By Chad Ford
With less than a week to go before the June 28 NBA draft, very few teams are on solid footing. Not only are most teams uncertain about who will be available when they make their pick, but also there is a major factor that is simply impossible for them to calculate accurately -- the trades that most think are coming.
Here's a take on the top prospects from an NBA team executive drafting in the high lottery.
"There are warts everywhere," he said. "Do you take a risk and go with upside or do you take a player who's going to be solid? Usually when you're drafting this high, you get a little of both. This year is different. I think there's one star, Adam Morrison. But he may not be the best player in the draft. I think this has led to all of the trade talk."
This "trade talk" is what could, more than anything else, upset everyone's expectations about how the draft will play out. After all, when you don't even know which teams are making the picks, how can you figure out who they're taking?
To try to sort things out, Insider has its ear to the ground, listening for trade rumblings. Here's what we're hearing about potential deals affecting the draft:
1. Toronto Raptors
Since the regular season ended, two small trades have gone down in the NBA, both involving the Raptors. Toronto sent Rafael Araujo to the Jazz for Kris Humphries and Robert Whaley. Then, on Wednesday, they sent Eric Williams and Matt Bonner to the Spurs for Rasho Nesterovic.
But just about everyone believes that another big trade is in the works, involving either the No. 1 pick or Charlie Villanueva.
So far, a number of rumors have popped up, involving Jermaine O'Neal, Samuel Dalembert, Jamaal Magloire and Brevin Knight. So far, all of them have been bogus.
Over the past few days, GM Bryan Colangelo has shot holes through all the scenarios. O'Neal would hurt their cap flexibility. Dalembert is overpaid. Magloire isn't worth the No. 1 pick. Knight isn't enough to motivate a swap of the No. 1 pick for Charlotte's No. 3 pick.
Colangelo reiterated on Wednesday that it would have to be something "much bigger" to move the pick at this point.
That probably shoots holes in some other trade scenarios currently out there.
The most popular has the Portland Trail Blazers packaging No. 4 and No. 30 along with Travis Outlaw or one of their young point guards to get up to No. 1. The deal would allow the Raptors to pick up a few extra assets and still be in a position to take Andrea Bargnani at No. 4. However, the word is that the Raptors aren't interested and that the Blazers are unwilling to sweeten the pot. They want Adam Morrison badly but apparently won't mortgage the franchise for a guy who could very well be there when they pick at No. 4.
The Houston Rockets have also tried to move up to get the No. 1 pick but just don't have the assets. Ditto for the Memphis Grizzlies. They'd be willing to offer just about anyone on their roster for No. 1 with the exception of Pau Gasol -- who is the only guy the Raptors would consider.
At this point, it appears the Raptors are leaning toward keeping the pick. But they're probably not done trading. Look for them to work a sign-and-trade deal to move Mike James this summer.
2./16. Chicago Bulls
Things have been pretty quiet in Chicago. Almost too quiet. The Bulls have more moveable assets than anyone else in the NBA at the moment. They have two very desirable first-round picks (No. 2 and No. 16), lots of young players with tradable contracts and plenty of cap room this summer.
So are they going to make a deal?
A rumor that was floated last week had them talking with the Los Angeles Lakers about a deal that would send Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum to Chicago for Tyson Chandler and the No. 2 pick.
On Wednesday, a source said the Bulls might be considering trading the No. 2 pick and Chandler to the Phoenix Suns for Shawn Marion. With the pick, the Suns would select Tyrus Thomas. The move would help the Suns get the their salary-cap situation under control and allow them to re-sign Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa next summer.
More likely, the Bulls are keeping the pick and deciding between Thomas and Brandon Roy. A source in Chicago reiterated to Insider on Wednesday that they hadn't promised to draft Thomas and were still trying to decide which way to go.
3. Charlotte Bobcats
GM Bernie Bickerstaff has been active in trying to trade up or down in the draft.
The recently rumored swap that would send Brevin Knight and the No. 3 pick to Toronto for Alvin Williams and the No. 1 was shot down by Colangelo on Wednesday.
It's still unclear, however, what the Bobcats want to accomplish. With Michael Jordan in a decision-making role, will they dump their strategy of building slowly through the draft and opt for a more aggressive approach that brings in veterans?
