Speculation will continue until Thursday night, but it's time ESPN.com put its first round in pen. Welcome to our final Mock Draft where ESPN.com projected all 29 first-round picks today.
ESPN Insider Chad Ford is answered users questions along the way. And, while the Cavs, Pistons and Nuggets haven't done a very good job of keeping the first three picks a secret, the next 26 picks and the latest trade rumors provided plenty of intrigue.
With the first pick in the draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected ...
Moderator: So much for surprises. But before the Pistons make their pick at No. 2, Jon in Sarasota, Fla., has a question about "King James" ... "I don't know what the hype is with LeBron, maybe there is something that I haven't seen, but what I have he can't shoot for anything. Carmelo has a much better all-around game. If the Cavs are looking for someone to win the dunk contest ... they might of found they're guy, but to take them to the postseason, I think they would have to take Carmelo."
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: I can't agree with you Jon. LeBron is much more versatile than Carmelo. He's a better handler, passer, rebounder and athlete. Neither of them are great perimeter shooters, but they aren't bad either. LeBron's more athletic and should be able to play three to four positions in the pros. Carmelo will be a small forward and nothing else. While I agree that Carmelo's proven more on a bigger stage, all the evidence suggests that LeBron is the better player. I think Carmelo is a distant third to LeBron and Darko.
Moderator: You were expecting somebody else? Well, Will in Grand Rapids, Mich. still has questions about the European teenager. "Chad, from what you have seen, does he look like the real deal? And still being so young, can he put on the muscle mass to bang with some of the stronger PFs and Cs in the league today?"
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: He's the real deal. He's really one of a kind. He runs the floor, handles the ball, shoots the NBA 3-pointer, plays with his back to the basket, so you can slot him in at the 3, 4 or 5. What sets Darko apart is his toughness in the post. You have to love a guy who has the footwork to spin by an opponent, but still prefers to lower a shoulder and bang. Fact is, Milicic plays in attack-mode at both ends of the floor. The more you push, the more he pushes back. He's got a great frame. He'll definitely get stronger. He'll have no problem holding his own in the post.
Moderator: Anyone want to make a guess at No. 3?
Moderator: Still, Eric in Denver wants to know: "Some rumors are going around that the Nuggets are looking to deal Marcus Camby and Rodney White to a team with a mid-first round draft pick. What team in the mid-first round would consider taking Camby and White, and if the deal goes down, who would the Nuggets look to take? Possibly someone in the backcourt?"
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: Memphis is a good possibility. Jerry West wants to win now and if Mickael Pietrus is off the board, they may decide this is the way to go. They could get that deal done for Wesley Person and the No. 13. The Sonics and Celtics are also looking to move one of their picks and might be interested.
Moderator: OK, it's time for the draft to really start. Toronto is on the clock, but trade winds are blowing up north. What will the Raptors do leading up to draft night?
Mike in Avenel, N.J. asks: "Why is there so much speculation about Toronto wanting to trade their number 4 pick? I understand that everyone trading for that spot wants Chris Bosh, so why does Toronto not like him?"
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: They do. But there is serious pressure of GM Glen Grunwald to win right now. As good as Bosh is, he's a few years away. I think there's a better than 70-percent chance that the Raptors trade this pick. There's a lot of interest and I think a few of the proposals already made make a lot of sense.
Moderator: But for now, Toronto is still on the clock ...
Moderator: Can Miami find another steal like last year's No. 9 pick Caron Butler? The Heat are up next.
Brandon in North Caldwell, N.J. asks: "There's been some speculation that the Heat would take Chris Bosh if the Raptors (or whoever will have it tomorrow) takes T.J. Ford. Why would the Heat do that if they have Caron Butler. They are desperate for a center, wouldn't you think Pat Riley would forget about his hatred for foreign players and pick the polish center?"
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: Bosh is the best player on the board if the Heat are picking at five. He plays primarily power forward. Brian Grant can move to the five if they need, but the bottom line is that athletic, tall power forwards are hard to come by in the league. The Heat can't pass on a kid like that. However, I still believe at the end of the day that the Raptors take Bosh at No. 4.
Moderator: Clippers on the clock ...
Moderator: Plenty of news around the Bulls, who are on the clock.
Daniel in Granbury, Texas wants to know about the trade winds blowing in the Windy City: "If Dallas makes the trade with the Bulls, is Mickael Pietrus going to be better than Finley in the future? Also, will the Bulls throw in Jalen Rose in the deal?"
