Last year around this time I was absolutely awash in anxiety, fixated on the draft to the point of complete distraction, wondering what in the world Mr. Ainge had up his dubious sleeve. Well, now we know, and from what I've heard it's worked out well. I heartily commend Tim for posting on the Celtics' draft options, as I'm kind of at a loss; I mean, it's been quite a while since the Celtics held the coveted last pick in the first round (seriously, think about it; all things considered, it's pretty fucking coveted). A lot of prognosticators have the C's going long-term international a la San Antonio, which makes a lot of sense considering the last team this wants is more payroll, but then again, Danny's notoriously skittish when it comes to foreign talent, so you never know. Tim mentions Chris Douglas-Roberts, and honestly I've been salivating over the thought of him dropping to #30 for a while; it probably won't happen, but he's a guy who could step in and pretty much make soon-to-be-free-agent Tony Allen expendable immediately, bless his heart. Still, I think if there's any year for the C's go international, this is it; Ainge's aversions will be overshadowed by Wyc & Co.'s desire to avoid yet another financial hit. And truthfully, it might be the right call from a talent/personnel standpoint as well.
Quick interjection, apropos of very little: Jermaine O'Neal was reportedly just traded to the Raptors, for T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, and the 17th overall pick. At extremely first glance, this deal seems like a push... O'Neal could be absolutely huge in Toronto, but as we all know the reverse could be true as well. T.J. Ford's a nice little player; not the caliber of O'Neal, although both share a fairly similar recent medical history. Basically it's a gamble for both teams, only the Pacers get Nesterovic and #17 as well because let's face it, their gamble is just a little bit bigger. A healthy O'Neal on the Raptors would mean that next year there could be five legit teams in the East, with Boston, Detroit, Cleveland, and an ever-improving Dwight Howard in Orlando being the other four. Slowly but surely, the Eastern Conference is ascending from "not-as-bad-as-everyone-thinks" status to "not-actually-that-bad-at-all" status. Some sanguine Chicagoans might argue that a certain draft pick might lift a certain bovine competitor into this mix, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
With that as a segue, Tim offered up a projected Top 10 yesterday so I figure I should do the same. Without further ado, a ten-pick Mock Draft that's more honestly improvised than a Shaq freestyle:
1. Chicago: Derrick Rose, PG, Memphis. This appears to be who the Bulls are picking, and it's honestly fine with me. I think Rose is a marquee point guard, and as Chris Paul and Deron Williams have shown, knee-jerk draft-day devaluation of guards should be passe at this point.
2. Miami: Michael Beasley, PF, Kansas State. Rumors abound that Pat Riley and the Heat want nothing to do with this kid and intend to either trade the pick or flat-out not draft him. I'd venture to call this "stupidity." Rose and Beasley are 1 and 1a in this draft, in my opinion, and to pass on B-Easy at #2 is a foolish move, regardless of circumstance. In five years passing on him at #1 might prove to be foolish as well.
3. Minnesota: O.J. Mayo, SG, USC. If you're 'Sota, I don't really see how you pick anyone else here. Not that I think Mayo is quite in the class of a Beasley or a Rose, but I do think that he's a headline player who's almost certainly the most NBA-ready dude on the board right now, and let's face it, the Timberwolves need that, because they fucking suuuuuck. Then again if you're 'Sota, McHale is your GM and Glen Taylor is your owner, so all bets are off here.
4. Seattle: Jerryd Bayless, PG(?), Arizona. A few days ago there were a boatload of rumors about the Sonics sending the #4 and Chris Wilcox to the Heat for the #2. This would put the Sonics in a position to draft Beasley and play him alongside Kevin Durant, which is insanely wonderful by any stretch of the imagination. These rumors seem to have died down, though, so I give the Sonics Bayless here, who's probably the second-best point guard prospect in the draft, even if as yet he's not really a point guard (a recurring theme, as we shall see).
5. Memphis: Kevin Love, PF, UCLA. I actually think the Grizzlies will do something horrendous here and draft Brook Lopez or something, so for the record, this is what I think they should do in this position. Kevin Love can play, and there's no one else out there who's better that doesn't already play a position that Memphis has covered.
6. New York: Russell Westbrook, PG(?), UCLA. As those who read this site regularly know, I have myself a Knicks jones. They simply fascinate me to no end.... I'm not sure how else to describe it. That said, the new, mightily improved D'Antoni-Walsh Knicks could go in a number of directions here, but I think Mike wants a point guard, and even though Westbrook isn't one yet (see above), his potential, skills and athleticism will win the day here.
7. LA Clippers: Eric Gordon, SG, Indiana. I really don't know... I mean, it's the Clippers. Gordon seems fine, and by all accounts they're looking to trade Maggette, so whatever.
8: Milwaukee: Joe Alexander, SF, West Virginia. I kind of love Joe Alexander: I saw him play quite a bit towards the end of the NCAA season and he was an absolute beast. Exactly the kind of player you see and think to yourself, "I would love to see him on [insert favorite NBA franchise here]." The problem is the other half of the season, when he was apparently inconsistent at best; the basic knock on Alexander is he's a hell of an athlete who hasn't quite figured out how to play basketball. Sometimes that works out pretty fucking well, and sometimes it doesn't. But these are the things that make the draft interesting, am I right? I mostly have Alexander here because apparently he speaks fluent Mandarin, which means that all of the Bucks' problems in finding a basketball friend for Yi Jianlian would be solved.
9. Charlotte: Brook Lopez, C, Stanford. Lopez isn't going to be a Borchardt-level bust, but I honestly don't think he deserves to go higher than this. The track record in the NBA of choosing size over talent is extremely poor, and honestly, when you look at the guys picked before him, are any of them not markedly more talented than Brook Lopez? Best case scenario: Brook Lopez gives the Bobcats a serviceable force in the middle, Okafor can finally range around at the 4 like the poor man's Garnett he's supposed to be, and everything's happy in Charlotte as the 'Cats sneak into the 8th seed. Worst case scenario: ahhh, let's just end this now.
10. New Jersey: Danilo Gallinari, Italia. Gallinari's been exhibiting quite the sack recently, apparently insisting that he be drafted by a New York team in order to best aid his impending world domination. He's probably a little off-base with that, but I imagine him slipping to the Nets given a situation where a lot of NBA teams are now a bit more scared off by foreign talent than they should be. This kid could be really good, and if he does slip to 10, Jersey should snag him. If they don't, two words (maybe three? maybe 2.5?): D.J. Augustin.