The NBA Draft is coming up this Thursday night. David Stern rigged the lottery so the New Orleans Hornets have the #1 pick (kidding, ish). Below is The Rich Keefe Project's first (and only) NBA Mock Draft. I am not predicting any trades (we all know there will be a bunch), and am basing my projections more on who a team should pick instead of a who a team is rumored to pick. No "Insider" access or proof of purchase necessary, enjoy the free mock draft.
1. New Orleans Hornets - Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky, Freshmen
This is the easiest pick for the entire draft. The Hornets have done everything but make it official. Davis will be the odds on favorite to win Rookie of the Year. He will be an immediate impact on the defensive end, but has some work to do to be a polished offensive player. Insert token unibrow joke.
2. Charlotte Bobcats - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky, Freshmen
The Bobcats need everything, if fact they need to be contracted. They're awful, worst in league history in fact. Kemba Walker and Bismack Byombo seem to be the future down in Charlotte, so they could go in any number of directions. I think picking a proven winner like Kidd-Gilchrist is the way to go. Not sure he will ever be a consistent All-Star (which is probably what you want at #2), but I'd bet that he plays 12 years in the league over guys like Thomas Robinson and others.
3. Washington Wizards - Bradley Beal, SG, Florida, Freshmen
A John Wall-Bradley Beal back court would be a nasty step in the right direction. The folks in DC will be holding their breath hoping that Jordan doesn't decide last minute to take the best shooting guard in the draft at #2. I don't think they will, allowing Washington to pull the trigger. They also just picked up Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. Combine them with Nene, Wall and now Beal? I'm not saying playoffs just yet, but getting closer. This should be the best post-Arenas team in DC.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers - Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina, Sophomore
No city is more unhappy about the Heat winning the title than Cleveland. But what can they do? They drafted the Rookie of the Year last season (Kyrie Irving, who is also Uncle Drew in those Pepsi commercials), and now they need to get another stud. I wouldn't bet on Barnes being a great pro, but based on needs this is the pick for Cleveland.
5. Sacramento Kings - Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas, Junior
The Kings are going to struggle for the foreseeable future. I am a huge DeMarcus Cousins fan, but Tyreke "No Pass" Evans, Jimmer Fredette, and Isiah Thomas (solid rookie year) are not enough. Toss in bad contracts for Marcus Thornton and John Salmons and this team is a mess. I do like the idea of a Robinson-Cousins front court though.
6. Portland Trail Blazers - Andre Drummond, C, UConn, Freshmen
Dissapointing season for Portland last year. LaMarcus Aldridge is a legit star in this league and getting that complement big man is a key. Obviously we all know that Greg Oden failed to be that guy, so the Blazers should swing at it again (they have 2 lottery picks) and go with Drummond here. Similar to Anthony Davis, Andre will be a factor on D on day 1, he has great hands on offense, but his game is limited... for now.
7. Golden State Warriors - Jeremy Lamb, SG, UConn, Sophomore
How can a college team have two Top 7 picks and miss the tournament? I don't know. But the Warriors got plenty of guys up front (Bogut, Lee, Biedrins) they should pick Lamb, one of the better scorers in the draft to play alongside Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. I believe Lamb could be even a more effective pro than college player.
8. Toronto Raptors - Damian Lillard, PG, Weber St., Junior
Jose Calderon is entering the last year of his deal, and at $10.5 million, it could be a decent trade piece this season. A nice expiring contract, but also a guy who doesn't suck. Jerryd Bayliss is a restricted free agent, therefore now is the time for the Raptors to take their point guard of the future. Like most of the lottery teams they have a number of needs. Bargnani and DeRozan should be their stars and perhaps Lillard could make sure that they are.
9. Detroit Pistons - Terrence Ross, SG/SF, Washington, Sophomore
The future of the Pistons is clearly in the hands of Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight. Despite some of their holdovers, see Gordon, Villanueva, Prince, etc. it's all about those two youngsters. They should take the wing player they think is the best, and based on what is left here at 9, I think that's Ross out of Washington.
