Anything can happen

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:45 AM ET

With the first pick in the 2008 NBA draft, the Chicago Bulls select ...

David Stern will fill in the blank tonight on a night that promises to be like no other in recent draft memory.

With so many veterans in play when it comes to rumoured trade talks, and so little impact players available to step in and contribute at the pro level, the NBA landscape has turned into a rumour mill.

Teams are looking to move up, move down and even move out of the draft altogether.

Pistons executive Joe Dumars has gone on record as saying he will do whatever it takes to get Detroit over its hump, even at the expense of dealing the likes of a Chauncey Billups or a Rasheed Wallace.

Players such as Baron Davis, Carmelo Anthony, Lamar Odom and Marcus Camby, to name a few, have been bandied about in trade talk.

Any Indiana Pacer not named Danny Granger or Mike Dunleavy Jr. can be had.

The Miami Heat, which holds the No. 2 pick, is listening to all offers as the team tries to find a backcourt complement for Dwyane Wade.

Just a few days ago, Shawn Marion decided not to opt out of his final year, fuelling speculation that the Matrix is on the trading block.

Assuming Chicago does the expected and makes Derrick Rose the first overall selection, the Heat is said to be unimpressed with Michael Beasley, who at one point was considered the best pro prospect.

Whether Miami keeps the slot and takes O.J. Mayo or moves the pick in a package that has the potential to be part of a blockbuster remains to be seen.

All that is known on the eve of the draft is that anything is possible.

Some high-profiled players conceivably can opt out of their deals by Monday's deadline, adding yet another layer of intrigue to the proceedings.

There also is the delicate matter of handling restricted free agents, who can start listening to would-be suitors Tuesday.

In Chicago, for example, GM John Paxson can't say for certain what the future holds for Luol Deng and Ben Gordon, two core pieces and two restricted free agents.

All Paxson knows is that the No. 1 pick tonight is guaranteed a cool $10 million US over the next two years.

"You don't want to jump into something and then a year from now, if something doesn't work out, you don't have a roster you're really happy with," Paxson told reporters in Chicago.

"We need to take this step-by-step. We'll make our selection (tonight). We'll start dealing with the prospect of contracts for Luol and Ben. How those play out in large part will determine what we do after that."

Rose's arrival in Chicago will signal the end for Kirk Hinrich, whose trade value may actually increase given the dearth of quality free-agent point guards.

Minnesota, Seattle, Memphis, which will select third, fourth and fifth, respectively, are said to be keen on making moves, either tonight or in the ensuing weeks.

While NBA teams have a way of sending out mixed messages at the best of times, it's refreshing to hear Larry Bird when he says the Pacers are trying to add another selection within the top 20 picks -- which he apparently has with the Jermaine O'Neal trade.

With so little consensus, mock drafts have become a mockery more than in any other year.

Depending on the day, website or publication, Kevin Love will go as high as third overall or 10th.

Russell Westbrook, D.J. Augustin, Eric Gordon and Jerryd Bayless are the best backcourt prospects outside of Rose and Mayo.

Regardless of player, position and draft slot, mistakes will be made.

"The guy can be young, but we gotta know he can play," Los Angeles Clippers head coach Mike Dunleavy said.

"There's a couple guys in the draft I think have big-time potential who aren't going to be ready for a couple years.

"If that's the case, I don't think he's the guy for us. We want a guy with upside, but who can give us some minutes right away. You'd like to draft a guy in this position who can ultimately be a starter for you."

And it all starts tonight when Stern steps up to the podium inside New York's Madison Square Garden and announces this year's incoming draft class.

FRANK.ZICARELLI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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