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Who's No. 1?

Darned if anyone in the NBA knows.

"This isn't like last year," said one NBA general manager, "when you knew Chris Paul was going no later than No. 5 and Deron Williams no later than No. 6. It's one of those years you don't know where anyone is going to go."

To come up with a consensus on the first round in the NBA draft, interviews with almost a dozen executives and personnel were done on the basis of confidentiality. (NBA officials are not permitted to comment on underclassmen.) They were asked to ignore whether the player would make himself eligible and assume everyone in the world is eligible.

But as NBA general managers and scouts fan out across the country to watch basketball this month, even the top talent evaluators cannot agree on who might be the top pick. There was so much indecision, in fact, that not one executive was confident to declare any player worthy of being the No. 1 pick.

"There's not one guy in this draft you can comfortably say he's going to be a great player," one general manager said.

Still, the feeling was perhaps a dozen of the top players could be solid contributors and starters on good teams almost immediately. To offer a perspective on the talent, one executive said someone like the Bulls' Luol Deng could be the No. 1 overall pick if he were still in college based on his contributions at this point.

And, somewhat like last season, once you get past the top five or six, the talent level is similar into the early 20s. To most, it's an eye-of-the-beholder draft: A player who can fit one team could go in the top five or as low as 15 or 20 if that one team doesn't take him.

There also is the media-vs.-reality test for the top collegiate players, Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick. Most general managers doubt their ability to become high-level NBA players because neither is particularly athletic. But those same executives believe public and media pressure will have some teams eyeing them as top-10 picks and perhaps even in the top three.

So here's the list as it stands now, but remember that draft slots can change dramatically once individual workouts begin.

1. LaMarcus Aldridge, Texas, 6-10, 240

The best of the big men, though not necessarily to build your team around. Probably closer to 6-9 and 225, long and spindly, he'll be a project at the beginning with a chance to be worthy of top pick.

2. Tyrus Thomas, LSU, 6-8, 230

Freakish athlete who can run and dunk. He'll give some team the next version of Shawn Marion.

3. Adam Morrison, Gonzaga, 6-8, 205

The favorite of the marketing departments, but this is no Larry Bird, sir. He may not even be Tom Gugliotta. Pros fear he'll get taken out of games too easily by athletic defenders, but someone will be intrigued by the hard work, fearless attitude and accurate shooting.

4. Josh McRoberts, Duke, 6-10, 240

Blue Devils didn't run a lot through the freshman as they probably were trying to hide him from the pros, but he's the best prospect there. Pros like his fearless attitude and versatility at his size with an ability to score in the post.

5. Joakim Noah, Florida, 6-10, 225

Likened to the Cavaliers' Anderson Varejao for his wild hair and hustle, but a much higher-level talent. The son of former French tennis star Yannick Noah fills up the box score in virtually every column.

6. Rudy Gay, Connecticut, 6-9, 225

Toughest call of the top picks and the worrisome comparison to Tim Thomas, a player who could do it all but often doesn't seem to care to. Everyone is afraid to miss on his fabulous athleticism but fears his indifference.

7. Ronnie Brewer, Arkansas, 6-7, 220

Bit of a funky shot because of broken arm that never healed right, but can make some shots. Probably the best perimeter defender as a big guard. Plays hard on both ends of the court. Not physical, but a great athlete who disrupts offenses.

8. Brandon Roy, Washington, 6-5, 195

Big guard who is ready for NBA, and he's mature. Can handle the ball, pass and has improved his shooting. So far a little under the radar.

9. Rodney Carney, Memphis, 6-7, 205

Another of those athletic types, though with some reservations because of a lack of sophistication about the game. Likened by some to the 76ers' Andre Iguodala for breathtaking abilities, but not a shooter.

10. Andrea Bargnani, Italy, 6-11, 230

White Americans are the next Bird and big Europeans are the next Dirk Nowitzki. He doesn't have the drive of Nowitzki but is highly skilled and was dubbed—in the ultimate compliment by one GM—not a stiff.

11. Julian Wright, Kansas, 6-8, 215

The Homewood-Flossmoor product is a ways away as a freshman but could become an elite player. A versatile defender all over the court, a hard worker, passer and rebounder with a feel for the game. Years from now he could be one of the best from this draft if he comes out.

12. Hilton Armstrong, Connecticut, 6-10, 235

Often overlooked next to teammate Josh Boone, but a better worker and defender. Highly motivated player, which teams desire. Plays bigger and tougher. Not great upside, but should help immediately.

13. J.J. Redick, Duke, 6-4, 190

Somebody will be intrigued—and could be disappointed. A truly great shooter who benefited from the Duke system with plays and screens for him all over the court. Not athletic enough for the NBA, but as they say, they add up the baskets at the end.

14. Jason Smith, Colorado State, 6-11, 215

Not likely to come out, but considered a true white hope. Most of the comparisons are to Nowitzki. Good shooter and competitor who can block shots and run the court well, but minimized so far in college.

