Over the years, Chad Ford and Bill Simmons have evolved into the Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez of NBA mock drafts. Every couple of years, they throw on the gloves for a confusing 12-round brawl that leaves both guys bloodied and swollen and fans wondering, “What the hell happened? Who won?” After completing their trilogy (2007, 2008 and 2010), they’re climbing into the ring for a fourth time — this time, for a 22-pick mock draft before Thursday’s big night. Here’s what transpired.
SIMMONS: Chad, I can’t believe you wanted this back-and-forth so badly that you agreed to play a road game on Grantland. Don’t you realize I’m going to get every call? You might as well be playing in Miami with Danny Crawford, Marc Davis and Gloria Estefan officiating. If I don’t like any of your arguments, or if I feel like you’re making me look like a schmuck at any point, I’m just going to have one of my editors either sabotage that paragraph or delete it altogether.
FORD: So I can’t remind readers about the 2006 draft debate when you were in love with [Editor’s note: LaMarcus Aldridge] and hated [Editor’s note: Adam Morrison]? That’s disappointing.
SIMMONS: No, we’re going to skip right to the following year … when you mocked me for picking Kevin Durant over Greg Oden! Woo-hoo!!!!!!! I can live off that one for the next 30 years!!!
Anyway, we had Grantland’s editors flip a coin and see who’s picking first, and you’re not going to believe this … I won! It’s like the 2012 NBA Lottery all over again! I can’t believe I won my own lottery in a process that I totally conceived and controlled. Picking first for the New Orleans Hornets with no chance of this being vetoed whatsoever, I’m selecting Anthony Davis, a.k.a. “The Brow.”
Here’s my question for you, Chad: How untouchable is this pick? Would you say …
A. “Completely and utterly untouchable.”
C. “Untouchable … but we’re not hanging up.”
D. “It can be touched.”
FORD: It’s A, Bill.
SIMMONS: Really? Let’s say Cleveland called them and said, “We’ll give you Kyrie Irving, our no. 4 pick and Anderson Varejao for the Brow and Rashard Lewis’s Expiring Contract That Can’t Be Traded For Two Months.” You’re telling me that New Orleans doesn’t even at least have a meeting about that offer? That’s my favorite fake trade in a long time. For the record, I would turn that one down if I’m the Hornets … but I WOULD have a meeting about it.
FORD: Cleveland did offer the Hornets the fourth pick, the 24th pick, the 33rd and 34th pick and got hung up on. I’m told they would put Tristan Thompson (their no. 4 pick last year) in the deal, too. Nothing. Even if they offered Kyrie, I don’t think the Hornets budge. Big men like Anthony Davis come along once or twice a decade. I think there’s only three players in the NBA right now that teams WOULDN’T trade for Davis: LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul. Normally Dwight Howard and Deron Williams would be in that discussion, too, and so would Derrick Rose. But with Howard and Williams threatening to bolt and Rose’s injury woes, I think the Magic, Nets and Bulls would all pull the trigger.
SIMMONS: Damn, this dashes my plans for the next fake trade I wanted to throw at you: Boston getting Davis for JaJuan Johnson and the no. 21 and no. 22 picks. For the record, I found it hard to believe that the Clippers would turn Davis for Chris Paul for about five seconds … then I remembered that they just picked up Vinny Del Negro’s option, and they’re about to hire last year’s sideline reporter (Kiki Vandeweghe) as their new GM even though he has the words “Nikoloz Tskitishvili” on his résumé. So you’re probably right. But man, putting someone fourth on my “Highest Trade Value” rankings who hasn’t even played an NBA minute yet? I’m rattled. Make a pick; I need time to regroup.
FORD: With Charlotte’s no. 2 pick, I’m taking Michael Kidd-Gilchrist even though the Bobcats are probably trading this pick to Cleveland for no. 4 and no. 24. If they keep it, I think they’re taking Thomas Robinson. If the Cavs get the pick, they’re taking Bradley Beal.
Personally, I think Kidd-Gilchrist has a chance to be the second best player in this draft — I especially like him if he lands on a team with a great young point guard like Cleveland. (I’m less bullish if he lands in Charlotte, as he’s not the type of player who carries a team on his own yet.) He has more holes in his game than several of the top picks in the draft. He’s just a so-so shooter with a hitchy jumper. He’s not a great ball handler yet and doesn’t really know how to create his own shot. That doesn’t scream no. 2 pick.
But he’s won at every level (high school, AAU, NCAA) and has a Rondo-eque type of motor and toughness. He’s an elite finisher at the rim. He runs the floor as well as anyone in the draft. He can defend at least three positions. He’s a gym rat and a relentless worker. Most of the analysts who followed him in high school thought he made major improvements as a freshman in virtually every area. And he’s the youngest player in the draft (doesn’t turn 19 until late September). Most of the players his age were high school seniors last year. He really has skipped ahead a year. I wrote yesterday that Kidd-Gilchrist “just might be a Gerald Wallace clone, or he might be a saner version of Metta World Peace. But if we are talking ceilings, I think his is Scottie Pippen. Pair him with an elite scorer, and I think he’ll have a few rings by the time he retires.” Do you agree with that?
