Bringing in the Expert
Part One of an NBA Draft Preview
By Adam Hoff
Guest Starring: Jeff Dritz, Draft Guru
With the NBA Finals taking a most unappealing turn, it seems like a good time to wander over to the pro hoops subject that never lets us down … the NBA Draft. I’m one of those guys that always takes this way too seriously and calls guys like Lawrence Moten “the next legendary swingman.” Obviously “Poetry in Moten” didn’t really pan out (although Syracuse fans remember him fondly, I’m sure). Still, I care. The problem is, I’ve been pretty mediocre in my draft forecasting over the past few years. For every D-Wade that I nailed, I swung and missed on a Reese Gaines or Chris Bosh (stated that he would take “forever” to develop … whoops). Because of this inconsistency, I felt the urge to bring in a hired gun. Meet Jeff Dritz, NBA Draft guru. How is he a guru? Well, that is top secret. But once you read his take, you’ll see that he’s a breath of fresh air when it comes to breaking down the World’s Biggest Pinstriped Suit Extravaganza. Unlike most draftniks who suck up to Euro’s and constantly ramble on and on about potential and measurements and “upside,” JD gives it to you straight.
So we’re going to do the 2005 Draft right. A two-part preview, followed by a mock draft, and topped off with a full report card after the dust settles.
Here are the players you need to know about before June 28th. Rankings by Jeff Dritz, complete with my take at the end of each category.
Five Players Who Will Make an Impact Next Season
1. Chris Paul. This guy is fantastic. He’s the total package at the point, with the ability to run an offense, move quickly on the break, shoot, penetrate, and find the open man. His D is great, and he’ll average at least 2 steals per game. He makes smart decisions, limits turnovers, and has NBA range from the 3-point line. The only knock against him is his size, barely 6 feet, but at the point, this isn’t as important because opposing point guards in the NBA rarely post up anyway.
2. Danny Granger. Granger has a great all-around game. He’s 6-8 but moves well, and can play both of the wing positions as well as power forward. He’s a tough defender who hits the boards hard. He can also nail the 3. He’s been underrated because he played at New Mexico, but the team that picks him will be pleased.
3. Sean May. I’m so impressed with May, I almost want to list him as a sleeper because he’s not expected to be a top-5 pick. He should be. Every time I saw him play in the past two years, he dominated. It seemed like every time NC needed a bucket, they could just toss it down low and he’d use his slick moves, incredible hands, and soft touch to score at will. He’s a beast on the boards, and while he’s not extremely athletic, he has quick feet and defends well. The knock on him is that he’s too short to play center at 6’8”, but scouts are making a bigger deal of this than it is. He can play power forward. This guy is going to be a 20-10 player, and soon. He’s been referred to as a “poor man’s Elton Brand,” but I believe he’ll be just as good. If you’re looking for a double-double player late in your fantasy draft, keep an eye on May if he’s selected by a team that will give him a lot of PT. Along with Paul, he’s one of my top Rookie of the Year candidates.
4. Channing Frye. Frye has an NBA body and is incredibly athletic. He runs the court extremely well for a man who stands 6’11”. The main knock against him has been his heart and toughness. However, he was a monster at the end of his senior year, especially in the NCAA tourney. His size and athleticism make him a strong shot-blocker. He’ll do well for a team that plans to push the tempo.
5. Andrew Bogut. Bogut is the most complete player in the draft. He’s ready now. After a monstrous performance in the Olympics where he went for he went for 22 and 10 against Tim Duncan, he had a dominant sophomore season for Utah. He’s large and physical, and has good inside moves. His athleticism is not great, but good enough. He’ll be a rock for the team that takes him (either Milwaukee or Atlanta).
Adam’s Take: I’m with you on Paul and Granger for sure. I also think May is underrated and can give someone Brand-like numbers. As for Frye, I worry that he will regress a little bit. He looks like a good prospect and a guy that could really come into his own 3-4 years in, like Marcus Camby, but I worry about him right off the bat. It is true that he came on strong down the stretch of his college career, but I think that had a lot to do with being comfortable on his team and with his place in the college game. Getting thrown up against Duncan and KG will shake that foundation. Plus, his stock is suddenly going through the roof, which always worries me. As for Bogut, I’m not a fan. Count me among those that think he is indeed the latest version of the BWS (Big White Stiff). Here are the two guys I’d put on that list instead: Raymond Felton and Julius Hodge. Felton is nearly as good as Paul and I think that he could be the Rookie of the Year on the right team. The word is that the Lakers are thinking big (preferably Frye, but maybe Taft) at #10, but Felton would be a perfect fit. His only major flaw heading into last season was his deep jumper, so he shot 1,000 threes a day over the summer and became a terrific shooter. That means that not only can he shoot now, but that he will work incredibly hard. He’s just as fast as Paul and might even have that extra edge; that confidence bordering on arrogance that so many great players possess. As for Hodge, he doesn’t have a terribly high ceiling, but I could see him landing on a veteran team and playing a big role in the same way that Josh Howard did for the Mavs last year (and even more so this year). Someone is going to get a very nice swingman that knows how to play.
