Draft Buzz 4/8/04
By Aran Smith
To stay up on which players have entered, are staying, or considering the draft, check the 2004 Early Entry Page which will continuously be updated.
Ben Gordon has announced he will forgo his Senior season and enter the NBA draft. Look for Gordon to ride a Championship season into a top 10 pick with an outside shot of getting into the top 5. He's a scoring PG, but his shooting and feel for the game make him a potential NBA All Star. Look for Gordon to challenge his college teammate Emeka Okafor for ROY and make the All rookie team.
Mississippi State Junior PF Lawrence Roberts declared himself eligible for the draft. He'll wait to sign an agent which is smart considering he's far from a lock for the first round.
Unfortunately players are beginning to declare for the draft and hire agents without waiting to see who's in and where they stand once the entire field is actually set.
Did Kirk Snyder make a mistake hiring an agent? He's considered a first rounder by many, but it's not a done deal. So if Snyder's stock slips he won't have any recourse. In Snyder's favor is a tremendous run by his team and a fabulous junior season which should get him into the first round. But there's no guaruntee.
Minnesota Freshman power forward Kris Humphries has announced he has entered the draft and will sign an agent soon. Humphries is considered by scouts as a mid-first rounder, but it's not for sure that he will stay there. Personal workouts have as big an influence as a players season amazingly, and with bad workouts a player can slip.
Humphries would be smart to wait for a guaruntee or at least get a feel for where he stands after the early entry date before signing with an agent.
The 20 year old age rule that the David Stern and the NBA was rumored to be trying to push through again looks like to be dead. Stern addresses the issue on NBATV, saying it looked unlikely, and though he would like the rule as it would theoretically give the NBA stability and maturity, the rule has no feet to stand on. Because there really is no way of denying an 18 year old from earning a living.
Are agents exploiting the rumor? This is beginning to become a recurring theme. The early entry date begins to approach, and the rumors start up. What's crazy is that agents are using the "rumors" to push kids into the draft because there would be no next year in the scenario. A "get in while you can" scare tactic.
More High Schoolers entering the mix. Inside sources indicate that both Marvin Williams and Dorell Wright are considering entering this years draft. While Williams is a legit first round candidate. Wright's game is too raw and based on a numbers game, will likely fall somewhere in the second round if he stays in the draft and does not honor his commitment to DePaul. This is an unfortunate case of a player rushing things, as he definitely has first round talent, but not without a few years of college developing his game.
Look for Kosta Perovic to slip out of the lottery if he tries to stay in the draft this year. Despite solid play of late having returned from a hand injury. Based on talent he's a borderline top 10 player (at best) in this draft. But his contract will almost surely keep him in Europe next season. So a team will have to wait one year minimum, and possibly 2-3 total. This info may force agent Bill Duffy to wait until 2005 to enter Perovic.
Luol Deng is still up in the air with regards to entering the draft. Despite being a virtual lock for a top 5 selection, and potentially in the top 3, his allegance to Coach K and Duke appears to be pushing him to stay in school. Which begs the question, does Coach K have skills in hypnosis? As explained by one scout, when he gets his hooks in a player, he really knows how to hold onto them.
Insider sources close to the Duke program are indicating that Deng is leaning towards returning. Chris Bosh ended up the fourth pick in last years draft, and said all along that he was returning to school. However when the time came, and being a top 5 pick became a reality, Bosh quickly had a change of plans. So consider it a probablity that Deng will return to Duke, but not a certainty.
Inside sources indicate that Julius Hodge will return to NC State for his senior season. The alternative would be to enter the draft and play in Chicago. The drawback would be a bad performance hurting his stock. Hodge's body still needs work, and a summer of intense focus would be beneficial for his future in the NBA.
Spanish sensation Rudy Fernandez recently singed a long term deal with his Spanish team Jovetnut. The contracts buyout will make it very tough to leave for the NBA in the near future. Therefore it's highly unlikely that he will enter the draft this year. Some contacts are beginning to indicate that Rudy will at the least play his draft cards, and pull out if he doesn't like his hand.
