- Chad Ford, ESPN Senior Writer
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It's almost draft day, and the picture is getting clearer and fuzzier simultaneously.
We've been able to narrow down the list of prospects that each team is considering, but two things stand in the way of getting a complete picture.
One, this is a time when many GMs are notorious for dropping smoke screens. A source in Memphis swears the team is taking Joakim Noah. Another says to bank on the Grizzlies' taking Mike Conley. Someone is misinformed or bluffing.
Two, there is a flurry of trade conversation, starting with Memphis, Boston, Charlotte and Chicago all talking about trading away their lottery picks. Meanwhile teams such as Golden State, Phoenix and the Lakers are trying hard to move up. Others -- like Portland, Indiana and Toronto -- are trying to get in or grab another pick.
The talk in Phoenix about trading up in the draft has gotten so hot that the Suns have gotten Noah, Jeff Green and Corey Brewer to agree to a workout on Tuesday. They'll try to add Brandan Wright as a fourth. That shows you how much players want to play in Phoenix -- they'll drop everything just for the chance. It could be the most competitive workout of the draft.
Here's our latest take, after talking to numerous NBA team sources, on how the draft might play out on Thursday. You can also check out our just updated Top 100 list to get a look at the best prospects in the draft.
(Oden's previous position: No. 1 to Portland)
The skinny: Both Oden and Kevin Durant did their thing in Portland last week. Durant had a considerably better workout than Oden -- but how much will these workouts move the needle?
While the chances of GM Kevin Pritchard's shocking the world and taking Durant have increased, I think the odds are still overwhelmingly in Oden's favor.
(Durant's previous position: No. 2 to Seattle)
The skinny: New Sonics GM Sam Presti still has the easiest decision of the year: Just take whichever guy Portland passes on and enjoy the ride for the next decade.
While Durant should have a significant impact, Presti has a number of roster decisions left to make and still needs to find a big man with a pulse.
(Horford's previous position: No. 3 to Atlanta)
The skinny: The Hawks appear to be locked in on Horford ... if they keep the pick.
Memphis, Phoenix and others have been talking to the Hawks about potential trades. But with Atlanta's ownership situation still in flux, making a deal with the Hawks is very complicated.
(Conley's previous position: No. 4 to Memphis)
The skinny: They are in love with Horford, but it looks like he'll be gone. So who's next on their big board? One source says it's Conley. Another says it's Noah. A third says that Memphis is talking trade. I don't know who to believe, but the one I trust the most is saying Conley.
If they do take Conley, it will be an interesting pick, because they took Kyle Lowry in the first round last year, and the two point guards are somewhat similar.
(Yi's previous position: No. 9 to Chicago)
The skinny: I think this is where the draft gets really interesting. It appears that Danny Ainge is trying to decide between Yi Jianlian and Jeff Green. But I still think the odds are in favor of Ainge's trading the pick in an attempt to pick up a veteran.
I had Yi at the No. 5 spot for a month, then I backed off in Mock Draft Version 4.0. Now I have him back here again.
At the end of the day, most GMs say they take the best player available, regardless of need. In this case, Yi would be the highest-rated player remaining and he would fill a need, so I think Ainge swallows hard and pulls the trigger.
(Green's previous position: No. 7 to Minnesota)
The skinny: The Bucks would like to get their hands on Horford or Conley. They also have been positioning themselves to take Yi should he fall to No. 6. But if all three of those guys are off the board, I think it will come down to Green and Brandan Wright.
Wright might have more upside, but I don't think the Bucks are willing to wait. Green is ready now and fits a need at forward.
(Noah's previous position: No. 8 to Charlotte)
The skinny: The Timberwolves' biggest need is in the front court, and there's a lot of speculation that they like Spencer Hawes. But I've been assured by several sources that they've made no promise to Hawes.
From what I can gather, they'll decide between Hawes, Joakim Noah and Al Thornton here. Noah wouldn't help much on the offensive end, but he would give them much-needed size and energy in the frontcourt.
Yi Jianlian and Jeff Green are also possibilities here if they slide.
(Brewer's previous position: No. 5 to Boston)
The skinny: It sounds like the Bobcats are seriously considering trading this pick. The Suns and Sixers, among others, have talked about moving up to No. 8.
The Bobcats like Brewer and USC's Nick Young. Brewer's the better defender, while Young's the better offensive player.
(Hawes' previous position: No. 10 to Sacramento)
The skinny: The Bulls are looking for a big man, and Joakim Noah and Yi Jianlian are their first two choices.
If both are off the board, they'll decide between Hawes, Brandan Wright and Julian Wright. The Wrights are better prospects, but where would they fit on the Bulls? Brandan Wright would duplicate Tyrus Thomas, and Julian Wright would duplicate Luol Deng.
That leaves Hawes, whose offensive skills could give the Bulls some desperately needed points in the paint down the road.
(Wright's previous position: No. 6 to Milwaukee)
The skinny: The word is that Wright is slipping on draft boards. Everyone loves his talent, but in workouts he's proven to be further away from contributing than many of the other picks in the draft. Combine that with concerns about his motor, and he could slip.
But it's hard to see him slipping past the Kings. He fits a need and just has too much talent to pass on here.
Julian Wright and Spencer Hawes, if they're still available, are also possibilities here.
(Law's previous position: No. 19 to L.A. Lakers)
The skinny: We keep hearing the Hawks will address the point guard situation with this pick one way or the other.
The early word was that the team was high on Javaris Crittenton, but after Law's workout last week, it now looks like Law has moved into the lead.
Law doesn't have the upside of Crittenton but he's much more NBA ready.
Rodney Stuckey looks like he has moved into the picture for Atlanta as well.
(Thornton's previous position: No. 12 to Philadelphia)
The skinny: The Sixers really need a power forward, but at this point, all of the worthy ones are gone. Thornton's a scoring machine and would be a nice complement to Andre Iguodala, who's coming off a breakout year in Philly.
Nick Young and Jason Smith also are possibilities here.
The Sixers have been trying to move up in the draft by packing this pick with their other two first-rounders, so watch them carefully. They'd prefer to get their hands on a guy like Al Horford, Jeff Green or Brandan Wright.
(Young's previous position: No. 13 to New Orleans)
The skinny: With Desmond Mason's hitting free agency, the Hornets will look for a shooting guard to play alongside a (hopefully) healthy Peja Stojakovic.
Young is the ideal fit. He's an excellent shooter and a big-time athlete. If he develops, he and Chris Paul could become one of the most exciting backcourts in the NBA.
If Young is off the board, they'll likely decide between Thornton, Rodney Stuckey and Julian Wright.
(Wright's previous position: No. 14 to L.A. Clippers)
The skinny: The Clippers like Acie Law, but it's looking more and more likely that the Hawks will take him at No. 11. The Clippers have been talking trade with a number of teams, but so far they haven't been able to close a deal.
Wright would be a good fit in L.A. Mike Dunleavy likes smart, versatile, point-forward type players, and at this point in the draft Wright is a steal.
The Clips could also fill their need at point guard with Crittenton.
Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.
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