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thebac
11-29-2003, 08:08 PM
Late post, hope everyone else had a nice Thanksgiving, too i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif


Honoring early-season standouts
By Greg Anthony

Although it's early, I think it's a good time to hand out some progress reports and look at who some of the biggest surprises thus far have been -- and there have been a lot of them.
Let's start with the individuals who have raised their level of play from good to great and from dead to alive. First, the guy who has had the biggest impact and if votes were taken today would be the MVP, Baron Davis. The Hornets' guard has been on a tear since day one and has made Tim Floyd look like Albert Einstein.

Baron Davis
Point Guard
New Orleans Hornets
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
16 25.0 4.9 8.1 .414 .609


Davis has been a do-everything point guard. Check out this stat line -- second in scoring at 25 ppg, third in assists at 8 per game, second in steals at 3 per game, second in minutes played and leading the league in 3-pointers made. On top of all that, he has his team right in the thick of things in the Central Division without Jamal Mashburn, who is not expected back before January. It will be really interesting when Mash comes back to see who defers to whom and whether or not this team can finally get over the hump come playoff time.

My runner up is Allen Iverson, who leads in scoring, steals, minutes and is sixth in assists and has his team sitting atop the Atlantic Division. Either way, both players have elevated their game and at this pace will make it a two-man race for MVP.

The defensive player of the year has to be Ron Artest, While he is only sixth in the league in steals, his ability to totally eliminate your best perimeter player cannot be overlooked.

Ron Artest
Small Forward
Indiana Pacers
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
15 18.9 5.8 3.1 .440 .658


Artest completely unravels the opposition and has been much more under control this season. He's a big reason why the Pacers have the league's best record. But what makes this guy so special is that unlike Big Ben Wallace (the two time defending DPOY), Artest is expected to carry a bigger load on the offensive end, averaging 18.7 ppg, 6 rpg 3 apg and 1 block. He should be an All Star this year, and the only person who can stop Ron Artest is Ron Artest.

My runner up so far this season is a a guy who could be the MVP and DPOY every year -- Tim Duncan, who continues to hold down the front line for the defending champs even without his sidekick David Robinson. Duncan is third in the league in blocks and anchors a defense that gives up 84.5 ppg (fifth in the league) and is a plus-6.7 in scoring margin (third), not to mention allowing opponents to shoot only 39 percent against (second). When you lose The Admiral and Stephen Jackson and you don't bring in guys known for their defensive ability, you have to credit the Big Fundamental for keeping the defense real.

The rookie of the year is easy. LeBron James has been every bit as good as advertised  averaging 17 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6 assists, while shooting a respectable 42 percent. He's also fourth in the league in minutes -- all very impressive when you consider he still hasn't turned 19 yet. Carmelo Anthony would be my runner up. He's scoring at a 17ppg clip, but his field goal percentage is a lot lower at 37, and his rebound average of 7 per game is not where it will be once he gets a little more aggressive on the glass.

Vin Baker
Power Forward
Boston Celtics
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
14 15.7 7.2 1.6 .535 .769


Comeback player of the year is probably the toughest of them all, but Vin Baker is my choice. His numbers -- 15.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 53 pct. FG, 76 pct FT -- are solid but not all-star caliber. But when you consider where he came from -- a career-low 5 ppg, 3.8 rpg and talk of his career being over -- he had the courage and the character to bounce back from alcoholism and get not only his life but his game back on track. Congrats, and keep up the good work.

Runner up: Vince Carter. Again, not amazing statistics -- 22.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.7 apg -- but to carry an offensively challenged team to a .500 record and be back out on the floor answering all who questioned his heart and desire is great for the Raptors and the league in general.

NBA Draft: Okafor, Gordon lead juniors

Cheer up draft fans. The 2004 college senior class may be weak on top-tier talent, but the class of 2005 has a lot of NBA scouts smiling right about now.

College juniors, in the minds of most NBA folks, are just as good as college seniors. They've had a chance to hone their skills, learn responsibility away from home, get an education and learn how to balance basketball with life.

However, lately it's tough to find any good ones who haven't left for the NBA already. Last summer, only five college juniors were drafted in the first round.

This year, that probably will change drastically. Credit a small number of early defections (Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, DeSagana Diop, Dajuan Wagner, T.J. Ford, Josh Powell, Mo Williams) for a bumper crop of juniors this year.

