance, but mostly would come up empty.  The Jazz are a team that go as their star goes, so Maynor may end up becoming an invaluable pick at #20 if he can spell Deron Williams for a few minutes each game, just to make sure that he stays fresh and healthy for the postseason run.

Early Verdict in PG Kingdom: Good

That concludes picks 11-20!  Stay tuned for the rest of the first round analysis which will be coming soon to a computer screen near you!

Be well and enjoy your Friday!

Your Buddy Blogger,

Jordan

Advertisements

TWO THOUSAND AND NINE NBA DRAFT FROM BOTTOM TO TOP

July 21, 2009

With the curtain coming down on 2009 Summer League action , the time has come to go over the names and teams to see who got the good, the bad and the could get ugly.

Let’s start from the very beginning, a very good place to start.

NBA JAM 2009 DRAFT EDITION

NBA JAM 2009 DRAFT EDITION

Blake Griffin- PF- Los Angeles Clippers

This Oklahoma Sooners product would have been a top 3 pick in the 2008 draft after a stellar Freshman year, but decided to come back to school to work on his body and game, leading OU to a 30 win season and displaying skills that showed why he was the best player in the country.  If not for a concussion suffered in a game versus rival Texas. The loss of Griffin for a few games proved to cost Oklahoma dearly.  That’s how important Blake Griffin is as a player and as a leader, he makes his team better.  Having traded Zach Randolph,  Griffin will have every opportunity to thrive next to a tandem of 7 Footers in Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman as well as a rising star in Eric Gordon.   Potentially the X-Factor to Griffin’s success is the play of veteran PG Baron Davis, who underachieved mightily last year after signing a massive deal.  If Davis can channel some of the magic that made him the catalyst of the 2007 Golden State Warriors squad that knocked off a #1 seed as a #8, then there could be a dramatic increase in wins this season.  The Los Angeles Clippers have a history of losing and after Griffin’s MVP performance in the Las Vegas Summer League, there is optimism for a Clippers Championship Banner in The Staples Center. Early Verdict:  Good

Hasheem Thabeet- C- Memphis Grizzlies

Like they say, you can’t teach height.  An extremely raw talent on the offensive end, but a game changer on the defensive end, the 7 foot 3, Second Team All-America Center (First Team Center was Dajuan Blair) was the key to the entire draft board.  The Grizzlies found themselves in a precarious position in landing the #2 pick, I’m not so sure that Thabeet would have been the second overall selection with many other teams.  Being a Big East guy, I got to watch Thabeet play a great deal and often saw flashes of a Center, who with the proper drive and direction, could be a dominant 5 for years to come in the NBA.  Even after capturing the Co-Player of the Year in the Big East this past season, GM’s league wide were vary that Hasheem does not have the commitment and offensive skill to be a champion. Chris Wallace was undeterred.  The Grizzlies GM, already blessed with a tandem of rising stars in O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay, paired with young bigs Marc Gasol and Darrell Arthur, and an experience 20 ppg scorer in newly acquired Zach Randolph.  The X-Factor for this team is the #4 overall pick from the 2007 draft, Mike Conley Jr, who showed progress under  Lionel Hollins late last season.  If the Las Vegas Summer League is any indication though, Thabeet is in for a long uphill battle.  Onlookers often commented on Thabeet’s disinterest in the game as well as not being as much of a defensive game changer as originally hoped. Thabeet finished the all time leader in blocked shots in the Big East behind Patrick Ewing but there were more comparisons to all time draft bust Michael Olowokandi after this past week of play.  I for one believe that Thabeet can develop into at least a serviceable defensive big in the league.  One can only question if drafting a project so high was the right move, especially since I back court duo of Tyreke Evans and O.J. Mayo could have been thriving in Memphis for many years to come.  Early Verdict:  Could Get Ugly

