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Nitpicking comes before draft picking

Flaws are hard to find in Oden and Durant, which is why they are the consensus top choices. Blockbuster deals appear no closer.

June 28, 2007|Mark Heisler | Times Staff Writer

If this off-season has been a Lakers nightmare, what will it be if Kevin Garnett, whom they were pursuing so optimistically three days ago, winds up in ... Phoenix?

Word flashed around the NBA on Tuesday that Minnesota was in talks with Phoenix and Atlanta about a deal that would send Garnett to the Suns, Amare Stoudemire to the Hawks and a raft of draft picks to the Timberwolves.

Of course, as the Lakers could tell you, one day's report of a multi-team trade is tomorrow's fish wrapper.

Meanwhile, the most eagerly awaited NBA draft in years all but slipped from sight in recent weeks, eclipsed by the latest from Kobe Bryant's website and reports of imminent-but-never-consummated blockbusters.

Nevertheless, the NBA will still hold the draft today with all-world prospects Greg Oden and Kevin Durant expected to go No. 1 to Portland and No. 2 to Seattle, respectively.

However, all anyone missed was the usual pre-draft deconstruction of the top picks, which was even more ridiculous with two such coveted young players.

Last week brought the news that not only had Oden's recently broken right wrist been "red-flagged" by doctors at the Orlando pre-draft camp, he had a bulging disk too.

Combined with an unimpressive workout in Portland, you'd have thought Oden had just forgotten how to play and was in a wheelchair.

"I would tell you that everything is a worry for me," Trail Blazers General Manager Kevin Pritchard told local media.

"That's my job, to worry about everything. As we go through this process, we'll evaluate everything. We're getting more comfortable with that [Oden's wrist], but it's not something that I can answer immediately."

Actually, doctors at the pre-draft camp, intent on not being on the hook for any player who gets hurt, "red-flag" anything they see. If Oden had said that he had a headache two weeks ago, that would have gone into the file too.

Proving too much data was dangerous, Durant came out of the pre-draft camp labeled as the worst athlete there, after failing to bench press 185 pounds once (the average was 12 repetitions) with a vertical leap of only 26 inches.

Happily for Durant, he's 6 feet 9 in bare feet and has a 9-2 reach -- not to mention a skill level that's off the charts -- and won't have to lift 185 pounds in a game.

At No. 3, Atlanta GM Billy Knight, who passed up Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Brandon Roy in the last two drafts, will make the call, so anything is possible.

Whether it's today or not, the Lakers remain intent on making a trade to improve their immediate chances, even as Bryant continues to send word they're wasting their time.

In the latest transmission by way of ESPN's Ric Bucher, Bucher said that "those near him [Bryant] said if they [Lakers] got Kevin Garnett, that's the one player he'd have to at least pause and consider reconsidering ...

"Now [with the deal going down] Kobe has even more ammunition to say, 'Look, I've been saying you can't get it done. You haven't been able to get it done. This is only one more example.' "

Tune in tonight to see what the Lakers get, or are up against now.

mark.heisler@latimes.com

* SECOND-ROUND DRAFT ORDER, D8

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

NBA mock draft

Predicted selections in the first round of today's NBA draft (4:30 p.m. PDT, ESPN) by Times NBA writer Mark Heisler:

No. TEAM; PLAYER; HT; WT; CLASS; FROM; HEISLER'S COMMENT

1. Portland; Greg Oden; 6-11; 257; Fr.; Ohio State; Duh.

2. Seattle; Kevin Durant; 6-9; 215; Fr.; Texas; Ditto.

3. Atlanta; Al Horford; 6-8 3/4 ; 246; Jr.; Florida; Safe pick for GM Billy Knight, who needs one.

4. Memphis; Joakim Noah; 6-10 1/2 ; 223; Jr.; Florida; After all that Mike Conley talk, the Grizzlies get Pau Gasol some help up front.

5. Boston; Yi Jianlian; 6-11; 230; ; Guangdong Tigers; GM Danny Ainge doesn't care if Paul Pierce has a cow, he loves Yi.

6. Milwaukee; Mike Conley; 5-11 1/2 ; 175; Fr.; Ohio State; Bucks want to run and he can do that.

7. Minnesota; Corey Brewer; 6-6 3/4 ; 185; Jr.; Florida; Nice addition whether they're starting over or still rebuilding around Kevin Garnett.

8. Charlotte; Brandan Wright; 6-8 3/4 ; 200; Fr.; North Carolina; Drops because he's so raw, but he's a big-time prospect.

9. Chicago; Spencer Hawes; 6-10 1/2 ; 244; Fr.; Washington; After focusing on 10 other guys, as usual, GM John Paxson gets post player Bulls need.

10. Sacramento; Al Thornton; 6-5 3/4 ; 221; Sr.; Florida State; Terrific athlete who shot 43% for his college career on three-pointers.

11. Atlanta; Javaris Crittenton; 6-3; 194; Fr.; Georgia Tech; Big, athletic young point who could be ticketed to Seattle for Luke Ridnour.

12. Philadelphia; Jeff Green; 6-7 3/4 ; 228; Jr.; Georgetown; They'd be enchanted to see this highly rated small forward drop this far.

13. New Orleans; Nick Young; 6-5; 206; Jr.; USC; Improving shooter. Vertical jump (39 1/2 inches) best in pre-draft camp, by four inches.

14. Clippers; Acie Law IV; 6-2; 186; Sr.; Texas A&M; Point guard they need for insurance. Knows how to run a team. Clutch shooter too.

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