For the last 35 years, Marty Blake has been identifying top college and international talent as the NBA’s Director of Scouting. A former general manager of the St. Louis and Atlanta Hawks in the 1950s and ’60s, Marty will be sharing thoughts and observations from the road as he crisscrosses the country identifying top collegiate talent throughout the season leading up to the 2007 NBA Draft in June.


First Round Thoughts

EVERYONE GETS THE ONE AND TWO RIGHT

ALPHARETTA, Ga., June 19, 2007 -- Ask any fan of NBA basketball (or college hoops), be they be accosted close to Madison Square Garden or anywhere on the mainland of China, who will be the top two picks in the upcoming National Basketball Association Draft and the immediate answer is always -- Oden and Durant.

That said, let's continue down the draft page and examine other options.

THE ATLANTA HAWKS HOLD THE KEY TO THE REST OF THE DRAFT.

With the successful acquisition of picks Nos. 3 and 11 in the first round, the Hawks are the key factor in the rest of the draft alignment. As I see it, the Hawks have numerous options:

A) They can select any number of "bigs" at three and target a point guard at 11.

B) They can pick a one-guard at No. 3 and hope that an expected bright array of small and big forwards will spring lose a good prospect at 11 (which it should).

C) They could package the three and move down a few spots, getting something in return for pick No. 3 and still get the same guy at No. 6 or No. 7 plus retaining their spot at 11.

D) A combination of the above to include a current member of their roster.

E) None of the above

I have great respect for the judgment of Billy Knight, especially, since as a youngster growing up in Pittsburgh, he became a big fan of the Pittsburgh Condors - a disaster waiting to happen - that I led for a short period of time in the season of 1970-71.

My blueprint for success that season was to invite 10,000 fans to attend a Condors' game as my guest - FREE.

It was the ultimate sports promotion but our team fell apart under the onslaught of Dr. J (Julius Erving) and the rest of the Virginia Squires - then one of the all-time powerhouses of the American Basketball Association.

Successful as it was, it also brought much acclaim for another free night which the owners of the Condors, a New Jersey conglomerate, did not deem profitable.

Still, Knight remains a fan of the Condors, which I eventually built into an exciting unit - a group of charismatic characters headed by John Brisker, Stu Johnson and David (Big Daddy) Lattin of Texas Western fame and Mike Lewis - ex-Dukie.

Knight has built the Hawks into a cohesive albeit youthful team with a covey of emerging stars like Josh Smith, Josh Childress, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams and Shelden Williams.

The Hawks do not have a second round but they have enough options in this draft to really expand their horizons.

MEMPHIS AWAITS THE HAWKS NEXT MOVE

The Grizzlies trioka of President Jerry West and the Tony Barones (Senior and Junior) along with recently named GM Chris Wallace will be patiently waiting in the wings having done due diligence in bringing in a group of talented players who are expected to be picked anywhere from 3 to 15.

They have covered all the bases.

A change in the structure of the draft (some teams moving up or down) should not effect their eventual pick.

They have done their homework.

Memphis, like Atlanta, has a number of exciting young players.

BOSTON HOPES TO RETURN TO PAST GLORY

The Celtics had hoped to obtain the top pick since they had the worst record and the most balls in the hopper but the odds gods looked the other way and they wound up fifth.

Unless it is a way-out pick, Boston can shore up any number of positions (they too have a contigent of youths) but don't disregard their second round selectee.

At 32 (the second pick in the second round), this pick, in the past, has brought some outstanding future NBA standouts.

The same could be said for picks 31 thru 40.

THE NEXT FOUR PICKS

No. 6 Milwaukee; No. 7 Minnesota; No. 8 Charlotte and No. 9 Chicago - have similar options.

It may be seem strange to list these four teams (and possible Sacramento (at 10) in this treatment but, if the truth be known, these clubs each may be looking at the same player or players.

There is little to differentiate one pick from another.

Each pick in this group offers the opportunity to pick a player considered among the elite in the lottery this year - one (pick) who could easily up or down depending upon the needs of the drafting team.

Beauty, is of course, is in the eyes of the beholder.