Martynas Andriuskevicius European contract apparently is not a concern, unlike fellow bigman Kosta Perovic, which should clear the path for him to enter the draft this year. Based on his potential, he should be a top 5 pick. However word from Europe and one NBA International insider from Lithuania confirm that he will wait until 2005 to enter the draft.
Raymond Felton cooling off. Sebastian Telfair passed up Felton on most scouts draft boards about a month ago and hasn't looked back. While Felton has great athleticism and potential, he didn't have the breakthrough year that many expected. Which brings up an interesting, and almost sick point made by one inside contact. Players who go to college can get stuck there.
H.S. All Star Games Stock Watch
[img_assist|nid=4536|title=JR Smith|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=150|height=228]J.R. Smith -- No one did more for themself in the High School competitions than JR Smith. His stock is going up and up. He performed impressively in all three games he played. (the Hoops Summit doesn't affect collegiate eligibility). In the McDonald's game he was especially impressive sharing co-mvp with Dwight Howard. He flashed his sweet shooting stroke from outside, along with his tremendous explosiveness. He had 25 points to lead all scorers and was 5-11 from 3 point land. The image portrayed by the announcers of the Hoops Summit game was JJ reddick's shooting, and Vince Carter's athleticism. This is obviously overstating things. J.R. has a lot of holes in his game including ball handling, passing, and defense. But none of those were exposed during the McDonald's game.
Sebastian Telfair -- He picked a bad week to go into a scoring slump. In the McDonald's game Telfair had 9 assists but just 2 points going 1 for 2. In the Hoops Summit game he suffered a thigh bruise on the first play of the game limiting his effectiveness. He shot just 1 of 10 with six points, but had seven assists and three steals. On the positive side, he'd previously shown he has the ability to score. He had a few spectacular passes in both games and showed that he does have the PG skills for the NBA. His body however obviously isn't ready. But Telfair can't lose financially as adidas has a huge offer on the table which will surpass his rookie salary. College would definitely benefit his long term potential. But, as described in Chris Ballard's article in SI on him, considering his current living situation, maybe going pro before he's ready is his best option. Most impressive was his interview during the Summit, where he showed he has a head on his shoulders, and displayed charisma describing playing for his country.
[img_assist|nid=4545|title=Dwight Howard|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=239|height=350]Dwight Howard -- Won MVP of both the McDonald's and adidas games and skipped the Roundball Classic. Before the games there was some thought that his stock was slipping. But he played well and though he still has to combat the "soft" reputation, he's not going to slip in the draft. Like Okafor, he has had back spasm problems which have taken him out of practices. He looked impressive and had a triple double in the adidas game. He may lose out on the top overall pick to Okafor with UConn winning it all and Okafor showing such defensive dominance. But for a team looking long term he may be the answer. Howard is longer and has more offensive potential.
Al Jefferson -- Stock is on the rise. Before the All Star games he was considered a borderline (25-35) first rounder. His play in the All Star games has risen his stock, and though he's obviously very raw, the raw athleticism he displayed should cement a spot in the late first round. And he has a chance to move into the mid first round with solid workouts. He was thought to be closer to 6-8 before the games but it's obvious he's every bit of 6-9.
Shaun Livingston -- Looked better in practices than in the actual McDonald's game where he was basically a nonfactor. Has it hurt his top 5 status? No. Livingston is so highly desired by teams that there is actually talk of him jumping over Howard and going second! It's not even out of the realm of possibility for him to go first. But that spot is starting to look more and more like Okafor's. Especially with Livingston's lackluster McDonald's game. Livingston is one of the rare players at his size that not only can play the PG position but actually makes all those around him better. As he did for Swift during the Roundball practices and game.
