Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Draft (Advisory) Board

Now that most of the boxes are unpacked and we almost have Internet access, it seems like a fine time to start getting up some posts. Oh yeah, and my favorite day of the year, the NBA Draft is just 48 hours away.

To kick things off, I decided to do a mock lottery, except that rather than predict what teams are going to do, I'm going to opine about what they should do. I might take a shot at a mock draft on Thursday, but honestly, how do I know what teams are thinking?

So here is my advisory mock draft:

1. Seattle (from Portland) - Greg Oden. Of the two Northwest teams, Seattle is the one with the clearest need. The Blazers could always use a potentially dominant center, but they also have a current and glaring need at the 3 and no doubt a desire to avoid passing on the Next Jordan ... after they passed on the actual Jordan. The answer to this problem is a swap of the picks. Portland could demand a point guard back, a future pick, pretty much whatever they want. I've always preferred Rashard Lewis as the target, but if they make the move to land Durant, Lewis becomes overkill on the wing. I'll go with Seattle's first round pick in 2008.

(Note: If Portland can get Lewis for Randolph, this trade never happens, they happily take Oden at #1 and roll out a Jack, Roy, Lewis, Aldridge, Randolph, Oden nucleus next year while entertaining offers for Zebo.)

2. Portland (from Seattle) - Kevin Durant. I think deep down they want Durant and if that is the case, they should just take him. But, as mentioned above, they should exact a high price from the Sonics in the process. I still think Oden is the guy for Portland, if only because I think the Bulls would eventually come around on a Nocioni/Gordon for Randolph trade, which would give Portland a nucleus of Jack, Roy, Gordon, Udoka, Nocioni, Aldridge, and Oden. Not bad.

3. Atlanta - Al Horford. After all his mistakes, Billy Knight has been handed the chance to make it all right. He has a no-brainer on the board at 3 and a plethora of point guard options at 11. If he can't execute this draft, he needs to be fired on the spot. As in, before he leaves the building. Horford isn't getting the pub of Oden, Durant, or even Yi, but he is going to be a beast of an NBA player. I don't think his situation is unlike that of Chris Bosh and D-Wade in 2003, during the LeBron/Melo (and, ahem, Darko) draft.

4. Memphis - Joakim Noah. Everyone is talking about Memphis like they are the dregs of the NBA, jsut because they packed it in after Gasol's injury last year and decided to tank. This team is actually pretty good. They obviously miss Shane Battier, but I think Rudy Gay is going to ease that pain considerably this year. I expect Gay to make a huge leap during Year Two. They also have Mike Miller on the other wing and the totally underrated Gasol in the post. Noah is a perfect fit as an active frontcourt player than can guard centers and keep Pau free to roam. I'm sure Conley is tempting here, but they absolutely need to give Kyle Lowery a chance before drafting another Point Guard of the Future.

5. Phoenix (from Boston) - Corey Brewer. I suggested this over a month ago, but I have a feeling Shawn Marion is going to Boston in exchange for Brewer and the eventually expiring contract of Theo Ratliff. The Suns are bummed they missed getting a pick in the 4-6 range, they are desperate to cut salary, and they need to break up this Amare-Marion stalemate. I really don't think they are getting KG for Marion, so they might as well move the Matrix elsewhere. And while he's threatened not to re-sign in Boston, he won't have a choice once he realizes it will take a $5-million pay cut to opt out in 2008. Plus, I think he will rather enjoy playing between Pierce and Jefferson in the downtrodden East. As for the Suns, Brewer steps right into the starting lineup, improves the defense, and gives them a big upgrade over Marion regarding corner three balls.

6. Milwaukee - Mike Conley. Mo Williams is off and running and about to be the 2007-08 version of Mike James, so the Bucks will need a point guard. And preferably a guy that will actually look to pass the ball to Michael Redd. Conley is the guy. Easy pick.

(Note: if the Bucks like Law, they could try to trade down and take him instead. They could probably get Childress and #11 from Atlanta or Maggette and the #14 from the Clippers. Either deal would give them a win-now rookie point guard and solve their small forward problem at the same time. Plus, it would allow Atlanta or L.A. to get Conley. Win-win!)

7. Minnesota - Yi Jianlin. I'm expecting a whopper of a KG trade, but I don't know where and I don't know to whom. My Phoenix-Boston swap above probably restricts the Wolves' ability to deal Garnett, but then again, maybe not, considering KG won't go to Boston and Minny wants Amare for him. Regardless of where KG goes, I think the Wolves will go very young and stockpile talent. That means that Yi at #7 becomes a fantastic pick, from both a basketball and marketing perspective.

