Draft Buzz 4/29/04

Wed, 04/28/2004 - 7:10pm

By Aran Smith

[img_assist|nid=4553|title=Shaun Livingston|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=234|height=289]

Can Shaun Livingston Go First?

Photo: WebSportsChicago

He's far from being NBA ready. His body is somewhat similar to where Tayshawn Prince's was about halfway through college. And he is still inconsistent. But he's the player in this draft with the most upside.

Size is the most highly prized commodity in the NBA. But players who make their teammates better might be at an even higher premium. When you have a legitimate PG at 6-7 that makes everyone around him better, the sky is truly the limit. There are maybe 3-5 (at most) players in the NBA with the creativity, vision and passing ability of Livingston.

Odds are the team that ends up with the top pick will be too gun shy to take the risk, as Okafor and Howard have size and the surefire factor over him. Though no one in this draft is a surefire star, Okafor will, at the very least, be very good, and a difference maker defensively.

We have received solid word that the Bobcats would take Livingston if he is at their pick at 4. And some even claim they have guarunteed him.

But Livingston supposedly doesn't want to play for the expansion franchise. So could getting into the top 3 picks factor into his decision to enter the draft?

The latest rumor swirling around is that Livingston is again considering going to Duke next year. Coach K was recently in Peoria making his pitch for Livingston to attend Duke next season.

By most accounts Livingston is giving it some thought, but in the end look for Livingston to enter his name in the draft and be a top 3 pick.

Pavel Injured

[img_assist|nid=4554|title=Pavel Podkolzine|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=217|height=337]

The past mock update saw Pavel drop eleven spots from six to seventeen. So what happened?

Two things. First, he had a hand injury which will knock him out of action for roughly a month.

Second, we got ahold of a tape of Pavel playing at the Rimini U-18 junior championships.

Pavel definitely has some nice shooting skills and towers over the competition, but he's realistically closer to 7-3 than 7-5 and though he moves well and has great strength. It's apparent he doesn't have the reaction timing to become a great shot blocker or a big defensive presence despite the size.

Granted he had one of the greatest workouts ever in front of the entire NBA last summer in Chicago. (Being described as looking like a 7-5 Bob Cousy).

He isn't "Pavelstein" as one jokester quipped. However, he is somewhat lumbering moving around the court, and doesn't appear to have much of a court sense.

When the draft rolls around, the biggest factor will be his pituitary gland disorder, which he is currently taking pills for. Can he get clearance to play in the NBA without having surgery?

He supposedly pulled out of the draft to have the surgery but then decided against it when it became apparent that the Euro league wouldn't allow him to play and take the necessary medication that would be required after the surgery.

On the court he's a real character showing anamation when he disagrees with calls, and he's got a good work ethic, which will make him succesful if his health doesn't limit him.

Talentwise Pavel is definitely a top 10 talent, but with the condition he'll likely slip. How far will remain to be seen.

Warrick Back to Syracuse

[img_assist|nid=4555|title=Hakim Warrick|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=241]

Hakim Warrick has announced that he will return to Syracuse for his senior season.

While Warrick was likely to get into the first round. He was not going to get into the lottery. And another season at Syracuse could vault his stock into just that. Especially if he's able to put on weight and show some added development to his game.

He has a body and game that have a lot of intrigue, but could a season of non-progression knock him out of the first round next year? Probably not.

Time will tell. The fact that he's such an active body and has such athleticism should definitely get him into the mid first round next year.

More Buzz

Brazilian power forward Tiago Splitter recently declared for the draft. Splitter's agent Herb Rudoy told he will likely leave him in regardless of where he's projected. But look for Rudoy and Splitter to try to get a promise in the lottery or pull out of the draft. A lot will likely depend on how well Splitter can settle the buyout with his current team Tau Ceramica. Obviously the higher he goes, the more likely he'll be able to stay in.

LSU power forward Brandon Bass has put his name in the draft. He is a beast under the basket, however at a shade over 6-7 his chances of being drafted are slim. Believe it or not it's possible for players to actually hurt their future draft chances by declaring early and pulling out.

Roko-Leni Ukic has a lot of intruige to teams in the middle to late first round, but teams wish he had a more solid situation in Europe. A number of teams that could use a point guard in the early twenties would be a lot more likely to take Ukic, with the idea of leaving him in Europe for a couple seasons to develop, if not for some drawbacks.

The problem is his current situation with Croatian team Split is a bad one, and there are questions whther he will get stuck there and not be able to progress. If an NBA team could broker some type of deal with another European team to come in and give him minutes in the right situation, he could progress like Milos Vujanic in a couple years and be ready to come into the NBA and be a factor. However with his current situation, his draft status is less clear.

Power Forward Rankings

Emeka Okafor 6-9 252 PF UConn Jr. -- Doesn't have as high a ceiling as Howard, but with the added three years of development and having led his team to a national champioship, plus being as solid a character guy as you will find, it will be tough to find a team that will pick Howard over him. Okafor will be a difference maker defensively, a top notch rebounder, and should develop into a decent scorer.

Dwight Howard 6-10 240 PF Atlanta, GA HSSr. -- If Howard had more of a killer instinct, he would be first on this list. However, too many players never reach their potential, and unless he finds the fire within, he'll likely be a player capable of being incredible, but never quite getting there. Kwame Brown is an accurate comparison, as both guys were guards that had a late growth spurt but retained their guard skills. And like Kwame, Dwight is a nice kid, but can forget to flip the switch and get nasty on the court. Brown is on his way to Jermaine O'Neal type stardom, and Howard could do the same.

Andris Biedrins 6-10 240 PF/C (Latvia) 1986 -- He's one of the most athletic European prospects ever. He has a motor that doesn't quit. But he's a long term project and could be hurt by Milicic's failure to live up to expectations this season. Biedrins played last year at the Big Time tournament in Las Vegas and was one of the top talents there (Dwight Howard, Shaun Livingston, Josh Smith were all there). He blocks shots and gets to the rim quicker than many NBA players, and will only improve with added strength and maturity.

Tiago Splitter 7-0 236 PF (Brazil) 1985 -- Has a lot of potential, but did not recieve much playing this past year. There are question marks surrounding his buy out. He also has a bit of a finesse game reputation. So gaining upper body strength and toughness is key. Looks a lot like Gasol body wise and the way he moves, however don't be fooled, he's not Gasol, neither with the length, toughness, or skills. But he has a nice future, and might have a better natural shooting touch than Gasol.<

Al Jefferson 6-9 250 PF Prentiss, MS HSSr. He's "country strong" but some wonder if he's just further developed than everyone else. Everyone complains that the high school kids aren't strong enough, but then when one is, he is discredited for being an early development case. Whatever the case, Jefferson is a beast, and will be able to use his strength well on the next level. His numbers may have been inflated due to lesser competition to an extent, but he showed that he has the fire to put up those numbers. Optimists look for Jefferson to be an Antonio Davis type of beast under the boards.

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