SIMMONS: Chad, this pick makes so much sense that I can only assume you mistakenly thought MKG was Slovenian. Everyone keeps saying there’s no “sure thing” in this draft after Davis. Why isn’t MKG a sure thing? You know what you’re getting — he’s the most competitive guy in the draft, he’s an incredible athlete, his teams win everywhere he goes, he’s the prototypical über-athlete swing guy who can defend three positions, and he could absolutely be the second-best or third-best player on a title contender some day.
I’m judging every lottery pick in this draft by one question: “Could you have played in that insanely athletic 2012 Finals I just watched?” We can’t say that’s where the NBA might be headed because it’s already there — we just saw it. And for MKG, the answer is, “Yes, he would have absolutely fit into that Finals … and maybe even slowed down Durant or LeBron a little.” I don’t care that he can’t shoot yet. He’ll figure it out. I agree with you — Pippen is the right comparison here. But it’s his competitiveness that really stands out for me. You stick someone on your team who cares that much and everything else will fall into place. Eventually. Naturally, he’ll probably drop to fifth because this continues to be the dumbest professional sports league on the planet.
FORD: I can understand the Wizards passing on him. They are desperate for shooters and Bradley Beal is a great fit there. But there’s no excuse for any other team. I’m stunned that the Bobcats can’t see what you and I see. Then again … every year I’m stunned that the Bobcats can’t see what you and I can see … with the exception of [Editor’s note: deleted] in 2006.
And the Cavs? How do they say no? Kyrie Irving and MKG were teammates in high school. They’re going to take Harrison Barnes over MKG? Don’t they remember that MKG with a bum ankle dominated Barnes in high school and did it again when the two matched up in Kentucky in December?
SIMMONS: If Barnes goes over Kidd-Gilchrist, we might as well eliminate college basketball as a device to scout potential NBA prospects. Seriously. Let’s just dump it. We’ll save tens of millions on travel and DVD expenses.
FORD: And don’t get me started on the Kings. They have five guys on their roster that care nothing for defense or chemistry and want to jack up 20 shots a night. They finally get a chance at a guy who can make a huge impact on the floor without the ball in his hands and their response is to trade the pick.
SIMMONS: They’re the greatest. I wouldn’t let Geoff Petrie organize a Grantland office lunch order at this point.
FORD: If Kidd-Gilchrist falls to the Warriors at seven, I think they make the playoffs in 2013.
SIMMONS: That’s not fair. You just got the Warriors fans’ hopes up — they’re sitting there reading this piece and minding their own business, and out of nowhere, you set them up for yet another massive disappointment. The poor Warriors fans even get stomach-punched in hypothetical NBA drafts.
Let’s keep moving: With the no. 3 pick for Washington, I’m grabbing Bradley Beal, the silky smooth two-guard who definitely bought Ray Allen’s jumper on eBay. I love this pick even though I watched all four of Florida’s NCAA Tournament games and never at any point thought to myself, I’m watching the no. 3 pick in June’s draft. Is it a red flag when the alleged best scoring guard available from college basketball couldn’t average 15 points a game or make 34 percent of his 3s? I’m not trying to be a dick — it’s a serious question.
FORD: Hmmm … I’m frightened to tell you that Beal’s performance in the SEC and NCAA tournament were his best games of the year.
FORD: The 34 percent on 3s is a valid question for everyone that sees those Ray Allen comps and says … “What the hell?” Here’s the thing on Beal — that Florida team was so dysfunctional all season, Beal was playing at small forward, a position he never played before in his life. He was a ballhandling guard in high school who was best creating his shot off the dribble. In Florida they used him as a spot-up shooter. He never found his rhythm until they put the ball in his hands in the SEC tournament, and then he looked much more like the elite prospect we saw in high school.
Everyone thinks that, returned to the right role, he’s Eric Gordon 2.0. Without any other guaranteed superstars in the draft, that’s worth pick three and makes him a great fit in Washington, a team without a real shooter or two-guard on their roster.
SIMMONS: I just spent the past 10 minutes watching his YouTube clips, so I’m totally ready to have an opinion here. Are we sure Beal is Gordon 2.0? The best thing about Gordon other than his stroke is that he’s built like a tank — he loves driving into the paint, bouncing off bigger guys and finishing around the rim. Beal is a few inches taller; really, he’s more like a young Mike Miller, which means we’re going to need permission from the Committee of Cross-Racial NBA Comparisons to make that comparison. I just asked them; they said they needed 24 hours.
Quick question in the meantime: We both like MKG more than Beal, but Beal has more value because both Washington (picking third) and Cleveland (picking fourth) want him. Is it fair to say that Washington HAS to flip picks with Charlotte to get him? And if they do, what would they have to trade?
