NBA Mock Draft No. 3 - Futures At Stake

Early entry candidates have until June 19 to decide on returning to school

June 5, 2007

By Steve Aschburner

Special to from The Sports Xchange


Now the fun really begins.


With the pre-draft camps complete, teams underway with individual and group workouts of selected prospects and everyone trying to out-think or at least out-guess the other guys, the next few weeks are the juiciest time of the year for NBA rumors, wild scenarios, leaks and insecurity.


Hardly anyone is sure what his club is going to do or who it really likes. Yet they're all nervous as heck about what the competition -- teams drafting ahead of them, clubs within the same division or conference -- is plotting.




Soon enough, though, certain general managers or owners will fall in love with a particular player, thanks to a strong workout, an assessment of the guy's heart or the right answer to a Rorschach test. Then they'll sweat until draft night, hoping that no one else figures out their plan (fat chance).


For the underclassmen who haven't sullied themselves with an agent yet, there's still one door out: The June 19 date for early entry candidates to withdraw their names. But for the NBA's 30 teams, there is no escape. This is the time of year when franchises are made. Or messed up beyond repair.


It was around this time in 1998 that the Michael Olowokandi groundswell bumped Arizona guard Mike Bibby to No. 2 and turned the Kandi Man into the biggest No. 1 bust since Pervis Ellison, maybe since LaRue Martin. It was sometime during June when Detroit's Joe Dumars got firm in his decision to stick with Darko Milicic in 2003, leaving Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to slide, respectively, to Denver, Toronto and Miami. Oops.


It was during this period two years ago that Milwaukee and Atlanta ignored Chris Paul, and even No. 3 Utah took heat for a year before its pick, Deron Williams, panned out. It was sometime in the week or two leading up to draft night last year that Minnesota decided it would get cute with the No. 6 pick, offering it around as a way to extract some cash and finding a taker in Portland. The Timberwolves got $1 million and Randy Foye, but the Blazers wound up with Brandon Roy, the eventual rookie of the year.


At this point, everybody has a brainstorm but hardly anyone has an answer. Beyond Portland and Seattle, that is.


Here is an update of our first-round scenario, three weeks and dwindling until draft night:


1. Portland Trail Blazers  

It's conceivable that the Trail Blazers could dicker with other teams, including Seattle, to swap picks and get other considerations in return. Conceivable for a nanosecond, that is. Oden's once-in-a-generation potential would haunt these guys as surely as the Sam Bowie-over-Michael Jordan pick 23 years ago.

Probable pick: Greg Oden, C, Ohio State.


2. Seattle SuperSonics 

For all of Kevin Garnett's magnificence as a talent and as a competitor, the 7-footer still has been reliant in his NBA career on someone to deliver him the ball. Durant, at 6-9, has shown the ability to initiate the offense, which theoretically could make KD a more valuable piece, in time, than KG.

Probable pick: Kevin Durant, F, Texas. 


3. Atlanta Hawks  

Despite their glaring need for a point guard, the Hawks might not be comfortable defying the conventional wisdom and grabbing Ohio State's Mike Conley Jr. "too early." If they go strictly according to upside, they'll take North Carolina's Brandan Wright, then sift through their overload of wing players in hopes of trading for a proven playmaker.

Possible pick: Brandan Wright, F, North Carolina; Mike Conley Jr., G, Ohio State.


4. Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies could have, and frankly have in their checkered past, done worse than to be positioned to grab the Gators' most promising big man at this spot. Al Horford, physically, is a ready-to-go pro with a stronger defensive presence than any of Memphis' big guys.

Possible pick: Al Horford, F, Florida.


5. Boston Celtics

If the Celtics don't take China forward Yi Jianlian at this spot, it either will mean they have worked out a deal for the pick or they have gotten scared of the inevitable razzing they would take if Yi turned out to be a bust. A safer pick, like Florida's Corey Brewer, wouldn't necessarily be the better pick.

Possible picks: Yi Jianlian, F, China; Corey Brewer, F, Florida.


6. Milwaukee Bucks

Some mock drafts put Conley here, based on the expectation that Mo Williams will be gone via free agency. But this team could use some more size and could fill the point guard spot in other ways.

Possible picks: Conley; Brewer; Wright.


7. Minnesota Timberwolves

The Bucks could use more size, but the Timberwolves are desperate for it. Kevin Garnett has been doing the heavy lifting (four consecutive rebounding titles) long enough now, and he's getting tired.

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


8. Charlotte Bobcats

There is talk that the Bobcats will start the bidding for Seattle free agent Rashard Lewis, which would ease their need for points with Gerald Wallace on the way out. But aggressive forward play still would have appeal for this club, which suggests one of two or three guys here.

Possible pick: Brewer, G, Florida; Jeff Green, F, Georgetown; Julian Wright, F, Kansas.


