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03-27-2003, 02:27 PM
Mailbag: LeBron would look good in Denver
by Chad Ford
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The playoffs race is in full swing, lottery teams are jockeying for position, the NCAA Tournament is highlighting some of the best amateur players out there, and the McDonald's All-American game is showcasing the best pro players -- um, I mean high school seniors -- in the country.

If this isn't a great time for basketball, I don't know what is ...

LeBron would look great in a Nuggets uniform
Q: According to the current standings it looks like the teams with the best chance of winning the lottery and landing LeBron James are Cleveland, Denver, Miami, L.A. Clippers and Toronto. Where do you think he will have the biggest impact? Which city do you think would be best for his career?
-- Jason Platzer, Port Chester, N.Y.

FORD: I get this question a lot. We know that whoever has the first pick will take LeBron. So where does he fit best? I think Denver should top the list. They have a great coach, tons of cap space, a smart GM and are in desperate need of backcourt help. If the Nuggets landed LeBron, they'd be able to seriously recruit elite free agents. A LeBron-Gilbert Arenas tandem would be the best young backcourt in the league. Both players would complement each other well. Combine them with Nene Hilario, Nikoloz Tskitishivili, a healthy Marcus Camby and one more top-tier free agent (Jermaine O'Neal, Corey Maggette, Lamar Odom, Michael Olowokandi, etc.) and the Nuggets become a force to be reckoned with over night.

The Raptors also would be a good fit. Vince Carter has needed a dominant scorer to take some pressure off him. LeBron's ability to play the point, which he showcased Wednesday night, could solve all the Raptors' backcourt woes. A combination of LeBron at the point, Alvin Williams at the two (where he becomes a much more potent scorer) and Vince at three could be devastating.

Miami also is a good fit if Pat Riley would let LeBron play his game. Cleveland would have to move either Ricky Davis, Darius Miles or Dajuan Wagner to fit LeBron in. But that's not the end of the world. The Bulls would also be a decent fit, though you wonder if there would be too many young egos on the same team.

One other slim possibility: Wouldn't LeBron look great in a Grizzlies uniform? With Pau Gasol, Mike Miller and even Jason Williams all blossoming in Memphis, adding LeBron to the mix would be devastating. They'd be a playoff team next year. And the best thing about that scenario would be that Hubie Brown would get ahold of LeBron and teach him to play the game the right way. Down the road, that would pay off big.

Q: Will the different styles of between American and Yugoslavian basketball hurt Darko Milicic's transition to the NBA?
-- Ali Thanawalla, Kensington, Calif.

FORD: It will be an adjustment. The game is very different in Europe. The NBA is much faster and more physical. However, Darko has a couple of things going for him that many international players do not. First, he's very tough. He likes to bang in the paint and never shies away from physical contact. He's also got a bit of a nasty streak in him. Secondly, he's more skilled, from a fundamental standpoint, than just about any big man currently in the league. That will give him a huge advantage over most of the stiffs patrolling the paint in the NBA. I don't think he'll have the impact of LeBron in year one, but if he gets on the right team (Cleveland or Denver would be the best fit) he could put up Yao Ming-type numbers (14 points, 8 rebounds).

T.J. Ford is Insider's top rated point guard
Q: Where will the point guards get picked in this draft? Scouts say they love T.J. Ford, but he's small, and his outside shooting is suspect. Wouldn't Luke Ridnour, Reece Gaines or Kirk Hinrich be better pro prospects? Can you rank those four and project their draft position?
-- Todd Linde, Mesa, Ariz.

FORD: It's a tough call, because different teams have different needs. Ford would work best on a team that had a big backcourt. Gaines has the advantage on a team with a smaller one. Right now, I'd still say Ford is the top prospect. However, he keeps insisting he's staying in school. Hinrich is the second-best prospect. Teams see him eventually turning into a Steve Nash-type player. He's a good athlete, very smart and has a killer stroke. Gaines could leap over Hinrich if he works out well. Teams put a high premium on big point guards. At 6-foot-6, Gaines is about as big as they get. His superb outside jumper will help his cause. Ridnour is probably the last elite point guard of the group. Questions about his toughness will haunt him on draft day. Of course that leads to.

