With the news today that OJ Mayo is entering the NBA Draft, all of the key suspects are in place for the Clippers. All except for Beasley and Rose I guess, but I would be completely shocked if they did not declare considering that they appear to be locks to be picked first and second, though not necessarily in that order.
And of course there are lots of other names still undecided, like all of the UCLA guys (Love and Collison have denied the LA Times reports that they are going to declare). But with the Clippers picking somewhere between 1 and 9 (with 5, 6 or 7 being most likely), there are only about seven names that really matter: Beasley, Rose, Brook Lopez, Anthony Randolph and the three combo guards: Mayo, Jerryd Bayless and Eric Gordon.
And not that the Clippers are likely to draft Lopez or Randolph, but the fact that they are in the pool helps simply by providing a big player for teams drafting ahead of the Clippers to take. With the Clippers front court very crowded and their backcourt a shambles, MDsr's talk of picking the 'best player regardless of position' is a load of crap. Assuming one of those four guards is available when they draft, about the only conceivable situation in which they wouldn't take one of them is if they end up second in the lottery, and whoever picks first grabs Rose. Then you have to take Beasley over the other guys. But at this point, I'm convinced that they should take Rose with the number one overall if the Clippers are lucky enough to win the dang thing.
Of course, it's still possible that things will shift more. Gordon has been from the late lottery, to the top three, back down to ten, in the space of three months. But the good news is that, once Rose makes it official, the four guys who appear to fit the Clippers' needs best are all in the available pool.
Mayo had to declare. It's easy enough to say, as my friend Scott did the other night "I think Mayo would really benefit from another year of college - his game would improve." So what? His game will improve in the NBA as well, and likely faster. And in the meantime, he'll be making $3M-$4M. Could his draft stock go up with another season of college ball, so that he would earn even more money? Sure, I suppose so. And it could also go down. Look at Joakim Noah. Or look at OJ Mayo, for that matter. Prior to playing a game for USC, he was projected as the likely first overall pick. One year at USC actually hurt his draft stock, so a second year could hurt more. And of course the real problem is the potential for injury. I've said it before, but the silver lining for Shaun Livingston regarding his knee is that he didn't go to Duke - if he'd suffered that injury in college (he would have been a junior when it happened), it would have cost him untold millions.
Love is, it seems to me, in about the same position as Mayo. His stock is pretty high now, and there's no guarantee that it will go higher with another year in school. Another year of college ball just lets the scouts carp about his lack of athleticism non stop next November through March. He had a great season and a great tournament, and now is the time to declare. Love and his family strike me as pretty savvy folks - they understand all of this, and he'll be in the draft.
Last thing on the draft - the Knicks won their third straight (!) Wednesday night and now have the same number of wins as the Clippers (23). Of course, the Clippers swept the season series (d'oh!), so the Knicks need to win one more to help us out. Given that New York is as hot right now as they've been while the Clippers are almost locks to lose their last four, it could actually happen. Hello, fifth worst record!