Re-Drafting the 2007 NBA Draft Class

Sean Highkin@highkinFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2020

Re-Drafting the 2007 NBA Draft Class

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    The 2007 NBA draft is most commonly known as the "Oden-Durant draft." It was obvious throughout the previous college season that the top two picks would be Ohio State center Greg Oden and Texas forward Kevin Durant, with Oden the overwhelming favorite to go No. 1. The Portland Trail Blazers, with the sixth-best lottery odds, improbably won the top pick, while their Pacific Northwest rivals, the Seattle SuperSonics, slotted in at No. 2.

    It seems inconceivable now, given what Durant has become over the course of a Hall of Fame career, but at the time, Oden was the one seen as a generational talent. This was in the era when traditional big men were not yet devalued the way they are now, and teams around the league were salivating at the chance to draft Oden, who was a force of nature in his freshman season at Ohio State. There's a long-standing rumor that the San Antonio Spurs offered Tim Duncan to the Blazers for the No. 1 pick so they could take Oden, although that's never been confirmed.

    The predraft concerns about Oden were centered on his knees, and they sadly proved to be warranted. Because he was never able to stay healthy, Oden-over-Durant joins Bowie-over-Jordan and Darko-over-Melo as one of the go-to examples of bad draft judgment.

    In addition to Oden and Durant, the 2007 draft featured three more stars—Oden's Ohio State teammate Mike Conley and Florida teammates Joakim Noah and Al Horford—along with plenty of good role players who stuck around the NBA for a long time.

    With the NBA shut down until further notice because of the coronavirus pandemic, it's worthwhile to step into the time machine and redraft this high-profile draft. For our purposes, team needs were not taken into account—all picks were made by the guiding principle of "best player available."

1. Portland Trail Blazers: Kevin Durant

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    While the leaguewide consensus heading into the 2007 draft was was that Oden was the surer thing, it wasn't hard to see Durant as a future superstar after a spectacular freshman season at the University of Texas. In 2007-08, his rookie season and lone year in Seattle before the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City, he played out of position much of the year at shooting guard—perhaps a byproduct of the prevalent criticism leading up to the draft that he was too skinny.

    Everyone knows what happened next. Durant blossomed in his second season and then won his first of three consecutive scoring titles in 2009-10, along with making his first of 10 straight All-Star games. He led the Thunder to the Finals in 2011-12 (they lost in five games to Miami), won the league's MVP award in 2013-14 and became one of the most unguardable scorers in NBA history.

    Durant spent his first nine seasons in the Seattle/Oklahoma City organization, teamed up for much of that time with Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and, briefly, James Harden. In the summer of 2016, after a devastating Western Conference Finals loss to the Golden State Warriors, Durant made the much-maligned decision to join the Warriors in free agency. It paid off on the court—they won the 2017 and 2018 championships, and Durant won Finals MVP both years. But by joining an established superteam, he became one of the most hated figures in the NBA, and it was clear he never fully fit in culturally with the Warriors.

    Durant suffered a ruptured Achilles during Game 5 of the 2019 Finals, which the Warriors lost to the Toronto Raptors. Weeks later, he signed with the Brooklyn Nets along with Kyrie Irving. He was ruled out for the entire 2019-20 season as he rehabbed the Achilles injury, and with the NBA shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there's no telling when he'll play his next game.

    However, even if Durant never played again, he would be an all-time great and a future Hall of Famer. Few players of his generation have been more fearsome.

    Actual Pick: Greg Oden

    Durant's Actual Draft Spot: 2nd, Seattle SuperSonics

2. Seattle SuperSonics: Marc Gasol

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Marc Gasol had the pedigree—his older brother, Pau, was an All-Star for the Memphis Grizzlies. But there were questions about his conditioning (see: this legendary photo from his high school days, when he was much bigger than he is now) and how his skill set would translate to the NBA. He was a late second-round pick of the Lakers in 2007, and his draft rights were a throw-in at the 2008 deadline when they traded for his brother in what was at the time seen as one of the most lopsided NBA trades in years.

    It turned out to be a great deal for both sides because the younger Gasol developed into arguably the top center in the NBA after making his debut with the Grizzlies in 2008-09. Along with Mike Conley (more on him later), Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, he became one of the pillars of the "Grit 'N' Grind" Grizzlies teams of the early 2010s. They made the playoffs seven years in a row from 2011 to 2017, upsetting the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs as a No. 8 seed in 2011 and reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2013. Gasol made three All-Star teams and two All-NBA teams with Memphis and won Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.

