1. Portland Trail Blazers – Greg Oden, C, Ohio State: We all knew this pick was coming. It’s the right choice for a franchise that has done a wonderful job of engendering a culture of winning and responsibility after too many years of the Jailblazers. Oden’s defensive prowess should translate to the NBA right away and pair extremely well with LaMarcus Aldridge’s offensive skills. Coupled with emerging superstar Brandon Roy outside, this nucleus will be starting a decade-long playoff run in the next two years.
Seattle has traded All-World shooting guard Ray Allen to the Boston Celtics for the 5th overall pick, Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West. Seattle will define their franchise with this evening’s choices and their long-term future suddenly looks a lot brighter. We’re big Delonte fans, but does this mean Ridnour is on the way out? And is Boston finally serious about winning NOW?
2. Seattle SuperSonics – Kevin Durant, F, Texas: Another shocker here. This is perhaps the easiest pick in the history of the NBA draft. Durant is going to be an absolute beast, regardless of his inability to lift 185 pounds. Why would Stu Scott even bring that up? Aren’t these supposed to be all feel-good interviews? It’s an obvious sore spot for the young man. Anyways, great pick for the Sonics. I’ll be shocked if the kid isn’t one of the top-10 players in the NBA before his rookie contract expires.
3. Atlanta Hawks – Al Horford, F, Florida: After passing on Chris Paul and Deron Williams two years ago, you know Conley was tempting. This could mean that the rumored deal with Toronto, sending Josh Childress for Jose Calderon, is in the works. It could also mean Acie Law will be their 11th overall pick. What does this say about Sheldon Williams? What the rest of us knew a year ago, that it was a wasted pick. Still, if they thought Al Horford was the best player on the board, they had to make it.
4. Memphis Grizzlies – Mike Conley, Jr., Ohio State: The Chucky Atkins era is over, as the Grizzlies have finally landed their point guard to build around. The Grizz haven’t had a quality point man since Damon Stoudemire was still considered a viable starter. (**Thanks to commenter Chris for reminding us Stoudemire was the 1996 ROY with Toronto, not Vancouver.**) Conley running the floor with Warrick and Gay will be fun to watch, and he also has the ability to consistently feed Gasol in the post; remember, he fed Oden at Ohio State. This pick was a no-brainer.
5. Seattle SuperSonics – Jeff Green, F, Georgetown: Boston is making this pick for Seattle… and it means goodbye, Rashard Lewis. The rebuilding has begun in full force in Seattle. NC’s Brandan Wright couldn’t check him in the NCAA Tournament, and at times Green outshined Georgetown teammate Roy Hibbert last season on both ends of the floor. His versatility on the front line will prove invaluable.
6. Milwaukee Bucks – Yi Jianlian, F, Guangdong Tigers: This is a bit of a surprise after Yi refused to work out for the Bucks. Yi’s people and the CBA did NOT want him to end up in a small market with a small Chinese population that far from the West coast. At this point I think something might be in the works, perhaps with the Warriors involving Monta Ellis? If Yi stays he’ll eventually provide a dynamic inside-outside scoring punch with Redd.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves – Corey Brewer, F, Florida: While Ricky Davis is capable of big games on the offensive end, his defensive lapses and character leave a lot to be desired. Brewer represents a major upgrade in both respects and will give Foye a much-needed hand outside. This could be the first time McHale has actually taken the guy I wanted, but there’s still time for him to trade Brewer for the 8th pick and some baseball cards. I’ve pretty much been counting on Brewer for the last two weeks, but the time it will take him to adjust just means a KG trade makes even more sense. As a KG and Minny fan, hopefully the chance to trade him hasn’t passed. I want to see KG win a title somewhere and I want the Wolves to finally have a long-term plan again.
Breaking News: Stephen A. Smith is a grade-A jackass.
8. Charlotte Bobcats – Brandan Wright, F, North Carolina: The 6-10 power forward with Amare Stoudemire-esque upside is still just a teenager, but he can flat out ball. This kid needs a few seasons, but the ‘Cats have enough guys on the frontline to hold down the fort down for awhile while he develops a more consistent jump shot and polishes his overall game. Could Wright still be dangled as trade bait? Michael Jordan really, really tried to trade this pick. **UPDATE** Jordan succeeded. Wright is heading to Golden State in exchange for veteran shooting guard Jason Richardson. The move makes a lot of sense for the uptempo Warriors, but is Richardson the guy who can push the Bobcats into the playoffs?
