Over the years, Chad Ford and Bill Simmons have evolved into the Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez of NBA mock drafts. Every couple of years, they throw on the gloves for a confusing 12-round brawl that leaves both guys bloodied and swollen and fans wondering, "What the hell happened? Who won?" After completing their trilogy (2007, 2008 and 2010), they're climbing into the ring for a fourth time — this time, for a 22-pick mock draft before Thursday's big night. Here's what transpired.
SIMMONS: Chad, I can't believe you wanted this back-and-forth so badly that you agreed to play a road game on Grantland. Don't you realize I'm going to get every call? You might as well be playing in Miami with Danny Crawford, Marc Davis and Gloria Estefan officiating. If I don't like any of your arguments, or if I feel like you're making me look like a schmuck at any point, I'm just going to have one of my editors either sabotage that paragraph or delete it altogether.
FORD: So I can't remind readers about the 2006 draft debate when you were in love with [Editor's note: LaMarcus Aldridge] and hated [Editor's note: Adam Morrison]? That's disappointing.
SIMMONS: No, we're going to skip right to the following year when you mocked me for picking Kevin Durant over Greg Oden! Woo-hoo!!!!!!! I can live off that one for the next 30 years!!!
Anyway, we had Grantland's editors flip a coin and see who's picking first, and you're not going to believe this I won! It's like the 2012 NBA Lottery all over again! I can't believe I won my own lottery in a process that I totally conceived and controlled. Picking first for the New Orleans Hornets with no chance of this being vetoed whatsoever, I'm selecting Anthony Davis, a.k.a. "The Brow."
Here's my question for you, Chad: How untouchable is this pick? Would you say
A. "Completely and utterly untouchable."
C. "Untouchable but we're not hanging up."
D. "It can be touched."
FORD: It's A, Bill.
SIMMONS: Really? Let's say Cleveland called them and said, "We'll give you Kyrie Irving, our no. 4 pick and Anderson Varejao for the Brow and Rashard Lewis's Expiring Contract That Can't Be Traded For Two Months." You're telling me that New Orleans doesn't even at least have a meeting about that offer? That's my favorite fake trade in a long time. For the record, I would turn that one down if I'm the Hornets but I WOULD have a meeting about it.
FORD: Cleveland did offer the Hornets the fourth pick, the 24th pick, the 33rd and 34th pick and got hung up on. I'm told they would put Tristan Thompson (their no. 4 pick last year) in the deal, too. Nothing. Even if they offered Kyrie, I don't think the Hornets budge. Big men like Anthony Davis come along once or twice a decade. I think there's only three players in the NBA right now that teams WOULDN'T trade for Davis: LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul. Normally Dwight Howard and Deron Williams would be in that discussion, too, and so would Derrick Rose. But with Howard and Williams threatening to bolt and Rose's injury woes, I think the Magic, Nets and Bulls would all pull the trigger.
SIMMONS: Damn, this dashes my plans for the next fake trade I wanted to throw at you: Boston getting Davis for JaJuan Johnson and the no. 21 and no. 22 picks. For the record, I found it hard to believe that the Clippers would turn Davis for Chris Paul for about five seconds then I remembered that they just picked up Vinny Del Negro's option, and they're about to hire last year's sideline reporter (Kiki Vandeweghe) as their new GM even though he has the words "Nikoloz Tskitishvili" on his résumé. So you're probably right. But man, putting someone fourth on my "Highest Trade Value" rankings who hasn't even played an NBA minute yet? I'm rattled. Make a pick; I need time to regroup.
FORD: With Charlotte's no. 2 pick, I'm taking Michael Kidd-Gilchrist even though the Bobcats are probably trading this pick to Cleveland for no. 4 and no. 24. If they keep it, I think they're taking Thomas Robinson. If the Cavs get the pick, they're taking Bradley Beal.
Personally, I think Kidd-Gilchrist has a chance to be the second best player in this draft — I especially like him if he lands on a team with a great young point guard like Cleveland. (I'm less bullish if he lands in Charlotte, as he's not the type of player who carries a team on his own yet.) He has more holes in his game than several of the top picks in the draft. He's just a so-so shooter with a hitchy jumper. He's not a great ball handler yet and doesn't really know how to create his own shot. That doesn't scream no. 2 pick.
But he's won at every level (high school, AAU, NCAA) and has a Rondo-eque type of motor and toughness. He's an elite finisher at the rim. He runs the floor as well as anyone in the draft. He can defend at least three positions. He's a gym rat and a relentless worker. Most of the analysts who followed him in high school thought he made major improvements as a freshman in virtually every area. And he's the youngest player in the draft (doesn't turn 19 until late September). Most of the players his age were high school seniors last year. He really has skipped ahead a year. I wrote yesterday that Kidd-Gilchrist "just might be a Gerald Wallace clone, or he might be a saner version of Metta World Peace. But if we are talking ceilings, I think his is Scottie Pippen. Pair him with an elite scorer, and I think he'll have a few rings by the time he retires." Do you agree with that?
