June 27, 2007

NBA Draft Wish List

I haven't written a whole lot about basketball here lately, in large part because the Wolves frustrate me so much, but the NBA draft has always interested me a great deal and the various Kevin Garnett trade rumors currently swirling around make tonight's proceedings even more intriguing than usual. When it comes to ways he's ruined the team, Kevin McHale's draft record takes a clear backseat to overpaying mediocre players and coughing up draft picks in trades that weren't favorable to begin with.

With that said, after strongly disagreeing with McHale's first-round picks in the past two drafts, I have very little confidence in his ability to make the "correct" decisions tonight. In 2005, when the Wolves used the 14th overall pick on Rashad McCants, I wanted them to draft Danny Granger instead. Last year, when they picked sixth and ended up with Randy Foye, I felt that Brandon Roy was a significantly better option.

The jury is still very much out on all four of those players, but there's little doubt (in my mind, at least) that the team's long-term outlook would be much brighter with Roy and Granger right now. My point here isn't to brag, because preferring Roy and Granger didn't take a genius, but rather to suggest that whether it's signing players to long-term contracts, pulling off trades, or using draft picks, McHale's decisions often look iffy right away and get worse as time goes on.

Given that the Wolves own the No. 7 pick and are rumored to potentially be acquiring several more first rounders if Garnett is traded, the prospect of McHale gutting the team and attempting to rebuild things almost entirely through his drafting ability is extremely scary. Despite that, I'm going to post my annual wish list for the draft in the hopes that McHale will grab the guy I want for once (or at least avoid the guys I don't want). If I were running the Wolves, here's what the top of my draft board would look like:

1. Greg Oden, Ohio State
2. Kevin Durant, Texas
3. Mike Conley, Ohio State
4. Al Horford, Florida
5. Brandon Wright, North Carolina
6. Corey Brewer, Florida
7. Yi Jianlian, China
8. Thaddeus Young, Georgia Tech
9. Jeff Green, Georgetown
10. Javaris Crittenton, Georgia Tech
11. Julian Wright, Kansas
12. Al Thornton, Florida State

Horford is seemingly the consensus No. 3 guy, but I'm a big believer in the importance of point guards and Conley looks like a potential stud. A Conley-Foye backcourt would be significantly undersized, but I have questions about Foye's ability to play point guard and he's not good enough to justify bypassing the best available player simply because he plays the same position. Wright has seen his stock dip recently, but he represents the most upside once you get past Oden, Durant, Conley, and Horford.

I'm skeptical about Brewer's offensive potential, but he figures to be an asset defensively from Day 1. Jianlian is the ultimate boom-or-bust flier pick and there's something to be said for going that route with a team that needs a miracle, but it's likely a non-issue given that he hasn't named the Wolves as a team he'd like to play for. I'm higher than most on the Georgia Tech duo of Young and Crittenton, and perhaps a bit lower than most on Green.

Among ESPN.com's top dozen draft prospects, the two I'd like to see the Wolves avoid are Joakim Noah and Spencer Hawes. I don't think Noah has enough offensive skills to be a star and the Wolves shouldn't be targeting a high-energy role player with a top-10 pick. Hawes' lack of rebounding ability is a major red flag for a seven-footer and he strikes me as someone who isn't particularly well-suited for a league that's quickly moving away from unathletic big men.

Between a possible Garnett trade with a so-so return and McHale's questionable drafting I'm guessing that things won't go the way I'd like them to for the Wolves over the next 24 hours, but whatever does happen tonight should be very interesting.

Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

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