Because I have an equal love of both college basketball and the NBA, the NBA draft has always been one of my favorite events of the year. Since 2000, I have made my own NBA mock draft. Some years, I have been great - like in 2008, where I went 12 for the first 12 - and I have also done poorly - like my first one in 2001, when I got exactly one pick right. But I have always have fun, and I hope you'll follow along with me on Thursday night.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke - Irving might be the most underwhelming, overwhelming choice for number one in the history of the NBA draft. There's one story swirling around that the Cavs really want Enes Kanter and don't care between Irving and Brandon Knight. So, there's an outside shot Kanter is the choice, but NBA teams in this day and age do not typically deviate from the obvious. So in a point guard-dominated league, they should go out and take the best point guard.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves: Derrick Williams, PF, Arizona - Some experts are convinced that Williams is going to be an all-star, and he seems to have the athleticism and the strength to be a Blake Griffin minus the freakiness. T'Wolves then have the interesting roster conundrum of having two tweener forwards who were taken second overall in the draft. Minny is hoping Williams winds up being a bit better than Michael Beasley.
3. Utah Jazz: Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky - The Jazz will select their point guard of the future with one of their two lottery picks. They might as well take one here. Knight has soured some people with his wussitude during the workouts, by telling teams that he won't workout with any other point guard other than Irving. It's actually smart - because Knight looked great against phantom defenders, which will lead the Jazz to take him. If he had worked out against Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette, than maybe he wouldn't look as good.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Enes Kanter, C, Turkey - Who would've thought that the Dallas Mavericks would win the NBA championship, and an owner other than Mark Cuban would come off as being the most obnoxious? Whether he deserves it or not, Dan Gilbert lucks out by getting his two favorite guys in this draft. Kanter went to Kentucky, but was not NCAA eligible because he played games for money growing up in Turkey. How that's different from what happens in the U.S., I have no idea. Also, I feel absolutely terrible for John Calipari. Kanter is absolutely killing his graduation rate!
5. Toronto Raptors: Kemba Walker, PG, UConn - Here's when things get interesting. Whether Walker's game can transition to the NBA is a question, but J.J. Barea's ability to embarass the Heat and other teams in the playoffs has opened up the possibility that really small, quick, offensively-talented point guards can find success. And Walker is considerably better than Barea. The Raptors need help on the front line as well, but they also need leadership, and a name that will remind NBA fans that there is a team in Toronto.
6. Washington Wizards: Jan Vesely, SF, Serbia - Vesely has been called the most athletically talented player ever to come out of Europe. Whether he compares well to American players, or just looks great next to the Darko Milicic's of the world, is yet to be seen. He does not have the most polished offensive game, but he's the foreign player that's the most ready to play now.
7. Sacramento Kings: Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego St. - Donte Greene and Omri Casspi are the Kings' small forwards, so this is certainly a position of need for the Kings. If you're a conspiracy theorist however, you'll believe the Kings will select Jimmer Fredette here. They need eyes on their team, and butts in the seats, to try to keep this team in Sacramento. Fredette, above anyone else in this draft, can do that. But the Kings have to focus on the assets they have, and Mr. Honor Code just does not fit in with Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins.
8. Detroit Pistons: Jonas Valanciunas, C, Lithuania - In every draft, there are foreign guys that have a following of experts that just love them. Some love Valanciunas, others believe he's overrated. What they do agree on, is that he's a stronger European than those that have come out in the past, and can be a solid rebounder at 7 feet. Unfortunately, there's a large Ricky Rubio alert here, because he's locked in to a contract with his team in Europe.
9. Charlotte Bobcats: Marcus Morris, SF, Kansas - I think Morris is horrifically overrated. That's what makes him a perfect selection by Michael Jordan. Here are the Bobcats first overall picks over the years: Gerald Henderson (Duke, '09), D.J. Augustin (Texas, '08), Brandan Wright (UNC, '07), Adam Morrison (Gonzaga, '06), Raymond Felton (UNC, '05), and Emeka Okafor (UConn, '04). See the pattern? Players from high level college programs, who were in the spotlight during their NCAA careers. Did any of them wind up being GREAT players? No. And neither will Morris.
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Alec Burks, SG, Colorado - First thing the Bucks need is someone who can fill it up. Their choices here are Klay Thompson, or Burks, who has the best size of any true shooting guard in the draft.
11. Golden State Warriors: Klay Thompson, SG/SF, Washington State - Who is this guy? I watch a lot of college basketball, and I hadn't heard of him until draft experts started calling him the best shooter that this draft has to offer. It's hard to say what the Warriors are going to be like going forward under new coach Mark Jackson, but one would guess, Monta Ellis's future is short there. GS will need someone to pick up that scoring.
12. Utah Jazz: Chris Singleton, SF, Florida State - Awwwwwww... I know, Jimmer going to the Jazz would be too perfect. But having all ready taken a point guard, the Jazz will look elsewhere. Singleton is the best wing defender in this draft, and is certainly more useful than another little guard.
13. Phoenix Suns: Jimmer Fredette, PG, BYU - The Suns love Fredette, and the rebuilding process is going to start soon in Phoenix. The Suns have not been able to deal Steve Nash and get value for him before his back explodes because fans in Phoenix would just stop going to games. By drafting Fredette, the Suns can have Nash tutor him, and then they can deal the Canadian at the deadline while they can still get something for him.
