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12-19-2003, 01:26 PM
NBA Draft: Is Deng this year's Carmelo?

The freshmen are coming! The freshmen are coming!

That's the alarm being sounded among NBA scouts as they begin scouting for the 2004 NBA draft. For years the freshman class has been one of the more undermined resources in college basketball.

Every year between one to three college freshmen bolt and come to the NBA with extremely mixed success. With the influx of high school players coming straight to the NBA, scouts say that most of the guys who really don't want to play in college don't anymore.

"I think the reason that you don't see a lot of college freshman declaring is that they actually want the college experience," one scout said. "Most of the kids who could be first-rounders could've been first rounders after their senior year as high school as well. They made the choice to get an education and work on their game at this level. That's why very few of them leave after just one year."

The kids who do leave usually fall into one of three categories. They either wanted to declare after their senior season of high school but weren't projected to go high enough in the draft (like Dajuan Wagner, Zach Randolph, DerMarr Johnson), had trouble remaining eligible for play (like Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom), or they're kids who wanted to go to school but an unbelievable freshman season or tournament performance put them so high in the lottery that they would've been crazy not to make the jump (see Carmelo Anthony, Corey Maggette, Rodney White, Eddie Griffin).

A look at the group of freshmen above will reveal that most of them struggled for years before achieving NBA success and some of them (Johnson, White, Griffin) have watched their careers fizzle away.

But the success of Anthony and Chris Bosh will likely change that for this year's group. Both players are having a major impact on their teams, and with a weak sophomore class, scouts are studying this year's freshman class very closely.

With that said, there has never been more than three freshmen taken in the first round of an NBA draft. A survey of scouts identified only five players who they felt had a chance to be ready for the NBA after this season. The rest were NBA prospects down the road.

Here's a quick look at five freshmen whom scouts are watching this season.

Luol Deng, G/F, Duke
The facts: 6-8, 220; 14.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.1 apg on 46 percent shooting
The skinny: Deng already has drawn comparisons to Grant Hill for his versatility, athleticism and basketball IQ. A native of the Sudan, Deng has a 7-foot wing span and is an off-the-charts athlete. He's an above average passer, shot blocker and rebounder for his size. Before the season, the only knock on Deng was that his perimeter shot, especially from 3-point range, needed work. However, he's shooting a 47 percent clip for the Blue Devils from the 3 so far this season and it appears that his perimeter game is no longer an issue. The last Blue Devil to leave as a freshman was Corey Maggette. Deng is a much more complete player. If he can lead the Dukies to an NCAA Championship, there's a good chance he'll follow in Carmelo's shoes and become one of the top-three picks in the draft.

Andrew Bogut, F, Utah
The facts: 6-foot-10, 220 pounds; 11.4 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 2.1 apg on 60 percent shooting

The skinny: Bogut won MVP honors at the 2003 FIBA Junior World Championships in Greece in July. He averaged 26.3 points, 17.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 blocked shots per game while shooting 61 percent from the field. Bogut turned down millions from a team in Croatia to play in the U.S., leading some to conclude that he won't bolt for the NBA right away. But with all of the attention, and with all of his skills, many scouts expect him to make the leap to the NBA next season. Bogut got off to a hot start, scoring 19 points and grabbing 18 boards against Minnesota, and had a 15-point, 16-rebound effort against Georgia State. He's cooled off a little since then (Emeka Okafor shut him down on Nov. 28th), but his ability to average a double-double in college every night is amazing for a freshman. Bogut is another sharpshooter who runs the floor well and is a solid rebounder and shot blocker. He needs to get stronger physically, but most scouts think his frame is big enough to add on the extra muscle. Right now he's projected to go anywhere from the late lottery to the mid first round. He has a chance to improve his stock if he can consistently put up strong numbers in conference play.

Kris Humphries, F, Minnesota
The facts: 6-8, 240; 24.4 ppg, 11.4 rpg on 56 percent shooting
The skinny: Humphries was another kid who wanted to make the jump straight to the pros, but after receiving advice that he wouldn't be a first-rounder, decided to go to school. Humphries wants to be in the NBA as soon as possible. He backed out of an oral commitment to Duke to attend the University of Minnesota. His hope was that he would see a lot more minutes his freshman year in his home state, and he was right. Humphries has put up enormous numbers through Minnesota's first seven games and got the attention of scouts Humphries has a nice blend of athleticism, strength in the paint, quickness and a soft touch from the perimeter. He's an above average rebounder and a good defender. He's basically a double-double waiting to happen every night. He matched up favorably against another highly rated freshman, Bogut, when his team played the Utes in November. He's already got an NBA body and projects to be a prototypical NBA power forward -- though he may be a little undersized to play that position full time. His quick feet and emerging jump shot suggest that Humphries also will be comfortable at the three spot when needed. The fact that his coach, Gordan Monson, is comparing him to a young Karl Malone certainly isn't hurting his prospects. Right now scouts see him as a late-lottery to mid-first-round pick. But if he keeps up the strong play in conference competition, he could move up even higher.

