The Official Daily Thunder Big Board (Part I)

That’s right, official. Meaning Joe and I got together, spent hours debating, crunching numbers, debating, watching tape, arm wrestling, debating and… debating coming up with this list. It really was quite an ordeal. In coming up with our big board, we weighed Oklahoma City’s team needs along with the best player available. Surprisingly, we didn’t have to do a whole lot of moving around because we agreed a lot on at least the top 15 or so players.

To be clear, this is a draft board, not a mock draft, or a “if we get this pick, we take this guy” list. For those of you that aren’t clear on a “big board,” basically it just a list ranking players that you would take if they are still available. Once a player gets taken, you cross him off, and then you move to the player next highest on the list. It’s like the AP Top 25, but for individual basketball players.

This is part one. We’ll have part two with 13-30 up in a couple weeks, but we wanted to be on record before the lottery dashes our dreams of thinking about No. 1 or 2. We can also just call this “Version 1.0” as well, because post combine, we may do a little revising. And as always, feel free to tell us how wrong we are in the comments. That’s really what it’s all about. But as Joe said, when in doubt, just go with the guy with the fewest tattoos.

1. Blake Griffin – 6’10″/ F/ Oklahoma (highlights)

Royce: There’s just no doubt. Every scout, every GM, every analyst says he’s No.1. Basically, if Sam Presti had the chance and passed on Blake, Tony Almeida would be hired to release a canister of whatever-the-crap-that-is inside Leadership Square. He fits every need the Thunder has, plus you know, he’s from here. I know some people like the flash of Rubio and they may say a playmaker like Rubio doesn’t come along very often. (Except for Tony Parker, Deron Williams, Devin Harris, Chris Paul, Jason Kidd, Mo Williams, Rajon Rondo, Chauncey Billups, Derrick Rose and Steve Nash. You know, besides them.) The reality is, power forwards of Blake’s caliber don’t come along very often. Go ahead, name the top 10 power forwards in the league. You’ll be surprised once you get to No. 10.

Joe: The most skilled big man in the draft since……Can we just hand him the rookie of the year award before he even gets a paycheck?

2. Ricky Rubio – 6’3″/ G/ DKV Joventut (highlights)

Royce: Rubio may very well become a fantastic player. But let’s all look at the facts: He averaged 10.0 ppg and 6.1 apg this year in 22 games against second tier competition. Sure he was nice in the Olympics, but his best game was eight points and three assists. Seriously, look over his Olympic stats. People act like he was putting up 20 and 15 in Beijing. He grabbed everybody’s attention at the Games, but was it because of his actual play, or just his flash, style and hype? The thing about Rubio is he’s a relative unknown. We’re all basing what we think about him on some articles and commentary by others. I’ve seen him play a total of six games. I thought he was very slick and a pretty good point guard, but I didn’t immediately think, “Oh yeah, he’s totally Chris Paul good.” He’s absolutely deserving of the second pick, but Blake Griffin stands alone, unquestioned, at the top. Rubio is quite a consolation prize for No. 2 though, no doubt. But I just can not get behind him being picked in front of Blake.

Joe: He makes passes that you just don’t see very often. He reminds me of a long armed, rangy Jason Kidd, mixed with a little Jason Williams “white chocolate” showtime.

3. James Harden – 6’5″/ G/ Arizona State (highlights)

Royce: People have tried to come up with words to describe Harden’s game – crafy, inventive, refined (why is it always the lefties that get called “crafty”?). What they’re trying to say is he’s just a good basketball player. He’s not going over the top of you for a dunk and he’s not going to run past you, but he’s still going to score. But it’s not like he’s some slow slob. He’s sneaky athletic. The type of guy that rises out of no where for a big dunk. And he fits this team in most every way. People point to his poor tournament showing, but Harden was doubled and even tripled at times. One thing that scares me a little about Harden is we don’t know a lot about his man-to-man defensive skills. At Arizona State, he played almost exclusively in a 2-3 zone. Was that to protect Harden from foul trouble? Was it because the team was a bit undersized? Or was that to mask defensive defienciencies? Who knows. What I see is a lefty Brandon Roy. A guy that can handle the ball, pass extremely well, scores in multiple ways and just has that “good basketball player” look. And he’s got a beard. You’ve got to love the beard.

