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2009 NBA Draft Coverage: Ten Bold Predictions

The NBA Draft is almost here. On Thursday, some teams will make themselves a brighter future, and other teams will dig themselves into a bit of trouble. There are some who say that the draft is way overblown in terms of it's impact on teams. Those people argue that shrewd moves in the free agent market and smartly growing the talent that you can grab are more important than agonizing over millions of different scenarios.

But what would be the fun in that?

Personally, I can see both sides. It is important to not blow a huge contract on a free agent who doesn't contribute much. However, at the same time, drafting the right player can turn around a franchise. LeBron James proves this line of thinking. The Cavaliers had been stuck in a rut for some years up until 2003 when they happened to land LeBron James in the draft, and suddenly their prospects turned. They still haven't won a championship with King James on board, but they have gone from a perennial lottery team to a perennial playoff team and championship contender.

And, it's not always grabbing the first pick that will turn a franchise around. Ask the Clippers how that worked out when they drafted Michael Olowokandi. You often see superstars that wind up being drafted later in the draft. Chris Paul and Dwayne Wade were both drafted further back in the top 10. Manu Ginobili was a late pick. So, with that, I'll break out my crystal ball and attempt to make some bold predictions about this years draft.

1. There Will Be A Trade Involving One Of The Top 5 Picks

"This could be one of the worst drafts ever," said an Eastern Conference team president. "Of course, we’re coming off two pretty good drafts."

Many teams see one elite prospect in this draft class (Blake Griffin) and about 3 to 4 solid star caliber prospects like Ricky Rubio, Hasheem Thabeet, James Harden and possibly a Stephen Curry or Tyreke Evans type. Beyond that there is a vast range of picks from about 7 or 8 down through 25-30 that has a pretty even distribution of talent and potential. Some teams desperately need help in more than one area, and can get that by trading back. Of course there are some teams with the ammunition to move up in the draft, and they really want a certain guy. One of those teams is the Minnesota Timberwolves who own three first round picks. It's doubtful that the Clippers would trade their pick, but all of the other top-5 teams have entertained trade prospects thus far. The trade may actually involve the swapping of two top-5 picks.

More from the crystal ball after the jump!

Everyone likes you to pick a sleeper and a bust, so I'll use two of my predictions on those:

2. Ty Lawson Is A Sleeper, And I Think He Could Be A Solid NBA Starter

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2008 - Ty Lawson 35 29.9 5.2 9.8 53.2 1.5 3.1 47.2 4.7 5.9 79.8 0.7 2.3 3.0 6.6 1.9 2.1 0.1 1.7 16.6

In college, Ty Lawson did just about everything right. He made great decisions, evidenced by his 3.5 assist to turnover ratio. He also was a dead-eye shooter even from distance, knocking down 47.2% of his three pointers. An overlooked point is that he was a team leader, and he made everyone else on the floor better. People like to point to his toe injury, and the fact that he was surrounded by McDonald's All-Americans, but when Lawson was banged up towards the end of the regular season last year, North Carolina struggled. They narrowly won when they won, and got upset a couple of times. He was healthy for the tournament, which is a big reason why UNC cruised to the title. He's an extremely intelligent player, makes great decisions, is a crafty floor general, and is a team player. Some team will find a gem in him somewhere in the middle of the first round, and I will be sitting here wishing he had gone to the Thunder, who don't own another pick until #25 overall.

3. DeMar DeRozan Could Be A Disappointment And Some Team Will Reach For Him

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2008 - DeMar DeRozan 35 33.4 5.5 10.5 52.3 0.2 1.5 11.8 2.8 4.1 67.8 2.5 3.5 6.0 1.5 2.1 0.9 0.4 2.1 13.9

There's a few big red flags that go off for me concerning DeRozan. First, he did not do well at the combine, especially in the agility and sprint scores. He's supposed to be athletic and a high-flier, but seems to lack agility and has only moderate straight-line speed. That's fine, you may say, he can just be a spot up shooter - he doesn't have to blow by people. This might be the case if he had a better three point shooting percentage, but it was abysmal. He shot 11.8% on three point attempts. No, that's not a typo. And yes, I could maybe shoot 11 percent from behind the college arc. Finally, he made the jump after only one year in college. I don't think he's polished enough. Some team will reach for him because NBA guys always drool over the "raw" and "athletic" types.

4. Boston, Detroit, or Houston Will Make A Big Trade Involving A Major Veteran Player

All three of these teams have been reported to be very interested in trading up in the draft. All of them have some expendable pieces. Boston has been reported to be very interested in both Tyreke Evans and Ricky Rubio. Whether or not there's truth to it, they also are rumored to be shopping Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo. The Rondo rumors were mostly shot down, but with Ray Allen entering the last year of his contract, Boston would likely be faced with a really tough decision with whether or not to re-sign him next summer. Glen Davis and Leon Powe's names have also been floated around the internet. Meanwhile, Detroit has shown they're not afraid to rip apart the core that got them an NBA Championship, and Joe Dumars probably wants to have some salary cap room to make a play for one of the big 2010 free agents. Detroit has a couple of veteran players that would likely be attractive to some teams. Meanwhile, Houston has got some aging players (Tracy McGrady, Shane Battier, etc.) with some up and comers who deserve more playing time (Luis Scola, Aaron Brooks, Carl Landry). They'd likely be willing to part with a vet in order to pick up a younger player that they've targeted in the draft. I would expect one of these teams to make a big deal on draft day.

5. The Knicks Won't Trade Up From #8

I know that the Knicks are the subject of a lot of trade rumors, especially those concerning them moving up to select a player in the top 5. Specifically, people seem to think that they really covet Stephen Curry and Ricky Rubio. Both are potentially flashy point guards that would fit well in Mike D'Antoni's system. However, the Knicks have a lot of overloaded contracts that not a lot of teams in the top-5 will find attractive as a kicker in the deal. I'd say the only way they'd get the deal done would be to throw in future first round draft choices, but I still think they'll stay put at eight and try to get a solid player there.

6. The Thunder Will Be Involved In A Trade At Some Point

Given the amount of cap room that the Thunder have, and the number of budding young players on their roster, they could be sellers or buyers in a number of different deals. Either they will make an impressive offer with a combination of draft picks and young talent to move up and grab a player they want, or they'll trade down, grab a veteran and still get a solid draft choice in the process.

7. There Will Be Some Drama Involving Ricky Rubio

I'm not quite sure what it will be yet, but it should be an interesting couple of hours before and after he gets drafted. Undoubtedly teams will make some offers to trade for him even after he's selected. His agent might make some comments, trying to steer him to one team or another. There may be an announcement he's going to stay in Spain if he doesn't like the team he's drafted by. I would be surprised if there was no drama. This is, by no means, a dig on Rubio. After seeing him in a couple of interviews he seems pretty humble and likable and I think he's just going to try hard not to get the short end of the stick on his huge buyout in Spain.

8. Jonny Flynn or Jrue Holliday Will Be Drafted In The Top 8

I don't see another talented point guard beyond Rubio falling beyond Golden State or the Knicks. Jonny Flynn posted a monsterous vertical jump at the combine and his toughness around tournament time won't be forgotten. Neither will his performance in the epic multi-overtime game against UConn. Jrue Holliday has had a number of great workouts and there are a bunch of teams that are high on him in the top 10. The point guard crop is the deepest part of this draft, so they should be flying off the board starting early.

9. Brandon Jennings Will Slip Down The Draft Board

Jennings did himself no favors by skipping the 2009 Reebok Eurocamp, which many GMs flew in to see in order to watch him.

"We all came to see whether this kid can really play," one veteran GM told "I'd heard the hype, watched the video and heard various opinions from my scouts. I wanted to see how he stacked up against other top kids his age. Then he doesn't show. He sure isn't making this easy on us. You want to like the kid, but he ain't giving you a lot to go on."

On top of all that, he skipped college and went straight from high school to Europe, which has to be worrisome for some teams. He is an unproven commodity, unlike some of the other point guards in the draft. While he undoubtedly has some talent, he didn't put up great stats in Europe and he still doesn't have a great jumpshot. And now Jennings is apparently getting in some digs on Rubio before the draft. Everything points to Jennings slipping down the draft board. He'll still be a late lottery to mid-first round pick, but he was projected to be somewhere in the 5-10 range as little as a couple of months ago. And, despite all of that, he still has the potential to be a great NBA player, just at this point he's a bit of a question mark.

10. There Won't Be Many Trades Overall

I know there have been a lot of sites out there saying that you should expect a lot of trades. That was the case the past few years, but those drafts were widely regarded as being much deeper than this draft (widely regarded as the worst draft since 2000). Obviously, only time will tell, but it certainly seems that way. In a trade where the talent after the top 5 is so even, teams will be more likely to stay put and take their chances that they'll be able to get a player of equal value, without having to give up anything. I wouldn't expect many trades, certainly not as many as we've seen in recent years on draft day.

Remember, these are bold predictions. They are mostly things that my gut is telling me might happen. Feel free to chime in with your own predictions in the comments section. One thing is for sure, this draft will be extremely interesting to Thunder fans as their team currently owns two first round draft choices. I'm sure we are all waiting with great anticipation to see what Sam Presti has up his sleeve!

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