SIMMONS: Chad, this pick makes so much sense that I can only assume you mistakenly thought MKG was Slovenian. Everyone keeps saying there's no "sure thing" in this draft after Davis. Why isn't MKG a sure thing? You know what you're getting — he's the most competitive guy in the draft, he's an incredible athlete, his teams win everywhere he goes, he's the prototypical über-athlete swing guy who can defend three positions, and he could absolutely be the second-best or third-best player on a title contender some day.
I'm judging every lottery pick in this draft by one question: "Could you have played in that insanely athletic 2012 Finals I just watched?" We can't say that's where the NBA might be headed because it's already there — we just saw it. And for MKG, the answer is, "Yes, he would have absolutely fit into that Finals and maybe even slowed down Durant or LeBron a little." I don't care that he can't shoot yet. He'll figure it out. I agree with you — Pippen is the right comparison here. But it's his competitiveness that really stands out for me. You stick someone on your team who cares that much and everything else will fall into place. Eventually. Naturally, he'll probably drop to fifth because this continues to be the dumbest professional sports league on the planet.
FORD: I can understand the Wizards passing on him. They are desperate for shooters and Bradley Beal is a great fit there. But there's no excuse for any other team. I'm stunned that the Bobcats can't see what you and I see. Then again every year I'm stunned that the Bobcats can't see what you and I can see with the exception of [Editor's note: deleted] in 2006.
And the Cavs? How do they say no? Kyrie Irving and MKG were teammates in high school. They're going to take Harrison Barnes over MKG? Don't they remember that MKG with a bum ankle dominated Barnes in high school and did it again when the two matched up in Kentucky in December?
SIMMONS: If Barnes goes over Kidd-Gilchrist, we might as well eliminate college basketball as a device to scout potential NBA prospects. Seriously. Let's just dump it. We'll save tens of millions on travel and DVD expenses.
FORD: And don't get me started on the Kings. They have five guys on their roster that care nothing for defense or chemistry and want to jack up 20 shots a night. They finally get a chance at a guy who can make a huge impact on the floor without the ball in his hands and their response is to trade the pick.
SIMMONS: They're the greatest. I wouldn't let Geoff Petrie organize a Grantland office lunch order at this point.
FORD: If Kidd-Gilchrist falls to the Warriors at seven, I think they make the playoffs in 2013.
SIMMONS: That's not fair. You just got the Warriors fans' hopes up — they're sitting there reading this piece and minding their own business, and out of nowhere, you set them up for yet another massive disappointment. The poor Warriors fans even get stomach-punched in hypothetical NBA drafts.
Let's keep moving: With the no. 3 pick for Washington, I'm grabbing Bradley Beal, the silky smooth two-guard who definitely bought Ray Allen's jumper on eBay. I love this pick even though I watched all four of Florida's NCAA Tournament games and never at any point thought to myself, I'm watching the no. 3 pick in June's draft. Is it a red flag when the alleged best scoring guard available from college basketball couldn't average 15 points a game or make 34 percent of his 3s? I'm not trying to be a dick — it's a serious question.
FORD: Hmmm I'm frightened to tell you that Beal's performance in the SEC and NCAA tournament were his best games of the year.
FORD: The 34 percent on 3s is a valid question for everyone that sees those Ray Allen comps and says "What the hell?" Here's the thing on Beal — that Florida team was so dysfunctional all season, Beal was playing at small forward, a position he never played before in his life. He was a ballhandling guard in high school who was best creating his shot off the dribble. In Florida they used him as a spot-up shooter. He never found his rhythm until they put the ball in his hands in the SEC tournament, and then he looked much more like the elite prospect we saw in high school.
Everyone thinks that, returned to the right role, he's Eric Gordon 2.0. Without any other guaranteed superstars in the draft, that's worth pick three and makes him a great fit in Washington, a team without a real shooter or two-guard on their roster.
SIMMONS: I just spent the past 10 minutes watching his YouTube clips, so I'm totally ready to have an opinion here. Are we sure Beal is Gordon 2.0? The best thing about Gordon other than his stroke is that he's built like a tank — he loves driving into the paint, bouncing off bigger guys and finishing around the rim. Beal is a few inches taller; really, he's more like a young Mike Miller, which means we're going to need permission from the Committee of Cross-Racial NBA Comparisons to make that comparison. I just asked them; they said they needed 24 hours.
Quick question in the meantime: We both like MKG more than Beal, but Beal has more value because both Washington (picking third) and Cleveland (picking fourth) want him. Is it fair to say that Washington HAS to flip picks with Charlotte to get him? And if they do, what would they have to trade?