James Harden- SG- Oklahoma City Thunder

It should be noted that the Thunder draft well.  They have been able to retool through the last 3 seasons, in the lottery by holding onto the 2nd & 5th pick in 2007, 4th pick in 2008 and the 3rd pick in 2009. Thei average age of their roster is 23.5, and will be giving Western Conference GM’s grief for many years to come.  With the third selection in the 2009 draft, the Thunder decided to take the first of three players taken in the Top 10 from the Pac 10, Harden. He caught NBA scouts attention with a stellar Freshman season at Arizona State with a game built on savvy, under control play and offensive production.  In his Sophomore year, James Harden burst onto the scene in a big way in earning First Team All America and leading the Sun Devils to the NCAA Tournament.  Harden was hampered by playing on the West Coast, because he did not get the same national exposure as those on the east.  Pair that with an early ousting in the NCAA tournament, many were left wondering if Harden had the necessary athleticism to excel in the NBA.  After a variety of impressive individual team workouts solidified Harden as the top SG prospect in the draft, the only thing stopping Harden from donning the OKC teal, white and orange, would be if he was passed over in favor of the Spanish Sensation, PG Ricky Rubio.  The Thunder caught a lot of peoples attention last season, after a rough start to the season improved vastly Year 1 in Oklahoma City following their bolt from Ichiro and the Space Needle in Seattle.  Sonic fans still mourn the loss of their team and specifically the right to watch a blossoming superstar Kevin Durant grow in their teams uniform.  The Thunder were able to pick up another gem in lottery in 2007 by acquiring the rights to the 5th overall pick and selecting power forward Jeff Green, who improved greatly under Scott Brooks last season.  Then there is the explosive defensive dynamo Russell Westbrook, who last year, I was hoping would slip to the Knicks at the 6th pick;  showing tremendous upside in one season at UCLA. In pre-draft workouts he skyrocketed up the charts showing freakish athleticism and was snared by OKC at 4, leaving some to question… but no ones asking questions anymore.  No guard outside of Derrick Rose had as good of an overall season as Westbrook, who was rewarded for his ever improving skill set by not drafting Rubio, Evans or Flynn to take the ball out of his hands.  With the safe and sound selection of James Harden to play the 2, the Thunder have a young roster that is as good on paper as there has been in many years in the NBA.  Harden has gotten rave reviews for his play during summer league, and if the OKC can improve upon it’s second half play, they could contend for a playoff spot.  

Early Verdict:  Good

Tyreke Evans- G- Sacramento Kings

The Sacramento Kings used to be a perennial playoff team, with an arsenal of talent and the best home court advantage in the game.  A decade later on draft night 2009, after slipping from 1st to 4th in the lottery, the Kings took an explosive hybrid guard to help them get out of West’s basement.   After Tyreke Evans was handed the point guard controls at Memphis by John Calapari, he lead the team to it’s most dominant levels of play and into the NCAA postseason.  This kid has has a chance to be special.  Sacramento was another team that was tempted by picking Ricky Rubio, but passed in order to draft a manbeast who can get to the hoop at will.  Pairing Evans with dead-eye shooter Kevin Martin, could give them a lethal backcourt duo for years to come.  Youth is most definitely going to be served in Sactown, with Evans at the helm.  Former lottery picks Jason Thompson, and Spencer Hawes along with veteran  Andres Nocioni, Bobby Jackson and Francisco Garcia hope to help bring the Kings back to respectability.  With Martin leading the way as a sharpshooter, Evans will have the responsibility of getting him, and others open shots with his penetration skills.  I believe Evans has a terrific career ahead of him.  Hopefully he can help get the Kings culture, back to their winning ways.  Early Verdict: Good

Ricky Rubio- PG- Minnesota Timberwolves

The T-Wolves effectively shoved a knife into the heart of myself and every other New York Knickerbocker fan who was looking for the Knicks to trade up to the 5 spot to draft either Stephen Curry or Ricky Rubio.  Turns out that both were there for the Wolves and they took little time in drafting the 18 year old Spanish Sensation, despite him pulling a Yi Jianlian and saying that he did not want to play in a small market.  Regardless of what Rubio said and a potential 5 million dollar buyout, New Wolves GM David Kahn decided that Rubio is too transcendent of a talent to pass up.  Everyone who has had the opportunity to watch Rubio play in person, raves about his floor presence and his ability to dominate a game with his court instincts, which made him the sexiest, and most mysterious pick in the draft.  The Wolves needed a Point Guard, which is even more evident now that they have traded away incumbents PG Sebastian Telfair and Randy Foye.  The biggest problem for the Wolves is that it doesn’t look like Rubio will be coming to them this year, or even next year.  This should worry Wolves fans greatly because this is an organization that was absolutely destroyed when then GM Kevin Mchale tried to sign Joe Smith under the table and had multiple draft picks stripped away from the team as a penalty.  Holding the #5 and #6 picks and a team that is building around their front court of Kevin Love and Al Jefferson, the Wolves are now somewhat at the mercy of Rubio.  The longer he stays abroad, the more time that is wasted as the Wolves try to rejuvenate their starving franchise.