8. Philadelphia (from Charlotte) - Branden Wright. The Bobcats are a bit rudderless right now (see: taking Adam Morrison over Brandon Roy last year just because Roy didn't work out for them) and are probably better served dropping down a bit and getting two legit players (with less attention paid to position) than screwing up a shot at keying in on one impact player. The Sixers are a great trade partner because Philly has picks at 12, 21, and 30. It would probably take the former combo to get #8, but 12/30 might do it as well. Either way, this is Philly's golden opportunity to get a frontcourt scorer to go with Igoudala. Wright is slipping on draft boards, but I insist we are looking at the next Chris Bosh. By the summer of 2009, Wright will have joined the likes of Paul Pierce and Caron Butler of absolute studs that slipped for no good reason at all.

9. Chicago - Spencer Hawes. The Bulls would be crazy not to take Wright if he's there (Chad Ford's latest Mock had them passing on him for being too similar to Tyrus Thomas, which is maybe the oddest statement he's ever made, since they are nothing alike), but on my board, he's gone. And the Bulls are also crazy not to snatch up Zach Randolph (who might be the single most ideal person in the NBA to line up next to Ben Wallace, for myriad reasons I won't explain right now), but since they seem unlikely to do so - and probably can't get Gasol or KG now - they are stuck bringing in lowpost scoring via the draft. And that means Hawes, who just isn't going to be that good. Ugh. (Right now, nobody is more disappointed than John Paxson that Roy Hibbert went back to school.)

10. Sacramento - Jeff Green. Artest is supposedly very excited about Reggie Theus and is now BFF's with Mike Bibby after a year of feuding, but I think the Kings should still move him. Maybe they could send him to the Lakers if Kobe is traded. Jerry Buss always wants to have a show in town and perhaps Ron Ron would buy him a year or two. Either way, the Kings need to turn the page. But with Bibby and Miller going nowhere because of albatross contracts, they can't go real young. That makes Green the ideal pick. He's ready to play now, will be a Webber/Divac type passer from the midpost, and really compliments Kevin Martin on the wing.

11. Atlanta - Acie Law. No-brainer. The Hawks could probably dangle Marvin Williams or Josh Childress and move up to #6 to get Conley, but why? Law is ready to lead a team starting yesterday and is just what this moribund franchise needs. Law, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, one of the Williams, and Horford ... that's a decent lineup! In Atlanta! This 3/11 combo is a godsend. When it comes to Law, Atlanta needs to ignore shuttle times and vertical leaps and confidently take the Next Cassell and then try to move someone from the Marvin Williams/Josh Childress/Sheldon Williams group for a veteran big.

12. Charlotte (from Philadelphia) - Nick Young. Still plenty of talent for the 'Cats to select from here at 12. Depending on what their plans are with Gerald Wallace, they could go for a small forward in Al Thorton, Julian Wright, or Thaddeus Young. That said, I think they need to FINALLY draft a shooting guard (enough with playing Ray Felton there).

13. New Orleans - Julian Wright. Young would actually be perfect here as well, but he's gone. Meanwhile, Wright is an absolute steal this late. He's basically a more athletic version of Andrei Kirilenko without the giant mood swings. And for those that would argue Wright plays the same position as Peja, I mean, come on. So there's overlap for all 19 of Peja's games next year, no biggie.

14. L.A. Clippers - Al Thornton. Not only is Thornton good value at 14 and a guy that can step in and play right away, but he also gives the Clippers the flexibility to finally move Corey Maggette. If Portland takes Oden, the Blazers might make a great trade partner, as they are said to be shopping Jarrett Jack. Jack would solve a lot of problems for the Clippers (since he's basically a talented version of Jason Hart, who did a nice job for them) and Maggette would step right in at the 3 in P-Town.

(With each pick, I'm more convinced Portland should take Oden. There are so many opportunities to fill that need at the 3. Maggette is out there, Lewis might be available in a sign-and-trade, and as we've seen, Nocioni is a possibility, and there are a ton of big time 3's in this draft if the Blazers can steal a pick in the 10-15 range. I'm not going to go back and redo the top of this draft, but I officially think they should take Oden and then use Jack, Randolph, and their four second round picks to land a small forward.)

Two bonus picks:

15. Detroit - Thaddeus Young. Everyone is saying Rodney Stuckey because he's the type of combo guard Dumars loves, but those people are forgetting that the Pistons already have that exact player under contract. Alex Acker is tearing up the EuroLeague with Olympiacos in Greece and could be brought back at any time. So I don't think the Pistons should reach for a guy just like that when they can snag the ridiculously talented Young. They might also want to consider Crittendon if they think Billups would really leave town.

16. Washington - Shaun Williams. No one knows where Williams will go and no one knows what the Wizards are going to do, so this seems like a perfect match. He's an immediate upgrade over Etan Thomas and could really transform the Wizards' interior D.

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