According to scouts, as many as six college juniors, led by UConn's Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon, have lottery potential, and as many as 10 could be drafted in the first round next June, depending on which other underclassmen declare.

Here's a quick look at 10 juniors whom scouts will be watching this season.

Emeka Okafor, PF, UConn

Emeka Okafor blocked nearly five shots a game last season and averaged 16 points and 11 boards.
The facts: 6-foot-9, 252 pounds; 16.5 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 4.8 bpg on 50 percent shooting
The skinny: Okafor's strengths in defense, shot blocking and toughness in the paint outweigh the fact scouts still think he's a little raw on the offensive end. The biggest thing scouts point to is Okafor's work ethic and intelligence. He has improved pretty dramatically from year to year on both ends of the floor. Scouts expect that to continue in the pros. While everyone wishes he was two or three inches taller, given the dearth of big men coming into the draft, 6-9 will have to do. He's on pace to graduate in three years, which means he's virtually a lock to be in the draft this year. He should be a top-five pick in the upcoming draft.

Ben Gordon, PG, UConn
The facts: 6-2, 195; 22.5 ppg, 4.0 apg on 59 percent shooting
The skinny: Is he a point guard, or isn't he? That's about the only thing left to debate on Gordon. Everyone knows he can score with the best of them, but he's also shown he can be a great passer and an excellent ball handler. They key for many scouts is the way he almost always plays under control. While again, teams wish he was two or three inches taller, the recent success of smallish combo guards in the league (think of players like Gilbert Arenas and Ronald Murray) means teams will be more willing to take a chance on him. He's probably a mid- to late-lottery selection at this point.

Hakim Warrick, F, Syracuse
The facts: 6-8, 205; 14.8 ppg, 8.5 on 54 percent shooting
The skinny: The jury's still out on Warrick. He had an excellent sophomore season, playing alongside Carmelo Anthony, but how will he respond to being the go-to guy this year? Scouts were unimpressed with his play in Colorado at the U.S. junior trials. No one can deny his potent mixture of length and freakish athletic ability is tempting, but until he develops a reliable jumper or puts some serious muscle on that skinny frame, some believe Warrick isn't much more than a poor man's Darius Miles.

Wayne Simien, PF, Kansas
The facts: 6-9, 255; 24.5 ppg, 8 rpg on 67 percent shooting
The skinny: The only thing that seems to be holding Simien back from being a top-10 prospect is a string of unfortunate injuries the last two seasons. He already has NBA strength and toughness in the paint. He has a good array of low-post moves and plays with an intensity that draws comparisons (at times) to Karl Malone. He's a good athlete, a strong rebounder and a good defender. His jumper could use a little work, but it isn't bad. While some scouts think he's closer to 6-7 or 6-8, most feel he has the other intangibles to be a good pro. If he can stay healthy all season, he's got a shot at sneaking into the lottery -- especially if he keeps up performances like the 28-point, 8-rebound effort over Michigan State. If he gets hurt again, expect him to stick around for his senior season and try again.

David Harrison, C, Colorado
The facts: 7-0, 260; 20.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.3 bpg on 63 percent shooting
The skinny: Scouts don't really like his game, but considering he's the only American 7-footer in college with any kind of game right now, he's going to get the benefit of the doubt. Harrison is strong, runs the floor well for a big guy and can put up good numbers when his head is in the game. Questions about his maturity level and dedication to the game are big issues for scouts, but the truth is, if he declares, someone will take a chance on him in the first round. Think Michael Olowokandi, folks.

Josh Childress, G/F, Stanford

Josh Childress is 6-foot-8, but an impressive reach allows him to play much bigger.
The facts: 6-8, 200; 14.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg on 43 percent shooting
The skinny: Childress' ability to multi-task on the floor has scouts drooling. He recorded 10 double-doubles last season. He's long (6-foot-11 wingspan), athletic, a fantastic playmaker and at 6-foot-8, he's one of the best rebounding swingmen in the nation (he was second in the Pac-10 in rebounding last season). He can penetrate, create for others at the point-forward position and finish as well as anyone his size in the country. While scouts would love to see him add more muscle to his wiry, 200-pound frame and a more consistent long range jumper, they're still in love with his game.

