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Monday June 18, 2007 9:59 pm

Stat’s All Folks: Eye On The NBA Draft

Go Greg!  Get Busy!It seems that the NBA Finals ended almost quickly as they started, but for all of us NBA draftniks whose teams were not the Spurs or Cavs it’s time to more concretely look forward to next season - it’s NBA Draft time.  However, NBA general managers and scouts aren’t the only ones that need to keep an eye out for prospects to draft.  Every
fantasy basketball manager would be wise to stay on top of the incoming rooks.  Using my NBA Mock Draft over at About.com as a guide, here are the potential fantasy values for ten of the more noteworthy players that you should keep tabs on.

1. Greg Oden – Ohio State University, C
32 G; 15.7 PPG; 9.7 RPG; 3.3 BPG; 61.6 FG%; 62.8 FT%
Chosen by the Portland Trail Blazers - 1st overall
It’s been said that Oden is going to be the next great center in the league and considering his physical tools such as his long arms and quick feet, as well as his defensive instincts, it’s a good bet that that will happen.  Playing for the Blazers, alongside 2006-07 Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy and All NBA Rookie LaMarcus Aldridge, Oden will be a part of an upcoming frontcourt that should dominate for years to come.
But how will Oden do next season from a fantasy perspective?  Don’t draft Oden expecting a lot of points, especially since the “black hole” Zach Randolph is still with the team - pass the ball in the post to Randolph and it’s never coming back out.  Scoring at about the mid-teens range isn’t out of the question.  Remember, at Ohio State we
never got to see Oden play with a healthy right wrist so he could have shot better and more often.  However, you draft Oden because of the boards and blocks he’s bound to get.  Double digit rebounds and at least two rejections per game seems about right concerning expectations.
2. Kevin Durant – University of Texas, SG/SF/PF
35 G; 25.8 PPG; 11.1 RPG; 82 3PTM; 1.9 SPG; 1.9 BPG; 47.3 FG%; 81.6 FT%
Chosen by the Seattle SuperSonics - 2nd overall
Rashard Lewis is as good as gone, but either way Durant will succeed from one of the forward spots, especially considering his talent relative to the Sonics’ talent and he’ll get every chance to make an impact.  Of course Ray Allen will be option number one, unless he gets traded, but that will actually take some pressure off of Durant.
Durant has shooting range from anywhere and thanks to his height can usually shoot over his man.  He has some pretty good post skills as well utilizing his speed to get by the defender.  However, Durant is significantly thin and will get bullied out of the box, so don’t expect him to get many points that way or grab double-digit boards as he did in college.  Expect Durant to struggle a bit to start, as well as hit the “rookie wall,” but he’ll turn out fine and do enough to average about 18 points a contest, a three-pointer or two, as well as good percentages.

3. Brandan Wright – University of North Carolina, PF
37 G; 14.7 PPG; 6.2 RPG; 1.0 SPG; 1.8 BPG; 64.6 FG%; 56.7 FT%
Chosen by the Atlanta Hawks – 3rd overall

Yes, the Hawks really need a point guard, but it’ll be too hard to pass up Wright over here as he has significant talent and upside.  Wright’s ability to shoot from the box and find the open man will do well complementing players such as Joe Johnson and Josh Smith.  As of now, Zaza Pachulia is their best post player, which partly explains why the Hawks finished as badly as they did this past season.  Last season’s number one pick, Shelden Williams, is too stiff compared to Wright’s smooth play.  Add Wright’s high basketball IQ and he will do nicely in the ATL.  He’ll probably be broken in slowly, but he should start to emerge a month or two into the season as he gets more burn and chances.  Twelve points, seven boards, a couple of dimes, and a block should be the final numbers for Wright, which will be nice if he’s given C eligibility.

4. Al Horford – University of Florida, PF/C
38 G; 13.2 PPG; 9.5 RPG; 2.2 APG; 1.8 BPG; 60.8 FG%; 64.4 FT%
Chosen by the Memphis Grizzlies – 4th overall

Horford is a defensive beast who improved his offensive game this past season, adding a mid-range jumper to his offensive game.  He’s an athletic player able to finish in transition and has the physicality to be a factor down low.  On a team with Pau Gasol, Mike Miller, and Rudy Gay, Horford can stay in a comfort zone and not press to perform, but considering his makeup, Horford will and that should be fine for his fantasy owners.  If he gets the playing time, and I don’t see why he doesn’t earn the four or five spot when the season starts, Horford should be good for about 10+ points, eight to nine boards, and about a block and a half per game. 

Noah Knows Backrubs5. Joakim Noah – University of Florida, PF/C
40 G; 12.0 PPG; 8.4 RPG; 2.3 APG; 1.1 SPG; 1.8 BPG; 60.5 FG%; 66.3 FT%
Selected by the Boston Celtics – 5th overall

Noah could have come out last year and become the first pick overall.  However, he decided to come back to defend the NCAA title and did, and that’s the thing about Noah.  He’s very headstrong and has an amazing will.  But, that intangible doesn’t always translate well into fantasy and it could be the case here.  The Boston Celtics are primarily dominated by their perimeter players such as Paul Pierce, Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West with their main post player being Al Jefferson.  Noah should get the time on the floor, but not as many chances – he’ll work for everything he gets.  However, Noah is so physically gifted with a long wingspan and non-stop motor, he’ll get a good amount of boards and blocks for you.  Offensively, Noah has an uglier shot than Shawn Marion, but because of his hustle will get about nine points per game on this team.

