Draft Buzz 2/27/04

Fri, 02/27/2004 - 6:17pm

By Aran Smith

[img_assist|nid=4532|title=Martynas Andriuskevicius|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=140|height=187]

On Thursday, 7-3 Lithuanian bigman Martynas Andriuskevicius had a tremendous team workout, (originally reported as against rules, but because it was with Rimini's junior team, not against rules) in Rimini, Italy in front 5-8 NBA scouts who came away shocked by the big man's agility and potential. Andriuskevicius has had the opportunity to practice all season with legendary European bigman Arvydas Sabonis, and it has obviously been paying huge dividends.

Right now Andriuskevicius is very raw, and lacks great touch, but his size and agility is very intriguing. With a great head on his shoulders, he's got both court sense and aggressiveness plus the hunger to improve and be great.

He has leapfrogged Perovic and possibly Pavel (with Podkolzine's condition potentially causing big concerns) as well, in terms of draft stock, and scouts feel he's a lottery pick right now, with nowhere to go but up.

He's young (high school age) and Eastern European, and therefore in the same boat with Andris Biedrins, and Darko Milicic, essentially a high school player, with the added pressure of adapting to a completely new culture and language, plus the difficult transition to the NBA for an 18 year old. In other words, he's a long term project but with great upside.

Look for a player, Andriuskevicius, who has climbed to the fourth spot on the 2005 Mock Draft over the past month, to be moved to somewhere in the 2004 lottery next week.

While some erroneously projected Kosta Perovic as a top 5 pick this year, his lack of quickness (especially reaction speed) will knock him into the late lottery at best and some feel with the hand injury, he will fall to the late part of the first round if he were to enter the draft this year. Perovic has the touch that "Andri" lacks, however, Martynas is younger, bigger, and a much better athlete.

Kosta broke his hand a few weeks ago, and it will take him a few months to get back to playing at full strength. Perovic has had a solid year of progression, but will probably wait until next year because of his lack of speed and contract issues, plus Partizan GM Vlade Divac will definitely be looking to hold onto him for at least 2 more seasons, as Nets draft pick Nenad Krstic will likely join the NBA next year leaving Perovic the main bigman at Partizan.

Perovic's contract also has no buyout, meaning Partizan, who has been reluctant to let players leave easily, holds all the cards with Perovic. Look for Perovic to enter next year and be a late lottery to mid-first round pick in 2005.

Weekend at Staples

All Star guest: Left handed bigman Andris Biedrins came to Los Angeles over All Star weekend. According to one inside source, Andris looked like a deer in headlights when the Biedrins family took in the event. "More than awestruck", was the description of the Latvian's family "and in a negative way". Imagine a player's family coming to America to see what the NBA was all about, and witnessing the free-for-all of All Star weekend In Los Angeles!

As we've been saying for nearly 3 months, because Biedrins has such upside he's likely a 5-10 pick, but like Milicic, he will take a number of years before he can show anything. Biedrins has the advantage of spending time in the US last summer and practicing with the Sixers players in the off season, and his game resembles that of an American more so than a fundamental European big. However, he's still very light, and will take time developing his body, game, and adapting to the US.

Point Guard Rankings

Shaun Livingston 6-7 175 PG Peoria, IL HSSr. -- A "rail thin" high school player who had a disappointing outing last weekend against AAU teammate Justin Cerasoli with a number of NBA scouts on hand. With Peoria's bigman out with an injury, Livingston was forced to play in the post against the best post player in Illinois PF Shaun Pruitt. While the consensus is that he's still a top 8 pick, and almost surely would be the top PG taken in the draft, Shaun had a lackluster performance putting up just 2 points in the first half, of his overall 18. It looks as though Livingston will enter, but Duke is still a possibility. Stay tuned.

Ben Gordon 6-2 185 PG UConn Jr. -- Detractors will say that he's more of a shooting guard, etc. But Gordon has the PG skills to at least play the position and be decent, and his scoring skills make him very dangerous. He's had a rough season with the broken nose and teams keying on him on the perimeter, plus he's on a team with shooters and not great passers. Gordon still figures to get into the lottery, and will do well in personal workouts with his athleticism and shooting ability. Right now, Nelson is ahead of Gordon on scouts lists, but we look for Gordon to overtake Nelson come draft day.

Jameer Nelson 6-0 193 PG St. Joseph's Sr. -- Tim Hardaway clone who has taken his game to another level. Measured a legit six-feet in Chicago last summer, 5-11 without shoes on. The concensus among scouts and insiders NBADraft.net speaks with is that Nelson has a chance of landing in the top 10 picks, and has jumped in front of Ben Gordon as the top PG prospect in college. To think a player who couldn't get a guarantee in the first round last year, will likely be a lottery pick this year! Despite what some people will have you believe, the fireplug who has led the Hawks to a perfect record is definitely a possible a top 10 pick. A much better shooter than Hardaway coming out of college, though it's the area of his game that still needs work. Consider his playing in front of all 29 teams in Chicago and not getting guaruntee a bunch of sleepwalking by NBA GM's and scouts.

Devin Harris 6-3 185 PG Wisconsin Jr. -- Scouts finally seem to be coming around on Harris as we've been a big proponent of his abilities since he was a freshman, projecting him as a first rounder for over a year. And have told this to any scout that would listen. Harris' combination of quickness and size is rivaled only by Livingston in this draft. But Harris comes with the added bonus of 3 years of college, a plus having dominated at that level. Harris' PG skills/instincts seem to be the only thing left in question, but they no longer appear to be a big concern.

Sebastian Telfair 6-0 170 PG Brooklyn, NY HSSr. -- Telfair is obviously overrated by NBA scouts right now. He's neither as seasoned nor the sure bet as the three college points in front of him. And while his upside is second only to Livingston at PG, the "jump" from high school to pro could set him back some being such a short prep-to-pros player. Telfair has a bit of a reputation as a wild child, and there are question marks about his maturity level to handle off the court life in the NBA. It will depend on the team's draft philosophy, and how he fares in the McDonald's week as to where he'll land in the draft in relation to the other PG's on this list.

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