Ronny Turiaf, PF, Gonzaga
The facts: 6-10, 243; 13.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg on 38 percent shooting
The skinny: Gonzaga's import from France was one of the most lethal low-post scorers in college basketball. Don't be deceived by his numbers last season, because he played an average of only 24 minutes a game. He's one of the most talented big men in the game playing with his back to the basket. He possesses excellent footwork and several different go-to moves off the block. Gets to the foul line better than just about any other big man in the college game. He's a solid rebounder and a good shot-blocker. He's an aggressive defender. With that said, scouts weren't impressed with his performance in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament last week. He's itching to come out, but he'll have to have a big season to get into the late lottery or mid-first round range he's gunning for.

David Lee, F, Florida
The facts: 6-9, 240; 20 ppg, 4rpg, 5 apg on 87 percent shooting
The skinny: Scouts claim he's in for a major position change when he gets to the pros. Can he make the transition from center to small forward in the NBA? Without a consistent jumper, scouts worry. He had a solid tournament and showed a lot of toughness last season playing out of position at center, and scouts are still enamored with his athleticism for someone his size. However, until he develops a perimeter game (right now almost all of his points come off dunks), where does he play in the NBA? The rumblings out of Gator training camp are that Lee's perimeter shot has improved quite a bit. If that shows in games, his stock will soar.

Chris Thomas, PG, Notre Dame
The facts: 6-1, 182; 17 ppg, 7 apg on 29 percent shooting
The skinny: Thomas is one of the few "true" point guards with his eye on the draft. Like T.J. Ford, he's a 2001 McDonald's All-American alum. However, that's where the comparison's end. He doesn't have the speed or the floor vision of Ford. He's a better shooter, but scouts consider him just an average athlete. Despite his smallish frame, scouts think he's pretty tough. Some have compared him to a poor man's Mike Bibby. But given Bibby's up-and-down NBA career, that doesn't make him a lock for the first round.

Jawad Williams, F, North Carolina
The facts: 6-8, 221; 20 ppg, 5.5 rpg on 88 percent shooting
The skinny: Williams has a sweet stroke and pretty good ball-handling skills for a 6-foot-8 kid. He's much more comfortable on the perimeter than he is on the post, but he started to work on that this summer, when he bulked up with 21 pounds added to his wiry frame. Scouts claim he has looked much more aggressive around the basket in practice this year. If coach Roy Williams can settle on a position for him, Williams could be in store for a big year.

The best of the rest: Julius Hodge, G, North Carolina State; Channing Frye, F/C, Arizona; Devin Harris, PG, Wisconsin; Dijon Thompson, SG, UCLA

Draft Cards


Luol Deng's first two games at Duke have already turned heads.

-For those skeptics out there that felt Luol Deng couldn't be this year's Carmelo Anthony because of the school he plays for -- you might want to start rethinking your assumptions. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski normally doesn't give freshmen much playing time, but Deng isn't a normal freshman. In Duke's first two games, Deng is averaging 20.5 ppg, 9 rpg and is shooting 50 percent from the field and 54 percent (on 6-11 shooting) from behind the 3-point line.

The 3-point shooting comes as a bit of a surprise to scouts. If there was a knock on, it was that he wasn't a great perimeter shooter. Everything else -- from court IQ to athleticism, to passing and rebounding skills -- is top notch. That's why he often is compared to fellow Dukie Grant Hill -- he was an all-around player without a great shot. If Deng can keep sinking it from the perimeter this year, look out.

On a team filled with blue chippers like Shavlik Randolph, J.J. Redick, Daniel Ewing, Sheldon Williams and Chris Duhon, NBA scouts insist Deng already is the best player on the floor -- and he may be the best college player not named Okafor in the country.

-Several scouts who have been hanging around Gainesville have come away raving about Florida's Christian Drejer. Drejer (6-9, 210) was considered a top international draft prospect two season ago before shocking scouts and skipping the NBA to play in college. A foot injury put him way behind last season, and he never really fit into what the Gators were doing. Now that he's healthy and seems to have figured out the college game, scouts claim he could be on the verge of a breakout year.

Christian Drejer appears to be fully recovered from last season's foot injury.
He sure looked the part in the Gators' opener vs. Montana State. Drejer scored 19 points on 8-for-9 shooting, sunk three 3-pointers and dished out 11 assists for the Gators. Drejer has great range on his jumper, is an above-average athlete and, at 6-9, handles the ball like a point guard. He also bulked up that skinny frame a bit this summer. Most scouts expect him to declare for the draft this spring if he gets a lottery guarantee. If he keeps this up, that shouldn't be a problem.