10. New Orleans Hornets - Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina, Sophomore
The Hornets are basically an expansion team. After trading Okafor and Ariza for Rashard Lewis (who they will likely buy out) it's time to start fresh. Anthony Davis will be the top pick, Eric Gordon (restricted FA) will probably be back, all signs point to NO matching ANY offer he gets. Jarrett Jack has a year left, but they should still target their future point. They'll want Lillard to fall, but when he doesn't they will need to chose between Marshall and Davis' college teammate Marquis Teague. I feel that Marshall is better, we all saw how that UNC team struggled when he was hurt.
11. Portland Trail Blazers - Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky, Freshmen
Pretty clean slate in Portland. Aldridge and Wes Matthews are back and I believe they take Drummond at #6. They could trade this pick, but if they don't I think they go point guard. It might be a little high here for Teague, but if you don't get Lillard, Marshall, or Teague, and want a point guard you might as well wait to sign an undrafted free agent.
12. Milwaukee Bucks - Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois, Sophomore
Saw a great tweet from Ryen Russillo who said a GM or a scout (I forget) said that if Meyers Leonard was black he would be the 2nd pick in the draft. The fear of Leonard falling in the long line of "big white stiffs" probably should be a bit of a deterent, however it appears this guy has game. His numbers weren't overwhelming in college (most Big 10 guys aren't), but after trading their former #1 pick big man (Bogut) to Golden State they need to fill that spot.
13. Phoenix Suns - Terrence Jones, PF, Kentucky, Sophomore
It's going to be strange to watch a Suns game this year and not see Steve Nash. The Suns would probably pounce on one of those 3 point guards, however if they are all off the board they should go best player available, I think that it's Jones.
14. Houston Rockets - Austin Rivers, G, Duke, Freshmen
The Rockets are going to look very different next year. We know they wanted Pau Gasol last year and it sounds like they want Dwight Howard this year. They own this pick and #16 and will more than likely deal 1 if not both. They could take Rivers to deal him, or keep him if Kevin Martin and or Kyle Lowry are dealt. This would give them some back court scoring, and it keeps Austin Rivers in the lottery... barely.
15. Philadelphia 76ers - Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse, Sophomore
Waiters' stock really took off down the stretch of the season and during all these pre-draft workouts. Louis Williams opted out of his contract (he could return), but Philly should give themselves some insurance and go with the best shooting guard left.
16. Houston Rockets - Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State, Sophomore
This guy probably would have been a lottery if not Top 10 pick if he left after his freshmen season at Ohio State. Not surprisingly he seems to be the worst athlete amongst the likely 1st round draft picks, this according to all of his pre-draft tests and workouts. However he was very productive in 2 years in college and I don't see him dropping too much further than this. Again, Houston will likely be very busy on draft night, they may not keep this pick.
17. Dallas Mavericks - Tony Wroten, G, Washington, Freshmen
The old Mavs will have Dirk, Marion, and Haywood coming back. Kidd, Terry, and West are free agents and they have a team option on Vince. It wouldn't surprise me if Terry and even Kidd come back for another run, but they definitely to get younger in the back court. I'm not sure what position Wroten will be at the next level, but he could actually end up being the next Jason Terry, so why not learn from the man himself.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves - Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina, Senior
A senior!?! Very rare in the NBA Draft. The T-Wolves need to surround Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio with the right pieces. They have Derrick Williams (#2 last year), Wesley Johnson, and some other guard types, but Zeller would be a great fit, it would also allow for a white wash in Minnesota. Rubio-Ridnour-Darko-Love-Zeller.
19. Orlando Magic - Fab Melo, C, Syracuse, Sophomore
The writing is on the wall in Orlando. Dwight Howard is a clown. They will have to trade him. A new GM and new head coach will be in, and rather than trying to convince Dwight to stay, they should deal him away and grab a center in the draft.
