It's NBA draft week … which means it's time for another showdown between Bill Simmons and Chad Ford … the Sports Guy and the Insider … Page 2's VP of Common Sense versus ESPN's draft guru.
Just as they did last year, Simmons and Ford took turns making their picks -- and taking swipes at each other's picks.
Simmons won the old-school coin flip and got us started by selecting No. 1 for Chicago.
Then Ford selected at No. 2 for Miami.
And so on.
Check out the full debate:
Pick No. 1: Chicago Bulls
Bill Simmons selects: Derrick Rose, Memphis
Chad, thanks for coming back for another ritual beating. I give you a lot of credit -- you got creamed by me last year, you bounced back pretty quickly, and now, you're back even though our arguments from the inaugural Mock Draft Showdown remain in the ESPN.com archives. Remember, stuff like: Should Portland take Durant or Oden? (I won.) Is Yi Jianlian a top-5 prospect? (I won.) Is Al Thornton going to be good? (I won.)
Anyway, our editors awarded me the "coin flip" for Showdown II, as well as the coin flip for "Guy who gets to use Shaq's freestyle song about Kobe as a way to insult the other guy." But before we get to Chicago's pick, I have to say, I don't get what's happening with the NBA draft. For my entire adult life, lottery teams have done the wrong thing on draft day. They valued workouts over college performance. They overvalued foreign players and undervalued four-year seniors. They overlooked things like "The only downside with him is the six times he went to jail" and "So what if he didn't try all the time in college -- I'm sure once we give him a guaranteed contract, he'll be fine!" For someone who loves making fun of twisted logic, ridiculous moves and flawed long-term plans, the draft was a godsend. These guys never disappointed. Almost always, they did the wrong thing.
When the Rose/Beasley debate started taking shape during the 2008 college hoops season, naturally I aligned myself in the Rose camp because I tend to think logically about this stuff, unlike most of the people who run NBA teams. I loved Derrick Rose at first sight. He's a great and selfless teammate; he's a franchise point guard entering a league in which point guards have become inordinately valuable; he's got a great name (never underestimate the value of a great name); he was the best player on an extremely successful college team; and in short, after watching him a few times, I would have bet my life on him making multiple All-Star appearances (barring injury). Of course, Beasley was putting up great fantasy numbers at Kansas State, so everyone assumed he was the logical No. 1 pick … even though he went to something like 24 high schools, didn't seem to connect with teammates in any way and looked like a potential defensive liability in the pros. Beasley seemed like one of those Derrick Coleman/Glenn Robinson types to me -- eye-popping numbers, tantalizing talent and, ultimately, someone who wasn't leading you to the conference finals, much less a championship.
Anyway, I prepared myself for a spring and summer of making "You guys are idiots -- how can Beasley go ahead of Rose!" arguments. Then something weird happened: Rose jumped Beasley on just about everyone's draft board. Now he seems like a mortal lock for Chicago, even though it already has a point guard and desperately needs an inside scorer. Doesn't matter. As the Celtics just proved, you can win a championship with two elite players and 10 role players as long as (a) everyone busts their butts on defense, (b) everyone gets along, and (c) you have at least two guys who can get into the paint and create shots for everyone else. Rose fits the formula perfectly. You can make the NBA Finals some day if Derrick Rose is one of your two best guys. He's my pick. Even if it makes me a little nervous that he'd be playing at home in Chicago. Yikes. If they wrote a book about his rookie season, it would be called either "Yo, D, Can You Leave Me Some Tickets?" or "Yo, D, Can You Loan Me Five Grand?"
Ford: Methinks thou doth protest too much. A 3,000-word intro trying to claim that you won our last mock draft? Really? Was Tim Donaghy the ref?
Here's how I remember it: You picked Kevin Durant No. 1, passing on the best big man prospect in the past 10 years. OK, so Greg Oden missed the year because of a Dance Dance Revolution injury. He'll be fine this year, and in five years, he'll have a ring on his finger.
I also recall that you called for Doc Rivers' job. You said Rick Carlisle would be an upgrade. You wanted the Celtics to take Corey Brewer, saying he was in the "Pippen" mold. You gushed about Acie Law. You pushed for Spencer Hawes to the Hornets over my guy Thaddeus Young. I could go on.
I, too, think the Bulls should take Rose at No. 1. He's the type of tough leader the team desperately needs. I think he'll be an All-Star staple for years in the East. And don't worry about him playing in Chicago, because the kid has only one hobby -- basketball. That makes me feel pretty good about him going No. 1.
Simmons: Chad, you glossing over what happened with Oden versus Durant, the defining draft-day debate of this decade, would be like Richard Nixon playing the "Except for Watergate, I think I did a pretty good job!" card. I backed Durant for three reasons: I thought he had a chance to become a truly dominant offensive player; I thought Oden was too nice of a guy; and I thought Oden was headed for a career of health problems. As Tommy Heinsohn would say, bing, bang, boom! If Kevin Pritchard called Sam Presti right now and said, "Hey, we'll give you Oden for Durant," Presti would either hang up or ask him, "What else are you throwing in the deal?" Do you really think Oden -- the guy who's coming off microfracture surgery and wrist surgery in consecutive years, the guy who has one leg that's an inch and a half shorter than the other, the guy who walks like a 50-year-old man -- has more value in the NBA than the 2008 rookie of the year? You can't really think that, right?
Ford: Bill, you're claiming victory already? Have you had a "Mission Accomplished" banner printed yet?
Listen, the Oden microfracture thing hurt. But from everything I can gather, Oden will be fine. Oden is 19 years old. I think we can give him a few years. It's not like Kevin Durant set the Sonics on fire this year. Durant spent most of they year jacking up ugly 3s while watching his team get blown out. So while it's clear Durant was and will be better than Oden for the next few years, it doesn't matter. In five years, we'll be talking about Oden as the most dominant big man in the game, the Blazers will be competing for championships and Durant will be scoring 30 points a night in Oklahoma City.
