NBA Mock Draft No. 4 - Underclassmen All In

With the player pool set, here's CSTV.com's latest stab at the first round


June 19, 2007


By Steve Aschburner

Special to CSTV.com

 

You want answers related to the 2007 NBA Draft, we come with questions.

 

Will Greg Oden be as good as everyone now is predicting? Will his selection as the consensus No. 1 pick seem like such a no-brainer in, say, five years as it does right now?

 

No offense to the young man, who seems like the real deal and a terrific kid, but Ralph Sampson was a no-brainer too back in the day. Within a year or two, he wasn't even the best big man on his own team. Lots of things can happen over an NBA career. That said, we want this kid to be Ewing, Olajuwon and Thurmond rolled into one.

 

Did Seattle catch a break by winding up at No. 2, the pressure off this unlucky team to choose between Oden and Kevin Durant?

 

Durant could be an electrifying player for the Sonics, helping them to secure a new home and win back the fans and the politicians. And since it was out of their hands anyway, the Sonics got a pretty nice consolation prize. Or, if it comes to this, parting gift.

 

How big is the drop off from those first two fellows to No. 3?

 

The night of the draft lottery, it seemed as challenging as getting Yao Ming and Earl Boykins to say "cheese!" in the same snapshot. Based on the whining and disappointment in Atlanta, Memphis and Boston, you'd figure the picks after Oden and Durant would be made at a YMCA. But almost every year some player chosen third, fourth, fifth or later winds up being almost as good as (or better than) No. 1 or No. 2. We're thinking about guys like Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Kevin Garnett and on and on.

 

Is this draft as deep as everyone assumes?

 

By bottling up the young talent for an extra year, via the NBA's requirement that players be at least one year removed from high school, there is a little more talent on the board than there would have been. But the stock of international players isn't as enticing this time around, and the center and point guard positions aren't exactly brimming with hordes of NBA prospects.

 

Will the Celtics salvage their slip down to No. 5, either through a crafty maneuver on draft night or a daring pick at the spot they're holding?

 

Maybe. But if Corey Brewer is on the board at No. 5, grabbing him and shutting up might be the safest and smartest thing for the Celtics to do.

 

With several teams having multiple first-round selections, will we see some picks being sold off this year?

 

That gets tossed around before every draft, and yet we rarely see an owner willing to pony up the $3 million it generally takes. The GM who can assure his boss that he'll land a keeper late in the first round (where those picks typically become available) is a GM who soon might be looking for work, given the odds.

 

Who'll be the last guy in the green room waiting to shake David Stern's hand?

 

Hard to say. For his sake, let's just hope he doesn't end up shaking deputy commissioner Adam Silver's hand.

 

Now that we know who's in and who's out, college eligibility-wise, here is the new-and-updated version of CSTV's mock NBA draft:

 

1. Portland Trail Blazers: Greg Oden, C, Ohio State

 

Any suspense associated with the No. 1 selection was spent on the night of the draft lottery, because the players' side of the "who" question has been set for some time. We needed the balls to stop tumbling on May 22 to find out "who" would be in position to grab Oden. A franchise that never will live down passing up Michael Jordan isn't about to do anything cute here.

  

2. Seattle SuperSonics: Kevin Durant, F, Texas

 

The Sonics need scoring, they need talent and, most of all, they need a buzz. Durant can deliver all three, as long as no one asks him to tote barges or lift bales. Seattle needs a reason to get excited and committed to its NBA team again, and Durant, in all his versatility and layers of ability, can be that guy.

  

3. Atlanta Hawks: Al Horford, F, Florida

 

We still think the best use of this pick is either for a point guard outright (Mike Conley, Jr.) or in a trade for an established NBA playmaker, because that's what the Hawks need most. But if GM Billy Knight opts for the best available player and the one least likely to be second-guessed, then Horford -- whose stock has been rising all spring -- will be the way he goes.

  

4. Memphis Grizzlies: Brandan Wright, F, North Carolina

 

Assuming that Pau Gasol isn't going to be the Grizzlies' cornerstone player much longer, then Brandan Wright makes sense here. He has tremendous potential and a body that he'll surely mature into, although Memphis' preference here probably would have been Horford.