14. Houston Rockets: Donatas Montiejunas, PF, Lithuania - The Rockets were the first team to bring Montiejunas in for a workout and will be happy to still see him on the board. A big dude with a good offensive game, he just avoids contact a little too much. Think Luis Scola, but bigger and with a harder name to pronounce.
15. Indiana Pacers: Marshon Brooks, SG, Providence - Very, very slowly but surely, the Indiana Pacers have added pieces and become a team that is at least interesting in the East. Brooks is a dead-eye shooter, who can bust off for big points at any time. Just about every team that wins a lot of games has one of those guys.
16. Philadelphia Sixers: Tristan Thompson, SF, Texas - Tall, athletic dude with a big wingspan. Sixers are lucky that he is still available here.
17. New York Knicks: Jordan Hamilton, SF, Texas - Back-to-back 'Horns go in the middle of the first round. The Knicks have a lot of options, and may go with Markieff Morris, but Hamilton is a special type of scorer, and Mike D'Antoni loves those guys.
18. Washington Wizards: Tobias Harris, PF, Tennessee - Wizards will be tempted to take Biyombo here, but then realize they have the same type of guy in Jevale McGee. Wizards need a lot of help, a lot of help, and Harris is a versatile forward who is not great at anything, but can do a lot of things well.
19. Charlotte Bobcats: Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State - An interesting pick for MJ here. He might have heard enough about Biyombo to decide to go with the crazy athlete from the Congo. Also, he may be tempted to take Markieff, and go forward with both Morris twins. But I'm going with my "MJ watches a lot of college basketball" theory and say he goes with Faried, the Ben Wallace-esque character from Morehead State.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves: Bismack Biyombo, C, Congo - Maybe no one has generated as much buzz as Bismack. They call him the next coming of Serge Ibaka, which is pretty good, but not good enough to be a lottery pick. The T-pups can afford to take risks, and they won't let him drop any farther than this.
21. Portland Trailblazers: Markieff Morris, PF, Kansas - Markieff and Biyombo are the big droppers in my mock draft. Morris is a little stronger, yet less offensively talented, than his brother Marcus. The Trailblazers need more rebounding and girth on the front line, and Morris should provide it.
22. Denver Nuggets: Nikola Vucevic, C, USC - VCU fans probably don't remember this guy. He was supposed to be the guy that gave the Trojans the edge over the Rams in the Play-In Game. Instead, he disappeared, and a pair of true freshman centers pushed him around all night. He is the biggest guy in the draft (pushing 7'1") and someone will take a run at him. But for someone who is bigger than everyone and has some decent offensive moves, he is not very demonstrative or imposing whatsoever.
23. Houston Rockets: Tyler Honeycutt, SG/SF, UCLA - Honeycutt is listed as 6'8, 187 lbs. So, needless to say, he could stand to gain a few pounds. That being said, I'm a big fan of this guy. He's got a silky game, and could be Tayshawn Prince-esque.
24. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kyle Singler, SF, Duke - Thunder have a lot of options. 1. Draft a point guard so Russell Westbrook plays more of the 2 guard. 2. Go big, and get some help for Kendrick Perkins. 3. Get outside shooting help for Kevin Durant. Without a great point guard prospect right here, I'll say they go for the extra scoring. Singler can certainly shoot, and he has the size to play small forward in the NBA.
25. Boston Celtics: Jeremy Tyler, C, San Diego High School - Tyler is a huge project. Coming out of high school in San Diego, Tyler went abroad to play professionally, fully expecting that one day he'd be a lottery pick. But he wound up sitting the bench for two different foreign teams before finally coming back to the States. He is very talented, but needs to be put in his place. If there are guys who can do that, it's Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers.
26. Dallas Mavericks: Justin Harper, SF, Richmond - I purposefully listed Harper as a small forward here, because that's where I believe he projects as the best pro. The former Spider is a great shooter for a guy who's 6'10", but he's not hungry to rebound, and doesn't really play to his back to the basket. So I just don't see him as an NBA power forward on most teams. Meanwhile, the Mavericks could use depth at this position, and could find their future Dirk in the Meadowbrook High product.
27. New Jersey Nets: Josh Selby, SG-PG, Kansas - Who knows what the hell the Nets are doing, but they have a very good point guard and a very good center. Selby is somewhat of a problem child, and Avery Johnson might be the guy to get that out of him. Selby's a little guy, and if he does pan out, he could play interchangeably at the guard position with Deron Williams.
28. Chicago Bulls: Shelvin Mack, SG/PG, Butler - The Bulls have two of the last three picks, and they're going to take a guard with this first one. There are a handful of talented ones here, including Mack, Boston College's Reggie Jackson, Michigan's Darius Morris and Duke's Nolan Smith. I think Mack could work better with Derrick Rose, but when people say that's he's a good scorer, I have to laugh and ask if they watched the final weekend in Houston.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Davis Bertans, SF, Latvia - I'm tired.
30. Chicago Bulls: Nikola Mirotic, SF, Montenegro - One more foreign guy - Bulls will use one of these picks on a guy that can cultivate overseas. This is a reason why you see so many foreign guys on this list. With a work stoppage on the horizon, NBA teams can leave these guys overseas and have them work with coaches they're comfortable with while the American players are sitting around twiddling their thumbs. It's certainly a good idea, even if that hurts some of the excitement of draft night.
Jamie Skeen does not go in the first draft, but I think he will hear his name called before the night is out. What are your thoughts going into the NBA draft?