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: Pietrus has that potential, but if you're Dallas, and you're on the verge of a championship, are you really ready to wait? Donyell Marshall and Marcus Fizer would give them an inside presence, but I'm not sure whether either of those guys make that big of a difference in Chicago. I think it's a good move for the Bulls. The need to settle on a few young players (Chandler, Curry, Crawford) and surround them with solid veterans. Finley combined with someone like Juwan Howard (via free agency) would be a nice fit.
Moderator: Milwaukee's turn ...
First a question from Jason in Madison Wis.: "Should the Bucks choose T.J. Ford, a relatively untested point guard to replace the 'possibly' departing Gary Payton, or go for someone more polished and a hometown product in Reece Gaines?"
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: If the Bucks believe Payton will re-sign, they'll go big with someone like Maciej Lampe, Chris Kaman or Nick Collison. If Payton intends to leave it's between Kirk Hinrich and T.J. Ford. I don't think Gaines is in the picture. If I'm Milwaukee, I'd go with Lampe or Hinrich.
Moderator: Get ready to boo NYC, the Knicks are on the clock ...
Moderator: This Knicks' pick should make at least Adam in Fairfax, Va., happy. He asks: "Please tell me that the Knicks will use the No. 9 pick on a big man. I don't like the idea of trading up for another point guard. The Knicks can get away with Ward/Eisley at the point. Their real need is down low."
With Scott Layden, no one knows. They just found out that their point guard of the future, Milos Vujanic, just signed a three-year deal to play in Bologna. That means that point guard is a need. If Hinrich or Ford fall, they have to take them because they're better than Chris Kaman. If Maciej Lampe fell, however, I believe he'd be the choice.
Moderator: Up next, the MJ-less Wizards ...
Aaron in McLean Va., wants to know: "Are the Wizards going to go after the best PG available Heinrich/Ridnour or take another scorer like Dwyane Wade?"
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: No one knows. That's the problem when you have a GM. I hear that the four people they really like are Hinrich, Jarvis Hayes, Nick Collison and Reece Gaines. If Hinrich's on the board, he's a lock. After that, all three guys are a little high for this spot.
Moderator: With the 11th pick, Golden State is on the clock ...
But at this point in the draft, the same questions come up each year. This year, Adam in Rockford, Ill. does the honors: "Last year Fred Jones was the first 'What?' pick. Which player could we see going way too early this year? Also, last year Caron Butler slipped on draft night. Who will be sitting in the green room longer than expected Thursday?"
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: I think the two guys who seem too hot are Yugoslavia's Zarko Cabarkapa and UNLV's Marcus Banks. Both of them are higher on the board than their talent warrants at the moment. We could also see KU's Nick Collison go as high as No. 8. That's too high. As far as slipping, Illinois' Brian Cook's stock is all over the board. He could be in the lottery or he could slip to 19.
Moderator: Two more lottery picks remain. Seattle is up next ... but Tim in Seattle is wondering: "What are the chances the Sonics will package 12 and 14 and trade up? Or maybe trade them for a veteran? They definitely don't need two more projects, that's all they seem to have."
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: They've been talking to the Raps about a deal that would send Vladimir Radmanovic, Brent Barry and the No. 12 to Toronto for Jerome Williams, Michael Bradley and the No. 12. If that doesn't happen they'll draft either Nick Collison, Brian Cook or Michael Sweetney at No. 12 -- and either Luke Ridnour, Reece Gaines or Marcus Banks at the point.
Moderator: Jerry West is on the clock. Will No. 13 be lucky for Memphis?
Moderator: A late steal for the Grizzlies? Maybe. But Scott in White Lake, SD wants to know: "Will Memphis trade Stromile Swift to Miami for Eddie Jones? If so, with Mike Miller, Pau Gasol, and Eddie Jones what is Memphis accomplishing?"
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: That rumor has been flying around for over a year. I don't see it. It doesn't make any cap sense for the Grizzlies to do it. They're trying to get some cap room next year. Adding Jones would kill any possibility of getting it done. I think they're better off staying at No. 13 and praying Mickael Pietrus falls to them.
Moderator: OK, Seattle is back on the clock with its second first-round pick ...
Moderator: Halfway through the first round, time for the playoff squads to add some talent ... Orlando is on the clock.
Chris in Erie, Pa. has a good question: "Will the Orlando Magic look to fill Grant Hill's position, a scoring point guard, or a low post presence if available?"
