Wall, Turner top early look at 2010 NBA Draft board

Sam Smith at Bulls.com

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John Wall

Kentucky's John Wall is a franchise saver and if form holds, a Net, which means Devin Harris comes on the market. The Warriors would love him and if Timberwolves luck into the pick, what happens with Jonny Flynn?

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images Sport)

Do you know where your GM is? I do. He’s watching bad college basketball conference tournaments and soon the NCAA betting pool extravaganza, all to find that gem.

The Bulls found one last year in Taj Gibson, who this time last year when I was coming up with my first, early mock draft wasn’t close to the first round and just barely in the second. I had DeJuan Blair in the lottery, and maybe I shouldn’t have dropped him so far. But this exercise is not so much about what I think—just a little—but more about what they think and what the NBA teams are going to do and how they grade the collegiate and international draft eligible talent.

This is an early look and will change dramatically, though sometimes I don’t fully understand why as scouts and executives watch the players all winter and then change their minds based on a pre draft camp measurement or a game in a tournament. It doesn’t project. What they do all season seems a lot more significant to me than what they do at one big moment.

Greatness is about consistency and productivity, not rising to a moment. Yes, that’s a part of it, a big part. But just a part. Anyway, here’s an early look at some of the top players the pros are looking at in what doesn’t appear to me to be a great draft. Though last June’s wasn’t supposed to be, either, and the only can’t miss guy didn’t play this season while there are a half dozen or so developing All-Stars, mostly point guards, though. This appears to be a draft of size and hope. So I’ll size it up early and hope it holds up.

1. John Wall, Kentucky. Derrick Rose II? Also? He’s a franchise saver and if form holds, a Net, which means Devin Harris comes on the market. The Warriors would love him and if Timberwolves luck into the pick, what happens with Jonny Flynn?

2. Evan Turner, Ohio State. Big time two guard with Brandon Roy comparisons. There have been rumors the Bulls will try—if they miss the playoffs and don’t luck out in the lottery—for the pick, though I cannot see how.

3. DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky. He’s one of those guys who could slip down with those hazy “off court” questions. Supposedly on talent he’s by far the best big man, but you have to live with the issues if you take someone that high.

4. Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech. Impressive athletic big man who’s more power forward, but with long arms. Pros see him as less of a project than some of the other bigs.

5. Wesley Johnson, Syracuse. He’ll get a hard look from the pros with some questions about being a legit NBA three and driving the ball. But he’s mature having stayed in school and with the demands to win now he could fit in quickly in a league growing younger.

6. Hassan Whiteside, Marshall. The NBA is becoming a game where the big guys matter least. But you still cannot convince everyone, and if you want to play defense you still need someone to protect the rim. He’s a big guy and somewhat a project, but did I mention being a big guy?

7. Ed Davis, North Carolina. Most pros believe he’ll return to school given his wrist injury and if he gets in the draft could fall for being far from ready. But he projects highly and is the kind of talent pros take a chance with.

8. Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest. With James Johnson and Jeff Teague last season he was the one who was keeping things for so long. I liked a comparison I heard to the unappreciated Derrick McKey. Should be a solid pro.

9. Donatas Montiejunas, Lithuania. There’s one every year, the next Dirk, the seven-foot shooter. No, really. This time, really. I guess someone finally has to be as LeBron is making the case to some of being the real next Jordan.

10. Xavier Henry, Kansas. Yes, no point guards yet. They all came last year. He’s a comer as a shooting guard and a nice shooter and passer with legit size, which is missing at two for a lot of teams.

11. Jan Vesely, Czech Republic. I saw a Yi Jianlian comparison, but he’s more Kirilenko as a runner who is long and active. Might also be a good future guy for a team wanting to maximize cap room this summer and not buy out his contract.

12. Patrick Patterson, Kentucky. Tough guy with an NBA body, though a bit undersized as a four. Seems unlikely he can bully NBA players as he does now, which makes some believe he’s a bit overrated.

13. Greg Monroe, Georgetown. He’s projected higher, as he was by some if he were coming out last year. But he doesn’t seem to have the desire. If he flips the switch to play at an NBA level he could be a surprise because he’s also unselfish and a great passer.

14. Cole Aldrich, Kansas. A big man who should develop into a solid contributor like Joel Przybilla. Somewhat mechanical and not a scorer, but can defend the basket.

15. Stanley Robinson, Connecticut. A three and athlete who runs the floor well and finishes and what Eddie Robinson could have been if not for all the other stuff.

16. Damion James, Texas. A hybrid forward who will run the court and has that “skill” of motor pros likes. I’ve heard him compared to everyone from Shawn Marion to Noce.