FORD: Washington has the 32nd pick, fairly valuable because there's lots of depth in this year's draft. That would give the Bobcats 31 and 32. But Cleveland's offer is better: 4 and 24. That's why the Cavs are in the lead. I think the Cavs should just stay put and let Kidd-Gilchrist fall into their lap.
SIMMONS: Hmmmmmm. That sounds too easy. Give me one second to pretend I'm running Charlotte — I need a smoking-hot Cuban fiancée, a stiff cocktail, a Cuban cigar and five yes-men nodding at everything I say. (Hold on.) And we're good. OK, here's what I tell Washington — "I'll swap picks with you, but over the next five years, I have the right to swap first-rounders with you one time. Otherwise, I'm flipping Beal to Cleveland for 4 and 24." That reminds me, make Cleveland's no. 4 pick.
FORD: With Davis, MKG and Beal off the board, I take Harrison Barnes. His biggest problem is perception. Coming out of high school he looked like he could be the next Kobe Bryant. He hasn't been anything like Kobe.
SIMMONS: You just won the ESPY for "Understatement of the Year."
FORD: The haters have come out of the woodwork for him. But Barnes is a special talent. He's got great size for his position, is an excellent athlete and has a very good jump shot. He's also got a great basketball IQ and isn't afraid to take big shots. He should really benefit playing alongside Irving in Cleveland, or being Charlotte's alpha dog if the Bobcats make a move here. His best comp is probably Indiana's Danny Granger, but I do believe he has more upside.
SIMMONS: Agree with the logic, agree with the pick as it applies to Cleveland it's just hard for me to believe that Thomas Robinson or Andre Drummond don't have more value than Barnes, someone who legitimately soured everyone following college basketball at least a little last season. (Even three months later, it's hard to shake Barnes's tournament stink — you'd need a full tomato juice bath to do it.) I don't like taking Barnes here nearly as much as what I might be able to get in a trade. What could the Cavs get for no. 4 if Beal and MKG were off the board? Could they get Houston's no. 14 and no. 18 picks AND Chandler Parsons? You're not making up nearly enough fake trades today, Chad. Did you take too many Fake Trade Beta-Blockers today or something?
FORD: Sure, they could get that. But dropping that far down in the draft — not sure that's what they want. I think Cleveland either moves up or stays put. They had Barnes ranked no. 2 on their Big Board all last year, he's good friends with Kyrie Irving and he adds a scorer on a team that needs scorers. Take away the hype and Barnes is a solid player who averages 17-20 ppg in the NBA. At no. 4, that's not bad.
SIMMONS: He's good friends with Kyrie Irving? That changes everything! I definitely want to spend my no. 4 pick on someone who could play video games with my best player. By the way, I gave serious thought to offering you an "If Harrison Barnes averages 20 points a game in the NBA, I will swim from Los Angeles to Hawaii to take you out to dinner there" wager before realizing that you couldn't offer me a comparable reward. Unless you gave me full custody of Pavel Podkolzin. Is he still living in your basement?
FORD: How about I agree to wear an Adam Morrison mustache for a year? Start training.
SIMMONS: Could you do that anyway? Why do we need a wager to make that happen?
Moving on to Sacramento's no. 5 pick, we might make some history here, Chad. Even though it would be foolish to overpay in a trade for someone like Andre Drummond (who has all the textbook Thabeet/Kwame/Darko red flags), but you know someone might only Geoff Petrie is the one trading the pick, which means we might be headed for a double rainbow of dumbness. After all, Petrie was the guy who dumped a mildly annoying contract (Beno Udrih) for a mildly disastrous contract (John Salmons) so he could move back three spots and make the worst lottery pick of the 2011 draft (Jimmer Fredette). He's capable of anything. That makes me wonder if we could see a trade like this: Detroit deals Tayshaun Prince (expires 2015) and the no. 9 pick to Sacramento for the no. 5 pick and Salmons's contract (expires 2015). Sacramento stays in the top nine and adds an unselfish veteran swingman who won't really help them because it's not like they can compete for a title; Detroit sneaks into the top five and rolls the dice with a Drummond/Monroe tandem that will eventually fail. Everyone loses!
FORD: Agree that Petrie is doing the GM equivalent of impaired driving with this pick. Kings fans are watching, horrified, as he weaves back and forth across the road. The question isn't whether he collides into the telephone pole it's when. And no, Joe Dumars already drafted Darko. He's not going to move up to do it again. At no. 9? Maybe, but Drummond is much safer at 9 than at 5.
SIMMONS: You're right, this is crazy let's just do something sane. With the fifth pick for Sacramento, I'm taking Thomas Robinson a.k.a. the rich man's Carl Landry. Stick him with DeMarcus Cousins and, at the very least, you'll be pounding the boards and making opponents miserable every game. But if the Kings can get an offer like "Parsons and the 14th/18th picks" or "Rudy Gay straight up" or even "Andre Iguodala straight up" for this spot, they should grab it. You know, unless MKG is sitting there.
