Redraft 2007: Kevin Durant No. 1.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The NBA draft is two rounds. Two.
2007 NBA Draft Order
1. Portland Trail Blazers
2. Seattle SuperSonics
3. Atlanta Hawks
4. Memphis Grizzlies
5. Boston Celtics (traded to Seattle)
6. Milwaukee Bucks
7. Minnesota Timberwolves
8. Charlotte Bobcats (traded to GS)
9. Chicago Bulls (from New York)
10. Sacramento Kings
11. Atlanta Hawks (from Indiana)
12. Philadelphia 76ers
13. New Orleans Hornets
14. Los Angeles Clippers
That's because there are just so few spots "open" for teams each offseason, thanks to typical 13-man early-season rosters that are mostly filled with players from the previous season.
Consequently, each rookie class has about 50 or so players who spend at least some time in an NBA jersey that season, and that number dwindles each year until eventually, after just a few seasons, only about 15 guys from the class have made any real impact. A few are All-Stars or are close to it, a few are starters, and the rest are reserves who are solid rotation guys.
The class of 2007 is chock full of impact players, obviously, but just seven years after those young men were drafted, a full third of the 30 first-round picks are not in the NBA anymore. In leagues like the NFL and MLB, so many players get drafted each year that it is easy to come up with 30-40 names of players who were deserving of being first-round picks when looking backward. In the NBA, the magic number is 15.
Based on what we know now and what the teams looked like then, here is how the lottery picks (top 14) should have or even could have gone down:
1. Portland Trail Blazers | Actual pick: Greg Oden
Amin Elhassan's pick: Kevin Durant | David Thorpe's pick: Durant
Elhassan: No need to waste too many words explaining this one. I'd be shocked if Coach has a different opinion.
Thorpe: I remember getting beat up in the media for merely suggesting to Chad Ford and in my chats that Durant deserves consideration to be the top overall pick. Fun times.
2. Seattle SuperSonics (now OKC Thunder) | Actual pick: Kevin Durant
Thorpe's pick: Joakim Noah | Elhassan's pick: Marc Gasol
Thorpe: I like Noah over Gasol in a coin flip. Top two passers at center in the game. Elite defenders. Trusted leaders. Noah is just a little more spirited, and it rubs off on his teammates.
Elhassan: Same coin flip for me, but landed on "heads" for Gasol. I agree with your assessment, but I think Gasol has got the edge on Noah as far as an individual offensive talent and focal point of a team offense.
3. Atlanta Hawks | Actual pick: Al Horford
Elhassan's pick: Noah | Thorpe's pick: Al Horford
Elhassan: But to be certain, Noah is really, really good as well! One of the best defensive anchors in the game, an offensive skill set that is finally being exploited and a true leader, through and through.
Thorpe: I know our 2, 3 and 4 picks are the same guys and we can't go wrong anywhere. I think Horford is the most underrated player in this class. He brings defense, leadership, basketball IQ and a midrange game. He's a Hall of Fame talent stuck in a lost franchise and he has made the most of it.
4. Memphis Grizzlies | Actual pick: Mike Conley
Elhassan's pick: Horford | Thorpe: Gasol
Elhassan: Agreed on Horford. Whenever the debate for "best power forward in the game" comes up, I'm always amused at how his name is omitted from the conversation. Nice inside-outside game, excellent rebounder, high-level defender and all the intangibles.
Thorpe: As I said earlier, Horford, Noah and Gasol can all be interchanged, so you can't go wrong with any of them in any order from 2-3-4.
5. Boston Celtics | Actual pick: Jeff Green
Elhassan's pick: Mike Conley | Thorpe's pick: Conley
Elhassan: I think we are lockstep on this one. Continuing the theme of highly underrated players, Conley has been the forgotten name when discussing this Golden Generation of Point Guards. Floor general, distributor with excellent vision and enough craft to make up for his size disadvantage.
Thorpe: Conley to Boston is a perfect fit of form and function. First-class individual, defense-first mentality, all cloaked in a super quick and skilled body that is about "we," not "me." He and Rajon Rondo would have formed the best first- and second-string PG tandem in modern league history.
6. Milwaukee Bucks | Actual pick: Yi Jianlian
Thorpe's pick: Carl Landry | Elhassan's pick: Tiago Splitter
Thorpe: Here's where things go screwy ... for you. I chose an incredibly tough-minded guy who for a time has been the league's best fourth-quarter scorer. You preferred a guy who is a good defensive player, but was never a sure thing to even come over here to play. Explain yourself, sir!
Elhassan: Splitter's buyout was hefty but not enormous, but more important: He had a strong desire to come over to the NBA, which reminds me of another former Tau Ceramica player with a high buyout who has had a pretty good NBA career: Goran Dragic. I love Splitter's defensive IQ and touch around the basket, while I feel as though undersized scoring 4s such as Landry are a much more easily replaceable commodity.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves | Actual pick: Corey Brewer
Elhassan's pick: Arron Afflalo | Thorpe's pick: Afflalo
Elhassan: This is a "hindsight is 20-20" pick for me, and might still be a reach. Afflalo's niche is as a high-level defender who can provide scoring punch. He strays when he tries to live a Kobe Bryant fantasy offensively, as his defense struggles. Would he have embraced being who he should be on a Minnesota team trending downward?
