SECAUCUS, N.J. – Between the commissioner telling Greg Oden and Kevin Durant that they had to go to college for a year and the Florida Gators' three stars staying one more season, an intriguing confluence of events inspired one of the deepest, most talented NBA draft classes in years.
And now, with the draft lottery complete Tuesday night, here's a scenario about how the lottery could play out June 28 in New York.
1. Portland Trail Blazers – Greg Oden, 7-foot center, Ohio State. With the first pick in the 2007 NBA draft, the Blazers select … Sam Bowie, Mychal Thompson and LaRue Martin. Nah, not this time. The Blazers are getting a franchise center for the next decade.
2. Seattle SuperSonics – Kevin Durant, 6-9 forward, Texas. This is some spectacular consolation prize. Durant is the most gifted and complete offensive player to come out of college in years, and maybe, just maybe, he can save the Sonics in Seattle.
3. Atlanta Hawks – Yi Jianlian, 7-foot forward, China. Two years ago, the Hawks made a terrible mistake passing on point guards Deron Williams and Chris Paul high in the draft. They still need a playmaker, but they can get a solid point later in the lottery. Jianlian is an athletic, slashing forward who has blown scouts away with perimeter talents.
4. Memphis Grizzlies – Corey Brewer, 6-8 guard, Florida. Brewer is the Tennessee kid who can help ease the disappointment of missing out on the franchise stars, Oden and Durant. Brewer's 7-foot wingspan makes him a menace on defense. He's a shot-maker, too.
5. Boston Celtics – Brandan Wright, 6-10 forward, North Carolina. Doc Rivers will be gone by the All-Star break, but Wright, with those condor arms, is a long, fluid offensive talent who will block shots and score around the basket. He isn't Durant, but he'll be a major scorer in the pros.
6. Milwaukee Bucks – Al Horford, 6-9 forward, Florida. The Bucks are desperate for some toughness around the basket, and Horford is an easy choice for general manager Larry Harris. Horford will develop offensively, but he will arrive an accomplished defender and rebounder.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves – Mike Conley, 6-1 guard, Ohio State. Conley is the purest of point guards, forever thinking pass-first. As much as his longtime teammate Oden, he was the reason the Buckeyes made a run to the national title game. He needs to shoot it better, but he's a leader and a winner.
8. Charlotte Bobcats – Joakim Noah, 6-10 forward, Florida. So much for improving his stock by staying in school. Noah would've gone higher in the 2006 draft. Nevertheless, the Bobcats are desperate for a star to complement Emeka Okafor on the inside. Noah could sell a few tickets for this fledgling franchise.
9. Chicago Bulls – Spencer Hawes, 7-foot center, Washington. Hawes is a skilled low-post player with a tough attitude and a relentless disposition. He fits perfectly with the Bulls' terrific nucleus of young players who bring it every night on the floor.
10. Sacramento Kings – Tiago Splitter, 7-foot center, Brazil. With Roy Hibbert going back to Georgetown for his senior year, Splitter has developed a reputation for his tough, physical presence near the basket. With Oden going to Portland, size matters even more in the West.
11. Atlanta Hawks – Acie Law, 6-3 guard, Texas A&M. Law isn't going to be a star in the NBA, but he's a tough, smart guard with the guts to make big shots. Most of all, he's a leader. He'll be a good complement to franchise star Joe Johnson.
12. Philadelphia 76ers – Julian Wright, 6-9 forward, Kansas. The 76ers are believed to be enamored with Georgetown's Jeff Green, but it will be a tough call if Wright survives this deep into the lottery. Wright is more athletic and has more upside.
13. New Orleans Hornets – Jeff Green, 6-9 forward, Georgetown. Green does a little of everything well, and he fits into the winning culture that G.M. Jeff Bower and coach Byron Scott are determined to infuse into the Hornets on the way back to New Orleans.
14. Los Angeles Clippers – Thaddeus Young, 6-8 forward, Georgia Tech. Young is a long, athletic talent who is just too talented to pass up and slide out of the lottery.
- Greg Oden
- Kevin Durant