  

5. Boston Celtics: Corey Brewer, F, Florida

 

C'mon, admit it. There is no way the Celtics can go from hoping for one of the top two players in this draft (Oden or Durant) to settling for, and trying to sell their fans on, a risky kid from China (Yi Jianlian). Basketball boss Danny Ainge and coach Glenn Rivers have to play it safer here, and Brewer has a chance to make a quick impact at both ends.

 

6. Milwaukee Bucks: Mike Conley Jr., G, Ohio State

 

Mo Williams can test free agency this summer, and it never was very likely that the Bucks were going to successfully court--or even attempt to court--Detroit's Chauncey Billups. Conley would give them a true point guard, sturdier than T.J. Ford and a nice fit with Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut and the others up front.

 

7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jeff Green, F, Georgetown

 

The Wolves need size more than any other ingredient, but Green's athletic ability is too appealing for a team that has always wanted to play faster and more aggressively than its roster allows. Ricky Davis' expiring contract could become trade bait with Green ready to step in.

 

8. Charlotte Bobcats: Joakim Noah, F, Florida

 

The Bobcats might shop here for a Gerald Wallace replacement. But they have a need at center and a need at the box office, and Noah's Gator-fueled fame and achievements make him a good answer for both. Then again, going with the big college name didn't work out as well as Charlotte folks hoped last year (Adam Morrison).

  

9. Chicago Bulls (from New York): Yi Jianlian, F, China

 

Washington's Spencer Hawes has been penciled in at this spot in many mock drafts, and his low-post moves are attractive to a Bulls team eager to contend. But Yi has lots of appeal, too, reminding some of a Toni Kukoc type, the versatile Croatian who fit nicely on the second Chicago championship three-peat teams.

 

10. Sacramento Kings: Julian Wright, F, Kansas

 

Considered by many to be this draft class' most versatile player, Wright has the look of a top-10 pick, especially since the Kings have needs up and down their roster and will be starting over, again, with another new head coach.

 

11. Atlanta Hawks (from Indiana): Acie Law IV, G, Texas

 

Remember what we said about the Hawks' point guard crisis when analyzing their strategy with the No. 3 pick. Law is no Conley, but in this draft, he's the next best alternative. And even if Atlanta does seek out a proven NBA point, Law would be a good backup project.

 

12. Philadelphia 76ers: Spencer Hawes, C, Washington

 

This legit, old-school center might be gone by this point, but if he's not, the 76ers are expected to grab him with the first of their multiple first-rounders. Hawes left Washington with some mixed feelings, toying with the idea of returning, but there's nothing to regret when you end up as a lottery pick.

 

13. New Orleans: Al Thornton, F, Florida State

 

With Chris Paul running the show and big men Tyson Chandler and David West anchoring the front line, the Hornets' greatest needs are at the wing positions. Thornton brings relative maturity and instant help at small forward.

 

14. Los Angeles Clippers: Javaris Crittenton, G, Georgia Tech

 

We've been kind of stubborn here on the Clippers' absolute necessity to draft a point guard. Given Shaun Livingston's shaky future and Sam Cassell's dwindling present, it makes no sense for this team to seek out help anywhere but at the point.

 

15. Detroit (from Orlando): Rodney Stuckey, G, Eastern Washington

 

Stuckey's name has been associated with Detroit for about as long as Ford has, or so it seems. Besides, we like the idea of a team president from McNeese State drafting a kid from Eastern Washington. Stuckey can help at both backcourt spots, shaving minutes from Billups and Rip Hamilton.

 

16. Washington Wizards: Tiago Splitter, F, Brazil

 

Splitter's size and skills make him extremely appealing, although a lanky young foreign player with precious little experience automatically makes some folks think of Nikoloz Tskitishvili. The Wizards could skip the skittishness better than most clubs, since they're expected to get a delayed benefit from Oleksiy Pecherov, their 2006 pick, for next season.

