Impact players, teams to watch and more on the draft
Posted: Tuesday June 26, 2007 6:03PM; Updated: Tuesday June 26, 2007 6:15PM
Who says this is a great draft?
So say the Trail Blazers and the Sonics -- who hold the Nos. 1 and 2 picks -- as well as teams picking late in the first round and early in the second, because this is a deep draft. For the teams holding lottery picks from Nos. 3 and upward, however, there is no player certain to become an All-Star. So the pressure will be on teams like No. 3 Atlanta, No. 4 Memphis and No. 5 Boston to maximize their picks after Greg Oden and Kevin Durant are off the board.
Five impact players
1. Greg Oden: He's a nimble defender who will be a better offensive player than advertised, according to Pacers president Larry Bird. Said one general manager before the lottery: "A lot of these guys may be talking about taking the other kid [Durant] first. But I guarantee you, if any of them were to get the No. 1 pick, they'd all be taking Oden. Durant may be the best player over his first two years, but after that Oden is going to be the best player.''
2. Kevin Durant: "He already does things that most NBA players can't do,'' said a scout who watched Durant's freshman year at Texas. "Imagine how he'll be four years from now as he gets stronger.'' If the best visions come true, Durant will emerge as a slimmer version of Kevin Garnett -- not as versatile perhaps, but more aggressive as a scorer slashing to the basket or exploiting mismatches to shoot over the top. Imagine Dirk Nowitzki with hops.
3. Al Horford: The consensus No. 3 player in the draft, Horford's strength and array of low-post moves will be enable him to contribute as a rookie. His skills on the block are a vanishing talent in today's game. While scouts feel that Horford is probably too short to play more than a few minutes at center, he will provide a low-post complement to the growing number of teams with centers who are comfortable shooting from the perimeter.
4. Joakim Noah: A lot of teams are turned off by his poor shooting form (which Noah vows to improve) and by his lack of girth to defend against the biggest centers. But Noah will be a smart pro, an excellent passer and weakside shot-blocker who is made for the up-tempo style that many teams are seeking to play. He would provide instant leadership to the young front lines in Atlanta, Memphis or Boston, should one of them gamble a high pick on him.
5. Acie Law: A surprise pick here because he may slide into the 20s, but Law is a senior point guard with the size, toughness and killer instinct to contribute immediately. The team lucky enough to get him will realize the rewards next season.
Five wild-card teams
The Hawks have two lottery picks and cap space, which makes it difficult to predict how those assets will be spent -- and so a trade is expected. Here's one idea: Use No. 3 to pick Horford, then package No. 11 and power forward Josh Smith in a deal for a starting point guard.
2. The 76ers have four picks over a span of 27 (starting with No. 12 and ending with No. 38 overall in the second round). They could net four good players -- but they're unlikely to keep all of their picks.
3. The Celtics are under pressure to realize a big acquisition to justify their miserable season. They could trade No. 5 for an established player or use it on Yi Jianlian of China.
4. The Sonics will take Durant (or Oden) with the No. 2 pick, but that might not be their only big move. Word is that new GM Sam Presti has been assessing Ray Allen's trade value around the league, leading to speculation that he may be looking to scale back payroll and go young around Durant.
5. Will the Timberwolves trade Kevin Garnett for a package that includes draft picks? It's unlikely but they've been exploring every option.
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