9. Chicago Bulls – Joakim Noah, F/C, Florida: Normally we wouldn’t endorse spending a lottery pick on a guy whose primary asset seems to be “energy,” but the seven-footer has the tools to average a double-double, is a surprisingly good passer, and always gives it his all. It looks like he’ll (eventually) be Ben Wallace’s successor, but while the Bulls just got even more athletic, they still don’t have a consistent scoring threat in the post.
10. Sacramento Kings – Spencer Hawes, C, Washington: There have been rumors that both Mike Bibby and Ron Artest could be pushed out the door, but they don’t draft a replacement for either of them here. Widely considered the second-best center prospect in the draft, Hawes will challenge Brad Miller for minutes (starter minutes?). Shareef Abdur-Rahim also underwent surgery recently, so what this all spells is a frontline that’s in major flux. This seems like the right pick, but something about Hawes just doesn’t sit well. With such limited upside, the hope is to get at least modest returns at one of the hardest positions to fill in the NBA.
11. Atlanta Hawks – Acie Law, PG, Texas A & M: If Atlanta hadn’t drafted Acie Law here, someone would have been fired. His haircut needs work and his defensive numbers are underwhelming, but Law could bring swagger to a PG position in Atlanta that’s been a sore spot for years. Plus, after four years in college he’s ready to contribute right now alongside all the high-upside ‘youngins ATL has accumulated in recent years. I’m a Hawks fan, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a first-round playoff elimination this year. Law will take a lot of ball handling pressure off of Joe Johnson and his considerable late-game skills fill a major hole for this inexperienced squad. A lineup of Law, Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia with Josh Childress, Sheldon Williams and Speedy Claxton coming off the bench sounds competitive in the East. Still, they’ll be a year away and need to move some of their redundant talent.
12. Philadelphia 76ers – Thaddeus Young, F, Georgia Tech: Young is inexperienced and unpolished, but his upside is extremely high and his skill set pairs well with the 76ers franchise player- defensive-minded and slashing Andre Iguodala. Young’s touch will be a welcome addition to a team that relies too heavily on professional turd Kyle Korver when they get down. He may not be ready to contribute right away, but this team won’t be ready to compete for three years at least, so that’s just fine.
13. New Orleans Hornets – Julian Wright, F, Kansas: The Fall from Grace Award this year goes to Julian Wright, who in some circles was considered a top-five pick at one point. He’ll benefit from playing alongside Chris Paul; expect to see this kid get some monster dunks off the alley-oop pass. New Orleans is pretty stacked now at the SF/PF spot with young talent that needs time to develop. And, ESPN tells us he likes to go bowling.
14. Los Angeles Clippers – Al Thornton, F, Florida State: In Mike Dunleavy’s Fantasy World, Thornton builds on his already above-average, mid-range jump shot to give the Clips another outside shooter that will demand opposing centers follow them out of the lane. Thornton will get pushed around far too easily, but he’ll bulk up and he’s a damn hard-worker. You know the Clips decided to take the best available player instead of drafting for need (at the guard spot).
15. Detroit Pistons – Rodney Stuckey, G, Eastern Washington: GM Joe Dumars gets his pick of the top three guards left on the board, and goes with the guy everyone had pegged to go here for the last, oh, month. The Eastern Washington combo guard has been compared (compared) to Dwayne Wade in that he can hit the outside shot and get to the hole with abandon. The Pistons needed a legitimate scorer/slasher to come in off the bench, and Stuckey could be that guy. He certainly won’t have much competition for backup minutes behind Rip Hamilton (Flip Murray? Lindsey Hunter? Please.). I really, really like this pick… and the other good thing is that he actually wanted to play in Detroit.
