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Star gazing

Knicks eyeing Randolph; Celtics targeting Ray Allen

Posted: Thursday June 28, 2007 1:31PM; Updated: Thursday June 28, 2007 7:18PM
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NEW YORK -- As the Celtics try to work a trade for Ray Allen, and the Knicks hope to land Zach Randolph, here's the latest best-guess on tonight's top draft picks:

1. Portland -- Greg Oden
2. Seattle -- Kevin Durant
3. Atlanta -- Al Horford
4. Memphis -- Mike Conley Jr.
5. Boston -- Yi Jianlian
6. Milwaukee -- Jeff Green
7. Minnesota -- Joakim Noah
8. Charlotte -- Brandan Wright
9. Chicago -- Spencer Hawes
10. Sacramento -- Corey Brewer
11. Atlanta -- Acie Law
12. Philadelphia -- Al Thornton
13. New Orleans -- Nick Young
14. L.A. Clippers -- Rodney Stuckey

In the hour before the draft began, it looked like the on-off trade of Allen to the Celtics may be back on again. And the Bucks were contemplating a draft-night deal that would bring point guard Luke Ridnour from Seattle to Milwaukee, signaling what may turn out to be a wholesale revamping of the Sonics' roster by new GM Sam Presti.

Less than four hours before the draft, I heard that the Knicks were looking to acquire Randolph from Portland. It was uncertain what New York would be sending to the Blazers; my source believed it might be Channing Frye and Steve Francis, which would force Portland to include another player in the trade. What I can tell you is that Randolph was initially reticent about going to New York. Stay tuned.

The proposal being negotiated by Seattle and Boston would send Allen to the Celtics for a package including the No. 5 pick, Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West. The last I heard was that Seattle was having second thoughts about the deal: The sticking point was that the Sonics wanted second-year point guard Rajon Rondo instead of West, which led Boston VP Danny Ainge to demand that Seattle also include center Robert Swift in the trade. But Seattle was unwilling to include Swift.

Just before the draft, however, the two sides began talking in a last-ditch attempt to make the trade work.

The trade makes sense on both ends. Depending on what else they're forced to give up, this could be a tremendous move for the Celtics, who could escape the two years and $26.6 million obligation to Szczerbiak while providing Paul Pierce with the complementary All-Star he's been lacking since the departure of Antoine Walker. Allen also would serve as a terrific spokesman for a franchise whose owners are more PR-wary than previous Celtics regimes.

If this deal goes through, it will signal that the Sonics are looking to slash payroll and rebuild anew around Durant. On top of having paid far too much for the franchise, the new Sonics owners are facing a likely market downsizing by moving to Oklahoma City after this season. So it's understandable that they would want to keep costs low and rebuild around Durant, who could be a dominant star in a few years.

It's hard to say what the Sonics would do with the No. 5 pick. They could trade it to Philadelphia, Cleveland or another team looking to move up. They could also gamble it on a future replacement for Rashard Lewis, who is expected to leave as a free agent this summer.

For the time being I'm penciling in Yi Jianlian at the No. 5 slot, since the Celtics would be happy to have him should this deal fall through.

The top of the draft looks solid, with the Hawks taking Horford and Conley going to Memphis. Milwaukee was willing to entertain trades for the No. 6 pick; if the Bucks hold onto the pick they'll use it for either Jeff Green or Yi -- despite the objections of Yi's agent, Dan Fegan, who wants him in a larger market. The chances of Yi going to Milwaukee will increase with Conley off the board.

Minnesota at No. 7 is a wild card, considering all of their trade talk involving Kevin Garnett, who will almost surely be traded this summer if it doesn't happen on draft day. Its pick here will depend greatly on the outcome of those talks, but for the time being let's pencil in Noah here to provide Minnesota with a frontcourt complement to Amare Stoudemire, who still looks like the best option in an eventual trade for KG. (Another potential choice for Minnesota here would be Hawes.)

Charlotte is said to be the darling of many teams hoping to move up: Golden State, Detroit, Phoenix and Philadelphia are all trying to trade for the Bobcats' No. 8 pick. The most intriguing partner would be the Warriors, who could trade, say, Monta Ellis into Charlotte's cap space in exchange for the No. 8 pick, which the Warriors could use for Thornton, who drew raves from vice president Chris Mullin and coach Don Nelson. Everyone would be happy: The Bobcats would land a better player than they could get on the free-agent market this summer, and Ellis may not command a huge salary on his next contract.

For the time being let's write -- faintly -- the name of Wright going No. 8 to the Bobcats, with the understanding that a trade could change that pick.

Chicago is going to use the No. 9 pick on size if at all possible. It'll be hoping that either Noah or Hawes is on the board.

Geoff Petrie's choice is always hard to predict. Brewer looks like the best player available at 10 for Sacramento.

If Atlanta doesn't trade No. 11 -- as of Wednesday night the longstanding proposal of Ridnour for that pick was dead -- the Hawks will probably use it on Law, a point guard who will help them next year.