At this point, the Bobcats look more and more likely to stay at No. 3. They are zeroing in on Roy, who's likely to be available when they pick.
4./30. Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers might be happy at No. 4, but they'd be happier if they could move up to No. 1. Adam Morrison is the top guy on their draft board not only because of his talent but also because of his popularity in Portland.
The Blazers have created a huge gulf between the team and their fans, and drafting Morrison would definitely help bridge it. And their dream scenario is to find a way to get both Morrison and Brandon Roy. The Blazers have to do something to change their local image and their locker-room culture, and adding Morrison and/or Roy would be a huge step.
The problem is that the Blazers appear unwilling to give up the two guys most teams are interested in, Martell Webster and Jarrett Jack.
Instead, they are hoping that a combination of a young player plus No. 4, No. 30 and/or No. 31 will be enough. They have been shopping Zach Randolph, Darius Miles and Theo Ratliff, and they're willing to move some other players, as well.
I'm not so sure any of that will help the Blazers get Toronto's No. 1 pick. Whatever interest the Raptors might have in Travis Outlaw and Sebastian Telfair does not appear to be strong enough for the Raptors to give up the top pick, even with the Blazers' picks in the deal.
Look for the Blazers to get more suitors this summer when Joel Przybilla can be had via sign-and-trade.
UPDATE: It looks like the Blazers may have to settle for packaging picks No. 30 and No. 31 and moving up in the draft. One potential acquisition is the No. 23 pick in a swap with the New Jersey Nets.
5. Atlanta Hawks
Besides the Raptors, the Hawks have the most rumors swirling around them.
The hottest talk is that they promised to pick Shelden Williams. But, if so, when? Was it with the No. 5 pick? Or did they know they were trading down and wanted to try to improve their chances to get him in the lottery?
Or is it another team that has promised Williams and is ready to move up to No. 5 to get him?
One candidate might be the Philadelphia 76ers. The Hawks have interest in Allen Iverson, and the Sixers have interest in moving him. Sixers GM Billy King is a big fan of Williams and needs a young player to eventually replace the aging Chris Webber. Would the No. 5 pick and Al Harrington (via sign-and-trade) be enough for the Sixers to part with Iverson?
Another team could be the Seattle SuperSonics, who might be willing to offer Nick Collison and the No. 10 to Atlanta for the No. 5. With that pick the Hawks could get another forward and then take a point guard or combo guard -- UConn's Marcus Williams, Kentucky's Rajon Rondo or Villanova's Randy Foye -- at No. 10.
UPDATE: Another possible deal could have the Hawks moving down a few spots in the draft to get Williams. They could swap first-round picks with a team like the Rockets (No. 8) and perhaps get a player like Luther Head as part of the deal.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Wolves have what it takes to get the No. 1 pick in the draft. All they have to do is say that Kevin Garnett is yours, and they get No. 1. But team president Kevin McHale says he's not trading Garnett and that no one at the top of the draft is worth Garnett.
However ... if the Raptors were to throw Charlie Villanueva into the deal and perhaps Mike James in a sign-and-trade, it might get more interesting.
The Wolves can get better offers, though. The Bulls and Warriors both have more assets than Toronto, if the Wolves want to deal. Right now it appears that they don't.
More likely, the team moves Marko Jaric and perhaps Ricky Davis to the Nuggets for Kenyon Martin.
UPDATE: Another possibility for the Wolves is to move down a few spots and pick up an asset. There's talk that the Wolves might be willing to do something with the Rockets, taking back Luther Head and the No. 8 pick.
7. Boston Celtics
The team doesn't have an acute need for the No. 7 pick, because it's unlikely the Celts can draft anyone there who can help immediately. Rather, they need veterans in the backcourt and in the middle who can help Paul Pierce and Wally Szczerbiak now.
But unless the Celtics can get a future pick (2007 first-round picks are highly valued right now), it appears unlikely Boston will trade its pick.
The alternative is trading Pierce, and the Celtics say they're not doing that. / 8. Houston Rockets
The Rockets have made attempts to move up in the draft. Morrison, with a healthy Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, would help make the Rockets instant contenders.
The problem is that, since the McGrady trade, the Rockets have had few assets to offer in a trade. Stromile Swift and Luther Head are possibilities, but neither player's trade value is that high at the moment.
