Sam Smith’s mock draft: Narrowing down the field

In his mock draft, Sam Smith predicts the Bulls will wind up taking UNC's Tyler Hansbrough at 16 and USC's Taj Gibson at 26. Of course, that's unless three or four other players slip through the cracks and fall to the mid-first round. And then if there's

Sam Smith: Narrowing down the draft field

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Sam Smith's draft guide

So who are the Bulls going to select Thursday in the NBA draft?

I have it down to among eight guys.

But I'm not in the super secret strategy room. My guess is they may have it down to seven possibilities.

That's the way this NBA draft is likely to go, especially midway through the first round where the Bulls are at No. 16. The Bulls also have pick No. 26 in the first round, though they could pick a player overseas or one who will go overseas and leave open a roster spot for now.

Or not.

There's been talk about trading up since the talent seems to break at about the 12th spot in this draft. That also is why it's proving difficult to trade up. To do so, it cost the Timberwolves two starting level players or at least high rotation contributors. This wouldn't seem a good enough draft to give up a player to move a few spots. And the teams with those picks aren't so anxious to move down for the same reasons teams want to move up. It doesn't seem like such a move is likely though the Bulls have talked with most of the teams immediately ahead of them.

Tyler Hansbrough
Tyler Hansbrough
(Streeter Lecka/NBAE/Getty Images)

But that's not to say you won't get a good player at No. 16. I believe the Bulls will.

It may be a player who isn't quite ready yet but could fill a vital need, like Ohio State center B.J. Mullens. You want to run with Derrick Rose, you also better have some size. And Mullens is athletic, if raw.

Perhaps a player like DeJuan Blair, who can rebound now but has had knee and weight issues. Those raise questions about his future. He's probably down the Bulls list. There are scenarios which have Duke's versatile Gerald Henderson falling to No. 16. Perhaps someone like Wake Forest's James Johnson, a uniquely gifted big man but with defensive deficiencies. Maybe a rock like Tyler Hansbrough, a guy who won't star but whom you can count on to perform. I can see all three high on the Bulls list, though all could be taken ahead of No. 16.

Or perhaps the Bulls take a point guard like Jeff Teague or Eric Maynor, guys you can use if you happen to lose free agent guard Ben Gordon.

Plus, there are varying scenarios in which untested but highly regarded talents like DeMar DeRozan and Jrue Holiday fall through to No. 16. There is a chance the Bulls have a shot at someone like that.

Of course, it all depends mostly on what 15 other teams are up to. So we'll all wait until about 8 p.m. Thursday to find out. But here's one educated guess. Not necessarily one with a ph.d, though lots of time in the library.