Joe: What I like about Harden, more than any other player in the lottery is his ability to create his own offense. That is a skill that never goes out of style. When the jumpshots aren’t falling, or nobody can get an open look, it’s a good thing to be able to make something out of nothing. Plus, Harden is almost like another point guard with his great court vision, willingness to pass the ball and complimentary style. He’s a very efficient guard with a beefy body that won’t get pushed around.

4. Ty Lawson – 6’0″/ G/ North Carolina (highlights)

Royce: Sports cliches are awesome and one of the best one’s is “floor general.” It really doesn’t make a lot of sense but we say it all the time anyway. But that’s exactly what Ty Lawson is. He’s got complete control of the game, knows exactly when to take a jumper, when to drive and when to dish. He’s small, but he’s tough and he’s fast. He understands the game and understands what he needs to do to get the ball in the basket for his team. One thing that concerns me is the lack of success other good North Carolina guards have had in the NBA – especially the other recent championship winning point man (Raymond Felton). But I’ll give Lawson the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s different.

Joe: 53 percent field goal percentage, 47 percent from three, 8.8 assists per 40 minutes to only 2.5 turns/40. He is a do-everything point guard and a proven winner. He seems incredibly mature from the interviews I’ve seen, and he was the best player in the final four. If you need a point guard, Ty would be a great choice.

5. Stephen Curry – 6’3″ / G/ Davidson (highlights)

Royce: I’ve never been big on Curry, but one thing you can’t deny – the dude can score. You give him two centimeters of room and he’ll bury a 25-footer in your face. It’s hard to say what position he’ll play in the NBA, because he is a bit small for a shooting guard (6-3, maybe more like 6-1), but guys have been successful at that position at the height (Ben Gordon, Allen Iverson). Defensively, we can’t be sure what he’ll bring. And we also don’t know what kind of offensive mentality he’s going to take. But one thing OKC did very poorly at last year was hit the three ball. And Steph Curry can flat out hit the three ball. He will absolutely give the team a boost offensively, but can he guard (maybe I should say, “limit the best you can”) Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson and Brandon Roy?

Joe: A great shooting combo guard, who really can play the point. He was ninth in the nation in assists per game and assists per 40 minutes. His incredible shooting efficiency speaks for itself when you consider that he saw more double teams and was given more attention defensively than anybody not named Blake Griffin. Defenders were wrapped all over him in almost every game, and he still got his shot off and still dished out his almost six assists per game. He’s also a ball hawk who plays the passing lanes with three steals/40.  He isn’t really a guy who creates a lot of his own offense, but he is such a deadly shooter, all he needs is a very little bit of space to get his shot off.  This kid will at worst be a fantastic scorer off the bench, and more likely a good backup point guard at the next level as well. I don’t think he will be a star in this league, but he will be a feared assasin with the ball in his hands, who has proven he can be a distributor as well.

6. Hasheem Thabeet – 7’3″/ C/ Connecticut (highlights)

Royce: I hate it when people say, “You can’t teach 7’3”, but seriously, you can’t. He’s not a Robert Swift or Mo Sene that we knew nothing about. He’s an All-American that was extremely successful in the toughest conference in the country last year. But I think he’s soft. And I think he’s incredibly raw. For the season he averaged 13.6 ppg and 10.8 rpg but had just nine points and two rebounds against Gonzaga, 10 and 3 against Villanova and was outplayed by DeJuan Blair three times and was beat up by Michigan State’s physical front line. Basically, any time he went against top tier talent, he didn’t put up the big numbers. He did most of that against Western Carolina, Buffalo and Fairfield. He’s an excellent shot block when he can camp in the lane and wait for you. But in the NBA he’ll get tagged for defensive three seconds. Can he move his feet well enough when he’s away from the basket? Is he tough enough to bang with Shaq and Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard and Al Jefferson and Yao Ming? I definitely get the feeling that if Thabeet were 6-11, he’s be a late first round guy. He can obviously develop, but he’s no Dikembe Mutumbo… yet.

