For the first time in over a decade, this year's NCAA Tournament doubled as an opportunity to scout almost all the top prospects in this year's NBA draft. With the will-he-or-won't-he rumors flying about all the underclassmen deciding whether or not to remain in school, and NBA teams tanking left and right to jockey for lottery position, this will be the most rudimentary and disjointed of all the mock drafts.
So, in all likelihood, it will probably end up being the most accurate.
1. Memphis Grizzlies - Greg Oden, C, Ohio State (Fr). Was already the consensus #1 ahead of Durant before blowing the doors off the national title game. If he pans out, he's the best center prospect since Shaq. At worst, he's a more athletic Robert Parish. (NBA comparison: Godzilla, if he learned to dribble and box out. I'm not talking about any NBA player nicknamed "Godzilla" I'm talking about the actual giant skyscraper-destroying lizard).
2. Boston Celtics - Kevin Durant, F, Texas (Fr). Holding the #2 spot in the draft this year will be a win-win situation for the lucky lottery runner-up. Not only are you guaranteed Oden or Durant, you can let the team ahead of you make the tough decision. (NBA comparison: Kevin Garnett with a jump shot).
3. Milwaukee Bucks - Corey Brewer, G/F, Florida (Jr). Brewer (or, to a lesser extent, Jeff Green) would be a dream come true for the Bucks, a team ready to contend now with Terri Stotts collecting unemployment and the team getting healthy. Brewer (a surname any red-blooded Milwaukee-an can appreciate and love) can step in immediately and perfectly complement Michael Redd. (NBA comparison: slightly shorter Lamar Odom).
4. Phoenix Suns - Al Horford, F, Florida (Sr). It really is unfair that the loaded Suns get this pick from Atlanta, but what can you do, the Hawks are idiots. The Suns are in the market for more bodies inside, and outside of Oden, Horford is the most NBA ready big man in the draft class, both physically and mentally. (NBA comparison: Zach Randolph minus the douchebagginess).
5. Charlotte Bobcats - Jeff Green, F, Georgetown (Jr). It's been hit-or-miss for the Bobcats picking high the past few years. Some would argue the 'Cats should take Green's teammate Hibbert and plug him in right away, but I don't think Jordan is interested in an old-school plodding center. Jordan likes scoring, and even though Green helped eliminate his Tar Heels in the tourney, expect to go after the guy on the board with a high basketball IQ who can score at will. (NBA comparison: do-it-all Josh Howard).
6. Philadelphia 76ers - Brandan Wright, F, North Carolina (Fr). It's no secret the Sixers need help pretty much everywhere on the floor, but especially in the post and at the point. Wright could arguably use another year in school, but he has arguably the biggest upside in the draft outside of Oden and Durant and this young Sixers team can afford to incubate some talent. (NBA comparison: calm and lanky Chris Bosh).
7. Portland Trail Blazers - Joakim Noah, F, Florida (Jr). Think of this as a pick based partly on public relations as well as talent. Noah isn't the best basketball player on the board, but he's selfless, he's hard-working, he's experienced, he's clutch and even though he seems like a douche, he also seems like a good kid who won't cause any problems. Basically he's the kind of guy who wouldn't take the time during his bereavement leave to visit a strip club. (NBA comparison: Anderson Varejao mixed with Tyson Chandler and beaten with an ugly stick).
8. Seattle Supersonics - Julian Wright, F, Kansas (So). Ideally, the Sonics would love for Green or Brewer to slip to them in this spot. Barring that, they could easily take a flier on Wright, who will potentially fill in for the departing Rashard Lewis. Wright needs another year of school after disappearing in the tournament, but the Sonics might as well draft another project after wasting last year's pick on Saer Sene. (NBA comparison: well... Rashard Lewis).
9. Sacramento Kings - Yi Jianlian, F/C, China. I'm not going to pretend to know anything about this guy. If the Kings have balls, they'll draft Mike Conley to light a fire under Mike Bibby's ass (he actually reminds me a little of Bibby when he came out of school). But that's doubtful. (NBA comparison: um. Yao Ming?).
10. Minnesota Timberwolves - Spencer Hawes, C, Washington (Fr). Keep in mind Kevin McHale still runs the T-Wolves and he's still an idiot. Hawes was a bit underwhelming this year, failing to lead Washington to the NCAA Tournament. But he's big and somewhat skilled so some moron GM will fall for him. (NBA comparison: pick a white center, any white center. Let's go with Nenad Krstic and call it a day).
11. Chicago Bulls (from New York) - Mike Conley, G, Ohio State (Fr). The Bulls could really use a big man in this spot, but with all the top post prospects taken ahead of them, they'll potentially be smart enough to grab Conley when they have the chance. He certainly doesn't fill a need on the team, but the Bulls have been good lately at trading spare parts when they need to. (NBA comparison: a more explosive Mike Bibby).
12. Atlanta Hawks (from Indiana) - Acie Law, G, Texas A&M (Sr). Could picking a little lower than usual mean the Hawks don't royally fuck up their pick for once? It's pretty likely picking 12th that either Conley, Law or Ty Lawson will be available at this point, and the PG-deprived Hawks could use any of those players. (NBA comparison: Chauncey Billups).
