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Part Two of an NBA Draft Preview


By Adam Hoff

Guest Starring: Jeff Dritz, Draft Guru


The Finals are over, mercifully, so now we can turn all our attention to the NBA Draft.  Its only days before we’ll see how the Blazers get their hands on a criminal, the Clippers and Knicks find a way to draft fourth-string power forwards, and multiple teams make the mistake of passing on the next Isiah Thomas (Chris Paul).  Until them, here are some rankings and projections to ponder, courtesy of our draft expert, Jeff Dritz.  (I’ll add commentary after each section.)


Five Future Impact Players (3-5 Years)


1. Marvin Williams.  North Carolina’s super-sub has been the darling of scouts all season. Extremely athletic, he can play any position but center. He can score inside and outside, plays D, and has a strong work ethic. While he’s got a way to go and is clearly not Carmelo, many scouts feel he may be the only franchise player in this draft.


2. Gerald Green.  If there is another youngster in this draft with potential to be a franchise player, it’s Green. His size, athleticism, range, and ball-handling skills have earned him comparisons to Tracy McGrady. This is probably wishful thinking, but he certainly doesn’t lack the talent or skills to be a big-time NBA player. He still needs to develop, though, and there have been some questions about his maturity. Teams are also worried by his agent’s shielding of him in individual workouts by refusing to let Green show his skills against competition. Still, nobody doubts his potential.


3. Randolph Morris.  Extremely inconsistent, Morris probably should have gone back to Kentucky for his sophomore year. However, he has an NBA body and good moves down low. He needs to mature and put some muscle on that big frame, but in a few years, he could make an impact.


4. Rashad McCants.  Whichever team drafts McCants will hope it takes less than five years before he can help them out. He has the talent to fill it up consistently, but has been a head case, often taking himself out of games. He’s been called moody, and had troubles handling the pressures of being a star at a big college program. Those pressures will only intensify in the pros. However, if he can mature emotionally, he’s got the physical skills to be a very good scorer. His stock has risen a bit recently following strong workouts and a surprisingly impressive display at the Chicago pre-draft combine (placing 3rd overall).


5. Martell Webster.  He’s got the body and deadly range to be a good shooting guard. Scouts claim he’s the most “ready” of this year’s high schoolers. Question marks regard his defense and athleticism. Teams will likely be hesitant to rely on him at first, but if he shows more effort on defense, he can help somebody out.


Adam’s Take.  Those are good choices, although it is kind of cheating to list guys like Williams and Green, since they are fairly obvious.  After all, that’s why they are being discussed as top picks.  Also, I think Williams will be ready to start and contribute very early, maybe even next year.  I don’t care for McCants at all.  Forget attitude, I never saw the unbelievable skill he supposedly possessed.  He’s got a solid stroke and nice body control, but I don’t see tremendous speed, ups, or physical strength.  Best case scenario, he’s as good as Corey Maggette, and that is a stretch.  The guy that I think projects out to be a much better player down the road than people realize is Louis Williams.  He’s a high school kid sliding down the board, but I think he’ll be a big factor in 3-4 years.  He has handles, a nice jumper, and a great feel for the game.  He’ll learn the art of playing lead guard and could evolve into an uber Jason Terry.  I also put Hakim Warrick in the “down the road” group.  He could be a Shawn Marion type player as long as he’s in the right situation. 


(Quick note on Green.  I honestly think he could be as good as T-Mac.  Between the off-the-shot clock jam in the dunk contest and the five straight fadeaway threes in the McDonald’s game, I saw enough to become a believer.)


Five Sleepers (Forwards and Centers)

1. Ryan Gomes.
  Scouts are up in the air on Gomes. The big question is whether or not he is quick enough to cover 3s, since at 6’7”, 245 pounds he may not be big enough to play power forward. While he’s a tweener, he’s also a hard worker inside and out, and added a jumper to his repertoire this season, showing the ability to develop his game. He’s athletic and strong, and should be able to contribute as a rotation player in the NBA. He’ll be a solid second-round pick.


2. Ike Diogu.  Teams are finally starting to like Ike. I know it’s hard to call him a sleeper now that he might be a lottery pick, but I’ve been touting him for a while, and I’m not going to stop now. This guy’s been putting up huge numbers (about 21/8.5) for the last three years, toiling for a pitiful Arizona State team. And he was doing it facing double-and triple-teams every night, since the rest of the ASU lineup resembles a disorganized YMCA pickup squad. The knock against him was that he wasn’t tall or long enough, but after his measurements, turns out he’s a legit 6’9” and has the wingspan of a Learjet. Didn’t matter if he was 6’9” or 6’5”, the guy can obviously get it done. Whichever team drafts him will be better immediately.


3. Chris Taft.  For those who read Part I of the draft preview (and there weren’t many of you), you’re probably asking how I can list Taft as both a disappointment and a sleeper. Well, recent projections have seen him drop from the lottery into the late first round. He still has a lot of higher ceiling than most in the draft, and while he does have attitude problems, he’s young and could mature. If some team can figure out how to motivate him, a player with Taft’s talent could turn out to be a huge steal in the 20s.


4. Wayne Simien.  Despite a disappointing performance at the combine, Simien is a warrior down low. Extremely tough, he isn’t afraid to get dirty, and hits the boards exceptionally well. Though not very athletic, he’s fundamentally sound, and will make a good bruiser if he can stay healthy.


5. Lawrence Roberts.  He seems to have fallen off the radar, possibly due to injury problems. He’s averaged over 16 and 10 for the past three years, and is strong and quick down low. He needs to get better away from the basket, but is solid enough to contribute. Could be a Marquis Daniels-type find as an undrafted free agent.


A couple other guys I like:

David Lee.  The star of the Chicago camp, he also impressed in the combine with a combination of strength and athleticism. May have played himself into the first round.

Kennedy Winston.  A good scorer who can fill it up from outside or attack the basket, Winston needs to focus more on his rebounding and defense.


Adam’s Take.  Those are good picks, but you’re right, Diogu can’t be a sleeper.  So I’m pulling him off the list.  I also don’t care for Taft here, but that is understandable.  I love your inclusion of Gomes, because he’s a player that does everything well and is said to be showing much more skill at the three in workouts.  I throw Lee onto the top five list and add Jason Maxiell as well.  The former Bearcat works harder than anyone, has arms longer than those of Sam “My Knuckles Drag on the Ground” Perkins, and possesses great timing.  I think he could be a more athletic version of Anthony Mason down the road and really surprise some people. 


Five Euros I Know Nothing About But Will Presume are Slow and Soft


1. Martynas Andriuskevicious

2. Marko Tomas

3. Johan Petro

4. Yaroslav Korolev

5. Mile Ilic


Rumor has it that the Clippers have already given the young, unproven Korolev a “soft promise” at #12. Hahaha, so close to becoming a legit playoff contender, we knew they’d find a way to shoot themselves in the foot.


Adam’s Take.  Good call.  The Clippers are the absolute worst.  They are going to find a way to lose their starting shooting guard (Bobby Simmons) and a quality point guard (Marko Jaric) to free agency, not trade Chris Wilcox for something good, and take a crappy Euro that can’t help them.  They should somehow get worse, which is hard to believe when you’ve got a core of Livingston-Maggette-Brand. 


Five Players to Look for in the 2006 Draft


1. Daniel Gibson.  A great scorer, Gibson attacks the hoop ferociously, and draws a lot of fouls. He also drains jumpers. The former McDonald’s All-American holds the Texas high school state scoring record. He showed flashes of his extraordinary talent as the country’s top freshman this past season at Texas, and his playmaking is improving rapidly. He likely will enter the draft after his sophomore year, and expect him to be a top pick.


2. Dee Brown.  He was going to be one of my top sleepers this year, until he broke his foot on the first day of the Chicago camp. Though he’s had some issues with Illinois coach Bruce Weber, he almost certainly will decide to go back to school for his senior year. It will be good for him, as he’ll be able to prove he can handle running the point on his own. He’s lightning quick, and will be the fastest guy in the NBA as soon as he steps on the court. He runs the break very well, and while he may appear to be out of control because of his blinding speed, he usually isn’t. His jumper has improved to the point where he has NBA 3-point range, and is a great on-the-ball defender. At times, he seemingly can take the ball away from opposing players at will (see this year’s Illini game at Wisconsin). Some scouts doubt whether he’ll be successful in the NBA because of his size and handle, but he’s already better than Speedy Claxton, who was a mid-first round pick. If he recovers from his foot injury and the young players around him can put the ball in the net, he’ll have a big season next year and shoot into the 10-20 range in the 2006 draft.


3. Shelden Williams. You know how I feel about proven players from big college programs. They call Williams “the Landlord” because he owns the paint. He scores down low, rebounds well, plays hard-nosed defense, and is just generally tough all-around. He’s more athletic than he looks, and he’s a strong shot-blocker, averaging 3.7 per game last season for Duke. He’ll dominate inside next year, and will be ready to contribute in the NBA.


4. Rudy Gay.  Gay and Marvin Williams were the two most highly touted freshmen prior to this season, and they didn’t disappoint. While Williams will go first or second in this year’s draft, Gay decided to hang around UConn for another year and hone his game some more. At a long 6’9”, he figures to be a 3 in the pros, though he plays some 4 in college. He’s very talented, with a soft touch and good ball-handling skills.


5. Andrea Bargnani.  The Italian is said to be Europe’s hottest prospect right now. Bargnani is a 7-footer with quick feet, strong legs, and good speed for a big man. He’s quite skilled, and made Chris Bosh cry “uncle” in a preseason exhibition game last summer. He’s projected to be a top-5 pick next year.


Conspicuously not listed: Greg Oden.  Scouts say the high school junior would be the #1 pick this year, but now, under the new collective bargaining agreement, he won’t be the #1 pick next year, either. With the new 19-year-old age minimum, he’ll have to go to college or the NBDL for a year. Oden’s been saying he wants to go to school anyway, so now the athletic center from Indianapolis will get his chance. #1 pick in 2007?


Adam’s Take.  I think Brown will make this list only if he truly shows he can handle the point next year.  I think he can do it, but the verdict is still out.  Right now he’s the next Darrell Armstrong and we need to see that he’s at least the next Raymond Felton (who is faster, I think).  Williams is a guy that I felt like would be a nice underrated find ala former Devil (and current backstabber) Carlos Boozer.  However, I don’t know that he’s going to be a lottery pick or anything.  His hands are suspect and he doesn’t have much in the way of footwork.  Moving on … I agree with Gay and would add UConn teammate Marcus Williams to the mix.  He’s got NBA All-Star written all over him.  I also think Adam Morrison of Gonzaga will be highly successful at the NBA level.  His game – from the flopping to the nasty hair to the sick pull-up J – is very reminiscent of Ginobili.  Morrison is steadier, Manu is more explosive, but I think you’ll see some parallels. 


We’ll be back later in the week to grade each NBA team on their draft picks.  Enjoy the festivities.


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 wis.insider@gmail.com.

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