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Wednesday, June 19
Updated: Wednesday, June 19, 11:28 PM ET
 
Nuggets on the clock?
By Andy Katz
ESPN.com

The 2002 NBA draft starts with the Denver Nuggets on the clock at No. 5. That's right, the consensus among NBA teams is that the first four spots are getting close to being absolute.

  • Houston's negotiations with Yao Ming are essentially done, save Yao's need to firm up his financial responsibilities.
  • Chicago and Jay Williams of Duke have apparently agreed in principle that he will hear his name called second next Wednesday night.
  • Duke's Mike Dunleavy stayed in the draft to go No. 3 to Golden State where his father could become the next head coach.
  • Memphis is listening to trade talks, but the favorite from within the organization and the word around the league is Kansas' Drew Gooden (start taking calls for Stromile Swift now!)

    And then it gets interesting.

    Denver could go with a guard in Memphis' Dajuan Wagner, bank on a future player in Benetton's 19-year-old Nikoloz Tskitishvili, or go with a sure thing in Connecticut's Caron Butler. But, whatever Denver does affects the rest of the lottery.

    The potential sliders with less than a week to go to the draft are Tsktishvili if he doesn't go to Denver, Wagner, Qyntel Woods, Curtis Borchardt and Marcus Haislip. Players who could still sneak into the first round are Stanford's Casey Jacobsen, Fresno State's Chris Jefferies, Yugoslavian Mladen Sekularac, Fordham's Smush Parker, Hawaii's Predrag Savovic, Notre Dame's Ryan Humphrey, Shaw's Ronald Murray, Cincinnati's Steve Logan and USC's Sam Clancy. You won't see their names below but that doesn't mean they can't hear their names June 26 in New York City.

    On the heels of the underclassmen's deadline to withdraw Wednesday, here is ESPN.com's third of four mock drafts. The final version will be unveiled Tuesday.

    1. Houston: Yao Ming, 7-5, C, Shanghai Sharks (China)
    Bank on the top pick. That's right, this one is over. Yao Ming will be a Rocket, the next Hakeem Olajuwon. Stevie Franchise should start learning Chinese to ensure this relationship is as smooth as the negotiations the past two weeks between the Chinese basketball reps and the Rockets. Yao next to Kenny Thomas and/or Mo Taylor could be a formidable frontline.

    2. Chicago: Jay Williams, 6-2, Jr., PG, Duke
    Williams wants to be a Bull. The Bulls want Williams. This one is essentially done. He can become the team's true point and start to put the Jamal Crawford experiment on hold yet again. Jalen Rose can become a natural wing and Chicago seriously begins to turn the corner. He's the perfect fit for Chicago, but just as important, he wants to be in Chicago, something that wasn't the case when the Bulls were trying to get free agents two years ago. And, by the way, he says he's not going to Chicago to lose. They will win with him.

    3. Golden State: Mike Dunleavy, 6-9, Jr., SF, Duke
    Dunleavy didn't have to be convinced to go to Golden State. He told ESPN.com he wanted to play on the West Coast and the prospect of loads of PT had its appeal. Playing for his father might also be another factor that can't be taken lightly if the rumors are true about Senior's candidacy for the fulltime gig. If a Yao-Rockets deal breaks down, something that doesn't look likely a week out from the draft, Dunleavy could be the top pick. The Warriors could also trade this pick, but regardless who is selecting third, Dunleavy won't slip past here.

    4. Memphis: Drew Gooden, 6-10, Jr., PF, Kansas
    The Grizzlies could still take Jared Jeffries, but the favorite is Gooden and he makes Stromile Swift trade bait. The only safe players on the roster are Pau Gasol and Shane Battier, according to the organization. That's why trading this pick is also a possibility -- and the Grizzlies would like to get their hands on Dunleavy -- but they'll certainly take Gooden, who could give them another versatile forward. Caron Butler is a strong possibility here as well. The Grizzlies have plenty of options at this pick and Jerry West will likely be in position to make the right move as he has done in Los Angeles. Don't be surprised to see a trade.

    5. Denver: Nikoloz Tskitishvilli, 6-11, SF, Benetton Treviso (Italy)
    It's hard to say what the Nuggets will do, but the consensus is that they'll look at the longterm rather than a player who can definitely contribute right away. League execs have been briefed that Tskitishvili is three years away from being a factor, but that probably jives with the Nuggets' rebuilding plan.

    6. Cleveland: Caron Butler, 6-7, So., SF, Connecticut
    The Cavs must win next season and have to select a player who can contribute. Butler would be the perfect running mate to Andre Miller, especially since he can finish on the break as well as create his own shot. The Cavs have been impressed with Butler from the beginning of the draft process.

    7. New York: Chris Wilcox, 6-10, So., PF, Maryland
    The Knicks could have the best situation possible if this scenario plays out. They covet Wilcox, Maybyner "Nene" Hilario and Curtis Borchardt, as well as giving Wagner a look. Taking Wilcox makes the most sense because he's a true power forward and fits the Knicks bruising image that they need to repair in the post.

    8. L.A. Clippers (from Atlanta): Maybyner "Nene" Hilario, 6-9, PF, Brazil
    The Clippers could be in the market for a trade, but if they don't move this pick, the word is they could take Hilario and either keep him or send him back to Brazil for a season or two of seasoning. His contract situation could be cloudy, and that wouldn't affect the Clippers considering they don't necessarily need another body next season.

    9. Phoenix: Jared Jeffries, 6-10, So., SF, Indiana
    The Suns have been rumored to be in line to take Amare Stoudemire for Portland -- but that's premature. If Jeffries is on the board, he won't last past Phoenix. Suns general manager Bryan Colangelo has raved about Jeffries since the start of the draft process and he would be a natural fit for them. Jeffries bulked up 20 pounds (which seems implausible) since the Final Four and looks thicker. He was a hit on the workout scene and the buzz in Chicago was that he would move up in the draft. He has and fits the Suns' need for another scoring forward. If he has proven that he can take the physical pounding then he belongs in the top 10.

    10. Miami: Curtis Borchardt, 7-0, Jr., C, Stanford
    Pat Riley doesn't want to wait for a player to develop. Borchardt had a good workout in Miami and might be the best shooting big man in this draft. He has the tools to be productive next season. Miami could still trade this pick, but it needs someone to play behind Alonzo Mourning next season, and eventually take his place in the middle.

    11. Washington: Dajuan Wagner, 6-2, Fr., PG, Memphis
    Washington has some interesting choices if this scenario occurs. The Wizards need scoring help badly and Michael Jordan's situation doesn't help clear the issue. Qyntel Woods has lost his luster of late, so the Wizards need a player who can come in and score. If Wagner is on the board he won't last too much longer if Washington passes here.

    12. L.A. Clippers: Amare Stoudemire, 6-10, PF, Cypress Creek (Fla.) H.S.
    Stoudemire is one of the toughest players to place in this draft. He really only has three possible spots in the first round -- here, 15 to Houston, or 21 to Portland. The Clippers could be taking him for the Blazers, who are trying to make a deal. But even if they keep him, then they're doing what they do best -- draft young, talented players with cheap salaries locked in for three years.

    13. Milwaukee: Melvin Ely, PF, 6-10, Sr., Fresno State
    The Bucks would gladly take this scenario because George Karl wants a power forward who can give him quality minutes. Ely is the most prepared of the available power forwards to come in and contribute. Never under-estimate the power of connections. Former Tark assistant Tim Grgurich has Karl's ear and is a fan of Ely.

    14. Indiana: Kareem Rush, 6-6, SG, Jr., Missouri
    The Pacers have Reggie Miller for the immediate future but need to find a potential replacement. They don't necessarily need help next season, and if Rush goes to Indiana, he'll get the proper tutorial from Miller. Besides, getting another scorer won't hurt the Pacers if Rush can find minutes on the court next season.

    15. Houston: Bostjan Nachbar, SF, 6-8, Benetton Treviso (Italy)
    The Rockets aren't afraid to take two foreign players in the first round. Their goals were a center and a small forward. The only other name that has been bandied about at this spot has been Tayshaun Prince. But Nachbar has been the consistent favorite.

    16. Philadelphia: Qyntel Woods, 6-8, PF, Northeast Mississippi CC
    Woods has been the player of late who is dropping like a rock in deep water. He could go another spot or two if the Sixers' pick goes to the Warriors in the first round. Golden State has to decide if it wants this pick or a first-round pick in 2005. Woods is an athletic small forward who has been billed as a legit scorer, something the Sixers could still use.

    17. New Orleans: Jiri Welsch, 6-6, SG, BC Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia)
    The Hornets have coveted Welsch from the start of the draft process and if he's available he won't get past them. He's a scoring guard who can make 3s and that bodes well for the Hornets, who wanted perimeter pop out of the draft. Welsch is apparently staying here in America, rather than going back to Italy to play next season.

    18. Orlando: Frank Williams, 6-3, PG, Jr., Illinois
    The Magic have been interested in a point guard after the Jeryl Sasser fiasco last season. Taking Sasser as a point turned out to be a mistake. The Magic has an interest in Williams and Dan Dickau, but could be shocked to see Haislip still on the board. The favorite still seems to be the talented, but on-again, off-again, Williams.

    19. Utah: Marcus Haislip, 6-10, PF, Jr., Tennessee
    Another athletic forward who is dropping, at least in this mock draf, is Haislip. The Jazz was looking for perimeter help, but need a future replacement for Karl Malone. Haislip provides an intriguing glimpse into the future with his shot-blocking skills and raw offensive moves. The Jazz could still go with Dickau, or maybe try Carlos Boozer, but it would be hard to pass on Haislip.

    20. Toronto: Dan Dickau, 6-0, PG, Sr., Gonzaga
    It was bound to happen, and Toronto is the team that has fallen in love with Dickau. If he's still on the board this late, the Raptors will snatch him quickly. Dickau has worked out well and proven that he's more of a scoring point than a playmaker. But he is a winner and the Raptors certainly can use more of his attitude on the court and in a huddle next season.

    21. Portland: Carlos Boozer, 6-9, PF, Jr., Duke
    With Ely most likely gone by now, the Blazers might end up shipping this pick. But if they keep it, they'll likely go with the best player, preferably a power player. Boozer fits the criteria more than Dan Gadzuric or a foreign player. He has worked out well, showing that he has more of a face-the-basket game to go with is low-post moves.

    22. Phoenix: John Salmons, 6-7, PG, Sr., Miami
    Salmons had been the biggest riser over the last two weeks, even though he didn't have a stellar Chicago pre-draft camp. The Suns have fallen for Salmons and would gladly take him late in the first. Salmons can play any of three positions from the point to small forward.

    23. Detroit: Rod Grizzard, 6-8, SF, Jr., Alabama
    The Pistons have plenty of options at this spot but need an athletic wing, hopefully someone who can score. Grizzard can't make 3s and really can't do much of anything right now to improve his stock with a healing broken leg. But the consensus is that he'll go in the first round even though a broken bone kept him out of workouts this spring. Besides, Grizzard wouldn't have stayed in the draft if there weren't an indication that he would go in the first round. This is the way things work in this biz -- don't expect him to fall out of the first round.

    24. New Jersey: Juan Dixon, 6-3, PG, Sr., Maryland
    The Nets are going with a guard and the choices are Dixon, Freddie Jones or Casey Jacobsen. The early favorite is Dixon because of his defense, ball-handling and overall attitude. He should be a big hit with Byron Scott and Co.

    25. Denver: Fred Jones, 6-4, SG, Oregon
    The Nuggets need an athletic wing, especially if they go with Tskitishvili at No. 5. Jones didn't work out as well because of a nagging shoulder injury. He's on the bubble for the first round and this pick could end up in a trade. But he's being talked about as a potential selection at No. 25.

    26. San Antonio: Nenad Krstic, 7-0, C, Yugoslavia
    The Spurs don't need a player next season and the consensus has been that they will go foreign in the first round. If that's the case then the next remaining true center on the board is Krstic. He is a friend of Vlade Divac of the Kings, but he might not get to 28 to learn how to flop.

    27. L.A. Lakers: Tayshaun Prince, 6-9, SF, Sr., Kentucky
    The Lakers could go in four directions here -- Jones (but we're saying he's gone), Prince, Jacobsen or Sam Clancy. Prince has been told he's a lock for the first round and the Lakers are a likely destination for the native son. He's a scoring small forward who has the potential to hit shots like Robert Horry from the 3-point line. The Lakers could be shopping this pick, especially in light of word 10 days ago that a deal was in the works to move up to get Qyntel Woods. But, regardless, they'll look at the best player at this spot in the draft. If Boozer or Gadzuric are still around then they become viable players. Don't be surprised to see Dixon's name, too. But getting another shooter, especially a proven scorer like Prince, makes sense for them. The Lakers have a long scouting record on the L.A. product.

    28. Sacramento: Dan Gadzuric, 6-11, C, Sr., UCLA
    The Kings can always use another big man, especially one with as much promise and potential as Gadzuric. They have scouted him extensively, considering they see him on the West Coast all the time. Gadzuric hasn't even come close to his potential and could end up being a steal at the bottom of the first.

    Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. He covers the NBA draft for ESPN.com and ESPN.




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    Mock Draft II

    Mock Draft I

    Top-three status has Dunleavy staying in draft

    Withdrawing from the draft







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