The official list of early entry candidates for the 2007 NBA draft includes 25 international players and 58 US college underclassmen, none more prominent than Ohio State freshman Greg Oden and Texas freshman Kevin Durant. With the release of the official list this afternoon, Celtics executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge can finally make public comments about Oden and Durant without any consequence.
Like every talent evaluator in the league, Ainge sees great potential for the pair, but he doesn’t want to overlook other high-quality players.
‘‘I think [Oden and Durant] are very talented players that have very bright futures,’’ Ainge said. ‘‘Oden’s body is more ready for the rigors of the NBA.’’
When asked if thought Durant had more long-term potential, Ainge added: ‘‘I don’t know that. They both have a lot of potential long term. We’re trying to decide before the draft. Right now, we’re trying to prepare one through five. We think there’s more than two players in the draft. I know that sounds like the company line, but we have it narrowed down to 12 players at this stage that we think would be a great fit for the Celtics, that would make us a better team. We’ll narrow that down more. We like a lot of the guys in this draft and think that they can help us. ... They’re all ice cream, just different flavors. It is important that we make the right decision.’’
Ainge noted that all the players in the Celtics’ top 12 were early entry candidates and that they stand 6 feet 7 inches or taller. While Ainge declined to name players, he indicated that none of the Celtics’ top 12 would be a surprise pick. So, think North Carolina forward Brandan Wright, Georgetown center Roy Hibbert, Florida forwards Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, and Al Horford, Kansas forward Julian Wright, Chinese center Yi Jianlian, Georgetown forward Jeff Green, Washington center Spencer Hawes, Colorado center Jason Smith or Georgia Tech forward Thaddeus Young in addition to Oden and Durant.