Hasheem Thabeet
Hasheem Thabeet
(Streeter Lecka/NBAE/Getty Images)
  1. L.A. Clippers: Blake Griffin, Oklahoma power forward. I know I get this one right. The only lock in the draft. But the Oklahoma kid will get a crash course in remedial NBA 101 playing with Baron Davis, Ricky Davis and Zach Randolph.
  2. Memphis: Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut center. They were deciding late Wednesday night whether to take two or more first rounders from Minnesota for No. 2. The Timberwolves want Thabeet and he likely gets picked here by Memphis.
  3. Oklahoma City: James Harden, Arizona State shooting guard. This is the consensus spot, but Thunder management is independent and unconventional and likes athletes. No one would be surprised if they went, instead, for someone like DeMar DeRozan or Tyreke Evans.
  4. Sacramento: Tyreke Evans, Memphis point guard. This was supposed to be the fight over Spain's Ricky Rubio, who has suddenly engendered a lot of talk about whether he is what he is supposed to be. It scared them off as Evans dominated the point guard workouts they had.
  5. Minnesota: Jonny Flynn, Syracuse point guard. They're into a total makeover and he's an exciting, crowd pleasing type for a somnambulant franchise.
  6. Ricky Rubio
    Ricky Rubio
    (Garrett Elwood/NBAE/Getty Images)
  7. Minnesota: Jordan Hill, Arizona power forward. The consensus has been a guard. Rubio was believed first and then Stephen Curry. But if they do that--and they certainly can do the wrong thing--they'll be one of the smallest teams ever. You don't go anywhere like that.
  8. Golden State: Ricky Rubio, Spain point guard. Monta Ellis isn't a point guard. This likely is coach Don Nelson's last season and he could put Rubio out there right away finding all his shooters.
  9. New York: Stephen Curry, Davidson point guard. He's not really a point guard and he's likely no Steve Nash. But in Mike D'Antoni's spread game he'll shoot the light out and the lights have been off at Madison Square Garden for a long time.
  10. Toronto: Gerald Henderson, Duke shooting guard. They need to begin to persuade Chris Bosh to stay. It's not likely, but Henderson is more ready to play and versatile and the wing athlete they lack.
  11. Milwaukee: Brandon Jennings, Italy point guard. They could bring back Ramon Sessions now with the money saved from the Richard Jefferson deal. You need athletic, talented point guards now and Jennings could be a good one.
  12. New Jersey: DeMar DeRozan, USC shooting guard. He's a big upside talent who is defensive oriented and many doubted he would fall this far. The Nets like those as they lucked out last year with Brook Lopez.
  13. Stephen Curry
    Stephen Curry
    (Kevin Cox/NBAE/Getty Images)
  14. Charlotte: Terrence Williams, Louisville shooting guard. He's a defensive guy, versatile and athletic who should be able to play the right way.
  15. Indiana: Jrue Holiday, UCLA point guard. Everyone has heard Ty Lawson here. But Holiday has been regarded as a top 10 talent and they seem to be set on taking a point guard, though you can see Tyler Hansbrough for a popular choice here.
  16. Phoenix: James Johnson, Wake Forest small forward. He's potentially a unique talent, though no one is quite sure where they are headed. Out of the Shaq era, though, with Wednesday night's trade of Shaq for Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic, the latter who'll be bought out in a salary dump and admission of, well, that didn't go so well. The middle opens again for Steve Nash (good luck with that LeBron) and Johnson is another guy who can run the break and finish. Though there were rumors of Bulls interest in Shaq, I don't believe there was anything to it. Put it this way: If you're not playing for a championship, he's hardly the most motivated guy (see Miami, 2007 when the Bulls swept them and then a year later when he rarely played until traded).
  17. Detroit: B.J. Mullens, Ohio State center. He's a project, but if he hits he has a heck of a lot of value. They're taking a step back to begin moving forward.
  18. Bulls: Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina forward. I believe they would have gone with Henderson or Johnson and perhaps Mullens. If any fall here I assume they are possible. The other player mentioned in that area is Louisville Earl Clark, a versatile big forward. Clark blew off a visit last weekend and has drawn comparisons with Tim Thomas and Lamar Odom for his off again on again appearances. But he has size and talent and has been regarded at times with top five potential. Two months ago, I would have mocked a Hansbrough pick. Hansbrough may not have the talent ceiling, but you'll never question his commitment. I know the Bulls get criticized for taking those good, hard working guys from big programs. But Hansbrough also has good size and why not have someone who during a four in five nights wonders why they're having a day off. DeJuan Blair has been mentioned, but he seems to have too many red flag warnings with knees and weight.
  19. Gerald Henderson
    Gerald Henderson
    (Streeter Lecka/NBAE/Getty Images)
  20. Philadelphia: Jeff Teague, Wake Forest point guard. They figure to lose Andre Miller and Teague's a guy with good shooting range, a priority for them.
  21. Minnesota: Sam Young, Pitt small forward. In moving Mike Miller and after the injury to Corey Brewer, he is a ready to play defensive oriented guy who can step in and help.
  22. Atlanta: Eric Maynor, VCU point guard. The talk is the Clippers are getting this pick. But if the Hawks have it they should go for a point guard. Maybe Maynor or Ty Lawson.
  23. Utah: DeJuan Blair, Pitt power forward. Well, it worked with Paul Millsap. They have to protect themselves against losing Carlos Boozer and Millsap in free agency. Good guy, tough, works hard. Their type.
  24. New Orleans: Ty Lawson, North Carolina point guard. There's no replacing Chris Paul, but you can't play him all the time. It hurt losing Jannero Pargo last year and will be too expensive to bring him back.
  25. Portland: Earl Clark, Louisville. They traded to move up two spots with Dallas. Who would you need to get up two places for at this level? Clark, Austin Daye and Chase Budinger are the biggest names still available. But they also wanted to move some seconds as the owner doesn’t like them picking players and cutting them.
  26. Ty Lawson
    Ty Lawson
    (Kevin Cox/NBAE/Getty Images)
  27. Sacramento: Omri Casspi, Israel small forward. There's been a lot of mention of him going there. They have needs most everywhere. He's an athletic guy and hard working.
  28. Dallas: Derrick Brown, Xavier small forward. Sort of your sleeper player in this draft. Not much mentioned but a small forward with nice size and abilities.
  29. Oklahoma City: Wayne Ellington, North Carolina shooting guard. Yes, another shooting guard. But he's a bigtime shooter with good size and that profile fits their interests.
  30. Bulls: Taj Gibson, USC power forward. They can add size and as an older player he's a guy who should be able to contribute some. They could go with a point guard like Darren Collison as insurance and to give Derrick Rose some time off the floor. The consensus has been they'll pick a European or someone going to Europe like Nick Calathes, which remains possible. But it doesn't hurt to have a relatively cheap first rounder on the roster.
  31. Memphis: DaJuan Summers, Georgetown small forward. Another of those so called sleepers who has surprised many in workouts after seemingly being held back in college. He's got good size and strength at the position.
  32. Eric Maynor
    Eric Maynor
    (Rick Stewart/NBAE/Getty Images)
  33. Minnesota: Austin Daye, Gonzaga small forward. They’d been looking to move this pick, but Daye has a lot of potential while not being close to ready for the NBA. Think a Brad Sellers type now.
  34. L.A. Lakers: Toney Douglas, Florida State, point guard. They want out of the draft along with several bottom of the first teams like the Cavs, Grizzlies and Timberwolves. Maybe they take a shot at this combo guard who car score.
  35. Cavaliers: Chase Budinger, Arizona small forward. Probably worth a shot at a guy considered higher. Bigtime talent, but questions about his interest, commitment and defense. If someone got him going they might have something.


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