Oh, god. They're going to screw this up, aren't they?
FORD: Love the Robinson pick. I'm one who actually thinks he'll be a better pro than people give him credit for.
SIMMONS: Me too. I like him.
FORD: Not only does he have an NBA body and athletic ability, but he's taller than everyone gave him credit for (so we can quit calling him undersized) and I think he plays as hard as anyone in the draft not named MKG. The Kings desperately need players like that, so, of course, this pick will never happen.
SIMMONS: It's too bad he's not good friends with Kyrie Irving — he could have gone fourth.
FORD: With the sixth pick I'm going with Damian Lillard. I know point guards from Weber State aren't lottery picks very often, but I'm sold on this kid as a sort of Jay Williams before he mangled his ankle in a motorcycle accident.
SIMMONS: That comparison needs to be massaged a little. What about "Jay Williams coming out of Duke" or even "Another Jay Williams — not the guy who allegedly shot his chaffeur, the other one?"
FORD: I'll keep tinkering with it. But Lillard is a great athlete, has good size for his position, shoots better than 40 percent from 3, gets to the line and can really see the floor. Not only that, he's a humble kid, a hard worker and everyone that has coached, played or worked with him raves about his leadership ability. He's going to have to make the transition from being a primary scorer to more of a distributor, but if you watched him at Weber State, you know he is a willing passer and isn't a volume guy. He just does what it takes to win. The Blazers have struggled to find a legit point guard in forever — I think Lillard could be that guy.
SIMMONS: So we have Drummond falling to the poor Warriors fans at no. 7? This is terrible! They already did the Kwame Brown thing; now they have to do it again? I want to make fun of this Lillard pick for all the obvious reasons — he went to Weber State, turns 22 next month, went to Weber State, is more of a shooting point guard than a point guard, went to Weber State, had his stock boosted by a supposedly amazing workout, and, of course, went to Weber State — but his YouTube clips were pretty impressive. Seems like he has 25-foot range easy. At the very least, he could be the next Jimmer Fredette. (Cut to Kings fans groaning, "Too soon.") But I have to make the following point
Let's say Austin Rivers shocked everyone by picking Weber State over Duke last year, then stayed there and torched the Big Sky Conference for the next four seasons. Here were Rivers's numbers in his only Duke season (at age 19).
2011-12: 15.5 PPG, 2.1 APG, 3.4 RPG, 43.3% FG, 37% 3FG.
Here were Lillard's numbers at Weber State
2008-09: 11.5 PPG, 2.9 APG, 3.9 RPG, 43% FG, 37% 3FG
2009-10: 19.9 PPG, 3.6 APG, 4.0 RPG, 43% FG, 39% 3FG
2010-11: 17.7 PPG, 3.3 APG, 3.8 RPG, 44% FG, 35% 3FG
2011-12: 24.5 PPG, 4.0 APG, 5.0 RPG, 47% FG, 41% 3FG
Adding that Rivers was one of THE top high school recruits last year, you're telling me Rivers couldn't have done better at Weber State than Lillard did? Better pedigree, better freshman year what am I missing? Why take Lillard over Rivers when Rivers is 25 months younger?
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.
SIMMONS: Speaking of toxic, I can't pass on Andre Drummond for Golden State's no. 7 pick. It's just too perfect. Three months ago, I covered Golden State's 60 steps to push its fan base to the point that owner Joe Lacob got lustily booed on Chris Mullin Night. Tanking the last month of the 2012 season while adamantly pretending they weren't tanking — that was Step No. 61. Ending up with a potential heartbreaker like Drummond as the fruit of their tanking labors — that's Step No. 62. It's destiny. I love how much I hate this pick.
Quick question: I know it makes too much sense, but if Drummond is the last "blue-chipper" sitting here, why wouldn't the Warriors move backward and grab two first-rounders from Houston (14 and 18) or Boston (21 and 22)? Everyone agrees it's an especially deep draft, and that someone taken in the teens or even the early 20s might end up being one of the draft's best picks. Why not double your odds on striking gold over rolling the dice on Kwame 2.0? Isn't that what Bill Belichick would do? (Is it too late to bring Belichick into Golden State's war room?) Or do you think Drummond is worth the risk at this specific point?
FORD: If the draft actually plays out that way and Barnes and MKG don't slide, they may very well do that. They really wanted a starting-caliber small forward and Drummond goes against everything owner Joe Lacob says he wants (players with great motors who play hard all the time). With that said, I wonder if we are being too hard on Drummond. He's very young, has the best NBA body/athleticism in a big man we've seen since Dwight Howard and at the very minimum should be able to rebound and block shots at the NBA level.
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