Joe: If Shaq is The Big Aristotle, Thabeet is The Big Enigma. Incredibly big and long, and has the ability to protect the basket, yet he seems soft, without that swagger or killer instinct. If you’ve watched him play you’ve seen a guy block shots like crazy, put back misses and cut to the basket for easy dunks. You’ve probably also seen him get tossed around like a rag doll in a dogs mouth. It will only get worse against Dwight Howard. In his favor, he’s only been playing basketball a few years, and he has noticeably improved each season at UCONN, but he doesn’t seem like he’s ready for steady minutes yet at the next level. It was a stretch for me to put him up this high on the draft board, but there are just no dominant 7-footers in this draft. If he continues to work hard, I think he can carve out a niche for himself in the league and be effective. But that is down the road.

7. Brandon Jennings – 6’1″/ G/ Lottomatica Roma (highlights)

Royce: I truly think if Jennings had gone to college instead of Europe, he would be alongside Rubio as the top point guard in the draft. He just never had a chance to showcase himself. He wasn’t able to create any buzz or build up any startling stats. After reading Draft Express’s article on him, I think he’ll be an excellent pro. He’s a wizard with the ball and can get anywhere he wants. He makes flashy plays but stays under control as well. The only problem I fear, is how much was he set back by going to Europe? He’s insanely athletic for a 6-1 guard (seriously, watch his highlights) and he’s got wonderful court vision. But is he another streetballing Sebastian Telfair? Maybe the best thing that came out of him playing in Europe was the fact that he matured and apparently accepted his role and did everything he was asked. That’s something you obviously want. He looks like Kenny Anderson/Kevin Johnson to me which would be a perfect complement in the backcourt with Russell Westbrook. Talk about some athletes in the Thunder backcourt.

Joe: I’ve only watched Youtube videos of the kid, and with that he looks quick, flashy and talented, albeit immature. But the recent article over at Draft Express where they spent some time with him spoke volumes. He’s learned how to be a man over in Europe having to play behind grown men with families, working for a living. He’s learned to cut down on his turns and is playing with a more pass first mentality. If you combine that with the natural skills, he looks like he could be special in a few years.

8. Jordan Hill – 6’10″/ F/ Arizona (highlights)

Royce: I’ve watched Hill play multiple times and while he could absolutely be dominate with his athleticism at times, he never seemed to harness the total package. He reminds me so much of Chris Wilcox at Maryland. All the way down to the similar hairstyles. A guy that you see the huge frame and the awesome dunking ability and so you think, “Boy, he could turn into something good.” Hill did have a nice season averaging 18 and 11 in the Pac 10, but I just wonder if he would be the talk of this draft if it weren’t for the fact there just aren’t many quality big men. He’s a guy I wouldn’t mind at six but I think there’s better options in front of him.

Joe: I’m really not that high on him, but this draft is incredibly weak on big men. Hill reminds me of Chris Wilcox so much that it’s just scary. Just for that he goes down a couple of spots. However, he got it done on the boards, and he definitely has height, skill and athleticism. Hopefully he can put it all together. I see him as a potential 15 and 9 guy in the bigs. Not an All-Star, but perhaps a steady big on a good team.

9. DeJuan Blair – 6’7″/ F/ Pittsburgh (highlights)

Royce: I view him as a Chuck Hayes type player. He’s got little to no offensive game and scores probably half his points on offensive rebounds. But he’s an intangibles guy. He’s undersized for the position he’ll play, but he’s wide. He’s no Charles Barkley, but he’s in the same mold. He takes rebounding personally and like Dennis Rodman, he wants that ball and will bust out a fireman’s carry to get it if he has to. The Thunder needs a guy like that. If he can develop a little jumper, I think he can be every bit of what Paul Millsap is.