FORD: Washington has the 32nd pick, fairly valuable because there’s lots of depth in this year’s draft. That would give the Bobcats 31 and 32. But Cleveland’s offer is better: 4 and 24. That’s why the Cavs are in the lead. I think the Cavs should just stay put and let Kidd-Gilchrist fall into their lap.
SIMMONS: Hmmmmmm. That sounds too easy. Give me one second to pretend I’m running Charlotte — I need a smoking-hot Cuban fiancée, a stiff cocktail, a Cuban cigar and five yes-men nodding at everything I say. (Hold on.) And … we’re good. OK, here’s what I tell Washington — “I’ll swap picks with you, but over the next five years, I have the right to swap first-rounders with you one time. Otherwise, I’m flipping Beal to Cleveland for 4 and 24.” That reminds me, make Cleveland’s no. 4 pick.
FORD: With Davis, MKG and Beal off the board, I take Harrison Barnes. His biggest problem is perception. Coming out of high school he looked like he could be the next Kobe Bryant. He hasn’t been anything like Kobe.
SIMMONS: You just won the ESPY for “Understatement of the Year.”
FORD: The haters have come out of the woodwork for him. But Barnes is a special talent. He’s got great size for his position, is an excellent athlete and has a very good jump shot. He’s also got a great basketball IQ and isn’t afraid to take big shots. He should really benefit playing alongside Irving in Cleveland, or being Charlotte’s alpha dog if the Bobcats make a move here. His best comp is probably Indiana’s Danny Granger, but I do believe he has more upside.
SIMMONS: Agree with the logic, agree with the pick as it applies to Cleveland … it’s just hard for me to believe that Thomas Robinson or Andre Drummond don’t have more value than Barnes, someone who legitimately soured everyone following college basketball at least a little last season. (Even three months later, it’s hard to shake Barnes’s tournament stink — you’d need a full tomato juice bath to do it.) I don’t like taking Barnes here nearly as much as what I might be able to get in a trade. What could the Cavs get for no. 4 if Beal and MKG were off the board? Could they get Houston’s no. 14 and no. 18 picks AND Chandler Parsons? You’re not making up nearly enough fake trades today, Chad. Did you take too many Fake Trade Beta-Blockers today or something?
FORD: Sure, they could get that. But dropping that far down in the draft — not sure that’s what they want. I think Cleveland either moves up or stays put. They had Barnes ranked no. 2 on their Big Board all last year, he’s good friends with Kyrie Irving and he adds a scorer on a team that needs scorers. Take away the hype … and Barnes is a solid player who averages 17-20 ppg in the NBA. At no. 4, that’s not bad.
SIMMONS: He’s good friends with Kyrie Irving? That changes everything! I definitely want to spend my no. 4 pick on someone who could play video games with my best player. By the way, I gave serious thought to offering you an “If Harrison Barnes averages 20 points a game in the NBA, I will swim from Los Angeles to Hawaii to take you out to dinner there” wager before realizing that you couldn’t offer me a comparable reward. Unless you gave me full custody of Pavel Podkolzin. Is he still living in your basement?
FORD: How about I agree to wear an Adam Morrison mustache for a year? Start training.
SIMMONS: Could you do that anyway? Why do we need a wager to make that happen?
Moving on to Sacramento’s no. 5 pick, we might make some history here, Chad. Even though it would be foolish to overpay in a trade for someone like Andre Drummond (who has all the textbook Thabeet/Kwame/Darko red flags), but you know someone might … only Geoff Petrie is the one trading the pick, which means we might be headed for a double rainbow of dumbness. After all, Petrie was the guy who dumped a mildly annoying contract (Beno Udrih) for a mildly disastrous contract (John Salmons) so he could move back three spots and make the worst lottery pick of the 2011 draft (Jimmer Fredette). He’s capable of anything. That makes me wonder if we could see a trade like this: Detroit deals Tayshaun Prince (expires 2015) and the no. 9 pick to Sacramento for the no. 5 pick and Salmons’s contract (expires 2015). Sacramento stays in the top nine and adds an unselfish veteran swingman who won’t really help them because it’s not like they can compete for a title; Detroit sneaks into the top five and rolls the dice with a Drummond/Monroe tandem that will eventually fail. Everyone loses!
FORD: Agree that Petrie is doing the GM equivalent of impaired driving with this pick. Kings fans are watching, horrified, as he weaves back and forth across the road. The question isn’t whether he collides into the telephone pole … it’s when. And no, Joe Dumars already drafted Darko. He’s not going to move up to do it again. At no. 9? Maybe, but Drummond is much safer at 9 than at 5.
SIMMONS: You’re right, this is crazy … let’s just do something sane. With the fifth pick for Sacramento, I’m taking Thomas Robinson … a.k.a. the rich man’s Carl Landry. Stick him with DeMarcus Cousins and, at the very least, you’ll be pounding the boards and making opponents miserable every game. But if the Kings can get an offer like “Parsons and the 14th/18th picks” or “Rudy Gay straight up” or even “Andre Iguodala straight up” for this spot, they should grab it. You know, unless MKG is sitting there.
Oh, god. They’re going to screw this up, aren’t they?
FORD: Love the Robinson pick. I’m one who actually thinks he’ll be a better pro than people give him credit for.
SIMMONS: Me too. I like him.
FORD: Not only does he have an NBA body and athletic ability, but he’s taller than everyone gave him credit for (so we can quit calling him undersized) and I think he plays as hard as anyone in the draft not named MKG. The Kings desperately need players like that, so, of course, this pick will never happen.
SIMMONS: It’s too bad he’s not good friends with Kyrie Irving — he could have gone fourth.
FORD: With the sixth pick I’m going with Damian Lillard. I know point guards from Weber State aren’t lottery picks very often, but I’m sold on this kid as a sort of Jay Williams before he mangled his ankle in a motorcycle accident.
SIMMONS: That comparison needs to be massaged a little. What about “Jay Williams coming out of Duke” or even “Another Jay Williams — not the guy who allegedly shot his chaffeur, the other one?”
FORD: I’ll keep tinkering with it. But Lillard is a great athlete, has good size for his position, shoots better than 40 percent from 3, gets to the line and can really see the floor. Not only that, he’s a humble kid, a hard worker and everyone that has coached, played or worked with him raves about his leadership ability. He’s going to have to make the transition from being a primary scorer to more of a distributor, but if you watched him at Weber State, you know he is a willing passer and isn’t a volume guy. He just does what it takes to win. The Blazers have struggled to find a legit point guard in forever — I think Lillard could be that guy.
SIMMONS: So we have Drummond falling to the poor Warriors fans at no. 7? This is terrible! They already did the Kwame Brown thing; now they have to do it again? I want to make fun of this Lillard pick for all the obvious reasons — he went to Weber State, turns 22 next month, went to Weber State, is more of a shooting point guard than a point guard, went to Weber State, had his stock boosted by a supposedly amazing workout, and, of course, went to Weber State — but his YouTube clips were pretty impressive. Seems like he has 25-foot range easy. At the very least, he could be the next Jimmer Fredette. (Cut to Kings fans groaning, “Too soon.”) But I have to make the following point …
Let’s say Austin Rivers shocked everyone by picking Weber State over Duke last year, then stayed there and torched the Big Sky Conference for the next four seasons. Here were Rivers’s numbers in his only Duke season (at age 19).
2011-12: 15.5 PPG, 2.1 APG, 3.4 RPG, 43.3% FG, 37% 3FG.
Here were Lillard’s numbers at Weber State …
2008-09: 11.5 PPG, 2.9 APG, 3.9 RPG, 43% FG, 37% 3FG
2009-10: 19.9 PPG, 3.6 APG, 4.0 RPG, 43% FG, 39% 3FG
2010-11: 17.7 PPG, 3.3 APG, 3.8 RPG, 44% FG, 35% 3FG
2011-12: 24.5 PPG, 4.0 APG, 5.0 RPG, 47% FG, 41% 3FG
Adding that Rivers was one of THE top high school recruits last year, you’re telling me Rivers couldn’t have done better at Weber State than Lillard did? Better pedigree, better freshman year … what am I missing? Why take Lillard over Rivers when Rivers is 25 months younger?
FORD: Look, Lillard was a late bloomer. He wasn’t lightly recruited until his senior season. You may be right that Rivers would’ve put up better numbers as a freshman. However, here’s my knock on Rivers. He thinks he’s Kobe. He’s not. He doesn’t have the length, the height, nor the athletic ability. Take those things away from Kobe, and he’s Ricky Davis — an irritating ball hog no one wants to play with and who isn’t good enough to warrant the diva act.
SIMMONS: Wow, you just waved two middle fingers at Doc Rivers — you compared his son to his least favorite player to have ever coached. Why didn’t you just throw a Dominique Wilkins barb in there while you were at it?
FORD: Lillard is a willing passer. Rivers isn’t and will never be. Lillard made dramatic improvements from year to year. I thought Rivers was the exact player in college that he was in high school. Lillard is a team player. He was the second most efficient player in college basketball DESPITE being the only decent player on his entire roster; teams game planned to stop him and him alone every night. I just don’t see Rivers ever being anywhere near as unselfish or efficient. I think Rivers will be shocked at the athleticism and length at his position. He’ll try to do the same things at which he excelled in high school, spend a lot of time on the bench, get into it with his coach and teammates, get traded in a year or two to a desperate team, put up huge numbers for a cellar-dweller for a year or two, make some money, and eventually, teams will realize he can’t be the alpha dog on a winning team.
SIMMONS: Other than that, you’re a huge Austin Rivers fan.
