The order in which the teams with lottery selections (1 to 14) will select in the first round was determined Tuesday night, with the Chicago Bulls coming away, of course, as the very big winners and now with a very tantalizing decision to make public on NBA Draft night on June 26.
But a clearer sense of the players that are likely to be selected, and in which sequence, after Chicago and Miami have at the first two picks, shouldn't begin to take shape until the league's May 27-30 Pre-Draft Camp in Orlando, and during the subsequent workouts conducted by franchises beginning on June 23.
In the meantime, here's a look at my first stab at a projecting the first round.
College freshmen make up 11 of the picks, with 10 sophomores and but four juniors and three seniors. Two non-college foreign players made the cut.
1. CHICAGO – Michael Beasley (6-9, Kansas State)
Comment: Naturally, a Derrick Rose (6-3, Memphis) selection could be in play here, as well, especially if a new coach is hired in time to have a prime draft decision influence. But the multi-skilled Beasley has all the appearances of a "can't go wrong" option.
2. MIAMI – Rose
Comment: He and a healthy Dwyane Wade would make up quite the dynamic backcourt
3. MINNESOTA – Brook Lopez (7-0, Stanford)
Comment: After Beasley, he offers the best combination of size, power, skill and "upside" among frontcourt options in this draft pool.
4. SEATTLE – O.J. Mayo (6-4, USC)
Comment: After the first projected selections, this is the player who would provide this franchise with the most immediate and significant impact of the other remaining options. If all breaks well, he could evolve into a "combo guard" the likes of a Wade or Chauncey Billups.
5. MEMPHIS – Jerryd Bayless (6-3, Arizona)
Comment: Kevin Love (6-9, UCLA) and Robin Lopez (7-0, Stanford) are tempting for a franchise that could use help in the post. But Bayless is the best overall prospects among the guards when Rose and Mayo are taken out of the equation.
6. NEW YORK – R. Lopez
Comment: Anticipated wholesale housecleaning and a change to an extreme up-tempo offense will result in a lot of immediate needs and any of seven or eight players could end up in this spot. But the hunch is that the other Lopez twin will look like the best "true center" available in this draft after individual workouts.
7. L.A. CLIPPERS – Eric Gordon (6-3, Indiana)
Comment: They hoped to landed high enough in the lottery to have either Mayo or Bayless sitting in their laps. For the time being, choosing Gordon becomes the next most likely scenario as he is the best pure "two" available. If they go for a "pure point", D.J. Augustin (6-0, Texas) is a distinct possibility.
8. MILWAUKEE – Anthony Randolph (6-9, LSU)
Comment: The Bucks can only hope that Bayless or Gordon is available when they're on the board. Barring that unlikely scenario, Russell Westbrook (6-3, UCLA) could enter into consideration, as could his soon-to-be former Bruins' teammate, Love. But Randolph has enough skill to one day become a "big small forward" of note in the league.
9. CHARLOTTE – Augustin
Comment: The Hornets need much better shooting from the lead guard spot (where Raymond Felton shot .413 overall and .280 behind on the arc). Love – easily the most polished of the big prospects not named Michael Beasley – could also be the pick.
10. NEW JERSEY – DeAndre Jordan (6-11, Texas A&M)
Comment: Dino Gallinari (6-9, Italy) has the size, skill and versatility that several teams picking before the Nets could covet enough to pick him. But Jordan has the size and innate athletic ability that are not going to allow him to slip out of the lottery. The Nets will give him a long, long look.
11. INDIANA – Love
Comment: Augustin will be the guy if he is still around when the Pacers are picking and Westbrook could be the choice if the decision makers here feel he is capable of playing significant immediate minutes at the point. Love (if he is still around) could be too tough to pass on, though.
12. SACRAMENTO – Gallinari
Comment: His game is marked by versatility and perimeter skill at 6-9, and he could be a nice up-front partner with Spencer Hawes, who played so well down the stretch of his rookie season with the Sonics. Westbrook will be on high on their board as well.
13. PORTLAND – Nicolas Batum (6-8, France)
Comment: With no shot at Rose, Mayo or Bayless, Batum – with enormous potential as a big, fluid and skilled wing-type forward – would be a player the team could afford to wait on if he continues to play in Europe for a while.
14. GOLDEN STATE – Darrell Arthur (6-9, Kansas)
Comment: Based upon on his Final Four resume, Arthur could be a steal if he is still available. He didn't show that same level of assertiveness on a consistent basis over two years, though.
15. PHOENIX – Westbrook
Comment: The Bruin is most highly thought of among the remaining backcourt choices and could get immediate minutes at either guard slot with the idea being that he is the long-term replacement for Steve Nash.
16. PHILADELPHIA – Mario Chalmers (6-2, Kansas)
Comment: If Westbrook isn't an option, Chalmers could be the choice because he likewise could serve as an immediate help at either guard spot. He's among the more (relatively) underrated prospects in the draft.
17. TORONTO – Chase Budinger (6-7, Arizona)
Comment: If he gains consistent assertiveness and can learn to utilize that vast reservoir of explosive athletic ability on the defensive end, he could play 20 to 25 minutes right away at the big guard or small forward slots.
18. WASHINGTON – Tywon Lawson (5-11, North Carolina)
Comment: He fills an immediate need and gives the Wizards the kind of push-the-ball speed that New Orleans and San Antonio have via "one-man fast breaks" Chris Paul and Tony Parker, although that is not to infer he is on their level as a prospect.
19. CLEVELAND – Donte Greene (6-9, Syracuse)
Comment: He might no be quite ready to play hefty minutes as a rookie but his combination of size, quickness and jump shooting ability could eventually help make defenses play LeBron James more honestly. Joe Alexander (6-7, West Virginia) could be the choice as well.
20. DENVER – J.J. Hickson (6-9, North Carolina State)
Comment: He could prove to be a more productive NBA player than many of his one-and-done peers in this draft.
21. NEW JERSEY – Alexander
Comment: Even with Richardson Jefferson around to fill the small forward slot, Alexander could prove too intriguing to pass up as an explosive and skilled wing.
22. ORLANDO – Kosta Koufos (7-0, Ohio State)
Comment: His presence on the floor would give the Magic a reliable shooting post to create a little more room for Dwight Howard to operate down low.
23. UTAH – Ryan Anderson (6-9, California)
Comment: He would provide an ideal "pick-and-pop" post player for Deron Williams to click repeatedly with.
24. SEATTLE – D.J. White (6-9, Indiana)
Comment: Other than Beasley and Love, there isn't a player available who has the ability to have the kind of immediate impact as a rebounder that the Big Ten Conference's Player of the Year possesses.
25. HOUSTON – Chris Douglas-Roberts (6-6, Memphis)
Comment: He's not an exceptional jump shooter yet but his mid-range and "slashing" games are nearly as good as they come in this pool of prospects.
26. SAN ANTONIO – Brandon Rush (6-6, Kansas)
Comment: In hindsight, the ACL injury he suffered last June that kept him in college led to his becoming an even better NBA prospect.
27. NEW ORLEANS – Jason Thompson (6-10, Rider)
Comment: He could lend capable frontline support for Tyson Chandler and David West and should flourish while playing with Chris Paul. Of course, who wouldn't?
28. MEMPHIS – Marreese Speights (6-10, Florida)
Comment: Speights would have been better served to spend another season in college, during which he could have evolved into a 2009 lottery selection. But the same thing could be said of several players in this draft.
29. DETROIT – JaVale McGee (6-10, Nevada)
Comment: The Pistons can afford to wait for a bit while he gains the polish and consistency he could have picked up with another season in college.
30. BOSTON – Roy Hibbert (7-1, Boston)
Comment: His NBA stock may have fallen after a senior season in which he was held to six points and one rebound in his final game (vs. Davidson). But he's too tempting a commodity to fall out of the first round and it's not like the Celtics have a dominating center presence inside (in Kendrick Perkins), anyway.
Other strong first-round candidates include: Wayne Ellington (6-4, North Carolina), Sonny Weems (6-6, Arkansas), Alexis Anjinca (7-0, France), DeVon Hardin (6-10, California) and Lester Hudson (6-3, Tennessee-Martin).
If you followed college basketball very closely at all this past season, this opinion is one I suspect you'll agree with: There are going to be a lot of freshmen and sophomores shaking hands with David Stern on the night of the NBA Draft next month...
There are going to be a lot of freshmen and sophomores shaking David Stern's hand next month...