I'm not saying Durant is a bad pick, but I still think the future is Oden, even with the microfracture surgery.
By the way, given your reasoning on Durant … shouldn't Beasley be the No. 1 pick? He's the "truly dominant offensive player," while Rose is the "nice guy." And neither player has a history of injuries. Shouldn't Beasley be the guy, given that thinking?
Simmons: I disagree -- Rose has a chance to be a dominant player on both ends, whereas Beasley would be dominant only on one end. I have to defend my man KD for a second. In the history of the NBA, no rookie has been put in a worse position than Durant was last year -- the poor guy was stuck on a team that was stabbing its city in the heart AND hired a terrible coach, and if that wasn't enough, he was playing out of position, playing without a decent point guard and being asked to carry a terrible team offensively. I thought he had a fantastic rookie season, all things considered. The fact that the Sonics' fans fell in love with him when they were specifically trying NOT to get attached to him tells me everything I need to know.
Pick No. 2: Miami Heat
Chad Ford selects: Michael Beasley, Kansas State
I think by now it's no secret that Pat Riley has serious questions about Michael Beasley. Why Riley would be concerned about an immature, fun-loving 19-year-old in South Beach is beyond me.
A lot has been made of Beasley's "off-court" problems. But what are they? Childish pranks in high school. A frat party here and there.
Kansas State didn't have an issue with him. He absolutely dominated every game he played. What is the problem, really?
On talent, you'll have a hard time finding a better player than Beasley. In every statistical measure, he outplayed Kevin Durant as a freshman. He's a better rebounder than Durant. He's a better perimeter shooter than Durant. He's got huge hands and a great motor. Like Durant, he can be a cold-blooded killer on the court. He figured out how to score on triple-teams in the Big 12. What don't you like about this guy? That he likes to go clubbing?
To me, the Heat would be crazy to pass up the chance to get him. Shawn Marion will be gone by the start of the season, and the Heat will be kicking themselves that Beasley isn't there to replace him.
Simmons: We agree on one thing -- Miami would be crazy to take anyone other than Beasley with the second pick. He's the most NBA-ready guy in the draft, as well as a mortal lock to go 15 picks too high in any fantasy draft, then reward the guy who took him that early by averaging a 22-10 next season.
Here's my question: Ultimately, where does Beasley take you? We just watched the 2008 Celtics win the title with defense. In fact, the past 20 NBA champions were either very good defensive teams or great defensive teams, dating back to the '89 Pistons and going right down the line. Beasley is a superb scorer and rebounder, but from what I've seen, he doesn't give you anything else -- he's the kind of guy who puts up a 27-12 and gives up a 26-11 on the other end. He doesn't seem to have any leadership qualities whatsoever. Do you honestly see him leading an NBA champion some day? And with Dwyane Wade already on the team, wouldn't you want to surround him with quality character guys, role players, 3-point shooters and defensive studs?
Anyway, I'd take Beasley here, have a goofy 2009 season with Beasley, Wade and Marion that would make them one of the great fantasy teams of all time, and then, right after the 2008-09 season, I'd sign and trade Marion and shop Beasley around for somebody who could help me win a title. He'll actually have more value a year from now than he does right now, if that makes sense. By the way, if Ricky Davis can survive a year in South Beach without landing in a sex tape or going into AA, I think Beasley will be able to handle it.
One other thing: Doesn't the rumored deal of Elton Brand and the No. 7 for Marion and the No. 2 make a ton of sense? There's something there, right? It feels like the Clips should throw in one more thing -- maybe they throw in Cuttino Mobley, and Miami throws in Mark "The Cancer" Blount. But that trade makes a ton of sense to me because Miami could compete right away next season.
Ford: Bill, I have to agree with you that scorers who don't play great defense don't seem to be leading their teams anywhere special.
So why did you pick Kevin Durant over Greg Oden last year? Durant is a terrible defender. Worse than Beasley.
Oden might not be an offensive juggernaut, but he does have the skills to be one of the top defensive big men in the NBA from day one. Didn't you just make my point about Oden being a better pick than Durant?
Beasley is 19, and he does have the tools to defend. Whether he wants to is another question completely. I understand why Riley is nervous, but what else can he do?
I do like that Brand and No. 7 for Marion and No. 2 trade for both teams, by the way. However, I wouldn't be shocked if the Clippers turned around and drafted O.J. Mayo at No. 2. They love the guy more than Riley does.
Here's one more that keeps getting debated: If you're Riley, would you take Mike Conley, Mike Miller and No. 5 for the No. 2, Daequan Cook and Udonis Haslem?
Simmons: I would make that deal in a kajillasecond. And you know what else? Chris Wallace is just dumb enough to offer it.
OK, I'll defend Durant's defense. (You successfully baited me again.) OF COURSE a 6-foot-9, 130-pound guy was going to have trouble guarding shooting guards and small forwards on the perimeter. Ultimately, when he puts some weight on and Seattle wises up and plays him at the right position, he's going to be the perfect 4 for the new millenium -- an athletic inside/outside guy who can protect the rim, rebound and cause significant matchup problems on the offensive end. As a team defender, he's already light years ahead of someone like Amare Stoudemire. So there.
Ford: So first you argue that you can't pass on a dominant offensive player for the No. 1 pick, even though a dominant defender like Greg Oden is on the board. Then you argue that you should pass on a dominant offensive player like Michael Beasley for the No. 1 pick because defense wins championships.
So what are you going to argue next? That Kevin Durant, the guy who hasn't played a minute of defense in high school, college or the pros, will become the perfect defensive 4 for the new millennium. Crap … you already did that. Is Paula Abdul now making your arguments, Bill?
