Vinny Del Negro and Erik Spoelstra may be brand-new head coaches in the NBA who will make some mistakes as they learn the profession. But the new bosses of the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat, respectively, have a lot going for them, too.
They both are taking over teams that are used to being Eastern Conference playoff contenders who had miserable, underachieving seasons. Yet they both still have enough talent on their clubs that improvement appears inevitable.
Plus, they will both get to add a quality rookie. The Bulls and Heat have the top two picks in tonight's NBA draft. Barring a trade or something unexpected, it looks like University of Memphis point guard Derrick Rose will wind up in Chicago, while the Heat will get big man Michael Beasley of Kansas State or star guard O.J. Mayo of USC. All of those three will be prime candidates for the Rookie of the Year award in the 2008-09 campaign.
Here's a look at how the first round could turn out and a little information about the top candidates:
1. Chicago Bulls Derrick Rose (Memphis)
The scouting report: Most feel that Rose will do for his NBA team, most likely the Bulls, what Deron Williams and Chris Paul have done for the Jazz and Hornets make their teams better immediately. The 6-3 point guard makes others around him better and he led the Tigers to the national championship game in his only season as a collegian, averaging 14.9 points and 4.7 assists on a star-studded team.
2. Miami Heat Michael Beasley (Kansas State) The scouting report:
Another player who was one-and-done in college, Beasley is an inside scorer and rebounder, and many feel he is the best player in the draft. Listed at 6-9, he is really smaller than that but is a power forward, and he could compliment Dwyane Wade and Shawn Marion and instantly help Miami return to respectability. However, team president Pat Riley is rumored to not be a big fan of Beasley's. In fact, if the Heat can't trade this pick, they may instead draft Mayo. Beasley averaged 26.2 points and 12.4 rebounds per game while being named the nation's top freshman last season.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves O.J. Mayo (USC)
The scouting report:
Mayo is a tremendously gifted athlete who can do a little bit of everything and at 6-5, figures to play both guard position in the NBA. One knock on him is that he's been treated like a star his whole life, he changed high schools three times and comes across as having some character issues. Still, he proved he could play big-time college basketball in his only season, averaging 20.7 points, 3.3 assists and 1.6 steals per game for the Trojans.
4. Seattle SuperSonics Russell Westbrook (UCLA) The scouting report:
Going fourth to the Sonics may be a bit high for Westbrook, but the point guard's stock has been rising in recent days. He played two solid seasons for the Bruins but is still just 19 years old and looks to have plenty of upside. Westbrook, who is listed at 6-3, averaged 12.7 points and 4.3 assists as a sophomore.
5. Memphis Grizzlies Kevin Love (UCLA) The scouting report:
Westbrook's teammate made a major splash in his only college season. Love, a 6-10 center/power forward, showed he can score (17.5 ppg) and board (10.6 rpg), and he is also a fine passer for a big man, known for outstanding outlet passes. He can score inside and out and has learned about the NBA rigors from his dad, Stan, who played for the Lakers and Washington Bullets.
6. New York Knicks Eric Gordon (Indiana) The scouting report:
Gordon, a 6-4 guard, led the Big Ten in scoring as a freshman last season. He can drive to the basket and draw fouls but also has NBA 3-point shooting range. He made 83.4 percent of his foul shots, which was fifth in his conference.
7. L.A. Clippers Jerryd Bayless (Arizona) The scouting report:
Bayless played more of a shooting guard during his lone college season with the Wildcats, but he's projected as a point guard in the NBA. He averaged a team-high 19.7 points at Arizona to lead the team, becoming the first freshman to do that since former NBA great Sean Elliott in 1985-86.
8. Milwaukee Bucks Joe Alexander (West Virginia) The scouting report:
Alexander played three years of college ball, improving each season. The 6-8 forward led the Mountaineers in scoring (16.9 ppg), rebounding (6.4 rpg) and blocked shots (1.5 bpg) as a junior. Not a great long-distance shooter (made just 26.8 percent of his 3-point attempts last season) but is athletic with a good midrange shot.
