Bob Radl, staff writer
The next generation of possible NBA stars was drafted last Thursday night inNew York. The NBA draft means more to team than its counterpart in other prosports. The baseball draft can yield an all-star like Mike Piazza in the 62ndround or the NFL draft can give you All-pros like Tom Brady or Terrell Davis inthe 6th round. The 2004 NBA draft does not appear to be the impact draft likethe 2003 was. The draft from last year brought instant stardom to LeBron Jamesand Carmello Anthony along with several other solid rookie players. The 2004NBA will go down as a draft of the future due to the large number of highschool players and foreign players who are sometimes hard to assess.
1. Dwight Howard, PF, Orlando Magic, The 6' 10" Howard waseasily the top rated high school player in this years draft. Howard has beenlikened to Kevin Garnett of the Timberwolves. He has great basketball instinctsand court awareness for a man of his size. Howard can shoot from the outsidefor his height and can also block shots with both hands. He will need todevelop more strength and more low post moves. Some scouts have questioned histoughness and feel that he plays soft. Howard has super star potential. Thequestion remains how long it may take. He is the third high school player to betaken first overall in the draft in the last four years.
2. Emeka Okafor, PF, Charlotte, Okafor will be an immediate starterfor the Bobcats. He has a 35" vertical leap to go with a 7'4" wingspan.Okafor has a great instinctive feel for the game. He has great timing and is arelentless defensive presence. He will need to refine his post moves and canblock shots with either hand. He has the ability to step outside. Some scoutsfeel that he is too mechanical in the post and kicks the ball out too early. Hehas great maturity for his age.
3. Ben Gordon, SG, Chicago Bulls, Gordon came out early from U Conn.Gordon is projected as a potential combo guard in the NBA. Gordon has a solidmid-range jumper and is willing to go to the hole against bigger and strongeropponents. He will need to learn to play the point in the NBA due to his sizeat 6' 2" while improving his assist to turnover ratio. He has a completegame.
4. Shaun Livingston, PG, LA Clippers, Livingston is 6' 7" and anabsolute magician with the basketball. The ball is an extension of his hand. Heneeds to improve his shot and get bigger to survive in the NBA. Some scoutsfeel that he might be the best player to come out of this draft five years fromnow. He has great court vision and is very unselfish, a great quality for apoint guard. He will need to hit the weight room real quick, as he is weak forhis size.
5. Devin Harris, PG, Dallas Mavericks, He is quick off of the dribbleand has a long wingspan for his size (6' 3"). He can hit big shots but isa streaky shooter. Most scouts feel that he is NBA ready to play the pointright now. Harris has nice range on his jumper. Can penetrate and is a gooddefender.
6. Josh Childress, SF, Atlanta Hawks, Childress was the fourthcollege junior to go in this years draft. Childress can shoot the three realand played in a team concept at Stanford. Childress can defend well for hissize. He must get bigger and stronger. He is lanky athletic and likely to be animmediate starter for the Hawks.
7. Luol Deng, SF, Chicago Bulls, Deng is a decent athlete but not agreat athlete. He is considered to be a very versatile player who could playPF, SF and SG. He is a basketball player with a great attitude. He will getbetter as he improves his perimeter game. Deng has a nice upside and willimprove with experience. He has a very strong work ethic and is an excellentdefensive player already.
8. Rafael Araujo, Center, Toronto Raptors, Araujo is a wide body typecenter, who plays with his back to the basket. He is a good passer for hissize. He plays below the rim and does not have great leaping ability. He hastrouble finishing in traffic, but is willing to bang in the low post. Most NBAscribes feel that he was a reach at this point in the draft.
9. Andre Iguodala, F, Philadelphia 76ers, He is a freak of an athletewith a 6' 11" wingspan. He will need to improve his jumper. Scouts feelthat he has triple double ability. He can get out in transition and run with AIin Philadelphia. He is a strong offensive rebounder for his size. He will needto work on his outside shot to succeed in the NBA.