Q: Should Luke Ridnour declare for the draft or stay one more year at Oregon? If he declares, how high will he go in the draft?
-- Kjell Karlsen, Rolling Hills, Calif.

FORD: I think he's better off returning for his senior season. NBA scouts continue to insist he's coming out, but I think it's a mistake. First, this draft has an unusually high number of talented point guards. Last year, Jay Williams was the only true point guard taken in the top 24. In 2001, Jamaal Tinsley was the first point guard taken at No. 27. If Ridnour waits a year, the field may clear out a little bit. Second, Ridnour could use this summer to hit the weight room and toughen up a bit. I think if scouts see that commitment and durability, his stock will rise.

Duke's Dahntay Jones is having a great tournament
Q: Why no love for Duke's Dahntay Jones? Fifty-one points, 10 rebounds, eight steals, 53 percent from the field ... pretty good stats for the first two rounds of the tourney. He's been one of the best performers in the tourney so far, and he has a mean streak, to boot. Any chance he sneaks into the first round for this year's draft?
-- Ray Tan, Durham, N.C.

FORD: Jones has impressed NBA scouts this year. He certainly has the athleticism and size NBA teams are looking for a in a two guard. He's also improved his perimeter shooting this year (widely considered the biggest knock on him). Scouts still have questions about his ball handling, passing and ability to shoot off the dribble. However, his stock is on the rise. He should work out well, because of his athleticism. I expect he'll probably have to come to the pre-draft camp in Chicago and excel if he wants to sneak into the first round.

Q: Do you see a potential Jamal Crawford-for-Mike Dunleavy deal this summer if Gilbert Arenas leaves the Bay for more money? Dunleavy would give Krause the SF he has coveted and Crawford gives the Warriors a young, athletic PG to run the team.
-- Shawn Bentz, Newport Beach, Calif.

FORD: It's a deal that makes a lot of sense for both teams. Crawford is playing great in Chicago right now, but we know that ultimately the Bulls are going to give the starting job to Jay Williams. There's talk of Crawford playing off-guard next year, but that's a waste of his point skills. What the Bulls need is a good ball-handling, sweet-shooting small forward. Over the past month or so, Dunleavy has started to earn some playing time. Once he gets stronger, people will quit attaching the word "bust" to his name.

The Warriors will probably lose Arenas to the Nuggets this summer, and they'll need to quickly replace him. While Crawford wouldn't be a perfect fit for Eric Musselman's up-tempo offense (Williams would actually be perfect) he's probably the best young point guard on the market right now.

One more scenario to consider. Would the Bulls be inclined to swap Crawford and Jalen Rose for Antawn Jamison and a combo guard like Jiri Welsch? The Warriors wouldn't mind moving Jamison and keeping Dunleavy at this point. Jamison would be a good fit in the Bulls' offense, and it appears that Rose has worn out his welcome in Chicago.

Q: Tim Thomas has been a complete bust. Do you think the Bucks will try to move him in the offseason? Would they have to eat a portion of his contract to do it?
-- Daltanian Wade, Milwaukee

FORD: They'll have to do something this summer. I think management will wait and see what Gary Payton does first. If Payton stays, Sam Cassell is the most likely to be shipped out. If Cassell stays, I think they'll try to move Thomas. Desmond Mason will continue eating away Thomas' minutes. The key, of course, is finding someone willing to take on Thomas' salary.

I think a Tim Thomas-and-Sam Cassell-for-Kurt Thomas-and-Latrell Sprewell deal makes a lot of sense for both teams. The Knicks need to get younger and taller at small forward, and Cassell would give them a legit point guard for the first time in a while. Combine them with Allan Houston and a healthy Antonio McDyess and you really have something. A Payton-Spree backcourt would be lethal. And Kurt Thomas would give the Bucks the front-court toughness they've lacked forever.

