2006 Mock NBA Draft

Now that the selection order has been set for the entire first round of the 2006 NBA draft, it is now time for my annual mock draft column that will, not only predict the players that will be selected in order, but will also provide a quick glimpse into each team’s needs as they begin their respective building processes for the 2006-07 season.

Although the upcoming 2006 NBA draft may not have one singular player who can be described as an immediate franchise-altering difference-maker who can turn around the fortunes of a franchise in their rookie season, this draft does feature several players who could become legitimate stars at some point in their respective careers.

Now before I go any further let me say that the NBA draft, now more than ever, has been altered forevermore with the successful influx of players playing in professional leagues that literally span the globe. From Europe to South America and Africa, foreign players – and their increasingly unpredictable draft selections – have changed the face of the NBA draft from here to eternity.

No longer does the majority of the draft consist of proven American collegiate players – or even the overwhelming injection of young U.S. players who were making the leap to the league directly out of high school over the past decade or so.
The 2006 NBA draft will be the first of its kind – a mixture of several proven collegiate players, along with a strong mix of collegiate underclassmen with potential, as well as a unique blend of both, established foreign players and quite a few more who have potential brimming up to their respective eyebrows.

Having shared that explanation, here is a look at my mock draft for the upcoming 2006 NBA draft.

1. Toronto Raptors – Andrea Bargnani (Italy, 7-0, 225, PF, 20)
Bryan Colangelo’s rebuilding job as president and general manager of the Toronto Raptors got a lot easier when the Raptors unexpectedly ended up winning the lottery and the right to make the first pick of the upcoming NBA draft later this summer. Now, whether the Raps trade it or not remains to be seen. But if they keep the pick, it looks like Colangelo will use it on Bargnani who has good footwork and soft hands. He’ll have to get stronger but he is seven feet tall and has been compared to Dirk Nowitzki. By all accounts, Bargnani is a can’t-miss talent who will need another year or two before he really blossoms. It the Raptors can wait for him to develop, Bargnani may the answer to their dreams.

2. Chicago Bulls (via New York Knicks) – LaMarcus Aldridge (Texas, 6-10, 240, PF, So.)
Aldridge, who deservedly, gets a lot of comparisons to the Knicks’ Channing Frye is considered the top big man prospect in the country. He is long and fast and has excellent hands for his size. He can also shoot it decently out to about 15 feet. He’s very good n the low block and I think he has a chance to really be a star in this league. On the other hand, he developed a reputation in high school for being soft and can disappear at times. He’s also going to have to bulk up a little bit to bang with the big boys in the NBA. However, I think Aldridge may be too good to pass up – especially if he keeps improving like he did last season. This pick is a no-brainer for the Bulls who need more frontcourt help to go along with their exciting guards and wing players.

3. Charlotte Bobcats – Tyrus Thomas (LSU, 6-9, 229, PF, Fr.)
Simply put, it looks like Thomas is going to become an absolute beast in the NBA. I know it’s an old football clichÃ?©, but Thomas is agile, mobile and certainly hostile – especially when he is attacking the basket. Thomas has a great touch out to 15 feet and is as explosive as any low-post collegiate player I have seen in quite some time. Thomas needs to bulk up a little, but other than that, he is clearly a polished player who could actually become the number one pickoff the NBA draft. The Bobcats need another frontcourt and Thomas is the obvious choice.

4. Portland Trailblazers – Adam Morrison (Gonzaga, 6-8, 205, SF, Jr.)
Forget the fact that I could outrun Morrison in a footrace even at my advanced age. Larry Bird couldn’t outrun my three-year-old son Emmanuel when he was in his prime and certainly couldn’t out-jump him. I love the way Morrison plays the game, which is eerily reminiscent of Larry Legend. Don’t get me wrong, he’s got a long way to go to get to that point if ever, but I think everyone associated with the games knows Morrison is a special player who, like Bird, is very cerebral in beating opponents – even those who are more athletically gifted. Morrison’s shooting ability is nearly unrivaled – even in the NBA and he will make an immediate impact. Of course, his lack of foot speed will have to be either addressed or disguised when he does get in the league. Other than that, I think Morrison, depending on minutes, could very well average about 16 points a game this season if not more – with the right team of course. Whether that is Portland or not remains to be seen, but they should certainly have plenty of minutes available.

5. Atlanta Hawks – Marcus Williams (UConn, 6-3, 205, PG, Jr.)
The Hawks need a point guard and Williams clearly has a feel for the game. This young lefty has the potential to be one of the best point guards in the game for a long time to come. Williams has a killer crossover that he uses to get by his man on the perimeter and also uses a crafty floater over big men when he gets in the lane. Williams need to work on protecting the ball a little better, but I believe that will come as he matures. All in all, Williams is a player who has the potential to be an unbelievable player at some point in the near future.

