Revisionist history is something that permeates throughout sports. “What could have been” resonates when another scenario could have been better than the chosen reality. This is especially true years after draft classes have been selected. TSFJ scribes Johnathan Tillman and Matt Whitener have set forth not only on redrafting the past two decades of the NBA, but also changing how history will play via our NBA Re-Draft series.
One of the greatest “What if?” drafts of all-time, 2007 saw two very separate fracture points hit for the cities that sat at the top of the board. On one hand, you have the Portland Trail Blazers, who climbed from the seventh-best odds in the lottery to top of the board. Meanwhile, the Seattle Supersonics were inching closer and closer towards what would be their final season in the Pacific Northwest.
At the crossroads of this were two runaway talents in Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Oden fit the last few remnants of what the traditional franchise center looked like; an ultra-athletic, shot-blocking, lob-catching seven-footer. Meanwhile, there was the tall, lanky jump shooter in Durant, who brought a skill set to his size that had never been seen before…. and hasn’t been seen since.
In the end, it is a story that we all are familiar with how it played out. Knee injuries quickly curbed Oden’s career, causing him to miss his rookie year in full and having three microfracture surgeries in his first three seasons. Meanwhile, Durant became one of the most gifted scorers of all time, going on to win Rookie of the Year at the start of one of the greatest careers in NBA history. As a result, the Blazers suffered a second legendary draft miss (shout out to Sam Bowie > Michael Jordan), while the greatness ahead for Durant wasn’t enough for the Sonics to stay in Seattle any longer than his rookie year. The Oklahoma City Thunder were on the verge of being born and the rest is a painful page in relocation history, unless you were betting on virtual sports and won a championship with OKC on NBA 2K.
It is safe to say that the direction the Blazers went in over the next decade would have played out much differently if Durant was in town. They reached the playoffs in three of his first six seasons, but never moved out of the first round. Meanwhile, Durant led the league in scoring four times and won MVP in 2014. But the flame of basketball’s Northwestern rival was gone and has yet to be reignited.
With that, let’s get into our re-draft of the class of 2007, as Brother Till takes on the role of turning in the envelope the city of Portland wishes would’ve changed hands. Before getting into the mix, here is a recap of the rosters we are selecting for headed into our 2007-08 season:
1. Portland Trail Blazers: Kevin Durant, Texas (+1)
Original pick: Greg Oden
There really isn’t much to say here that hasn’t already been said. Kevin Durant is this generation’s most potent scorer and one of the biggest mismatches ever. The four-time scoring champ and perennial All-NBA superstar has been the best player from this draft. With Portland having a lot of young talent in our re-draft (LaMarcus Aldridge, JR Smith, Rudy Gay), the Blazers have the makings of the superteam the Warriors became through the draft a few years before Golden State even gets started.
2. Seattle Supersonics: Al Horford, Florida (+1)
Original pick: Durant
With the Sonics/soon-to-be Thunder missing out on their last/first superstar in this re-draft, they pivot instead to a solid option in Horford. While far from the franchise-altering superstar that Durant was, he does provide a future five-time All-Star, who through his first 14 seasons averaged double-figures, alongside over eight rebounds and a block per night.
3. Atlanta Hawks: Mike Conley, Ohio State (+1)
Original pick: Horford
The best Mike Conley Jr. stat is that he’s never received a technical in his career. That kind of calming influence at the point guard position is exactly what Atlanta needs. The Hawks missed out on one of the guards in 2005 but get to rectify that with a near All-Star player before the injury.
4. Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol, Akaasvayu Girona (Spain) (+44)
Original pick: Conley
While Gasol did indeed start his career in Memphis, it was 44 picks later and following a trade where he was swapped for his brother Pau. The second time around, he doesn’t get out of the top five. Gasol went on to become a two-time All-NBA pick, a three-time All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. In his 11 seasons in Memphis, he became the franchise’s all-time leader in rebounds, blocks and minutes played.
5. Seattle Supersonics (from Celtics): Jeff Green, Georgetown
Original pick: Same
In an effort of consistency with the real 2007 Draft, Jeff Green is again selected here. He was the pick exchanged for Ray Allen that completed Seattle’s portion of forming Boston’s “Big Three” with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. With no Durant on the Sonics, maybe Jeff Green blossoms with more responsibility.
6. Milwaukee Bucks: Thaddeus Young, Georgia Tech (+6)
Original pick: Yi Jianlian
Although always a bit of a tweener at forward, Young was capable of putting up buckets wherever. He’s another guy that has flown beneath the radar a bit in regards to how productive he has been through his career. Young has averaged double-digit points every season since his rookie year and with a Milwaukee roster here amid a huge overall (and alongside Chris Paul) his upside could be realized to an even greater extent.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Corey Brewer, Florida
Original pick: Same
While Al Horford proved to be the best NBA player from those back-to-back NCAA Championship teams from there University of Florida, Corey Brewer has had a long and productive career. His biggest achievement is scoring 51 points in a game for these same Timberwolves. A quality wing defender is needed as the NBA transitions into “positionless basketball.”