FORD: I honestly think Rivers is the one guy I wouldn’t touch in the lottery. Too toxic for team chemistry, doesn’t have the same physical tools to make it worth it.
SIMMONS: Speaking of toxic, I can’t pass on Andre Drummond for Golden State’s no. 7 pick. It’s just too perfect. Three months ago, I covered Golden State’s 60 steps to push its fan base to the point that owner Joe Lacob got lustily booed on Chris Mullin Night. Tanking the last month of the 2012 season while adamantly pretending they weren’t tanking — that was Step No. 61. Ending up with a potential heartbreaker like Drummond as the fruit of their tanking labors — that’s Step No. 62. It’s destiny. I love how much I hate this pick.
Quick question: I know it makes too much sense, but if Drummond is the last “blue-chipper” sitting here, why wouldn’t the Warriors move backward and grab two first-rounders from Houston (14 and 18) or Boston (21 and 22)? Everyone agrees it’s an especially deep draft, and that someone taken in the teens or even the early 20s might end up being one of the draft’s best picks. Why not double your odds on striking gold over rolling the dice on Kwame 2.0? Isn’t that what Bill Belichick would do? (Is it too late to bring Belichick into Golden State’s war room?) Or do you think Drummond is worth the risk at this specific point?
FORD: If the draft actually plays out that way and Barnes and MKG don’t slide, they may very well do that. They really wanted a starting-caliber small forward and Drummond goes against everything owner Joe Lacob says he wants (players with great motors who play hard all the time). With that said, I wonder if we are being too hard on Drummond. He’s very young, has the best NBA body/athleticism in a big man we’ve seen since Dwight Howard and at the very minimum should be able to rebound and block shots at the NBA level.
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FORD: He’s not a bad kid. He just doesn’t know that he has to work at this to get great. But many of these players don’t know that. If he gets with the right team and mentor and dedicates himself to becoming a good NBA player — he could do exactly what Dwight does and start dunking over everyone. Dwight is the only player in the NBA with his physical abilities. I understand why you’d shy away from him in the top five, but he’s more physically talented than Kwame, Darko or Thabeet. It wouldn’t take much for him to have a successful NBA career. He just has to try some. I’ll gamble on that.
SIMMONS: Let’s remember that line of reasoning when I take Perry Jones five picks too early in about 12 paragraphs. In a vacuum, I’d agree with you on Drummond. Every summer, you smartly hammer home the concept of “tiers” — clearly, Drummond is the last talent in this “potential All-Star tier” before things drop to the Dion Waiters/Austin Rivers/Terrence Ross group. I just think he’s the wrong fit for the Warriors specifically. When you have that much baggage already, you can’t take a player with that much baggage — it’s like crossing the streams in Ghostbusters. If he’s sitting there at no. 7, let’s hope they trade the pick for everyone’s sake.
FORD: Speaking of trades, the Raptors are talking to everyone about trading the no. 8 pick. They hoped it would net a Rudy Gay or an Andre Iguodala. Didn’t happen. Now I think they are keeping the pick, saving their cap room and hoping Steve Nash agrees to come there. What the Raptors lack: A guy who can get to the basket at will and finish around the basket. On a team of soft jump shooters, they have no one who can take over the game in crunch time. I think Dion Waiters is the one guy who can do that in this draft, so that’s my pick for them. If all of the guards played one-on-one in a tournament, I think Waiters would come out on top.
SIMMONS: I’m in for $2,500 for this tournament. Just tell me where to send the check. Keep going.
FORD: I know Waiters is difficult to deal with sometimes, and I know he needs a better jumper, but there aren’t many players in the NBA that can get to the rim against anybody. He could be one of those guys.
SIMMONS: I like the way you’re thinking here — if I’m picking in the top 10, ideally, I want someone with at least one world-class skill. For Kidd-Gilchrist, it’s athleticism. For Beal, it’s outside shooting. For Barnes, it’s being friends with Kyrie Irving. And for Waiters, clearly, it’s getting to the rack.
Only one thing worries me: You’re basically spending a top-eight on someone whose ceiling on a contending team might be “a totally devastating scorer off the bench who can carry your offense for seven-minute spurts.” He’s kind of like Tyreke Evans in this respect — someone who’s overqualified to be a sixth man … but really, that’s how you’d ultimately win if he was playing for your team. Which is fine, I guess. Everyone needs pieces, and he’s a piece. He’s just not one of THE pieces.
FORD: Maybe. I think a lot see him as more of a sixth-man scorer off the bench. But there’s a little Dwyane Wade in his game, Bill. Right team, right coach that lets him go crazy … he can be a better Monta Ellis.
SIMMONS: Let’s make sure his cell phone can’t take pictures, just to be safe. Moving to no. 9, let’s agree that it would be hilarious if Joe Dumars dumped Ben Gordon and took Austin Rivers 24 hours later. We’re halfway there. Do it for comedy’s sake, Joe D.
