The NBA Draft is this evening with four Tar Heels slated to go in the first round according to all the latest mock drafts and Quija board readings.
The proceedings get under way at 7:00 PM on ESPN from the Prudential Center in New Jersey. Three of the four Tar Heels who have made themselves eligible for the draft will be in attendance. Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson are all expected to go in the lottery. Kendall Marshall will be a first round pick probably in the late teens or early 20s. In fact here is the final mock drafts from Chad Ford and Draft Express:
|Harrison Barnes||John Henson||Tyler Zeller||Kendall Marshall|
|Chad Ford(ESPN)||8th to Toronto||9th to Detroit||11th to Portland||20th to Denver|
|Draft Express||5th to Sacramento||11th to Portland||12th to Houston||18th to Houston|
|David Aldridge(NBA.com)||4th to Cleveland||9th to Detroit||12th to Houston||10th to New Orleans|
Aldridge admits that he had about a 10% success rate on his mock draft last season so grain of salt provisions are in play looking at these. The issue, as Aldridge points out, is GMs and agents lie incessantly as this time of year. There is some gamesmanship at work both from agents trying to move players up and GMs hoping a certain player might fall to them. Take Duke's Austin Rivers for example. In recent days ESPN's Chad Ford has been blasting Rivers for being a player who doesn't work well with his coach, loathed by his teammates, overrated in terms of skill and a bust waiting to happen. Ford has been on this kick through one televised draft special I am aware of and in this mock draft he did with Bill Simmons at Grantland where he spared nothing in ripping Rivers several new ones(emphasis mine)
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.
Wow...that's pretty harsh and while I understand from the Tar Heel side this is like guzzling a 32-oz bottle of Duke haterade, I do have to question why Ford has such a bee in his bonnet over Rivers? Especially considering Rivers' father is the head coach of the Boston Celtics. In fact, Ford goes so far in his criticism of Rivers that it would not shock me to learn that he was being feed the information by someone hoping Rivers' stock drops. On one level, Ford is not talking completely out of his rear end. It is clear Rivers does have an attitude about him that opens him up to this sort of criticism. Whether it the depth to which Ford takes is legitimate no one can say for sure because as Aldridge said, everyone lies at this time of year.
Bearing that in mind, the same approach should be taken when evaluating the way UNC players are being characterized at this stage. All in all, no one is getting a nice glowing report except maybe Zeller who people really love because he appears to a finished product with multiple skills that will make him an effective player. Barnes, Henson and Marshall all have questions of one kind or another which makes teams wary.
As it stands right now, Barnes should go top five but there is a scenario where he might drop to 8th. Why? Barnes doesn't want to go to Sacramento. He did not work out for them(nor did anyone else in the projected top five) so if the Cleveland and the Kings pass on him then it is unlikely Portland takes him for team need purposes. Golden State has apparently already been given a promise from Golden State he will go 7th. That would push Barnes to Toronto at #8. Henson still looks like he is bound for Detroit and Zeller will probably go anywhere from 11-14 according to the experts.
Kendall Marshall's stock as take a slide in recent weeks and since he was not invited to the NBA Draft that means no one in the top 14 would say they were thinking about taking him. That makes Aldridge's pick of Marshall at #10 odd and probably means he falls somewhere in the late teens. Ford now has Marshall going to Denver at #20 which would make him the third UNC point guard to end up there in the past two years. It also means he would not start for the Nuggets since Ty Lawson is already there and will likely get locked up in a long term deal.
At the end of the day, the hope is each player finds a good fit like Danny Green did in San Antonio and he spent some time out of the league before getting there. Being a first round pick means getting paid guaranteed money which is one less thing to worry about as you work for your second contract. Beyond that it is all about being placed in a position to succeed which can be a hit or miss proposition in the draft.
One last friendly reminder. If you are watching when Austin Rivers is picked as soon as they call his name change the channel because you know they will show that freaking game winner in Chapel Hill.
Comments if you have 'em.