The Game of Who Needs Who the Worst

In deciding how to put together one last preview of the 2007 NBA Draft (a.k.a. Boner Jams ’07), Carter and I considered writing a rote predictive mock draft, a poorly edited AIM conversation about each team, and even more thoughts on players that neither the Warriors nor Lakers have much chance of taking. In the end, though, we decided that each of these options failed to articulate why we consider the draft one of the more exciting moments on the league calendar. After all, most of these players will never play for our teams, more than half of them won’t become very good players, and many will just be boring to watch. After an exceedingly average playoffs, every writer and talking head has tried to put forth a plan to save the league, to save the fans from the boredom that attaches itself to every boat parade down the Riverwalk in San Antonio. Our answer is that the draft—and this draft in particular—can bring some salvation. While the NBA clearly has some problems that go beyond what can be fixed on one summer night in Manhattan, the influx of fresh blood carries hope for the future, specifically the hope that things can get more interesting. With that in mind, this mock draft explains not what we think will happen, but what we hope will happen for the good of the league. In a perfect world, all these moves would make League Pass a necessity.

1. Portland: Kevin Durant, SF, Texas. While Oden going to the already-promising Trailblazers would seem to make championships inevitable down the road, we decided Durant would be the more intriguing pick for a few reasons. First, the ballsiness of passing up the next franchise center was appealing. Unlike the Carmelo vs. LeBron "rivalry" that's never really been validated by anything, Durant passing up Oden, who's been penciled in at #1 for as long as people have heard about him, would put a different perspective on their potential rivalry. No one would view it as Oden being passed over, but Durant going first would shock some people, and anytime the two were on the floor together it would be viewed slightly differently because of this pick. Perhaps most importantly, since SF is Portland's obvious hole, the Jack/Roy/Durant/Aldridge/Randolph line-up, while not as destined for success as an Oden-led team would have been, would have to struggle for greatness in a way that would make eventual glory that much more exciting. Finally, between the two, Durant is more fun to watch, so having him in a situation with potential for success is preferable.

2. Seattle: Greg Oden, C, Ohio St. With the franchise in shambles and likely moving soon, it’s tempting to give Seattle nothing out of fear that whomever they pick will break down in that mess. But that’s what makes a big man like Oden such a good fit for the Sonics: big men prospects of this caliber are so likely to succeed that he could give the residents of whichever city ends up with this team a contender for years, ensuring that fans will come out to games. Additionally—at the risk of providing even more justification for the first pick—Oden is more likely to succeed in any environment just because he plays at a position where quality engenders stability, while Durant’s particular brand of genius will likely require less of a clusterfuck.

3. Atlanta: Corey Brewer, G/F, Florida. Seriously, how badly does this team need a lengthy versatile forward/wing? No joke, we actually think this small-forward experiment needs to continue in as absurd a direction as possible. Plus, the Brewer/Smith frontcourt is legitimately terrifying, especially defensively. Speaking of Brewer, how is his wingspan under 6'7"? You couldn't go two minutes watching Brewer before someone reminded you how "long" he was, or thinking yourself, “Damn, that dude's long.” More evidence from the School of Charles that your actual measurements are far less important than how you play.

4. Memphis: Mike Conley Jr., PG, Ohio St. For some reason, the Iavaroni hiring has us irrationally excited about the Memphis Grizzlies (never thought I'd be saying that). We basically just want this team to be as speedy as fuck, and no one can accomplish that like Conley. Adding him to the promising athleticism of Gay and Warrick will definitely make this a team to watch. Bring the revolution.

5. Golden State (acquired in trade with Boston): Yi Jianlian, PF, China. It is in the NBA’s best interest for its high-profile foreign players to succeed. Simply put, the Warriors are the best fit for Yi, assuming he’s as good as advertised. First, the Asian-American community in the Bay Area will welcome him with open arms, meaning that he will come into an overwhelmingly friendly situation. Second, Don Nelson has plenty of experience dealing with foreign players. Third, Yi’s skills suit Nellieball’s open offense. Last, it’s imperative that Celtics fans remember this draft as both the year they lost out on Durant/Oden and the time they traded away an international superstar.

6. Milwaukee Bucks: Al Horford, PF, Florida. Some teams just aren't that interesting, and there's not much even the draft can do to save them. In Horford, The Good Land’s getting way more talent at #6 than they realistically should. Plus, while extremely good, he's not one of the more thrilling players from this class, so we don't feel that bad sending him to Milwaukee.

7. Minnesota: Brandan Wright, PF, UNC. Wright’s body type screams Kevin Garnett, making him an interesting pick for the T-Wolves no matter what they do with KG. If McHale trades him, he just drafted a Garnett clone, someone he can convince the fans (and himself) about just on the grounds that KG was once a raw, willowy four, too. If they keep KG, Wright will be groomed (for one year, at least) by his ceiling. This situation sets Wright up for failure or disappointment, but it will be interesting.

8. Charlotte: Joakim Noah, PF, Florida. He jives with the organizational draft philosophy (college star, winner, somewhat local) so perfectly that there could be no other pick. Adding Noah’s personality to this mix can only make things more interesting, too; he and Morrison would have pubescent facial hair contests within a week.

9. Chicago: Spencer Hawes, C, Washington. While definitely fitting their biggest need of post-scoring, we also like this pick because the Bulls aren't a team that needs someone with the high ceiling of some of the other guys left on the board (Al Thornton, Nick Young, Jeff Green). If Hawes isn't a smashing success, it's not like anyone will feel too bad for Chicago. If he succeeds, they have the piece that could turn them into a viable contender (that is, if they don’t trade for Kobe).

10. Sacramento: Jeff Green, SF, Georgetown. We’re both sorta in denial that Sacramento is in California. They’re boring even with Artest and Kevin Martin, and we’d both prefer the Kings continue to be dull. What better player for them than a guy who couldn’t get excited to play in the Final Four.

11. Atlanta: Julian Wright, SF, Kansas. We’re really serious about this whole SF thing.

12. Philadelphia: Al Thornton, SF/PF, Florida St. Iggy needs another alley-oop-catching partner in Philly pretty bad, and Thornton could be that guy (plus there’s all the other scoring he does). That the Sixers have the potential to be this exciting less than a year after trading Iverson is dumbfounding.

13. NOOCH (they will always be NOOCH): Nick Young, SG, USC. The Hornets desperately need a scorer who can benefit from the opportunities that Chris Paul creates. Nick Young has the style and the flash to fit nicely playing alongside Paul in New Orleans. This backcourt could be as scary as any in the league in a couple years.

14. LA Clippers: Acie Law IV, PG, Texas A&M. With Cassell on the decline and Livingston's future exceedingly uncertain, they obviously have a desperate need at point. Not having a PG could potentially waste all the solid pieces that this team has. Plus, like with the Garnett/Wright situation, we look forward to the idea of Acie being groomed by his clone in Cassell, learning how to make those huge balls sway even more than before.

15. Detroit Pistons: Rudy Fernandez, SG, Spain. These guys have a glaring need for a bench scorer, but I doubt that picking up someone like Rodney Stuckey will make them especially more fun to watch; he’s filling a need with little regard for anything else. The fact of the matter is that the Pistons are on the decline, and one potentially exciting player wouldn’t have much of a place on a veteran-based team slowly sliding off the list of contenders. As such, we’re giving them someone who might not even play in the NBA for a few years, if ever, in order to facilitate the rebuilding process. Maybe he’ll come over when the Pistons have blown things up and have the potential to be exciting again.

Part 2 coming up soon.

No comments: