NBA Mock Draft: Putting the Pieces in Place

With the picks assigned, it's time to figure out who goes where

May 23, 2007

By Steve Aschburner

Special to from The Sports Xchange


Mock draft? How 'bout mock draft lottery?


As in, let's all do it.


Some folks lost faith in the NBA's annual tumbling drum (now ping pong popper) extravaganza in its 1985 debut -- that was the year of Patrick Ewing, the New York Knicks and the alleged dry-iced or dog-earred envelope, depending on your pet conspiracy theory. Others smirked and tuned out after the Orlando Magic snuck up in consecutive years (1992, 1993) to score the No. 1 draft pick overall, providing Shaquille O'Neal with what many presumed would be his sidekick into the new millennium, Penny Hardaway, for what was then a showcase franchise.


Whoever was left and paying attention Tuesday night in Secaucus, N.J., finally might have turned the lights out for good.


Not one, not two but three teams that had "earned" on merit -- actually, a glaring lack of merit as displayed on basketball courts throughout the league -- the right to line up for the most help in the June 28 draft got bumped down to fourth, fifth and sixth in line, respectively. And not one, not two but three teams that already are much better off, in terms of talent and potential, leapfrogged into the trio of top spots.


It's a bad system, tweaked and fiddled with out of concern for what goes on during the regular season -- teams giving less than full effort or playing with less than full rosters, in hopes of sprucing up their lottery odds. But it undermines what the draft is supposed to be about in the first place.


The Memphis Grizzlies need Greg Oden more than, or at least as much as, any other NBA team -- and far more desperately than the Portland Trail Blazers need him. The Boston Celtics need Kevin Durant to restore some hope and tradition in one of the NBA's most important markets; the Seattle SuperSonics might head down to Oklahoma City, Durant or no Durant.


But to stem one problem (and not so effectively, if you recall the stench of some April games), the NBA enables another. And changes the course of some franchises for, well, a decade.


How long has Tim Duncan been in the league, Celtics fans?


One good thing about the draft is that, more often than not, whatever order the NBA ends up with -- randomly, through weighted means or via much-rumored chicanery -- the sequencing of the college and international prospects doesn't change all that much. This year maybe more than most.


A year ago, Toronto landing the No. 1 pick meant that Andrea Bargnani's name moved to the head of the class, too, based on new Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo's taste for the zesty Italian. It's unlikely that Chicago, Charlotte or Portland would have made him their clear-cut favorite. But even drafts with pet projects like that quickly settle into the ol' "best player available" mode after the first 5-10 selections.


And this year that means a quick and easy 1-2 of Oden and Durant, possibly the most clear-cut tandem atop the draft board since O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning in 1992.


Here is a fresh take on the first-round scenario, still a month out but factoring in the proper (post-lottery) order of teams:


1. Portland Trail Blazers


Yes, LaMarcus Aldridge was their choice just 11 months ago as a low-post presence and center for the next decade. But he'll get a lot of work at power forward or he'll start seeing his name on those "Rumors" Web sites, because the Blazers simply have to select Oden.


Probable pick: Greg Oden, C, Ohio State.


2. Seattle SuperSonics


Can Kevin Durant save a franchise before he ever laces up a sneaker in anger for it? That's what Sonics fans are hoping, that the injection of Durant's star power and charisma might sway the politicians and the team's owners to find some common ground on a new arena and long-term commitment to the league in Seattle. For however long he plays at KeyArena, the folks there need to savor this kid.


Probable pick: Kevin Durant, F, Texas. 


3. Atlanta Hawks


Not only did the Hawks get to keep their pick by creeping up into the top three -- it was owed to Phoenix otherwise -- but they actually might affect a few teams drafting immediately after them. Because while North Carolina's Brandan Wright would be the choice here for numerous clubs, Atlanta needs a point guard in the worst way. Enough already with the youthful athleticism; these guys need order and organization on the floor.


Possible pick: Mike Conley Jr., G, Ohio State.


4. Memphis Grizzlies


Their Oden dream shattered, the Durant scenario dashed, the Grizzlies will want to give fans a player who can contribute quickly.


Possible pick: Al Horford, F, Florida.


5. Boston Celtics


Lots of draft mavens are penciling in China's Yi Jianlian at this spot, and on skills and potential he apparently brings things the Celtics need. But can Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers really sell Boston fans on such an exotic pick, even in these global NBA days?


Possible picks: Yi Jianlian, F, China; Brandan Wright, F, North Carolina.


6. Milwaukee Bucks


The Bucks' most successful lineup last season featured three guards, Andrew Bogut and Brian Skinner. Even with Charlie Villanueva getting healthy, this team needs size and defense up front. Horford would be swell here but probably will be gone.


Possible picks: Horford; B. Wright; Joakim Noah, F, Florida.


7. Minnesota Timberwolves


This roster is more lopsided than Milwaukee's, and Kevin Garnett is fed up with the lack of help up front. Be shocked if the Wolves don't go big here.


Possible picks: B. Wright; Noah.


8. Charlotte Bobcats


The core group is young and set at the point and in the middle. That's why some scoring and some slashing would look good, especially with Gerald Wallace's status unclear for next season.

