Draft Buzz 5/31/04

Mon, 05/31/2004 - 9:33am

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[img_assist|nid=4828|title=Luke Jackson|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]'s Matthew Maurer was at Hoops the Gym in Chicago recently and saw both Luke Jackson and Andre Iguodala work out, and came away impressed with both.

Jackson was wearing a rib brace similar to the ones NFL quarterbacks wear to help protect a bruised rib. He was shooting the ball well and has made his way into mid-first round discussions.

With a Wally Szczerbiak type of game, Jackson is not a vocal in your face type, but he is a quiet leader, leading by example. His biggest drawback is lacking the great quickness at the 2 guard position, but he is a cerebral player that already has a good handle on overcoming his athletic shortcomings with intelligence and savvy.

While he wont kill anyone off the dribble because he lacks an explosive first step, he is a nice athlete, with very good ball handling ability. His risers are very good and his knowledge of the game is a notch above most.

He's a team player that can pass, and he showed all year that he's capable of carrying a team with 39 and 42 point scoring outbursts.

Jackson made a big jump on the draft board two weeks back, going from bubble first round to 17.

After a couple of excellent workouts it appears everyone has jumped on the Jackson bandwagon. He is getting mentioned by many scouts as a likely mid-first rounder.

He dropped from 17 to 22 in the latest mock draft, however look for some of the high school players (possibly JR Smith or Dorrell Wright) to drop some with workouts favoring more skilled and physically NBA ready players.

His biggest glaring weakness is footspeed defnsively. At the 2 position especially where he'll go against the best athletes in the game, his liability will be exposed.

It's not out of the realm of possibility for him to sneak into the late lottery. But probably more likely he falls in the 15-25 range.

Childress vs Iguodala

[img_assist|nid=4829|title=Andre Iguodala|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=200|height=262] A very impressive athlete and player, Andre Iguodala is a guy who listed as a top 5 player coming out of high school while many publications listed him in the 20's and 30's. So obviously we have been very high on him all along.

At the beginning of the year many scouts we spoke to felt he would take at least an additional year to become a lottery pick, however our instinct was correct, he progressed tremendously and will be a lotto pick this year.

So, how high can he go? There are some teams that like him over Josh Smith. And while he isn't quite on Smith's level athletically, he's one of the few who's not far off. Maurer's comment after seeing him at Hoops the Gym was that he had the chiseled physique of a linebacker. Already showing a tremendous body at Arizona, apparently Iguodala has bulked up even more.

While neither is seen as a surefire NBA star, both have qualities which make them very intriguing to teams. Iguodala as the all around consummate team player ala James Posey, with Childress as the pure shooter/scorer ala Reggie Miller.

Ben Hansen who covers Arizona basketball for actually likes Childress over Iguodala. He feels that not only is Childress the more polished offensive player, but is the more aggressive of the two.

Iguodala and Childress have been rumored as possible top three picks recently. Which is reminiscent of two years back when Caron Butler was rumored as a possibility to go third to Golden State. Shocking sells!

While top 3 is out of the question for these two, somewhere in the 5-10 range is a strong probability with neither falling past 12.

Early Withdrawal Update

Since International players (as professionals) have the luxury of entering and seeing where they stand, and also familiarizing themselves with teams, a good number of the 38 International players that entered are expected to withdraw. reported on May 8th that Kosta Perovic and Tiago Splitter would both opt out of the draft and the 2004 mock draft reflects that. Both players are listed on the 2005 mock.

So far there is no word to the contrary, however Splitter's play of late could spark some interest in the late lottery which didn't exist a week ago.

Splitter plays for powerhouse Tau Vitoria, and received next to zero playing time this year. He does get quality competition in practice and is developing, but most scouts feel he's still too raw to make someone bite in the lottery. His stats on the year were a less than ordinary 1.7 points, 1.6 rebounds, and under 40% from the line, in 10 games with little playing time.

Splitter recently improved his chances of getting into the lottery with a strong effort off the bench. He made some crucial baskets in Tau's do or die victory at Estudiantes, amassing 10 points in 15 minutes of play, mostly in the second half. Splitter is one of those that could feel the "Skita effect" with teams shying away from young and unproven European prospects.

Because his buyout is a difficult one, it's unlikely Splitter will stay in the draft without a guarantee in the lottery.

[img_assist|nid=4830|title=Johan Petro|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=200|height=319]Add Johan Petro to the list of players that will likely end up pulling their names out of the draft. Petro still has a ways to go with consistency, and staying in the game at all times. He's a tremendous athlete with great size, however he was expected to develop a little faster this year and he may be forced to pull out of this draft because his agent Buona Ndiaye has told he's looking for a guarantee in the top 15.

Kosta Perovic is the least likely of the three to remain in the draft. Unless a team thinks he's talented enough to wait 2-3 years on him, and decides he's got the goods to develop his speed and quickness from where it is now. Despite having one of the more powerful agents in the business, Bill Duffy representing him, due to a very steep buyout and Partizan's track record of holding onto players, it's unlikely Perovic can stay in this draft.

