Nuggets on the clock?

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.

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