We have discussed the Hawks picks (3-11) - they will get well. Milwaukee (56 from Houston) and Minnesota (41 from Philadelphia) both have second round picks. Charlotte and Sacramento do not. Chicago has two second-rounders (49 (from Golden State) and 51 (from Denver).

HERE COMES PHILADELPHIA.

The 76ers, obviously in a rebuilding mode, have a chance to turn their roster up and down with THREE first round picks (12, 21 (from Denver) and 30 (from Dallas). And a second round pick, 38 (from New York).

At the recent Pre-Draft camp in Orlando, the 76ers contingent included 18 members of the Philadelphia brain trust including President and General Manager Billy King, Senior Vice-President Larry Brown, Assistant General Manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations Tony Dileo, Coach Maurice Cheeks and assorted assistant coaches, a contingent of scouts including Frank Zanin, Gene Shue, Chris Ford, Joe Gallagher, Mike VandeGrade and Courtney Witte (Director of Player Personnel) among others.

Smart move especially since the quartet of high picks enables them to one, shore up a position; or two) package several picks to move way up in the draft or sit back and hope their 12th slot gets them a franchise-type player as Boston did years again when Paul Pierce slipped to 10.

OTHER TEAMS EXPECTED TO GET GOOD PLAYERS ARE

First Round Pick 13 - New Orleans (with a second round selection at 43).

First Round Pick 14 - Los Angeles Clippers with a second round selection at 45.

First Round Pick 15 - Detroit (from Orlando) and 27 (their own) and a late second round pick at 57.

First Round Pick 16 - Washington with a second round pick at 47.

First Round Pick 17 - New Jersey (and maybe looking to either move up or add another)

First Round Pick 18 - Golden State who also have two second round picks (36 from Minnesota and 46 from New Jersey)

First Round Pick 19 - Los Angeles Lakers who also have two second round picks (40 from Charlotte) and their own at 48.

First Round Pick 20 - Miami (who recently acquired a second round pick from Orlando at 39 in the Stan Gundy switch.

First Round Pick 21 - Philadelphia (from Denver and note other first round selections.

First Round Pick 22 - Charlotte (from Toronto)

First Round Pick 23 - New York (from Chicago) but Isaiah is looking to make a big deal.

First Round Pick 24 - Phoenix (from Cleveland) and their own First Round Pick at 29 plus a second round pick at 59 (their own).

First Round Pick 25 - Utah (with also a 55 slot in the second round but a team that usually comes up smiling in the second round - See Paul Millsap at 47 last year).

First Round Pick 26 - Houston (no second round pick)

First Round Pick 27 - Detroit (also See pick 15)

First Round Pick 28 - San Antonio (and a second round choice (33) from Milwaukee plus their own second (58).

First Round Pick 29 - Phoenix (also check their pick at 24

First Round Pick 30 - Philadelphia (from Dallas) (and two others listed above plus a second round pick from New York (38)

Please note: Dallas has no first round picks (at this time) but three second round picks - 34 (from Atlanta); 50 (from Miami) and 60 their own.

Please also note: Dallas has had excellent luck in taking players with late picks (Howard) or players who are not drafted (Juan Jose Barea and Pops Mensah-Bonsu) so don't be surprised come June 28 with their picks.

Also note that Orlando (with no first round picks) gave up 39 to Miami as part of their compensation for signing Stan Van Gundy.

However, they still have their own second (44) and 54 (from Cleveland).

If you are confused, don't be.

Our teams will unravel the above and this will be a terrific draft.

Maybe not as good as the 1984 draft - but why not?

Call me in three years and I'll surprise you.

REGARDING PRE-DRAFT MOCK DRAFTS ON THE INTERNET AND WEBS

Get serious. They may get some of the names right but not in order and late minute decisions make these so-called draft experts oblivious to the right picks.

Remember the recent NFL draft when everyone predicted Brady Quinn would go in the top three but he sank like the Titanic.

So much for mock drafts.

Make sure you turn on ESPN on draft day Thursday night, June 28 or, better yet hop over to your team's Draft Night Party.

And expect a flurry of trades right up to and including some during the draft itself.

Come on Billy. Make us proud.