6. Minnesota Timberwolves – Rudy Gay (UConn, 6-9, 222, SF, So.)
I personally saw Gay play disinterested and at times, disappear altogether. However, when Gay does bring it, it’s easy to see what he offers. He’s a very versatile player who does just about everything offensively well. Gay runs the floor well and can be very tough to defend. He really does have a well-rounded offensive arsenal. Gay is also a very good passer and an unselfish player – maybe to a fault. Gay is still very young and inexperienced, but his upside is a big as any player’s in the entire draft. If I’m the T-Wolves I take Gay and pray that he develops into the next KG – especially since the original could or could not be departing at any given moment.

7. Boston Celtics – Patrick O’Bryant (Bradley, 7-0, 260, C)
Is O’Bryant the next Brad Daugherty? The Celtics had better pray that he is. At the very least, I expect him to be a very solid pro that could average a double-double throughout the course of his career. O’Bryant has a good touch on his shot and is a solid free throw shooter who works hard to establish position in the low post. He has also developed some solid post moves but is still getting used to his body and learning what he’s capable of and certainly needs to get a mean streak on the court. O’Bryant has a huge upside, not to mention the fact that he is seven feet tall. The C’s need a center to go along with their other young talented frontcourt players and O’Bryant looks like a legitimate lottery pick at this point.

8. Houston Rockets – Shelden Williams (Duke, 6-9, 250, PF, Sr.)
The thing I like about Williams is the fact that he knows what he does well and sticks to it. He’s an inside banger with a no-nonsense approach, which is exactly what the Rockets need. Four years at Duke has helped to provide him with some of the best fundamentals in the game. Even though he’s only 6-8 his wingspan allows him to play a lot bigger and he should be able to score in the low post with some sort of consistency. On the other hand, Williams doesn’t do anything else but play in the low post. He needs to work on his outside shooting and ball handling. However, Williams should be solid at the very least and would help Houston in the rebounding department immensely.

9. Golden State Warriors – Rodney Carney (Memphis, 6-7, 205, SF, Sr.)
Carney reminds me of the New Jersey Nets’ Richard Jefferson and is certainly a player the Warriors could use. He is one of the most athletic players in all of college basketball and has a huge upside. Carney is a versatile player and blankets defenders with his long arms and quick feet. Like a lot of these young players, he also needs to add strength and alter his game for the pro level. Carney also needs to get a get a little tougher on the court sometimes and not rely so much on his vast amount of athleticism.

10. Seattle SuperSonics – Hilton Armstrong (UConn, 6-11, 245, PF/C, Sr.)
Armstrong’s strengths are that he is a legitimate 6’11 big man with a wingspan that allows him to play bigger and big time shot blocker who can run the floor. He also has great hands, catches everything and rebounds well and is a good passer. On the other hand, Armstrong is not very polished on the offensive end and many times, gets caught making mistakes in defensive switches. If you’re drafting on potential, Armstrong’s is as potentially productive as anyone in the entire draft and the Sonics, who are in need of frontcourt help in the worst way should look long and hard at him.

11. Orlando Magic – Brandon Roy (Washington, 6-5, 195, SG, Sr.)
The Magic could use a young shooting guard to pair with the burgeoning Jameer Nelson at the point and should draft Roy, the 2005-06 Pac-Ten Player of the year. Roy is also a cerebral player who makes excellent decisions and understands the game better than a lot of veteran NBA players. He is a good ball handler and has improved his outside shot immensely in the last year. Roy may not be a great leaper or thunderous dunker; all he does is continuously get the job done. He may not be on the board when the Magic make their selection, but if he is, they can make this pick blindfolded.

12. New Orleans Hornets – Josh Boone (UConn, 6-10, 237, F/C, Jr.)
The Hornets need more frontcourt players and Boone is a long, explosive big man who is the definition of a blue-collar guy who does all the dirty work to help his team win. He has a great attitude, plays hard and by all accounts, wants to improve. He is limited offensively and struggles occasionally at the free throw line, but he is certainly coach-able and has room for improvement. Boone could grow with his young teammates in New Orleans without much pressure for the first couple of years.

13. Philadelphia 76ers – Randy Foye (Villanova, 6-4, 205, SG, Sr.)
The Sixers need a young point guard in the worst way and could certainly use Foye who could potentially turn out to be the steal of the entire draft. I saw Foye up close and personal for the majority of his career in Philadelphia and I can unequivocally say he may be the best point guard in the entire draft. He is a great ball handler and strong finisher capable of taking the ball all the way to the rack in traffic. Foye also has a very strong body and has routinely been able to physically overpower opponents. Foye can score too and is capable of a scoring outburst at any time. Foye may not be the classic point guard, but neither was Billups when he entered the league. The Sixers could keep Foye in the “City of Brotherly Love,” but that would be the smart thing to do so they probably won’t do it.

