NBA Draft 2007: Early Mock Draft

It’s still a question of Oden or Durant, though Oden seems to have taken the lead. For now I’m going to go with Durant as #1, because he’s a better fit in Portland the way the team is currently set up. It’s more than those 2 though. This looks like it will be the best draft since ’96 and has a chance to be the best ever. This draft is so good, it has the potential to turn the league upside down in a year or two. Considering the NBA’s current group of elite teams are either aging or only marginally elite by historical standards to begin with and that there are several teams in the lottery with decent young talent in need of nothing more than a final piece and some direction I expect this draft to shake up the league no later than 2009. Another thing the lottery may have down is balance the conferences for upcoming decade. The East has added a better haul of young players over the past four drafts. With Oden and Durant headed to the Pacific Northwest, the West has pretty much evened things up, which I see as a good thing for the league.

This mock is based on nothing more than my opinion of this group of prospects at the time of the lottery and team needs. My opinion will change some by draft day, but not too much.

  1. Portland: Kevin Durant. This is how I see it: Durant is a better fit in Portland than Oden. Both are prospects with a good chance of becoming elite players. Looking at them as equals, I feel Durant is the right choice. The Blazers have a young center of modest promise in Aldridge signed through ’09 and two other inside players, Przybilla and Randolph signed through ’11. Drafting Oden means a couple of them will have to be dealt, which means some rebuilding and one never knows how that will go. Drafting Durant means dropping him in the only gaping hole on the roster at small forward, an immediate playoff appearance and a future as an elite team. Durant’s defensive and rebounding presence would make Randolph less of a liability in those areas and his perimeter game will make life inside easier for Randolph.  This is a team in search of a star and Durant seems perfect for that role. Oden is the safe choice, Durant is the inspired choice and the right choice.
  2. Seattle: Greg Oden. I’m guessing there will be little fretting over the fact that Oden is the 4th consecutive center taken in the 1st round by the Sonics. He’s just what the team needs. A defensive anchor in the middle. Whether it’s Oden, Durant or someone else, it looks like rebuilding time in Seattle. While they’re starting off with a great building block here, this is a team that’s still a couple of seasons and lotteries away.
  3. Atlanta: Mike Conley Jr. It was a good lottery for the Hawks. They could have ended up with anywhere from 0-2 selections in the top 11 and came away with 2. I’ve waffled some on whether they should just grab the best PG now, or draft a big guy now and take Law at #11. This seems like the smart move. Conley is much more of a sure thing than Law. He’s good enough to merit this high a selection and the Hawks need a PG badly if they want to move forward. The smart move would be to trade down and still land Conley, but that isn’t always doable. Best to just fill the need and go from there.
  4. Memphis: Roy Hibbert. The Grizz were last in both FG pct. and opponents FG pct. Hibbert should help fix both problems, especially the defensive part. The Grizz are coming off a 2006 draft that’s potentially pretty strong for them. Adding Hibbert and a healthy Gasol to that group could have the team right back in the playoffs. Hibbert might seem like a reach this high, but centers are always in short supply and Hibbert is very good. It’s not a stretch at all to see think he could rise this high.  [Editor’s Note: Hibbert has since stated that he is pulling out of the draft this year].
  5. Boston: Yi Jianlian. I have questions about this guy. The age thing will be huge for him. If he really is 19, then he’s probably everything scouts say he is. If he’s closer to 22, his numbers are only so-so for an NBA prospect in a weak professional league and my guess is he’ll be a bust. Both Horford and Noah are better prospects and either could be the Celtics’ choice if the feeling is they can play center. Yi is a center and his perimeter skills make him a good fit next to Jefferson. If he’s really 22, Horford or Noah would be a better choice though.
  6. Milwaukee: Al Horford. This is a great fit. Milwaukee needs a lot rebounding and defense inside and Horford is perfect for such a role. I see Horford as similar to Buck Williams or Horace Grant. A strong defender and great supporting player.
  7. Minnesota: Julian Wright. Wright is a great immediate help type and a great long term prospect, making him a great fit here. Wright can play either forward position and has a diverse game that should help the T’wolves quite a bit. A key here could be which way they decide to go with Garnett. If a longer term prospect like Brandan Wright is taken, it probably means Garnett is on the way out this summer.
  8. Charlotte: Corey Brewer. Brewer is probably the best available for Charlotte at this point. He’ll bring strong perimeter defense and some help for Felton as a 2nd distributor on the floor, both big needs in Charlotte.
  9. Chicago: Joakim Noah. Noah is a decent inside scorer and the Bulls need a lot of help there. Other than that, he’d be a great fit. He’ll be an immediate upgrade on PJ Brown and gives the Bulls a good post passer, which is something they lack.
  10. Sacramento: Jeff Green. Best player available at this point and a good piece to start the rebuilding effort with. He might even help the Kings get semi-competitive in 2007-08.
  11. Atlanta: Brandan Wright. Not that the Hawks need another young PF with poor rebounding skills, but Wright is too good to drop much further than this. If things work out as planned, this will be the last time in awhile the Hawks are drafting in the lottery, so grabbing the most valuable piece is the best move.
  12. Philadelphia: Acie Law IV. Help at PF is probably a bigger need, but the players available at #21 and #30 will be similar to the PF’s remaining now. Law gives them an eventual replacement to Miller at PG and might be good enough right away that they can deal Miller sometime this year.