9. Charlotte Bobcats D.J. Augustin (Texas) The scouting report:
Augustin is a point guard who earned first-team All-American honors as a sophomore last season with the Longhorns. He averaged 19.2 points and 5.2 assists, which was tops in the Big 12. Has plenty of poise and confidence and made better than 40 percent of his 3-pointers during his two years in college. His height, or lack thereof, may be a problem, as he is listed at just 6-0.
10. New Jersey Nets Danilo Gallinari (Italy)
The scouting report:
Gallinari could be the first non-U.S. college player to be selected. He is a 6-8 forward who averaged a team-high 17.5 points per game last season on his Italian pro team. A good midrange shooter, he is also capable of driving to the basket. Gallinari turns 20 in August. He comes from an athletic family, as his father played pro basketball in Italy as well.
11. Indiana Pacers Brook Lopez (Stanford) The scouting report:
Both he and his twin brother are expected to be drafted in the first round tonight. Brook is expected to go first. He averaged 19.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game for the Cardinal as a sophomore last season. The 7-footer has good inside post moves and is a solid defender.
12. Sacramento Kings Anthony Randolph (LSU) The scouting report:
Randolph enters the draft as an 18-year-old with tremendous upside. The 6-10 forward averaged 15.6 points and 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots during his only college season. He runs the floor well and has good ball-handling skills for a big man.
13. Portland Trail Blazers Alexis Ajinca (France) The scouting report:
Ajinca is a 7-footer who may be a project but possesses enough athleticism that he will likely go midway through the first round of the draft. He is just 20-years old and will likely take a couple of seasons to become a solid NBA big man, but the Trail Blazers can have some patience now that last year's No. 1 big man Greg Oden is healthy and ready to play.
14. Golden State Kosta Koufos (Ohio State) The scouting report:
Kouros, who is a dual citizen of both the U.S. and Greece, had a big season for the Buckeyes in his only season there as Oden's replacement. Koufos, another 7-footer, averaged 14.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game as a freshman and was named third-team All-Big Ten. He was the MVP of the NIT.
15. Phoenix Suns (from Atlanta) Brandon Rush (Kansas) The scouting report:
Rush spent three seasons with the Jayhawks, helping them to the NCAA title as a junior. A 6-6 shooting guard, Rush made 43.5 percent of his 3-pointers during his college career and was a first-team All-Big 12 selection despite just a 13.3 scoring average as a junior. Brandon is the brother of Kareem Rush, who played last season with the Indiana Pacers. He is a strong rebounder for a guard and could see action in the NBA as a small forward as well.
16. Philadelphia 76ers Robin Lopez (Stanford) The scouting report:
Robin is the twin brother of Brook Lopez, who is expected to be selected earlier in the first round of the draft. He's a legitimate 7-footer, like his brother, but he didn't put up as impressive stats, especially on the offensive end. Robin averaged 10.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game as a sophomore last season.
17. Toronto Raptors Marreese Speights (Florida)
The scouting report:
Speights didn't get a whole lot of playing time as a freshman on the Gators' national title year behind guys like Al Horford and Joakim Noah, both of whom were first-round picks a year ago. Made a name for himself as a sophomore, though, averaging 14.5 points and 8.1 rebounds and shooting 62.4 percent from the field. Speights, at 6-10 and 245 pounds, is a big man but has surprising quickness.
18. Washington Wizards Darrell Arthur (Kansas) The scouting report:
Arthur was another major cog for the national champions Jayhawks, averaging 12.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. The 6-9 forward ranked fourth in the Big 12 in field goal accuracy (.543) and seventh in blocked shots (1.3 bpg). Will likely be able to play and defend either forward spot in the NBA.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers Donte Green (Syracuse) The scouting report:
Green put up big numbers for the Orange during his only college season, averaging 17.5 points and 7.2 rebounds. His 620 points as a freshman at Syracuse is second only to current Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony. Green, at 6-11, has long arms and can block shots and rebound.
