Great Unknown

In a volatile draft, much can still change in final 24 hours

Every draft takes on a life of its own. This one has become perhaps the most volatile in recent memory. The Pistons had a better handle on who would be available to them last year, when they sat 15th and had the field pretty much narrowed down to three players – Earl Clark, Austin Daye and James Johnson – and then saw those three players go 14th, 15th and 16th.

This year, there’s an outside chance that any one of the premier big men on the board – Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins or Greg Monroe – could fall to them at seven. The intrigue starts at No. 3, where New Jersey is now believed leaning toward Wesley Johnson, the small forward out of Syracuse.

That could be a smokescreen, intended to get Minnesota to offer up something enticing in order to move up to acquire Johnson – the player every team in the league assumes the Timberwolves covet at 4. Or it could be, as the conspiracy theorists believe, New Jersey’s ploy to steer Carlos Boozer their way in free agency – both Boozer and Johnson are represented by former Michigan Wolverine Rob Pelinka, Kobe Bryant’s agent.

But if Minnesota doesn’t get Johnson, it will be in a tough spot. The logical move is to grab Favors, but a workout dustup between Minnesota and the Favors camp would have that relationship off on the wrong foot. Cousins and Monroe both declined workout invitations there, and the Cousins camp has also crossed swords with Minnesota’s front office.

The Timberwolves ultimately could decide to trade out of the spot, but GM David Kahn seems to hold unrealistic expectations for his payoff. So that’s how any one of Favors, Cousins or Monroe could wind up slipping to the Pistons at seven. It’s still unlikely, but it’s no longer imponderable.

Here’s Pistons.com’s most recent 2010 mock draft, extended to 36 to include the Pistons’ second-round pick (check out our first crack at the mock draft):