Joe: DeJuan is the best offensive rebounder to come out of the draft in years and a fantastic rebounder overall. He is also incredibly efficient offensively as well. He knows how to go up and get the ball, and he knows what his strengths and weaknesses are. When he wants to put the ball in the hole, few can stop him. He is short for a power forward but he has incredibly long arms to make up for it. He is an immovable object defensively on the post and he can get deep position offensively. He has a non stop motor and he plays the passing lanes like a guard. I think he will blow people away in individual workouts.  I think he is a sleeper.

10. DeMar DeRozen – 6’7″/ G/ Southern California (highlights)

Royce: DeRozen had freshman flop written all over him until he turned it on in the Pac 10 tournament. He showed people the reasons they were so excited about him in the first place. He slashed to the basket with ease, made incredibly athletic plays above the rim and even hit a fairly consistent jumper. He’s your prototypical two-guard (6-7, 210 lbs) and most scouts see a lot of Vince Carter in him, but he doesn’t have much of an outside shot. He’s got to be able to hit the NBA three. But the thing with these type of scoring twos, is whether or not they will continue to develop their skillset or if they think they can just keep getting by their athleticism alone. That won’t cut it in the NBA.

Joe: He is a “potential” guy, and the Thunder really need producers as a 23-win team. How many guys can we develop at a time? DeRozan has all the athleticism and size, he just has trouble with the deep jumper (16%). He is a midrange guy that will probably really shine in individual workouts.

11. Eric Maynor – 6’2″/ G/ Virginia Commonwealth (highlights)

Royce: I love four-year players. During time at college, they’re abel to pick up on so much and come into the league with more intangibles than a 19-year-old with insane athleticism. When I look at Maynor, I see Chauncey Billups written all over him. He’s got an excellent midrange jumper, he’s an absolute leader on the floor and has the quicks to get around anyone. He’s the type of guy that might not ever be a star, but he’s going to lead a team when he’s on the floor. He can even play off the ball a little and I think him coupled with Russell Westbrook could make a dynamic backcourt.

Joe: What’s not to like about a speedy guy who has a deadly jumper, is top five in assists and assists per game. Aaron Brooks is all the rage with Houston right now and I see a lot of similarities. If anything, Maynor is an even better ball handler and distributor.

12. Jonny Flynn – 6’0″/ G/ Syracuse (highlights)

Royce: He’s a lot like Ty Lawson, but without the efficiency. He gets to the rim and he finishes extremely well there. He doesn’t have near the consistent jumpshot Lawson does, but led the country in total assists. He’s probably the best ball-handler (maybe outside of Rubio) of the point guard bunch.

Joe: Has a lot in common with Maynor. He is No. 1 in total assists and top ten in assists per 40. He doesn’t shoot the three as well as Maynor, and he is a bit smaller, but they compare nicely.

I know what you’re thinking – What’s the deal with all the point guard love? And you’re right, as someone that’s pro-Westbrook point guard, it is a little odd. But the reality is that this draft is strongest at the point. We have four (five if you count Curry) in the top 12 and there’s even a few down the line that are pretty salty. Joe put it perfectly while we were discussing our list: “And on the point guard, I think we need one regardless. If Livingston shows great promise, he will leave for a starter’s job somewhere else. Watson is a goner and so is Chucky. So if Lawson and or Curry is on the board, you have to go there I think (or Rubio obviously) over a guy like Hill or Blair.” He’s dead on. Shaun Livingston doesn’t want to back up Russell Westbrook for the next four years. He wants to start. So if he reaches the level we hope for, he’s going to want to go somewhere where he can start next year. And with Westbrook playing a bit of the one and two, outside of Harden (and possibly DeRozen), the best way to improve the team is adding another quality point guard. Not to replace Westbrook, but to strengthen the position. That’s what leads me to think if the right options aren’t there, Presti may shop the pick.

Part II will be coming sometime after the lottery. Hopefully this will lead to some nice discussion over the weekend. We all have players we like for different reasons. Hopefully the balls bounce right Tuesday and we don’t have to worry about it.

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