Written By: Andy Flint
A good friend of mine recently asked me a straight forward question. He asked, if you were building an NBA franchise, starting tomorrow, who would you take to build your team around? This got me thinking. I thought, what if I made a list, 1-30, of who I’d take if it were me picking at each spot. This mock is for the future of the NBA, these teams won’t be concerned with trying to win a championship in the first one to three seasons. This is about securing the future of your franchise. This is the final product. My “future of the NBA” draft (round 1).
#1: Lebron James: Best player alive, at a position that has some big names. Unmatched size, skill and potential to win. A point guard in a power forwards’ body. Lebron James has become the poster-boy for the new generation of basketball enthusiasts, world-wide. Still looking for that elusive NBA title, plenty of time to do it, and now has the team to make it happen multiple times. There is no doubt in my mine, none, that Lebron James is the absolute best player to build an NBA franchise around.
#2: Dwyane Wade: Stellar player when being compared to anyone. Wade possesses the ability to beat you in any way imaginable. Great speed, athleticism, toughness and basketball I.Q. Wade has had some injury issues, but I’d still select him if Lebron James is off the board. No doubt in my mind that with the right pieces, Wade has the collective game to lead any team to the playoffs and compete for a championship.
#3: Kevin Durant: Cream of the crop in terms of scorers. Can play the two and three spots. Freakishly long and a tremendously gifted shooter. His lanky build and pure basketball intangibles make him nearly impossible to guard. Has won the NBA scoring title back-to-back years and is just 22 years of age. Durant is a guy who is already able to lead an NBA team to championships, he’ll only continue to get better as his career matures. Durant is a truly gifted specimen.
#4: Derrick Rose: Currently the hottest athlete on the planet. Amazing speed, hops and determination makes Rose a hard case to argue with. While Istill don’t believe Rose to be the NBA’s #1 point guard, I believe he’s well on his way. Rose has the ability to pass and score like few others, his explosive play and cool demeanor makes him an immediate leader at the ripe age of 22.
#5: Dwight Howard: Changes the most possessions in any game. The three-time NBA defensive player of the year has the hulking frame of a young David Robinson on HGH. Dwight Howard has spring-boarded himself from a high school player who few projected being drafted ahead of Emeka Okafor, to the best big man on the planet. Howard has too much strength for most power forwards and too much agility for most centers, making him the exception to the rule, when talking traditional NBA bigs.
#6: Chris Paul: Probably the best pure point guard in the league. Has the sweetest cross in the game. Has had his share of injury issues, which may be the reason I draft the younger Derrick Rose ahead of him. But, let’s be fair, CP3 is in a league of his own. He is lightning fast, has a basketball I.Q. that is through the roof, plays great defense and can score at will. I project Chris Paul will continue to improve after surgery and reclaim his glory as NBA élite.
#7: Carmelo Anthony: 2nd best scorer in the league (behind Durant). Heir apparent to the most clutch player alive title (after Kobe). Melo can dazzle the crowd. He does it from all over the court and Isn’t afraid of the big shots. Plenty of players can score buckets but, the field thins out when talking about guys who can make clutch baskets in big games. Melo has sunk the dagger into opposing teams, time and time again.
#8: Amare’ Stoudemire: My first PF off the board and for clear reasons. Blake Griffins age almost won out the PF battle, but Stoudemire (28 years old), who emerged this season with the Knicks has really quieted the haters and settled the argument over who the best PF in the league is. He may always have to play Robin to Carmelo’s Batman, but, Amare’ has proved to be a legit scoring option. Amare’ really showed me how crafty he is this season. Stepping back and taking jumpers, being patient and waiting for the game to come to him, and showing that he’s willing to put the Knicks on his back if need be.
#9: Russell Westbrook: Dynamic, quick guard with the ability to score like a shooting guard and dish like a point guard. Westbrook has quickly risen up the PG ladder to become one of the premier players as his position. Teamed with Kevin Durant, and given the green light to score, Westbrook has really helped the Thunder make the crucial leap from so-so to élite in the Western Conference. At just 22 years of age, Westbrook should find himself in the mix with the likes of Derrick Rose for the leagues’ best point guard for many years to come.
#10: Blake Griffin: A strong frame mixed with insane hops, equals epic dunks, and that is exactly what you get when you pay for a ticket to watch the Clippers and Blake Griffin play. After missing his entire rookie season to a left patella injury, Blake entered the 2010 season with a chip on his shoulder and the energy to blow the roof of any building. Griffin has become an instant fan-favorite across the entire league. He’s won the heart of NBA fans with his massive throw-downs and stunning athletic pedigree. This kid can also shoot the ball and score with his back-to-the-basket. I’m sure with extra time in the gym and experience on the court, we’re looking at a multiple NBA all-star for many years to come.
