Everyone in the pool: Mock draft with all NBA players available
Picking a fantasy team is easy: Just search stat books for the player with the best numbers and scoop him up before somebody else grabs him.
Picking a franchise player? That's a little more difficult.
When determining who is and who isn't a cornerstone player, you have to look beyond the numbers. Would Jason Kidd improve a team more than, say, Andre Iguodala? In the short term, yes. But the 35-year-old Kidd might have only one or two quality years left, while Iguodala, 24, will be playing at an All-Star level well into the next decade.
And what about positions? Do you build around centers or point guards? Swingmen or power forwards?
Imagine if every player in the league were available and each team had a crack at drafting one, at his current age, in the order of the 2008 NBA draft (first-round picks that were traded have been returned to their original owner). Who would you take to start your team? Here is our first round.
(Disagree? Weigh in with your thoughts and picks here.)
1. Chicago Bulls: LeBron James, SF, 23 years old. Scary as it sounds, James might still be years away from reaching his prime. Imagine James with slight improvements in his defense and perimeter game.
2. Miami Heat: Dwight Howard, C, 22. Shot-blocking, physically intimidating, attack-the-rim centers are hard to come by. Actually, outside of Howard, they are nearly impossible. As he proved this past season in Orlando, Howard is capable of dominating even with undersized help.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves: Kobe Bryant, SG, 29. Does Bryant inspire or intimidate? Who cares as long he gets the job done, which Bryant does with staggering success.
4. Seattle SuperSonics: Chris Paul, PG, 23. Ask Phoenix or New Jersey what an elite point guard can do for you. The probing Paul is Steve Nash circa 2005 and has seven or eight prime years still in front of him.
5. Memphis Grizzlies: Yao Ming, C, 27. Size? Check. Skills? Double-check. Aggressive personality? Check, check, check. He has shrugged off his passive demeanor and become fiercely competitive, perhaps the lone attribute that had stood between Yao and greatness. Well, that and better health.
6. New York Knicks: Kevin Garnett, PF, 32. Yes, with KG as your cornerstone, you will have to find a fourth-quarter scorer. But that's about all you will need to find to complement this ultimate team player and defensive menace.
7. Los Angeles Clippers: Amaré Stoudemire, F/C, 25. Lingering questions about the health of his surgically repaired knees vanished after a 25.2-point, 9.1-rebound season in 2007-08. Dominating offense, questionable defense.
8. Milwaukee Bucks: Dwyane Wade, SG, 26. Wade's strengths -- explosive first step, attack-the-basket mentality and an improving jump shot -- speak for themselves, but questions about his long-term durability drop him a couple of notches on this list.
9. Charlotte Bobcats: Chris Bosh, PF, 24. The fluid Bosh could probably stand to put on a few pounds, but few big men can match his interior skills and feathery outside touch.
10. New Jersey Nets: Tim Duncan, F/C, 32. Only age keeps Duncan from going higher. Duncan operates out of the post like Bill Walton and is as fundamentally sound as they come. Unfortunately, the 11-year veteran has played nearly two full seasons in playoff games, meaning his decline should be only a few years away.
11. Indiana Pacers: Carmelo Anthony, SF, 24. A smooth jump shot, physical inside game and improving defense. The occasional lapse in maturity -- and some pretty good talent ahead of him -- keeps 'Melo out of the top 10.
12. Sacramento Kings: Dirk Nowitzki, PF, 30. Before the 2006 NBA Finals, Nowitzki probably would have been a top three pick. But Nowitzki's inability to develop a reliable post-up game has cost him a few spots. Still, the sweet-shooting 7-footer is a building-block player.
13. Portland Trail Blazers: Gilbert Arenas, PG, 26. Arenas will probably never be a pure point guard. But paired with a bigger ball handler in the backcourt -- saving Arenas from having to defend the point position -- Agent Zero could be an unstoppable offensive force. Assuming the knee is healthy, of course.
14. Golden State Warriors: Greg Oden, C, 20. OK, so Oden hasn't played a game yet. But a 7-foot, 250-pound center with superior defensive ability has to be considered a franchise player. Any offensive skills he develops -- and he will develop them -- are a bonus.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Tony Parker, PG, 26. With a deadly teardrop, an improving jump shot and a proven ability to lead a veteran team, Parker epitomizes a franchise point guard.