[img_assist|nid=4546|title=Josh Smith|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=240|height=344]Josh Smith -- Redemption song. Coming off the bench in the McDonald's game seemed to throw his game off, as he never was able to get into the flow or find his rhythem offensively. He made the Hoops Summit his personal showcase with 27 points and a number of spectacular dunks and blocks. He showed that he's the freakiest athlete in HS, with the ability to shoot from outside 3/6 from 3, and also has driving ability, taking his man off the dribble for baskets. He finished the Adidas/EASports game with a respectable 15 and 10 rebounds. He is the only prep to play in 4 All Star games, (3 of which negate his college eligibility) showing his willingness to demonstrate his immense talent. The preposterous comparison to Darius Miles that had been floating around has obviously been disproven.
Rudy Gay -- Enormous potential. Bigtime athlete with a crossover and range from outside. One of the truly elite athletes out there. And has the disposition and hunger to be great. No one is ready, but Gay surely needs college more so than the others. With the stepping stone of college, his game will explode in the next year or 2. There is a rumor circulating that he's considering the draft, most likely being put out there by Duke people.(joke)
LaMarcus Aldridge -- Scouts had been torn on him before the game, and there was a possibility of Aldridge considering the jump. However, Aldridge had a stress fracture which limited him. His perfromance in practices and in the McDonald's game showed that he's not ready and needs to get stronger both physically and mentally. With just 5 points, he wasn'y much of a factor in the game and has made it official he'll go to Texas next year.
Marvin Williams -- Had an impressive showing in the Roundball Classic with two impressive dunks. Williams could benefit by going to UNC next year and would likely be a lotto pick in 2005. However, with a good probability of landing in the top 20 this year, Marvin will likely declare and play his draft card.
Robert Swift -- Outplayed Randolph Morris in the Roundball practices but with a big helping hand of Shaun Livingston feeding him the ball. Swift pulled out of the adidas game leaving the possibility of opting out of the draft. He has enhanced his draft stock with his play in the All Star games, and scouts feel he will likely get into the first round. The lack of 7-footers with any skills increse his value.
Dorell Wright -- Wright had a very nice Reebok Roundball Classic game totalling 17 points. Rumors persist that he is considering the draft and may have a guaruntee in the late first round. However, without one he would be crazy to enter the draft. Wright has very good potential, however prep to pros jumps are for the elite guys, the second tier guys often end up falling short of their potential. Especially ones that don't get into the first round.
Randolph Morris -- Was outplayed by Swift in practices and both games. He's still considering the NBA draft, though most think he'll end up going to Georgia Tech or Kentucky for a seson or two. He ended the season with his HS team with a bang recording a 41 point 7 block game, but his Southest Christian team went down in defeat. His draft stock did not improved in either Roundball or McDonald's games. And while there are still some who feel he has a shot at the end of the first round. That sentiment appears to be shrinking.
Summit: International Guys
The Hoops Summit had a hard time getting the marquee talents to show up. Two of the most highly rated (lottery projected) prospects Andris Biedrins and Ivan Chiriaev were no shows. Chiriaev was unable to acquire a visa to allow him to get into the country. Biedrins was busy abusing Under-18 players in the European Junior Championship. More on that further down the page. Here are a few notes on the top International players who did play.
Andrea Bargnani -- An injury limited his effectiveness. He's big and agile and has nice skills. He will have to develop aggrerssiveness. Along with Belinelli considered Italy's best prospect.
Luka Bogdanovic -- After Yi and Ukic, the most highly rated prospect in this game. led the International squad in scoring with 20 points. on 5/11 (3/5 from 3) shooting. However, his mobility and ball skills are just average making him a borderline NBA prospect.
Churchill Odia -- Nigerian with nice athleticism and skills. He has the size and ballhandling ability to become a big PG. Will go to Xavier next season, and has a chance to be a bigtime player.