Simmons: Here's the difference: Beasley has a chance to become a dominant offensive player, someone who could notch a 25-10 every game and get drafted in the first rounds of fantasy drafts for eight to 10 years. Durant has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players in the history of basketball. Huge difference. I wrote many times last year that Durant had a chance to become the MJ of forwards. You don't remember this because you were too busy holding the chair for Yi Jianlian during his workouts. By the way, do you think your degree in international conflict is going to help out when Yi decides he can't hack it in the NBA next year and tries to get out of his contract to return to China? We're all counting on you to help us avoid an international incident.
Ford: Really? This is all the game you've got? You reverse yourself three times at the start of the debate and then out of desperation you start throwing out MJ's name and making fun of Yi Jianlian (who, by the way, you picked No. 7 in our mock draft last year -- I didn't pick him).
Bill, Lou Dobbs called, and he wants his xenophobic international diatribes back.
Can we just move on?
Simmons: I picked him at No. 7 because he had the most VALUE, not because I thought he was good. Even you wrote that. Also, you used the Lou Dobbs joke last year. You might want to carve yourself some pineapple; I think you need to bring your blood sugar up.
Pick No. 3: Minnesota Timberwolves
Bill Simmons selects: Kevin Love, UCLA
(For the second straight year, I'm slipping into an ugly cardigan sweater and adding five inches of armpit hair to each arm so I can tap into my inner McHale.)
If this were any other team in the league, I'd take O.J. Mayo in this spot. He's the most misunderstood guy in the draft -- I don't see him as a point guard and/or a No. 1 crunch-time scorer; I see him as a super-athletic, super-competitive 2-guard with elite passing skills, 3-point range and (potentially) first-team all-defense skills. So it's really going to depend on the team for him. For instance, if he goes to Seattle? Perfect. Durant would be established as the Crunch-Time Guy, and Mayo could do all the things he should be doing. For Minnesota, he worries me because they'd play him at point guard and ask him to take too big of a role offensively; I'm not sure it's in him, and I definitely don't think he's a point guard. I see him as a Scottie Pippen type, potentially a fantastic Second Banana and someone who could do all the Little Things to help you win. I'd also worry about him going from four years as The Man in high school, to one year of reportedly getting paid under the table and being The Man in Los Angeles … to living in Minnesota and dealing with frigid weather and a perpetually underachieving franchise. Couldn't you see him serving his time there (for lack of a better phrase), then bolting as soon as he became a free agent?
So selfishly, I want to see Kevin Love go in this spot because it's the best scenario for everyone involved. He'll like Minnesota; he'll complement Al Jefferson; he gives the Timberwolves three good character guys for their frontline (Jefferson and Ryan Gomes being the other two); and he could learn the ropes of NBA whiteness from McHale and Mark Madsen. I like everything about this pick for them. You know what you're getting with Love: intelligence, rebounding, superior passing, smart team defense, 3-point shooting and someone who will compete every single night. He makes any team better. And again, you have to love anyone who can successfully bring back the Color Me Badd beard.
Ford: Why am I not surprised Bill goes with Kevin Love at No. 3?
Here's what I wrote at the end of last year's debate with Bill: "You're going to love Kevin Love. He'll be the Adam Morrison of the 2008 NBA draft."
I was right and wrong. Love is a better player than Morrison. He has more skills, is much, much stronger and won't be out of the league in three years the way Morrison seems to be headed.
But he lacks athleticism. He lacks great size at his position. He struggles to score or rebound over more athletic guys. (Did you see what Joey Dorsey did to him in the NCAA semifinals?)
I think he's a good role player. But on Minnesota? With Al Jefferson there, they already have a small frontline. This would make things even worse. And are there enough touches for the two of them?
I like what you wrote about Mayo. I think we see eye to eye on this. He's not a great fit in Minnesota for all the reasons you mentioned.
I think the Wolves are trading this pick. No one makes sense for them at No. 3. Look for them to pick up a player like Charlie Villanueva and the No. 8 pick. There they can take a guy like Brook Lopez or Joe Alexander.
Simmons: Dammit, I hate it when we agree! You're right; Minny should trade the pick. (Note: I was operating under the premise that they would keep it.) Here's the scenario that makes the most sense to me: McHale deals the No. 3 and Marko Jaric (expires 2011) to the Clippers for the No. 7, Tim Thomas (expires 2010) and the rights to Minny's future No. 1 that the Clippers own (with the Clips moving up to take Mayo). Then McHale takes whoever is left standing from the Lopez/Gallinari/Mayo group. And since I have nothing left to add, I'd like to start the movement for McHale getting a 2008 championship ring from the Boston Celtics for graciously sending us Kevin Garnett. The man deserves a ring! Give him a ring!
Pick No. 4: Seattle SuperSonics
Chad Ford selects: O.J. Mayo, USC
Thanks to Bill, Kevin Durant gets the perfect sidekick in Seattle. I think Bill might have planned it this way to help bail out Durant down the road when Oden and the Blazers start winning championships.
I know the Sonics are trying hard to move up to get Beasley. I don't get it. I know Beasley and Durant are best friends, but you can't have two high-volume scorers who can't play defense on the same team. The Nuggets already tried that -- and see where it got them.
I love Mayo for the Sonics. He's the type of versatile player who can play both backcourt positions, hit jump shots and play stifling defense on the perimeter.
As I say all of this, ESPN.com editor Kevin Jackson and the legions of faithful Sonics fans who are watching their team get hijacked to Oklahoma City must be climbing out of their office windows onto the ledge.
A combo of Durant and Mayo will make the Sonics a very dangerous team in a few years.
Simmons: There's hope for you yet, Chad Ford! If there's an NBA god, Mayo will land in Seattle and not on the Timberwolves, Knicks or Clippers. The more I think about it, the Sonics should just send Chris Wilcox and the No. 4 to Minny for the No. 3 and Antoine Walker's expiring contract, just to make sure they get Mayo (and more importantly, to make sure McHale doesn't do something dumb, like take Mayo). I love the thought of a Mayo-Durant-Green foundation for the Sonics -- Mayo and Green do the Little Things, Durant does the Big Things, and if that's not enough, they'll be united by three goals: Becoming a playoff team; pretending they like living in Oklahoma City; and making fun of Robert Swift as much as possible.