Anyway, everyone has Detroit taking UNC shot blocker John Henson even though he’s 6-foot-11 but only weighs 216 pounds … which means he only weighs six more pounds than Grantland’s Dave Jacoby. Who’s in good shape, by the way. And probably has a more reliable offensive game than John Henson. The whole thing makes me nervous. I can’t think of any super-skinny shot blockers under 7 feet who actually made an impact in the NBA. I thought long and hard about getting kooky and taking Illinois center Meyers Leonard. He’s 7-foot-1, he’s 20 years old, he’s shockingly athletic for a white dude, and it sounds like someone accidentally reversed his name. There’s just a lot to love. Then I saw Leonard’s ranking on Hollinger’s Draft Rater. Ouch. (Can I trade this pick? I can’t? Crap.) I’ll begrudgingly take John Henson. Repeat: begrudgingly.
FORD: Yeah, the Pistons are screwed. They need a big, athletic center to pair with Greg Monroe, and those guys are so rare, they’re never going to get them where they’re drafting and don’t have the goods to find one in free agency. So they can either (a) take the elite shot blocker who is too skinny to play in the paint, or (b) the big, physical guy with maturity issues who doesn’t scream “NBA starter.” I’d take Henson, too. But it’s by default right now. All the teams trying to trade up don’t have athletic bigs to offer, either.
SIMMONS: Plus, the Pistons just gave a future no. 1 pick to Charlotte just so they could flip Gordon’s contract on Charlotte for Corey Maggette’s Expiring Contract. Anytime MJ just beat you in a deal, you know you’ve hit rock-bottom. Pistons fans need an uplifting Eminem/Chrysler commercial and they need it now.
FORD: Breaking news: I’m trading New Orleans’ no. 10 pick to the Pacers for Darren Collison and no. 26, then taking Austin Rivers for Indiana.
FORD: The thinking: Indiana wants another shooter and a guy who can get to the basket at will. Kevin Pritchard won’t care too much about chemistry … he’ll want talent. I thought about Terrence Ross here, but now I’m thinking Austin Rivers is a Kevin Pritchard type of pick. An alpha dog for a team without an alpha dog. I’m not in love with Rivers, but he might be a good fit here on a veteran team that can keep him in line. As for the Hornets, they need a good point guard to pair with Anthony Davis. I’m just not feeling Jarrett Jack. They could go with Kendall Marshall here — he’s an elite passer who sees the floor as well as anyone in the draft. But I think he’s going to get killed defensively. Killed. They had a lot of luck with Darren Collison when he played there; since the Pacers have replaced Collison with George Hill as their starter, he’s expendable.
SIMMONS: Plus, anytime you can trade down 16 spots to pick up a starter someone else deemed “expendable,” you have to do it. I’m just relieved you traded Rivers to any team that didn’t have the letters “B-O-S-T-O-N” in it.
Let’s shift into “speed round” mode because, frankly, I can’t wait to make the two Celtics picks any longer. With the 11th pick, I’m grabbing Terrence Ross for Portland and, more important, for the nitpicking lunatics on the Blazers Edge message board. In a league that’s moving in the direction of athletic swing guys who can shoot 3s and play multiple positions, it seems logical to spend a lottery pick on an athletic swing guy who can shoot 3s and play multiple positions, right? You know what else? Lillard and Ross guarantee the Blazers an A-plus in Chad Ford’s “Draft-Night Report Card That Always Favors Anyone Who Had Two High Picks” column on Friday. Just give them the A-plus now. Why wait 48 hours?
FORD: Lillard and Terrence Ross. I actually like that. A-plus? Done. You hear that, Neil Olshey? Make it happen. (Actually, I just give A’s to the GMs that give me correct picks in my Mock. Just kidding. Sort of … wink to any GMs that want to make my mock a little sweeter.) OK, at 12 I was going to take Ross for Milwaukee. But if he’s off the board, I’m going to take the other Jones, Terrence. The Bucks are losing Ersan Ilyasova this summer and Jones is intriguing. He’s big, he’s long, he’s athletic, he blocked shots and rebounded at Kentucky, but he also has solid perimeter skills. Think he’s a bit of a sleeper pick here. If his body language on the court was better, he’d be three or four picks higher.
SIMMONS: We’re on a run of Terrences! I was hoping everyone would keep picking backup centers and push one of the Terrences to Boston, but that’s obviously not happening. I’m a Jones believer — played in a bunch of big games, has a definite position, has the right pedigree, and he might even have a little chip on his shoulder that Kidd-Gilchrist went so much higher than him. Good fake pick for Milwaukee.
Did you notice we totally screwed over Phoenix with the 13th pick? They wanted a perimeter scorer — suddenly, only Jeremy Lamb is on the board, someone described by my dad yesterday as “Jeremy Lamb … is that the Lamb who always disappeared in big moments for UConn, or is that the other Lamb?” Sounds perfect for the Suns — they’re not going to have any big moments for years to come. I’m picking Jeremy Lamb.
