It's much different for Taurean Green, Chris Richard and Lee Humphrey. Green seems certain to be drafted with most expecting the point guard to be an early second round choice rather than a late first rounder. The difference is the difference between three years of guaranteed money and a bus ticket, directions to practice and a box lunch. Richard is so impressive to look at that some team will take a shot at him in round two hoping to develop his ball skills to get some useful minutes out of him eventually. Humphrey on the other hand is not expected to hear his name called, but you gotta think there are a couple of teams that are thinking the twelfth guy on the end of the bench ought to be a high character guy with a great long range shot.
Here is how I think the top 10 should play out. Again, this is not a prediction, but a strong recommendation. It assumes no trades, although if Minnesota can really get two #1 picks for Kevin Garnett they should do it in a heartbeat. The Celtics, on the other hand should try to trade down.
#1 Portland --- Greg Oden --- Despite some concerns about his wrist and back, Oden is unquestionably the first pick in this draft. Watching him up close and personal in Atlanta, I saw the next great big man in the NBA.
#2 Seattle --- Kevin Durant --- The talented Texas Longhorn has all court skills and a competitive tenacity you can not teach. I don't care if he can bench press 185 pounds (he can't) or 18.5 pounds (he can).
#3 Atlanta --- Mike Conley --- The Hawks would love to trade for a veteran point, but they aren't going anywhere next year no matter what so they should take the best point guard and grow with him.
#4 Memphis --- Al Horford --- The Grizzlies are much better than their record (22-60) implies. Horford is as NBA ready as anyone and will strengthen their front court regardless of what they do with Paul Gasol.
#5 Boston --- Yi Jianlian --- It's a risky pick, but Brewer is the other option here and doesn't make sense with the rest of the Celtics roster. They have to hope the youngster from China is willing to compete every night.
#6 Milwaukee --- Corey Brewer --- This is another team that needs a point guard and ought to trade down. But since I outlawed trades for this story they simply take the best player available. Brewer is a longer, quicker, better version of Bobby Simmons who can now be part of a deal for a point guard.
#7 Minnesota --- Spencer Hawes --- Since they can't trade K.G., the Wolves can make his life easier with Hawes who will be effective from day one on the offensive end of the floor. He's not a great athlete, but an inside scoring threat will help more than running and jumping would. If they decide they want to be more athletic, Joakim Noah's the one, but they shouldn't.
#8 Charlotte --- Joakim Noah --- The Bobcats need players but they also need some personality. Noah has more charisma than the entire roster as currently configured. His athleticism and passion will be popular off the court and contagious on it.
#9 Chicago --- Brendan Wright --- The Bulls' top four scorers are all 6'7" or shorter so they need a big guy who can score. They love Jianlian and Noah and would consider Hawes but they are all off the board. Wright was considered the #3 guy when he declared but a succession of mediocre workouts left this Carolina product sliding.
#10 Sacramento --- Jeff Green --- The Kings desperately need better rebounding, but there isn't a strong guy available here. Green is a tremendous all around talent and drafting him lets them trade Ron Artest (if they can) to someone for a rebounding power forward.
I like Green to the Miami Heat at #39, unless the Heat takes a point/combo guard at #20. San Antonio at #33 and Portland at #37 might also make sense. Richard goes to Milwaukee at #56. Humphrey goes to Europe.