Martynas Andriuskevicius is still a possibility to opt out of the draft if he doesn't like the offers that come his way. While obviously neither party (agent or team) will confirm or deny the Suns rumor (Phoenix promising him at 7) , it is still considered a strong possibility. You'll remember Andriuskevicius was all set to work on his game another year and sit out this draft. But out of nowhere he entered.

He is far from ready to contribute in the NBA and it will take a team willing to draft him in the mid to high lotto area that will allow him to stay (at least another season) in Europe working with Arvidas Sabonis, who is doing wonders for his game. Andriuskevicius lacks both the strength or skills to be more than a towel waver for a few seasons, so a team will have to have the right situation with fans and GM in place to make it a go.

A number of European players (including Andriuskevicius, Perovic, Petro, Mile Ilic, Roko Leni-Ukic, and future picks Nemanja Aleksandrov and Rudy Fernandez among others will be on display in Treviso, Italy at Reebok's Eurocamp this week. Check back for a status report on the players later in the week. Plus more news on other players expected to withdraw such as a likely future first rounder Ilic, underdeveloped but talented Ukic, "Peja wanna-be" Luka Bogdanovic, and Peja wanna-be #2 Dusan Sakota, coming soon.

Workout Wonders

[img_assist|nid=4832|title=Josh Howard|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=199|height=294]Around this time of year, players start improving or losing their stock with NBA teams in workouts. So why is it that every year, and not only in the NBA, but NFL as well, teams put such stock in how players work out?

Obviously seeing the players skills in a controlled environment gives insight into their passing, ball handling, shooting, work ethic and stamina, not to mention of great importance, getting a feel for the players character.

But team's are often too quick to dismiss a players real game accomplishments over a season in favor of their showing in workouts.

Two examples recently are Nikolas Tskitisvilli and Josh Howard.

In workouts Skita looked like a cross between Larry Bird and Tracy McGrady, draining 3 pointer after three pointer, handling the ball like a yoyo, and displaying incredible skills. However throw him into a game with 9 other players and a packed arena, and he's a much different player. He was drafted in 2002 as the 5th pick with virtually no high level experience, setting a new precedent as the first such draft pick.

On the flip side is Josh Howard, ACC player of the year who proved to be one of the top 10-12 players in the draft by becoming ACC player of the year and showing tremendous heart and character. So what happened? He didn't have great workouts, and he slipped to the Mavericks as a huge steal with the 28th pick.

More Buzz

In the past week Trevor Ariza made the decision to stay in the draft by hiring an agent. His decision is puzzling as many see him as a mid second rounder at best. While his athleticism is outstanding, some are wondering if he's Jaron Rush revisited.

JR Smith and Dorell Wright went against each other in a workout for Boston a few days ago. Depending on who you talk to, they were somewhat even, or Wright had the edge. Smith has struggled in his few of his workouts so far, one rumor is that he even quit before one workout was over. Not a good sign, but there is a lot of time, and teams loved what they saw of him during the High School All Star week. The Celtics definitely love Dorell Wright, and seem to have a strategy in place to acquire as many athletes as possible.

Center Rankings

Martynas Andriuskevicius 7-2 240 C Rimini (Lithuania) 1986 -- Very long and athletic bigman with considerable upside. A number of years away, but bigs with this combination of agility and intelligence are rare. His skills offensively are next to zero, but he has the touch rarely seen in bigs and his passing ability has the potential to be like Vlade's. Late entrant with a rumored deal with Phoenix. A solid rebounder with toughness. In Lithuanian 2nd division he averaged 10.9 rebounds, 2.9 blocks per game.

Pavel Podkolzine 7-3 303 C Metis Varese (Russia) 1985 -- An athletic giant. Very intriguing because of his size and ability to move around. Has developed a nice offensive touch and has incredible strength. Still far from being ready to contribute much in the NBA. Crashes the glass exceptionally well. He may suffer on draft day due to questions surrounding his condition.

Robert Swift 7-0 245 C Bakersfield CA HSSr. -- Gets around very well for a 7 footer. Long and rangy shot blocker with decent aggressiveness and post skills. He's a long term project and while some don't see him as a legit first rounder yet, it's likely someone will bite in the mid to late first round. There are whispers that he has a deal in the mid first round area. It's possible the Celtics have a deal in place with him at their 15th selection.

Peja Samardziski 7-0 260 C Partizan (Macedonia) 1986 -- Bigman lacking high level experience but played in front of NBA scouts on a number of occasions versus older European players. He's a wonderful kid from a great family, but is a long term project. Another who could suffer from "Skita-itis". Has a tremendous jumpshot and shooting touch combined with very good size. Has trimmed down some but foot speed is still apparently a problem.

Rafael Araujo 6-11 280 C BYU Sr. -- Had a tremendous senior season, however scouts wonder if he's athletic enough to be more than a good backup in the NBA. He's a bit mechanical moving up and down the floor. Passes pretty well and has tremendous strength. Some love his strength and offensive ability.

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