Thorpe: I'm with you on the Afflalo call. Shooters who will defend are always valuable, as he has proved a number of times in his career. The mess in Minny certainly would have derailed him to some degree; hard for anyone but the elite of the elite to stand out there during those dark years.
8. Charlotte Bobcats | Actual pick: Brandan Wright
Thorpe's pick: Corey Brewer | Elhassan's pick: Thaddeus Young
Thorpe: In the age of zone defenses, finding super fast, tall and long wings who can score in transition is a must. Brewer played that role perfectly, once he went to teams that ran. Even now, he leads the NBA in transition buckets. Charlotte played at a decent pace and he would have helped their middling defense.
Elhassan: I loved Brewer coming out of Florida, but I can't help but think a man of his talents would have been wasted in Charlotte much the same way he was early in Minnesota. My pick was Thad Young, whose scoring prowess and versatility would have found a way to the floor more quickly for the Bobcats.
9. Chicago Bulls | Actual pick: Joakim Noah
Elhassan's pick: Jeff Green | Thorpe's pick: Green
Elhassan: Coming out of the structure of Georgetown's Princeton offense, Green would have been a nice fit in Chicago as a versatile forward who could back up Luol Deng or play alongside him. Great size-to-skill ratio, he could put the ball on the floor and make plays, and an underrated passer from the high post.
Thorpe: Green is a great fit for those Bulls, who could have played either Deng or Green some as a stretch forward to add some versatility. I don't think he would have excelled there unless he stayed long enough for Tom Thibodeaux to arrive. If that had happened, Green would be closer to his full potential.
10. Sacramento Kings | Actual pick: Spencer Hawes
Thorpe's pick: Splitter | Elhassan's pick: Spencer Hawes
Thorpe: I'm not convinced that the old management team in Sacramento would have passed on a shooter-to-be like Hawes over Splitter, but they clearly should have if given the chance. They had some good to great offensive players but no one to protect the rim (and no coaching or culture who cared much about that). Splitter may have never come for that reason, but he could have been a game-changer there.
Elhassan: You're absolutely right, they would have never valued Splitter's strengths to overlook his "weaknesses" away from the basket. Then again in 2007, to paraphrase the great Michael Ray Richardson, the Kings be sinkin'. Hawes' ability at 7-foot-1 to space the floor, pass from both high and low blocks and underrated defensive rebounding make him valuable as a stretch big.
11. Atlanta Hawks | Actual pick: Acie Law
Elhassan's pick: Marco Belinelli | Thorpe's pick: Young
Elhassan: Time for some international flair! The past two seasons, Belinelli has finally been able to realize his potential as an elite shooter who can moonlight in a combo role, while still functioning within a team defensive scheme. Would the 2007 Hawks see him for his strengths? This is the same team that couldn't wait to dump Boris Diaw.
Thorpe: I love the thought of another athletic guy on that Hawks team. Atlanta may have given Boston their toughest battle because they just overwhelmed them (almost) with speed and athleticism. They did need a shooter to develop like Belinelli, but I don't love the fit. He may have drowned like Acie Law did.
12. Philadelphia 76ers | Actual pick: Thaddeus Young
Thorpe's pick: Brandan Wright | Elhassan's pick: Rudy Fernandez
Thorpe: Obviously I'm much higher on Wright than you are, because you'd rather have a soft shooter than a super-skilled athlete such as Wright play for Philly. Wright was wasted for years in Golden State; if he had been developed from the get-go, who knows how good he could have been. We see him now as one of the most productive and efficient players in the game as a role player.
Elhassan: I just can't believe the first name you drop after calling my guy "soft" is Brandan Wright! Athlete? Yes. Skilled? Ehh ... I'll tell you who is skilled: Rudy Fernandez! This guy is a no-brainer NBA talent as an athletic combo guard. He's a better all-round talent than Belinelli, but also way more mercurial a personality and inconsistent a shooter.
13. New Orleans Hornets | Actual pick: Julian Wright
Elhassan's pick: Josh McRoberts | Thorpe's pick: Wilson Chandler
Elhassan: Speaking of skilled athletes, how about Josh McRoberts! Like Wright, it took him a long time to find his niche in the NBA, and he's finally put together his incredible skill set into something productive, as the perfect counter to a post presence.
Thorpe: I love that McRoberts beat the odds and became such a productive player. But Chandler is the superior talent and really is a no-brainer of a pick. He showed what a huge factor he can be for a 57-win team last season in Denver. In the right system, he'd be better on defense than almost anyone in the class.
14. Los Angeles Clippers | Actual pick: Al Thornton
Thorpe's pick: Aaron Brooks | Elhassan's pick: Greg Oden
Thorpe: This guy is a pain to watch oftentimes, but mostly if you are rooting for the other team. In L.A., he would have been Jamal Crawford long before Crawford arrived. He'd have been the next Bobby Jackson, that super-energized bench scorer who is impossible to guard with just one man.
Elhassan: I can attest he's a pain when he's on your team as well, as I had the pleasure of watching him suit up for the Suns in 2010-11 after he came over in a ridiculously one-sided trade for Dragic. I can't believe at 14 you won't roll the dice on Oden! Maybe the Clippers aren't the best landing spot (and maybe I'm just spoiled from being around the best training staff in the NBA), but I'd take the chance that different support staff and expectations would yield a different outcome.