First Round


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
1. Name: John Wall
When Flip Saunders was jumping up and down on lottery night, when the Wizards came from the No. 5 slot to land the No. 1 pick, it was with the thought of coaching Wall. Saunders loves to boast that his offense puts a lot of responsibility on the point guard but also is designed for that position to achieve maximum productivity. If Wall is as good as advertised, and Saunders’ offense as sleekly designed as he contends, Wall could challenge Stephen Strasburg, Alex Ovechkin and Donovan McNabb as Washington’s biggest stars.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
2. Name: Evan Turner
Despite some recent speculation that newly installed coach Doug Collins is pining for a big man, either Favors or Cousins, the overwhelming belief across the NBA is that the 76ers are going all in for Ohio State’s multifaceted wing. Turner appears ready to step into an NBA starting lineup and both facilitate and score. Expect Collins to move Andre Iguodala back to small forward and Thaddeus Young to power forward – with Elton Brand to center now that Samuel Dalembert is gone – to make way for Turner and play a more aggressive brand of basketball.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
3. Name: Derrick Favors
Not everybody is buying the sudden shift in focus from Favors to Johnson, believing it’s a ploy by the Nets to shake down Minnesota and make GM David Kahn pay for his brashness. Cousins opened eyes with an impressive workout for the Nets on Monday and is more ready to contribute immediately than Favors, but Favors – whose athleticism makes him more suited to playing power forward than center – is a better natural fit next to franchise center Brook Lopez.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
4. Name: Wesley Johnson
The Timberwolves get their man. Minnesota sees the slight Johnson, an outstanding runner-jumper and tremendous deep shooter, as more of a small forward than a shooting guard, and both are positions of need as the T-wolves’ priority in the draft is to increase their length and athleticism on the wings. If the Nets really do go for Johnson, then Minnesota could be tempted to trade out of the fourth spot – opening the door for the Pistons and others to land their choice of Favors, Cousins or Monroe.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
5. Name: DeMarcus Cousins
By all accounts, the Kings are torn. And not just between Cousins and Monroe, either. Much was made of both the amazing workout Cousins put on for the Kings and their request to bring Monroe back for a second workout, also reported to be very impressive. But there’s a theory making the rounds that Monroe’s second visit was really an excuse to get a look at Ekpe Udoh against a quality big man. Some think Sacramento could be seriously considering the Baylor big man here.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
6. Name: Greg Monroe
Here’s another place where Udoh’s name is now a hot topic. Monroe worked out twice for the Warriors, as well, and what has Udoh pushing into the discussion are rumors that Monroe’s second workout, in front of Warriors coach Don Nelson in addition to the front office, was less than sizzling. Udoh isn’t polished offensively, but he is versatile and his ability to run, defend and rebound could be tantalizing to Nelson, for whatever influence he exerts in the process.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
7. Name: Ekpe Udoh
The decision for the Pistons – if the first six are off the board, at least – is likely to come down to Udoh vs. Ed Davis with Kansas’ Cole Aldrich as the outside shot. Udoh appears more ready to contribute now and the Pistons could use an immediate boost up front. Plus, he’s an off-the-charts kid who fits Joe Dumars’ list of desired qualities – good teammate, cares about winning, tough, addicted to defense – to a T. But they’ll be hoping for one of the big three big men to fall.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
8. Name: Al-Farouq Aminu
As much uncertainty as there is in the draft starting at 3, this one appears safe to write down in ink. Aminu pulled out of his scheduled Monday workout with the Pistons, a decision that neither surprised nor disappointed the Pistons. He looked at their roster and saw what they saw – not much of a fit for a 6-foot-8 forward who has the ability to play both spots but will have some initial deficiencies, at least, in playing either one consistently.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
9. Name: Ed Davis
The Jazz would also be interested in Udoh and would love for Monroe to fall and they could consider Aldrich here – as well as wings like Luke Babbitt and Gordon Hayward. But with the specter of losing Carlos Boozer to free agency, the chance to get a player with the upside of Davis is enticing. Only 20, Davis needs to add bulk and refine a very raw offensive repertoire, but he should develop into a first-rate defender, rebounder and shot-blocker over time – which Utah can afford him, given Paul Millsap’s presence.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
10. Name: Gordon Hayward
This will make most Pacers fans giddy – grabbing the hometown kid who led underdog Butler to within a 3-pointer of knocking off Duke to win the NCAA tournament. Hayward’s size and ability to play two positions, in tandem with the equally versatile Danny Granger, at least gives Indiana another weapon it sorely needs.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
11. Name: Luke Babbitt
The Hornets need to groom a replacement for oft-injured small forward Peja Stojakovic and Babbitt could emerge as the best pure scorer in the draft. Some NBA teams see Babbitt as more of a “stretch four,” but most don’t believe he’ll be able to defend power forwards and love the size and mismatch potential he could offer at small forward.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
12. Name: Paul George
Teams are wary that George appeared lazy in his two years at Fresno State, rarely dominating against middling competition. But get him in a workout situation and he dazzles, evoking comparisons to a young Tracy McGrady for his size, length and ability to create off the dribble. With Memphis risking the loss of Rudy Gay as a restricted free agent, George could find himself sliding into the starting lineup here.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
13. Name: Cole Aldrich
With Chris Bosh as good as gone, the Raptors will be left with a gaping hole in the frontcourt that no rookie in this class could fill immediately. There will be others on the board with higher ceilings here – Larry Sanders and Hassan Whiteside, foremost – but nobody more ready to play tomorrow against NBA centers. It also allows Toronto move Andrea Bargnani to power forward.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
14. Name: Patrick Patterson
The Rockets expect Yao Ming back, but there’s always the chance he’ll opt out and, as his medical history suggests, always the chance he could miss significant time with injury. Aldrich would be a strong consideration if he slips. But Patterson fits the mold for Houston GM Darryl Morey, who had to part with draft find Carl Landry in the deal to land Kevin Martin – Patterson fills that hole.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
15. Name: Larry Sanders