6. Mike Conley, Jr. – Ohio State University, PG
39 G; 11.3 PPG; 3.4 RPG; 6.1 APG; 21 3PTM; 2.2 SPG; 51.8 FG%; 69.4 FT%
Selected by the Milwaukee Bucks – 6th overall

Since Mo Williams will probably leave for better money this offseason, look for Conley to get the lead guard spot from day one with the Bucks.  Get used to hearing a lot of “Conley to (Michael) Redd for the jumper!”  Conley is a pass-first point guard, but has zero problems scoring when he has to.  He’s as quick as they come and can defend the passing lanes and on the ball.  If a comparison had to be made, Chris Paul comes to mind.  Of course, Conley won’t have his best friend, Greg Oden, to feed on the break or down low anymore, but Redd, Charlie Villanueva, and Andrew Bogut aren’t bad options to pass off to.  Look for Conley to average about 14 points, nine assists, and two steals a game. 

7. Corey Brewer – University of Florida, SG
37 G; 13.2 PPG; 4.7 RPG; 2.9 APG; 40 3PTM; 1.9 SPG; 47.5 FG%; 72.3 FT%
Selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves – 7th overall

Brewer is a tall shooting guard and should be able to get his shot off almost at will.  He’ll need to work on consistently hitting his jumper, but should be able to as he’s not afraid to work.  Just like the previous Florida Gators mentioned here, Brewer is a defensive animal and is ready to handle NBA players right now sort of the way Ron Artest did his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls.  Yes, he’s that talented.  Randy Foye will now have the starting point guard spot with the trade of Mike James to the Houston Rockets, so this will be a young backcourt that will make its mistakes.  I hope Kevin Garnett is ready for yet another disappointing season.  However, in regards to Brewer, KG should love the non-stop effort from him.  And as I made the comparison to Artest, look for similar numbers for Brewer as Artest had his rookie year – 12 points, four rebounds, and about two steals.

8. Jeff Green – Georgetown University, SF/PF
37 G; 14.3 PPG; 6.4 RPG; 3.2 APG; 36 3PTM; 0.8 SPG; 1.2 BPG; 51.3 FG%; 77.5 FT%
Chosen by the Charlotte Bobcats – 8th overall

Green is as versatile as they come and he should have a very good NBA career.  Green has excellent court vision and can actually create for his own teammates from the three or four spot, which is rare.  He has good post skills with a great feel around the basket and can finish on the break.  Defensively, he sticks his opponent from the perimeter or down near the box on sheer desire alone.  He should slide into Gerald Wallace’s spot since Wallace will likely leave through free agency this offseason and while Green may not have Wallace’s super athleticism, he will have more polish coming into his rookie than Wallace ever did.  Expect Green to average about 15 points, seven boards, and three assists per night.  He’ll feel his way around the league at first, but eventually will do very well on a consistent basis and will end up being the Kirk Hinrich of this draft.  For those of you that don’t remember, Hinrich was the seventh overall pick in that 2003 draft featuring those guys named Lebron, Wade, Melo, and Bosh – Green will be very good, but lost in the names.

9. Al Thornton – Florida State University, SF/PF
35 G; 19.7 PPG; 7.2 RPG; 36 3PTM; 1.5 SPG; 1.1 BPG; 53.0 FG%; 79.0 FT%
Chosen by the Sacramento Kings – 10th overall

Thornton likes contact and has an NBA-ready body.  He has the ability to shoot the three but prefers to take it to the hole, which causes a lot of drawn fouls and subsequent chances at the charity stripe.  Thornton is a super athlete and possesses great quickness.  Assuming Ron Artest gets shipped off, the Kings will be drafting their new bulldog in Thornton.  But, get this and pay attention, Thornton can grow to be a poor man’s Shawn Marion.  Yes, Matrix-Lite and all of us fantasy basketball managers know just how special Marion is.  There is chaos with the Kings right now, so expect Thornton to get every chance to fulfill my prophecy.

Yi Will Be A Bust10. Yi Jianlin – Guangdong Tigers (Chinese Basketball Association), PF/C
Chosen by the Los Angeles Clippers – 14th overall

Flat out I’ll tell you that I don’t believe the hype.  Granted, it’s not like I’ve scouted Yi in person and have only seen video, but some are saying that Yi will be better than Yao Ming!  I just don’t see that happening.  Ever.  Yao had many things going for him coming into the NBA – height, refined post moves, good defensive technique – and Yi has the fact that he’s athletic, can run the floor, and shoot from the outside.  Yi sounds like the Asian equivalent of every European big man in the past several years that teams were hoping to be the next Dirk Nowitzki.  Nikoloz Tskitishvili, anyone?  Didn’t think so.  On the Clippers, Yi might not get much playing time with Elton Brand and Chris Kaman at the four and five spots, but there has been word that Yi could play the three because of his shooting range.  I’ll give Yi that, but in every other aspect, I think Yi will have a rude awakening to the differences of the NBA to the Chinese Basketball Association.  Don’t expect too much from Yi.

Next week, I’ll take a look at the whole first round as the picture becomes a little bit clearer as to where NBA prospects will land thanks to potential trades (The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant being the biggest subject on the trade rumor mill) and more news on an approaching free agency period at the beginning of July.  Until next week, enjoy the frenzy of speculation!

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