Charlie Villanueva, F, UConn
The facts: 6-10, 220; 15.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg on 68 percent shooting

The skinny: Luol Deng's high school teammate seriously turned off NBA scouts after a lackluster workout at the Chicago Pre-Draft Camp in Chicago last summer. Villanueva was so lethargic in the workout that there was a mass exodus to the doors just minutes into the workout. I stayed for the whole thing, but can't say I was impressed. He's long and athletic for his size. He has a very complete game. He has a pretty polished inside-outside game, is an excellent passer and an unusually good ball handler for a kid his size. The comparisons to Lamar Odom are there but Villanueva's rep as a soft, lazy player with a poor attitude won't go away easily. Neither will charges that he made a name for himself only because he was the teammate of the second-best player in the country, Deng. He's a lottery talent with NBDL attitude. Scouts know that Villanueva desperately wants to declare for the draft next year. He's going to have to put up a phenomenal year at UConn to get himself back into the first round by the end of this year. His first two games for the Huskies have been encouraging.

Chris Paul, PG, Wake Forest
The facts: 6-0, 170; 12.2 ppg, 6.3 apg, 4.2 spg on 51 percent shooting
The skinny: It's rare to see talk of freshman point guards making the jump, and most NBA scouts agree that Paul would probably be better off staying at least one more year at Wake Forest. But, they also agree that he may be the best college point guard in the country. Paul is an incredibly talented passer and scorer who seems to be able to penetrate at will. He's extremely quick and a tenacious defender, averaging a whopping 4.2 steals per game. While scouts worry a little bit about his size (scouts feel that he's closer to 5-10 than 6-0) and small stature, they all seem to agree that if T.J. Ford can make it the pros (and so far he looks pretty good) that Paul can too.

The best of the rest: Shannon Brown, G, Michigan State; ; Sean Banks, F, Memphis; Leon Powe, F, Cal; Regis Koundja, F, LSU; Mustafa Shakur, PG, Arizona; Linas Kleiza, F, Missouri; Trevor Ariza, F, UCLA; David Padgett, F, Kansas; J.R. Giddens, G, Kansas; Martin Iti, F, Charlotte; Alexandar Johnson, F, Florida State

Draft Cards

NBA scouts are are casting an interested eye Arizona's way after its decision to add Serbian forward Ivan Radenovic to its roster. The 6-foot-9 Radenovic has been on Partizan's junior team for several years, but few scouts have actually seen him play. Partizan is particularly secretive with its young prospects and has banned NBA scouts from practices for the last 18 months.
Pistons scout Tony Ronzone and I checked him out when we were in Serbia last year, but only saw him in some one-on-one drills with a Partizan assistant coach. He was actually listed on the team's pro roster this year, bringing into question whether he's actually eligible for college. Arizona is looking for some inside help after Isaiah Fox's season-ending injury. The scouting report on Radenovic is that he's more of a typical Serbian four, which means he loves to hang out on the perimeter and doesn't do a lot of the inside dirty work that the Wildcats may need. Radenovic is a close friend of Phoenix Suns rookie Zarko Carbarkapa and has been staying with him recently.

I received a lot of e-mail last week from Louisville fans demanding that swingman Francisco Garcia be added to the top sophomore lists. Just to review, the list that Insider has been providing for the past few weeks is based on NBA scouts' opinions of the best prospects for the upcoming draft. They aren't evaluating who the best college players are, they are looking solely at NBA potential. With that said, Garcia did garner praise from several scouts, but there was a general consensus that, with his rail thin frame, he needed another year or two of college before he'd be considered a serious first-round draft prospect. Garcia is off to a great start for Louisville, averaging 19.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg and 5 apg on 44 percent shooting. But at 6-foot-7, 180 pounds, scouts believe he's just too fragile.
"He's one of the better shooters in the country," one NBA scout said. "But he's not particularly quick or athletic which makes you wonder what position he plays in the NBA. He can't mix it up inside at all and often doesn't have the strength to finish when putting the ball on the floor. Defensively, I just don't know who he could guard. If he gets stronger, he could have a future, but right now there are a lot of ifs."

