Posted 06/13/2007 at 07:30 PM
Allright, I’m going to throw out my two cents pertaining to the NBA Draft since the Finals are now seemingly over with the Spurs taking a 3-0 series lead last night. It’ll be fun to look back on these predictions in the coming years.
Ok, we know that Greg Oden and Kevin Durant will go 1-2, but it’s a guessing game after that. Let’s throw out a dozen guesses on how things will play out.
1-Greg Oden is a given Hall of Famer if he stays relatively healthy and away from drugs. Nothing against Kevin Durant, who I think is going to be an outstanding player, but I don’t look at him and say “given” Hall of Famer.
2-Al Horford and Corey Brewer are going to be better NBA players than Brandan Wright and Yi Jianlia. Some mock drafts have Wright and/or Jinalia ahead of Horford, but that would be a critical mistake by the Hawks, who own the No. 3 and 11 picks in the first round.
3-Speaking of the Hawks, they cannot fail to make a splash this off-season. Many have been critical of the job GM Billy Knight has done the last four years, and even this space has taken a few shots at times. But as we’ve stated before, Knight inherited a Texas-sized mess from perhaps the worst GM in NBA history, Pete Babcock.
I said last season was the “make-or-break” year for Knight and head coach Mike Woodson, but a slew of injuries – including 25 missed games by All-Star Joe Johnson – prevented the organization from getting a good read on the talent that Knight has accumulated. Therefore, Knight and Woodson dodged pink slips, but that won’t happen again unless Atlanta goes to the playoffs in ’08.
Knight has acquired some quality pieces:
A-Johnson has become one of the premier shooting guards in the league. He can drop 30 points on any given night and wants the ball at crunch time. Also, he passes well, defends well and can play the point when needed.
B-Josh Smith is developing into an outstanding player with the potential to be a perennial All-Star. He might be the most athletic player in the league.
C-Marvin Williams, the No. 2 selection two seasons ago, has been somewhat of a disappointment to date. Maybe it’s his youth (he would be a rising senior had he stayed at UNC), but he looked soft quite a bit last year, lacking the desire to mix it up in the paint. The hope is that Williams will emerge as a big-time player this year.
D-Josh Childress is a solid player that’s versatile enough to play the 2, 3 or 4 positions, but he’s been injured too often. He’s a possible trade piece along with the No. 3 and/or 11 picks to acquire a veteran point guard (Chauncey Billups?) or post player (Jermaine O’Neal?).
E-Zaza Pachulia has excellent skills and can be really solid as a reserve that can play the 4 or the 5. However, he’s not physical enough to be a starting center.
If I’m Billy Knight, Johnson and Smith are untouchable, and I’d keep all five of these pieces unless Williams, Childress and/or Pachulia can be packaged with a draft pick to get a big-time player like Billups or O’Neal.
If the right trade doesn’t present itself, Knight could keep the picks, but he can’t go with any projects (i.e.- Wright and Jinalia won’t work!). The fan base is beyond impatient, so you go with Al Horford at No. 3 and see what’s around at No. 11 (more on this below).
4-Whose the best point guard in this draft? Mike Conley Jr. (Ohio St.), Acie Law (Texas A&M) and Javaris Crittenton (Georgia Tech) are the candidates. It says here that Law will be the best player as a rookie, but Crittenton will be better over the long haul. I’m not as high on Conley as most are. Therefore, if Knight can’t orchestrate a trade, he’d better go with Law at No. 11.
5-This will be the first-team All-Rookie Squad next year:
Corey Brewer (Florida)
Derrick Byars (Vandy)
Al Horford (Florida)
6-Here’s my second-team All-Rookie Squad:
Joakim Noah (Florida)
Al Thornton (FSU)
Alando Tucker (Wisconsin)
Jeff Green (Georgetown)
7-Josh McRoberts out of Duke is too soft to be a force in the NBA. His size and skills will keep him around the league for 5-6 years, but he’s another Cherokee Parks in the making.
8-I’m not sure why Byars isn’t considered a lottery pick (he’s currently listed at No. 16 on NBADraft.net). He has a silky smooth stroke from the perimeter, enough muscle to score on the post and rebound effectively, the versatility and size to play the 2 or the 3, and he’s an excellent passer. If Oden or Durant get injured next year, Byars is my sleeper pick to win Rookie of the Year honors.
9-Brandan Wright is going to be the bust of this draft.
A-Demetris Nichols (Syracuse)
B-Jared Dudley (Boston College)
C-Taurean Green (Florida)
D-Glen “Big Baby” Davis (LSU)
E-Jermareo Davidson (Alabama)
11-I left Dominic James of Marquette off of my Second-Round Steals list, but that’s only because I think he’s going to take his name out of the draft and go back to Tom Crean’s program. Nevertheless, James will be a solid pro soon.
12-Taurean Green will be a starting player in the NBA by his second or third season and will have an excellent career. All he did the last two years was lead his team to a pair of national titles, keeping everyone happy with enough touches as the point guard, while scoring plenty himself at the same time. His biggest strength is his mental toughness. I’ve never seen him get rattled. And, lest we forget, he can stroke the 3-ball with the best of ‘em.