Some think Kansas freshman Xavier Henry, often compared to Michael Redd for his shooting stroke, is the choice here with Redd on the last year of his contract and being heavily shopped. But the Bucks need frontcourt help for Luc Richard Mbah Moute and Ersan Ilyasova next to Andrew Bogut. Sanders’ freakish wing span and potential as a defender and shot-blocker makes him a nice fit for Scott Skiles’ defense-first philosophy.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
16. Name: James Anderson
With its hole at small forward plugged by landing Johnson at No. 4, if the Nets let it play out that way, then the Timberwolves probably will be left to choose between two Big 12 shooting guards to plug another hole, Oklahoma State’s Anderson or Kansas’ Henry. Anderson is often compared to last year’s No. 4 pick, James Harden, who had a nice rookie season for Oklahoma City. If he’s that good, it’s a steal at 16.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
17. Name: Xavier Henry
The Bulls sorely missed the outside shooting of Ben Gordon last season. If the draft falls this way, they’d be fortunate to get Henry this late. Henry also has the ability and wing span at 6-foot-7 to swing to small forward, giving the Bulls some protection should they find a trade partner for Luol Deng in their quest to clear even more cap space to make a run at two max free agents.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
18. Name: Eric Bledsoe
He didn’t get the chance to run the show at Kentucky with Wall installed at the point, but you’ll find many NBA scouts who fully believe Bledsoe is the No. 2 point guard in this draft and will appeal to Pat Riley for his competitiveness. The Heat need someone other than Mario Chalmers capable of playing next to Dwyane Wade, and Bledsoe proved his worthiness as a sidekick during his year at Kentucky next to Wall.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
19. Name: Damion James
Paul Pierce isn’t getting any younger and Ray Allen and Tony Allen could be gone as free agents, so the Celtics will need to address their wing situation. It could come down to a choice of two Texas players if the draft falls this way who could hardly have more different resumes – James, a senior small forward who wound up the Big 12’s all-time leading rebounder but might not have much room to grow, or Avery Bradley, a freshman who didn’t put up big numbers but could blossom a la Russell Westbrook.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
20. Name: Craig Brackins
Except for DeJuan Blair, the Spurs are long in the tooth up front and need to start restocking with youth. Getting former No. 1 pick Tiago Splitter away from Europe, as San Antonio expects to finally make happen this summer, will be a start. Adding a player with Brackins’ maturity and versatility at No. 20 adds another piece.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
21. Name: Hassan Whiteside
Whiteside was once thought to be a likely top-10 pick, but questions about both his maturity level and his physical readiness are now likely to push him out of the lottery and perhaps even to the bottom of the first round. The Thunder could have someone in mind for their frontcourt in free agency, but they’ll need to get bigger and deeper up front. Whiteside is a good start.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
22. Name: Kevin Seraphin
Portland could go any number of ways here, and GM Kevin Pritchard – who supposedly is telling people he expects to be fired after the draft – is notoriously unpredictable and active on draft day. The Trail Blazers have already dropped one bombshell, reportedly giving $2 million to Golden State to move from 44 to 34 in the second round – an astonishing number, especially three days before the draft when they can’t know who’ll be there at 34. Pritchard loves to go international, and his is about where Seraphin, a young French power forward is slotted to land.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
23. Name: Solomon Alabi
Alabi could go higher – to Boston or OKC, potentially – but he isn’t likely to go much lower than this. A 7-foot-1 shot-blocker relatively new to basketball, some think Alabi is at least the equal of last year’s No. 2 pick, Hasheem Thabeet. The Timberwolves, even if they re-sign Darko Milicic and bring 2008 No. 2 pick Nikola Pecovic over from Europe, still would have no one quite like Alabi on the roster.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
24. Name: Avery Bradley
The Hawks are likely to lose Joe Johnson to free agency, a hole they will attempt to plug by elevating Jamal Crawford to the starting lineup or luring Josh Childress back from Greece. But there won’t be a better value pick available to them at 24 than Bradley, who could be the most NBA-ready perimeter defender despite his tender age. Bradley should eventually be able to play both backcourt spots.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
25. Name: Armon Johnson
The Grizzlies keep looking for someone who can beat out Mike Conley at point guard but haven’t found him yet. Johnson would give them the size at the position Conley lacks and his athleticism would play well next to O.J. Mayo and Gay, if he is retained as a restricted free agent. The Grizzlies are tough to read, though, as owner Michael Heisley injects himself haphazardly into the decision-making process.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
26. Name: Daniel Orton
The hometown kid has been linked to the Thunder with their pick at 21, but questions about his knee – he missed much of his senior year of high school with an injury that flared again during his only season at Kentucky – and decision-making have pushed him out of the lottery and down to the bottom rungs of the first round. Hard to go wrong here on a player with the size and skill level of Orton, despite limited college exposure.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
27. Name: Dominique Jones
Wednesday’s trade that sent Chris Douglas-Roberts to Milwaukee opens a spot in New Jersey’s backcourt depth chart and Jones would fill it nicely. One of college basketball’s most irrepressible scorers, Jones could slide in behind third-year shooting guard Courtney Lee and push for immediate playing time.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
28. Name: Trevor Booker
The Grizzlies rightfully like their frontcourt combo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, but there’s not a lot of athleticism coming from them. Booker, who tested exceptionally well at the Chicago draft combine, would complement Memphis’ incumbent frontcourt nicely and give the Grizzlies another alternative to 2008 first-rounder Darrell Arthur.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
29. Name: Quincy Pondexter
Veteran free agent Matt Barnes doesn’t expect to be back in Orlando, which leaves the Magic thin at small forward. Pondexter, long touted as one of college basketball’s top athletes, put it together finally as a Washington senior. GM Otis Smith is likely to push hard for another major trade or free-agent deal after the disappointing conference finals flop against Boston, but adding a player at the bottom of the first round who should be ready to contribute gives him flexibility in the marketplace.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
30. Name: Devin Ebanks
As a West Virginia freshman, Ebans was considered a likely lottery pick with another year under his belt. But his sophomore season started off in Bob Huggins’ doghouse and he was always playing third fiddle as the Mountaineers rolled to the Final Four. He has the potential to be a lockdown small forward with terrific offensive versatility, making his character risks this late less of an issue.


