by Ben Collins
Check back here as the day progresses for every rumor I can dig up, some last comparisons and final thoughts on the accidental memoir that was this, in-total, 20-page Mock Draft. Yes, that’s like 1/3 of a Mitch Albom book. About the NBA Draft. That just happened.
As is blared in front of ESPN.Com, as if it wasn’t glaringly obvious enough, Greg Oden is going number one tonight. But we knew that. We all knew that. Hell, his direct competition for the number one pick was resigned to it Tuesday night when we talked to him.
“They’ve got me on Seattle in this, which is good.”
This is Kevin Durant, the savior of all basketball in Seattle. He’s not talking about mock drafts, but NBA Live 08, which he’s helping to promote with Gilbert Arenas, the staff of EA Canada and about forty tons of barbecued chicken.
He’s not pissed and he’s not boasting his merits. He’s never been self-aggrandizing and he’s not going to start at a too-small barbecue joint two days before the draft.
“We’ll see how it turns out for real on Thursday.”
Maybe this is the new page for NBA players: one who is comfortable enough in his abilities to not vie for an unnecessary jump in the draft by plugging himself as the new Jordan (which he very well may be). One who doesn’t create enemies just because they’re supposed to be his enemies.
For example, how many times has he heard the name Sam Bowie in the last week?
How many times has he shrugged it off? Looks like all of them.
“Greg Oden,” he pauses and frowns because he hates the comparison. We all hate the comparison. “Greg Oden is nothing like that, man. Greg Oden really deserves it if he goes (first). He’s a great player and he’s going to be a great player.”
This new NBA player doesn’t rule out places because of the inanities. Like climate.
“I lived in DC, so I saw some of the worst blizzards ever and the next day it was 70-degree weather,” he said. “So all that stuff” – Seattle or Portland, he means – “doesn’t really matter to me.”
One who talks like an actual human being. One who is neither more candid to the media than they are to their shrink or lodged into “both teams played hard” rhetoric. He’s relaxing and letting the draft cards fall and get picked up and get handed to the commissioner as they may.
It would be a nice new NBA player, we admit. There go all the character issues in a heartbeat.
It won’t happen. It’ll never happen. Because his polar opposite in terms of marketing appeal, Gilbert Arenas — he speaks with his mouth and his game – is across the room launching virtual 40-footers with Virtual Gilbert in the virtual first quarter.
It’s funny, really. A millionaire in the corner of a barbecue restaurant screaming at a video game. The situation is funny. He’s funny. Gilbert would switch faces with Denzel for a day like the movie Face/Off, he says. Wouldn’t we all.
And there’s common sense up there, too. For a guy who was once a kid bent on revenge because he was left in a draft Green Room until his name was called for the second round, he has advice for to-be-passed-on Durant.
“He’s going either one or two,” says Arenas. “So he has to be thinking he’s going either one of those two picks. And he can’t worry about it. He just can’t.”
Sound advice. We’ll keep Arenas too. But the NBA is probably better off with both. A league full of Durants just makes the Arenas’ a bit more entertaining.
21 – Philadelphia 76ers – Josh McRoberts (PF, Duke) – Tiago Splitter is the logical choice here, but we’ve already come to the realization that Billy King is probably not going to draft a foreigner, no matter how NBA-ready he is. So, since everyone has some sort of mathematical formula to draft players or rank teams — I can’t wait for John Hollinger’s new book on calculating how to mathematically escape a burning building in a crowded theatre, “The Hollinger Escape Plan” – I’ve done a quick check-off list for Billy King to sort through before tonight:
[ ] Does player fill gaping hole at scoring from the power forward position? (+10)
[ ] Can player be worse than Shavlik Randolph? (-1000)
[ ] Follow-up question: Can a player be worse than Shavlik Randolph? (No points assigned; genuinely curious.)