Ford: Quit agreeing with me, Bill. It's scary. Before we know it, you'll be advocating the Knicks taking Danilo Gallinari.
I'm pretty sure the Bible has you liking an international guy as one of the signs of the apocalypse.
Pick No. 5: Memphis Grizzlies
Bill Simmons selects: Danilo Gallinari, Italy
Hold on. If I have to pretend to be Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace for the next few minutes, I have to slam my head against my desk a few times to give myself a minor concussion. Gimme a second.
Wow, that stings. Uh-oh, I'm bleeding from my right eye. Let's make this quick …
I really like five players in this draft (Beasley, Rose, Mayo, Love and Gallinari), and I'm not even remotely sold on anyone else. Normally I'd throw my body against taking a young European guy this high -- as Chad's archives on ESPN.com prove, it's almost always a terrible idea -- but Gallinari isn't the typical Euro prospect. He played at an extremely high level in a competitive league last year; he's fiesty as hell; he can shoot 3s and drive to the basket; and if that's not enough, he actually loves contact and gets to the line so frequently that he could end up pulling an Adrian Dantley and having some 20-free throw games in the pros. I watched a couple of his games on one of my 1,200 cable channels and ate up every available YouTube clip; in my humble opinion, Gallinari has a chance to become a 6-foot-10 Manu -- maybe not as good on the defensive end, but just as crafty an offensive player, and a competitive motha' to boot.
Frankly, I don't see how the Grizzlies could take anyone else. Which means they'll either botch this pick or trade it to Portland along with Mike Miller and Brian Cardinal's contract for the No. 13 pick, Raef LaFrentz and $3 million, along with a 40-foot concrete replica of a middle finger that they can put in front of their arena for every Grizzlies fan to see. I'd tell you more, but I need to sew some stitches over my right eye.
Ford: Did the moon just turn red? Or was it that Chris Wallace concussion that made you go Gallinari?
In a weird twist of fate, I'm not sold on him. He's an amazing European player. But he lacks the lateral quickness to guard anyone. For a guy who just watched his Celtics win on defense, you make yet another no-defense pick in Gallinari.
I think he'll be a nice player, don't get me wrong. But I don't think he'll be a star, and at No. 5, you need to find that guy.
Here's the two things I'll say about Memphis:
One, your last scenario about giving the pick away for cash sounds pretty accurate. I know Chris Wallace tried to say Monday that he wasn't under pressure from ownership to cut cap cost. If that's the case, why is he trying to give away the No. 5 to anyone who'll take Brian Cardinal in a deal?
I do think the Grizzlies will move the pick. Either they will get the No. 2 for Conley, Miller and the No. 5, or they will deal with the Knicks for David Lee and Malik Rose's expiring contract.
If they stay at No. 5, I think they will take Kevin Love or Eric Gordon.
Simmons: Fair point that I am going against my "defense wins championships" mantra by taking Gallinari fifth. Here's the problem: I don't really like anyone else in this draft. I really don't. Everyone else is either overrated or destined to be a role player, and that's it. Gallinari has a chance to become the Toni Kukoc of this generation, a gifted offensive player who creates matchup problems, plays multiple positions and can carry your offense for stretches at a time. I don't think he's a six-time All-Star or anything, but he's a genuine asset and, potentially, the ideal sixth man if you have enough quality guys. Also, if you remember, the Bulls won three titles with Kukoc -- something you would have been mentioning constantly if you had a column from 1996 to 1998, given your love for foreign players and all.
Ford: I hate to break the news to you, Bill, but the love affair is over. It was an ugly breakup, but I've tried to move on.
I call it the Angelina Jolie-Billy Bob Thornton era in my life. It was edgy, different and crazy to like Darko Milicic. From the years 2001 to 2003, the sight of a 7-foot international big man doing crossovers and shooting NBA 3s in an empty gym sent, to quote Chris Matthews, a shiver up my leg.
But it's over. I'm hanging out with the Chris Pauls of the world now. I realized that basketball skills outside of the context of the game just can't translate. I still think international players have a place in the draft, but not young, inexperienced 18-year-olds or soft big men who can't play defense.
Which is why I can't understand why the rest of the league hasn't caught on yet. When I see teams gushing over Alexis Ajinca, a 7-foot French guy who averaged 5 points per game in the French league, the Skita nightmares return.
Simmons: Wait a second. Aren't you the same guy who keeps pushing that superduperstiff Kosta Koufos on us as a potential lottery pick? Are there two Chad Fords? Did you wander onto the set of "Lost" in Hawaii and get cloned by the Dharma Initiative?
Ford: Ummm … Kosta Koufos was born in the exotic locale of Canton, Ohio. He's played American basketball his entire life. Yes, his parents are Greek … but does that now count as international?
And, no, I'm not pushing Koufos. Unfortunately, my job is to report what others teams like. That's why Ajinca is No. 13 in my mock draft but would be pick No. 50 if I were drafting. Koufos scares me to death. He's a good-shooting big man who doesn't rebound and struggled against athletic players in college. Rip on Chris Mullin or Larry Bird. But don't tie me to Koufos.
Simmons: Kosta Koufos is American??? My whole world has been shattered! Can we count him as a foreigner, anyway? Come on, throw me a bone.
Pick No. 6: New York Knicks
Chad Ford selects: Russell Westbrook, UCLA
In an effort to stay somewhat consistent (are you listening, Bill?) with my philosophy that team-oriented, defensive-minded, super-athletic players are the wave of the future, I think the Knicks should snap up Westbrook here.
I understand the limitations. He's not a great offensive talent. He doesn't have special court vision. He's a work in progress.