-It was an oversight, SEC fans. Insider got a ton of e-mail from readers wanting to know why the three top seniors in the SEC -- Jaime Lloreda of LSU, Matt Freije of Vanderbilt and Justin Reed of Mississippi weren't on last week's list.
Reed wasn't on for a reason. His school may list him at 6-foot-8, but scouts claim that's laughable. Reed is closer to 6-6. That wouldn't be a problem if he were a two guard, but Reed is a four and only a four. He doesn't have the perimeter game or defensive quickness to make the jump to the two or three in the pros. He's a talented college player who just comes a few inches short of being a good NBA prospect.

Lloreda was accidentally left off. He's got that nice combination of length, athleticism and skill that teams look for in a three-four swingman. At 6-9, 246, he's an explosive leaper who gets off his feet very quickly. He's also improving on the boards. His 26 ppg and 14 rpg averages in LSU's first two games can't be ignored. Not sure if he's a first rounder at this point (he still needs to get stronger), but he's definitely worth watching.

Freije comes out of the Keith Van Horn mold. He isn't particularly strong or athletic, but the 6-foot-9 Kansas native can really shoot the lights out from the perimeter. He averaged 17.9 ppg and 4.4 rpg last season on 44 percent shooting. This year, in his first two games for Vandy, he's averaging 28 ppg and 10.4 rpg. His 32-point, 13-rebound effort over Indiana opened a lot of eyes. He could be a real draft sleeper if he continues to dominate this season.

sike
11-30-2003, 08:13 AM
Originally posted by: thebac
Late post, hope everyone else had a nice Thanksgiving, too i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif


Honoring early-season standouts
By Greg Anthony

Although it's early, I think it's a good time to hand out some progress reports and look at who some of the biggest surprises thus far have been -- and there have been a lot of them.
Let's start with the individuals who have raised their level of play from good to great and from dead to alive. First, the guy who has had the biggest impact and if votes were taken today would be the MVP, Baron Davis. The Hornets' guard has been on a tear since day one and has made Tim Floyd look like Albert Einstein.

Baron Davis
Point Guard
New Orleans Hornets
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
16 25.0 4.9 8.1 .414 .609


Davis has been a do-everything point guard. Check out this stat line -- second in scoring at 25 ppg, third in assists at 8 per game, second in steals at 3 per game, second in minutes played and leading the league in 3-pointers made. On top of all that, he has his team right in the thick of things in the Central Division without Jamal Mashburn, who is not expected back before January. It will be really interesting when Mash comes back to see who defers to whom and whether or not this team can finally get over the hump come playoff time.

My runner up is Allen Iverson, who leads in scoring, steals, minutes and is sixth in assists and has his team sitting atop the Atlantic Division. Either way, both players have elevated their game and at this pace will make it a two-man race for MVP.

The defensive player of the year has to be Ron Artest, While he is only sixth in the league in steals, his ability to totally eliminate your best perimeter player cannot be overlooked.

Ron Artest
Small Forward
Indiana Pacers
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
15 18.9 5.8 3.1 .440 .658


Artest completely unravels the opposition and has been much more under control this season. He's a big reason why the Pacers have the league's best record. But what makes this guy so special is that unlike Big Ben Wallace (the two time defending DPOY), Artest is expected to carry a bigger load on the offensive end, averaging 18.7 ppg, 6 rpg 3 apg and 1 block. He should be an All Star this year, and the only person who can stop Ron Artest is Ron Artest.

My runner up so far this season is a a guy who could be the MVP and DPOY every year -- Tim Duncan, who continues to hold down the front line for the defending champs even without his sidekick David Robinson. Duncan is third in the league in blocks and anchors a defense that gives up 84.5 ppg (fifth in the league) and is a plus-6.7 in scoring margin (third), not to mention allowing opponents to shoot only 39 percent against (second). When you lose The Admiral and Stephen Jackson and you don't bring in guys known for their defensive ability, you have to credit the Big Fundamental for keeping the defense real.

The rookie of the year is easy. LeBron James has been every bit as good as advertised  averaging 17 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6 assists, while shooting a respectable 42 percent. He's also fourth in the league in minutes -- all very impressive when you consider he still hasn't turned 19 yet. Carmelo Anthony would be my runner up. He's scoring at a 17ppg clip, but his field goal percentage is a lot lower at 37, and his rebound average of 7 per game is not where it will be once he gets a little more aggressive on the glass.