15. Marcus Williams, Connecticut, 6-3, 200

Probably best natural point guard, but has some legal problems. He was caught trying to sell laptops stolen from student dorm rooms. But the NBA has worse.

16. Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina, 6-9, 230

Clever, hard-working freshman who finds a way to get things done. One comparison was to Mark Madsen but with more skill. Needs to develop a bit more of an outside game.

17. Randy Foye, Villanova, 6-3, 200

Probably will need to learn to play point guard. Somewhat like the Bulls' Ben Gordon. Tough, scoring guard.

18. Al Horford, Florida, 6-8, 235

Undersized wide body whose long arms make up for deficit, similar to Elton Brand. The son of former NBA player Tito has a better all-around game and overall feel and toughness.

19. Shelden Williams, Duke, 6-8, 250

Considered a space eater likened by some to journeyman Marc Jackson. Not a great athlete, he has been able to overpower players in college but will struggle in pros against size.

20. Mardy Collins, Temple, 6-6, 200

Big guard who is generally considered a point guard but should play both positions. A long-armed player a team with a small backcourt would like.

21. Ronald Steele, Alabama, 6-2, 185

Probably the best of the pure point guards after Connecticut's Williams. A poised player who can run a team and make a shot.

22. Josh Boone, Connecticut, 6-10, 235

The guy they projected to be the next star big man. Somewhat disappointing with a soft label, but to some scouts a good risk if motivated.

23. Shawne Williams, Memphis, 6-9, 215

A terrific all-around talent who as a freshman isn't particularly disciplined and doesn't always work hard. A bit of a tweener on the front line, but intriguing talent.

24. Tiago Splitter, Brazil, 7-0, 240

A bit on the mechanical side, though a strong big man. Buyout issues could cause concern after Fran Vazquez declined to join the Magic after being a lottery pick last year.

25. Tedric Hill, Gulf Coast Jr. College, 6-10, 220

Junior-college guy, so a somewhat checkered past. But a good gamble down here. Long and athletic with great skills and the latest to draw the Kevin Garnett comparisons.

26. Nick Fazekas, Nevada, 6-11, 225

Not particularly athletic, but a smart player with a good feel for the game and good hands. Can shoot, but slow.

27. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA, 6-7, 210

An undersized power forward for now, but a kid from Cameroon who goes after everything and usually gets it. The freshman led the Pac-10 in rebounding. Called by one executive Ron Artest without the crazy.

28. Aaron Gray, Pittsburgh, 7-0, 270

Big guy who just works hard and has been improving. The kind of player who might be undervalued in college, like Brad Miller.

29. Maurice Ager, Michigan State, 6-5, 180

Shooter and one of three Michigan State players on the first-round bubble along with mechanical Paul Davis and guard Shannon Brown.

30. Dee Brown, Illinois, 5-10, 170

On the edge of guaranteed money. Regarded as a game changer with his speed, but the pros say he still looks lost in the half-court. Teammate James Augustine should get picked in the second round.

And keep in mind …

Given the fluid nature of this draft and several of the above who could elect to stay in college, others can crack the first round, especially once workouts begin after the NBA season. Some of the others who might be first-round picks include Bobby Brown of Cal State Fullerton, Brandon Rush of Kansas, Guillermo Diaz of Miami, Richard Roby of Colorado, Jordan Farmar of UCLA, Leon Powe of California, Curtis Stinson of Iowa State, Rudy Ferdandez of Spain, Rajon Rondo of Kentucky, Daniel Gibson of Texas, Kevin Pittsnogle of West Virginia, Hassan Adams of Arizona, Quincy Douby of Rutgers, Joseph Jones of Texas A&M, Jermareo Davidson of Alabama, Dominic James of Marquette, Darius Washington of Memphis and Kyle Lowry of Villanova.

Premium Member
9,839 Posts
Re: SAm Smith's Mock Draft

I put this in the draft section, but I'll add a bit to this from another new Sam Smith column :

He has a lot of my characteristics," says Pippen, now a main studio analyst for ABC-TV's NBA games with Dan Patrick and Mark Jackson. "He's very talented and can be a solid point forward. He works defensively all over the place, more than any of the top players I've seen. (As for his unconventional shot), after watching Shawn Marion shoot, I don't judge a shot. I'd take him over the big names, [Adam] Morrison and [J.J.] Redick. Maybe the one kid, Morrison, is a first-round pick, but Redick looks like a second-rounder to me unless someone is looking for that kind of player who can [just hit a shot]. But I don't know about him at the NBA level. The NBA game isn't built on coming off all those screens. You can challenge a small guy like that. I haven't seen him beat too many off the dribble. [Rudy] Gay is nice, the LSU guy (Tyrus Thomas), I see a lot of upside with him."
Lots of stuff in this one including stuff on the Knicks, Nets, Spurs and 76ers:

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