More likely, the Rockets will try to trade down or out of the draft in exchange for a veteran. The Rockets are in win-now mode. With the exception of J.J. Red*ck, it's unclear anyone on the board can help them at No. 8.
UPDATE: There have been some rumblings about the Rockets using Luther Head to move up a few spots in the draft, possibly to get the Hawks' No. 5 pick or the Wolves' No. 6 pick. If they get up that high, Brandon Roy could be the selection, if available. Roy's agent, Arn Tellem, is also Tracy McGrady's agent, and it was Tellem who helped deliver McGrady to Houston a few years ago.
9. Golden State Warriors
They are one of the most active teams in trade talks at the moment. The team they put together didn't gel, and the Warriors need to make some serious changes.
It appears that Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy and the No. 9 pick are the assets they're looking to move. However, considering the big contracts of Dunleavy and Murphy, they may have to include a young prospect like Andris Biedrins or Mickael Pietrus.
One rumored deal has the Warriors trading Dunleavy, Murphy and the No. 9 pick to the Lakers for Lamar Odom and Aaron McKie.
Another has the Warriors sending Pietrus, Murphy and the No. 9 to the Bulls for Tyson Chandler and the No. 16.
Utah could be another trading partner. A deal that would send Pietrus and Murphy to Utah for Carlos Boozer has been rumored since February.
10. Seattle SuperSonics
There's talk that Seattle may be willing to move out of the draft completely, especially if a team is willing to offer a first-round pick in next year's draft.
Nick Collison is also rumored to be available at the right price.
The Sonics are high on Shelden Williams, especially after losing their best rebounder, Reggie Evans, in February, so they could try to move up to get Williams.
11. Orlando Magic
Orlando has been trying to move up in the draft to get Brandon Roy. But it appears the Magic need to convince a team to take a combo of Hedo Turkoglu and the No. 11 pick, and they've been striking out.
Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and Darko Milicic are untouchable right now.
12./15. New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets
The Hornets have been trying to pair their two picks (No. 12 and No. 15), along with J. R. Smith, to move up high in the draft. There was speculation that Charlotte (No. 3) might be the trade partner, but that has been shot down by the Bobcats.
Another possibility might be the Rockets' No. 8 pick, though that offer sounds a little high just to move up a few spots. But the move could get them Patrick O'Bryant, the big man they're after. The Rockets need assets right now and might be willing to throw in Stromile Swift to make a deal.
13. Philadelphia 76ers
We expect them to be among the most active teams this summer. Iverson is finally on the block. So are Chris Webber and Samuel Dalembert. The problem is that all three have terrible contracts, making it difficult for Billy King to do a good deal with anyone other than the Knicks.
A deal with Atlanta might be a possibility for Iverson. San Antonio has some interest in Samuel Dalembert. Moving Webber? Good luck.
14. Utah Jazz
The Jazz have been trying to package Boozer in a trade that gets them up into the top 10, with the goal of getting Brandon Roy or Randy Foye. But no one's biting.
One possibility might to be to package a future first-round pick (their own or the Knicks' future pick owned by the Jazz) in a trade for Seattle's No. 10 pick. The word is that the Sonics are trying to keep costs under control right now so they can sign Chris Wilcox. Still, it's unclear whether Foye would be on the board at No. 10.
Other interesting trade scenarios have cropped up for the Jazz. In particular, the Warriors, Lakers and Bucks have shown interest in Boozer.
The Bucks might be willing to part with Jamaal Magloire and Mo Williams in return for Boozer. That would be an intriguing deal for the Jazz, who could address their needs in the frontcourt and the backcourt in one fell swoop.
The Lakers deal probably would have to be a three-way trade: Boozer and the No. 14 going to L.A., with Odom ending up at another destination. Odom wouldn't be a great fit for Utah, but he could be the player to get them the two-guard they want.
17. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers are unhappy with how their team responded last season and have had conversations about blowing it up. That means Jermaine O'Neal, for the first time in his Pacers career, is not untouchable.
While rumors of a swap with the Raptors appear bogus, at least two teams might be willing to give the Pacers what they want for O'Neal: a high draft pick, a young prospect and salary-cap room for the summer of 2007.
The Bulls have a number of ways to make that scenario work. For instance, they could trade the No. 2 and Ben Gordon or Luol Deng for O'Neal, because they are under the salary cap.