Vin Baker
Power Forward
Boston Celtics
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
14 15.7 7.2 1.6 .535 .769


Comeback player of the year is probably the toughest of them all, but Vin Baker is my choice. His numbers -- 15.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 53 pct. FG, 76 pct FT -- are solid but not all-star caliber. But when you consider where he came from -- a career-low 5 ppg, 3.8 rpg and talk of his career being over -- he had the courage and the character to bounce back from alcoholism and get not only his life but his game back on track. Congrats, and keep up the good work.

Runner up: Vince Carter. Again, not amazing statistics -- 22.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.7 apg -- but to carry an offensively challenged team to a .500 record and be back out on the floor answering all who questioned his heart and desire is great for the Raptors and the league in general.

NBA Draft: Okafor, Gordon lead juniors

Cheer up draft fans. The 2004 college senior class may be weak on top-tier talent, but the class of 2005 has a lot of NBA scouts smiling right about now.

College juniors, in the minds of most NBA folks, are just as good as college seniors. They've had a chance to hone their skills, learn responsibility away from home, get an education and learn how to balance basketball with life.

However, lately it's tough to find any good ones who haven't left for the NBA already. Last summer, only five college juniors were drafted in the first round.

This year, that probably will change drastically. Credit a small number of early defections (Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, DeSagana Diop, Dajuan Wagner, T.J. Ford, Josh Powell, Mo Williams) for a bumper crop of juniors this year.

According to scouts, as many as six college juniors, led by UConn's Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon, have lottery potential, and as many as 10 could be drafted in the first round next June, depending on which other underclassmen declare.

Here's a quick look at 10 juniors whom scouts will be watching this season.

Emeka Okafor, PF, UConn

Emeka Okafor blocked nearly five shots a game last season and averaged 16 points and 11 boards.
The facts: 6-foot-9, 252 pounds; 16.5 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 4.8 bpg on 50 percent shooting
The skinny: Okafor's strengths in defense, shot blocking and toughness in the paint outweigh the fact scouts still think he's a little raw on the offensive end. The biggest thing scouts point to is Okafor's work ethic and intelligence. He has improved pretty dramatically from year to year on both ends of the floor. Scouts expect that to continue in the pros. While everyone wishes he was two or three inches taller, given the dearth of big men coming into the draft, 6-9 will have to do. He's on pace to graduate in three years, which means he's virtually a lock to be in the draft this year. He should be a top-five pick in the upcoming draft.

Ben Gordon, PG, UConn
The facts: 6-2, 195; 22.5 ppg, 4.0 apg on 59 percent shooting
The skinny: Is he a point guard, or isn't he? That's about the only thing left to debate on Gordon. Everyone knows he can score with the best of them, but he's also shown he can be a great passer and an excellent ball handler. They key for many scouts is the way he almost always plays under control. While again, teams wish he was two or three inches taller, the recent success of smallish combo guards in the league (think of players like Gilbert Arenas and Ronald Murray) means teams will be more willing to take a chance on him. He's probably a mid- to late-lottery selection at this point.

Hakim Warrick, F, Syracuse
The facts: 6-8, 205; 14.8 ppg, 8.5 on 54 percent shooting
The skinny: The jury's still out on Warrick. He had an excellent sophomore season, playing alongside Carmelo Anthony, but how will he respond to being the go-to guy this year? Scouts were unimpressed with his play in Colorado at the U.S. junior trials. No one can deny his potent mixture of length and freakish athletic ability is tempting, but until he develops a reliable jumper or puts some serious muscle on that skinny frame, some believe Warrick isn't much more than a poor man's Darius Miles.

Wayne Simien, PF, Kansas
The facts: 6-9, 255; 24.5 ppg, 8 rpg on 67 percent shooting
The skinny: The only thing that seems to be holding Simien back from being a top-10 prospect is a string of unfortunate injuries the last two seasons. He already has NBA strength and toughness in the paint. He has a good array of low-post moves and plays with an intensity that draws comparisons (at times) to Karl Malone. He's a good athlete, a strong rebounder and a good defender. His jumper could use a little work, but it isn't bad. While some scouts think he's closer to 6-7 or 6-8, most feel he has the other intangibles to be a good pro. If he can stay healthy all season, he's got a shot at sneaking into the lottery -- especially if he keeps up performances like the 28-point, 8-rebound effort over Michigan State. If he gets hurt again, expect him to stick around for his senior season and try again.