#11: John Wall: A guy who reminds me a lot of Derrick Rose in the open court and on the attack. Seems to have a better understanding of the point guard position than most rookies. 8+ assists per game on a team that doesn’t really scare many opponents with their scoring options. John Wall is still a rough draft and will need work on his shooting before he can be considered élite, but I truly believe he is well on his way. The ball is really in Washington’s court to recruit some solid players and build a contending unit around Wall. I can easily see Wall being a top 5 point guard for many years.
#12: Deron Williams: A true point guard in all aspects. He can get you double-digit assists at will. Can command the floor better than anyone not named Chris Paul, and has the ability to put a team on his back and score in bunches. Deron sort of had a down season as he battled a wrist injury and had to try and adjust to a new team and new head coach. At just 26 years old, Deron still has plenty of all-star caliber seasons left in the tank, and a new, bigger city to display his talents and recruit other great pieces around him.
#13: Rajon Rondo: Considered by many to be the best pure point guard in the league. Rondo exploded onto the scene in a big way during the 2010 NBA playoffs and left people wondering who the most important player in Boston truly was. Rondo struggled a bit this season, as teams approached him in a different manner. Teams opted to play off Rondo and give him open jumpers. Rajon will need to continue to work on his mid-range shooting, if he becomes consistent from 15 feet, he’ll become unstoppable. Rondo is quick and explosive, paired with great length and hand-size, should make him an easy choice as my 6th point guard off the board.
#14: LaMarcus Aldridge: Big, smart, athletic and tough. That is Aldridge in a nut-shell. LaMarcus Aldridge did a great job of leading the Trailblazers to the playoffs after losing Brandon Roy for basically the entire 2010/2011 season. Aldridge took the reigns and really put himself on the map. I knew he was good, but I didn’t fully understand how good he was until this season. He’s the 3rd power forward off my board because he reminds me a lot of Chris Webber. Aldridge is the complete package at the PF position. He can score, he can pass out of the double teams, he plays defense and he has a very high basketball I.Q. I could regret LaMarcus not being my first PF off the board.
#15: Kevin Love: Kevin love is a guy who has a game that you can’t teach. Some guys just have a nose for the dirty work, and Love is one of those players. 15+ rebounds per game, dethroned Dwight Howard as rebound king and posted a 30 point, 30 rebound game (first since Moses Malone in 1982). He’s also no slouch in the scoring department. Love averaged just over 20 points per game and really had the fans in Minnesota excited about basketball again. Minnesota is loaded with young, raw talent, and Love is the glue to it’s foundation.
#16: Monta Ellis: Long, quick, offensive minded two guard in a point guard’s body. Monta Ellis is one of the funnest players in the NBA to watch. He’s pure speed and athletic ability. He finishes at the cup better than most players and displays no fear. At just 25 years of age, Ellis should continue to improve and continue to top the scoring charts. Given the right pieces, I truly believe Ellis could lead a team deep. He’s one of the fastest and most determined players in the league when it comes to getting to the basket. He can also pass the ball and seems to trust his teammates.
#17: Josh Smith: J-Smooth has been an interesting player over the past 7 seasons. He’s an overly athletic player for the power forward position. He’s as agile as any shooting guard, with an amazingly long wing-span and a nose for shot blocking, Smith has been a premier defensive player. His draw-back is that he tends to settle for 3 point shots, instead of being patient and letting the game come to him. At only 26 years old, Smith has plenty of solid seasons left to improve and really enhance his game. Smith is an unparralled defensive piece at the power forward position, which makes his stock rather high.
#18: Tyreke Evans: After averaging 20+ ppg, 5+ apg and 5+ reb, I saw Evans as a smaller version of Lebron James. A “Jack of All Trades” on the court. He was able to score, rebound and dish. He has a big body, matched with quickness and finishing ability, making him a hard cover when he puts his head down and goes to the rack. Tyreke is capable of being one of the best two guards in the world. Evans had a foot injury that hindered him this season and we saw him drop to around 17 ppg. I think he’s due for a good 2011 season and should really get back on track and pick up where he left off after his rookie year.
#19: Brook Lopez: My second center off the board. Brook is a big, physical, skilled center. He has an advanced arsenal of post moves in his vast offensive repertoire. The seven-footer can beat you with many different moves on the block. Lopez can also step back and pop the twelve foot jumper. I’d like to see some work on the rebounding end, six per game Isn’t cutting it. Brook should be able to continue to improve and stay a legit NBA scorer at the center position for many seasons to come.
#20 Stephen Curry: Steph Curry won me over when he led Davidson on their unlikely journey to the Elite 8. Davidson’s Cinderella story would end there at the hands of Kansas, but the world of basketball had much in store for Steph Curry. Curry has been a phenomenal shooter as a pro, he’s showed he can distribute the rock and command an offense. The Warriors need some work before they can become a contender out west, but you’ve got to think that Curry and Ellis are a good start.