What's gotten into the Cavs and Nuggets?

For the first 70 games of the season the Cleveland Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets have stunk up the court while playing for LeBron James.

But suddenly, with the season winding down, both teams are playing playoff-caliber basketball. Apparently, neither team wants to finish the season as the league's worst team. So much for our tanking theories.

Doesn't anyone understand that the team with the worst record in the league has a 25 percent chance of landing the first pick in the draft? The team finishing second only has a 20 percent chance.

"Of course I noticed," Nuggets assistant general manager David Fredman told the Denver Post. "I want to win every game. I really do. ... The only thing I want to be last in is dying."

The Nuggets have won two of their last three, including surprising wins over the Celtics and Bucks. The return of Marcus Camby and the emergence of Rodney White seem to be fueling the Nuggets' current run.

"If they win, it puts the pressure on us," Nuggets forward Ryan Bowen said. "We have to put the pressure back on them. We never talk about it. We never say, 'Cleveland's catching us, so let's get on it.' We just take care of ourselves."

The Cavs, apparently, aren't enamored with that extra five percent either. The Cavs have also won two of their last three, including shocking wins over the Nets and Warriors. Carlos Boozer, Ricky Davis and Zydrunas Ilgauskas have been leading the way for Cleveland.

"I'm definitely not trying to have the worst record in the league, but it seems like every time we win, they win," Jumaine Jones told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "We don't want to end in last and we want more than 15 wins. That's what's motivating the guys."

"It's important to catch Denver to prove to ourselves that we're not a last-place team," Ricky Davis said. "We're better than the way we've been playing. We've got to put our minds together and play like we need to play."

So who will end up with the first pick in the draft?

Currently, the Nuggets are two games ahead of the Cavs in the standings. However, they play eight of their last 10 against teams currently in line for a playoff berth. Their only "easy" game appears to be against the Clippers at home on April 12th. The Cavs don't have it much easier. They play seven of their last 10 against playoff teams as well.

Insider's prediction: The Cavs end the season with the worst record in the league. The Nuggets have a tougher schedule, but the fact that they play hard every night gives them the best shot of winning an extra game or two down the stretch.

In and out of the NBA Draft

LeBron James played coy when reporters asked him after the McDonald's All-American game about his NBA plans.

"My long-term goal is to play in the NBA." Right.

James' 27-point, seven-assist, seven-rebound performance surprised absolutely no one.

But some of his teammates are hoping to parlay a good performance Wednesday night into a ticket to the NBA.

Kendrick Perkins is still leaning toward declaring for the draft.
The two most likely candidates to enter the draft, Kendrick Perkins and James Lang, were silent about their intentions after the game.

League sources insist that both players are seriously considering putting their names into the draft. Lang was the most impressive on Wednesday. He ended the game with 15 points, 10 rebounds and was very active on both ends of the floor. Perkins had six points on 3 of 5 shooting, but didn't play in the second half.

Both players are seen as mid-to-late first round picks by NBA scouts on potential alone. Neither player is ready to make an impact in the NBA anytime soon.

"Neither of these guys is as skilled as DeSagana Diop was coming out of high school," one team executive said. "Expect them to struggle the same way Diop has struggled if they come. Both guys really need to go to school, get in shape and figure out how to play."

Not as skilled as Diop? Ouch.

Two other players considering going pro, Travis Outlaw and Charlie Villanueva, also played well. However, almost all of their points came from dunks, many set up up by LeBron James' penetration.

While neither player did anything to change scouts' minds about their readiness for the NBA, some reluctantly admitted that if either player came out, he'd have a chance to get drafted in the first round.

"It's a big risk for both of them," one scout said. "Look at what happened to Lenny Cooke and DeAngelo Collins last year. If they're patient, they could be locks for the first round down the road. It's iffy right now. However, we often become intoxicated with potential. Once these kids got to workout, someone might be foolish enough to take them in the first round."

High school players weren't the only ones thinking about the NBA on Wednesday. Ball State's Theron Smith announced that he'll put his name in the draft this year.