David Harrison, C, Colorado
The facts: 7-0, 260; 20.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.3 bpg on 63 percent shooting
The skinny: Scouts don't really like his game, but considering he's the only American 7-footer in college with any kind of game right now, he's going to get the benefit of the doubt. Harrison is strong, runs the floor well for a big guy and can put up good numbers when his head is in the game. Questions about his maturity level and dedication to the game are big issues for scouts, but the truth is, if he declares, someone will take a chance on him in the first round. Think Michael Olowokandi, folks.

Josh Childress, G/F, Stanford

Josh Childress is 6-foot-8, but an impressive reach allows him to play much bigger.
The facts: 6-8, 200; 14.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg on 43 percent shooting
The skinny: Childress' ability to multi-task on the floor has scouts drooling. He recorded 10 double-doubles last season. He's long (6-foot-11 wingspan), athletic, a fantastic playmaker and at 6-foot-8, he's one of the best rebounding swingmen in the nation (he was second in the Pac-10 in rebounding last season). He can penetrate, create for others at the point-forward position and finish as well as anyone his size in the country. While scouts would love to see him add more muscle to his wiry, 200-pound frame and a more consistent long range jumper, they're still in love with his game.

Ronny Turiaf, PF, Gonzaga
The facts: 6-10, 243; 13.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg on 38 percent shooting
The skinny: Gonzaga's import from France was one of the most lethal low-post scorers in college basketball. Don't be deceived by his numbers last season, because he played an average of only 24 minutes a game. He's one of the most talented big men in the game playing with his back to the basket. He possesses excellent footwork and several different go-to moves off the block. Gets to the foul line better than just about any other big man in the college game. He's a solid rebounder and a good shot-blocker. He's an aggressive defender. With that said, scouts weren't impressed with his performance in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament last week. He's itching to come out, but he'll have to have a big season to get into the late lottery or mid-first round range he's gunning for.

David Lee, F, Florida
The facts: 6-9, 240; 20 ppg, 4rpg, 5 apg on 87 percent shooting
The skinny: Scouts claim he's in for a major position change when he gets to the pros. Can he make the transition from center to small forward in the NBA? Without a consistent jumper, scouts worry. He had a solid tournament and showed a lot of toughness last season playing out of position at center, and scouts are still enamored with his athleticism for someone his size. However, until he develops a perimeter game (right now almost all of his points come off dunks), where does he play in the NBA? The rumblings out of Gator training camp are that Lee's perimeter shot has improved quite a bit. If that shows in games, his stock will soar.

Chris Thomas, PG, Notre Dame
The facts: 6-1, 182; 17 ppg, 7 apg on 29 percent shooting
The skinny: Thomas is one of the few "true" point guards with his eye on the draft. Like T.J. Ford, he's a 2001 McDonald's All-American alum. However, that's where the comparison's end. He doesn't have the speed or the floor vision of Ford. He's a better shooter, but scouts consider him just an average athlete. Despite his smallish frame, scouts think he's pretty tough. Some have compared him to a poor man's Mike Bibby. But given Bibby's up-and-down NBA career, that doesn't make him a lock for the first round.

Jawad Williams, F, North Carolina
The facts: 6-8, 221; 20 ppg, 5.5 rpg on 88 percent shooting
The skinny: Williams has a sweet stroke and pretty good ball-handling skills for a 6-foot-8 kid. He's much more comfortable on the perimeter than he is on the post, but he started to work on that this summer, when he bulked up with 21 pounds added to his wiry frame. Scouts claim he has looked much more aggressive around the basket in practice this year. If coach Roy Williams can settle on a position for him, Williams could be in store for a big year.

The best of the rest: Julius Hodge, G, North Carolina State; Channing Frye, F/C, Arizona; Devin Harris, PG, Wisconsin; Dijon Thompson, SG, UCLA

Draft Cards


Luol Deng's first two games at Duke have already turned heads.

-For those skeptics out there that felt Luol Deng couldn't be this year's Carmelo Anthony because of the school he plays for -- you might want to start rethinking your assumptions. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski normally doesn't give freshmen much playing time, but Deng isn't a normal freshman. In Duke's first two games, Deng is averaging 20.5 ppg, 9 rpg and is shooting 50 percent from the field and 54 percent (on 6-11 shooting) from behind the 3-point line.