[ ] Is player talkin’ ‘bout practice? (-5 points)
[ ] Is player shoot-first point guard with no conscience? (+76)
[ ] Does player laud you for Sam Dalembert and Kyle Korver signings? (+100000)
[ ] Did player attend major American university? (+100)
[ ] Did player go to Duke? (+∞)
Signs point to Josh McRoberts.
22 – Charlotte Bobcats – Tiago Splitter (PF/C, Brazil) – From all that we’ve heard, this guy is a tough, built low-post scorer who is all set for the NBA and doesn’t have any of those awful International tendencies of floating towards the perimeter.
But that’s what we’ve heard. And that’s what we’ve been hearing the last four drafts. Tiago could’ve been stoned to death in Paraguay at this point. He may have had a debilitating hand injury making hummus with his fingers. He may not have ever even existed.
Now he’s gonna get drafted and up to the podium is going to walk a big bag of rice. “Nice job, Michael Jordan, drafting that bag of rice!” the fans will scream. Yeah, what a jackass.
23 – New York Knicks – Sean Williams (PF/C, Boston College)
About three months ago, I called everyone Sean Williams knew in an attempt to find him. About two weeks later he called back and said he didn’t want to do interview, which I was cool with and understood completely considering the circumstances and how he has been portrayed in the media. As time went by, he was OK with us talking to one another, just not OK with us doing an “interview.” Whatever that means.
The only thing of substance that came out of our talks is that he never really enjoyed basketball growing up because he didn’t play much under one coach. I asked if his AAU coach, who discovered him and his 82-inch body when he was moping at the end of the bench of another high school team and not playing, was his saving grace. He said “no” and we moved on.
His character started unfolding and it became apparent that he wasn’t a bad kid, but one who just had a hobby that he really didn’t want to give up. It was also a hobby that hampered his decision-making ability, so he got caught plenty. Weed never treated him kindly and I’m just going to hope, for his sake, that “treated” remains in the past tense.
John Lucas said it right in my feature: if he’s in a place with a lot of assistance and constant support, this kid has a chance to shake this League up. If he falls into bad habits, he’s Keon Clark. He just needs a good environment and a smaller city.
New York – the Knicks and the city – are not that. Please, Isiah, you’ve messed up enough. Don’t ruin this kid’s life. Because, albeit accidentally, if this pick goes as planned like I’m reading, you absolutely will.
24 – Phoenix Suns – Rudy Fernandez (SG, Spain)
Rudy is the mini-Tiago in two senses:
1 – He has been holding out on this draft thing until the very last second and picked the worst year to declare. (That said, I don’t remember Fernandez ever being a top-5 pick, which Splitter was where projected twice.)
2 – He’s 6’6” and 172 lbs, so he is, in fact, tiny.
He’d be a consummate Sun. Drains threes, is dazzlingly quick for his height, plays a very European style (nails jumpers in uptempo games, thinks defense is an ancient exotic fruit) and he can even hate Bruce Bowen if you want. Or Kobe. You tell Rudy who to hate and he will hate him, guaranteed.
The Suns are always looking for another Barbosa – a late round International player who is unique so everyone is scared to take him early. He really needs to bulk up, is the thing, and he’s 22, so it’s going to be hard to put on more muscle. But if it works out, they’re that much smarter for it.
Worst case: Sarunas Jasikevicius
25 – Utah Jazz – Morris Almond (SG/SF, Rice)
This is one of those fundamental players who does everything right that Knicks could use, but I’m pretty sure Isiah wants to see the rapture in his lifetime and I think he wants to see it in the Knicks locker room so he’ll slide to Utah here.
Morris Almond is what Gordan Giricek wants to be: a three-point shooter who hustles for everything and continually makes smart plays. He lays his body on the line – he did at Rice when he was the entire team – and shoots at a clip that makes Wilt Chamberlain jealous. In his last three years at school 52.5%, 50%, 48.3%. Bruce Bowen doesn’t shoot that from the free throw line. He also never shot lower than 44.4% from three in his last three years at school. I don’t know if this kid is the real deal, but it looks like it.
