· We’ll start at the top of the draft, where it still appears that Portland will select Greg Oden. John Canzano of The Oregonian thinks the Blazers are foolish for pretending the decision is still up in the air. He’s got a point there. If you already know who you are going to take, be decisive about it. Showing wavering confidence in the No. 1 pick isn’t a great way to welcome him to your team. Sam Smith of the Chicago Tribune is hearing that Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard is in fact split on who to pick in his look at the draft. There seems to be this growing sentiment that Durant is the more surefire bet to be a star, but it’s only coming from the media. It seems like those who spend time with him, like Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express News, come away thinking it’s his personality, not just his game, that will lead to stardom. Not sure if Greg Oden has that yet, but if you look at guys like Jordan, Bird and Magic, they had a mentality that spoke louder than ability. Maybe most people don’t know Durant well enough to see that and maybe it’s just an unfounded feeling, but you get the sense that those who have been around the game see something different about this kid. Howard Beck of the New York Times is one such person, and he turns in a great feature on Durant. The Times’ Liz Robbins has a feature on Oden as well. Oh, and via Oden’s blog, he has signed a deal with Nike, estimated worth at one gazillion dollars.
· Before we get to all the trade and pick stuff, allow me to direct you to an interesting article by John Hollinger, ESPN.com’s senior mad scientist, who has some fancy pants rating system for this year’s draft prospects. I won’t unwillingly cloud your brain with the system’s principles but here are some highlights. Kevin Durant is No. 1, and considered the best prospect of the past five years. Oden is No. 2 for this draft. Nick Fazekas and Josh McRoberts are Nos. 7 and 8 respectively, scoring big in the “Defiance of Gravity” category. Corey Brewer is No. 24. You can discover the rest of the carnage on your own.
· There’s been a million Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett trade scenarios but they don’t always affect the draft so we won’t worry about them so much. It seems the teams that are most likely to move around are the Celtics, the Bobcats, the Sixers and the Hawks. Andy Katz sat down with Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers of the Celtics, but seems no less confused by their intentions. They worked out Nick Young and some other players that are valued lower than No. 5, so that could be an indication of a trade being in the works. But it could also be an indication that Danny Ainge was bored and felt like watching some guys shoot jumpers, so you never know.
· The Bobcats seem fairly intent on trading their pick. Although yesterday’s news that Gerald Wallace will opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent could change that. I’d imagine if Corey Brewer or Jeff Green were available, either would be a good replacement. The Suns are trying to get in the lottery and one scenario has the Bobcats as a likely partner. Charlotte has No. 8 and No. 21, Phoenix has No. 24 and No. 29. I’m not going to do the math.
· Hawks beat writer/GM in spirit Sekou Smith of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution exercises his right to a mock draft and has Atlanta taking Yi Jianlian, a move that would probably cause riots. If you are into self-inflicted pain, read NBA.com’s interview with Hawks GM Billy Knight. There are rumors of a massive Garnett/Stoudemire/Hawks’ picks three-way deal but, as all other trade rumors inevitably are, they are preliminary. A more likely situation has the Hawks trading the No. 11 pick for Luke Ridnour.
· The Sixers worked out Julian Wright and are trying to get Joakim Noah in for a last minute workout. They also worked out Al Thornton, a guy they would probably have a good chance to take if they stay at No. 12. Gordie Jones at the Allentown Morning Call knows this is a big draft for the Sixers but shares the popular sentiment that GM Billy King is bound to screw it up. Philly really wants a power forward (and if they don’t get one, Shavlik Randolph will likely be a starter) so David Aldridge takes a look at some guys the Sixers might try to move up and get, using their three first-round picks (12, 21, 30). The Bobcats would be a likely trading partner; rumors with the Bucks are flying around also.
· One sign that the Suns are actively trying to cut some salary to get into the lottery is their latest workout. They had Noah, Brewer and Green in the other day, all of whom were pretty enamored with the idea of playing for Phoenix. Corey Brewer on the Suns would be a sight to behold.
· Some less speculative links to dole out. Here’s a nice feature on Yi Jianlian, pertaining to the large shadow cast over him by Yao Ming.
· Arron Afflalo was a star in college for which next to nothing has been written about during this draft process. Apparently he measured much bigger and taller than most people expected and also performed well in athletic testing. Here’s a nice feature, finally, on a guy who will probably be drafted way too late.
· On the opposite end of the spectrum, a lot has been written of Joakim Noah. If you didn’t see the segment on him for HBO’s Real Sports, it was outstanding and goes a long way to tear down his brash public image. If you need some more, here’s another feature.
· And if you’re as tired of reading workout stories as me, here’s one that is certainly unique. “Very tall and very Romanian.”
That’s all for Unsubstantiated Speculation. There will certainly be many more rumors leading up to the actual draft so this edition couldn’t be as comprehensive as I had hoped. Bill Simmons and Chad Ford will do a mock draft on ESPN.com that might provide a little more clarity and CHN will have its share of content. This is truly my favorite event of the year because it’s the one day where the NBA and college hoops share a similar stage. Enjoy the draft as I will and thanks for reading.