Word on the Street- A Look at the Lottery

Word on the Street- A Look at the Lottery
Jun 19, 2007, 02:54 am
As the draft gets closer, a definite consensus is beginning to emerge regarding which players are being favored by each team. We present a quick look at the 14 teams in the lottery, and who they are reportedly looking at most seriously. We also examine a few prospects—Yi Jianlian and Al Thornton included—who’s hype seems to be waning a bit these days.

Portland: The Trailblazers are still saying publicly that they are still considering Durant at #1, but no one really seems to believe that they will have the “guts” to pass on Greg Oden.

Seattle: Sam Presti isn’t going to have to think too hard about who to draft. Durant reportedly came in for a secret workout last week, and will obviously be off the board here if he doesn’t go #1.

Atlanta: Where the intrigue really starts. Atlanta is still very much open to listening to trades, and will almost certainly be selecting either Al Horford or Brandan Wright at this spot, even if they are still telling people that they are strongly considering Conley. None of the three players are conducting competitive workouts.

Memphis: Just having finally hired a GM recently, it’s obviously premature to know for sure who they are leaning towards. Mike Conley Jr. is a name that is quietly gathering some steam at this pick, even if Horford is the consensus favorite should Atlanta decide to pass on him. The Grizzlies held a fascinating workout today in Memphis for hometown favorite Corey Brewer, bringing in an excellent sparring partner in Nick Young to give him a run for his money. Acie Law was also here, while Brandan Wright worked out by himself once again.

Boston: Consistently the toughest spot for anyone to predict, as “Danny Ainge is basically impossible to read” according to one source we asked for their personal mock draft. Many insiders are predicting Jeff Green as the darkhorse choice here. Joakim Noah, Yi Jianlian and Brandan Wright are also receiving consideration. The Celtics are shopping this pick extremely hard, so fans of Conley Jr, Brewer or Yi might want to line up here to ensure that they get their guy.

Milwaukee: They really want Al Horford, but will settle for Mike Conley Jr. if he’s still on the board (even if they privately say that they don’t think he will). If Brandan Wright is here, they probably take him.

Minnesota As we exclusively reported on our podcast last week, the Timberwolves definitely seem to be leaning towards Spencer Hawes. They would also strongly consider Corey Brewer or Jeff Green, but Hawes seems to be their man.

Charlotte If he’s still here, Corey Brewer almost certainly is Charlotte’s pick, even though he has not been working out particularly well so far.

Chicago We’ve been told by numerous team sources that if still on the board, Joakim Noah doesn’t slip past this pick. It’s likely between Yi Jianlian, Hawes and Noah, but they will almost certainly take Joakim because of the fact that he’s ready to play and help them win right now.

Sacramento The Kings would like to see Spencer Hawes here, but if he goes #7 as many people are speculating, then Yi Jianlian would definitely be a solid option. Jeff Green or Julian Wright would also get consideration. Al Thornton should get a look, but he worked out extremely poorly in Sacramento, as did Corey Brewer.

Atlanta The Hawks will either trade this pick (possibly for Jarrett Jack?) or take a guard (granted they didn’t take Conley at #3). Acie Law seems to be the prohibitive favorite, but Javaris Crittenton and Rodney Stuckey are also in the mix. Boxing match of the century—Thursday 21st: Joakim Noah vs. Kyrylo Fesenko. Rocky vs. Drago II?

Philadelphia Philadelphia could go in many different ways here depending on who is on the board. Jeff Green and Julian Wright are both strongly in the mix. Acie Law is in contention, and this is probably Spencer Hawes’ floor if he even makes it this far.

New Orleans New Orleans is looking in a lot of directions, including Nick Young, Rodney Stuckey, Thaddeus Young and Al Thornton. It’s believed that this spot is really Nick Young’s to lose. He’ll be in on the 25th.

LA Clippers The Clippers need a point guard in the worst way, and Javaris Crittenton is reportedly pretty high up on their board. This is likely Acie Law’s floor.

Who Slipped?

-Yi Jianlian seems to be losing some momentum from what we are hearing. His agent’s decision to overplay his hand and take complete control of his draft destiny may be backfiring at the moment, as he’s has been forced to not only expand the group of teams they’d be “willing” to consider, but have also abandoned the policy of not allowing him to workout competitively against other players.

The Lakers (#20) and Clippers (#14) were in to watch Yi workout last week, while Golden State (#18) on Monday and recently-added Philadelphia (#12) on Tuesday jumped into the picture as well. You can follow his entire workout schedule here.

In contrast to his first workouts, Yi is now competing against a live body—Harvard’s Brian Cusworth. Jianlian’s people may have underestimated their ability to dictate exact terms to NBA teams regarding who he will work out for and in what context. Being in Los Angeles for so long and refusing to do any type of competitive workout has obviously raised some red flags in the eyes of teams about exactly what Jianlian might be hiding from them.

No NBA person we’ve spoken to has been able to recall a player refusing to attend either the physical-only portion of the pre-draft camp or make any type of visit to the facilities of the NBA team looking to draft him (for a competitive or solo workout, or even an interview). That means it’s almost certainly going to be an uphill battle to try and force a General Manager (who is probably already on the hotseat) to risk their job on a player who is widely considered to be a project with a difficult transition ahead of him.

Unknown international draft prospects in the past may have been able to benefit from not being as scrutinized as heavily as their American counterparts, but in this day and age, that advantage is quickly evaporating. An online scouting service that over half of NBA teams subscribe to for example—Synergy Sports Technology—has posted comprehensive video footage of 32 games and 639 individual possessions Jianlian directly participated in over the past year, putting him on equal footing with every player in this year’s draft. Having had the opportunity to watch much of that footage these past few days, we personally came away somewhat underwhelmed. We’ll be posting our detailed thoughts as well as some video footage of our own shortly.

-Al Thornton is not drawing the best reviews in his individual workouts so far, while some teams are now quietly wondering whether he might end up being available in the late teens portion of the draft. People we’ve spoken to have questioned his ability to play and defend the perimeter, pointing out his lack of fluidity, and even going as far as to call him “robotic” moving his feet outside of the paint. In addition to that, losing an inch on measurements from 6-8 to 6-7 did not help him, while his very soft-spoken off the court demeanor and more advanced age at 23 ½ has been working against him as well. His poor feel for finding the open man or picking up on advanced sets both defensively and offensively has also been mentioned as a negative in some people’s eyes. When’s Thornton perimeter shot is not falling he might not be the most aesthetic workout player to take in, but scouts might want to remind themselves of the way he dominated the ACC this year by rewatching some of the film they have at their disposal. He’s clearly not a finished product at this point despite his age, and relying heavily on workouts to compare him with other prospects in this draft does him a tremendous disservice.

-Thaddeus Young might have been the biggest loser of the pullout deadline once Jeff Green decided to keep his name in the draft, as his chances of slipping into the late lottery took a bit of a hit. Young still hadn’t conducted any workouts for teams drafting outside of the lottery until Monday (when he worked out for Miami), so he might have to work his way down to find himself a floor now that he is in for good. In a bit of a strange move, Young is reportedly considering continuing to use his uncle as his advisor rather than hiring a traditional agent, even though he has no NCAA eligibility remaining.

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