Possible picks: Corey Brewer, G, Florida; Julian Wright, F, Kansas.


9. Chicago Bulls (from New York)


With Georgetown's Roy Hibbert staying in school, all eyes will turn to Washington's Spencer Hawes for true big man needs. The Bulls need help in the middle at both ends of the floor.


Possible pick: Spencer Hawes, C, Washington;


10. Sacramento Kings


Unless the Kings can upgrade themselves at point from Mike Bibby or in the middle from Brad Miller, most of their enhancements figure to be plug-ins around those guys.


Possible picks: J. Wright; Brewer.


11. Atlanta Hawks (from Indiana)


If Atlanta doesn't take Conley at No. 3, the Buckeyes guard will be gone by this spot. So the Hawks could move to point guard Plan B, Texas A&M's Acie Law.


Possible picks: Acie Law, G, Texas A&M; Al Thornton, F, Florida State.


12. Philadelphia 76ers


Philadelphia would like to get stronger and tougher up front, but those best players figure to be off the board. So the 76ers might stock up at swingman.


Possible picks: Thornton; Thaddeus Young, F, Georgia Tech.


13. New Orleans


Help on the wings, and more scoring, would fit nicely between Chris Paul up top and Tyson Chandler and David West down low.


Possible picks: T. Young; Nick Young, G, USC.


14. Los Angeles Clippers


This team, which never should have missed the playoffs, still is shakiest at the point guard spot, given Shaun Livingston's gruesome leg fracture and Sam Cassell's creaking bones.


Possible picks: Law; Javaris Crittenton, G, Georgia Tech.


15. Detroit (from Orlando)


Chauncey Billups, at the point, is the Pistons' only real uncertainty, and their depth at that spot needs work, too. But the pickings there are getting slim.


Possible picks: Crittenton; T. Young; Jason Smith, F, Colorado State.


16. Washington Wizards


By now, we're clearly in the "best available athlete" realm of the first round.


Possible picks: J. Smith; N. Young; Tiago Splitter, F, Brazil.


17. New Jersey Nets


For a team defined for several seasons by its perimeter guys, that's where the Nets need to plug more holes. Its frontcourt has come along nicely, thank you, with Nenad Krstic, Mikki Moore and Josh Boone. 


Possible picks: N. Young; Brandon Rush, G, Kansas.


18. Golden State Warriors


Not a lot of need here, although more reliable outside shooting would be nice. And unless Patrick O'Bryant from last June's draft blossoms quickly, reliable size could be an issue.


Possible picks: Thornton; T. Young; Splitter.


19. Los Angeles Lakers


They'll be looking for guards, the bigger the better.


Possible picks: Crittenton; N. Young; Rush; Daequan Cook, G, Ohio State.


20. Miami Heat


The Heat look a lot more flawed than they did a year ago at this time, don't they?


Possible picks: Gabe Pruitt, G, USC; Rodney Stuckey, G, Eastern Washington.


21. Philadelphia 76ers (from Denver)


Still searching for size, the Sixers might look to Duke's big guy.


Possible picks: Stuckey; Josh McRoberts, F, Duke.


22. Charlotte Bobcats (from Toronto)


Another chance to add to the core, although trading this pick might make more sense.


Possible picks: McRoberts; Cook; Rudy Fernandez, G, Spain.


23. New York Knicks (from Chicago)


Lots of needs, but small forward and shooting guard are areas that need most help.


Possible picks: Fernandez; Marcus Williams, F, Arizona.


24. Phoenix Suns (from Cleveland)


The Suns don't need help as much as they need options, alternative looks and extra blades for the Swiss Army knife.


Possible picks: M. Williams; Sean Williams, C, Boston College; Marco Belinelli, G, Italy.


25. Utah Jazz


The Jazz, already tough, still want to get tougher. As long as your primary big man is Mehmet Okur, you need to add someone who can bang down low.


Possible picks: M. Williams; McRoberts.


26. Houston Rockets


Nothing exposed Houston's lack of shooting like its performance and unexpected ouster from the playoffs' opening round. Gotta keep the defenders honest for McGrady and Yao.


Possible picks: Belinelli; Alando Tucker, F, Wisconsin.


27. Detroit Pistons


Size might be a priority, given the age and/or gimp factors of Chris Webber, Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess up front.


Possible picks: Tucker; Marc Gasol, C, Spain; Dominic James, G, Marquette.


28. San Antonio Spurs


They'll be tweaking again, it looks like, to another Finals and possibly championship team. But the need for fresh blood is getting pretty evident.


Possible picks: S. Williams; Tucker; Herbert Hill, F, Providence.


29. Phoenix Suns


The Suns' shooting could improve, and they still have to find an alternative to Marcus Banks.


Possible picks: Belinelli; Gasol; Morris Almond, G, Rice; Aaron Gray, C, Pittsburgh.


30. Philadelphia 76ers (from Dallas)


Another team that might not want to hang onto to all its first-rounders. Trade would make sense.


Possible picks: Gray; Glen Davis, F, LSU; Derrick Byars, F, Vanderbilt.


Steve Aschburner is a senior NBA reporter and columnist who covered the Minnesota Timberwolves for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for 13 seasons and served as president of the Professional Basketball Writers Association from 2005-07.

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