1) Portland Trailblazers - Greg Oden, C, Ohio State
credit: u. texas photos
2) Seattle Supersonics - Kevin Durant, PF, Texas
That concludes the easy portion of our draft, and I'll start patting myself on the back for this right now. There is no reason for a team with LaMarcus Aldridge to take Kevin Durant over a true natural center like Oden.
The bigger fallout of these two picks is what the long-term effects will be on the roster. For Portland, Zach Randolph looks like a lock to be dealt. Not only is his motivation in question, but he has a huge contract and despite how good he is, Blazers management seems disenchanted. And if you are looking to deal him for sixty cents on the dollar, Kevin Pritchard, may I suggest you look no further than the Houston Rockets? Rafer Alston can sit behind Jarret Jack and play his true role of 12 minute point guard, Juwan Howard can be the consumate role model and all-around good guy while used in a bench role, John Lucas can be your third point guard for when you realize Rafer Alston sucks (Warning: strategy may not work if you employ Jeff Van Gundy), and Vassilis Spanoulis was given a raw deal and may yet be a decent combo guard in the league. You can have those four and we'll take Randolph and Dan Dickau's contract. Probably not a deal that goes down without the Rockets throwing in their first/future first round pick, which I'd wait to see who they sign with their MLE before committing to that; this is a deep draft. However, it would give the Rockets the third great player that they need to truly compete with San Antonio and Dallas.
Rockets wet dream ideas aside, what about to New Jersey for Richard Jefferson? The Nets have clearly proven that they can't get over the hump with the personnel they have available, Randolph can still run a little and would give them the big man they need to win those half-court battles that are the standard with Detroit and Chicago in the picture. Meanwhile, Jefferson and Brandon Roy would be a solid pair of slashers and compliments to Oden and Aldridge down low, with Jarret Jack running the action.
As for the Sonics, the Durant deal "forces" them into a backload too. After re-signing Chris Wilcox last summer, the team has Wilcox and Nick Collison at the forward, and three consecutive first round projects at center with Mouhamad Sene, Goofy Robert Swift, and Johan Petro. Finding a taker for an above-average but not outstanding talent like Wilcox could be hard this offseason, especially considering what a big year it is for size in the draft, with most of the projected lottery picks as of now being over 6'8. Seattle may have to settle for dangling one of the project centers to clear up roster space.
credit: chinafoto press
3) Atlanta Hawks - Yi Jianlian, PF, Guangdong Tigers
I've seen a ton of mocks already where Mike Conley Jr gets picked here, but I'm betting on Billy Knight's scouting to win out. The Hawks are at the same point as they were last season, they have a ton of good perimeter slashers, no point guard, and no inside game. Marvin Williams, the consensus best talent of the NBA Draft in 2005, put up a very mediocre 12.31 PER last year, and was so timid on the glass that you couldn't even really call him a power forward. While Shelden Williams showed some promise, you have to factor in that ultimately he looks like a monkey and is already 38. With two very stellar American power forwards still on the board in Al Horford and Brandan Wright, I expect Knight to go off the board and select Jianlian. Part of this is due to his history with overseas first rounders (Gasol and Diaw), and part of this is due to the fact that I don't think Yi is the best player on the board, and therefore am expecting the Hawks to blunder.
While I do think there is a chance the Hawks will fall for Conley Jr, Billy Knight's experiences with drafting the best player available makes me feel that at best, they will trade down to get him. I'm not sure who they'll be able to trade down with because 3-9 in this draft are so closely knit that theres no real difference in the slot valuation.
4) Memphis Grizzlies - Joakim Noah, PF/C, Florida
While this may be a bit of a reach, it's not like Jerry West isn't known for going against the grain. The Grizzlies were the worst defensive team in basketball last year, and while Noah may only be a above-average player on offense, he is shot-blocking machine. Not only that, but he's one of the few big men who actually create steals, and he's a terrific rebounder, both offensively and defensively. If he came out after the first title, he would have been a Top 3 pick easily. I think Noah has contracted the dreaded Brady Quinn syndrome (As far as how he got it: Don't Ask, Don't Tell), where the more we see of someone, the more faults we find. I expect Jerry West to look past this.
Also, I've backspaced over about 300 different WNBA/We Got Next/New Franchise in Memphis/Accutane jokes for the last five minutes to fill this space, so lets just move on.
credit: robert willett, act
5) Boston Celtics - Brandan Wright, PF, North Carolina
As if they weren't screwed enough by the lottery (not that I'm crying for them), the Celtics wind up in the mock with the two top players on the board playing the same position as their second-best player, Al Jefferson. The Celtics are a tough team to pick for; they have a ton of young talent on the roster already, but none of it has stuck enough to become really great other than Pierce or Jefferson. Delonte West and Rajon Rondo have both shown flashes at the point, Ryan Gomes is a solid backup forward, Gerald Green could be a franchise player down the line. What they don't have is big men other than Jefferson, as Kendrick Perkins was found wanting most of the year and Theo Ratliff has been deceased since the end of President Bush's first term.
Given these circumstances, the Celtics are pretty much forced into Horford or Wright, and I give the edge to Wright based mainly on his youth (which Ainge has clearly coveted in past drafts). The Celtics could also look to move the pick, but in the end I think that they'll end up deciding that theres no established star that makes them an actual contender in the East for trade and settle for Wright.
credit: jon beiver, SI
6) Milwaukee Bucks - Mike Conley Jr., PG, Ohio State
The Bucks are in quite a quandry, as they have Charlie Villanueva and Andrew Bogut in the key as young average players who have the potential to leap forward, with Bobby Simmons coming back from surgery this year and Dan Gadzuric also capable of providing average play in the post. They're one of the few teams in the draft that truly have little to gain from drafting big.
The Bucks also got solid offensive play from their guards last year, but finished second-to-last in the NBA in eFG% allowed and Defensive Efficiency. Given these circumstances, one could construct a pretty good argument for Corey Brewer, but the Bucks big problem last year was staying healthy. Only two players played more than 68 games for them, and Villanueva and Bogut missed much of last season, which left opposing slashers with nobody to stop them in the paint.
Conley Jr doesn't solve any of these problems, but I have the feeling he'll be reached for here based on Maurice Williams impending free agency. The Bucks will let their two young big men get on the court at the same time and see what they have before they try to fix problems that may not exist. Conley was a stellar distributor last year, and could be a very capable point guard in the Rod Strickland mold for the Bucks.
credit: Jimmy DeFlippo/US PRESSWIRE
7) Sacramento Kings* - Al Horford, PF, Florida
With the very last elite power forward prospect in the hands of the T-Wolves, who are mired in the throes of the "We Can't Trade Kevin Garnett" era, I expect a trade. Kevin McHale has frequently done this in past drafts, trading down from Ray Allen to Stephon Marbury and last year trading down from Brandon Roy to Randy Foye.
Now the logical pick to trade up would be the Philadelphia 76ers, who started Joe Smith at power forward for most of the second half of the season. However, trying to come up with a trade involving Kevin McHale and Billy King is like trying to make a sandwich out of bread, jalapenos, mustard, and lettuce; entirely too confusing to even attempt. The Kings decline last year, while popularly blamed on Mike Bibby, also had a lot to do with Shareef Abdur-Rahim growing old and Brad Miller being injured much of the year. Horford injects some new life into their frontcourt, and lets set the cost of moving up at the #10 pick, Francisco Garcia, and a future 2nd rounder. Garcia's not actually any good, but this is Kevin McHale we're talking about.
credit: Jason Parkhurst, US Presswire
8) Charlotte Bobcats - Corey Brewer, SF, Florida
The Bobcats essentially get their pick of the big three small forwards in Jeff Green, Corey Brewer, and Julian Wright. Adam Morrison was a huge disappointment last year and Gerald Wallace is a free agent on the wing. I look for the Bobcats to make a big splash...