But he's got what I call the Rajon Rondo factor. He's going to be a tenacious, game-changing defender in the backcourt. He plays at 100 miles per hour. He's strong. He's a great kid. He puts his team first. Most importantly, he's the type of player who just makes the big play when your team needs it.
Westbrook isn't Derrick Rose or even O.J. Mayo, but he is the type of guy who could help change the culture in New York. I personally think he's the fourth-best prospect in the draft behind Rose, Beasley and Mayo.
Simmons: You're preaching to the choir; remember, I bought a ticket for the Westbrook Bandwagon back in December and have been touting him ever since. But I did so thinking he'd be one of those non-lottery picks who would have had us eventually saying, "Man, that was stupid that Westbrook didn't go in the lottery!" I didn't anticipate the Era of Everyone Doing the Right Thing.
We agree that he's the sixth-best player in this draft; we don't agree that he's the right pick for the Knicks. Mike D'Antoni just spent the last four years having the great Steve Nash run his offense … now he's giving the car keys to a great athlete who may or may not be a point guard? This scares the hell out of me. I'd love to see Westbrook go seventh to the Clippers because he's a work in progress and that's a much better fit for him. In New York, the pressure would be too much -- between Mike D., the Knicks fans and the media, not to mention Stephon Marbury undermining him, everything about that scenario worries me. My prediction is that he will end up making a splash in the NBA for the team that didn't draft him (a la Chauncey Billups).
Ford: OK … so who do you pick if you're the Knicks?
Jerryd Bayless is the type of shoot-first point guard Mike doesn't need. Anthony Randolph is 120 pounds. Brook Lopez is going to be a bust. Eric Gordon is a 6-foot-3 jump-shooter.
D.J. Augustin? He does have some Steve Nash in him, for both good and bad. He's an excellent floor leader, but he gets abused on the defensive end.
Who would you take?
Simmons: Jeez, you're right, there's nobody else. They'd have to take Westbrook if the top five falls the way we have it. Worst-case scenario, he's a scrappy bench guy for them and someone they could throw out there with David Lee and Renaldo Balkman. I also think the New York fans would like him, as long as they knew going into the Westbrook Era that he's a work in progress. OK, you talked me into it a little.
Pick No. 7: Los Angeles Clippers
Bill Simmons selects: Eric Gordon, Indiana
Yet another "worst-case scenario" destination for a 2008 lottery pick: After playing one disappointing season for a screwed-up college team, Gordon gets to play a series of disappointing seasons for a screwed-up NBA team. Unfortunately for everyone, he's the best available pick on the board for the Clips -- they desperately need a shooter and you can make a strong case (Doug Gottlieb did it for me on ESPN Radio last night) that Gordon was on the Rose/Beasley level heading into college before getting submarined by injuries and a catastrophic coaching debacle. So it's a good risk for them, and if you've ever seen his gorgeous jumper, you can absolutely talk yourself into the Gordon Era. (Note: It might replace Mike Miller's jumper for me as "The Jump Shot I'd Want For the Last Year of My Life If I Was Dying.")
With that said, his performance in big games last year scares the living bejeezus out of me, as does the fact that he's an allegedly great shooter who made only 33 percent of his 3s. As a Clippers season-ticket holder, I am fully prepared to be disappointed by this kid for the next few years. Good times! Where do I send my check?
Ford: I can see this. The Clippers have nothing in their backcourt now. Eric Gordon could be a Ben Gordon-type scorer in the NBA. He's one of the best shooters in the draft.
But I'm scared of this kid. He collapsed in the second half of the season. He has no handle. He's undersized. I just can't get comfortable with him.
But then again … I can't get comfortable with anyone here. Bayless may be the best fit because he can play both guard positions.
Bill, has any team teased us more than the Clippers? Just when we thought that the curse was over and the Clippers might be poised to overtake the Lakers, they're back to their old ways.
Simmons: And ironically, it was Donald Sterling's first-ever spending splurge that caused all the problems: The Clippers did the terrible Tim Thomas signing; they overpaid Cuttino Mobley; and they gave coach Mike Dunleavy a lucrative extension even as he was losing the 2007 team. Still, you can't overstate how much Livingston's knee injury killed them -- either he was going to be an asset for them, or they could have packaged him with Corey Maggette and/or Sam Cassell's expiring deal for an elite scorer. That just murdered them. Imagine the Celtics trying to win the title last year if you just removed Rajon Rondo from the team? There isn't a more jinxed franchise in sports than the L.A. Clippers. There really isn't.
Ford: Which reminds me … I know you love Al "I'm 33 years old" Thornton and all, but why did the Clippers pass on Rodney Stuckey? You find guys like Thornton littered all over the league. But Stuckey would've given the Clippers a potentially dominant backcourt guy.
I don't know about Mike Dunleavy. Part of me loves him for standing up to Donald Sterling. The other part of me says that had he actually gotten a few drafts right, the Clippers wouldn't be in this mess.
Simmons: You can't kill the Clippers for passing on Stuckey when 10 other teams did, too. And Thornton ended up being the only bright spot of the entire 2007-08 season -- that dude can score and electrify the crowd (no small feat if you've ever been to a Clippers game). But you're right, Stuckey would have been PERFECT for them. It's really too bad. As for Dunleavy, I think Yaroslav Korolev should be forced to live in his house for as long as he coaches the Clippers. It's only fair. They passed up Danny Granger for that guy. Ridiculous.
Pick No. 8: Milwaukee Bucks
Chad Ford selects: Joe Alexander, West Virginia
Joe Alexander is the hottest name in the draft, which terrifies me. Every year, teams try to "win the draft" by clawing over each other to get the hot guy. This year, that guy is Alexander.
He's got CRAZY athleticism. He's a maniac in workouts. He'll try to dunk on anyone. In terms of intensity, Alexander is Scott Skiles' "mini-me." You don't know whether to be afraid or in awe.
But then you get him in a game and the guy doesn't seem to know what he's doing. It's guaranteed Alexander joins Tyrus Thomas in the "I wish that guy knew how to play" fantasy discussion for years.