FORD: Lamb has limitless talent. Long, athletic and can really shoot it. He looks sleepy and he plays sleepy sometimes. But I just think he was miscast in the leading role at UConn; I liked him much better when he played off Kemba Walker as a freshman. As long as you draft him knowing that, he’s a good pick. And remember, we said virtually all the same things about Joe Johnson when he came out.
SIMMONS: You mean the guy the Celtics traded after 50 games? Thanks for bringing that up.
FORD: As for no. 14, the Rockets aren’t going to have draft picks here. They are trying hard to trade up. But if they stay here, I’m giving them Draymond Green. He’s the centerfold for stat geeks everywhere. Not sure how Dork Elvis could pass on him. He’s Shane Battier 2.0.
SIMMONS: There’s no way he’ll ever be the jockosopher that Shane Battier was and is. I refuse to believe it. Part of me loves Dork Elvis’s “Dwight Howard or Bust” strategy, part of me feels like he might be living in my guest room in three months. It’s certainly the most exciting subplot of the week — and if you think about it, acquiring the league’s best center, making a one-year playoff run with him, then having something like a puncher’s chance to sell him on Houston and re-sign him (maybe 25 percent?) isn’t much different than tanking an entire NBA season for a 25 percent chance at having Anthony Davis fall into your lap. I like what Dork Elvis is doing. With that said, I’m going to start re-doing my guest room just in case.
My 15th pick (for Philly): Perry Jones III. He’s too athletically frightening to dip into the second half of the draft. I just can’t accept it. You should not be able to get Perry Jones with, say, the 19th pick. That’s just stupid. And yes, I’m fully aware that Jones doesn’t have a position, that the Josh Smith Experience probably can’t be replicated, and that Jones might be destined for a couple of great Rucker Park moments and that’s it.
FORD: Wish I could go with you with PJ3. I’ve loved him for two years and then got over it when I realized he’s just a passive person. He works hard, he’s skilled, but he just has no desire to take anything over. He wants to pass the ball and take jumpers. Guys his size just can’t get away with it. Coaches will bench him, put him in the doghouse, try everything to motivate him and then realize he just likes to run up and down the floor. If he had any motor, he would be amazing.
SIMMONS: Is it weird that I’m nostalgic for those halcyon days when you would have drooled over PJ3’s freakish dropjaw athleticism and taken him eight spots too high? (Thinking.) You’re right, it’s weird.
FORD: No, it’s not weird. I was just thinking, this debate isn’t nearly as snarky as in years past. I think we’ve both sort of figured this thing out. Let’s run away and run a team together. What do you say?
SIMMONS: You never saw Hollinger’s formula for our back-and-forths? Our level of snarkiness always corresponds directly to the number of unproven foreign players who (a) might be taken too high, (b) have unpronouncable last names, and/or (c) had a career highlight that involved three scouts and a stationary chair. We’re suffering through an inexplicable drought for those picks right now, so we’re getting along.
FORD: My 16th pick for the Rockets — which we all know probably isn’t going to the Rockets — is Quincy Miller. Of the two Baylor guys, he may actually have the better shot of making it. He was higher ranked coming out of high school, has more of a real position in the pros, and has great size and length. I don’t think we saw him at anywhere near 100 percent this year, as he was still recovering from an ACL injury. He just has a better motor than PJ3. He’s not as athletic, but the way he plays he doesn’t have to be. This is another value pick for Houston.
SIMMONS: In the alternate universe in which Houston is keeping those picks, yes. As for the 17th pick, that’s easy — Dallas needs to take promising 7-footer Meyers Leonard so he can be part of their inevitable Dwight Howard trade next February or next June. You know, after Deron Williams signs with Dallas and Mikhail Prokhorov banishes Billy King to Siberia.
FORD: Solid pick. If he goes in the mid-first round, expectations get tempered. He needs time and patience, and there will be more of it a little later in the draft. At 18, I have the Rockets (how did I get three Rockets picks??????) taking Marquis Teague. Like Miller, he would’ve been a Top 10 pick had he stayed in school another year. He’s already further along than his brother Jeff was at his age, and I think he has the requisite speed to run with the fastest point guards in the league. Another project, but since the Rockets are just collecting assets, so am I.
SIMMONS: That pick has an Avery Bradley–like feel to it. We’ll think he’s a bust for, like, a year and a half, and then suddenly it will be like, “Whoa, Marquis Teague! Where did he come from???” Meanwhile, I’m taking Kendall Marshall with Orlando’s 19th pick — at the very least, he’ll be fun to play with, and Orlando can always hide him on defense with Dwight behind him … you know, for that last half-season that Dwight spends in Orlando. I actually like Marshall as a fantasy sleeper if this happens. Has anyone ever guaranteed a fantasy sleeper off a mock draft pick that probably won’t happen? I just made history, Chad!
