Two years ago, just about everyone in the mock draft business had New Mexico's Danny Granger ranked ninth or 10th in the hours leading up to the NBA Draft. But something strange happened to Granger and those predictions on draft night. He ended up slipping to No. 17, where the Indiana Pacers, shocked by their good fortune, were waiting.I mention this only because it illustrates that even with a well-known and well-respected player (Granger was a classy senior who had been heavily scouted), teams sometimes outsmart themselves and prove not to be even as smart as the "guys writing mock drafts in their basements," as one team scout put it.Granger's production (10.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg) in the past two seasons has easily outdistanced that of anyone taken 10-16 in that draft, and his future is arguably brighter than any of the players taken in those seven spots, with the possible exception of 19-year-old Lakers center Andrew Bynum. So keep one thing in mind when reading any mock draft: What you are reading is merely an educated guess of what the teams will do. Sometimes, that guess is way off. Other times, that educated guess comes out looking a lot better than what the teams actually do. While DeVon Hardin of Cal and Marcelus Kemp of Nevada withdrew from the draft as expected, Petteri Koponen (Finland), Kyrylo Fesenko (Ukraine) and Ramon Sessions (Nevada) all decided to stay in and are included in this version of the mock draft for the first time. Koponen, Fesenko and Glen Davis of LSU move into the first round.
GM Kevin Pritchard has a creative mind, as evidenced by his role in Portland's multiple moves that landed both Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. But trading this pick or selecting Kevin Durant instead of Oden would be one of the riskier moves in draft history. Don't hold your breath waiting for a surprise. Oden's defense, shot-blocking and rebounding alone make him the most desirable player in the draft.
Durant should be able to score in double figures right away for the Sonics, who would joyously select Oden if the Blazers pull the ultimate shocker and take Durant first. New GM Sam Presti doesn't have a big decision to make where he is situated in the first round, but his inclinations will start to be known by what he does with the valuable 31st and 35th picks.
I've moved Horford up from fourth for two reasons. First, Horford is on more wish lists of teams that are trying to entice Atlanta to surrender this pick as part of a larger deal. Second, even after drafting so many forwards for so many years, the Hawks still need immediate rebounding help, and Horford is better suited than Brandan Wright to deliver that right away.
It's amusing how Noah, who was situated as far down as 11th in some mock drafts, suddenly has risen back up into the top few picks as the draft draws closer. We've had Noah at No. 6 forever, but now it seems he has a chance to go even higher. His relentless activity around the backboard on both ends is so attractive that it more than makes up for his developing offensive game.
This pick is much more likely to be traded than retained, but it makes sense to keep Brewer in this spot because he is attractive to so many teams. Celtics director of basketball operations Danny Ainge understands offense, and if he keeps his pick, he's unlikely to pass up a player with Brewer's expansive offensive repertoire and vast scoring potential.
Wright weighed in at a slender 200 pounds at the NBA predraft camp, and that underlines that a team drafting him for his excellent athletic skills will have to wait awhile for his body to catch up so he can maximize his talent. The impatience of a couple of the teams in front of the Bucks will play to Milwaukee's advantage.
Since Stephon Marbury left town, the Wolves have needed a point guard who could push the tempo and create a few easy baskets to take some pressure off Kevin Garnett. Conley is not only super-quick and a nifty passer, but he also thinks pass first, unlike recent Minnesota point guards (Mike James, Sam Cassell). Conley's lack of perimeter prowess might be a blessing on this club, as he'll have to spend more time setting up the team's scorers.
With its tiny backcourt and defensive deficiencies, Charlotte needs a defensive-minded small forward to pair with or replace Gerald Wallace (a free agent) and protect Emeka Okafor from getting in foul trouble. On the other end, Green is a smart player and unselfish passer who can score when needed. He is the type of fundamentally sound player this team needs to add to its nucleus. Because Charlotte also has the 22nd pick, there's a chance this pick could be traded as part of a draft-night blockbuster.
Everybody in the NBA is waiting to see what GM John Paxson plans to do with restricted free agent forward Andres Nocioni. What Paxson does with this pick should begin to reveal the answer. Yi has excellent offensive potential, but is not someone the Bulls can count on to help them make a title run in 2008. Many teams have an interest in Yi, including Golden State, which could package a veteran along with its first-round pick (No. 18).
Geoff Petrie has a sizable rebuilding job ahead of him, so he'll take the long view on Wright, a player with obvious athletic attributes and a huge helping of potential. Wright has demonstrated a strong understanding of how to play unselfishly, a characteristic that Petrie prizes more than most GMs. In time, Wright's body will fill out and enable him to score down low. For now, versatility and rebounding are his strengths.
Say what you like about Billy Knight's relentless drafting of athletic swingmen, but he hasn't had too many misses with athletic players like Josh Smith, Josh Childress, Boris Diaw and Marvin Williams. Knight must address the point guard problem, and if he doesn't make a move at No. 3, he may use this pick to do it. If not, Young is a fantastic athlete who can get to the basket and score. He'll fit right in.
Thornton has impressed in workouts around the league and may be moving up. The 76ers have bigger needs than a perimeter-oriented combo forward, but Thornton is a value pick. He is a polished one-on-one scorer and high-effort player who should play well off Andre Iguodala. Thornton is a prototype small forward who has perimeter shooting ability and can also get to the basket and finish.
The Hornets are really masquerading as a lottery team after winning 39 games in a season fraught with injuries. Adding a high-percentage shooter like Hawes behind defensive-minded center Tyson Chandler could catapult them into becoming a perennial playoff club. The move also would allow the Hornets to bring Hawes along more slowly than most teams would be able to.
The Clippers need a point guard more than almost any team in the NBA. With Sam Cassell a year away from retirement and Shaun Livingston on the shelf, Law could step in and start for a club that made the playoffs in 2006. Law is a capable scorer who can also play off the ball as a shooting guard, if the Clippers retain free agent Jason Hart.
Stuckey floated the idea he had a guarantee from the Pistons, which probably isn't true, but that doesn't mean he won't wind up here. One of the better-kept secrets in college basketball the last two years, the explosive Stuckey can play both guard spots and has an NBA-ready body. Learning from stalwarts like Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton would only accelerate Stuckey's development.