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Hawks set sights on 14 players come draft day

Hawks set sights on 14 players come draft day

Hawks set sights on 14 players come draft day
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

It's no coincidence that the NBA playoff schedule for Tuesday night is bare.

While the league's final four teams prepare to battle it out for the right to compete for the ultimate prize (the Larry O'Brien trophy), fourteen other teams are prepared to wage a similar competition for the league's second most coveted trophy of the postseason: the No. 1 pick in the June 28 draft.

The Hawks have a chance (at least an 11.9 percent chance) of moving up from the fourth position in the lottery to bag the top overall selection, which most experts agree would be used on Ohio State 7-footer Greg Oden. They'll need to move into the top three in order to keep the pick, there's a 38 percent chance of that happening, otherwise they have to hand it over to Phoenix as part of the compensation for the Joe Johnson sign-and-trade deal of two years ago.

But the Hawks also have a 97.1 percent chance of collecting another top 11 pick, part of the return on last summer's sign-and-trade deal of Al Harrington to Indiana.

Forget about the percentages for a minute, and concentrate on something a bit more predictable.

While the order of things Tuesday night is still speculative, the order of names available for those 14 picks has become increasingly clear in recent weeks.

After Oden and fellow freshman phenom Kevin Durant of Texas, the clear-cut top two picks, there's a mix of names (in varying order) that have become regulars in lottery conversations:

A thumbnail peek at the Dandy Dozen:

Al Horford, Power forward, Florida

Horford's splendid junior season for the Gators, which culminated with a second straight NCAA title, is still fresh on the minds of NBA types. But most important will be his measurements taken at the Orlando pre-draft camp at the end of the month. If Horford measures 6-9 1/2 as he's listed, you can add prototype size to his already NBA-ready game.

Brandan Wright, Power forward, North Carolina

The Nashville native has already signed with an agent (Jim Tanner, who also represents former Tar Heels star and Hawks forward Marvin Williams as well as Josh Childress), meaning his time on campus is officially over. Wright's not as NBA-ready as Horford but offers an intriguing blend of size and potential for improvement.

Corey Brewer, Small forward, Florida

If Brewer's been as dominant as he's been reported to be during his pre-draft training, he could leapfrog both Horford and Wright for the third spot in this draft. Brewer's arguably the most versatile player in the draft and easily the best defensive player, meaning his chances of making a meaningful impact on whichever team that drafts him are that much greater.

Julian Wright, Small forward, Kansas

Wright has shown everything you'd want from a future NBA star except for a consistent stroke on his jump shot. Most teams are confident that Wright can develop a reliable weapon with extra work. He already has the motor and instincts that will serve him well during his transition season from the college game to the pro game.

Joakim Noah, Center/power forward, Florida

The most maligned player in this draft, Noah's stock was sky-high before the season and at an all-time low at the end of the Gators' tournament run. But he'll show better in individual workouts than many expect. And at a legitimate 6-11, few teams will be able to pass up a player his size with off-the-charts energy and enthusiasm for the game.

Yi Jianlian, Center, China

Easily the best mystery of this draft, at least to the basketball public. Yi's not at all what his 7-foot, 230-pound frame would suggest (Yao Ming light). He's more of a perimeter player but will struggle there in the NBA because he's not as mobile as he'd need to be against better competition. A big-time gamble.

Mike Conley, Point guard, Ohio State

In a draft thin at point guard, Conley has emerged as the top prospect, mostly because of his eye-opening play during the NCAA tournament. Conley's bigger and stronger (6-1, 190 pounds) than he looks. And his feel for the game is obvious. Still, it'll be interesting to see him without Oden for the first time ever. Can he continue his winning ways without him?

Roy Hibbert, Center, Georgetown

Another beneficiary of a breakout performance in the NCAA tournament, Hibbert will cash his lottery ticket as the biggest (7-2, 278) player in the pool. He also is supremely skilled and a solid shot-blocker. The only real knock on him is his lack of athleticism. But he was more than up to the task in his Final Four duel with Oden.

Jeff Green, Small forward, Georgetown

Green has some ground to make up for after his disappearing act in the loss to Ohio State. He didn't show the penchant for dominating crunch time as he had in previous games. What isn't up for debate is his versatility; only Brewer rivals him among the top 14 prospects. Green's pre-draft workouts will be crucial.

Al Thornton, Power forward, Florida State

Sort of a forgotten man in the hysteria caused by all the underclassmen, Thornton is the dark horse candidate (yes, we're picking him even before the lottery) for rookie of the year. The Perry native is a relentless offensive performer with a prototype body and the skills to play inside and out on both ends of the floor.

Spencer Hawes, Center, Washington

The teenage 7-footer has always been linked with Oden; he's been ranked behind him as the second-best center in their class every step of the way. There's no question Hawes has superior offensive skills compared to the average young big man. But he's neither a shot blocker nor an intimidating presence in the paint. It's going to take time for him to develop.

Acie Law, Point guard, Texas A&M

Law would be a high lottery pick if he were three inches taller (he's 6-3) or a pure point guard. As it stands, the fearless combo-guard forces teams to wonder if he's an undersized shooting guard masquerading as a point guard or a hard-working talent capable of learning the nuances of the point at the NBA level. That said, there's always a spot on a roster for a clutch shooter.

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Re: Hawks set sights on 14 players come draft day

The Hawks would still suck even if they got all these players.  big_smile

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