By Aran Smith

Darko vs Melo

A hot topic at the moment is just how much Carmelo Anthony improved his stock with Syracuse’s run to the National Championship. Surprisingly, it’s possible it hasn’t improved his draft position at all. While NBA scouts believe he’s solidified a spot within the top 3 picks of the draft, he probably had the 3 spot locked up before the tournament even began. And he still may be keyed in at the 3 spot.

Carmelo’s talent and leadership were key to Syracuse winning the championship. However, the Orangemen clearly weren’t a one man team to the extent that Kansas was in 1988 with Danny Manning. Anthony joins the Jordans, Magics and Isiahs as players who won a championship on the collegiate level. Although, as Shaq and Kobe have proven, it is possible to win NBA championships without having won in college, and in Kobe’s case without having even gone to college.

LeBron is for many reasons the obvious and definite number one pick in the draft. He will not get bumped out of the top spot. It just wont happen. From an economic stand point alone drafting Lebron will increase a franchise’s value by roughly 40-50 million. The gate and team merchandise revenue can be expected to increase astronomically. The same cannot be said for Carmelo Anthony and especially Darko Milicic.

One GM among a bottom 8 team has said that they will take Anthony if they f
are to land the top pick. Whether or not they will follow through with this statement should they win the top pick in the lottery is another story. It’s very difficult to see that happening.

Should the Wizards somehow win the lottery and end up with the top pick, not even Michael Jordan who has made statements along the lines of Anthony being worthy of the first pick, would be able to pass up LeBron. The only legitimate argument for not taking LeBron #1 is a team thinking that he wouldn’t resign where a Darko or Melo would. But how can that be legitimately gauged?

So the question then becomes who will be the second pick.

Syracuse has just one player currently in the NBA, Derrick Coleman, and a number of former players who never lived up to expectations. Billy Owens, Rony Seikaly, and Pearl Washington to name a few. So following the Duke theory, there’s no way that Carmelo Anthony can ever break through and be a star NBA player because no player from Syracuse has ever done it before. This line of thinking is just ridiculous. Jim Boeheim is a wonderful coach, and has prepared Melo for the NBA as much as any coach possibly could have. Melo will obviously be a very good NBA player. Does he have the athleticism to be a top 10 talent? Maybe.

Carmelo is as NBA ready as any player in college basketball, and will likely have a bigger impact immediately than Darko Milicic. He also would have bigger fan appeal in the short run. He has a household name after Syracuse’s Championship run, and though he’s clearly not on the level with LeBron in marketability, he has a decided edge over Milicic in this department.

So has Carmelo really passed up Darko on some teams draft lists? Depends who you ask. Right now, Syracuse championship run is fresh in everyone’s minds. Come draft time, a players potential will start to weigh more heavily than their past accomplishments. Darko has a higher ceiling than Melo. With his size and versatility, he has the potential to become similar to his idol Kevin Garnett.

Even if a team needs a wing player more so than a post player, it’s hard to see a team passing on Milicic. Darko is a "once-in-a-GM’s-lifetime", or better yet "…GM’s-tenure" type talent. Since teams began scouting players overseas, not one prospect of Darko’s caliber has come along. He is a proven entity having competed against even better competition than either James or Anthony. He has essentially been a professional for over 2 years now after joining Hemofarm at age 15. There are some who suggest he’s older than his records suggest 17, which most likely is not the case. Regardless, he will be one of the best players in all of the NBA in a few years.

International Update recently spoke with the agent for Maciej Lampe and verified what ESPN Insider recently reported, that he will enter Lampe into the 2003 draft. Lampe will test his draft stock and decide from there whether to stay in the draft. A player who has been highly touted on our International Future page for over a year, Lampe will be moved from the 2nd pick in the 2004 mock draft to the current mock draft.

Lampe’s agent Keith Kreiter told us that Lampe could get bigger.

He recently took Lampe to a doctor and had x-rays done, the doctor proclaimed that Lampe is not finished growing and could grow to 7-3! Lampe is a player with immense upside, who has really developed after moving from Real Madrid, one of Spain’s powerhouse teams, to Complutense University a 2nd division team. Lampe’s play has sparked a lot of interest from NBA teams.

Lampe will eventually be the first Polish draftee and second player to ever play in the NBA. Center Cezary Trybanski who just completed his rookie season with the Memphis Grizzlies was the first. Lampe is far from being ready to play in the NBA, but that may not stop him from being a mid-lotto pick. Spanish corespondent Rodrigo Varona recently gave us this report:

He’s a Nowitzki kind of player. His best move right now is a shot off the dribble from 15-17 feet, and he does it with such coordination that it looks easy. The most exciting part is that with each game, his post moves are improving. He doesn’t have a go-to move in the post yet, but he has so much talent that he usually makes something positive happen. He showed toughness in a recent game when he came back on the floor after he sprained his ankle. He’s not a great rebounder, but he’s improving, making double digits in 7 of his last 9 games. I wouldn’t call him "nasty", but he plays with confidence and when someone tries to play him physical (we are talking about 30 years old Americans and Spanish veterans), he doesn’t back down as he did 4 months ago.

