"I can't believe you're leaving me for Oklahoma City."
In less than 12 hours, three Vanderbilt basketball veterans will find out where they'll be hanging their jerseys in 2013. The NBA Draft kicks off tonight at 6 PM Central time, and Jeffery Taylor, John Jenkins, and Festus Ezeli all have good chances to be announced as first-round picks. It will likely be the first time in school history that three players are chosen in the first two rounds.
Where they'll end up is a different story. Yesterday, we chronicled all the different landing spots that various mock drafts have laid out for the trio. Those experts have the guys landing anywhere from the early 20s to the late 30s with battle-tested playoff teams and hopeless lottery squads all making a run at these former Commodores.
Today, we'll focus on where we think Vanderbilt's Big Three will end up. Can these guys all sneak into the first round? Is there a chance that Taylor or Ezeli sneak into the top 20? Will anyone trade up with their eye on a 'Dore? Check out our predictions - and leave us some feedback with your own - in the post below.
Taylor may well climb through the ranks as the draft starts, but if he doesn't I can't see him slipping past some of the best teams in the NBA. Oklahoma City just fought through one of the most athletic NBA Finals in league history, and they'd like to add another high-level athlete to their squad. Taylor would bring an additional defensive presence to fill in behind Kevin Durant. He would also team with Thabo Sefolosha to give the Thunder an imposing tandem on the wings.
Golden State could be another intriguing possibility if they ship Dorell Wright out of town in a trade. Taylor, with his blossoming three-point shot and top-level athleticism, could fill Wright's role right away and put up big numbers in the Warriors' uptempo system. He'd also add some stable defense to a team that desperately needs it.
Boston and Miami would also like to add the Swedish national team member as a reserve wing that they could groom for the future. Cleveland, Atlanta, and Charlotte are also possibilities who could provide more immediate playing time at small forward. The Hawks, who pick 23rd, are probably the first likely landing spot for Taylor. They may be in the market to replace Marvin Williams, though the forward is likely to spend two more years in Atlanta thanks to a player option in 2013-2014.
Jenkins doesn't quite make it into the first round, but he won't slide too far. Washington needs help from 2-4, and their first round pick should influence what they do at 32. The hot rumor right now is that Cleveland is making a run for the 2nd overall pick to snatch Bradley Beal. If Beal is gone, the Wizards would likely go big with their first pick, leaving a hole on the wing. Jenkins would fill in there nicely, and would have the opportunity to fit in right away while splitting time with Jordan Crawford. Crawford/Jenkins could be a solid platoon for the Wiz, as Crawford is the more explosive player but Jenkins provides the shooting dimension that Crawford lacks.
Miami would have been a good fit, but they seem set on adding Ray Allen to the mix and Allen and Jenkins would be a redundant pair. The elder Allen is actually a good comparison for Jenkins, as Allen's age has limited his athleticism but he remains a dangerous shooter and scorer. There's a chance that the Heat bring both players to South Beach and let Jenkins play understudy for a year while acclimating to the game.
Boston could be a possibility as well, but Jenkins hasn't come up much on their radar. They also have defensive specialist Avery Bradley ready to take over Allen's spot at SG. The Bulls, who desperately need a solid presence at the 2, are another possibility with the 29th pick.
Mild upset! Festus Ezeli ends up being the first Commodore picked when the Heat decide to bulk up their front line with a true center that can defend and block shots in the paint. Ezeli has fallen a bit under the radar recently, but his combination of hard work and tremendous physical talent make him a valuable piece to a championship puzzle. Though Ezeli is 23, he still has plenty of room to grow as a player. He'll have the chance to cut his teeth swapping time with Joel Anthony in South Beach.
Oklahoma City could use him as well, and they'll be looking to bolster a frontline that has been propped up by a declining Kendrick Perkins. Cleveland, who could play him alongside Anderson Varejao to create an intimidating defensive force, and Charlotte are also possibilities. Of Vanderbilt's three probable draftees, Ezeli may be the toughest to predict. There are few teams that wouldn't need his strength in the post.
So there are our predictions for tonight's draft. What are yours? Hit us up in the comments section to make your predictions.