By Josh Cook
John Wall helped turn around the fortunes of the University of Kentucky men's basketball program in one year.
Washington Wizards executives and fans are hoping Wall can work some similar magic on their franchise.
The former UK point guard is almost assured to be the No. 1 pick by the Wizards in Thursday night's NBA Draft. And he won't be the only local name called. As many as four of Wall's former Wildcat teammates could go in the draft's first round, while former University of Louisville big man Samardo Samuels will likely be taken in the first or second round.
With less than 24 hours until Wall's name is called (TV coverage begins at 7 p.m. on ESPN) I'm unveiling my mock draft first round with analysis of the Top 10 picks, as well as the local selections.
1. Washington Wizards - John Wall, G, Kentucky. The surest thing since Paris Hilton on prom night.
2. Philadelphia 76ers - DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C, Kentucky. Wildcats go 1-2 in the Draft?! This is an upset of sorts because everybody and their brother has the Sixers taking Evan Turner, but this could very well happen. Philly's trade last week of center Samuel Dalembert could open the door for it to take Cousins, who is one of the most coveted, yet most questioned, player in this draft. He could go anywhere from second to sixth.
3. New Jersey Nets - Derrick Favors, F, Georgia Tech. He'll be a nice addition to a frontcourt that already includes center Brooke Lopez and former Louisville star Terrence Williams, and could possibly add free agent LeBron James.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves - Evan Turner, G, Ohio State. The T-Wolves, who haven't had the best draft history (see Ricky Rubio last year), will be very excited to grab the former Buckeye.
5. Sacramento Kings - Wesley Johnson, F, Syracuse. The Kings probably would've taken Greg Monroe last week given the fact that the franchise has always loved smooth-passing big men (see Vlade Divac, Brad Miller and Chris Webber), but they acquired Dalembert from the Sixers so they'll likely be looking for some more offense. And Johnson can give them that.
6. Golden State Warriors - Greg Monroe, F, Georgetown. Don Nelson loves big men who have a penchant for passing, and Monroe does.
7. Detroit Pistons - Ekpe Udoh, F, Baylor. There is a possibility that they'll trade up to get Cousins, but if they don't they'll have to settle for the Bears' big man who had a solid NCAA Tournament.
8. L.A. Clippers - Al-Farouq Aminu, F, Wake Forest. Although the Clippers rarely make a smart decision on draft day it'll be hard for them to screw up if Aminu is still available.
9. Utah Jazz - Luke Babbitt, F, Nevada. Jerry Sloan loves big men who can shoot. Kansas center Cole Aldrich and Butler's Gordon Hayward are also possibilities here.
10. Indiana Pacers - Ed Davis, F, North Carolina. North Carolina North? The Pacers follow up last year's first-round selection of one Tar Heels big man (Tyler Hansbrough) by taking another one.
11. New Orleans Hornets - Xavier Henry, G, Kansas.
12. Memphis Grizzlies - Patrick Patterson, F, Kentucky. The Grizzlies need to bolster their bench and Patterson, who can play multiple positions, would do that right away.
13. Toronto Raptors - Larry Sanders, F, VCU.
14. Houston Rockets - Cole Aldrich, C, Kansas.
15. Milwaukee Bucks - Gordon Hayward, F, Butler.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves - Paul George, F, Fresno State.
17. Chicago Bulls - James Anderson, G, Oklahoma State.
18. Oklahoma City Thunder - Daniel Orton, C, Kentucky. The Miami Heat have apparently traded this pick to the Thunder along with guard Daequan Cook. The guess here is that they don't want anyone else to get their hands on Orton, a local product.
19. Boston Celtics - Avery Bradley, G, Texas.
20. San Antonio Spurs - Elliot Williams, G, Memphis.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder - Eric Bledsoe, G, Kentucky. The trade with the Heat to get the 18th pick gives the Thunder an extra chance to reunite the former Big Blue teammates. Just call Oklahoma City Lexington South. And call it five UK players taken in the top 21, not too shabby.
22. Portland Trail Blazers - Kevin Seraphin, F/C, France.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves - Hassan Whiteside, F/C, Marshall.
24. Atlanta Hawks - Jordan Crawford, G, Xavier.
25. Memphis Grizzlies - Dominique Jones, G, South Florida.
26. Oklahoma City Thunder - Damion James, F, Texas.
27. New Jersey Nets - Armon Johnson, G, Nevada.
28. Memphis Grizzlies - Devin Ebanks, F, West Virginia.
29. Orlando Magic - Quincy Pondexter, F, Washington.
30. Washington Wizards - Samardo Samuels, F, Louisville. We'll throw 'Mardo a bone here, but apparently he has performed well in his pre-Draft workouts. Plus the Wizards need help at just about every position and Samuels is able-bodied.
|Calipari doesn't expect Orton or Bledsoe back; defends academic commitment [Sports]|
|Historic night for UK basketball [Sports]|
|UK pros vs Dominican Republic National Team - Round 2 KNOCKOUT! [Sports]|
|NCAA Tournament: Elite Eight good calls, bad calls|
|UK pros vs Dominican Republic National Team - Round 1 [Sports]|
|NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16 analysis|
|UK Beats U of L 73-66|