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Thursday, September 28, 2023


Anticipation builds for NBA draft picks

ssociation’s Draft on Thursday, the only sure thing is that Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin will be selected No. 1 overall by the Los Angeles Clippers.

Everything after that is anyone’s guess, with trades and surprises sure to be plenty.

Griffin, 20, led the Sooners to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight as a sophomore last season, and possesses a skill set rarely seen for someone his size. At 6 feet 10 inches and 248 pounds, he is still able to run the floor effortlessly and finish in the paint with authority. He should be able to start for the Clippers next season and will have the services of veteran point guard Baron Davis at his disposal, making the transition that much smoother.

The Clippers are one of the youngest teams in the NBA and Griffin brings explosiveness, athleticism and a physical presence they have lacked to this point. Granted he won’t fix everything, as the Clippers won only 19 games last season and finished 46 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers.

After Griffin, there is no consensus No. 2 pick. Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet and Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio are the top choices available for the Memphis Grizzlies.

The 7-foot-3-inch, 267-pound Thabeet is an absolute rebounding and shot-blocking machine. He led the Huskies to the NCAA’s Final Four last year despite being offensively challenged at his position. Even with an underdeveloped offensive game, scouts love his length and awareness around the rim.

Rubio is an exciting prospect too, being only 18 years old, 6 feet 4 inches and 180 pounds. If the Grizzlies pass on Rubio or trade away the pick, he could fall into the Oklahoma City Thunder’s lap at No. 3. Rubio has played professional basketball in Spain since the age of 14 and has great ball handling skills and quickness. The only downside to this teenage phenom is a $6.6 million buyout to lure him away from his Spanish club.

Sitting at No. 4 are the Sacramento Kings who ironically had the worst record in the NBA last season, but were betrayed by the lottery process. Some experts have the Kings settling on either Jrue Holiday or James Harden with the pick, but recent reports have them too becoming enamored with Rubio and formulating a trade with Memphis.

The 18 year old, 6-foot-4-inch, 199 pound Holiday from UCLA has so much upside and athleticism and would be a nice fit on the Kings team in need of a scorer.

Harden, the Pac-10 Player of the Year from Arizona State is 19 years old and at 6-foot-5 inches and 222 pounds can play the shooting guard and small forward position. If Holiday goes to the Kings, Harden should be snatched up by the Washington Wizards with the No. 5 pick, joining stars Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas on an already talented roster.

After the top five, the best available players would be Davidson guard Stephen Curry, Arizona forward Jordan Hill and Memphis guard Tyreke Evans. The Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks round out picks six through 10, respectively.

It would make sense for the T’Wolves to select Evans to give Al Jefferson some help on the perimeter. The Warriors should go after low post-presence Hill as a balance to all the guards they already have.

The Knicks may not be able to pass up the high-scoring sharpshooter Curry. Curry has speed, a prerequisite for any team coached by Mike D’Antoni, and can play point guard and shooting guard.

The Raptors are in need of a player who can take others off the dribble and would be wise to draft Italy’s Brandon Jennings or Southern California’s Demar DeRozan. To round out the top 10 picks, the Bucks’ should selectpoint guard Jonny Flynn from Syracuse to complement Michael Redd.

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