#21: Brandon Roy: This is another guy that scares me because of injuries. If Roy were a healthy player, I’m sure he would have been gone in the top 10. But, because of the fact that this guy just can’t stay on the court, due to injuries, his stock has dropped. Roy is a dynamite player, he’s one of those combo one and two guards. He can be productive at both positions and give any team instant leadership. Roy was well on his way to becoming an élite NBA scorer before injuries piled up. Many considered Roy to be the next big thing at the shooting guard position. I’m sure Roy still has the skill to play and be a big-time scorer. The question is, will his body hold up?
#22: Chris Bosh: Chris Bosh is a guy that I could have easily seen go in the top 10. He’s sort of stepped back into the shadows of Lebron and Wade (very big shadows) this season, which drops his stock a tad. Bosh was, however, an elite type of scorer when he played in Toronto, exploiting double teams and abusing less mobile big men off the dribble. Bosh has been called soft but, that seems to be a power forwards’ theme in todays game. I believe he plays with a certain intensity that few players possess. I’d gladly have Bosh as my building block.
#23: Kevin Martin: Another big-time scorer that finds himself dropped in the rankings due to his unreliable body. K-Mart has endured his share of nagging injuries and has kept ticking. Many view Martin as only a jump shooter, and that is naive. Martin has the ability to get to the basket and score or pay off at the stripe. He’s capable of racking up 25-30 ppg and leading a franchise as their premier scoring option. Paired with the correct type of player, Martin could be an unmatched NBA scorer.
#24: Marc Gasol: The younger of the Gasol brothers, really had his welcoming party during the 2011 NBA playoffs. Gasol was, at times, brilliant. I believe his advanced post-game and willingness to do the dirty work, cleaning glass, blocking shots and playing tough defense are what makes him such a special player. Gasol, standing 7 feet tall has superior finesse around the rim and, unlike Pau, couples that with intense defense. He has the best of both worlds. Maybe a tad rough around the edges, but completely capable of being a big-time NBA center.
#25: Eric Gordon: Eric Gordon is the type of player that has explosive athleticism, great shooting touch and the ability to score in bunches. He and Blake Griffin could play a critical role in helping a Clippers franchise emerge as a contender in the west. Gordon has only played 118 games, combined, in the past two seasons, due to injuries, which holds back his draft stock a touch. But, I fully believe a healthy Gordon can give any franchise enough scoring fire-power to build around for years to come.
#26: Al Jefferson: The long, defensive minded Jefferson has been an injury obstacle for a few seasons now, at only 26 years of age, Jefferson has plenty of time left in those legs to re-establish his game and get back into form. Jefferson has the skill to get you 20 and 12 on a consistent basis, maybe even more. The post savvy big man has an intimidating inside game and a knack for defensive play. Jefferson possesses all of the crucial tools needed to be an effective NBA big. Only time will tell if he can fulfill that role.
#27: Rudy Gay: Rudy Gay is a great athlete, he possesses all of the skills needed to score points. He can shoot from all over the court, get to the basket and finish. Gay has hovered right around 20 ppg for his career, thus far, and should continue to keep getting better. He’s also a capable rebounder and with some work could become a decent defender. He has length and height, which makes his a great finisher around the hoop. I’d love to see Rudy not settle for so many jumpers and make a living at the free throw line. Gay should continue to be a good to great scorer for the next several years, making him a good choice late.
#28:Michael Beasley: Upside, upside, upside. Michael Beasley has the tools to effectively be a go-to scorer in the NBA, the question mark surrounding Beasley’s game is his mental toughness and work ethic. Beasley has been known as a slouch when it comes to polishing his game and getting better. He seems to lack motivation at times and many question his mental toughness. But, we’ve all seen flashes from him, and we all remember his days at Kansas State. I believe Beasley had some trouble (off the court) in Miami, that ultimately led to his departure. He got a fresh start in Minnesota and seemed to have broken out of his slump. He averaged close to 20 ppg and I expect to see him break out even more next season.
#29: J.J. Hickson: This is another player that is being drafted upon his upside, Hickson is a freak athlete and seems to play with a ferocious intensity that most NBA power forward’s lack. Hickson has much work to do and many things to learn but, at just 22 years old, there is tons of time to mold and improve this youngster into a dynamic NBA player. I’m not even sure what his ceiling is but, drafting at the 29th spot, I’d say it’s a calculated gamble that could pay off like gold.
#30: Derrick Favors: Maybe Favors goes higher than this, I’m not certain. He seems very raw and unpolished, his potential could be amazing or could completely fizzle. I like Favors and I personally think he’ll be fine. I think his ceiling lays somewhere between Dwight Howard and Darko Milicic (huge gap). He’s only 19 years old and has plenty of untapped potential to work with. I can see Favors being a dominate big, but I’m not 100% convinced. Molding raw big men is a tall order, and it takes patience.