West getting better with Oden, Durant
By Steve Kerr
Wednesday, May 23, 2007 2:12 am EDT
Just what the NBA needed -- two more Western Conference teams about to get a lot better.
With the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle SuperSonics securing the top two picks in the NBA draft -- thanks to a couple of lucky bounces of pingpong balls at Tuesday's draft lottery -- the balance of power swayed even heavier toward the West.
The Blazers were already making great strides under Nate McMillan with young players like Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. Now they'll most likely throw Greg Oden into the mix, and suddenly Portland is a potential playoff team in the West.
Seattle, meanwhile, will happily "settle" for the world's greatest consolation prize -- Kevin Durant. The most significant aspect of the Sonics' luck is that the team -- which has been rumored to possibly move to a new city due to the lack of an arena deal in Seattle -- is more likely to stay in the city with a competitive team. It may not be an exaggeration to predict that Durant could be the man to keep the Sonics in Seattle, which is exactly where they belong.
Other thoughts regarding the lottery:
• How about the Atlanta Hawks moving into the top three, thereby holding onto their own selection (otherwise Phoenix would have had it) only to finish third and one slot out of the grand prizes? The Hawks will end up with a very good player, but they had their sights set on a superstar. Perhaps, after failing to draft Deron Williams or Chris Paul two years ago, Atlanta will take Mike Conley Jr. to fill its point guard needs.
• Can the Boston Celtics get a break? Fifth was the worst-case scenario for Boston, and that's exactly where it landed. This was supposed to be redemption for the Tim Duncan lottery, when the Celtics had the best possible chance at the No. 1 pick and ended up at two. Instead, it was more heartbreak for Boston, which will now have to decide whether to take another young player with potential (but who may not be ready to help the club win) or to trade the pick for a veteran player who can help immediately. Either way, the Celtics' bad luck was also the league's. The NBA would love nothing more than to see Boston back among the top teams in the league, and the arrival of an Oden or Durant would have quickly helped that process along. Instead, it appears the Celtics are still heading nowhere.
• The other big market team the NBA needs to succeed is the New York Knicks. New York didn't own its first-round pick -- it belonged to the Chicago Bulls as part of the Eddy Curry trade -- but the Knicks won a small victory Tuesday by the mere fact that Chicago didn't move up into a top spot. Had the Bulls ended up one or two, Knicks fans would never have forgiven Isiah Thomas for making the deal. As it is, the Bulls will pick eighth and end up with a good player, while New York slides down to Chicago's 23rd slot. (The teams flip-flopped picks in the Curry deal).
Great for the hawks and maybe they can finally get good enough to compete for the playoffs. Reckon they have to go for a PG so they might be interested in trading down to get either Conley or Law and some other players. That might be likely as they have enough SF/PF players but knowing them, they might get Brandon Wright
Celts got real unlucky 10 years after missing out on Duncan. They might be interested in trading that pick as well or some of their young talent. They might try to go with Al Jefferson at Center and draft a PF but that might not work.
Seattle will likely get Durant but if they really want to keep Lewis, either one of those two will have to play starting PF and that may not work. If they go in that direction, Wilcox could be had cheaply or he would have to go starting Center, also something that probably wouldn't work.
The Blazers get Oden but chemistry might become an issue with guys like Randolph. They are in a good position though and maybe Aldridge could be had cheaply
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