Second Round


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
31. Name: Elliott Williams
A starter at Duke as a freshman and Memphis as a sophomore after getting the NCAA to grant a waiver that overrode the normal one-year transfer redshirt season, Williams has been a mystery man in the predraft process after bumping knees in San Antonio and shutting it down a month ago. More an athlete than a finished product at this point, Williams projects as a defensive specialist capable of guarding all three perimeter spots.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
32. Name: Tibor Pleiss
After grabbing size (Whiteside) and more size (Orton) in the first round, Thunder GM Sam Presti – who loves to stockpile, both picks and talent – probably will be looking for a player to stash overseas for a year or two with his third pick. That makes the 7-footer Pleiss a very attractive candidate, since he’s comfortable staying in Europe and needs more time before he’s ready for the NBA.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
33. Name: Terrico White
Sacramento has precious little depth in its backcourt, with only Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans, Beno Udrih and Francisco Garcia on the roster. White, a Mississippi sophomore with high-end athleticism and the ability to eventually play either guard spot at 6-foot-5, might not be ready to help much immediately, but the Kings won’t find many others with his ceiling at 33.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
34. Name: Dexter Pittman
The Timberwolves are believed looking to trade Al Jefferson, or Kevin Love if they can’t find a taker for Jefferson’s big contract, which would make taking another big man at this spot reasonable. And nobody’s bigger – or wider, at least – than Pittman, who measured 6-foot-11½ and 303 in Chicago. He has serious conditioning and stamina issues, but is regarded as a great kid who could be a solid rotation player if he wins the battle of the bulge.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
35. Name: Tiny Gallon
Another player similar to Pittman in that he has weight issues but talent to match his massive frame. Gallon, who likely would have been the target of an NCAA investigation had he stayed at Oklahoma past his freshman year, measured 6-foot-9½ and 302 in Chicago. He’s an exceptionally good perimeter shooter, unlike Pittman, and his wing span of 7-foot-4½ largely overcomes concerns about his lack of explosion.


Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
36. Name: Jarvis Varnado
If the Pistons add Udoh in the first round, as we project, they might be less inclined to take another player who projects as a defender and shot-blocker in the second. Mississippi State’s Varnado and Udoh are probably the two best shot-blockers in the draft. Varnado will need to add bulk – he checked in at only 210 at Chicago – but against second-team power forwards, not many of whom are post scoring threats, he should be fine.


Other names to consider for the Pistons at 36: Virgina swingman Sylvan Landesberg, who some think could even play point guard; Georgia Tech power forward Gani Lawal, a good athlete and solid scorer and rebounder who tested and measured well in Chicago; Alabama’s Mikhail Torrance, a point guard with an intriguing combination of size and skills – he’s ambidextrous – in a player who was off the radar screens a year ago; French point guard Thomas Huertel, named MVP of this month’s Adidas Eurocamp; and West Virginia small forward Da’Sean Butler, a player who earns extremely high marks for character and basketball IQ but who tore his ACL in early April.