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Originally published June 26, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 26, 2008 at 9:29 AM

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Sonics

As many as 8 Pac-10 players expected to go in first round of draft

If the draft analysts are accurate, the Pac-10 will produce the most lottery picks since the Atlantic Coast Conference had five in 2005.

Seattle Times staff reporter

NBA draft

4 p.m. today, ESPN, two rounds. Sonics picks: Nos. 4, 24, 32, 46, 50, 56.

Inside

Analyzing the draft: An outlook of today's top picks — and where the Pac-10's best and brightest should fall > C3

The pendulum in college basketball has swung to the left, and today's NBA draft will reaffirm what has been obvious for many months: The Pac-10 Conference reigns supreme.

After the Chicago Bulls choose between Memphis guard Derrick Rose and Kansas State forward Michael Beasley for the No. 1 pick, a steady stream of Pac-10 players will parade to the stage at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden to shake commissioner David Stern's hand.

USC guard O.J. Mayo, Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless, Stanford center Brook Lopez and UCLA center Kevin Love and guard Russell Westbrook are projected as lottery picks.

Caught in the middle are the Sonics, who will begin the day in court for the final day of their trial against the city. Shortly after attorneys give closing arguments in the case to force the team to play out its KeyArena lease, general manager Sam Presti will use the team's No. 4 pick. The Sonics also hold the No. 24 pick and four second-round choices.

Presti is believed to be enamored with Lopez, Westbrook, Love and Bayless. Mayo was the only one of the quintet who did not visit Seattle, however, the Sonics interviewed him and watched him at a Chicago workout.

"The thing that's been interesting to me is that there's a real diversity in terms of where people evaluate different players," Presti said. "I think that's a positive thing because it gives teams the opportunity to maybe get a guy that they may not have felt they were going to get.

"Everyone is just going to have to be ready. I don't think there will be any set order."

If the draft analysts are accurate, the Pac-10 will produce the most lottery picks since the Atlantic Coast Conference had five in 2005.

The Pac-10 could send a record eight first-round picks, if Stanford center Robin Lopez and forward Ryan Anderson and California center DeVon Hardin are selected. And the haul might have been higher if Arizona forward Chase Budinger hadn't removed his name from the draft and returned to college.

The previous Pac-10 high for first-round picks was five, in 1995 and '79.

The conference had four first-round picks last year, which may have been a byproduct of the NBA rule requiring players to play at least one year in college.

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar believes the conference is gaining wider appeal among high-school players and attracting higher-caliber recruits than past years.

"It's the beginning of a trend," he said. "The key, I think, is to look at a guy like O.J. Mayo. He came from the Midwest and came to the Pac-10."

Mayo, a Huntington, W.Va., native, played his first three years of high-school ball in Cincinnati before returning to Huntington as a senior.

"We've got a couple of kids from the Midwest who committed to Oregon," Romar said. "Oregon's Malik Hairston was from the Midwest [Detroit], and [WSU's] Kyle Weaver is going to be drafted, and he's from [Wisconsin].

"Throughout our league, kids are starting to come from different regions of the country, which gives you an even bigger pool to select from. I always felt there was a lot of talent in California, and with a lot of those kids staying home, as well as kids from around the country looking at the Pac-10 as a viable option, it's the beginning of the trend."

UCLA advanced to the Final Four in the 2008 NCAA tournament, and Washington State and Stanford played in the Sweet 16.

"The draft will be a reflection of the season," Romar said. "We had the top conference in the country, and the draft will reflect that when we look at those who will be drafted so high.

"Kids see that. They look at the draft. They see the schools where kids are coming from. It shows that you can come to the Pac-10 and not take a back seat to any other conference in the country. And maybe you're better off if you come to the Pac-10."

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com


Pac-10 power
The conference has at least eight players who could be drafted in the first round, including five who could go in the first 10 picks.
O.J. Mayo USC
Russell Westbrook UCLA
Jerryd Bayless Arizona
Kevin Love UCLA
Brook Lopez Stanford
Ryan Anderson California
DeVon Hardin California
Robin Lopez Stanford

Analyzing the NBA draft
A look at Seattle Times NBA reporter Percy Allen's outlook for today's top draft picks:
Likely lottery picks
Player Ht Yr P School Comment
O.J. Mayo 6-5 Fr. G USC Could go as high as No. 2 or fall to the Sonics at No. 4.
Russell Westbrook 6-3 So. G UCLA Pac-10's best defender won't fall lower than No. 9
Jerryd Bayless 6-3 Fr. G Arizona Stock has dropped during workouts, but still a high lottery pick.
Brook Lopez 7-0 So. C Stanford Only true center with the talent and hoops IQ to start on day one.
Kevin Love 6-10 Fr. C UCLA Arguably the most versatile and skilled big man in the draft.
First-round potential
Ryan Anderson 6-10 So. F California Pac-10 scoring leader was 18th nationally in ppg.
DeVon Hardin 6-11 Sr. C California Four-year starter would have come out last year if not for foot injury.
Robin Lopez 7-0 So. C Stanford High-energy, athletic center who can block shots and defend.
Probable second-rounders
Davon Jefferson 6-8 Fr. F USC Talented freshman who was overshadowed by Mayo.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute 6-8 Jr. F UCLA Would have been a late first-rounder last year.
Bryce Taylor 6-4 Sr. G Oregon Unselfish off-guard is 12th all-time on Ducks' scoring list.
Kyle Weaver 6-6 Sr. G WSU Lockdown defender can play three positions.
Best of the rest
C.J. Giles 6-10 Sr. C Oregon State Corey Benjamin was the last Beaver taken in draft (1998).
Malik Hairston 6-6 Sr. G Oregon Finished in the school's all-time top 10 in four categories.
Marty Leunen 6-9 Sr. F Oregon Excels at facing the basket and shooting from the perimeter.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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