Simmons: He reminds me of Westbrook in that, in years past, he would have gone 10 spots too low … only this year, he's being drafted right around where he should get taken. I don't love the pick for the Bucks since they already have approximately 25 swingmen, but they don't need another combo guard (like Bayless) or a soft inside player (like Brook Lopez), so what the hell do they do? I have a strong feeling we'll be looking back on this draft in about nine months and talking about how unbelievably disappointing it was for nearly everyone involved -- the order of the teams doesn't match up with the order of the players, if that makes sense.
Ford: I think calling this a bad draft may be an overreaction. Typically every team starts hating the next draft by July 1. By March, everyone loves it. And by June, when it comes time to make a choice, every team is deathly afraid of everyone in the draft.
It's a strange phenomenon -- sort of the equivalent of dating. When it comes time for commitment, every wart starts to show. This is altar fever. A week from now, everyone will be talking again about how great this draft is.
One bonus for Alexander: It looks as if he's ranked as one of the better players in the draft, according to John Hollinger.
Simmons: The same John Hollinger who ranked Dwyane Wade's 2006 Finals performance as the greatest of all time? I am suddenly not feeling as confident about the Joe Alexander Era.
Ford: Yeah, that guy. No offense to the Page 2 VP of Common Sense, but common sense is seriously overrated. Maybe it's all the college classes I'm teaching, but I've noticed that time and time again, the pick from the "gut" is just wrong. Most people let emotion and years of blinding worldviews get in the way of the more analytical choice.
I know we think our guts are right. But that's because of something called cognitive dissonance. Once we make a choice, we have to convince ourselves that it was the right choice. So we marshal all the evidence that supports our choice and ignore everything that doesn't -- which is why now you're waffling on the Durant over Oden pick.
I'm not saying stats have all the answers. But Hollinger's system outperforms NBA GMs every year. And he predicted, correctly, that Adam Morrison would be a bust.
Simmons: There is no waffling on Oden/Durant! None! I would take Durant first again in a cocaine heartbeat. As for everything else, you just made my head hurt. Stop getting all collegiate/intellectual on me -- maybe it works with the coeds in Hawaii, but we have a mock draft to finish. By the way, praising Hollinger for consistently outperforming NBA GMs is like praising me for walking down to my local elementary school and beating all the fourth-graders in a footrace.
Ford: What about us? I think he's outperformed us the past few years, as well. What are we, fifth-graders?
Someone cue Jeff Foxworthy. That would be a great game show: "Are You Smarter than Billy Knight?"
Simmons: I hope Adam Morrison is reading your mean comments, I hope he's wiping away the tears, and I hope he's vowing to shove it in your face during the 2008-09 season. By the way, I love how you have been making excuses for Greg Oden like you're his agent for the last three hours, but you're conveniently glossing over the fact that Morrison blew out his knee before his second season. The good news for him -- at least his legs are the same size.
Ford: So what you're saying is that after Morrison's horrible rookie year, a devastating knee injury last season is somehow going to help him this year. The guy couldn't move laterally to save his life before the injury. What happens now?
That's the definition of cognitive dissonance, Bill. You love Morrison and keep finding miraculous ways of justifying the pick.
Simmons: In other words, I'm reliving the Chad Ford Experience from 2003 to 2007 with Darko Milicic. Guilty as charged!
Pick No. 9: Charlotte Bobcats
Bill Simmons selects: Brook Lopez, Stanford
I like this pick for them -- he plays hard, he should be able to score in the pros, he's coachable and the Larry Brown/Emeka Okafor combo should be able to protect him defensively a little. He's definitely someone who belongs in a nine-man rotation, as long as he's used the right way and you keep your expectations low. With that said, I'm disappointed that we have to split up him and his brother, both for basketball purposes and unintentional comedy purposes. It's not often that you can have twin big men with female names wreaking havoc on the National Basketball Association. By the way, can we have odds for how long it will take before Larry Brown makes Adam Morrison cry during a practice? And how much does it kill Larry that he quickly jumped at that Charlotte job before the Phoenix/Dallas jobs became available? I bet he can't sleep at night.
Ford: But will anyone care? Is there any team in the league that people are more indifferent about? Michael Jordan can't sell this team. Larry Brown can't. At best, with this pick, they're a potential No. 8 seed. Maybe. Where's Adam Morrison when you need him?
So yeah, I'm not sure what Larry Brown is doing in Charlotte. I know he wants to resurrect his reputation, but will anyone notice? As for Phoenix and Dallas, do you think Robert Sarver or Mark Cuban was really going to bring in Brown? After he got canned in his last two jobs, was he really the answer?
I'm fine with Lopez here. He's big and he's better than anyone else they have in the middle. Pair Okafor and Lopez and the Bobcats are OK. Let's move on.
Pick No. 10: New Jersey Nets
Chad Ford selects: Darrell Arthur, Kansas
Let the LeBron 2010 Sweepstakes begin. The Nets are dangling this pick along with Richard Jefferson in an attempt to get under the cap by the summer of 2010.
Has there ever been a longer recruitment for a player than Jay-Z's slow seduction of LeBron James? We've been talking about LeBron and the Brooklyn Nets for years, and we're still at least two years away … but perhaps only two years away.
Why Arthur? Because I think every player on the Kansas Jayhawks should move up five spots in the draft. I don't see why GMs don't like this guy more. He's a smooth scorer who reminds me a little of Antawn Jamison.
Simmons: Arthur worries me because of the whole "if he didn't try all the time in college, why would he try all the time if he's making guaranteed money?" conundrum. He's definitely undervalued, but not as much as my man Brandon Rush -- both guys played big roles on a college champion, which should count for something, and if you remember, Arthur made an absolutely mammoth hoop when KU was down five in the final minute of regulation against Memphis. So if you're going glass-half-full, you could argue that he brought something to the table in a do-or-die moment. I'm fine with that pick. It's not as though anyone else is that enticing, although I think Jerryd Bayless' agent is sitting in his garage with the car running right now.