10. Luke Jackson, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers, He has great range as ashooter and can also penetrate to the hoop. He can hit the trey, a skill sorelyneeded for the Cavaliers. The Cavs were second to last in three point shootinglast year. He has great moves around the bucket and can also defend well forhis size. Jackson could be a nice running mate with LeBron James in Cleveland.
11. Andres Biedrins, F, Golden State Warriors, Biedrins is only 18years old so he is really a high school player. He is active and aggressive anddoes not score much at this point in his career. Scouts feel that he willdevelop. He needs to get stronger and more explosive. He is considered to be agood shot blocker with the right size and wingspan to develop into a good shotblocker. You will need to revisit him in three or four years to see how well hedeveloped.
12. Robert Swift, C, Seattle Supersonics, He is very talented andoffensively gifted for his age (18). He can go both right and left for a man ofhis age. Swift also has a nice drop step for a big man. Swift was another highschool player to be drafted. NBA scribes feels that he would have been thefirst pick overall if he had played a year or two of college hoops. Swift isnice pick for the future with very limited fantasy value for the next twoyears.
13. Sebastian Telfair, PG, Portland Trailblazers. Telfair has a verygood feel for the game, but scouts have questioned his size. He is talentedhandler and pure point guard with great poise for someone his age. He isundersized to play the point. Many scouts felt that he should have been takenlower in the draft.
14. Kris Humphries, PF, Utah Jazz, He is physically ready for theNBA. He can hit the mid-range jumper. He must learn to play within the teamconcept. He is a rugged rebounder for his size and can contribute immediately.He has a 7'0" wingspan. He will need to refine his offensive game.
15. Al Jefferson PF, Boston Celtics, He is strong and powerful playerfor his age. He can shot well and is explosive. He was compared to Elton Brand.He was the fifth high school player drafted in the first fifteen picks.
16. Kirk Snyder, SG, Utah Jazz, Snyder was a very solid pick at thepoint in the draft. He can guard multiple positions and can push people aroundto guard three positions. He needs to work on his ball handling ability. He canalso get to the basket. He needs to work on the consistency of his shot.
17. Josh Smith, SF, Atlanta Hawks, Smith has great leaping abilityfor his size. He has very long arms and can finish the fast break well. Heshowed a knack for playing the passing lanes for steals on defense and has goodtiming for shot blocking. He filled out in his senior year of high school to 6'8" and about 220 pounds. He is like many young players, as he will needtime to develop his overall game while getting bigger and stronger. He needs toimprove his court awareness and reduce mental mistakes along with improved ballhandling.
18. J.R. Smith, SG, New Orleans Saints, Smith is another young talentwho can sky with a 44 inch vertical jump. He has a nice jump shot and decentrange for his age. He can catch shoot with the best of them. He will need tomake the transition for the #3 slot to shooting guard in the NBA most likely.He will need to work on his ball handling skills.
19. Dorell Wright, SF, Miami Heat, He is very athletic and can shoot.He has long arms and a fluid easy release from the perimeter. He is two orthree years away from being ready to contribute. This choice was a possiblereach at this point.
20. Jameer Nelson PG, Orlando Magic, Nelson was the 2004 collegeplayer of the year. Most NBA scribes felt that Nelson fell way too low in thedraft. Most scouts felt that he should have been a lottery pick. Nelson has anice feel for the game and is a solid passer. Scouts have questioned hisrelative lack of height at 5' 11". He makes the right decision with theball in his hands. He is quite strong for his size. He has a winnerísmentality. He will need to work on his outside shot in the NBA.
21. Pavel Podkolzine, Center, Dallas Mavericks, This was a nice safepick at this point. He worked on his agility in Italy to the point where he hasgood coordination and movement for a man of 7' 5". He has nice soft touchfor his size. He is only 19 years old and will develop as he matures. He willneed to improve his post moves and get meaner to survive in the NBA. He willalso need to improve his overall basketball skills and understanding of thegame. At 7' 5" and about 280 pounds this kid has nice upside in two orthree years.
