The NBA has taken some public relations hits of late, what with the nearly unwatchable Finals, "Big Shot" Robert Horry shot-putting Steve Nash into the scorer's table and Kobe Bryant's YouTube moments, but say this for the league: At least it can finish its draft in the same calendar year that it started (hello, NFL).
Here's a primer on tonight's draft:
We've pretty much known since Ohio State freshman Greg Oden and Texas freshman Kevin Durant declared themselves eligible for the draft that they would go first and second overall. Oden, a 7-foot center, has drawn comparisons, especially on defense, to Boston Celtics great Bill Russell, while Durant, a 6-9 forward, is said to have the best all-around offensive game of any player in the draft. The only questions left were who would take them and in what order. The Portland Trail Blazers won the draft lottery last month and are expected to take Oden, leaving Durant for the Seattle SuperSonics.
Let the guessing game begin
Things are presumed to be up for grabs as early as the third pick, which belongs to the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks are thought to be wavering between taking Ohio State freshman point guard Mike Conley Jr., or Florida junior forward Al Horford. The Memphis Grizzlies, who select fourth, likely will take Horford if the Hawks pass him up. The Celtics, who pick fifth, are also a mystery; they might take Georgetown junior Jeff Green or trade the pick in a larger deal.
During the past 20 years, stars on the order of Scottie Pippen, Chris Webber, Penny Hardaway and Bryant have seen their draft rights moved within hours of being selected. Among current NBA players who might be dealt tonight are Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett, who could go to Boston or the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns frontmen Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire, and the Indiana Pacers' Jermaine O'Neal. The biggest rumored name on the trading block is Bryant, who might have complained his way out of Los Angeles.
Waiting might be the hardest part
Just after North Carolina's heartbreaking NCAA tournament loss to Georgetown, Tar Heels forward Brandan Wright was thought to be a lock to go No. 3 overall, but poor pre-draft workouts might knock Wright out of the top 10. Other players whose draft stock might have fallen are Florida State forward Al Thornton, Texas A&M; guard Acie Law, LSU forward Glen Davis and Wisconsin forward Alando Tucker.