9. Chicago Bulls (from New York)

The Bulls still might try to scratch their itch for low-post scoring with a veteran such as Pau Gasol, Kevin Garnett or Jermaine O'Neal, each of whom would fit nicely up front with blue-collar Ben Wallace. But if the help comes from this spot, then Washington's big man is almost certain to be the guy. Some reporters suggest that the Bulls would grab Jianlian if he still were available.

Possible picks: Spencer Hawes, C, Washington.


10. Sacramento Kings

The emphasis starts to shift from need to talent here, and Sacramento still would have a nice selection of wing players.

Possible picks: J. Wright; Brewer; Green.


11. Atlanta Hawks (from Indiana)

We started out figuring Atlanta either would grab Conley at No. 3 or it would take Brandan Wright, then trade for a veteran NBA playmaker. If neither scenario plays out, it might try to plug the hole from this spot. Or, what the heck, just add another small forward/shooting guard.

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


12. Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers could stand to upgrade at two or three spots in their starting five, and small forward seems to offer the best options at this point in the lottery.

Possible picks: Green; Thornton; Nick Young, G/F, USC; Thaddeus Young, F, Georgia Tech.


13. New Orleans

We still like the cornerstones of this team, with Chris Paul running the point and David West and Tyson Chandler providing the size. Some depth at the small forward and shooting guard positions would be most helpful -- and most available.

Possible picks: T. Young; N. Young.


14. Los Angeles Clippers

If the Clippers wake up on June 29 and they haven't drafted or traded for a point guard, they will have taken a huge step back for 2007-08 before even hitting the summer leagues.

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


15. Detroit (from Orlando)

Funny how, all of a sudden, this team appears more needy and flawed than it did a week or two ago, when the Pistons were on track to reach the NBA Finals again. Chauncey Billups will be a free agent who gets too pricey for president Joe Dumars' tastes, and there's the Rasheed Wallace factor (enough already).

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


16. Washington Wizards

Washington has a little delayed action going with its first-round selections, since its 2006 choice, 7-footer Oleksiy Pecherov, might finally join the club this fall. That would enable the Wizards to go international, with another year of seasoning for that prospect.

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


17. New Jersey Nets

If the Nets finally decide to break up their Big Three, they'll need replacements. Compared to some draft predictions, we think their big players are better than they generally get credit for.

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


18. Golden State Warriors

The Warriors could stand to upgrade their outside shooting. And Don Nelson, assuming he's back, always gets fascinated by one big guy or another each year.

Possible picks: Thornton; T. Young; Splitter.


19. Los Angeles Lakers

Phil Jackson always has liked big guards, although he prefers veterans over rookies. The Lakers' urgency to appease Kobe Bryant might lead them to package this pick.

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


20. Miami Heat

This is a lot creakier, more fragile roster than people realized, even as Miami was winning the title in 2006. After what happened in 2007, the Heat is another playoff disappointment away from a massive overhaul.

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


21. Philadelphia 76ers (from Denver)

Don't bet on the 76ers keeping and using all three of their first-round picks. It's not just a matter of playing all those young guys, it's a matter of paying them all via long-term, guaranteed contracts.

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


22. Charlotte Bobcats (from Toronto)

The Bobcats could go big here, especially if it means the chance to land a Duke guy.

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


23. New York Knicks (from Chicago)

The Knicks are looking to deal, so this pick could get packaged in a trade. Otherwise, they add another youngster to a pretty jumbled roster.

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


24. Phoenix Suns (from Cleveland)

One year after turning Marcus Banks into a lottery winner, the Suns still are looking for backup help for Steve Nash. 

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


25. Utah Jazz

The Jazz could stand to add a few pure athletes around guys like Mehmet Okur, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer and Matt Harpring.

Possible picks: M. Williams; McRoberts; Stuckey; Derrick Byars, F, Vanderbilt.


26. Houston Rockets

This team needs some players with some range on their jump shots, preferably from 12-20 feet.

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


27. Detroit Pistons

Chris Webber might not be back, Antonio McDyess was drafted way back in 1995 and Rasheed Wallace, also from the class of '95, earned a ticket out of town with his antics. So Detroit might focus on some size here.

Possible picks: Stuckey; Tucker; Marc Gasol, C, Spain.


28. San Antonio Spurs

Doesn't it seem about time for the Spurs to pull off another crafty, grab-an-international-guy-here to make rival GMs look silly in a couple of years? Unless they want help sooner rather than later for some aging positions.

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


29. Phoenix Suns

Figure on the Suns to size up the best prospect for the way they play.

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


30. Philadelphia 76ers (from Dallas)

Going big at some point in the draft is a priority for Philadelphia after being disappointed by Steven Hunter's play last season.

Possible picks: Hill; Almond; Gray; Glen Davis, F, LSU.


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