The Hawks could offer a similar deal: the No. 5, Marvin Williams or Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia for O'Neal.
18. Washington Wizards
The Wizards look like they're going to be pretty quiet. There's not much trade talk involving the draft or anything else.
19. Sacramento Kings
The Kings have been pretty quiet, though teams report that Kenny Thomas is available. Sacramento wouldn't mind moving up to get an athletic big, but a combo of No. 19 and Thomas probably won't get it done. Thomas is just too overpaid.
20./29. New York Knicks
Knicks president (and new coach) Isiah Thomas had just about everyone on the trading block along with the No. 20 and No. 29 picks.
However, unless Channing Frye is included in the deal (he won't be, according to a Knicks source), they probably won't be moving up significantly in the draft.
21./27. Phoenix Suns
The Suns have been trying to package the No. 21 and No. 27 picks to move up. Their target is presumably a big man like Mouhamed Saer Sene or Hilton Armstrong, though Rajon Rondo and Sergio Rodriguez are also high on their list.
The Suns are willing to do a bigger deal if they can get into the top three. Leandro Barbosa can be had. The Suns love him but aren't sure they can afford to re-sign him next summer. Shawn Marion is a long shot -- a team would have to offer a great player and a high pick to get him.
22./23.New Jersey Nets
The Nets would love to be able to package the No. 22 and No. 23 picks to move up and get an athletic big man.
Another option would be to package Antoine Wright and Zoran Planinic with one of their picks to move up.
As for the rumors that Richard Jefferson is on the block, I'm told they're bogus.
UPDATE: If the Nets can't package their picks, they may decide to move No. 23 to Portland for No. 30 and No. 31. If so, don't be surprised to see the Nets take P. J. Tucker with one of those picks.
24. Memphis Grizzlies
After another first-round playoff exit, the Grizzlies are back at the drawing board. They desperately need a point guard and are still paper-thin in the middle.
I've heard that just about anyone on the roster, other than Pau Gasol, is available.
The Grizzlies have been trying to move up to get Adam Morrison. While he doesn't currently fit a need, maybe Jerry West has something else going on.
25. Cleveland Cavaliers
Drew Gooden will likely be available via sign-and-trade this summer, and Damon Jones is definitely on the block. But it's unlikely that either of them will fit into a draft-day trade.
26. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have been shopping Andrew Bynum and Chris Mihm. Lamar Odom can be had, too, but the price is significantly higher.
Their target in the draft? Brandon Roy.
28. Dallas Mavericks
That Mavs don't have any real acute needs, and the chances of a rookie cracking the rotation are slim. Look for Dallas to address any problems via free agency this summer.
Denver Nuggets (no first-round pick)
The Nuggets are interested in trading Kenyon Martin (to the Knicks or Timberwolves) and Andre Miller (to the Celtics) to clear cap space or move up in the draft.
There also has been talk of Marcus Camby going to the Bulls in exchange for Tyson Chandler and the No. 16.
Los Angeles Clippers (no first-round pick)
It sounds like Corey Maggette will be available this summer, but it's unlikely he'll be part of a draft-day deal. The Clippers prefer to get a veteran big man in return.
Milwaukee Bucks (no first-round pick)
Jamaal Magloire and Mo Williams have already been shopped to several teams in the league. Milwaukee needs to cut payroll and won't be able to afford to re-sign Magloire and Williams when they hit free agency this summer.
An ideal trade would be for a mid-to-high first-round pick. Their target appears to be Rodney Carney, though a bruising big guy like Shelden Williams or Cedric Simmons could also make some sense here.
Detroit Pistons (no first-round pick)
Pistons president Joe Dumars says he's happy at No. 60. Detroit already has three young players -- Jason Maxiell, Amir Johnson and Alex Acker -- who rarely played last season.
The big question will come in free agency: Can the Pistons re-sign Ben Wallace? If they can't, expect the Pistons to start working the phones.
San Antonio Spurs (no first-round pick)
The Spurs want an athletic big man who can play some center, but will probably add him via trade this summer.
Miami Heat (no first-round pick)
The Heat are trying to use Dorell Wright to move up in the draft to get their hands on a Pat Riley favorite -- Guillermo Diaz.