17. James Anderson, Oklahoma State. A classic catch and shoot two guard somewhat like Reggie Miller though without quite the size.

18. Dominique Jones, South Florida. More the combo guard who the pros would see more as a smaller two, though those guys have had success and are becoming more common and successful.

19. Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech. An athlete who plays hard and doesn’t seem to get that much accomplished. I liked the comparison I heard to Chris Wilcox as he always sounds better than he is.

20. Solomon Alabi, Florida State. Last year, a big man like this could go as high as No. 2 in the draft. Not quite the size of Thabeet, but also raw with potential and if Thabeet were at No. 20 Memphis would feel better.

21. Ekpe Udoh, Baylor. Skilled all around power forward who could move up as teams get a better look. Runs the court and will challenge shots.

22. Devin Ebanks, West Virginia. More of a finesse forward likened to everyone from Sean Elliott to Austin Daye in last year’s draft. It comes down with many of those types if they can take the physical game and welcome it.

23. Greivis Vasquez, Maryland. An intense player who competes. Is exceptionally big for a point guard, perhaps a bit that way like Marko Jaric.

24. Larry Saunders, VCU. Another project big from this draft with few guards. Has impressive size and leaping ability as a defender, but limited offensively as we’ve heard of so many guys in this class.

25. Willie Warren, Oklahoma. One of those guys who would have gone higher if he came out previously, though hardly a guarantee of NBA success. Misses Blake Griffin as defenses have found him and he’s struggled as a combo guard and some issues with the team.

26. Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State. An impressive shot blocker who may not be as skilled as some who might be first rounders, but he should be a solid bench guy around the NBA for a long time.

27. Avery Bradley, Texas. A small shooting guard, but they paid Ben Gordon almost $12 million for that. Not that good, but a scorer who can fill it up.

28. Elliot Williams, Memphis. Another shooting guard who plays from the left side and is more attacker than catch and shoot. Kind of an eye of the beholder thing with so many guys at this position.

29. Paul George, Fresno State. Skinny three who is long and can shoot, but will he stand up to the pounding at the highest skill position in the league?

30. Sherron Collins, Kansas. Not generally considered a first rounder because he’s under six foot as a scoring point. But he’s tough and unafraid and Derrick Rose told me he’s one of the toughest guys he’s ever gone against. Good enough for me.

Kobe to the Bulls talks may re-surface

-- What about Kobe Bryant as the Bulls’ first choice in free agency this summer? I know. Here we go again. But one time super agent George Andrews, the Chicago attorney who invented the super contract with Magic Johnson’s $25 million deal almost two decades ago, offers this scenario in light of the dustup in L.A. last week after a column suggesting internal Lakers’ divisions. What else is new? It generally is known that Phil Jackson doesn’t have a contract beyond this season and already has addressed reports he’ll be asked to take a pay cut. Jackson expects that, though the talk is if the Lakers don’t repeat—and they’re just on a three-game losing streak—they will look to go for a cheaper coach with Byron Scott. Already this past trading deadline, the Lakers declined to get into talks to upgrade at point guard, like for Kirk Hinrich, because they are in the luxury tax and didn’t want to take on any more payroll. At the cost perhaps of a title? Apparently, so be it. Bryant has an opt-out this summer with the expectation he’ll sign an extension, though he hasn’t. I thought, erroneously, if he left he’d be held to the 35 percent of the cap figure for a free agent changing teams. But he can take with him the 105 percent of his current salary exception, which enables a team to pay him $24 million to start. Of course, the Bulls don’t have that much space. Unless, of course, they can move someone like Hinrich before the July 1, deadline as they did John Salmons.

So here’s the scenario: Kobe doesn’t want to lose Phil, who would quit rather than take the speculated 50 percent pay cut. Plus, the Lakers are getting old with Gasol, Odom and Artest all over 30 before next season. Plus, we know Kobe always has loved the Bulls, meeting with only them and the Clippers before he resigned in 2004 and then demanding a trade to the Bulls in 2007. And the Bulls have kids to grow with like Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah instead of aging veterans. So you add Kobe as your free agent. Now, Kobe has continued to say he’s “a Laker for life,” as he did again in Miami last week. But he still hasn’t signed that extension and Phil’s future remains in question and Bulls managing partner Jerry Reinsdorf always has said he wanted as coach the next Jackson. So what if he could get the last one again? It all sounds fantastic, as in hardly believable. Though Andrews has had his share of successful scenarios. It’s always good to dream. Of course, maybe then the Bulls don’t want a 32-year-old Bryant. Now, that would be funny.