13. Detroit Pistons (from Orlando) - Al Thornton, F, Florida State (Sr). Thornton is being derived as a "tweener" but he can instantly come off the bench and contribute scoring and defensive intensity for the Pistons. (NBA comparison: Andre Iguodala).
14. New Orleans Hornets - Nick Young, G/F, USC (Jr). With Paul running the floor, the Hornets need to get more athletic on the wing and Young will be an instant boost with his polished mid-range game. Hopefully Peja Stojakovic doesn't injure his fingers calling Young to welcome him to the team. (NBA comparison: Caron Butler).
15. New Jersey Nets - Tiago Splitter, F, Spain. The Nets have had success with one foreigner inside (Krstic, when he's healthy) so don't be surprised if they take a chance on another one, who's supposedly NBA ready mentally and physically, especially defending and rebounding. (NBA comparison: a soft Chris Wilcox).
16. Golden State Warriors - Josh McRoberts, F, Duke (So). Donnie Nelson loves the big guys who can get up-and-down the floor and McRoberts is one of those guys. Unfortunately he doesn't bring much else to the table. But he's above average athletically and somebody is going to fall for his "upside." (NBA comparison: Charlie Villanueva).
17. Los Angeles Clippers - Ty Lawson, G, North Carolina (Fr). I probably shouldn't deliberate on this one much, because it would be the steal of the draft and it isn't terribly likely to happen. The only knock on Lawson is his lack of size. The Clippers need a PG in the worst way. (NBA comparison: Baron Davis).
18. Philadelphia 76ers (from Denver) - Darren Collison, G, UCLA (So). Another potential steal for the Sixers. Similar to Lawson, the only knock on Collison is his small stature, but he's blossomed into a terrific pure PG. Could use another year in school to develop his scoring. (NBA comparison: Andre Miller).
19. Los Angeles Lakers - Chase Budinger, G, Arizona (Fr). A young slasher who can light up the scoreboard off the bench subbing in for Kobe. Another guy who could use another year in school to develop his overall game and earn lottery money in '08, but will probably declare like an idiot anyway. (NBA comparison: J.R. Smith).
20. Washington Wizards - Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut (Fr). Considered a top prospect coming into the year, hasn't done much to maintain that status. Could shoot up the draft with some solid workouts, but the Wizards would love to have the raw project fall to them here. (NBA comparison: Marcus Camby).
21. Miami Heat - Thaddeus Young, F, Georgia Tech (Fr). The Heat can afford to stick with the best player on the board, in this case that's the young project from Tech. His athleticism is off the charts but he hasn't developed much of a game yet. (NBA comparison: low rent Shawn Marion).
22. Charlotte Bobcats (from Toronto) - Ante Tomic, C, Croatia. After taking the NBA ready Green with their first pick, the Bobcats can afford to take a waiver on this second pick. Tomic is your typical European big man, he'll need a couple years before coming to the NBA to underachieve and plod around. (NBA comparison: pick a failed European big man. Shouldn't be tough).
23. New York Knicks (from Chicago) - Rodney Stuckey, G, Eastern Washington (So). Oh, Isaiah, how you continue to entertain us with your personnel decisions. Actually, Thomas has done a decent job of drafting for the Knicks so for once let's pretend he over-reaches for an oversized PG who scores a lot. (NBA comparison: all the score-first combo guards the Knicks have wasted time on the last few years. Or Ben Gordon, I guess).
24. Phoenix Suns (from Cleveland) - Marc Gasol, C, Spain. The unfairness continues as the Suns take their second pick of the first round. They can obviously afford a project, and Pau Gasol's little brother might be worth taking a chance. (NBA comparison: imagine Pau Gasol, if he was less talented, less bearded, younger and named Marc).
25. Houston Rockets - Derrick Byars, G/F, Vanderbilt (Sr). Byars played himself into the first round with a terrific NCAA Tournament performance to follow up his SEC POY title. (NBA comparison: Stephen Jackson. In a good way).
26. Detroit Pistons - Nicolas Batum, G, France. Like the Suns, the Pistons have a glut of first round picks and can afford to take some foreigner. (NBA comparison: Michael Finley, only wearing a beret and chewing on a baguette with a cigarette languidly resting between the middle and index fingers of his right hand).
27. Utah Jazz - Arron Afflalo, G, UCLA (Jr). Afflalo really needs to get back to school after another rough Final 4 appearance. But if he enters the draft, he'd be a good fit for the Jazz, who need to develop an athletic wingman that can defend. Could also go with Alando Tucker here. (NBA comparison: Raja Bell).
28. San Antonio Spurs - Glen Davis, F, LSU (Jr). "Big Baby" fell off the radar as LSU struggled in the SEC this season. He's undersized, but he's smart and strong and could fill in nicely off the bench for Duncan. (NBA comparison: Sean May).
29. Phoenix Suns - Marcus Williams, G, Arizona (So). A perfect fit on the Suns, an oversized guard who can move without the ball and hit open jumpers, and relies on his athleticism on defense. Will thrive on the floor with Nash. (NBA comparison: Quentin Richardson).
30. Philadelphia 76ers (from Dallas) - Tyler Hansbrough, F, North Carolina (So). Hansbrough actually saw his stock drop after staying in school, but another year really would help. He lacks NBA athleticism but might be able to make up for it with his work ethic. (NBA comparison: Udonis Haslem)