*wait for it*
...by signing former Tar Heel Vince Carter. And while I don't think they'll give up on Morrison just like that, Corey Brewer will be brought in to fill the defensive specialist role that Wallace had been in charge of. I project Brewer over Green for two reasons. 1) Championship Pedigree, Michael Jordan likes. 2) Why bring in Green if you're already committing to Carter? Between Green, Morrison, and Carter, there wouldn't be enough shots to go around. Brewer doesn't have much of a chance of becoming a star, but he's a terrific role player in the Shane Battier mold.
credit: Mitchell Layton, SI
9) Chicago Bulls, Jeff Green, SF, Georgetown
It's not too late, McHale! You can still get a S/T'ed Nocioni, this pick, Ty Thomas, and probably another future first rounder for KG. Have a heart man!
Okay, back to reality. The Bulls need offense? Green can provide it. He's not the low post threat they'd like, but Ty Thomas is still developing and could become that in the near future. With the Bulls likely to let Nocioni go, Green could take his spot in the rotation and provide another reliable scoring option along with Ben Gordon and Luol Deng on the perimeter. While they'd probably rather have someone with more of an ability to penetrate, that player just isn't available at this point in the draft.
10) Minnesota Timberwolves, Spencer Hawes, C, Washington
The Timberwolves have a choice here that essentially boils down to Acie Law vs. Hawes. Both positions are sore spots for the Timberwolves, with veterans Mike James and Mark Blount manning the positions and little in the wings. Conventional NBA wisdom values size, and while McHale's history makes me think it's something like a 50/50 for him (he opted for Roy over Patrick O'Bryant, which is about the same difference between Law and Hawes in my opinion), I'm going to go ahead and put him down for Hawes.
Hawes main plusses are his youth, size, and shot-blocking. Like any other project center, his offensive game isn't fully developed yet, but scout-speak blah blah jumper.
This guy is the next Todd Fuller. Count on it.
credit: AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian
11) Atlanta Hawks - Acie Law, PG, Texas A&M
I already set most of this up in their first pick, but the Hawks are still regretting not picking Chris Paul and have been rightly slammed for it. While I'm tempted to give them Julian Wright and just laugh at them, lets just say Billy Knight gets lucky and picks the first credible point guard the franchise has had since they got rid of Jason Terry.
I could also see a scenario where Knight trades up one spot to get Law and the Timberwolves keep Hawes. The good old Cash Considerations trade may come into effect here.
credit: mark j. terrill/ap
12) Philadelphia 76ers - Julian Wright, SF, Kansas
The big faller of the round lands in Billy King's lap; Billy King immediately attempts to sign him to a 7 year/$90 million contract until David Stern explains that theres a slot system for first round picks.
Wright is listed as a small forward, but he plays so much like a power forward that I think that might end up being his NBA position; he's a terrific rebounder, and he even blocks a good share of shots. Either way, it's a big coup to get him here for the 76ers.
13) New Orleans Hornets - Nick Young, SG/SF, USC
Just as the real quality prospects end, the teams that don't need much help start popping up. The Hornets glaring need is at the slasher position: after Peja Stojakovic went down for the year, Desmond Mason was forced to shoulder more of the load and ended up not being very good at carrying an NBA offense. Peja will come back this year to shoulder some of the offense, but the Hornets could definitely use another NBA-quality shooter.
Enter Young, who shouldered the majority of the load for the surprising Sweet 16 Trojans that knocked off Kevin Durant's Longhorns. He's a terrific three point shooter, he can drive to the hoop. He won't contribute much defensively, but Tyson Chandler and David West have got his back there and the Hornets can always dig Stacey Augmon's bones up if they need a defensive specialist.
An alternate selection here would be Rudy Fernandez, but given that the Hornets have never selected a foreign player in the first round, I see it as more likely that they'll stay comfortable and take Young.
credit: john guthrie/gtech publications
14) Los Angeles Clippers - Thaddeus Young, SF, Georgia Tech
The Clippers big problem last year was that they just weren't very efficient at putting the ball in the hoop; they finished 24th in the NBA in eFG and only had two players in the Top 100. While Fernandez would be the more NBA ready pick, the Clippers have always favored promise over performance, lest you forget that Yaroslav Korolev is still on their bench somewhere.
Young may yet develop into a consistent scoring threat; he certainly has the talent to do so. A comparison that DraftExpress throws out as best case would be Antawn Jamison.