Early Verdict: Could Get Ugly

Jonny Flynn- PG- Minnesota Timberwolves

Conventional wisdom and common sense were strongly against this selection, but that’s why nothing matters until the pick is made.  Right after selecting the top tier PG prospect in Rubio, the wolves ignored their hole at the 2 Guard and drafted another Point Guard.  Jonny Flynn is insanely talented.  He has a swagger and a command that you just can’t teach, leading an impressive NCAA tournament for Syracuse, only to fall to Blake Griffin and the Sooners. Flynn showed a ton of heart in taking a charge from the Blake Griffin train and then playing hurt as the Orangemen were eliminated from contention.  Perhaps no one rose more through their play late in season then Jonny Flynn.  With his dynamic passing, scoring and ability to muscle up in the Big East, he made a lasting impression when Syracuse knocked off Connecticut in the 6OT game for the ages.  Yes, Jonny Flynn deserved to be in the lottery, but not as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves.  It has been a few weeks since the draft, which is why I waited to write this article.  I wanted to let all of the moves soak in as well and take in a few Summer League performances before giving a more level headed assessment of the picks.  Even after seeing Jonny Flynn tear up the court for the Wolves this summer, cementing that he belongs, I still don’t think he belongs in Minnesota.  It’s not as if Jonny Flynn is going catapult the young Wolves into the playoffs.  I still feel the team has too many holes to draft two players for the same position, even if they are the two best players on your draft board at the time.  To me you owe it to your fans to draft Stephen Curry in that spot, not even from a basketball standpoint! Instead of drafting 2 players to play along sidelong All-Star in Al Jefferson,and Kevin Love, you follow Rubio with his insurance policy right behind him. Drafting Rubio and Curry would have ushered in the new brand of basketball sans the KG era with a young core that would rival OK City and sell loads of season tickets. They decided not to put on their big boy shoes and put their eggs in the Rubio basket. What should Wolves fans be hoping now, that Flynn is the PG of the future, or he isn’t? Early Verdict: Bad

Stephen Curry- G- Golden State Warriors

I watched the Stephen Curry PG experiment occur during his Junior Year at Davidson and it all seemed a little force fed to me.  Curry, the very same player who’s Shooting Guard skills had led Davidson to the Elite Eight just a year prior, was shifted to Point Guard, to show off his floor general skills.  I don’t think anyone see’s Stephen Curry is as a pure 1 on the NBA level, but the skills he showed solidified Curry as a lottery pick.  As an undersized 2 with a sweet stroke and an even sweeter disposition, Stephen Curry is a General Manager’s dream to see land in their lap at the #7 pick.  Having Curry in the same back court as Monta Ellis will be electric, albeit it may pose some defensive matchup problems.  But they don’t play D in Golden State anyways.  Offensive firepower is what it’s all about down by the bay with Captain Stephen Jackson, Corey Maggette, Andries Biedrins, Anthony Morrow (who posted 47 points in Vegas this week) and Anthony Randolph, who based on his unbelievable skill set, has earned an invite to Team USA camp.  The Warriors didn’t need Curry, but when the golden goose falls in your lap, you sit back and marvel in it’s beauty. 

