This is Part Two of Adam Stanco's Lottery Lowdown, a Two-part look at what the Draft means for the Top 14 picks.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves
Kevin Garnett needs help. Desperately. Randy Foye is the only other player on the Minnesota roster who scares opponents.
The Timberwolves could use help at the point guard, swing, and center positions meaning they could go in multiple directions on draft day. And it all comes down to how much the pick can help Garnett.
Joakim Noah would provide Garnett with a big boost on the defensive end of the floor, Mike Conley or Acie Law would give Garnett his best lead guard counterpart since Stephon Marbury, and Julian Wright would get Garnett better looks than he’s ever had. However, KG needs to play alongside a legit star as soon as possible and none of those prospects will be playing at an elite level in the NBA anytime soon.
8. Charlotte Bobcats
Between Raymond Felton, Gerald Wallace, Adam Morrison, Sean May, and Emeka Okafor, Charlotte is quietly stockpiling talent in Charlotte.
But the muli-dimensional Wallace might not be a Bobcat for very long. Despite the team’s desire to retain him, the free agent-to-be will most likely sign elsewhere. The loss would be huge for Charlotte, considering how good Wallace is on the defensive end of the floor.
If Wallace isn’t retained, expect Charlotte to make a major push for Corey Brewer. The former Florida swingman will be an excellent defender on the next level and his offensive repertoire is impressive. He can shoot with range and attack the hoop. However, Brewer is one of the fastest-rising prospects in the draft and it is unlikely that he’ll be available for the Bobcats.
If the Bobcats don’t move up and Brewer is gone before they select, Jeff Green would be another solid fit.
9. Chicago Bulls (from New York Knicks)
Turns out Isiah Thomas’s trade for Eddy Curry wasn’t ridiculous. In October of 2005, the Knicks acquired Curry in a five-player deal that also included this year’s draft pick. Thomas has long insisted that he would take Curry over any player the Knicks could have selected in this draft.
Obviously, that would have been a hard sell if the Bulls had gotten one of the top two picks from the Knicks. Instead, the Bulls will be selecting deep into the lottery without the possibility of getting the second-best center originally thought to be available because Roy Hibbert decided to return to Georgetown.
With Hibbert out of the mix, expect the Bulls to take a long look at Washington big man Spencer Hawes. Hawes is skilled, but his poor rebounding and complete lack of explosion could signal disappointment on the NBA level.
10. Sacramento Kings
Was it really five years ago that the Kings were on the verge of knocking the Lakers off their Western Conference pedestal? Sacramento has gone from a league juggernaut, rubbing shoulders amongst the league’s elite to completely lacking an identity.
Eric Musselman was fired after just one season. One extremely frustrating season, that is. Trade rumors commonly feature Mike Bibby and Brad Miller – the only remaining contributors from those magnificent teams. The Ron Artest experiment made more waves from his off-court issues than anything he did at Arco Arena, which could mean he might not be back next season. Heck, the whole team – literally – would be moving if the Maloofs had their way.
Having a pick this deep in the lottery won’t singularly reverse the team’s fortunes, but it would be a nice start on the road to recovery. If Joakim Noah is available at No. 10, the Kings would be foolish not to select him. Noah would energize Sacramento and remind fans of what Chris Webber used to do for them. Noah doesn’t resemble a young C-Webb, but his game does. The son of Yannick Noah and two-time NCAA champ is a quick jumper and surprisingly adept at finding cutting teammates.
If Noah is off the board, the Kings would probably target Spencer Hawes.
11. See Part One For the Hawks 3rd and 11th picks.
12. Philadelphia 76ers
For the first time in over a decade, the Sixers will start a season without Allen Iverson leading the team. Andre Iguodala is now Philly’s marquis name, but there are questions about whether he can be one of the league’s true stars. While Iguodala can defend as well as anyone and is capable of huge scoring outbursts, he can’t shoot with any consistency (31% from 3-pt) and he turns the ball over far too much.
Yet somehow the Sixers still managed to acquire two players in the 2006 draft – Rodney Carney and Bobby Jones – who are stunningly similar to Iggy. GM Billy King continues to draft shooting guards and small forwards, despite having a roster that is full of them. Louis Williams, Kyle Korver, Willie Green… The list goes on and on.
So don’t blame Philly fans for their pessimism towards this draft.
Florida State’s Al Thornton might just be the best available player at No. 12, but he’s an explosive scorer who plays on the wing. Talented forwards Julian Wright of Kansas and Georgetown’s Jeff Green are also potential picks who would struggle to find playing time on this current Sixers team. Philly could also decide to go big and pick Spencer Hawes or really reach for Colorado State’s Jason Smith.
The Sixers also have two picks later in the first round which could be packaged together – or individually as part of a deal with another member of the roster – to move up in the lottery.
13. New Orleans Hornets
Two years ago, the consensus of those associated with the NBA was that Chris Paul was a much better player than Deron Williams. The Jazz front office was repeatedly knocked for drafting the former Illini over the former Demon Deacon in 2005.
But last year something changed. The pro-Williams opinion started gaining momentum. It was building and building and building until, finally, around the midway point of the season, Paul was knocked from his perch. No longer was the Hornets’ lead man considered the best young point guard in the NBA; that distinction now belonged to Williams.
Incredibly, their numbers were eerily similar:
Chris Paul: 17.3 ppg, 8.9 apg, 4.4 rpg, 1.84 spg, 43.7% FG, 36.8 mpg
Deron Williams: 19.2 ppg, 8.6 apg, 4.3 rpg, 1.0 spg, 45.6% FG, 36.9 mpg
The difference – in the public’s mind – was their team’s records. Utah won 51 games, yet the Hornets won just 39. But Williams really separated himself during the postseason, performing brilliantly, while Paul was home. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the average beholder only gets to see small-market teams play during the playoffs. That’s when unheralded talents are transformed into full-fledged stars.
What does all of this have to do with this year’s draft?
If Paul is to regain his title, he must do more than beat Williams in the numbers game. He must get his Hornets into the playoffs and, consequently, onto a national stage. The only way it will happen is if he gets help.
David West, Desmond Mason, and Peja Stojakovic are all solid players, but not one of them is unstoppable. And if Tyson Chandler becomes an all-star it will be because of his rebounding and defensive capabilities, not his offensive gifts.
Look for the Hornets to add a wing player who can score and who has serious star potential. USC’s Nick Young, Thaddeus Young of Georgia Tech, FSU’s Al Thornton, or even Kansas stud Julian Wright – if he slides – would all fit the bill.
14. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers can not do anything on draft day without deciding whether they will ever have Shaun Livingston back to being Shaun Livingston. After Livingston’s grotesque knee injury, the likelihood of a full recovery is minimal. While the team is hopeful, they must also be realistic. And that means addressing their point guard needs immediately.
In 2003, the Chicago Bulls faced a remarkably similar situation. Jay Williams, the team’s phenomenally talented court general, was badly injured in a motorcycle accident. The human side of Bulls management was hopeful for his return. However, the business side understood the importance of accepting Williams’s fate and dealing with it as soon as possible. They snatched up Kirk Hinrich with the seventh overall pick and, as evidenced by the team’s rapid ascension of late, the move paid off greatly.
The Clippers should follow the precedent Chicago set. Everyone in NBA circles is hopeful for Livingston’s return, but successful organizations aren’t built on hope. They are built on dealing with reality.
If the Clippers have the chance to draft Acie Law or Javaris Crittenton, they shouldn’t hesitate. They should simply follow their heads and not their hearts.