Noah, Deng contemplate summer plans

-- So what about the summer, fellas? It’s a big summer for NBA players with the World Championships. Derrick Rose already has an invitation to try out for the USA team and he’s on board. But what about Joakim Noah, out an extended time with plantar fasciitis, and Luol Deng, who’s been out briefly with ongoing knee problems? They are key figures for the national teams of France and England, respectively, and at this point Noah is not planning to play and Deng is.

“Probably not,” said Noah when I asked if he’d play for France this summer. “It all depends on how I’m feeling this summer. I can’t... if I’m hurt. If it’s still hurting like this, no way.”

“I’m going to play,” said Deng. “I feel like, physically... my thing is we’re playing eight games in a month. If I were not playing, I’d be in the gym working out. I feel like it is just eight games. No matter what I’m going to be playing. I’m not worried. I’ll probably shut it down every month until just that one.”

The league has an agreement with FIBA and NBA teams are prohibited from trying to get a player not to participate for his country. It’s been a delicate issue for teams as they are responsible for the salaries and injuries in those games have set back teams, like the Spurs with Manu Ginobili. Tony Parker says he’s leaning to not playing for France this summer.

NBA news and notes

-- Nine players in the NBA have played at least 1,000 games. Four—Michael Finley, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rasheed Wallace—play for the Celtics with the pickup of Proviso East’s Finley, now playing for Proviso East’s Doc Rivers. But it looks like it’s ending as the Celtics are growing uneasy about Wallace’s penchant to prefer shooting threes to mixing it up anymore. Ray Allen’s contract is up. Finley sought his release from the Spurs to play for a contending team (not a good statement about the Spurs, who lost Tony Parker for the rest of the regular season. Though Finley wasn’t playing with the Spurs). And though Garnett is back, the Celtics seem to have altered their defense, which also has not been as good, by keeping Garnett closer to the basket, apparently to save him. … You had to love the 76ers’ response when coach Eddie Jordan ripped them after a loss to the Magic. Said guard Willie Green to the Philadelphia Inquirer: "I think that's his opinion and he's entitled to view this team whichever way he wants to." Andre Iguodala added, “I'm just going to go out there and keep doing what I've been doing my whole career.” And that was one of the most sought after and highly paid coaches last summer. … And then there’s Scott Skiles, who blasted his Bucks… after they beat the Wizards by 13. "We took an overall step back," Skiles said. "When Bogues (Andrew Bogut) and (Luc) Mbah a Moute play 52 1/2 minutes and get three defensive rebounds, that's not who we are. We needed multiple guys to step up and help us." The Bucks seem likely to grab the fifth seed in the East and have the second best record to Dallas since the All-Star break. Some already are labeling them a dark horse for a first round upset. If it’s Atlanta, Mike Woodson should also be available.

-- You can see David Lee inching more toward the market as he’s become the victim of New York media of late for the team’s recent collapse. Yes, they always need a target. Lee has been playing center at 6-8 and isn’t exactly a defensive specialist. Always very approachable and cooperative, Lee has snapped back at New York reporters and lately even skipped post game sessions. "If you're looking for someone to blame, I guess you can blame me for the defense," he said earlier last week. It was amusing to see reports in New York saying the Knicks now are targeting Marcus Camby for center. Is that Plan M? … Knicks president Donnie Walsh did express what’s obvious for all the teams looking for free agents this summer: You better have some alternative plans, but you can add talent and what’s wrong with that? "I didn't say in one summer we're going to turn around and build a championship team," Walsh told New York reporters. "At least we have a flexible position, and whether it's next summer or the summer after, we're going to start adding players to this team that can lead you in that direction. You're never confident (of adding one of the marquee free agents). Because you can't talk to anybody. There's no written agreements. I said the best way to get this team back and, to rebuild it, is to do it through free agency and managing the cap." … The Thunder, when playing the Kings last week, were defending the draft choice of James Harden over likely rookie of the year Tyreke Evans. "Our organization did a great job getting James,” said Russell Westbrook. "I think they made the right pick.” Evans and Westbrook may not have gone well together. I can see that. All organizations can point to what ifs in the draft. But the pick, to me, for the Thunder was Brook Lopez over Westbrook in 2008, which most thought they would do. Then they still could have grabbed Evans assuming things went the same way. Westbrook is terrific, but the Thunder’s one weakness is a big man. Though perhaps better they did it the way they did or they’d be too tough to beat. Still, they are one of the most exciting teams in the league thanks to getting lucky with Kevin Durant. But luck does much better than skill, as the Bulls found out when Portland also passed on Michael Jordan.