Early Verdict: Good

Jordan Hill- PF- New York Knickerbockers

The Knicks drafted the best Power Forward prospect of this draft outside of Blake Griffin, but before I get into analysis, I must digress for a moment.  The sports world hates New York.  It’s a fact.  With the bloated payrolls and futility that has been turned in by the Mets, Yankees, Jets, Rangers, Islanders and Knicks,  the New York fan, fairly or unfairly, has become the punching bag of message boards and talk radio stations around the country.  A collective laugh blew towards NY when they recieved the 8th pick, even more guffawed when Minnesota sniped the 5th pick from Washington, and were again dealt a blow when Curry was taken 1 pick before.  As a Knick fan, you almost expected it.  The days of Patrick Ewing’s Knicks vs. Jordan’s Bulls and Mourning’s Miami squad are long gone and the stentch from Isiah Thomas’ rein are just now being febreezed out of the World’s Most Famous Arena.  Now it is up to Mike D’Antoni to right the ship, but who is his captain?   Last year, the Knicks were surprisingly competitive one night, but would be smeered off the boot of a premier team the next.  The 2008 Knicks were vertically challenged, with Eddy Curry eating himself out of the lineup for a full season and the tall but rail thin Jared Jefferies breaking his leg in pre-season. The reigns at Center then fell upon the shoulders of David Lee.  Lee performed admirably, so admirably in fact that the Knicks may very well lose their best player (drafted 30th overall in 2005) if some other team (Portland) decides to show him the money.  With their frontcourt depth being a major concern, the Knicks decided to take Arizona Power Forward Jordan Hill to the shegrine of the WaMu Theatre faithful (although to be fair to Hill, they would have boo’d anyone at that time out of frustration).  What I like about Hill is that he has a desire to play a hard, tough and strong brand of basketball that the Knicks lacked last year.  He just has a nose for the ball on the glass much like Lee.  Although his offensive game is raw, he has a improving mid range jumper, that paired with his ability to run the open floor, should do wonders for his learning curve under Mike D’Antoni.  The Knicks have some pieces to build on, not championship caliber by any means but their youthful core of Danilio Galinari, Wilson Chandler, Hill and rookie Toney Douglas. They will pair with veterans Al Harrington, Chris Duhon, David Lee and potentially Darko Milicic, who has never lived to huge expectations as the 2nd overall pick in 2003.  Hill may well be a good player but the Knicks needed a guard, and if DeRozan, Jennings, Williams or Henderson turn out to be better players then the Knicks faithful fans will become even more restless.  The Dark Ages of NY Basketball shall continue unless these young players take the mantle seriously.  If Hill can step up and prove to be a piece that a big fish free agent can stop and say, I can play with this guy, then the pick is a success.  Perhaps the Knicks can provide more then Cleveland, Miami, Atlanta and/or Toronto in 2010 and there may in fact be some light at the end of the tunnel.  Early Verdict:  Could Get Ugly

DeMar DeRozan- SG- Toronto Raptors

One of the most surprising disappointments of the 08-09 season turned out to be the fall of the emerging Raptors.  This is a team that made the playoffs the year prior, building off of All-Star PF and Gold Medal winner for Team USA, Chris Bosh.  The beginning of the downfall was when GM Bryan Colangelo decided that he was going to trade his starting PG in T.J. Ford to open up playing time to the Spanish PG who’s injury in the 2008 Summer Games catapulted Rubio into the limelight of the medal rounds.  It wasn’t a bad decision in giving Calderon more minutes, who the year prior led the league in assist to turnover ratio in limited minutes, but was quickly becoming a big game player for his end game heroics.  The mistake came from thinking that Jermaine O’Neal was a better fit then Rasho Nesterovic and the 17th pick (Roy Hibbert), in dealing both to acquire the Former All-Stars services.  The experiment was good on paper but exploded after the injuries of O’Neal and then to Calderon.  O’Neal turned into Shawn Marion, a starter from last season who is now in Dallas (that turned into Antoine Wright) and swingman Anthony Parker who recently signed with Cleveland.   Jarret Jack has been brought to town after signing an offer sheet and the Pacers did not match.  With Jack, the Raptors will be able to limit the wear and tear on Calderon this upcoming season.  The SF spot is occupied by Turkeyglu for the next 5 years after an offseason signing which still left the Shooting Guard spot unclaimed, which is where DeRozan comes into play.  DeRozan was a stud prospect coming into last year’s season season for Tim Floyd’s USC Trojans.  The talk was always that he was going to be a one and done prospect, but his athleticism and nose for the hoop were expected to bring USC back to NCAA post season prominence.  The only problem was that DeRozan was too inconsistent for scouts and analyists liking.  It wasn’t until the Pac-10 tournament, where he shined and led the Trojans to the league title but for a short stretch in the Tournament.  It was with these skills that DeRozan was able to secure the 9th pick in the draft.  It is true that the Raptors run on a healthy serving of Bosh/Calderon was a side order of Turkeyglu and sprinkling of Bargnani then only Antoine Wright stands in DeRozan’s way of being in a Starting 5 that has a great chance to do some damage in the Atlantic Conference, potentially snagging the 2 seed behind the Celtics.  If DeRozan can’t beat out Wright as a Starter, that speaks volumes but either way, there is not a tremendous amount of pressure for the Raptors in Toronto, who will offer Bosh a maximum contract but are at his mercy, if he decides to stay.  DeMar DeRozan has the potential to make Chris Bosh want to stick around or if he is to depart, build around him. Early Verdict: Good