As for Jay-Z and LeBron, it's the most underreported story in sports right now. I don't know what else to say. If LeBron isn't wearing a Nets jersey within the next four years, I will walk from California to New Jersey naked wearing only a 2006-07 game-worn Adam Morrison Bobcats jersey.
(By the way, don't hold me to that, I had my fingers crossed.)
Pick No. 11: Indiana Pacers
Bill Simmons selects: Jerryd Bayless, Arizona
I cannot in good conscience allow the Basketball Jesus to take D.J. Augustin -- a career backup, in my opinion -- with the 11th pick of the 2008 draft. I just can't. When you already have Jamaal Tinsley and his terrible contract on your team, and there's absolutely no hope of trading him, why take another undersized point guard who can't guard anyone? Really, you're winning an NBA title someday with D.J. Augustin? I can't let Him do it. My favorite player for this spot is Brandon Rush, but the Pacers don't need another swingman; if anything, they could use another rebounding/shot-blocking body for Jim O'Brien's system, especially after Jermaine O'Neal's tragic death two years ago.
(What? He's still alive? I had no idea!)
Anyway, I had either Roy Hibbert or Robin Lopez penciled into this spot, but you just made my life a helluva lot easier by leaving Bayless sitting there for me. He's not really a point guard, but he could absolutely dribble the ball upcourt and run the offense in the 40 games a year Tinsley takes off, and I personally guarantee that he has a higher ceiling than Travis Diener. Plus, there's always one top-12 team that lucks into someone it needs, right? Maybe it will be the Pacers with Bayless. Of all the guys left, he's the one with a chance to make an All-Star team someday. Well, him and Kosta Koufos.
Ford: Yeah, if Bayless is on the board, you take him and run. The Pacers need something out of their backcourt besides Mike Dunleavy taking jump shots. Bayless will penetrate, pull up for shots and even play a little point.
We keep reading Jermaine O'Neal is on the block (though I'm not feeling T.J. Ford). What is the best possible deal you can get for him? I was stunned the Heat got Shawn Marion for an overweight, 35-year-old Shaquille O'Neal. Could the Pacers do even better?
Simmons: You're baiting me again. First of all, they took Marcus Banks' awful contract in the deal, which you neglected to mention. Second, the Suns could have absolutely beaten the Spurs in Round 1 (how does that series turn out if Duncan doesn't make the Miracle 3?), and for all we know, they may have been the best team in the West -- after the El Foldo that the Lakers pulled in the Finals. Shaq at least brings some stuff to the table; Jermaine hasn't been relevant as a basketball player in three years. I can't imagine that Bryan Colangelo would be dumb enough to deal for him. I just think O'Neal is done -- he's like Antoine Walker to me, a guy who is 31 going on 45.
Ford: What? You liked the Shaq deal? Oh, that's right.
So … the Suns sign Marcus Banks to a ridiculous deal and then you praise them a year later for finding someone else to take it off their hands? Even when it cost them Marion, their best defender? (Didn't you say defense wins championships?)
Shaq brought the buffet to the table, but that's it. He was done. Finished. The Suns had the best record in the West before the trade. (And they would've been in the Finals the year before if the suspensions hadn't worked against them.) I think the Suns, not the Lakers, would've been in the Finals versus the Celtics without the trade. Boston probably beats them, but they would've competed more than the Lakers. Honestly, the Suns trading away Marion for Shaq was almost as big a gift to the Lakers' title hopes as Pau Gasol.
Simmons: So you're telling me that Shawn Marion -- an enigmatic head case who was legitimately happy to leave Steve Nash and the top team in the Western Conference so he could play with Ricky Davis and Mark Blount on the worst team in the league -- now would have swung the 2008 playoffs? I'll take my chances with Shaq, thanks.
Ford: Yeah, I'm saying that. Marion can play. Shaq can't.
I'm not denying the head case charge. Nor the selfishness one. But Marion defended the other team's best player and gave the Suns a fighting chance. I know Phoenix was sick of him, but the Suns should've waited until the summer and gotten more.
Simmons: Keep this up and Shaq's next freestyle is gonna be called, "Hey, Chad, Tell Me How My A-- Tastes."
Ford: That is the sickest thing I've ever read. I can't believe you wrote that. And by the way, like candy.
Simmons: Come on, that joke was sitting there for the last 30 minutes! Plus, we needed to have at least one moment that prompted an emergency conference call with the ESPN.com editors. I have no regrets.
Pick No. 12: Sacramento Kings
Chad Ford selects: Mario Chalmers, Kansas
The Kings have nothing at point guard. Beno Udrih will convince some unsuspecting GM to offer him a full mid-level deal at five years and $35 million. GM Geoff Petrie will wisely let him go.
I've never been a fan of tiny point guards, but every time I watch Augustin, I see some Steve Nash there. He's great at keeping his dribble going until he finds the open man, he shoots it well and he's got a huge heart. But he also gets worked on the defensive end of the ball, and that scares me.
For the last week, I've been trying to talk myself into putting Mario Chalmers ahead of Augustin. He's bigger, he's clutch, he's a better defender. He doesn't have crazy floor vision, but he's just plain good.
I think I'm finally there: Mario over D.J.
Simmons: Here's what worries me about this pick -- if Chalmers missed The Shot in the Kansas-Memphis game, would he even be going in the top 25? You could argue that, because he made The Shot, that proved he's clutch. (A fair argument.) I'm just playing devil's advocate. I liked Chalmers in college, but at no point did I ever think to myself, "That guy is a lottery pick." This seems high to me for a career backup.