Juan Palacios -- Had 10 points on 5/12 shooting. Athletic forward with promising skills. Looked smaller than his listed 6-8. He is desperate to get to the NBA, but he could derail his career if he's not patient.
Roko Leni Ukic -- Has the size and PG ability to make it in the NBA. However he's not ready. Dino Radja was quoted in Croatian newspapers saying:
Marcus Vieira -- Showed nice athleticism. And actually led the International squad in assists with 3. He's got a ways to go, but if he continues to develop he has a chance at the NBA.
Jianlian Yi -- Has been heavily criticized for his poor performance in this game. Came in very highly rated after playing extremely well in last years Albert Schwitzer Tournament and obviously didn't live up to the hype. But don't bury this guy. He still has bigtime upside. He is officially listed being born in 1987. However most in China don't buy it. Because of the age question, it's hard to get an accurate assesment, but if he's born in 1985 or later he has a bright future.
EAST (126) — Gay 4-7 0-0 10, Jefferson 8-12 0-1 16, Howard 9-13 0-1 19, J.R. Smith 10-16 0-0 25, Telfair 1-2 0-0 2, Brewer 0-0 1-2 1, White 1-3 5-6 7, Rondo 7-10 0-0 14, Morris 3-4 2-3 8, Washington 4-10 0-0 9, Mi.Williams 2-3 3-4 8, Jo.Smith 3-7 0-0 7. Totals 52-87 11-17 126.
WEST (96) — Hairston 5-10 0-0 11, Ma.Williams 1-6 0-0 3, Swift 4-7 2-6 10, Afflalo 1-7 1-2 3, Livingston 0-4 1-2 1, Farmar 3-6 0-0 6, Aldridge 2-4 1-2 5, McClellan 0-6 3-4 3, Nelson 9-15 4-6 22, Gibson 3-8 0-0 8, Crawford 6-12 2-4 15, Davis 4-9 1-2 9. Totals 38-94 15-28 96.
Halftime — East 56-45. Three-point goals — East 11-26 (Gay 2-4, Howard 1-2, J.R. Smith 5-11, Rondo 0-1, Washington 1-3, Mi.Williams 1-2, Jo.Smith 1-3), West 5-27 (Hairston 1-4, Ma.Williams 1-2, Affalo 0-6, Farmar 0-2, McClellan 0-2, Nelson 0-3, Gibson 2-6, Crawford 1-1, Davis 0-1). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — East 55 (Jefferson 11), West 44 (Davis 9). Assists — East 33 (Telfair 11), West 16 (Hairston, Livingston, Farmar 3). Fouls — East 19, West 14. Attendance — 14,040.
Nemanja Aleksandrov (Serbia-Montenegro) -- Averaged 20.3 rebs 8.4 rebs, and 1.3 asts per game. A year younger than most of the players in this competition and he completely dominated shooting 61.5% (16/26) from 3 point land. Look for him to be Europe's first ever #1 pick in the 2005 draft.
Andris Biedrins (Latvia) -- Averaged 21.8 pts, 14.4 rebs, and 2.6 asts per game. Completely dominated this competition with a 21 and 16 performance against future draft prospect Johan Petro (8,5). He will likely enter the draft this year and be a high-mid lotto pick, but scouts feel he is 2 years away from contributing anything to an NBA team.
Ante Tomic (Croatia) -- Another bigtime prospect in Europe. Has surpassed Omerhodzic as Croatia's top prospect. Grew 8 inches in the past year and has gone from a 6-3 PG to a 7-1 SF/PF. A likely top 10 pick in a couple years. Had limited minutes playing in just one game, but has huge potential.
Marco Belinelli (Italy) -- Averaged with 26.2 pts, 3.4 rebs and 2.4 asts Was the scoring champion of the Championship and was named by FIBA along with Marchisvili as the two "Players of the Tournament". This guy's stock is on the rise. He is Italy's best prospect and carried the team to
Dragan Labovic (Serbia-Montenegro) -- Averaged 18.0 pts, 5.6 rebs and 1.0 asts per game. Another bigtime prospect from Serbia-Montenegro. Has surpassed Omerhodzic as Croatia's top prospect. Grew 8 inches in the past year and has gone from a 6-3 PG to a 7-1 PF/C. A top 10 pick in a couple years.