Brandon Jennings- PG- Milwaukee Bucks

The true enigma of the 2009 NBA Draft.  We as fans were being driven crazy by this top PG prospects decision to play overseas in Italy rather then being on display at the University of Arizona as a Freshman but who could blame him?  Jennings was one and done regardless and he had a choice of being crammed in an on campus dorm or play in Italy and drink wine like a man for a year and not surprisingly chose Italy.  We were updated from afar on his progress as a young adult on a professional team overseas but he only played about half a game per night, with stats that didn’t jump out at you at first impression.  It was when showed that he was done overseas and made a commitment to the NBA, with a true swagger and belief in himself that a sparkplug Point Guard Needs.  Ramon Sessions is the incumbent PG but if the Knicks present him with an offer sheet that he can’t refuse and the Bucks can’t match, then Jennings will have the keys to team if he can show skills beyond his years and beat out Luc Ridnour.  I think the Bucks would like to keep Sessions, but it may be out of their control.  Jennings impressed many in Summer League and the increasingly up tempo Bucks may want Jennings to be the starter out of the gate.  Any way you disect the Bucks, their success is dependant on a healthy Michael Redd, an emerging Andrew Bogut, wily veterans in Malik Allen, Keith Bogans, Charlie Bell, Dan Gadzuric/Fransisco Elson, along with a youth movement of Joe Alexander, Amir Johnson, Luc Mbah a Moute and Rookie Jodie Meeks who played exceedingly well as a backcourtmate with Jennings in Summer League and was inked to a 3 year deal because of his talent and Jennings ability to get him the ball in the right places.  What it comes down to is that Jennings had and has a great deal of talent and if he can play under control and improve his outside game, then he can be a Top Flight PG in the league.  After all, he was ranked the #1 PG prospect entering College Basketball this season, if he had decided to play College Basketball that is.  If he had played at Arizona with fellow lottery pick Jordan Hill, then maybe he would have been picked higher then #10 or even higher then Hill at #8.  Thankfully for Bucks fans, he was there when it was there turn to call a name. Early Verdict: Good

Of these teams that drafted in the Top Ten, there is only a chance for 3 of them to make the playoffs.  The First being the Oklahoma Thunder, who can potentially snag an 8 seed in the competitive West with their array of growing top talent, but the length of the season and inexperience may lead to them falling short.  The Toronto Raptors, who can be in the Top 6 of the Eastern Conference if there players 6 foot 10 and above, play above their talent level.  Then and only then can they show the Canadian wilderness NBA Playoff Basketball again.   Last and usually least are the Los Angeles Clippers, who are a longshot to make the playoffs, but don’t be surprised if they get off to a hot start with much improved youngsters (DeAndre Jordan, Al Thornton and Eric Gordon) underachieving stars  (Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman and Baron Davis) and the #1 Draft Pick, Blake Griffin.

We have come full circle.

That’s all for today folks, this is going to be a 5 Part article.  Picks 1-10 in the First Article, 11-20 in the Second Article, 21-30 in the Third Article, the 2nd Round  in the Fourth Article and an Overview of the NBA with Analysis and Predictions as Part Five.

Check back in for Picks 11-20 which will be coming soon to a screen near you.

Best to you for being the best and reading this entire article!

From your Buddy Blogger,

Jordan