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Posted: Monday June 23, 2008 5:33PM; Updated: Monday June 23, 2008 6:27PM
Ian Thomsen Ian Thomsen >
INSIDE THE NBA

Uncertainty reigns in draft lottery

Story Highlights
  • GMs are struggling to evaluate a draft filled with college freshmen
  • Look for O.J. Mayo to emerge as the Wolves' choice at No. 3
  • The Warriors, armed with a big trade exception, are active in trade talks
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O.J. Mayo is getting strong consideration from the Timberwolves at No. 3.
O.J. Mayo is getting strong consideration from the Timberwolves at No. 3.
AP
2008 NBA Draft
 
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A president of a team picking in the lottery admits he has no reading of this draft.

"Every time I think I know what's happening in front of us," he said, "I get a call from somebody else telling me it's all changed again.''

Said a general manager whose team is also picking in the lottery: "A lot of people are under pressure in this draft. There's going to be a couple of guys who go after the first two in the lottery who will be potential All-Stars, and a couple of young guys picked way back in the 20s who will be really good, and one guy in the second round whom everyone misses on.''

The problem, he went on to say, is that no one can tell the future stars from the potential stiffs. The reason for this uncertainty?

"The age of the players,'' he said. "These players used to come out of high school or even after two years of college. Now the rule is that they have to play one year of college, and that's what a lot of them are doing. We aren't allowed to watch them in high school anymore and so we're trying to judge them based on one year of college. It's not enough. Not being able to watch the high school players is really hurting us. Otherwise, we'd all have better knowledge.''

The league office has claimed that teams should have more information on draft picks now that the domestic prospects have all played at least one year of college. But this GM responds that the one-and-done rule -- in combination with the ban on high-school scouting -- has provided him with less insight than ever.

All I know is that I seem to be revising my interpretation of this draft every 45 minutes. Therefore, I'm not going to update my online mock draft until Wednesday. In the meantime, here is the latest information I have on the lottery heading into the draft Thursday night.

1. Chicago Bulls: A big surprise if they don't go for Memphis point guard Derrick Rose.

2. Miami Heat: I heard Monday afternoon that the Sonics were trying to trade up to No. 2 for Michael Beasley. I don't believe that's true. I do believe that Miami will keep the pick to take Beasley and that he'll be Rookie of the Year.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves: The roundtable in their draft room is said to be split between UCLA forward Kevin Love and USC guard O.J. Mayo. Can they rationalize taking Love as high as No. 3? They can't afford to trade too far back for either player.

Note that the Timberwolves have done a good job of hiding their true intentions in previous years.

I'm thinking Mayo is going to emerge as their choice over the next couple of days. Not only is he seen as the best player available, but it's also in Minnesota's interests to have the rest of the league know that Mayo is the guy. That way, if a rival wants to trade up to get Mayo, it must negotiate with Minnesota to do so. Stanford center Brook Lopez remains in play here too.

4. Seattle SuperSonics: Add Mayo to the list of potential Sonics. He met with them this weekend and they are considering him, along with Lopez and Pac-10 combo guards Jerryd Bayless of Arizona and Russell Westbrook of UCLA.

If Mayo is off the board, then the best guess is that Lopez goes here. Amid recent leg injuries to young Sonics centers Robert Swift and Mouhamed Sene, Lopez would provide some offensive gravity in the low post with Kevin Durant orbiting around him. A skilled, big center is a rare thing in any draft.

5. Memphis Grizzlies: Word around the league has had the Grizzlies taking either Mayo or Love. One of them figures to be available at No. 5 barring one of these two scenarios: (1) Minnesota goes for Love and Seattle takes Mayo, or (2) a team trades up to the Nos. 3 or 4 for Love or Mayo.

On Monday, however, I heard another rumor that Eric Gordon is the top choice here. Another alternative is Lopez.

6. New York Knicks: With Mayo gone, their pool should include Danilo Gallinari, Gordon and Bayless, with West Virginia forward Joe Alexander and Westbrook as outsiders. I'm penciling in Gallinari here because he can play both forward positions for Mike D'Antoni, plus he is the 19-year-old leader of his Euroleague team in Milan -- and the Knicks need leadership.

7. Los Angeles Clippers: Rivals expect the Clippers to go for one of the combo guards -- Gordon, Bayless or Westbrook. Several executives believe it will be Gordon.

8. Milwaukee Bucks: The most popular names here have been Alexander and LSU forward Anthony Randolph, the upside player in this draft. Alexander fills a need at small forward, and he brings the toughness that Scott Skiles is seeking. Let's say it's Alexander.

9. Charlotte Bobcats: Were Lopez to slide -- as he could if he gets past Minnesota, Seattle and Memphis -- then he would be an excellent pickup for the Bobcats. Otherwise, I'm going with Westbrook here as an athletic, lockdown defender with point-guard capabilities -- that should make Larry Brown happy. Texas' D.J. Augustin, the only true point guard in the lottery after Rose, should also be in consideration.

10. New Jersey Nets: Not only will they land a good player here, but they'll also be able to claim that he's as good as any of the seven picks in the draft after Rose and Beasley. The best guess is that Bayless (who is among Seattle's options at No. 4) will be available as a Ben Gordon-like scorer off the bench who can play alongside Devin Harris or Vince Carter.

11. Indiana Pacers: They're looking at Augustin to fill their gaping need at point guard. I've also heard Randolph and Brandon Rush here. But Augustin is the safe pick.

12. Sacramento Kings: If Augustin is gone, then their options include Randolph, Syracuse forward Donte' Greene, a highly skilled shooter, or Rush.

13. Portland Trail Blazers: Something tells me they wouldn't mind seeing Randolph fall to them as a long-term prospect at the end of their bench, adding to their wealth of depth up front. But that's just my guess. One source told me that they'd like to draft Westbrook, but they'll have to move up to get him. If they can't address their needs at point guard, then Stanford big man Robin Lopez wouldn't be a surprise here as a long-term asset.

14. Golden State Warriors: Rider big man Jason Thompson persists here as the fast-rising choice of coach Don Nelson, who needs rebounding. But the Warriors also have been part of numerous trade discussions involving their $9.9 million trade exception (expiring four days after the draft) inherited from last year's trade of Jason Richardson to Charlotte.

 
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