    Gasol shared his brother's post scoring and passing ability but also developed into a very good three-point shooter, allowing him to adapt to the changing NBA game. After being traded to the Toronto Raptors at the 2019 deadline, he played a pivotal role in the franchise's first NBA championship.

    Actual Pick: Kevin Durant

    Gasol's Actual Draft Spot: 48th, Los Angeles Lakers

3. Atlanta Hawks: Al Horford

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    Outside of Oden and Durant, Al Horford was largely seen as the best NBA prospect in the draft coming off two consecutive national championships at Florida. He's lived up to that billing in a long and productive NBA career.

    Horford's nine-season Hawks tenure spanned two different eras of consistently competitive basketball. He was on the Joe Johnson-led teams of the late 2000s that were a mainstay in the Eastern Conference playoffs and then on the Mike Budenholzer-coached teams with Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver. Those teams peaked in 2014-15, winning 60 games and reaching the Eastern Conference Finals.

    Horford is a five-time All-Star and one of the league's top defensive bigs, and he has a well-earned reputation as a winning player who makes every team he's on better. After leaving the Hawks in 2016, he played three very good seasons for the Celtics before signing with Philadelphia last summer.

    The Hawks got this pick right, and they would do it again without a second thought.

    Actual Pick: Al Horford

    Horford's Actual Draft Spot: 3rd, Atlanta Hawks

4. Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Conley

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    Jennifer Pottheiser/Getty Images

    Another pick that went exactly the way it should have, Mike Conley may go down in history as the best player of his era to never make an All-Star team. His profile was boosted by being Greg Oden's running mate at Ohio State, but he proved himself worthy of a high pick on his own, becoming one of the West's top point guards in Memphis.

    Conley powered the "Grit 'N' Grind" Grizzlies as a tenacious defender and knockdown three-point shooter. He's never gotten the individual accolades of his flashier counterparts in the West, like Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard, but few point guards in the conference were more consistently dependable during his years in Memphis. Even though they fell short of the Finals, those Grizzlies teams were some of the most memorable of the 2010s, and they wouldn't have functioned without him.

    Actual Pick: Mike Conley

    Conley's Actual Draft Spot: 4th, Memphis Grizzlies

5. Boston Celtics: Joakim Noah

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    Jennifer Pottheiser/Getty Images

    Horford's Florida teammate was also a top-10 lottery pick and had almost as good a career before his body broke down. Joakim Noah played an integral role on the Derrick Rose-led Bulls teams of the late 2000s and early 2010s, peaking with the 2010-11 season in which they won 62 games and made the Eastern Conference Finals. His colorful personality and hard-edged competitiveness made him a fan favorite, and his willingness to throw his body around made him a fearsome defender.

    Noah's individual peak was the 2013-14 season, in which he won Defensive Player of the Year and finished fourth in MVP voting. With Rose out most of the season recovering from knee surgery, Noah was the best player on a surprising Bulls team. That offseason, he underwent knee surgery that he never fully recovered from, and his time with the Bulls ran its course shortly thereafter.

    Following a catastrophic two-year stint with the New York Knicks, Noah had a surprising resurgence in 2018-19 with the Memphis Grizzlies. Days before the COVID-19 shutdown, he had signed a 10-day contract with the Los Angeles Clippers.

    Noah's short peak and early decline put him behind Horford and Conley in this redraft, but he's had a terrific career more than worthy of a high pick.

    Actual Pick: Jeff Green (traded to Seattle SuperSonics)

    Noah's Actual Draft Spot: 9th, Chicago Bulls

6. Milwaukee Bucks: Thaddeus Young

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    After the top five, the 2007 draft drops off from the All-Stars, but there were plenty of quality starters and rotation players. Thaddeus Young has carved out a very good career as a tough, versatile defender who can play either forward position. He spent his first seven seasons in Philadelphia, followed by stints with the Timberwolves, Nets, Pacers and Bulls.

    Young's best individual season was his last with the Sixers in 2013-14 when he averaged a career-high 17.9 points per game. He had a strong second act in Indiana as a starter on a perennial playoff team, both in Paul George's final season and the next two led by Victor Oladipo's breakout. Throughout his career, he's made every team he's been on better.