20. Charlotte Bobcats (from Denver) Roy Hibbert (Georgetown) The scouting report:
Hibbert may well have been an NBA lottery pick had he entered the draft after his junior season. Instead, the 7-2 center went back to school, and his stock has fallen a bit. The Jazz have had him work out for them twice, and there seems to be some mutual interest, but the Hornets liked him, too, and traded for this pick three spots ahead of Utah. Hibbert averaged 13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots as a senior and could be a strong defensive presence.
21. New Jersey Nets (from Dallas) J.J. Hickson (N.C. State) The scouting report:
Hickson averaged 14.8 points per game last season to lead all ACC freshmen in scoring. The 6-9 forward also grabbed 8.5 rebounds per game and led the conference by shooting .591 from the field. He has a strong inside game and can make a midrange jumper but didn't make a single 3-pointer last season.
22. Orlando Magic DeAndre Jordan (Texas A&M) The scouting report:
Jordan is a project but could pay big dividends. The 20-year-old, 7-footer averaged 7.9 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in his only season of college ball. He did make the majority of the shots he took, however, making 61.7 percent of his field goals. A part-time starter, he averaged just 20 minutes per game and might have been better served to play another year or two at the college level.
23. Utah Jazz JaVale McGee (Nevada) The scouting report:
The son of former WNBA player and coach Pamela McGee, this 7-footer has a good basketball bloodline, but he would not work out for teams drafting as late as the Jazz. He averaged 14.1 points and 7.3 rebounds last year as a sophomore for Nevada. Better yet, he blocked 2.2 shots per game and is closer to being an NBA player defensively than he is offensively right now. He's a project that could turn out, but his stock has been falling.
24. Seattle SuperSonics (from Phoenix) Jason Thompson (Rider)
The scouting report:
Thompson was a big fish in a small pond, earning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's player of the year honors as a senior when he averaged 20.4 points and 12.1 rebounds per game. The 6-11 forward works hard and has a solid game both offensively and defensively.
25. Houston Rockets Nicolas Batum (France) The scouting report:
Batum is a 6-8 small forward who may even be able to play shooting guard if need be in the NBA. He has a nice outside jump shot but can also drive to the basket. As a member of the French under-19 team in 2007, he helped his country to a bronze medal, averaging 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds.
26. San Antonio Spurs Serge Ibaka (Congo) The scouting report:
Ibaka is a native of Congo but now calls Spain home. The 6-10 forward looks the part of an NBA player with outstanding leaping ability and quickness. He is only 18 years old, however, and is raw and will need some time to develop. That makes him a perfect candidate for the Spurs.
27. Portland Trail Blazers (from New Orleans) Chris Douglas-Roberts (Memphis) The scouting report:
Douglas-Roberts finished an outstanding college career at Memphis by leading his team in scoring (18.1 ppg) and rebounding (4.1). The 6-7 guard/forward was a consensus first-team All-American in leading the Tigers to the national title game. A polished player already, he could be a steal this late in the draft.
28. Memphis Grizzlies (from L.A. Lakers) Mario Chalmers (Kansas) The scouting report:
Chalmers will likely be the third Kansas player to be selected in the first round tonight. The 6-1 point guard was named the Most Outstanding Player in the 2008 NCAA tourney. He averaged 12.8 points and 4.3 assists as a junior and is a strong defender with quick hands. He also made 47 percent of his 3-point attempts last season.
29. Detroit Pistons Ante Tomic (Croatia) The scouting report:
He's yet another tall, thin 7-foot prospect. He averaged 14.6 points and 7.3 rebounds last season for one of the top professional teams in his native Croatia. He is said to have good ball skills since he grew up playing guard before a late growth spurt. Tomic is a good athlete, but he needs to add bulk and strength.
30. Boston Celtics Courtney Lee (Western Kentucky) The scouting report:
Lee is a four-year player at Western Kentucky, where he was the Sun Belt player of the year as a senior. The 6-5 shooting guard averaged 20.4 points and 1.8 steals per game. He scored 2,238 points during his collegiate career, a 17.6 average per game. Scouts say he has a well-rounded offensive game and is not selfish. He could be a backup to Ray Allen for the NBA champs.