26 – Houston Rockets – Reyshawn Terry (SF, UNC)
The following sentence reads so kitschy and vomit-inducing, I almost just scrapped the pick altogether, but it’s absolutely true: Reyshawn could be the next Tayshaun.
Or Tayshaun-like player. Or Tayshaun-like-in-the-sense-that-they-were-both-late-first-early-second-round-picks-that-never-got-enough-appreciation. But none of that rhymes.
Again, with the long and the lanky stuff, Reyshawn is just that. He was great in the passing lanes last year and was the core to a defense that put a too-young UNC team at the top of the country. He has outstanding leadership ability and is a grown man (he’s 23). All of these things are strikingly similar to a Tayshaun connection, but I’m not making this into a poem, so this section has no ending.
27 – Detroit Pistons – Jared Dudley (SF, Boston College)
Jared’s probably my favorite player to watch that’s in this draft other than Durant and scouts are starting to figure this out. He did some late workouts with about fifty teams and made everyone in the late-teens want to draft him, so I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if he’s gone far ahead of here.
Listen to him talk about basketball. He loves it. He speaks with conviction about it. He will be a good NBA player wherever he goes and there are two other players in this draft you can say that for. And those two will have their names accounted for in the first 10 minutes of the show tonight.
I’ll apologize for him: he’s not seven-feet tall. He can’t pass like a guard. He wouldn’t make it in And 1. But he’s one of those last pieces to a championship team players and, if he goes this late, he might be that next year.
Pick. Jared. Dudley.
28 – San Antonio Spurs – Alando Tucker (SG/SF, Wisconsin)
You want proof that I wasn’t picking these in the order that I wanted them to go, but the order I think they’ll go? Here: my favorite player in all of college hoops last year goes to my least favorite basketball team on this green Earth.
He’s one of those Spurs players that is a big-time scorer, not afraid of big shots, and is completely lead changes. He gets tough baskets in the paint to make up for the fact that he’s really an undersized small forward. He’s like Corliss Williamson as a Piston on speed.
He could be a helpful pickup for the the world’s already-best team. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid, Alando. Don’t do it.
29 – Phoenix Suns – Marcus Williams (SG, Arizona)
Marcus Williams was a lottery pick until he forgot how to shoot threes last year, but I still think either he or other chucker Marco Bellinelli (a three-point shooting project, which is like a pitcher with a degenerative arm disease) go to the Suns here.
This one year of bad shooting that Marcus Williams had was apparently related to visiting some trainer in Seattle last summer who completely “reworked” his jumpshot. His percentage from three dropped from 43.5% to 28.8%. Fifteen percentage points! Did the trainer give him a lobotomy? Please give Kevin Durant that guy’s number so he can blacklist it.
Either way, the Suns are probably trading both picks and moving up or going foreign and stashing the player overseas with one (thus Fernandez) and American with the other. Fazekas would be an awesome pick here, too, but that just makes too much sense.
30 – Philadelphia 76ers – Wilson Chandler (SG/SF, DePaul) – Wilson Chandler has an aura. A feel. A sixth sense. Something that compels all GMs to immediately succumb to his floater.
Either Wilson Chandler is that guy from “The Others” or he someone is making a good amount of completely inaccurate stuff about him in the media.
Because, without ever working out for the Knicks, I’ve heard he has a promise there. I’ve also heard of him going to the Pistons and Rockets before he worked out there.
It’s not like this kid’s college resume launched him to the top of the draft landscape or anything. He went to Depaul, for God’s sake. But he’s in the lanky small-forward sect that seems to be overtaking this draft like a bad insect manifestation. That’s why I can’t see, as bad as Isiah is at this whole “running a basketball team” thing, the Knicks picking yet another one of those. He could be a good player and this also gives Philly a different position at every pick, so I think this would be the way to go.