FORD: I’m really torn on Marshall. Love his game as a passer. So many other questions about him. I think he either ends up being really good like Andre Miller or he’s UConn’s Marcus Williams, who had many similar questions and never did much of anything in the NBA. Not sure there’s an in-between for a guy like him.
SIMMONS: Yeah, but Marcus Williams’s questions were more like, “If you draft him, will your players have to worry about keeping their belongings locked at all times?” I’m buying Marshall stock. You’re on the clock at no. 20 for the Nuggets.
FORD: My real goal here is to strip you of the player you are most hoping slides to the Celtics at 21. My two guesses are (a) Jared Sullinger or (b) Royce White.
SIMMONS: Don’t. Don’t you dare.
FORD: I’m taking Royce White. Such an intriguing player. Could be the next Anthony Mason. He gets on the right team with a coach that will play him to his strengths. I’m not sure that’s George Karl by the way — Karl may kill him — but remember I’m taking White just to make Bill and Danny Ainge angry. Plus, White may be one of the all-time most interesting players the NBA has seen since Bison Dele. Loved that Grantland feature on him. Love that he’s the only prospect in the history of the draft to compare himself to John Lennon. Have fun with Sullinger. I’ll go ahead and order a welcome gift for him. I sort of like this one. Wonder if it comes in green.
SIMMONS: You took Royce White? You took Royce White???
FORD: I did.
SIMMONS: How could you do that? You knew that was my guy! You knew I built the Royce White “We Had To Build This Bandwagon Because Royce Isn’t Crazy About Flying” Bandwagon from scratch just so I’d be in the driver’s seat when we took him. You knew I made Abrams write a 6,000-word feature to get the rest of the Celtics fans excited. You knew we just spent the last 7,000 words of this mock draft building toward the moment when I gleefully typed in all caps, “AT 21, THE CELTICS TAKE MY MAN ROYCE WHITE, A.K.A. THE STEAL OF THE DRAFT!!!” You even knew I passed on him at 15, 17 and 19 just so he’d be sitting there at 21. This is the worst thing you’ve ever done to me, Chad Ford. I’m crestfallen. I’m not even mock crestfallen, I’m legitimately crestfallen.
Can you just take Sullinger? What if I traded you the rights to Charlotte’s second-round pick in 2013 that Boston just got because OKC’s doctors were slightly shady before the Jeff Green trade — not first-round shady, but second-round shady — to swap 20 and 21? You get Sullinger for Denver, I get Royce for Boston. Come on. Just say yes. Come on. Do it for Morrison’s mustache. Do it for Yi’s chair. Do it for Darko’s everything. Come on.
FORD: Only way I do this is if you give me 21 and 22. Because if I’m taking a guy with a back problem, I’m gonna need a plan B. By the way, I predict this is exactly what Masai does to Danny on draft night. Can’t let those promises leak …
SIMMONS: I can’t give up 22. Take your mock offer and shove it up your mock ass. That’s fine, at 21, we’ll begrudgingly take the best offensive forward in this entire draft (Jared Sullinger) over St. Bonnie’s forward Andrew Nicholson (a.k.a. “Hopefully David West With Deeper Range”). I swore before this mock draft that I would prevent the Celtics from ending up with anyone at 21 and 22 who couldn’t have played a meaningful minute in the 2012 Finals. It’s unclear if Sullinger could have played even one minute in that series when the words “above the rim” are either a pipe dream or a Tupac Shakur movie for him.
(Hold on, big “having said that” coming up … )
Having said that, isn’t Sullinger really a much more polished, saner version of Big Baby Davis, only if Baby could score on the low block and rebound more consistently? Don’t we have a few years of evidence that Kevin Garnett thrives playing next to someone like that? Maybe the Sullinger experience wouldn’t work for every NBA team, but playing that Big Baby role for a slower veteran team like the Celtics? Absolutely. I look forward to getting super-excited about next year’s playoff contender — KG (he’s coming back, let there be no doubt), Pierce, Rondo, Bradley, Jeff Green, Sullinger, Chris Wilcox, Free Agent X and the 22nd pick that you hopefully won’t screw up — for about two weeks, until Green signs somewhere else and it’s announced that Sullinger is missing the next 18 months after undergoing radical back surgery. Thanks for ruining my night, Chad. Could you at least nail the 22nd pick for me? And by the way, if you take the Mississippi State head case here, I’m declaring war on Hawaii.
FORD: All right, I just made the order for Amazon. Do they make an XXX size on that back brace?
SIMMONS: (Searching for a comeback.)
FORD: If Sullinger is your guy at 21, then I’m going with Tyler Zeller here with Boston’s 22nd pick. Mostly because I want to see what swear words you are and aren’t able to use on Grantland. But c’mon. He’s gotta be better than Greg Stiemsma. Right? And he can play right away and he runs the floor very well. You gotta like that, right?
SIMMONS: I’m not talking to you anymore.