16. Washington Wizards – Nick Young, SG, USC: The hard worker with a hard life finally gets what he deserves. Young can break ankles and pull up to knock down the mid-range jumper. Don’t be surprised if the kid ends up as one of the premier scorers from this year’s draft. Nick has some nice size and his ability to create his own shot will be crucial after Gilbert Arenas abandons ship next summer. The NBA has it’s fair share of over-paid duds and irresponsible punks making millions, but Young isn’t one of them and he’s a guy I can get behind no matter what he’s being paid.
Portland’s Zach Randolph, Dan Dickau, and Fred Jones have been traded for New York’s Channing Frye and Steve Francis. This is a phenomenal move for the Blazers, who will now have the young and talented trio of Greg Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge and Channing Frye up front. They also continue to shed players with poor character and work ethic for model citizens. On the other side, the Knicks may now be starting a C and PF combo that averages less than a combined 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals per game this year and rank last in hustle. Nicely played, Mr. Thomas, nicely played. As always.
17. New Jersey Nets – Sean Williams, F, Boston College: Williams seems like a bit of a head case, but his talent rates well for this pick. The Nets have been desperate for help up front for years, so taking the most talented PF makes a lot of sense here. While he won’t contribute right away, this is another decent body to match up with the weak PF’s and C’s of the East.
18. Golden State Warriors – Marco Belinelli, G, Italy: The first Euro to come off the board, Belinelli is just the kind of player that fits Don Nelson’s system: a gunner who runs the floor and is never afraid to jack it up. Inevitable comparisons to Manu Ginobili, but let’s just hope he doesn’t employ “the flop” as part of his arsenal like Manu does.
“Breaking News” Follow-Up: Dick Vitale is still a top-five jackass despite Stephen A. Smith’s growing jackass standing.
19. LA Lakers – Javaris Crittenton, PG, Georgia Tech: The Lakers get another prospect at point guard to compete with Jordan Farmar for minutes next season. This youngster could have gone much higher than #19, but the fact that he’s still raw (the 7th freshman drafted in the first round so far) and not a sure bet to pan out probably scared a few teams off. Still, he has tremendous upside (how many times have you heard that already?) and could, eventually, turn out to be a long-term starter.
20. Miami Heat – Jason Smith, F/C, Colorado State: We could hear Pat Riley cursing all the way here in Brooklyn after Crittenton came off the board. They need a point guard in a bad way, but have to “settle” for Jason Smith, a seven-footer from Colorado State University. With uncertainty about Mourning’s future, and Shaq slowing down considerably, the Heat take their first step towards fortifying their depth in the frontcourt. His developing post game could compliment Wade nicely in the future, but we don’t expect him to be a significant contributor right away. There’s no danger of Jason Smith’s mild manners clashing with Wade’s burgeoning ego.
21. Philadelphia 76ers – Daequan Cook, G, Ohio State: Isiah Thomas just cursed very loudly; he wanted this kid whom bears that coveted ’07 Ohio State pedigree. This pick was made for Miami (read: trade), who must have changed their mind after picking Smith. Philly gets Smith to fill a serious void at the power forward spot–Joe Smith is the current starter–and the Heat get a legitimate scorer to back up Wade. Smith makes more sense for Philly here, I think, than Cook does for Miami. Do they, perhaps, have doubts about Wade’s ability to stay healthy?
22. Charlotte Bobcats – Jared Dudley, F, Boston College: At this point the Bobcats were in a position to draft the best player available (assuming they can keep Wallace). This is a senior with a lot of experience and athleticism who will have no problem deferring to his new higher-profile teammates. With so many inexperienced players on the roster, taking somebody who isn’t years away makes some sense here. Dudley projects as a quality 6th man, and won’t be a star, but what’s the over/under on when the local media calls for him to start over the overrated Morrison? 16 months? 10?
23. New York Knicks Wilson Chandler, F, DePaul: Another SF tweener to go along with Q-Rich, Jared Jeffries, Renaldo Balkman, and David Lee. This team just gets more and more muddled. Will the Knicks ever have a clearly defined rotation and distribution of minutes? Chandler may be a fine player and we don’t mean to bash him, but at some point Thomas needs to start defining a clear vision for this team’s success and stop haphazardly throwing together players with similar skill sets and hoping for the best.
The Blazers continue their quest to assemble the most impressive collection of young talent in the NBA, buying the 24th pick from Phoenix for cash considerations. That’s right, all it took was a little cheese to land the #24 pick in the draft with a lot of talent still left on the board.