  

17. New Jersey Nets: Nick Young, G/F, USC

 

We like the Nets available front-court options -- Nenad Krstic, Josh Boone and Mikki Moore -- better than a lot of analysts and believe it's inevitable that the Big Three will get broken up by trade or injury soon enough. Young could work his way into Vince Carter's or Richard Jefferson's role, assuming he is willing to work hard.

 

18. Golden State Warriors: Jason Smith, F, Colorado State

 

The Warriors have plenty of athletes; what they need now is outside shooting and size. Smith would bring plenty of the latter, and he's a better perimeter shooter than you might expect.

 

19. Los Angeles Lakers: Thaddeus Young, F, Georgia Tech

 

Whether Kobe Bryant is still on board or not, this athletic wing player could satisfy coach Phil Jackson's defensive demands and add a nice piece to the triangle attack. He still is maturing physically but is said to be emotionally ready for this step after one college season.

 

20. Miami Heat: Derrick Byars, F/G, Vanderbilt

 

The SEC Player of the Year took a giant step up in scouts' eyes this season, particularly in the tournament. He is solid in a number of areas -- defense, shooting and character -- which has appeal for a squad seeking to plug holes and return to title contention quickly.

 

21. Philadelphia 76ers (from Denver): Rudy Fernandez, G, Spain

 

Fernandez's biggest weakness is, actually, his weakness, and how his slim build will hold up to the rigors of a full NBA season. Skills-wise, he has everything most teams--Philly included--would want, from his feel for the game to his passing to his shooting range.

 

22. Charlotte Bobcats (from Toronto): Morris Almond, G, Rice

 

Hitting 45 percent or so of his three-pointers over his final three seasons at Rice got the NBA's attention. Almond's accuracy with the jump shot is a coveted and big-time skill, and he's just as deadly when he works his way to the foul line.

 

23. New York Knicks (from Chicago): Daequan Cook, G, Ohio State

 

The Knicks have redundancies on their roster, so they're a hard team to read for need. Cook is a good shooter and manages to get to the basket, skills that too often have been an either-or proposition in New York's backcourt. He'll get careless with the ball at times. 

 

24. Phoenix Suns (from Cleveland): Marco Belinelli, G, Italy

 

C'mon, tell me this isn't a lead-pipe cinch: Belinelli, D'Antoni, the Italian connection and a style of play in which the gifted, offense-minded shooting guard could thrive.

 

25. Utah Jazz: Josh McRoberts, F, Duke

 

Uh oh, more typecasting. McRoberts has bona fide size and would bridge the Jazz's big man gap between Mehmet Okur, who likes to work from the perimeter, and somewhat undersized Carlos Boozer down on the blocks.

 

26. Houston Rockets: Gabe Pruitt, G, USC

 

The Rockets need some shoring up at point guard, which means Pruitt--if he polishes up his playmaking skills--could interest them. He has a nice shooting touch and is tough to stop in the open court, and he seems to have the personality, in time, to run a team.

 

27. Detroit Pistons: Stanko Barac, C, Bosnia

 

Is it possible that a team that turned "Darko" into a dirty draft word could consider selecting a guy named "Stanko?" The fact is, Detroit has some concerns about its bigs with Chris Webber's status uncertain and Rasheed Wallace deserving of a new address by next season.

 

28. San Antonio Spurs: Arron Afflalo, G, UCLA

 

On the heels of another NBA championship, these guys don't exactly have needs. But Brent Barry, Bruce Bowen and Michael Finley are getting up there in age, so bringing in young blood on the perimeter -- especially with a nice shooting touch -- makes a lot of sense.

 

29. Phoenix Suns: Sean Williams, C, Boston College

 

Williams is a gamble, given his release from BC for various transgressions. The question now is whether that was a chance to mature or an opportunity to blame. He's a terrific shot blocker and can be a real factor inside, if he's ready to be a grownup.

 

30. Philadelphia 76ers (from Dallas): Glen Davis, F/C, LSU

 

Grown up? Here's a guy who was big when he was little. Davis actually showed up in better shape for his workouts and now is seen simply as "big" rather than "fat." He's a novelty player, to an extent, but the 76ers had good luck with a rotund kid from down South about 23 years ago named Charles Barkley.

 

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.

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