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06-26-2006, 06:17 AM
NBA draft: excitement from uncertainty

Without clear No. 1, teams can't bank on slam-dunk choice

By MIKE HEIKA / The Dallas Morning News

Lacking a consensus first overall pick and dealing with the decision to prevent high school players from being selected, Wednesday's NBA draft has been described as diluted.

But that doesn't mean it won't be exciting.

Toronto hasn't decided what it will do with the first overall selection, and mock drafts have Texas forward LaMarcus Aldridge going anywhere from first to sixth.

"I think you really could see just about any combination in the top five or six, and that's made for some very interesting talks," said Marty Blake, who runs the NBA's scouting service and will be involved in his 54th draft. "If you're picking third or fourth, you generally have an idea who is falling to you, and that's just not the case this year."

The Raptors appear to have zeroed in on 6-10 Italian forward Andrea Bargnani and even hired his team's general manager – Maurizio Gherardini – last week as their new assistant GM. Still, Toronto GM Bryan Colangelo said he hasn't made any decision after working out several players, including Aldridge.

"LaMarcus Aldridge came in and, if anything, confused us a little bit more the other day," Colangelo told the Associated Press. "You are hoping for one of these guys to come in and stumble."

But that clearly hasn't happened. Bargnani's team, Benetton Treviso, won the Italian League championship Tuesday in front of a host of NBA scouts. Bargnani will take a physical in New York but won't work out for the Raptors. Charlotte, which picks third, had bad luck last week as Aldridge (ankle), LSU's Tyrus Thomas (groin) and Washington's Brandon Roy (hamstring) canceled workouts because of injury concerns.

The Chicago Bulls, selecting second, are also said to be enamored with Aldridge, but many mock drafts say they might take Thomas, a 6-9 forward, instead.

It's enough for any team to want to get into the mix. The Rockets select eighth but had both Thomas and Roy (expected to go before the eighth pick) in for visits last week because they would love to move up in the draft. That said, if the Rockets can't find what they want, they might move down.

"I've never seen it like this," Rockets GM Carroll Dawson said. "There is really no way to predict what's going to happen until it happens. Each pick will affect what the next team does, and nobody knows who's going to go where to start with."

It could be a game of musical chairs that includes Aldridge, Bargnani, Thomas, Roy, Gonzaga's Adam Morrison and Connecticut's Rudy Gay. The fact that four of the players are power forwards (Morrison is a small forward, Roy a shooting guard) also muddles the picture. And don't forget Duke guard J.J. Redick's stock has fallen because of a recent DWI charge.

All told, it could be the most unpredictable draft in recent history.

"I actually think it's a good thing," Blake said. "This is the chance for teams to really use their scouting and make a decision not only on what they need, but on what player they think is the best."

06-26-2006, 06:19 AM
Analyzing the draft

According to experts, any of these six players could be selected No. 1

By MIKE HEIKA / The Dallas Morning News

LaMarcus Aldridge

Power forward, Texas

Ht., wt.: 6-11, 240

Age: 20

Notable: Aldridge's performance in the NCAA Tournament, especially in a huge win over West Virginia, has the scouts drooling. He put on 25 pounds last summer and averaged 15 points and nine rebounds a game in his sophomore season. He is a legitimate "power" forward.

Andrea Bargnani

Power forward, Italy

Ht., wt.: 6-10, 225

Age: 20

Notable: Many believe Bargnani can become a Dirk Nowitzki-type of player. Bargnani was more of a role player with Italian league champion Benetton Treviso, but he showed potential for greater things averaging 11.5 points and six rebounds playing 25 minutes a game in the playoffs.

Adam Morrison

Small forward, Gonzaga

Ht., wt.: 6-8, 205

Age: 21

Notable: The darling of ESPN, Morrison is possibly the most known player in the draft. Can he bring his ugly-duckling game to the NBA and still succeed? Morrison led the nation in scoring at 28.1 points and is known for working hard to find his shot. He might not have to work as hard on a team with a few more scorers.

Tyrus Thomas

Power forward, LSU

Ht., wt.: 6-9, 215

Age: 19

Notable: A redshirt freshman who tallied 12.5 points and 9.2 rebounds, Thomas is a fantastic athlete who scouts say will only get better. He must put on some muscle because he's skinny for a power forward and doesn't possess the skill to be a small forward. Chicago is said to be interested at No. 2.

Brandon Roy

Shooting guard, Washington

Ht., wt.: 6-6, 215

Age: 21

Notable: The best guard in the draft, Roy also could end up at No. 2. He averaged 20.2 points and 4.1 assists at Washington and worked hard to dispel his reputation as a poor outside shooter. He hit 40 percent of his 3-pointers last season.

Rudy Gay

Power forward, Connecticut

Ht., wt.: 6-9, 220

Age: 21

Notable: One of the most athletic players in the draft, Gay averaged 15.2 points and 6.4 rebounds at Connecticut. Gay has the ability to shoot outside and slash to the basket, but scouts worry he doesn't know which one to pick. He'll have to find exactly what his game is.