    Actual Pick: Yi Jianlian

    Young's Actual Draft Spot: 12th, Philadelphia 76ers

7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jared Dudley

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Jared Dudley may be the dictionary definition of a "glue guy"—his stats have never jumped off the page, but he's played key roles on playoff teams for several different franchises. He only spent one-and-a-half seasons in Charlotte before being traded to Phoenix, where he was an important bench player for the final Steve Nash-Amar'e Stoudemire playoff team.

    Since then, he's been something of a journeyman, but a high-level and productive one. A consistently great three-point shooter (39.4 percent for his career), Dudley is also a solid defender who moved from small forward to power forward as his career progressed. After leaving Phoenix, he was an important veteran voice on two different young playoff teams: the 2014-15 Milwaukee Bucks and last season's Brooklyn Nets. He signed with the Lakers last summer.

    Actual Pick: Corey Brewer

    Dudley's Actual Draft Spot: 22nd, Charlotte Bobcats

8. Charlotte Bobcats: Jeff Green

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    Traded to Seattle as part of the Celtics' draft-night deal for Ray Allen, Jeff Green spent the early part of his career being touted as a part of Oklahoma City's young core along with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka. Green never reached those heights, and the Thunder traded him back to Boston at the 2011 deadline as part of the deal for Kendrick Perkins. He then sat out the 2011-12 season because of a heart issue.

    Although Green never developed into a star, he's managed to stick around and be productive enough to earn a roster spot year after year. The high point of his post-Boston career came in 2017-18 when he scored 19 points to help edge the Cleveland Cavaliers past the Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

    Actual Pick: Brandan Wright

    Green's Actual Draft Spot: 5th, Boston Celtics (traded to Seattle SuperSonics)

9. Chicago Bulls: Arron Afflalo

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    A late first-round pick of the Pistons, Arron Afflalo put together a nice run in the 2010s as a three-and-D wing. His best years came in his first of two stints in Denver in the immediate post-Carmelo Anthony years. The Nuggets traded him to Orlando in the summer of 2012 as part of the four-team deal that sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers, and he continued to put up good numbers in two seasons with the Magic before being traded back to Denver.

    Actual Pick: Joakim Noah

    Afflalo's Actual Draft Spot: 27th, Detroit Pistons

10. Sacramento Kings: Carl Landry

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    Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

    As the NBA game has evolved over the past decade, traditional bigs like Carl Landry have been rendered somewhat obsolete. But before the league got to that point, Landry was a useful power forward who played meaningful minutes on some good teams.

    An early second-rounder traded to Houston on draft night, Landry played solid bench minutes for the Rockets as the Yao Ming era wound down. He later found consistent roles on the last Chris Paul-David West New Orleans Hornets team and the pre-dynasty Golden State Warriors, who upset the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs in 2012-13. Landry isn't remembered much these days, but he had a respectable nine-year career.

    Actual Pick: Spencer Hawes

    Landry's Actual Draft Spot: 31st, Seattle SuperSonics (traded to Houston Rockets)

Late Lottery

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    11. Atlanta Hawks: Marco Belinelli

    The Italian sharpshooter has been a solid, reliable scoring threat for over a decade. He won a championship with the Spurs in 2014, and as recently as two years ago he was a difference-maker in the playoffs for the Philadelphia 76ers after joining midseason on the buyout market. He returned to San Antonio in the summer of 2018 and still plays there today.


    12. Philadelphia 76ers: Wilson Chandler

    Denver acquired Chandler from the Knicks in the Carmelo Anthony deal at the 2011 deadline, and he overcame repeated injuries to have a strong six-plus-year run as a starting forward in Denver. He's bounced around since then but stayed in the league as a productive veteran wing.


    13. New Orleans Hornets: Ramon Sessions

    After a strong second season with the Bucks, Sessions had a solid half-decade run as the "missing piece" teams tried to trade for at the deadline when they needed a reliable point guard—most notably the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011-12. His personal high-water mark came with a 20-point, 24-assist game near the end of his rookie season in Milwaukee, which fueled much of the optimism around him for the ensuing decade. He never lived up to those heights again, but he stuck around in the league for 11 seasons.


    14. Los Angeles Clippers: Anthony Tolliver

    After four seasons at Creighton, Tolliver went undrafted in 2007 and kicked around in the D-League and Europe for three years before catching on with the Warriors in 2010. From there, he carved out a nice career as a hard-nosed defensive big who could also knock down three-pointers.


