Skim through the NBA's drafts, year by year, and many produce a familiar template: a clear 1-2, followed by a lesser supporting cast.
Greg Oden and Kevin Durant last year, for instance.
Dwight Howard and Emeka Okafor in 2004.
LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, one year earlier (with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh considered a cut below) except, oops! Detroit decided to spend the No. 2 pick on Darko Milicic, leaving Anthony for Denver in the three-hole.
Which brings us to Thursday's annual meat market in New York, where the two lead characters seem obvious: Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley.
Then again ...
Rose appears the chalk choice for the Bulls with the No. 1 pick because of where he's from (Chicago) and his position (point guard). Except, they already defied the odds last month by winning the lottery from the nine-hole, then defied convention by hiring coaching novice Vinny Del Negro. So don't rule out Beasley to fill a crying need for a low-post big body.
Whatever they do, it means the Heat at No. 2 get whomever the Bulls don't pick. Yet, there's talk Miami may trade the pick if it's "stuck" with the player it doesn't want or may reach for someone beyond Rose or Beasley, such as O.J. Mayo.
Still, no matter when or where they go, league executives believe that Rose and Beasley are the prime characters.
"The top tier is 1-2," said John Hammond, recently appointed Milwaukee's general manager and Joe Dumars' second in command in Detroit when the Pistons picked Milicic. "After that, there's a second tier and where that next tier ends, that's a good question."
"You have two franchise-type players in Rose and Beasley," said Philadelphia general manager Ed Stefanski, the former Nets GM. "Then you have a lot of other players after that who could be good players, maybe franchise players."
It's "maybe," of course, that provides the intrigue in every draft. It's easy to imagine the two deposed GMs who drafted Andrew Bogut and Marvin Williams 1-2 in 2005 (Milwaukee's Larry Harris and Atlanta's Billy Knight) thinking on a daily basis, "Maybe I should've drafted Chris Paul or Deron Williams," who went third and fourth.
The apparent outcome of that draft, however, drives this one, because Rose plays a position that ultimately could drive Chicago's decision the way Oden did Portland's a year ago.
Today's conventional wisdom says exceptional shooting guards and small forwards (2s and 3s in modern parlance), even power forwards (4s), are far more plentiful than point guards (1s) and centers (5s). Thus, if you get a chance to grab a superior center or point guard, do it, even if you already have a capable one.
"Most anybody would say, if you're starting a team, you've got to start with 1s and 5s," said Hammond, whose Bucks own the eighth pick. "Not that those other pieces aren't very important, and they are, but 2s, 3s and 4s, those players can be found."
"We think the point guard has such a huge role in your entire team," said New Orleans GM Jeff Bower, who drafted Paul. "He impacts so many other positions with his play, so when you're able to find one that fits your style of play, the type of team that you have, you don't take that value lightly."
Yet, although this draft apparently features no other point the caliber of Rose, Knicks president Donnie Walsh believes the number of combo guards in it (i.e. Mayo, Arizona's Jerryd Bayless, UCLA's Russell Westbrook, Indiana's Eric Gordon) could yield a player capable of running an NBA offense such as his.
In the middle, meanwhile, there's also no Oden, but Stanford's Brook Lopez is considered a lottery lock, though his identical twin Robin, Texas A&M's DeAndre Jordan, Nevada's JaVale McGee, Ohio State's Kosta Koufos and Georgetown's Roy Hibbert are projected all over the board.
Hence, lots of trade talk, with numerous teams apparently looking to move down, thinking they can get a player much like they'd get drafting higher, plus more.
But of course, that requires a trading partner that wants to move up to grab a specific player it wants.
All of which also adds another touch of familiarity to the draft, for what is it without trade talk? And uncertainty. And the kind of debate that Rose, Beasley and their "second-tier" peers have, and will produce between now and Thursday.