20. Denver Nuggets - John Henson, PF, North Carolina, Junior
The Nuggets have a lot of very solid players, no superstars. It almost looks like they would have the pieces to acquire one... oh, they had one and were forced to deal him for several above average players? Got it. They can go best available here. I think Henson will be a poor pro, but not sure he slips out of Top 20.
21. Boston Celtics - Royce White, F, Iowa State, Sophomore
Big Royce White fan, I hope the Celtics take him at 21. He is a solid rebounder, great ball handler, and terrific passer for his size. I think of him as the next Anthony Mason. There was a rumor last week that the Celtics made a promise to White (who cancelled his remaining workouts with teams), however those reports were refuted later by a different outlet. Either way this is the 1 guy I want the C's to take.
22. Boston Celtics - Moe Harkless, SF, St. John's, Freshmen
I would be shocked if the Celtics used both of their 1st round picks. IF they do, they should take Harkless here. He could learn from Pierce and be a valuable guy if they go 11 deep during the regular season as to put them in the best position to make another run in the playoffs. Harkless is definitely the best wing player remaining in the draft.
23. Atlanta Hawks - Perry Jones, F, Baylor, Sophomore
Josh Smith is entering the final year of his deal. He could be traded by the deadline this year. The future of the Hawks is all about Al Horford, with Joe Johnson and Jeff Teague. Perry Jones may take a few years to develop but he has potential galore and at #23 would be a solid pick.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers - Quincy Miller, F, Baylor, Freshmen
Speaking of potential, Quincy Miller sure has a ton of it. Jones' Baylor teammate would be a good pick for a team that isn't looking for instant dividends. Kyrie Irving is the face of the franchise in Cleveland now, I have them taking Harrison Barnes earlier in Round 1, combine them with Tristan Thompson and now Quincy Miller and they are starting to add a lot of talent. Take that LeBron... well.
25. Memphis Grizzlies - John Jenkins, SG, Vanderbilt, Junior
The Grizzlies tried getting Ray Allen at the trade deadline this year. O.J. Mayo is a restricted free agent. With scorers like Randolph, Gay, and Gasol, they could definitely use a 3-point shooter and Jenkins might be the very best one in the draft.
26. Indiana Pacers - Draymond Green, F, Michigan State, Senior
While the Pacers' top priority this off season is brining Roy Hibbert (RFA) back, they'll want to make sure they get something out of this draft pick. They finished 3rd in the East this year, and despite being a notch or two below Miami and even Chicago, they aren't too far away. Green probably will never be an All-Star in the NBA, but this is the kind of guy you would bet on being a contributor for years.
27. Miami Heat - Festus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt, Senior
The defending champion Miami Heat have almost everyone coming back. What can they do? They probably will try to upgrade the point guard spot (Chalmers wasn't bad though), and they will look to find a contributing center. I've always like Ezeli from Vandy. At 6'11-7'0, and a solid post game, he could make the best team in the league even better. Not fair.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder - Arnett Moultrie, PF, Miss. St., Junior
OKC is close. Depending on how this off season shakes out everyone is going to pick them to once again win the Western Conference. This pick, whoever it is, probably won't help them much this year. The best big man left on the board is Moultrie. At 6'11, 233 he needs to add weight, and maybe he'll do it on the Thunder bench.
29. Chicago Bulls - Will Barton, SG/SF, Memphis, Sophomore
The Bulls had shooting guard du jour this year with Rip Hamilton, Ronnie Brewer, and Kyle Korver. Clearly a need for this contender I think they take Will Barton. If John Jenkins is available they should go with him.
30. Golden State Warriors - Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure, Senior
The Warriors could go with an overseas guy here as well. I had them taking Lamb at #7, so they will probably go big guy here. Like Moultrie, Nicholson will need to put on to put on some weight, but as a stretch 4 in the Golden State run and gun system, he could be a good fit.
And there you have The Rich Keefe Project's 1st Round Mock Draft (1.0). Thanks for checking it out.