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    15. Detroit Pistons: Spencer Hawes

    The former University of Washington star had some strong seasons in Sacramento and Philadelphia early in his career as a traditionally skilled big before developing a three-point shot that kept him in demand for several years after that.


    16. Washington Wizards: Brandan Wright

    Wright was a very effective shot-blocking, rim-running big across 11 NBA seasons, although he battled injuries throughout his career. His best years came in Dallas.


    17. New Jersey Nets: Tiago Splitter

    A classic international draft-and-stash pick by the Spurs, the Brazilian center didn't come over to the NBA until 2010. He was a starter on the Spurs' back-to-back Finals teams in 2013 and 2014, including their championship run in the latter season. Chronic hip issues cut short his career after that.


    18. Golden State Warriors: Rodney Stuckey

    An underrated scoring guard in his 10 seasons in the NBA, Stuckey averaged double-digit points for seven straight seasons and was a valuable bench contributor for the last three Paul George-era Pacers teams after a seven-year run in Detroit.


    19. Los Angeles Lakers: Corey Brewer

    Brewer starred alongside Joakim Noah and Al Horford at Florida and then had a steady career in the NBA as a wing who brought energy off the bench. His lasting legacy may be his status as possibly the most unlikely 50-point scorer in NBA history—he had 51 against the Rockets in 2014 as a member of the Timberwolves.


    20. Miami Heat: Aaron Brooks

    After a standout college career at Oregon, Brooks peaked early in the NBA. He won Most Improved Player in his third season in 2009-10 when he averaged 19.6 points per game for the Rockets. He never replicated that success in his subsequent eight pro seasons, which included stops in Phoenix, Sacramento, a brief return to Houston, Denver, Chicago, Indiana and Minnesota, as well as a season in China.


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    21. Philadelphia 76ers: Nick Young

    "Swaggy P" was known early on as a part of the dysfunctional Washington Wizards teams that included JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche and post-peak Gilbert Arenas. But Young overcame that reputation and established himself as a prolific, if inconsistent, volume scorer for 12 seasons, most notably with the Lakers.


    22. Charlotte Bobcats: Glen Davis

    "Big Baby" was a valuable bench big on the Celtics' 2008 title team and 2010 Finals team, as well as the final Dwight Howard-era Orlando Magic team.


    23. New York Knicks: Josh McRoberts

    McRoberts turned a second-round selection by the Blazers into an 11-year NBA career. His best year was in 2013-14 with the Charlotte Bobcats when he averaged 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in 78 starts.


    24. Phoenix Suns: Joel Anthony

    Anthony went undrafted in 2007 but had six-plus productive seasons with the Heat in his 10-year career, winning titles in 2012 and 2013 and playing consistent minutes off the bench during the Heatles era.


    25. Utah Jazz: Gary Neal

    Another undrafted success story from the 2007 draft, Neal made his NBA debut in 2010 and was a solid volume scorer off the bench for the 2013 Spurs, who made the Finals before losing to Miami. He stuck around in the NBA until 2017.


    26. Houston Rockets: Rudy Fernandez

    A star on the Spanish national team that won silver medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and a bronze medal in 2016, Fernandez spent four productive seasons in the NBA (three in Portland, one in Denver) before returning home to Spain, where he's played for Real Madrid since 2012.


    27. Detroit Pistons: Mirza Teletovic

    The Bosnian forward went undrafted in 2007 and didn't make his NBA debut until 2012 but was a solid outside shooter for the Nets, Suns and Bucks. A lingering knee issue ended his career in 2018.


    28. San Antonio Spurs: Aaron Gray

    Gray was never more than a bench big, but he played that role well for seven seasons before he was forced to retire in 2014 because of a heart condition.


    29. Phoenix Suns: Greg Oden

    Oden will go down in history as one of the greatest draft busts of all time because of his never-ending knee injuries and the fact that he was taken No. 1 overall ahead of Kevin Durant. The injuries limited him to 82 games over five seasons with the Blazers and 23 games in an attempted comeback with the Miami Heat in 2013-14. But in his brief stretches of healthy play in Portland, he was incredibly productive, averaging 15.3 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes. If only he'd been able to stay healthy.


    30. Philadelphia 76ers: Al Thornton

    Thornton had a few good games early with the Clippers but lasted just four seasons in the NBA and never lived up to his status as a lottery pick. A four-year star at Florida State, he was a better college player than an NBA player. He also had stints with the Wizards and Warriors before continuing his career overseas.


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