Five Overrated Players Who Will be Drafted Too High
1. Deron Williams. As a Chicago boy and an Illini fan, it hurts me to say this, but Deron Williams just isn’t that remarkable. He does everything decently but nothing great. I’ve seen mock drafts that have him going as high as #4. How can teams consider taking a point guard in the top 5 who can’t get to the hoop? He always pulls up at the elbow and takes jumpers. He’ll probably have a solid NBA career, but is not worthy of a top pick, and will never be a superstar. Jarrett Jack will be better.
2. Chris Taft. Taft has the body, talent, strength, and athleticism to be a top pick. However, he lacks heart and effort. Plus, his agent, Billy Ceisler, recently made a bad move in banning ESPN columnist Chad Ford from other Taft workouts after Ford gave Taft an honest but lukewarm writeup. Unless Taft turns his approach around, he won’t reach his potential. Do the math: Bad attitude + Bad management = Disappointment. This isn’t quantum physics here, folks.
3. Martynas Andriuskevicious. Marty (I’m not going to even try to type his full name, and I don’t suggest you attempt to pronounce it, either) is 7-3, 230 lbs. Shaq would eat this guy for lunch, and still be able to make room for Shawn Bradley. Marty’s viewed as a long-term investment, and needs to put on a lot of weight. How often does this same European project fail, compared to the rarity of when it works? When will NBA GMs learn? Humorously, some mock drafts are predicting that the Clippers (of course) make this mistake. However, recent rumors have him dropping out of the draft if he doesn’t get a guarantee.
4. Charlie Villanueva. See Chris Taft. If Sean May is a “poor man’s Elton Brand,” then Villanueva is a “homeless man’s Lamar Odom.” Villanueva toyed with going pro straight out of high school, and probably should have. Two years at UConn have only served to show potential employers that Villanueva’s lazy and tendency to disappear for long stretches. Unless someone can motivate him, he’ll disappoint like Taft. Anybody want to draft a player who’s often referred to as a “potential cancer?”
5. Johan Petro. “Here’s an idea: let’s draft a skinny, slow-developing European center in the first round!” Petro has been compared to Rasheed Wallace. I can’t even begin to explain what’s wrong with that.
Adam’s Take: Good stuff. Loved the Clippers call. I have no doubt that they will draft either a power forward (read: Taft) to sit behind both Brand and Wilcox, of they’ll take a Euro project. Somehow – despite being a team that is a piece of two away from serious playoff contention – they will use the twelfth pick on someone completely useless. I don’t see big things for any of your guys, so I can’t argue with that list. However, I will add Joey Graham as a guy I just have a bad feeling about. I normally like college players such as Graham – proven commodities from big time programs – but this guy worries me. He’s athletic and physical (and has “big strong hands” as Billy Packer pointed out about 400 times during the 2004 Regional Final), but he just didn’t seem to have the right mentality this year in the tournament. I could see him going #14 to the Wolves, and my instincts are that he’ll be mediocre. They would be much better off with Hodge, Hakim Warrick, or Sean May. Another guy that will get drafted too high is Rashad McCants. Forget about the guy being a head case, I don’t think he’s even that good. Seriously, go dig up all the game tape you can find and then show me all of this supposed talent everyone is marveling about. All I saw in three years was a guy that shot too much. He’s going to wind up being the next Joe Forte.
5 Sleepers (Guards)
1. Julius Hodge. Hard to call Hodge a sleeper, now that he’s finally getting some much-deserved attention. Nonetheless, he still may not go in the first round, and that would be a shame. Hodge may not be exceptional, but he’s a player. He handles the ball well, works hard on D and the boards, and has a lot of heart. His shot has improved. He was a big-time player for a pretty big program, and should be getting more buzz. Reminds me a bit of Marquis Daniels. Whichever team gets him at the end of the first round or beginning of the second will get a hard worker who’s ready to contribute immediately.
2. John Gilchrist. When Gilchrist came to Maryland as a freshman, I thought he might be the second coming of Steve Francis. However, he’s had some maturity issues, and many worry about his selfish attitude. Nonetheless, he’s extremely talented, and has all the tools (shooting, passing, court vision) that an NBA point guard needs. He’s also a big-game player. If someone can make him grow up, he will be a steal in the second round.
3. Bracey Wright. While a bit short, Wright is an athletic shooter who has improved his all-around game. While he should probably go back to Indiana for his senior year, I think he has NBA talent and will contribute as a rotation player.
4. Jarrett Jack. After a stellar freshman season, Jack’s last two have been up-and-down. He can be great, but he can also be turnover-prone. However, he definitely has the skills and athleticism. He plays good D and runs an offense well, always finding the open man. He might slide into the second round, but he has the ability to be a starting point guard if he can keep his turnovers down. He plays with a lot of heart.
5. Luther Head. Gotta show some love for the Illini. Head often went unnoticed this year because of the attention that Dee Brown and Deron Williams received, but he was arguably Illinois’ best player. He is extremely athletic and can guard bigger players. He can shoot the NBA three. The big question on him is whether or not he can run the point. I’m not sure, but with his athleticism and ability to penetrate and dish, as well as strong D, he’ll help some team in the future.
Adam’s Take: I’m not sold on Wright, but I like your other picks. Jack looks exactly like Marbury (same college, same number, same bald head, same cheesy stache) so he has that going for him. The Heat should take him in the first round, which would enable them to avoid subjecting their fans to another year of the Dooling Factor (detailed here). Head is going to be very good. Apparently, he destroyed everyone in the Chicago camp and displayed some handles and ability to get to the rim. Worst case scenario, he’s a high scoring sub like Juan Dixon (but with defense). Best case, he’s the next Gilbert Arenas – a guy that was deprived of the chance to handle the rock in college because his team had a more celebrated point guard (see: Jason Gardner). The knock on Arenas was that he could only steal the ball and shoot threes, and that he couldn’t run a team (sound familiar?). He turned out okay. The most likely scenario I see for Head is that he evolves into an undersized two like Cuttino Mobley – a guy that got into the league for his D and three-point stroke and has become a very good player. A few more sleepers: Will Conroy (could be the next Earl Watson), Francisco Garcia (not sure if he’s technically a guard, but this guy is Tayshaun with a better J), Nate Robinson (Earl Boykins Plus), Alex Acker (my boy had a rough camp, but if someone takes him, they’ll get a Marquis Daniels type find), and high schooler Louis Williams (a talented shoot-first lead guard ala Jason Terry).
5 Players Who Should Have Stayed In/Gone to School
There could be 25 guys on this list, since I don’t believe any underclassman should make
The jump unless he’ll be a first-rounder (financial considerations notwithstanding).
1. Kelenna Azubuike. Azubuike’s got a ton of athleticism and potential, but he’s not nearly developed enough to play in the NBA yet. He attacks the basket well, but needs to work on his jumper. A couple more years in college and he could’ve been a possible lottery pick, but as it is, he’s probably a second-rounder.
2. T.J. Parker. The elder Parker definitely got the majority of the skills in this family. Like me, TJ cannot go left. I’d like to play a game of one-on-one against him, with our right arms tied behind our backs. A game to three would take about an hour. I want TJ to go back to school, not because he can improve and become an NBA player some day, but because he’ll need that Northwestern degree in the future. Take advantage of your free education opportunity, bro, because nobody’s gonna be paying you to play basketball.
3. Monta Ellis. Nobody questions Ellis’ talent or potential. However, to say he may have some maturity issues would be akin to saying Ron Artest might have a slight anger management problem. Following Ellis’ poor performance during the McDonald’s game, he directed a fit at his coach. He also is reluctant to make the move to the point, which may be necessary at 6’3”. To whomever drafts him: Have fun with this one.
4. Brandon Rush. Rush may be more talented than his brothers Kareem and JaRon, but he’s far from ready. He’s an athletic slasher with a good jumper, but doesn’t always play hard and needs to work on his ball-handling. He impressed in one game at the Chicago camp, but was a non-factor in others, underscoring his inconsistency. A couple years in college would have helped him focus and work on his game.
5. Jibril Hodges. The son of former Bulls sharpshooter Craig Hodges gets a mention because he used to slap my sister’s caboose and call her “Toots” in 2nd grade. Go back to Long Beach State, kid, because it keeps you far away from Chicago and my sister. Along similar lines, I’m praying the Bulls don’t draft Pierre Pierce.
Adam’s Take: I say, get that money! Okay, in all honesty, my man Robert Swift needs to go to college. Oh wait, what’s that? He’s on the Sonics bench? Never mind.
There you have it. If you want to weigh in on any of these topics, head over to the NBA Draft link on the blog.
Adam Hoff is a columnist for the Webby-winning website WhatifSports.com and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeff Dritz is a contributor to the soon-to-be-award-winning WhatifSports Insider Blog.