Unsubstantiated Speculation: Today's NBA Draft Rumors

May 22nd, 2007
With all the excitement of a lead-in to Jeopardy! the NBA Draft Lottery takes place tonight. It is always a glorious event. Where else can we watch the usually cocksure (and by “cocksure” I mean oblivious) NBA executives sweat through their suits and smile nervously while clutching some sort of lucky charm — like a lion’s tooth or gypsy tears or something — knowing that some stupid Ping Pong balls could savage their respective careers. Only in the NBA could this become not only a relevant event, but a weirdly entertaining one, even if only a few teams actually have a shot at No. 1 and the top prospects are usually guys like Kwame Brown, Michael Olowokandi and Andrew Bogut.


Luckily Greg Oden and Kevin Durant add a nice little twist to this year’s lottery with the teams landing in the top 2 instantly rejuvenated and teams on the outside planning for relocation.


Most importantly, the lottery marks the start of Draft prep, which comes at a perfect time given the plodding slop that is the Conference Finals (I’m way more interested in Oden vs. Durant than Spurs vs. Pistons). So as part of CHN’s NBA Draft coverage I’ll sift through the wide expanse of the Internet and try to stay up to date with all the latest unsubstantiated speculation buzz. And if that’s not enough, I’ll throw in my two cents as well.


·         It’s really no joke that the jobs of some NBA executives are on the line as David Aldridge writes of Sixers GM Billy King (I’m a big Sixers fan which is why this leads off the list). King has been hopelessly inept in most of his roster moves (with the exception of 2000, a year he actually made very few moves), but he’s been decent in the Draft (Iguodala, Korver in the 2nd round). If they can’t get a PF like Brandan Wright, Al Horford or Joakim Noah, the next choice should be PGs Conley or Law. That would be the logical move at least. But the pressure is as high as ever on King and I smell desperation (which smells a lot like Spencer Hawes by the way). He could take a flier on someone realizing it’s make or break time for the Sixers, who have three first-round picks and only one top 50 NBA player. Good thing us Philly fans are so accepting.


·         Sam Smith of the Chicago Tribune “broke” what some would consider “news” yesterday writing that Greg Oden would like to play with Mike Conley, his high school and college teammate. First of all, no s**t. That’s like me saying I’d like my next relationship to be with Jessica Alba. The problem is it’s not going to happen. The only team with a chance at landing the two without a trade is Atlanta. If they can land the No. 1 they should also have Indiana’s pick at 11. It’s a long-shot but so is any scenario that makes the Hawks relevant again.


·         Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer says in this excellent column the lottery is another example of the problems in the NBA today. He makes a great point: The NBA has tinkered with the lottery like they have dozens of other aspects of the game to the point where the competitiveness of the league has been compromised.


·         Speaking of the Hawks, Sekou Smith of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution gives the fans — whether they asked for it or not — a look at their hapless yet resilient GM Billy Knight. The Hawks could have any number of results of lottery night but the No. 11 pick appears to be a sure thing (the Pacers have it top 10 protected). I fully anticipate they will promise that selection to Nick Fazekas.


·         Mark Bradley, also of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, takes an interesting look at the lottery’s implications on Georgia Tech and its coach Paul Hewitt. Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young both are in the draft but without agents. While the lottery won’t really affect those two — they are projected to be mid first-rounders — the Draft’s affect on college coaches must be difficult at times. Whether players withdraw or not probably doesn’t affect recruiting, but it certainly affects the playing time of incoming recruits and current players. It’s interesting stuff and yet, it seems the story goes mostly untold. Hewitt probably has more uncertainty regarding the draft than any other coach in the country. John Thompson III probably knows his guys are gone and Mark Fox could lose his backcourt, but not players like Crittenton and Young.


·         In what could be considered either very creative or the bastard child of a slow news day, Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune asks some experts in probability to asses the Wolves lottery chances. He enlists a psychic named Moonrabbit to foresee the Wolves future. Here’s a snippet: “The stars indicate a major disappointment. I'm afraid there is no immediate change in store for them.” If only Moonrabbit was Kevin Garnett’s agent…


·         Down in Memphis, where they have the best odds at No. 1 but no head coach and will soon have no GM, they know it only takes one player to turn around a franchise. Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan and Lebron James are all perfect examples lottery-induced turnarounds. Pau Gasol was nowhere to be found on the list.