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: They're looking a point guard first and foremost. With Darrell Armstrong and Jacque Vaughn both hitting free agency, they want to address that need. They'd love Reece Gaines or Dwyane Wade if they were available. Brazil's Leandrinho Barbosa is a sleeper here.
Moderator: Seems as though Kelsey Rochester of New York has been waiting for Sweetney's name to finally pop up. He wants to know: "Why no love for Michael Sweetney from Georgetown? All he did was eat up all competition he faced his junior season. All we hear about is how undersized he is but what about what he's been able to do at Georgetown without any help at all. When you look at the big men that have came out of Georgetown name one that underachieved?"
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: Size matters and Sweetney's undersized to play the four in the NBA. His long arms help him some. But his lack of athleticism and strength (he could only bench press 185 pounds three times) have teams wondering what his problem is. As far as big men from Georgetown who've underachieved. What about Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje?
Moderator: Get ready Beantown, the C's are on the clock for one of two first-round picks ...
Moderator: Time for Phoenix to find another diamond in the rough like this year's rookie of the year Amare ... which brings up a question from Sean in Cleveland: "
What player will be the Amare Stoudemire of this draft? The player everyone is afraid to pick, and will regret not picking at the end of next year?"
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: Dwyane Wade will be this year's Caron Butler. As for Stoudemire, that's tougher. Maybe Brian Cook of Illinois.
Moderator: What's the buzz in New Orleans?
Moderator: Utah is on the clock ... and Pat in Evanston, Ill., needs to know: "You continue to mention the Jazz as one of the teams that is looking to move up in the draft, but there are never any concrete rumors associated with them. What would the Jazz most likely be dealing to move up and whom would?"
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: That's because it's tough to figure out how they'll do it. The Jazz want to move up, but what do they have to offer. Andrei Kirilenko and Matt Harpring are off limits. No one else on the roster has a lot of trade value at the moment. Unless they send a couple of future first-rounders someone's way, I think they're stuck at No. 19.
Moderator: Time for C's second pick in first round ... but first a question from Vaughan in Maine: "Ainge came out yesterday and said that no one on the Celtics' roster is untouchable. I feel like this is the year that Walker is ousted from Beantown. What deal would likely make Ainge willing to send Walker packing and are there any takers for Vin's contract?"
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: The Bulls were talking about a deal that would send them Jay Williams, Marcus Fizer and Eddie Robinson. They would've done that. They've tried to pry away Antonio Davis and the No. 4 pick from Toronto. I think they'd do that. Some sort of combination of Al Harrington, Jamaal Tinsley and Austin Croshere from Indiana also might do the trick.
Moderator: Atlanta on the clock ... and a question from Shaun in Boston about Troy Bell: "As a die hard Troy Bell fan, I hope he makes the first round. Wouldn't there be some chance that with Steve Nash possibly on his way out of Dallas, Bell might be a good fit in their gunslinging offense?"
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: I don't think Steve Nash is going anywhere. Yes, he would be a good fit, however. I think Bell's range is from 26 to Minnesota down to 33 to Miami. He's too good to slip past that.
Moderator: Can the Nets find somebody to get them over the NBA Finals hump?
Moderator: Portland's on the clock ... But first a question from Raphael in Winston-Salem, N.C.: "I wanna know why no one is really talking about Josh Howard the senior out of Wake Forest. What's the skinny on him? I would think he would go in the first round because he is a solid all-around player. Come on, he was first team All-America and the ACC player of the year. Could you please let me know what the deal is with him."
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: Howard's a guy that does a lot of things good, but nothing very good. I think he'll be a good role player in the league, but not much more. He could go as high as No. 18 to the Hornets, but I think he'll probably slip into Round 2.
Moderator: Moving along, it's the defending champion ... uh, we mean, Lakers turn to make a pick.
Moderator: Detroit's turn to add a rookie teammate for Darko.
Moderator: Hey, look who's back in the first round ... The T-Wolves!
Moderator: Down to the last three picks of the first round. The Grizzlies take their second of two first-rounders here.
Moderator: San Antonio, fresh off its championship, is up next. ...
Moderator: Before we get to the final pick of the first round by the Mavericks, a question from Rick in West Palm Beach, Fla.: "Which (if any) of the frequently mentioned trades involving the Mavs moving up in the draft makes the most sense?"
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: I think moving a more expendable player like Raef LaFrentz for someone like Antonio Davis would be a good trade. I think you take a huge risk by moving Michael Finley or Steve Nash -- though that Bulls offer of Donyell Marshall, Marcus Fizer, the No. 7 and Eddie Robinson is tempting.