Ersan Ilyasova (Turkey) -- Averaged 17.4 pts, 9.0 rebs and 0.6 asts per game. Turkey's top prospect. There was a scandal with people claiming his documents had been falsified and he was actually born in 1984, however Fiba has ruled in his favor, clearing him to play as a 17 year old. One of Europe's top prospects under 18. Often compared to Turkoglu, he'll likely end up stronger physically, but less athletic.
Uros Tripkovic (Serbia-Montenegro) -- Averaged 15.2 pts, 3.0 rebs, and 4.4 asts per game. Another big combo guard with excellent potential. Partizan assistant coach Alex Dzikic feels he is a bigtime prospect and one of Serbia's best guard prospects for the future.
More on the Championship: FIBAEurope.com
One year removed from being taken by the Los Angeles Clippers with the 34th pick in the draft, Sofoklis Schortsanitis has ballooned to nearly 350 pounds. Before the draft he developed the nickname "Baby Shaq". However, "Baby Hot Plate", or "Baby Oliver Miller" would have been more appropriate.
When he worked out for teams before the draft, he showed signs of a possible weight problem. And the fact that he stayed in the draft without a guarantee or significant interest signaled a red flag.
He was never exactly svelte, as he fluctuated somewhere between 270-310 pound range last year. However he has taken his physique to a whole new level this season.
Last year Schortsanitis dominated European junior competitions and appeared to be Greek's big basketball hope. He entered the draft at 18. Despite lofty projections, teams didn't buy into the hype when he showed up out of shape.
The weight gain has been attributed to an injury and an apparent lack of motivation. And though he can still be somewhat effective, he is limited to 10-15 minutes per game.
Sofoklis currently plays for Pallacanestro Cantu in Italian LegA. And apparently the food in Italy has claimed another victim. Which gives us a little twist to the old saying : "if you can't beat 'um, eat 'um".
Shooting Guard Rankings
Andre Iguodala 6-6 207 SG/SF Arizona So. -- A player that does all the little things to help his team win. He lead the Arizona team in rebounds and assists, and though he is just fourth on the team in scoring, it's more of a reflection of his unselfishness, than an inability to score. Some may be baffled how a player that was fourth on their team in scoring can be a top 10 pick, but Iguodala is a special player.
Josh Childress 6-8 205 SG/SF Stanford Jr. -- Fouled out in what will be his final collegiate game if he remains in the draft. How badly did Stanford's collapse hurt Childress? Not so badly according to most scouts. He's still a tremendous shooter with long arms and an excellent basketball understanding. He may never be an overpowering athlete, but his offensive creativity is promising.
Sergei Monya 6-7 220 SG (Russia) 1983 -- A hidden gem in Russia? Monya has been on the radar for some time. His performance in Sweden at the European championships was where he really proved his worth. He gets lost in the shuffle in Russia with CSKA, and has to battle for looks as their is no real emphasis on getting him the ball. Like Kirilenko, look for Monya to really shine after joining the NBA.
JR Smith 6-5 210 SG Newark NJ HSSr.-- Has a unique combination of shooting ability and athleticism. There were actually rumors about him potentially making the jump before the McDonald's week began. He really opened some eyes all week and has positioned himself to make a run at the lottery if he decides to enter this year.
Kirk Snyder 6-6 219 SG Nevada Jr. -- There's no turning back as Snyder has signed with an agent. Snyder's Nevada team had a fabulous run in the tourney. Like Smith, his package of shooting ability and athleticism are enticing. He has less potential as he has a few years on Smith, but his strength and experience are superior to Smith's.