·         The winner for most delusional, contrived lottery interest goes to this writer in Oklahoma City who is actually rooting for Seattle to win the lottery because they are a possible relocation destination for the Sonics.


·         The increasingly more fantastic AOL Sports Blog site has The Big Lead’s list of who will be most doomed by any lottery injustice. They have Atlanta on top but I’ve got to think it’s Boston. The Red Sox should take the city’s mind off  the tanking travesty that is the Celtics, but with the way they intentionally mangled the end of their season and the fact they renewed Doc Rivers contract, not getting Oden or Durant could be the final disappointment for those in Boston who care about basketball. The Sporting News decided to further torture the city with its recent cover featuring Tim Duncan in a Celtics jersey, an ode to the last time Boston tanked and were failed by the Ping Pong balls (you can see the cover on the right side). Rick Pitino is still bitter about it in this piece by Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald.


·         Sean Deveney of The Sporting News needles Boston some more in his decent, but excessively long piece, on the pitfalls of coming up short in the lottery.


·         In Denver, although they have no first-round picks, Marc Spears thinks this draft has the look of the 2003 Draft that featured Lebron, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade. I see the similarity but this draft seems more top-heavy than that one. Looking past Oden and Durant, I’d be shocked if this draft produced players with the caliber of those in 2003. Chris Bosh, Kirk Hinrich, Chris Kaman, TJ Ford, David West, Leandro Barbosa, Boris Diaw, Kyle Korver and Mickeal Pietrus all came out of that draft as well.


·         If they don’t get one of the top two picks, I really think Seattle could enter the season as the worst team in the NBA. They have no coach or GM right now, they will probably lose Rashard Lewis to free agency, Ray Allen has to be dying to leave and the city can barely support a team. It’s gotten so bad that they are pleading with David Stern to fix the lottery for them, just to save the franchise. That’s asking a lot. I mean, you need to play in a much bigger market than Seattle to have the lottery rigged for you. They have an 8.8 percent chance of winning though, with some optimists in the rainy city noting Toronto’s similar position last year. Could be the Starbucks talking.


For a more realistic look, here’s an outstanding column by Ted Miller of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, who says the Sonics have put the fate of their franchise in the Ping Pong balls.


Since it seems everyone will be happy with either of the top two picks, here are the odds each team will land there:


Memphis: 46.5 percent

Boston: 38.7 percent

Milwaukee: 31.3 percent

Atlanta: 24.5 percent

Seattle: 18.5 percent

Portland: 11.3 percent

Minnesota: 11.3 percent

Charlotte: 4.1 percent

Chicago (via New York): 4.1 percent

Sacramento: 3.9 percent

Indiana: 1.7 percent

Philadelphia: 1.5 percent

New Orleans: 1.3 percent

LA Clippers: 1.1 percent


·         Jay Bilas thinks Greg Oden is dreamy for what it’s worth. But more interestingly, the ESPN draft analyst tells the Charlotte Observer Mike Conley won’t make it to the Bobcats probable pick at No. 8 but Corey Brewer, Julian Wright or Jeff Green will be available. Interesting quandary for Bobcats fans: Do you get excited about the prospect of selecting one of those three players or do you take any NBA-related analysis by Jay Bilas for what it’s worth and embrace reality? Hmmm…


·         Apparently Bucks GM Larry Harris already has made his mind up on the Oden-Durant debate. Speaking of Harris, if anyone remembers back to the 2005 lottery, you know that the Bucks won the No. 1 pick and Harris was shaking and stuttering during the ESPN interview like he had just won American Idol or something. And I guess it’s alright to be excited, but do you really want to see your team’s GM completely breaking down because he won a draft lottery? I mean, they got Andrew Bogut . Let’s say Kevin McHale calls this offseason and offers Kevin Garnett for Charlie Villanueva and Mo Williams. If Harris starts panting and trembling, don’t you think that would be a dealbreaker? I think that sums up the state of the NBA GM pretty well. They are so insecure about their jobs that if some Ping Pong balls fall their way, they are helplessly overcome with excitement. Anyways, it says in this notebook that Harris is going to be back in Jersey tonight and he vows to not act like a schoolgirl that just got asked to prom.


·         The winner for most thick-headed denial of your franchise’s impending doom (a highly competitive award, by the way) goes, once again, to Isiah Thomas who says he’s happy with Eddy Curry and isn’t too interested in the results of tonight’s lottery.


Back later in the week with some lottery reactions and a look at the first spring harvest of mock drafts.