22. Viktor Khryapa, SF, Portland Trailblazers, He is very mature forhis age. He can run the floor well and is a good outside shooter. He can alsorebound well and block some shots despite little bulk. He can post up smallerplayers quite well and makes good back door cuts. This is an indication that heunderstands how the game is played. He may benefit from another year or two ofplay in Europe.
23. Sergey Monya, F. Portland Trailblazers, Monya was yet anothereastern European player to be taken in the latter part of round one. He is anathletic player with a nice mid-range jumper. He can play solid team defense aswell as man-to-man defense. He runs the court well for his size at 6' 7".He will need to improve his ball handling and his court vision.
24. Delonte West, SG, Boston Celtics, West was the backcourt partnerto Jameer Nelson at St. Joseph's. West is a crafty player who can create someshots. He plays with great composure and has great court awareness. He is asolid passer with good court vision. At 6' 3", teams wonder where he willfit in the NBA, as he may be too small to play shooting guard. He will need towork on his ball handling and reduce his turnovers.
25. Tony Allen SG, Boston Celtics, Allen was the Big 12 player of theyear. He is not afraid to drive to the hole and has quick hands on defense. Hehas lateral quickness, leaping ability and speed. He has a quick first step tothe basket and can post up players of his size in the low post. Questionslinger about his size at 6' 4" to play shooting guard as well as his ballhandling skills.
26. Kevin Martin, SG, Sacramento Kings, Martin was second in thenation in scoring last year. He will give the Kings another outside threat. Heis a true scorer who can hit the trey well and may become a great 3-point shooter.He has good lateral quickness and the ability to beat his opponents. At 6'7" and only 195 pounds, he will need to hit the weight room to getstronger to survive in the NBA.
27. Sasha Vujacic, SG, Los Angeles Lakers, Vujacic is a combo guardwith nice skills for his size. He is considered to be unselfish with goodpassing and shooting skills. He can handle the ball well with either hand. Hecan also drive to the basket with either hand. He will need to improve hisoutside shot and also improve his physical strength.
28. Beno Udrih, PG, San Antonio Spurs, He was considered to be one ofthe top PG prospects in Europe and could develop into a real good one in theNBA. He can penetrate well and also pull up and hit the jumper. He isconsidered to have good leadership qualities and also is coachable. He willneed to develop a more aggressive attitude on defense.
29. David Harrison, Center, Indiana Pacers, Harrison runs well forhis height at 7' 0" and is considered to be athletic also. He is a nicerebounder and shot blocker. He has a nice touch around the basket and hasdeveloped his low post game. Scouts question his motivation and toughness.
NOTABLE SECONDROUND DRAFT CHOICES
31. Anderson Varejao, SF/PF, Orlando Magic, He is very active for aman of his size. He is considered to be a creative offensive player with a softtouch. He is still learning the nuances of the game and needs time to develop.
32. Jackson Vroman, PF, Chicago Bulls, Some scouts feel thatVroman may have been the steal of the draft in the second round. He reboundswell for his height at 6'10", despite a real lack of bulk. Characterissues linger after arrests in 2003 for both drunk driving and possession of acontrolled substance.
33. Peter Ramos Center, Washington Bullets, Ramos is true prospect inevery sense of the word. He improved leaps and bounds from 2003 to 2004. At 7'3" a NBA team will take a chance on developing this young talent. He isonly 18 years old and will fill out as he matures. He is a project that willrequire patience due to age (18) and relative inexperience.
39. Chris Duhon PG, Chicago Bulls, Duhon is a solid player whois fundamentally sound in all aspects of the game. He has great character and astrong work ethic. His jump shot is very solid. Many scouts felt he should havegone in the first round.
47. Ha Sueng-Kim, Center, Portland Trailblazers, Kim has already beencompared to Yao Ming, another Asian big-man sensation. He has enormous size at7' 3" and about 305 pounds to go with good dexterity and a nice touch onhis shots.† He has shown enoughquickness to be a good shot blocker. Injury concerns to the knee and foot areasare always a concern for players of this size. He will need to time to developlike so many players in this draft.