  13. New Orleans: Derrick Byars. Byars is a sleeper ROY candidate. He does a lot of things well and in NO he’s going into a situation where he should get plenty of PT to show off that versatility. He adds another distributor to a team that currently has only one, so his presense should help the offense work a little more smoothly.
  14. LA Clippers: Nick Young. This is somewhat of a reach as Young is a little overrated as a prospect right now. He’s a good fit here though. The Clippers could really use a gunner. Young is the best one available and his presence would help loosen up defenses and make things easier for Brand and Maggette.
  15. Detroit: Javaris Crittenton. Crittenton looks like a player with a good future, but will need time to develop. With his size and game, Detroit seems like a good place for him. They operate at a deliberate pace and that, along with developing slowly behind Chauncey Billups, seems like a great situation for him.
  16. Washington: Herbert Hill. The Wizards need some inside help. Hill is one player who could probably help out some immediately at both PF and center. This is a pick that could be dealt. The Wizards are close and would probably prefer a more NBA-ready player.
  17. New Jersey: Daequan Cook. A team that’s ready to start rebuilding should take the player with the highest upside. That’s Cook at this point. He’s young and needs to develop a few more skills, but has good potential and this is a good place to realize it.
  18. Golden State: Thaddeus Young. I’m expecting something a little wacky here. The Warriors need rebounding more than anything and a solid boardsman like Fazekas seems like a good choice. But they had success trying to outscore teams with the small lineup last year, so I expect them to go with another run ‘n gun type. Young is raw, but talented and they had success recently with another raw, young talent in Ellis.
  19. LA Lakers: Rodney Stuckey. Combo guard could be a bargain if he can get shooting touch back. He’ll be a good fit in LA, because he plays PG, but isn’t a pure PG. He’s also big and plays good defense, two things Phil Jackson likes in his guards.
  20. Miami: Al Thornton. The Heat should be in best player available mode and that’s probably Thornton. The supporting cast is almost certainly going to be reshuffled some in Miami. An active, athletic rookie like Thornton who can play two positions seems like nice asset to have on the supporting group of a contending team.
  21. Philadelphia: Spencer Hawes. With 3 first round picks and many 2nd-tier PFs available through round 2, the best move for the Sixers at this point would seem to be drafting the project. Hawes has work to do improving his rebounding and inside play, but his potential is too good to pass on this late.
  22. Charlotte: Nick Fazekas. Fazekas is one of the better rebounders available this year. He’s also a skilled offensive player with a nice game both inside and out. A lack of quickness and strength limits him defensively, but used properly he’ll be a valuable player and a steal this late.
  23. New York: Marcus Williams. That stupid Isiah thought he was drafting the UConn PG from the 2006 draft! Seriously there are enough good SFs available this year that there will be good ones available this late. The Knicks still have a need here and Williams is probably the best player remaining at this point. He might be a steal too, as his numbers were hurt this past season by playing a lot of PF out of necessity.
  24. Phoenix: Tiago Splitter. It’s been a real bad week for the Suns. First they had their championship express derailed by a silly technicality. Then they lose the draft pick that could have made them a potential 70-win team in 2007-08. When they do get the pick next year it could become an irrelevant middle-round selection. They could use a little more inside help, if for no other reason than insurance should one or two of their starting frontline players be unable to keep themselves on the bench at a key playoff moment. Splitter is the quick, athletic type who would work well in this system.
  25. Utah: Aaron Afflalo. The Jazz are a team that still isn’t hip to the 3-pointer. Afflalo could help change that. I have mixed feelings on this guy. His numbers are weak, but he was really an effective hustler on defense in games I watched him play and I could see him developing the desirable 3-pointer/defensive stopper game that has made the likes of Raja Bell and Bruce Bowen valuable players on elite teams.
  26. Houston: Jason Smith. Smith is the best big man remaining. His size and rebounding ability will be a nice changeup from their current group of PFs. He’s tall enough to backup Yao at center, which is always a nice thing to have.
  27. Detroit: Marc Gasol. Taking a big guy is never a bad idea. The front line is aging in Detroit and a young player who can give them some minutes and is probably the best direction to go with this pick.
  28. San Antonio: Rudy Fernandez. A steal at this point. Fernandez is a talented slasher who won’t get much PT right away in SA, but will flash some dazzling skills when he does.
  29. Phoenix: Jared Dudley. Seems like a good fit here. He can shoot the trey, pass, rebound well for a wing player and plays good defense. He’s the best available right now and should be a good fit with Phoenix.
  30. Philadelphia: Glen Davis. Lasme and McRoberts are also available, but Davis is probably the best fit for Philly of remaining PFs. He’s not a great scorer inside, but he can rebound, pass and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.

This year is so deep that round 2 merits mentioning. In this mock I couldn’t find a place for first round talents like Aaron Gray, Gabe Pruitt, Josh McRoberts, Stephane Lasme, Sean Singletary, Reyshawn Terry, Jared Jordan, Mustapha Shakur and Dominic McGuire to name a few. Portland owns 4 2nd round choices, Orlando and Dallas have 3 each and Seattle owns 2 of the top 5 in round 2. Just by drafting the best athlete available, all four teams have a good chance of landing themselves another decent player or two.

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