-- You get to be smug when you have LeBron James, and Mike Brown was at it again last week when the team was in New York. A lot of NBA people thought that about the Bulls in the 90s, but you can’t say much when they’re winning. "I'm not a fan of those old Sacramento, old Dallas and old Phoenix teams,” Brown told New York reporters. “The success of that formula in the playoffs is not very high." It sounded like a shot at Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni, which Brown has done before. So far Brown has as many Finals wins as those Kings and Suns and far fewer than the Mavs, and he’s had by far the best player for far longer. Plus, the Kings got some of the worst breaks and calls in history in 2002 in losing to the Lakers in the conference finals. Same with the Suns against the Spurs in 2007. Those were Finals teams. They just didn’t get lucky. As opposed to the Cavs plan to be crappy enough to luck into LeBron James and still never develop another All-Star. But it’s looking like Brown gets to laugh last soon. Unless, of course, LeBron has time for a New York minute. … There’s been much speculation about the role of Darren Collison, who’s averaged almost 20 a game with Chris Paul out. Just back to the bench? Collison's mother, June Griffith-Collison, was a 400-meter runner at the 1984 Olympics for Guyana. She met his father, sprinter Dennis Collison, when both competed for Guyana at the 1982 Pan-Am Games. When Paul returns, Collison thinks they will play in together in the NBA’s quickest backcourt until my projected Derrick Rose/Monta Ellis pairing. It will be illuminating to see if it can work. “Mostly, my role is still going to be to come off the bench and give us that spark,” Collison told the New Orleans Picayune. “But I think they are going to try to play us together to give us a little more stable unit out there.” … Joel Przybilla needs surgery again after a fall in his shower while out for the season anyway. If I were a Blazers center I'd never get out of bed. … The Grass isn't Greener, Part 756. Ben Gordon was one of seven in 26 minutes in the Pistons overtime win over Houston Sunday. It's been a well chronicled awful season. But here was the worst part for BG7: The Pistons had a chance to win with about 18 seconds left in regulation. They came out of a timeout with Ben getting the ball on top and dribbling out the clock. With about seven seconds he went into the play, which was a handoff for Richard Hamilton to take the last shot. Hamilton missed and then Ben sat out the entire overtime. You know. Better watch what you ask for. You may get it. … Have you checked out one of the hottest sellers in the NBA store yet? It’s the black “Poohdini” Derrick Rose t-shirt. Pooh was a nickname of his and, well, you know the rest.

-- If you were at the Bulls game Feb. 20, you likely witnessed history. It probably was Allen Iverson’s final game in the NBA. Iverson played 29 minutes and had 13 points in a Bulls’ 122-90 win. Iverson then left the team for who knows what as he’s had a sick child, his wife filed for divorce, and the 76ers have said almost nothing in what has to be the quietest, least noticed retirement of a Hall of Fame player ever. Iverson returned to Philadelphia amidst much celebration and declaring he was back where he belonged. It lasted about two months with the frenzied local media from December by February paying no attention to Iverson’s departure and likely the end of his career given his inability to fit in anywhere, even where he was most beloved, and that no one knows when or if he will decide to play. Iverson was a unique, controversial and troubled player from the beginning, representing a unique defiance that captured a strong segment of society. Perhaps Iverson leaves as the same figure, somewhat troubled and uncertain to reflect the changing times of the NBA. … Jason Kidd’s had a remarkable fountain of youth season, but perhaps more surprising for the guy who could never shoot is he’s 12th in the NBA in threes ahead of shooters like Steve Nash, J.J. Redick, Quentin Richardson and Rashard Lewis. … Looks like former Bulls coach Bill Cartwright, a Suns assistant, has had success with Robin Lopez, the defensive big man who had a 30-point game last month and is averaging almost 13 in the last six weeks to give the Suns a traditional defensive look for the first time in years and opened up Amar’e Stoudemire’s game. He’s scored at least 30 in seven of the last 11 games for the hit Suns with perhaps an eye on returning home to Florida this summer. "I guess it was between Cleveland and Miami, the two teams that were really trying to get me (in trade),” Stoudemire told the Arizona Republic. “It didn't happen, so I'm here with the Phoenix Suns. So we're going to ride with that. Next year I'm not sure if I'm going to be here or not." The early line says Miami if they cannot get Chris Bosh….Good one from Don Nelson, whose Warriors have been the D-league’s best friend this season with regular callups. "Did you hear? I made coach of the year of the D-League,” said Nelson.

Follow Sam Smith on Twitter at SamSmithHoops.

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