In fact that usually motivates him now, as he has gotten used to it. (He’s the star of the Complutense University team and with all the press, everybody tries to shut him down). His defense is pretty weak right now, especially his team defense. He’s not bad one on one, but he usually doesn’t know where he is when his team plays zone (and they do it a lot). He’s quicker than most PF’s, but I can’t see him playing SF consistently. Some people want him playing SF, but I think that as Nowitzki, Gasol, Garnett, Tyson Chandler,… His best position is PF, where he can take advantage of his quickness.

On his team, they often play with a "triple post", a center and Lampe and Quesada (a 6-9 PF with 51% in 3-pointers) making teams pay from the outside, but with Quesada injured, he’s playing more and more as a pure PF. Of course, he doesn’t have quick hands, think of Nowitzki as a rookie. The great thing is he has shown this year that he can learn and he is 3 years younger than Nowitzki when he arrived in the NBA. About his body strength… He’s no Amare Stoudamire, but he’s also stronger than Gasol or Skita, and he has a great frame to work with, not amazing but I think he shouldn’t have any problems with work. He’s in 235-240 pounds right now.

The regular season in the LEB (second professional league in Spain, but the 2 finalists play in the ACB next year) is just over, with Lampe’s team, Complutense University, playing in the playoffs as the 7th seed. That’s remarkable if you think that their record with Lampe is 11-3, without him they were 5-11 (He arrived at the middle of the season, so he played the full second lap, not the easiest schedule here). In fact, despite their 7th place they are seen as the second best candidate to ascend, in part because an impressive road win against the number 1 seed last week.

The playoffs start this week. It’s a best of 5 series. Lampe’s performance in the last week including the road win against the 1st seed, with 25 points and 12 rebounds, and a double overtime loss at home with 28 & 12. Not bad. In the second game he was the key player for his team in the final minutes, forcing both overtimes with plays in the low post.

His numbers for the regular season: 17.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.8 turnovers, 52% from the field, 45% in 3 pointers, and 85% in the line (he even shoots the technical free throws in his team, not common for a 7 foot kid).

The way he is playing has drawn a lot of attention to him, and the discovery of a few things about him. First of all, he has a really bad relationship with Real Madrid’s current head coach, to the point that his father (and manager) wanted to take him to another place, accusing the coach of laziness working with Lampe. That’s a rumor that I can tell you is 100% TRUE, and the best thing Lampe did is get away from there this season, now his playing minutes and getting better and better.

You can see what happened to his young sidekick in Real Madrid, Edu Hernandez-Sonseca, who hasn’t develop at all this season under Real Madrid’s current staff. The question here is, will Imbroda (also the Spanish national team coach in Indianapolis) be in Madrid next year? If he is, Lampe doesn’t want to play for him next year, because of the bad feelings and the prospective of being at the end of the bench. (Think of Imbroda as a Doug Collins kind of coach, he prefers the Oakleys over the Kwames.) In that case, Lampe could try the NBA right now, or at least to play for another ACB team (his rights would be of R. Madrid, but he would be "on lend" to another team for one year, it’s pretty usual here with young players).

Other International News

At last update the mock on the main page had 9 international players projected in the first round. That number could grow if some of the younger players such as Kosta Perovic, Pavel Podkolzin, Tiago Splitter decide to declare for the draft. has learned that Splitter could possibly put his name in the draft. Splitter however expressed an interest to stay over in Spain for a few more seasons in an interview with a Brazilian website.

A player who has been highly touted on the International page Carlos Delfino has suffered an injury that has kept him out of action the past month. It will likely lower his stock and push him to the 2004 draft. Delfino is out for 6 months with torn ligaments in his ankle. He’ll be forced into the 2004 draft.

A player who has caught the eyes of scouts recently is Zaur Pachulia. NBA teams were very high on him after his workouts in the US last summer. He is a player who has very adept post skills and can run the floor more fluidly than the average bigman. "Zaza" lacks experience and may be a little stuck between the PF and Center positions. Another drawback is that many Georgian players have questionable birth records and many question whether he is actually born in 1984. Pachulia struggled for playing time all season, and has had a few monster games at the end, but critics claim it’s due to a weak Turkish league inflating his actual abilities. He did not progress much over the past season.

European players have a huge advantage in terms of getting drafted in the end of the first round. That advantage is that a team can draft the player and leave them over in Europe with their current teams. The player can continue to develop in a "minor league setting", and the team doesn’t have to worry about the instant salary cap hit that the player would take. The player develops and the team brings them over in a couple seasons and has a more NBA ready player.

A great example of this was New Jersey’s selection of Nenad Krstic with the 24th pick last year. Some of our European contacts claim that Krstic would be a top 10 pick if he were in the draft this year.

Sofoklis Schortsianitis has made great progress over the past year. He is a player that was built up by false height records saying that he was 6-11. He recently measured 6-8 1/2 without shoes on, so he’s about 6-9 1/2 and obviously too short for the center position. He is most likely finished growing. He plays center in Europe, but will have to develop PF skills to excel in the NBA. One thing is for sure, he is a specimen. For a package of size, strength and explosiveness he has no equal in the draft.



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