Ronny Turiaf, Gonzaga's 6-10 athletic power forward, is back in good graces with NBA scouts after two dominating performances this week against good competition. Turiaf, a native of Martinique in the West Indies, dropped 29 points and six boards on George Washington and then followed it up with a 23 point-performance against Missouri.
"He's really strong and one of the most talented low post scorers in the country," one NBA scout said after the Missouri game. "He went out and got the MU players in foul trouble and then an excellent job on his end of defending. He's such an aggressive defender. He pays for that a little bit at the college level, but NBA coaches love that. I think he's a real sleeper in this draft. There aren't a lot of big guys who score in this draft. When Ronny's on, and playing with that kind of passion, he's as good as it gets."

Thorn taking responsibility for Nets' woes

If New Jersey Nets president Rod Thorn is so busy trying to save the jobs of point guard Jason Kidd and head coach Byron Scott, then the next logical questions is . . . who's going to save Thorn's job?

"I am not trying to be a martyr here," Thorn said in the New York Daily News. "I am just telling you facts: Blame or credit for player personnel moves are laid at my doorstep. (And) Byron is the coach. I have supported Byron since he has been here. I will support him as long as he is the coach. I expect him to be the coach."

This is just the latest example of fire fighting Thorn has had to perform over the last year or so as the Nets have gone from two-time Eastern Conference champs to just another 12-12 team in the weakest division in the league.

It erupted after the Nets lost to the Grizzlies by 47 points last Saturday night. According to reports, Kidd began yelling and screaming in the locker room. At first, reporters believed he was laying into teammates until they later learned that he was actually directing his diatribe against Scott and the rest of the coaching staff.

Of course, this isn't the first time Kidd has been at odds with Scott, but it is the first time he was that vocal after shooting 4-for-14. He shot 1-for-10 in the previous game, making him 5-for-24 for the weekend.

Thorn"I don't think it's fair he's being branded as being behind moves that are made," Rod Thorn said in the New York Times. "Good or bad, the credit or the debit should go to me. Because that's true."
There Thorn goes again.

The first quote, he was busy defending Scott. That second quote is him defending Kidd.

That firestorm came about as backlash to Kidd criticizing Scott, the media stating that Kidd had overstepped his boundaries as team leader and was trying to become the coach as well as general manager.

Thorn's reasoning was that it was he, himself, who decided to acquire Rodney Rogers one offseason and it is he who should be blamed for Rogers falling to 5.6 points per game this season on 33 percent shooting. He went on to say that it was he, himself, who decided to pay Dikembe Mutombo to simply go away and he who decided to sign Alonzo Mourning as his replacement. And as you can expect, he said he should be blamed for forking out more than $18 million to the both of them as Mutombo plays for the Knicks and Mourning has officially retired for good with kidney replacement surgery due today.

"I was thinking the other day how this is all coming out at the same time Eddie is coming back," said reserve guard Lucious Harris. "It's kind of ironic. But I don't really see that much difference here. Byron has had to step up and he's more hands-on now."

Thorn continued:

This, my friends, is the next firestorm that Thorn will undoubtedly have to put out as the Nets take on the Wizards tonight.

After all, he'll probably be the first to tell you that it was also he who decided not to give Scott an extension this offseason, taking away much of the leverage the coach might need in the locker room to quell such uprisings himself, and, at the same time, he who allowed assistant coach Eddie Jordan to go away to become the head coach of the Washington Wizards.

The reasoning sure to follow is that Thorn should have either given Scott an extension and the power he needed to get this job done or get rid of Scott and give the reigns to Jordan, who many believed was really the brains behind the Nets' success.

Look at the numbers. In the last two years with Jordan calling the shots on the sidelines and running the practices, the Nets were 101-63. Without Jordan, the Nets have fallen to 12-12.

"I start laughing at that," Scott said. "I find it amusing."

Jason Kidd
Point Guard
New Jersey Nets

23 15.9 6.5 9.3 .385 .804

Well, then it certainly must be Kidd's fault who, after three years with the Nets has decided this year to post lows in steals per game and shooting percentage. In his first year with the team, he averaged 9.9 assists per game. This year, he's at 9.3. In his second year with the team, he scored 18.7 points per game. This year, he's at 15.9.

It is no accident that before coming to the Nets, Kidd had failed to find any kind of team success in Dallas with open battles with then co-star Jimmy Jackson. It is no accident that Kidd failed to find any great success in Phoenix with open battles with his wife resulting in arrest and community service.

Look at his numbers.

The longer he stays with a franchise, the worse his personal stats get.

Despite this fact, it was, again, Thorn who decided to give Kidd a six-year, $103 million contract before this season started after the superstar guard had already had words with Scott.

