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This one is a guessing game

Where they stop nobody knows

This year's NBA Draft is among the most fluid in memory. Let's start with the observation that the team holding the No. 1 overall pick, the Orlando Magic, also is in the process of trying to trade its No. 1 player, Tracy McGrady. One move might dramatically affect the other, so there is still no clear-cut consensus as to who the No. 1 pick will be.

But everyone is in agreement that Emeka Okafor of the University of Connecticut and prep star Dwight Howard of Atlanta will be the first two picks. Late yesterday, the Magic were leaning toward Howard, who some feel could develop into the next Kevin Garnett. We heard the same things three years ago about Kwame Brown. Meanwhile, Orlando's John Weisbrod, the best skating general manager in the league, was walking on thin ice in trying to work out a deal for McGrady. An agreement with Houston involving Steve Francis apparently cooled, and the Suns, offering Shawn Marion and others, emerged as a possible destination for T-Mac. The Indiana Pacers also were in the hunt for McGrady.

Celtics hoops el jefe Danny Ainge called this draft ``deep, very deep.'' It had better be, given that he has three first-round picks; two of which would have been second-rounders when Ainge was playing for the Celtics. The first round could see eight high schoolers selected along with a half-dozen or so Europeans. But to give you an idea of how deep it might be, a lot of teams are interested in trading down. So the Celtics might actually be able to move up.

At this point, in any mock draft, the emphasis is on the word ``mock.'' For instance, Sports Illustrated's draft had college player of the year Jameer Nelson going 10th to Cleveland while ESPN's had him going 19th to Miami. SI had Oregon's Luke Jackson going 22d to Portland while ESPN had him going eighth to Toronto. See what I mean?

At any rate, here's a wild stab at how the first round might go. The names are pretty certain. Placing them in the right spots, as always, is the tricky part. This year, it's a lot trickier.

1. Orlando - Dwight Howard, F-C, SW Atlanta Christian HS. In the end, Weisbrod, a former Harvard hockey star, bypasses Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky and takes the young stud with oodles of potential.

2. Charlotte - Emeka Okafor, F-C, UConn. New Charlotte boss Bernie Bickerstaff would be happy with either Okafor or Howard. Maybe he should call Tom Heinsohn, who likens Okafor's rebounding to that of Bill Russell.

3. Chicago - Ben Gordon, G, UConn. His lights-out workouts over the past few weeks have him rising. Then again, the Bulls would not be averse to moving the pick.

4. LA Clippers - Devin Harris, G, Wisconsin. The Clippers are in the market for a point guard and like the fact that this guy has some college experience. Shaun Livingston is also a possibility.

5. Washington - Luol Deng, F, Duke. The Wizards are also open to moving this pick. If they don't, and Deng is there, they have said they will not let him drop any further.

6. Atlanta - Shaun Livingston, G, Peoria (Ill.) Central HS. The Hawks need help across the board. Livingston may not quite be ready yet, but everyone thinks he could be the real deal.

7. Phoenix - Andre Iguodala, F, Arizona. This pick is for sale, maybe two times. The Suns were dealing with the Bulls late last night, but the Bulls might in turn peddle it should they get it.

8. Toronto - Luke Jackson, F, Oregon. His stock has risen meteorically and the Raptors have been sending out signals (smoke signals?) that they like the kid.

9. Philadelphia - Josh Smith, F, Oak Hill (Va.) Academy. The Sixers supposedly made a commitment to this kid, who is the best athlete in the draft. But can he play?

10. Cleveland - Josh Childress, F, Stanford. The Cavaliers also wouldn't mind dealing this pick. Childress may slide all the way to here, but not much further.

11. Golden State - Andris Biedrins, F, Latvia. The Warriors want a big man and reportedly have committed to Biedrins.

12. Seattle - Kirk Snyder, G, Nevada. The Sonics reportedly have an agreement in place with Snyder, a scoring guard who also has seen his stock rise.

13. Portland - Al Jefferson, F, Prentiss (Miss.) HS. A big, strong, scoring power forward who the Celtics like. If the Blazers go for Robert Swift here, then Jefferson could fall to the Celtics at 15.

14. Utah - Sergey Monia, F, CSKA Moscow. A tough forward to perhaps pair with Andrei Kirilenko. The Celtics also like this guy a lot.

15. Boston - Robert Swift, C, Bakersfield (Calif.) HS. The Celtics have ogled this guy for months. If he's still there, this is where they have to take him because he won't be around when they're scheduled to choose again.

16. Utah - Rafael Araujo, C, Brigham Young. Generally, the folks in Salt Lake City boo the BYU guys. This guy might make them change their thinking.

17. Atlanta - Kris Humphries, F, Minnesota. The Hawks could go for J.R. Smith here, but Humphries might be too promising to pass up.

18. New Orleans - J.R. Smith, G, St. Benedict's (N.J.) Prep. Shooting guard prospect out of high school.

19. Miami - Jameer Nelson, G, Saint Joseph's. If he doesn't go to the Cavaliers at 10, he might slide all the way here. Another Tim Hardaway type for the Heat?

20. Denver - Pavel Podkolzine, C, Varese. GM Kiki Vandeweghe likes the foreign guys and he could keep the beast (7-5) overseas for another year or two.

21. Utah - Dorell Wright, F, South Kent (Conn.) Prep. The Celtics had their eye on him, too, but he doesn't get to them.

22. Portland - Blazers have made a deal to pick Sebastian Telfair, G, Lincoln (N.Y.) HS, and ship him to New Jersey.

23. Portland - Peter John Ramos, C, Puerto Rico. If he's still around, he might be someone the Blazers look to.

24. Boston - Andre Emmett, G, Texas Tech. All-Big 12 for three straight seasons who is one of several players the Celtics will look at here if they don't trade the pick.

25. Boston - Donta Smith, G, Southeastern Ill. CC. Another Kedrick Brown?

26. Sacramento - Viktor Khryapa, F, CSKA Moscow. Kings like the foreigners and can decide to keep him or leave him in Russia.

27. LA Lakers - Sasha Vujacic, G, Snaidero Udine. Slovenian guard who has played the last three years in Italy.

28. San Antonio - Beno Udrih, G, Breil Milano. The Spurs also like foreign players and want to keep open as much cap space as possible.

29. Indiana - Anderson Varejao, F, FC Barcelona. The Pacers want a point guard in the worst way, so Udrih is a possibility here. Indy also is looking to trade up. 

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