14. Utah Jazz – Maurice Ager (Michigan State, 6-5, 180, SG, Sr.)
The Jazz need a shooting guard in the worst way and I really think Ager has a chance to surprise a lot of people. This kid can de downright explosive when he wants to be and always seems to raise his play in big games. Ager is a good outside shooter with range out to the three-point line and has been described as a hard worker who has shown steady improvement over his four years at Michigan St. A lot of people think he is undersized at 6-4 for the 2guard position but that’s exactly how tall Dwayne Wade is too and I don’t see him having any problems.

15. New Orleans (via Milwaukee Bucks) – JJ Redick (Duke, 6-4, 190, SG, Sr.)
Redick is going to come in and instantly improve all of his low post teammates with his outside shooting ability. I know a lot of people have looked hard to find every chink in his high-profile armor, but I say Redick is going to come in firing and use his improved mid-range game and make an instant difference. Of course he needs a little more foot speed and he could stand to improve his ball handling and passing, but Redick is going to come into the NBA with a shooting ability that is nearly unmatched – by anyone on the planet – let alone in the NBA. The main thing I like abut Redick though, is the chip he carries on his shoulder. Don’t sleep – this kid does have a mean streak and I suspect he will unleash it on several unwitting teams next season. Boston many not be the place for Redick, but I can’t see New Orleans passing up on his shooting ability if they get a chance to nab him.

16. Chicago Bulls – Cedric Simmons (NC State, 6-9, 225, PF, So.)
Simmons is a talented big man with great length and fluidity. He is also a tremendous shot blocker due to his huge wingspan (7’4″) and quick leaping ability. Simmons is still developing offensively but lacks any real go-to moves. Simmons can be as good as he want to – if he puts the work in – and the Bulls definitely need more frontcourt help to beat the Detroit Pistons in the ultra-competitive eastern conference.

17. Indiana Pacers -Ronnie Brewer (Arkansas, 6-7, 220, G/F, Jr.)
The Pacers need a point guard and could select Temple’s Mardy Collins, however, if Brewer is on the board here, the Pacers may want to take the athletic forward. Brewer is very reminiscent of the Dallas Mavericks’ Marquis Daniels – and we all know how he turned out now don’t’ we? He is a typical swingman though his lack of outside shooting consistency makes him a little better suited for the small forward position. Brewer is a great rebounder and an aggressive defender who forces a ton of steals and should improve as he adjusts to the pro game. The Pacers certainly need another backcourt player or wingman and Brewer fits the bill.

18. Washington Wizards – Shawne Williams (Memphis, 6-9, 225, SF, Fr.)
At 6-9, Williams can play four positions and really understands how to play the game. I think Williams could potentially be one of the best players to come out of this draft although he does need to develop defensively. Overall, I really like the versatility Williams provides and Lord knows, the Wizards need some athleticism in the worst way. Their defense is just atrocious.

19. Sacramento Kings – Mardy Collins (Temple, 6-6, 205, PG, Sr.)
Collins is another Philly player I have seen for quite a number of years. First, at Simon Gratz High School and later at Temple University. At 6-6 Collins has great size for a point guard and he has shown he has the ability to run the show from the point guard position. Collins is a very polished player who doesn’t try to be too flashy or make spectacular plays. All he does is keep it simple and effective. Coming out of John Chaney’s program also helped Collins to become the great defensive player that he is as well. Collins needs to work on his perimeter shooting a bit, but other than that, he is certainly a “safe” selection as far as fundamentals. The Kings, who are building their team around the immense defensive talents of the mercurial Ron Artest, would be wise to ad Collins as a backup to Mike Bibby.

20. New York Knicks (via Denver Nuggets) – Kyle Lowry (Pennsylvania, 6-0, 195 PG, So.)
The Knicks need so many things, it’s uncertain what they will do here but head coach Larry Brown wants a new point guard and Lowry is his kind of player. Yes, he needs to improve on his outside shot, but so did Eric Snow and we all know how much Brown loves him. If New York goes point guard here, Lowry is the wise selection.

21. Phoenix Suns (via Los Angeles Lakers) – Aaron Gray (Pittsburgh, 7-0, 275, C)
Speaking of a team in need of size. The Suns could use the late blooming Gray in the worst way. At 7-0, 270 pounds, Gray has tremendous size and strength and rebounds the ball very well. He also has solid fundamentals and good mechanics shooting the ball. Of course he lacks great agility and body control, but that should all come together on a few years as he gains more coordination of his body. This selection is a no-brainer for the Suns.