8. Golden State Warriors (from Bobcats): Joakim Noah, Florida (+1)
Original pick: Brendan Wright
Noah was a superstar throughout his run at Florida, helping the Gators to consecutive National Championships with his unique blend of grit and hustle. That game carried over surprisingly well to the NBA, where he was one of the most effective — and exasperating — defenders in the game. He was a two-time All-Star, three-time All-Defensive selection and at his peak, All-NBA First Team and Defensive Player of the Year in 2014. He finds an amazing fit here with an unapologetic Warriors squad on the verge of their ‘We Believe’ run.
9. Chicago Bulls (from Knicks): Greg Oden, Ohio State (-8)
Original pick: Noah
Yes, Oden’s career was tragically cut short due to injury and there are plenty of players who played longer in the NBA than he did. But there is no way Oden the prospect falls out of the top ten. Here is a video of him absolutely having his way with Horford, Noah and Marreese Speights in the 2007 NCAA Championship Game. Oden had elite defensive timing and touch around the rim, even with his injured wrist.
10. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Afflalo, UCLA (+19)
Original pick: Spencer Hawes
Afflalo had a solid career as a low-ceiling, high floor three-and-D wing, best cast as a third option. He shot 38% from three for his career and topped 40% in five seasons, four of which came as a full-time starter. Afflalo’s best season came in 2013-14 when he averaged 18.2 points while shooting 41% from three and 81% at the line.
11. Atlanta Hawks: Spencer Hawes, Washington (-1)
Original pick: Acie Law, Texas A&M
Spencer Hawes left the University of Washington after his freshman year and was selected in the top ten. His potential was high as he had the propensity to shoot from the outside and had the bulk to contend in the paint. Atlanta doesn’t get Horford in our re-draft so the next best prospect is the proper selection.
12. Philadelphia 76ers: Al Thornton, Florida State (+2)
Original pick: Young
Thornton was 24 as a rookie and spent only four seasons in the NBA before departing for a run on the international circuit. But during his NBA run, he was a productive part of some ‘meh’ Clippers, Wizards and Warriors teams. He had a 39-point game as a rookie and averaged 11.9 points over three seasons as a tweener forward.
13. New Orleans Hornets: Nick Young, USC (+3)
Original pick: Julian Wright, Kansas
Nick Young is a pure hooper. He’s never met a bucket he couldn’t get, all with that trademark jovial attitude. While his talent didn’t develop into All-Star caliber due to giving into fun, he’s still been productive for the teams he’s been on. Every team needs a scoring threat in its rotation and the man who calls himself “Swaggy P” is certainly that, if nothing else.
14. Los Angeles Clippers: Rodney Stuckey, Eastern Washington (+1)
Original pick: Thornton
Stuckey was lost in the mix for much of his career on some rebuilding Pistons squads, but was a very competent scoring point guard throughout. He averaged double-digits for seven consecutive seasons, most of which came as a penetrator (he only shot 30% from three for his career). But his versatility on this Clippers roster is intriguing, as him and Ben Gordon are an imposing duo of instant offense off the bench.
15. Detroit Pistons (from Magic): Wilson Chandler, DePaul (+8)
Original pick: Stuckey
This is the perfect complement for this Detroit team. The Pistons are still playing in Eastern Conference Finals at this time, and the nearly 6’10” Chandler provides size, agility and versatility at the small forward position. He may not have been the defender Tayshaun Prince was, but he’s a little better on offense and would have fit into Detroit’s scheme perfectly.
16. Washington Wizards: Yi Jianlian, Guangdong Southern Tigers (China) (-10)
Original pick: Young
Jianlian arrived in the league with some drama and strings attached that never matched his play. His agent warned headed into the draft that Jianlian desired a market with a large Asian population, causing issues with him landing with Milwaukee initially. There were also demands from Chinese officials that he get enough playing time to stay sharp for the Chinese national team. In the end, he didn’t do much with the time he received, averaging 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds over five years, despite starting in 60% of his career games.
17. New Jersey Nets: Brandan Wright, North Carolina (-8)
Original pick: Sean Williams, Boston College
Brandan Wright is one of those players who seem to sort of be forgotten but have been in team’s rotations since he’s been drafted. He is an athletic shot blocker and finisher in transition, primarily off the bench, and played his role well in limited minutes over his 11-year career.
18. Golden State Warriors: Marco Belinelli, Fortitudo Bologna (Italy)
Original pick: Same
Although he has been incredibly well-traveled throughout his career, suiting up for nine different franchises, Belinelli has been reliable if nothing else. A career 37% shooter from three, Belinelli has averaged double-digits off the bench in five different seasons. Add in his career 84% at the free-throw line and you’re looking at one of the best – but underrated — bench contributors of the past decade.
19. Los Angeles Lakers: Jared Dudley, Boston College (+3)
Original pick: Javaris Crittenton, Georgia Tech
Jared Dudley was the ACC Player of the Year his senior season at Boston College. He developed into a role player and veteran locker room presence in the NBA, but there is no doubt he was a capable scorer and leader in college. He is a career 39.4 percent shooter from three, so he contributes more than just helping to maintain team chemistry off the floor.
20. Philadelphia 76ers (from Heat): Carl Landry, Purdue (+11)
Original pick: Daequan Cook
Although he has moved into the first round this time around, Landry has still managed to somehow stay underrated even in this redraft. Landry’s career 35.9 Win Shares rank ninth in this class, as he was an important contributor for a handful of playoff teams. He was a hard-working presence, shooting 53% lifetime and providing a big body around the rim.
21. Miami Heat (from 76ers): Anthony Tolliver, Creighton (Undrafted)
Original pick: Jason Smith, Colorado State
Having had a career for this long, Tolliver would have definitely been selected with hindsight. Versatile forwards were becoming more and more in style. Tall players who can shoot and space the floor were going from niche to coveted. Tolliver spaces the floor for a team’s second unit with his three-point shooting, allowing Dwyane Wade and now Kevin Love to control the paint.
22. Charlotte Bobcats (from Raptors): Daequan Cook, Ohio State (-1)
Original pick: Dudley
Cook was rarely a starter during his six-year NBA run, but did remain a consistent part of rotations for five of those seasons. He was a solid shot from deep, owning campaigns with 38% and 42% marks from three. He fits in well for this Bobcat team that is still trying to round into shape on the wing.
23. New York Knicks (from Bulls): Aaron Brooks, Oregon (+3)
Original pick: Chandler
In this re-draft, the Knicks are a more cohesive team than they are at this point in real life. Chris Duhon is the starting point and while he was serviceable, that job could be taken. Aaron Brooks’ size was the only deterrent from him sticking with a team. He’s always been a quality floor general and can shoot and drive well enough to make a play for himself or others. Being a senior is still a bit of a red flag for draft prospects, but the former Oregon Duck would definitely help this Knicks roster.
24. Portland Trail Blazers (from Cavaliers): Ramon Sessions, Nevada (+32)
Original pick: Rudy Fernandez
One of the earliest D-League success stories, Sessions established himself as one of the better gun-for-hire, journeyman point guards of his era. He never started more than 39 games in any season, but was good for five seasons of double-digit points off the bench. He’s a perfect fit as an instant offense combo guard for this young, but deep Blazers squad.
25. Utah Jazz: Rudy Fernandez, Joventut Badalona (Spain) (-1)
Original pick: Morris Almond
From a very distant and insignificant perspective, the basketball in Utah looks a little bland. Granted, it is effective, as the team is a perennial playoff contender even after the late Jerry Sloan retired. But something about the basketball there seems mundane. A little infusion of excitement may change that perspective with the selection of Fernandez. The Spaniard plays with a flare that caught the eye of NBA fans for the few years of his tenure. Fernandez and Shannon Brown may introduce some Utah Jazz fans to a more stylish and explosive brand of basketball.
26. Houston Rockets: Glen Davis, LSU (+9)
Original pick: Brooks
“Big Baby” brought the energy in spades as a rotational body off the bench, and was an important presence on three Finals teams between Boston and Orlando. In this re-draft world, he is an interesting fit for a Rockets team that needs some physicality next to an aging Yao Ming.
27. Detroit Pistons: Morris Almond, Rice (-2)
Original pick: Afflalo
Later in the first round is where some players who were productive in college but may not translate to NBA skill are selected. Morris Almond averaged 26 points per game his senior season at Rice. And while he only played a total of 38 games in the NBA, a scorer like Almond would be drafted around a pick at this time. Detroit didn’t take Rodney Stuckey in our re-draft so maybe Almond gets a chance to fill that role.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Gary Neal, Towson (Undrafted)
Original pick: Tiago Splitter
These Spurs are badly in need of versatility in their backcourt and Neal brings that. Always more of a microwave type off the bench, Neal fits in easily at either guard spot. Over 21.3 career minutes per game, Neal shot a strong 85% at the charity stripe and 38% from three, contributing to a solid 9.9 points per game. He was the perfect type of opportunistic, unknown upside contributor for Gregg Popovich’s Spurs.
29. Phoenix Suns: Tiago Splitter, TAU Ceramica (Spain) (-1)
Original pick: Alando Tucker, Wisconsin
“Serviceable big man” describes Splitter’s NBA role perfectly. Tall, smart enough to understand where he needs to be on the floor and capable around the rim, that’s all Steve Nash would need to get the best out of him in Phoenix. Set screens and rotate on defense is all Splitter needs to do for the Suns.
30. Portland Trail Blazers (from 76ers): Aaron Gray, Pittsburgh (+19)
Original pick: Pettri Koponen, FC Barcelona Lassa
Portland needs some size to stand in up front and Gray specialized in that throughout his career. At seven-feet and 270 pounds, he stood in as a rotational big for seven seasons with four different franchises and was a solid rebounder when out there (11.1 boards per 36 minutes).
Biggest Risers: Anthony Tolliver (Undrafted), Gary Neal (Undrafted), Marc Gasol (+44)
Furthest Falls: Yi Jianlian (-10), Greg Oden (-8), Brendan Wright (-8)
Out of the Round: Acie Law (#11), Julian Wright (#13), Sean Williams (#17), Javaris Crittenton (#19), Jason Smith (#20), Alando Tucker (#29), Petteri Koponen (#30)
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