The 3-point shooting comes as a bit of a surprise to scouts. If there was a knock on, it was that he wasn't a great perimeter shooter. Everything else -- from court IQ to athleticism, to passing and rebounding skills -- is top notch. That's why he often is compared to fellow Dukie Grant Hill -- he was an all-around player without a great shot. If Deng can keep sinking it from the perimeter this year, look out.

On a team filled with blue chippers like Shavlik Randolph, J.J. Redick, Daniel Ewing, Sheldon Williams and Chris Duhon, NBA scouts insist Deng already is the best player on the floor -- and he may be the best college player not named Okafor in the country.

-Several scouts who have been hanging around Gainesville have come away raving about Florida's Christian Drejer. Drejer (6-9, 210) was considered a top international draft prospect two season ago before shocking scouts and skipping the NBA to play in college. A foot injury put him way behind last season, and he never really fit into what the Gators were doing. Now that he's healthy and seems to have figured out the college game, scouts claim he could be on the verge of a breakout year.

Christian Drejer appears to be fully recovered from last season's foot injury.
He sure looked the part in the Gators' opener vs. Montana State. Drejer scored 19 points on 8-for-9 shooting, sunk three 3-pointers and dished out 11 assists for the Gators. Drejer has great range on his jumper, is an above-average athlete and, at 6-9, handles the ball like a point guard. He also bulked up that skinny frame a bit this summer. Most scouts expect him to declare for the draft this spring if he gets a lottery guarantee. If he keeps this up, that shouldn't be a problem.

-It was an oversight, SEC fans. Insider got a ton of e-mail from readers wanting to know why the three top seniors in the SEC -- Jaime Lloreda of LSU, Matt Freije of Vanderbilt and Justin Reed of Mississippi weren't on last week's list.
Reed wasn't on for a reason. His school may list him at 6-foot-8, but scouts claim that's laughable. Reed is closer to 6-6. That wouldn't be a problem if he were a two guard, but Reed is a four and only a four. He doesn't have the perimeter game or defensive quickness to make the jump to the two or three in the pros. He's a talented college player who just comes a few inches short of being a good NBA prospect.

Lloreda was accidentally left off. He's got that nice combination of length, athleticism and skill that teams look for in a three-four swingman. At 6-9, 246, he's an explosive leaper who gets off his feet very quickly. He's also improving on the boards. His 26 ppg and 14 rpg averages in LSU's first two games can't be ignored. Not sure if he's a first rounder at this point (he still needs to get stronger), but he's definitely worth watching.

Freije comes out of the Keith Van Horn mold. He isn't particularly strong or athletic, but the 6-foot-9 Kansas native can really shoot the lights out from the perimeter. He averaged 17.9 ppg and 4.4 rpg last season on 44 percent shooting. This year, in his first two games for Vandy, he's averaging 28 ppg and 10.4 rpg. His 32-point, 13-rebound effort over Indiana opened a lot of eyes. He could be a real draft sleeper if he continues to dominate this season.


this VERY long post was just made even longer...because now you have scanned through it twice.....and each time not read it....OH HOW I LOVE TO NOT READ THESE VERY, INCREDIBLEY LONG POSTS!
i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif and yes, I had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Lonely PSU Mavs Fan
12-01-2003, 12:27 PM
I read it through (not scanned it) i enjoy reading the insider articles. If you dont like long posts, don't read them. On a side note it is interesting that your signature says "don't post when you have nothing good to say".....

Evilmav2
12-01-2003, 12:44 PM
Thanks for posting this thebac. Although many of the upperclassmen that Insider lists are going to be long shots to make an impact on the league, watch out for Florida's David Lee. Scouts may be knocking his perimeter game now, but he possesses ungodly athleticism and everything I have recently read about the Florida program indicates that he has found his jumper and is poised for a monster season.

I see him as a 6-9, more athletic version of Mike Miller, and I think he is going to be one heckuva player in the NBA...

http://www.sptimes.com/2002/03/09/photos/spt-uf.jpg
Coming soon to an NBA arena near you...

thebac
12-01-2003, 01:27 PM
Sike: if you don't like reading ESPN Insider, just skip the threads that are titled "NBA Insider".

Lonely PSU Mavs Fan and Evil: Glad to see someone enjoys reading it as much as I do. i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif