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Inside the NBA | Mark Heisler / SUNDAY REPORT

Draft could reach great depths

March 18, 2007|Mark Heisler

In salute to the NCAA tournament, here's my annual mock draft of everyone eligible.

This draft, with a premier young center, Greg Oden, and a great perimeter player, Kevin Durant, could be one for the ages, harkening back to 1984 when Hakeem Olajuwon went No. 1 and Michael Jordan No. 3.

Pros will always take the center ... unless they know the smaller player is transcendent. Of course, no one knew how good Jordan would be.

Durant has yet to show he's transcendent but, to his immense credit, he has kept it an open question.

There should be at least three more foreign first-rounders: Brazil's Tiago Splitter (late lottery or teens), Italy's Marco Bellinelli (high teens) and Spain's Rudy Fernandez (high teens to 20s.)

These are listed heights so knock off an inch (or, these days, two.) Thanks to the NBA people and Frank Burlison of the Long Beach Press-Telegram for their help.

1. Oden, 7-0, 250, Fr., Ohio State -- Klutzy as he looked with a cast on his right wrist, will be 20-point scorer. Boston's Doc Rivers compares his defense to Bill Russell's. Alonzo Mourning-like intensity. Aside from that ...

2. Durant, 6-9, 220, Fr., Texas -- Called a bigger Tracy McGrady but may be a smaller Kevin Garnett. No post game yet but attacks hoop OK for a guy who arrived at 205. Best of all, kept improving by leaps and bounds.

3. Brandan Wright, 6-10, 210, Fr., North Carolina -- Super-quick. Has to show a lot to stay here with all the big competition.

4. Joakim Noah, 6-11, 232, Jr., Florida -- Would have gone No. 1 last spring, but scouts are off him. Unconventional game and personality but a force on defense.

5. Brook Lopez, 7-0, 240, Fr., Stanford -- The more talented of the twins started late and his team struggled or you'd have heard more about him.

6. Yi Jianlian, 7-0, 230, Guangdong Tigers -- Tremendous package of size and skills, but everyone's waiting to see him against U.S. players.

7. Jeff Green, 6-9, 235, Jr., Georgetown -- Stock zooming. Tore up Big East tournament.

8. Julian Wright, 6-8, 225, So., Kansas -- Great athlete who was once a point guard. As high as No. 4 in a lot of drafts but that's way high for a small forward who averages 12 points, lacks shooting range and doesn't look to score.

9. Al Horford, 6-10, 245, Jr. Florida -- Major effort guy, blocked more shots than Noah. Still raw on offense.

10. Spencer Hawes, 6-11, 250 Fr., Washington -- Jump hooks with both hands, fine passer. Not a great athlete but comparison to Pitt's plodding Aaron Gray is off.

11. Al Thornton, 6-8, 220, Sr., Florida State -- Making a Danny Granger-type move as a senior.

12. Chase Budinger, 6-7, 190, Fr., Arizona -- High-bounding young guard. If 37% three-point shooting improves, people will really get excited.

13. Robin Lopez, 7-0, 240, Fr., Stanford -- The defense-minded twin is on the radar too.

14. Corey Brewer, 6-9, 185, Jr., Florida -- Just OK skills but a fabulous athlete and terrific defender.

15. Thaddeus Young, 6-8, 217, Fr., Georgia Tech -- Came in with big prep rep and lived up to some but not all of it.

16. Acie Law IV, 6-3, 195, Sr., Texas A&M -- This isn't a point guard draft and he may be the best. OK athlete but had a string of big performances.

17. Nick Young, 6-6, 200, Jr., USC -- Highlight-reel athlete, improving shooter. Game's easy for him, but the question is, what happens at the next level?

18. Roy Hibbert, 7-2, 278, Jr., Georgetown -- Very slow but very big. Hard worker who has improved.

19. Daequan Cook, 6-5, 210, Fr., Ohio State -- Athlete who can shoot. He was in the lottery before his second-half fade.

20. Josh McRoberts, 6-10, 240, So., Duke -- Top 10 last spring but still more role player than star.

21. Darrell Arthur, 6-9, 230, Fr., Kansas -- Athletic inside player who was great early but faded.

22. Glen Davis, 6-9, 275, Louisiana State -- Down from the 300-pound range. Under-the-rim player who's probably 6-7, but he's quick for a super-widebody.

23. Tyler Hansbrough, 6-9, 245, So., North Carolina -- Big heart (nickname is "Psycho T") but at an actual 6-7, took a big drop from last season's late lottery.

24. Mike Conley, 6-1, 180, Fr., Ohio State -- Tough point guard but needs shooting range.

25. D.J. Augustin, 5-11, 180, Fr., Texas -- Latest of their precocious point guards.

26. Brandon Rush, 6-5, 205, Jr., Kansas -- Supposedly the best of the Rush brothers.

27. Jason Smith, 7-0, 240, Jr., Colorado State -- Not gifted but skilled, putting on bulk.

28. Javaris Crittenton, 6-5, 198, Fr., Georgia Tech -- Big point guard who faded late but remains major prospect.

29. Hasheem Thabeet, 7-3, 265, Fr., Connecticut -- Shot-blocker who was in top 10 before people noticed he couldn't do much else and wasn't picking it up.

30. Sherron Collins, 5-11, 200, Fr., Kansas -- Replaces Marquette's Dominic James, who didn't improve, as this season's "lucid Nate Robinson."

Bubble guys:

Darren Collison, UCLA -- Came fast but slid late.

Arron Afflalo, UCLA -- He's good but Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, McGrady, et al., play his position.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA -- Pros called him "the sane Ron Artest" but medium-sized guys need not apply this season. Great team guy but needs small forward skills.

Gabe Pruitt, USC -- Late start cut buzz factor to zero, but even if he's a converted shooting guard, size (6-4, 170) and athleticism are ideal.

Bobby Brown, Cal State Fullerton -- Shooting point guard with blinding speed, could go high in second round.

Ryan Anderson, California -- Big-time shooting ability.

*

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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