NetsDaily Draft Preview #1

Is it too early to pay any attention to mock drafts?

Duh.

--The Draft Lottery won’t be held til May 19.

--The Pre-Draft Camp in Chicago won’t start til a week after that and the European equivalent, the Reebok Eurocamp, is even later.

--We don't expect the Nets to start individual workouts for another two to three weeks.

--Even the authors of the mock drafts admit team needs haven’t been taken into account yet.

More importantly, Gregg Polinsky, the Nets director of player personnel, said Thursday "we haven't gotten into it immensely yet" when asked about internal discussions of team needs.

Still…why not?

Rather than go through the SEVENTY-FIVE mock drafts in the DC Sports Report database, we’ll take a look at (not focus on—that would be wrong) eight of them: ESPN’s "Lottery Generator", plus the mocks of DraftExpress, NBADraft.net, HoopsWorld, RealGM, Pro Basketball News, Rotoword and College Hoops. The Sporting News and Inside Hoops will no doubt offers some insight later, but right now their latest mocks are more than a month old and not very relevant to the task at hand.

So what’s the consensus? There isn’t any. (Maybe we should stop now? Nah.) The mocks are all over the board, so to speak, with only teo players showing in the Nets slot more than once. Of course, in this draft, where GMs are saying there may not be much of a difference between #7 and #15, that’s to be expected.

RealGM and ProBasketball News both have the Nets taking 6’7" USC swingman DeMar DeRozan, but the other mocks have him going a lot earlier, ESPN saying he could go fourth.

Rotoworld and College Hoops have them going for Rahway native and Louisville product Earl Clark, a 6’9" power forward with some small forward skills.

ESPN has the Nets taking James Johnson, also a 6’9" combo forward, from Wake Forest. Like Clark, Johnson has been moving around the low lottery positions for a month or so.

Rod Thorn’s hunt for a "moose" has HoopsWorld thinking the Nets will take DeJuan Blair, the undersized but Paul Millsap-like power forward from Pitt. That’s a bit high according to the other mocks.

Both Draft Express and NBADraft.net have the Nets taking guards, Draft Express suggesting Syracuse’s diminutive point guard, Jonny Flynn, and NBAdraft.net saying it could be North Carolina shooting guard Wayne Ellington.

What do we think? We don’t think Thorn is going to use a lottery pick on 6’0" (maybe) point guard, for openers. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it, to use a lottery pick on someone who would be a third string point guard behind Devin Harris and Keyon Dooling? So forget Flynn, really.

Ellington is one of those players who could surprise, either way. He was an important cog in the Tar Heels run for the NCAA championship and a lot of Tar Heel guards have done well in the pro’s. But #11 seems a bit high.

As noted, Blair reminds people of undersized forwards like Millsap and Detroit’s Jason Maxiell (who does seem to have plateaued). Okay, but neither Millsap nor Maxiell had had ACL surgery on both of their knees by the time they turned 20. Blair is getting some early hype for his athleticism, but in our opinion it’s going to take some convincing for an undersized kid with a history of knee problems to be worth a lottery pick. Shareef Abdur-Rahim had knee surgery as a kid too. How’d that work out?

What about DeRozan? Sure, but he’s the type of player who skyrockets up the mocks as he makes his way from workout to workout, his athleticism, deep shooting and personality lighting up GMs’ eyes coast-to-coast. We’d be shocked if he was there at #11…much like we were last year when Brook Lopez, another PAC-10 product, was there at #10. Hmmmm.

That leaves us with Clark and Johnson. Both are 6’9" forwards who seem to have the versatility the Nets could use at the forward position. They’re athletic, tough and can shoot. Neither has Blair’s bulk…or his history of knee problems. Clark is the more polished of the two, Johnson the tougher, at least according to the draftniks. And we know one other thing about each of them. Thorn and Kiki Vandeweghe scouted Johnson when they were in Atlanta for a Nets-Hawks game earlier this year. Vandeweghe, at least, has seen Clark a number of times and Clark IS on the record as saying the Nets are the team he wants to draft him. We like that…a lot.

This is by no means definitive…as we keep saying. Players will go up and down the charts. In 2005, Martynas Andriuškevičius and Chris Taft spent weeks at the very top of the mock drafts. Neither was drafted in the first round and neither are in the NBA now either. Andriuskevicius is playing in Spain. The last anyone heard from Taft he was applying for Philippine citizenship. It may not get that extreme (how could it?) but things will change a lot, we expect.

What’s our advice? First is follow Dumpy’s Draft Rules. They are our Bible. The Dumpster has done a nice job of analysis the last few drafts. Second is if ESPN’s Chad Ford says the Nets are interested in someone, pay attention. He was the first writer to report that the Nets liked Zoran Planinic, Sean Williams and Ryan Anderson. Those are not names he just pulled out of thin air.

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