Draft Day Excitement
I always remember being psyched up for the NBA draft every year. The last week of school, the excitement of the unknown, and the fact that unlike football where hundreds of players are drafted, I knew every player selected in college. 2007 is a turn back the clock draft. To the drafts of yesteryear, a player pool chock full of big name college stars, with one or two well-known International players thrown in, and two potential franchise players teams are clamoring over. Unfortunately for the NBA, the prelude and the draft are drawing far more interest, and excitement, than the NBA playoffs yielded a few weeks back.
Oden or Durant? The debate started the second the NCAA tournament ended that first Monday in April. Oden is the safe pick, a potential once in a generation franchise center. Durant is the flashy pick, the upside to be another McGrady or Garnett all around individual talent, but as evidenced by those players, not always a champion. Durant is clearly further along than Oden at this stage in their respective careers, sporting a full arsenal of offensive moves, a knack for quietly grabbing double-digit boards, and the ability to take over a game. Oden is still raw, but he possesses attributes you cannot teach, mainly size, defense, shot blocking, and did I mention, size. There is no doubt Portland grabs Oden, and if anyone brings up an inkling of doubt about it, they are looking to argue for the sake of arguing.
As an outsider I can say there is a chance Durant turns out better, and may actually be worth the first pick, but if I put myself in the Portland front office, with my job on the line, there is no way to live with passing on Oden and the potential to watch him collect a fistful of championships in the next decade. So, Oden to Portland, Durant to Seattle. Then what? Checking most of the mock drafts available, and potential trades on the table, put the next ten players in a Yahtzee cup and see where they land.
Noah and Wright could blossom into stars, or be duds at the end of the bench. International stars are always high risk, high reward. Will Yi Jianlian and Mario Belinelli become Dirk Nowitski or Frederic Weis. My theory is to go with experience and athletes. After the top players are off the board, including Al Horford and Mike Conley, both expected to follow the Top 2, I like Corey Brewer, Alando Tucker, and Acie Law, as sleepers. Brewer can do it all on both sides of the court. He was the key to that Florida championship team, and thanks to tremendous versatility, will fit into any number of systems. Tucker is the reigning Big 10 Player of the Year (not Greg Oden) and a four-year college player. Lacks the upside of other players in the draft, Tucker will succeed as a solid role player on a good team in the NBA. The type of hard-working, solid player that every winning team needs. Another 4-year college veteran, Acie Law, knows how to play the game, and is a proven performer in pressure situations. A mid-round gift.
Where are the Knicks and Nets? The deepest draft pool in years, and the metropolitan teams, both in need of varying levels of help, are stuck in the middle. All the Knicks have to show for this draft is Eddy Curry. If Isiah is successful at one front office task, it is drafting. His solid track record is the only reason to be excited about the current Knicks team. There reaches a point where finding another diamond in the rough at the 23rd pick to be a solid role player next to a group of other solid role players, will only get a team so far. Basically, the Knicks need a star to become a winner, and even if Isiah wields his magic wand again, the best he gets is a contributor. All indications are Wilson Chandler from DePaul is the man, an underclassmen with an improving outside shot and good athletic ability. Do not forget the Knicks already snagged Randolph Morris out of Kentucky in a shrewd move by Thomas back in March.
Across the river, Rod Thorn rarely received the accolades that Isiah receives for draft success, but he quietly churns out solid players annually. Last year, I think the Nets pulled a coup grabbing Marcus Williams late in the first round. Williams is heir apparent to Jason Kidd and will be a border line All-Star with the right team around him. The house money is on the Nets snagging a big man, clearly a gaping hole in their starting lineup currently occupied by the human brick, Jason Collins. Depending on how the chips fall, Jason Smith from Colorado State and Sean Williams of BC are the names we hear most. Williams is a wild card due to off the court problems. He is the classic risk/reward pick, if he stays out of trouble and works hard he will be a sleeper pick. If Williams cannot harness his personal problems, he becomes a wasted pick. Deep down I have this feeling that Thorn may pull a big trade off this summer. Things have been quiet on the Vince Carter front, Kidd is not mentioned in any rumors, and the Nets are not in the Garnett/Kobe sweepstakes. The sleeping giant is likely working the phones behind the scenes, so do not be surprised.