But if you haven't heard yet, Kidd is in the fourth day of his media blackout so we can't print his side of the story as it unfolds and Thorn continues to put out fires.

But that hasn't stopped the media. As Peter Vescey writes in the New York Post: "His detractors are far too numerous and imposing. What's more, the subversion and sabotage has been allowed to last far too long - if not outright encouraged by factions of ownership who regularly kiss up to Kidd - for Scott's exposed flaws not to prove fatal . . . As for Kidd, as precious as the premier pout guard is, count on the skinless one to demand a trade sooner than later; during the offseason, I reckon. It's already gotten too uncomfortable for him."

Scott could be gone in a matter of hours. Kidd could be gone in a matter of games. Net ownership could be changed in a matter of months.

And the only one left holding the broken pieces of what's left of the Nets could very well be Rod Thorn

Peep Show

New York Knicks: It isn't Antonio McDyess' fault that he just about destroyed his left knee while playing basketball any more than it's his fault that after rehabilitating that knee that the Knicks want him to be their starting power forward. But either way, he's going to have to deal with both after former starting power forward Kurt Thomas started to complain. "If it was up to me, I'd say, 'Coach, I want to come off the bench just to satisfy the team,' " McDyess said in the New York Post. "But [Don Chaney] knows what's best for the team. So I just stick with what the coaching staff says. I don't want to cause no confusion - none whatsoever. [Chaney] put me out there and it kind of makes me feel funny like I didn't deserve my job. I've seen all those guys work hard the whole season. To step right into the starting lineup kind of makes you feel bad about how it came about. But it's not my fault." Head coach Chaney, meanwhile, can't make heads or tails of it all. "If Kurt has a problem with anything, he should be man enough to speak to me," Chaney said. "Instead, he's man enough to tell me he's fine with it. I could only go by what a person tells me. I can't get into his head, [that] when he says no, he really means yes. I can only go by what he's telling me."

Houston Rockets: The Houston Chronicle is reporting that the Rockets will sever ties with troubled forward Eddie Griffin as early as today, releasing the third-year player outright and simply finding a financial settlement of what's owed after fines and suspensions. In the course of the young season, Griffin has skipped practices and road trips while dealing with chemical dependancy problems and entanglements with the law. Unable to trade the player, the Rockets have decided to just part ways with him indefinitely.

Boston Celtics: Chris Mihm didn't exactly die and go to heaven after being traded from the Cavs to the Celtics, but it sure feels that way with his added time on the floor starting tonight. "I like him," Celtic coach Jim O'Brien said in the Boston Herald. "He's going to, starting (tonight), play a lot of the 5-spot. The only reason he didn't play that much (Wednesday) was because of the problem that Dallas presents us with those small lineups. I think he's very fast. His lateral speed is very good and he leaps." He's even using big words, himself. "Offensively, I have to integrate myself into the team and find out where I'm going to be getting my shots and (Wednesday) night I was concentrating on that and rebounding," Mihm said. "As I engage myself more, I want to learn how I can become an impact player for the team and help us reach an even higher plateau."

Los Angeles Lakers: Phil Jackson may not want to admit it, but he's preparing his team to play without Kobe Bryant, who will be busy defending himself today in court. "Obviously, he hasn't and won't have an opportunity to prepare against Denver," Jackson said in the L.A. Daily News. "But we're going to put the team through a few paces today, just so we can acclimate them to a Denver scenario rather than waiting until (today's shootaround)." Either Derek Fisher or Kareem Rush is expected to start in Bryant's place if he cannot make the 7:30 pm tip off. The guard had no answers as of Thursday. "I don't know, I don't know, I don't know. Look, man, I don't know," he said. "We'll go through the process tomorrow, however long it takes. And we'll see what happens. Perfect-case scenario, I could be back and play. But I don't know. We'll just have to see what happens tomorrow."

Cleveland Cavaliers: It's official. After two surgeries and several other medical setbacks, Dajuan Wagner is not cursed and ready to step up his rehab program. "It felt pretty good. It went better than I thought it was going to go," Wagner said in the Akron Beacon Journal. "I didn't think about it very much, I just went out and played." Wagner is on track to return to action in February following knee surgery in November. "He showed no ill effects, he was just a little rusty,'' head coach Paul Silas said. "We're going to watch him. If there's no swelling, he'll get another practice and we'll go on from there. We are going to work him slow."

12-19-2003, 01:41 PM
Thanks again thebac for your continued diligence.

12-19-2003, 03:42 PM
hip hip hooray for thebac. thanx man!