I got to thinking what it might look like if the NBA cleared all its rosters and had a 12-round draft to re-form the teams. I'm not going to make a 12-round mock draft -- despite what you may think, I really don't have that much time on my hands. I'll start by making my picks for spots #1 through 15 and will follow up with 16-30 in the coming days. My criteria for the top players on this list are as follows: 1) age (I want a player who isn't going to fade away in less than 5 years), 2) skill set (I want players who are versatile and can play multiple positions), 3) leadership (I want someone I can build my team around), 4) love for the game (without passion for the game, how can I expect him to improve?), and 5) marketability (the NBA is still a business, and some players are better at putting fans in the stands than others). Obviously, this list is up for criticism as it is a daunting task and I will inevitably make some questionable picks.
1. Lebron James
There isn't a young player in the game with a higher ceiling. He put up 30, 7, & 7 as a 23-year old kid last season. He can play multiple positions, and makes his teammates better. Plus, the NBA is determined to make him their poster boy for the next ten-plus seasons, so the marketing possibilities would be endless.
2. Chris Paul
Already the best point guard in the game, and still only 23 years old. Had averages of 24, 11, & 5 in his first playoffs and almost singlehandedly knocked out the defending champs.
3. Dwight Howard
Only 22 years old, and already the best true center in the game. An absolute beast who still has time to correct his obvious flaws (FT shooting, Turnovers). I gave him the nod over Kobe because he will be around much longer.
4. Kobe Bryant
The best player in the game and the most-feared player in the clutch. He's still only 29, so I'm giving him 6-7 quality years left. Like him or not, we all know he has the drive that will keep him at the top of his game for that long.
5. Deron Williams
Probably my first pick with any legitimate "shock" value. Say what you want, but he's already (at 24) the leader of a very good Utah team. Plays like a guy who's been in the league ten years. Unlike players who rely upon athleticism & quickness (although he has both), his style of play is one that will remain effective even as his legs start to wear down. Besides, he's a point guard -- and most NBA GM's are sold on point guard as the position to build your team around.
6. Amare Stoudemire
Although he's not great on the defensive end, he is a workhorse on offense. He's only 26, and has shown a great work ethic in coming back from that season-ending knee injury a few years ago. Virtually unguardable from the mid-post and will get your team plenty of easy baskets.
7. Kevin Durant
I said it a year ago, and I still believe it -- Durant should have been the first pick in last year's draft. I'm not overly concerned with his low shooting percentage as a rookie (that will improve as he learns NBA game) or his skin-and-bones frame (he only missed a few games in an 82 game season). He's already a prolific scorer, has a 7' wingspan, and made a few game-winners as a rook. He also seems to have a deep passion for the game, which makes me believe he will improve tremendously over the next few years. Oh yeah, he's 19!
8. Brandon Roy
Great all-around player going into his third year in the league. Has shown leadership at a young age and the ability to play multiple positions. Also possesses the "it" factor that results in icy cool play down the stretch of games.
9. Derrick Rose
My top 10 may be a little point guard-heavy, but as I said earlier -- that's what GM's crave. Rose went #1 this year, so who's to say he wouldn't be a top-10 pick under this draft's format? Given his age, ceiling, and unselfishness, I probably have him a little too low on this board.
10. Dwyane Wade
Despite his recent string of injuries, some GM would nab him this high. It was only two years ago that he led the Heat to the NBA Title (yes, it was Wade... not Shaq). He's still only 26 and can play the 1 or the 2. He's got a motor that won't quit and a knack for hitting the big shot.
11. Carmelo Anthony
He may be a crybaby, but there's no mistaking his love for the game. He'll continue to work at it and has the ability to drop 50 any given night. There are only a few scorers in the league more gifted than Melo, and he is improving in his rebounding, defense, and passing. If Wade goes #10, Melo goes #11.
12. Greg Oden
Oden went #1 last year, and even after the injury he would still go this high. Many heads in the league still believe he will be battling Dwight Howard for distinction of best big in the game within a few years. While I'm not going to go that far, he's a huge, athletic body -- the type of physical specimen that only comes around once every five years or so.
13. Chris Bosh
While I'm not Bosh's #1 fan, I can see why scouts would drool over this guy. He's a pretty cerebral, almost a throwback type of player who can step out and hit the 18-footer at 6'10". I take him ahead of Nowitzki and Duncan here because he's only 24 and those guys are in their thirties.
14. Josh Smith
Smith greatly improved his stock after a stellar playoff series against the NBA Champion Celtics. He makes easy plays look spectacular and spectacular plays look easy. Players who can play multiple positions flourish in today's wide open style of play, and there are few more capable of doing so than Josh Smith.
15. Al Jefferson
Yes, I took him ahead of KG. The only reason I did this is because KG is 32 and Big Al is 23. Is he in KG's league right now? Not even close. However, I'm betting my future on a player who will be around 12-15 years instead of a player who will be around 3-5 more years.
16-30: Coming in a few days