If I were running the Kings, I'd go with Roy Hibbert here over forcing a point guard pick. You could do worse than a Hibbert/Hawes center combo. You really could. Worst-case scenario -- repeat: worst-case scenario -- he's a valuable backup center at a cheap price for the next five years. Best-case scenario, he can evolve into a starting center who blocks shots and anchors your defense (like Kendrick Perkins with a 15-footer). He's the most undervalued guy in a draft in which nearly everyone is properly valued. Also, I can never turn down a guy named "Roy." Have you ever met a Roy who wasn't absolutely fantastic? For instance, my Dad's best friend is named Roy -- Roy Anderson, a legendary lawyer in Springfield, Mass., who should absolutely have his own reality show. You cannot go wrong with Roys. Again, I would take Hibbert here if I were the Kings.
Ford: Yeah, that's what I mean by talking myself into the pick. I'm not sure anyone left on the board qualifies as a lottery pick here. The upside guys all look like potential busts. The veterans all have limitations.
Hibbert is a guy Sacramento really likes, by the way. But I wish there were a ban on all big guys who can't run the floor. The NBA would be a much better league if it had a minimum speed score on the full-court sprint for all eligible draftees.
Pick No. 13: Portland Trail Blazers
Bill Simmons selects: Brandon Rush, Kansas
I was going to pick Dr. James Andrews here but didn't want to be getting hate mail from Blazers fans all summer. Assuming they don't deal this pick -- and that seems eminently possible -- Rush makes the most sense because he'd give them enough depth at the swing spots to dangle Travis Outlaw along with one of their point guards, the rights to Rudy Fernandez and/or gobs of Paul Allen's cash for a legitimate point guard or an elite combo guard like Leandro Barbosa. I am totally, completely, unequivocally sold on Rush -- he plays D, runs the floor, makes 3s and proved himself in big spots. As James Posey just showed with the Celtics, you can win the title with a guy like that. My only hope is that his brothers don't move in with him. If that happens, all bets are off.
By the way, tell me who doesn't make this trade: Outlaw, Channing Frye, the rights to Fernandez, the No. 13 and $3 million for Conley, Brian Cardinal and No. 5. Just curious.
Ford: I think Rush is the guy too. The Blazers have three alpha dogs in LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy and Greg Oden. What they need is a fit guy.
Rush drove me crazy at KU because I never thought he played up to his potential. But as he moves into the NBA, his willingness to submit to other teammates will help him. He doesn't have All-Star talent and seems like he'd be content playing a role on a good team. He shoots, he defends, he runs the floor. Good pick.
By the way, is Kevin Pritchard the most fun GM in the league? The guy is working on roughly 150 trade proposals as we speak. He has no qualms about calling up a team and saying, "How about Travis Outlaw and Sergio Rodriguez for Dwyane Wade." He won't blink an eye.
And you know what? I know it irritates some of the old-school GMs, but Pritchard gets it done. Most trade talks fail. He decided to tackle that problem by tripling the trade call volume. I love it.
Simmons: Totally agree. When you think about it, what else does a GM have to do all day? Shouldn't he be sitting in an office with nine college/NBA games going on TV and ESPN.com's Trade Machine in front of him just taking notes and calling every GM with wacky offers 20 times a day? That's what I would be doing. I have a terrible feeling that the Blazers are going to dominate the next decade with or without Oden -- now that they've figured out how to spend Paul Allen's money, they are unstoppable. They just keep stockpiling assets and stockpiling them and stockpiling them. They're going to have an undefeated D-League team within the next 2-3 years.
Pick No. 14: Golden State Warriors
Chad Ford selects: DeAndre Jordan, Texas A&M
Golden State has hit a few home runs in the second round. Gilbert Arenas was a steal. So was Monta Ellis.
But the Warriors' first-round picks? Ugh! Remember Patrick O'Bryant in the lottery ahead of Rajon Rondo? Ike Diogu ahead of Andrew Bynum and Danny Granger? Mickael Pietrus ahead of David West? Mike Dunleavy with the No. 3 pick ahead of Amare Stoudemire?
Not good. So I have to say that the only way I'll have faith in this pick is for the Warriors to go ahead and draft a second-rounder at No. 14. With talk that they're looking at Rider's Jason Thompson, they may have figured this out as well.
Since I think Thompson has no upside, what about Jordan? Chances are he's a bust, but is there anyone left in this draft who would convince you not to take this gamble? He's huge, he has great athleticism and he has about a 5 percent chance of becoming good. Can you say that about anyone else left in the draft?
Simmons: I think you just used the exact same logic that Utah used when it rolled the dice with Luther Wright in 1993. If the Warriors are taking a big guy, I'd rather see them go with Robin Lopez here -- maybe he's a career backup, but he'd give them an energy guy off the bench and you know he'll be in the league for 10 years. I don't even trust Jordan being in the league for 10 minutes. Plus, wouldn't it be fun to watch Nellie yell at Lopez for the next year or so? Come on, you're talking yourself into this. The other guy I like for them is Chris Douglas-Roberts, a really quirky offensive player who will succeed only with a specific kind of coach: Someone who loves isolation matchups and pitting good one-on-one players against guys who have no chance of guarding them. You know, someone exactly like Don Nelson.
Ford: You're right, I am talking myself into it. But Robin Lopez is too goofy. He's creating his own superhero from what I hear. Who's the last comic book geek to dominate in the NBA? And isn't Biedrins the guy that gives them energy? And isn't Nellie reluctant to play him?
Looking back over the mock draft, this isn't half bad. And I've gotta feel like the basketball gods have smiled on us this year, Bill. Your beloved Celtics are the NBA champs. My beloved Jayhawks are the NCAA champs. We've got to know what we're doing, right?
Simmons: I agree that we've both been blessed by the basketball gods. I agree that our mock draft churned out a strangely compelling order. And I agree that I can't feel the tips of my fingers anymore. What's funny about the past five hours is that there will be at least two trades that screw up the entire dynamic of our carefully thought-out mock draft, rendering something like 6,000 words of text completely meaningless within the span of seconds. I hate when that happens! Until next year.
Yours in cognitive dissonance,