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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 25, 2009

NBA: Excluding Oklahoma’s Griffin, draft seems short on quality big men

By Eddie Sefko
The Dallas Morning News

As far as anybody knows, Blake Griffin won’t bring a rabbit’s foot with him to Thursday’s NBA draft.

No four-leaf clover. No horseshoe or wishbone.
But maybe he should.
He won’t need any of those lucky charms to be the No. 1 overall pick. That’s a given. But he should keep something with him during the draft that oozes good karma. After all, if anybody can mess up a sure-fire, dead-solid-perfect No. 1 draft pick, it’s the Los Angeles Clippers.
That should be Griffin’s only worry. The black cloud that never seems to stray far from the Clippers is the only thing that could ruin this moment.
Bad things just seem to happen to the Clippers. But maybe, just maybe, that trend is ready to reverse itself.
At 6-10, Griffin is a freakish athlete and a bruising rebounder. He’s the sort of player who can change the culture of a franchise. At least, that’s the prevailing wisdom. The last incoming talent to arrive with this sort of can’t-miss aura was LeBron James.
If there’s any drama involving Griffin, it’s that his hometown team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, will most assuredly make a strong play to acquire the top pick. Just about everybody in the league expects the Clippers to resist any temptations.
“You can never say never,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy told reporters recently. “If the word ’LeBron’ was spoken by anybody, somebody’s door would open, clearly. There are a few guys in this league that wouldn’t get moved. Most of the times, in the case of a pick like this, 99.9 percent of the time, you keep it.”
Especially when the guy averaged an easy double-double as a sophomore last season.
“He’s a tremendous talent and an even better kid,” Dunleavy says.
Beyond Griffin, there aren’t many big men who will have an impact in their rookie seasons. One that will is Connecticut’s Hasheem Thabeet, the only true center expected to go in the lottery.
The problem with Thabeet is that he’s one of those picks who could make a general manager look really good or really bad.
“He’s so young, and he hasn’t played basketball very long,” Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “He’s got a really good future and could be a really strong shot-blocker.”
Quickly after Thabeet, Arizona’s Jordan Hill (6-10) will be scooped up.
After that, the dropoff is sort of like stepping off the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Ohio State’s B.J. Mullens will go in the middle of the first round, but the jury is out on what sort of impact he’ll have.
Perhaps the biggest question mark is Pittsburgh’s DeJuan Blair. He’s undersized at 6-7, but has some Charles Barkley-sized intrigue about him. When he’s good, he’s very good.
“He’s the wild card of the draft,” Nelson said. “If he went just after No. 10, it wouldn’t shock me. But it wouldn’t shock me if he went 25th, either.”

Ranking the centers and power forwards
Player . . . ...........College . . ...Ht. .....Comment
Blake Griffin ....... Oklahoma ....6-10......May be an immediate star.
Hasheem Thabeet ... UConn........7-3.........His best-case scenario is Dikembe Mutombo.
Jordan Hill............. Arizona.......6-10.......Many teams enamored with him, including Mavericks
B.J. Mullens.......... Ohio State......7-0........Great physical package, but what about his drive?
DeJuan Blair.......... Pittsburgh.......6-7.......Is he Charles Barkley or Tractor Traylor?
Also of note:
James Johnson, Wake Forest; Austin Daye, Gonzaga; Josh Heytvelt, Gonzaga; Victor Claver, Spain; DaJuan Summers, Georgetown; Chinemelu Elonu, Texas A&M.

Spotlight on 22
A look at players who could be available when the Mavericks draft 22nd.
Ht./Wt: 6-9, 230
Notable: He has drawn comparisons to former Mavericks energy man Eduardo Najera. . . . Hansbrough outworks his opponent on a nightly basis. . . . Averaged 20.7 points and 8.1 rebounds as a senior. . . . Can shoot the jumper as well as mix it up inside.