24. Portland Trailblazers – Rudy Fernandez, G, Spain: After the somewhat surprising success of Sergio Rodriguez in his rookie season, Portland has decided to dip into the Spanish talent pool once again. This is a player who has a ton of professional experience overseas despite his age, but there’s a serious concern that he’ll have to remain in Spain for another season or two. Still, he has nice upside and may even benefit from getting more minutes overseas in that time. Once he is ready to come over, Rudy will be ready to contribute quality minutes off the bench for a playoff team on the rise. I love the direction this franchise has gone in the last two years, and the Trailblazers have quickly become a team to watch and root for.
25. Utah Jazz – Morris Almond, G, Rice: This is a team that’s trying to challenge for a spot in the NBA Finals now, so it makes sense to take a senior here who can flat out score. He should get loads of wide-open jumpers from Deron Williams’ penetration into the lane, and has a chance to earn significant minutes at a position of need right away. He averaged 9 free throws a game last season, despite a lack of overall athleticism. That tells us that his savvy ability to draw fouls and get to the line should soften up opposing frontlines for Carlos Boozer. He’ll fit in well, and this is a great late first-round pick for a team that has risen to the upper echelon very fast.
26. Houston Rockets – Aaron Brooks, G, Oregon: The Rockets have already been busy this summer, bringing back Mike James to start at the point and resigning Bonzi Wells. They also have ambitious hopes of luring free-agent Rashard Lewis back to his hometown. Here they reach a little for Aaron Brooks, an undersized guard who was a 2007 third team All-American. This pick reminds us some of Boston scooping up Rajon Rondo last year late in the first, though we don’t think he has as much upside as Rondo. They could have used a high-energy rebounder with length here.
27. Detroit Pistons – Arron Afflalo, G, UCLA: The Pistons are stocking up on guards, but that frontcourt really needs some help too. It looks like they have a reasonable amount of faith in 20-year-old Amir Johnson, and hopefully the talented 6-11 forward takes this as a vote of confidence in his potential and takes advantage of the opportunity. ESPN says the 6-5 Afflalo is “a winner” and “an incredibly tough kid.” The physical guard should fit in well with Detroit’s team mindset, and he’ll have a few seasons to learn from Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton (assuming he resigns) and, perhaps, eventually start or at least become a reliable bench guy. Solid pick and a guy that could turn out to be a late-round gem, but we can’t see him assuming full-time backup duties for either starter right away. Honestly, this is a bit of a reach, so Dumars must have a reason for taking him here.
UPDATE! Stu Scott is challenging to be the worst on-air announcer in major network sports history.
28. San Antonio Spurs – Tiago Splitter, F, Brazil: Penciled in Tiago Splitter here (we were right). There’s no better franchise in the NBA at developing European players, and this pick is no surprise whatsoever. He may not join the team for two years due to some contract issues overseas, but he could pay huge dividends in a season or two. If not for his contract status, he could have been a lottery pick. The Spurs are officially planning for the late- and post-Duncan era when he starts slowing down or he leaves as a free agent after the upcoming season. Can’t argue with this pick, especially since championship-caliber teams are defining themselves with excellent scouting departments overseas.
29. Phoenix Suns – Alando Tucker, F, Wisconsin: This is the Big Ten Player of the Year in a conference that had Oden, Conley and Cook. This is a nice pick. Simply looking for depth at this point, Phoenix has landed a steal. Tucker is a quality character guy who will work hard for the Suns. He was a four-year player at Wisconsin and gives the Suns some grit and toughness up front… and he’s no slouch on the offensive end.
30. Philadelphia 76ers – Petteri Koponen, G, Finland: The Fin lands in Philly. This is another guy who won’t come to the States for a year or two, but they hope he develops in the next two years to eventually be their backup PG. This seems like a bit of a luxury pick for a team that needs contributors, but I guess that happens when you have three first-round picks. It’s reminiscent of Portland’s selection of Joel Freeland last year- just a throw of the dice late in the first. I have a hard time seeing this guy guarding NBA PGs on defense and getting past them on the other end. This may be the last time you think or hear about Koponen.