22. New Jersey Nets (via Los Angeles Clippers) – Saer Sene (7-0, 235, C, Senegal)
The Nets could use more frontcourt help and Sene is an absolutely jaw dropping physical specimen with a rare combination of size, length, strength, athleticism and mobility. He runs the floor well, has great hands and can rebound. He still doesn’t have much offensive game since he only began playing basketball in 2003 but Sene has absolutely great potential that he may be able to fulfill in a couple of years.

23. New Jersey Nets – Paul Millsap (Louisiana Tech, 6-8, 245, PF, Jr.)
Millsap is a Malik Rose clone whose strengths are rebounding, long arms, good strength and a leaping ability that allows him to play bigger than his actual size. His size is however is also his biggest detriment. He is listed at 6-8 but many think he is 6-7 at best. His free throw shooting is below average also but Millsap has potential even as an undersized low post player. Millsap led the nation in rebounding as a freshman and sophomore and still has plenty of room to improve and the Nets sure need frontcourt help for their fantastic young big man, Nenad Kristic.

24. Memphis Grizzlies – Quincy Douby (Rutgers, 6-3, 195, SG, Jr.)
Douby is an absolutely lights out long distance shooter and has a great feel for the offensive end of the game. Douby is also an excellent free throw shooter and has gotten stronger body-wise but still could stand to bulk up some more. He’s not a true point guard so he is small for a two guard, which means he could be a defensive liability at some point on the next level. However, I think Douby will shoot his way into the hearts of some franchise and will stay there for quite some time.

25. Cleveland Cavaliers – Tiago Splitter (Brazil, 7-0, 240, PF, 21)
Whether Splitter makes the jump to the NBA right away or decides to play in Brazil for another year or two is the main question here. This talented 7-footer has plenty of talent – and room to grow. The Cavs certainly can use all of the frontcourt help they can acquire, especially with incumbent center Zydrunas Ilgauskas beginning to show signs of slowing down, so this may be a match made in heaven.

26. L.A. Lakers (via Miami Heat) – Rajon Rondo (Kentucky, 6-1, 175, PG, So.)
The Lakers need a point guard badly and Rondo is a lightning quick one who can penetrate the lane seemingly at will. He has a scorer’s mentality, but also passes the ball well especially on the dribble drive and has great ball handling skills, which are absolutely lethal when combined with his quickness. The young player still needs to develop a better basketball understanding and could stand to put on some weight. Rondo could be a huge sleeper though and the answer to L.A.’s point guard problem in another season or two.

27. Phoenix Suns – Richard Roby (Colorado, 6-5, 190, SG, So.)
Roby was one of the top shooters in the college game and is a prototypical 2-guard for the NBA. His mid range game is very advanced and Roby picks up a lot of steals with his great speed and anticipation. Roby still needs to show the passion and hunger to play up to his abilities every time out. He is one of those players that are so gifted athletically – and the game comes so easily to him- that he makes the mistake of thinking he can get by on natural ability alone. However, he would be a perfect fit in Mike D’Antoni’s high-powered offense.

28. Dallas Mavericks – Kevin Pittsnogle (West Virginia, 6-11, 255, F/C, Sr.)
Pittsnogle is the best shooting big man in the draft and better than about three-fourths of the “bigs” currently playing in the NBA. He has proven time and again that he can, not only knock down shots from the outside with consistency, but also big shots in big game situations. Pittsnogle certainly isn’t a great interior presence on either end of the floor and lacks quickness and agility, but he should make some team happy with his ability to stretch defenses with his outside shooting ability. Yeah, I know, the Mavs have a certain guy by the name of Dirk Nowitzki. Now, they’ll have two seven footers who shoot “threes” like they’re lay-ups.

29. Knicks (via San Antonio Spurs) – Oleg Pecherov, PF, Ukraine
Pecherov is an athletic European with a nice inside/outside game. He supposedly plays very well on the perimeter and has a jump shot out past 20 feet. Pecherov isn’t very athletic and could stand to improve his foot-speed. Pecherov is another young player with a huge upside and the Knicks could certainly use a huge dose of both.

30. Blazers (via Detroit Pistons) – Hasaan Adams (Arizona, 6-4, 220, SG, Sr.)
I hate to compare anyone to Ruben Patterson, but I think Adams is as close talent-wise to the enigmatic head case as any player I’ve seen. Adams just explodes off the floor with an unreal vertical leap and is arguably the best dunker in the nation. He also plays much bigger than his 6’4″ frame and has worked hard at becoming more than “just a dunker.” Adams will most likely be an undersized 2-guard, but his skills translate more to the small forward position. He also doesn’t have what I would call NBA 3-point range but could help the young Blazers with his athleticism alone.

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