Smith put his name in last year, but pulled it out after suffering an injury. Smith didn't play at all this season. His decision to put his name in the draft surprised a lot of people.

"He's an undersized power forward," one scout said. "I like him. I think he's tough. But there's no way he gets into the first round. He'll be lucky to make it into the second."

Georgia Tech super freshman Chris Bosh told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that he's leaning toward returning for his sophomore season at Georgia Tech. Bosh is currently projected as a top 5 pick in the NBA draft.

Several North Carolina underclassmen including Rashad McCants, Jawad Williams, Sean May and Jackie Williams said they were returning to UNC next season.

"We learned a lot from this season," McCants told the Raleigh News Observer. "I think coming back next year, everybody will be prepared for the league and everything else around us."

However, one name were conspicuously absence. Point guard Raymond Felton is rumored to be considering the draft.

Peep Show

Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets: Yao Ming may be getting all the press, but Shaquille O'Neal proved yet again that no one in the NBA can guard him one-on-one. Shaq dropped 39 points on Yao Wednesday, while Yao struggled, shooting just 3 of 13 from the field. What was the difference this time around? "I just needed to get better position this time," said O'Neal. "Yao Ming is 8-feet tall and a great shot-blocker." Yao agreed with that assessment. "He backed me down slowly this time," Yao said. "Last time he tried to go to the hole a lot quicker. If he can find a way to attack me on offense. I should be able to find a way to defend him."

Boston Celtics: Despite a six-game losing streak, the team isn't panicking. "Every team in the Eastern Conference has gone through something like this, unfortunately it's happening now for us," Antoine Walker told the Boston Globe. "But that's why it was important to be 10 games above .500 because you can lose a few and still be in a good position. You have to be mentally tough to fight back. We just have to continue to work to get out of this."

Detroit Pistons: Chauncey Billups is getting a rep as the Pistons' go-to guy down the stretch. Billups' three-pointer in overtime at the buzzer against the Hawks Wednesday had his coach, Rick Carlisle, smiling. "As I've said before, the guys that have been very good clutch players that I've seen and played with over the years have one thing in common -- they see the opportunity to help their team and they don't think about failure," Carlisle told the Detroit Free Press. "Chauncey's a confident guy. He's always thinking about the win. He does some great things at the end of games."

Cleveland Cavaliers: Ricky Davis is at it again. Coach Keith Smart pulled Davis out of Wednesday's game late in the third quarter after the two got in an argument on the sidelines. Davis never returned. "I made a decision [not to put Davis back in] because of some things that took place on the floor," Smart told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Davis tried to play down the incident. "He just decided not to play me," Davis said. "I was willing to go back in, I never like sitting on the bench. But it was cool. The guys [that were in] played good and almost brought us back. I can't complain."

Phoenix Suns: Penny Hardaway said critics shouldn't be writing him off just yet. "I don't think I'm in a position now to retire or give up on basketball," he told the Arizona Republic. "Nobody asked me to do what I'm doing now, to tone my game down and be a role player. I decided that Shawn (Marion) and Steph (Marbury) really needed the ball to be effective and for our team to win. If I stepped in their way, that wouldn't work.A lot of people say, 'You make so much money, why don't you score 20 points a game?' The offense isn't set up that way. With the injuries I've had in the past, I think the organization thought it was the last straw last year."

Miami Heat: Alonzo Mourning said he'll try to play again next season. "My intentions are to play," he told reporters. "The only thing that can stop me is my body. Other than that, I know I can play. I know that I'm ready. But anything can happen." Would the Heat consider re-signing him this summer when he becomes a free agent? "I'd like to sit down and talk to him," coach Pat Riley told the Sun Sentinel. "But I don't think right now is the time to discuss it. I'm encouraged by the fact that he wants to play and that if he's healthy enough to play, obviously we want to sit down and talk with our franchise player."

Atlanta Hawks: GM Pete Babcock said that DerMarr Johnson could be back practicing before the end of the season. Johnson broke his neck in a car accident on Sept. 13. Originally, doctors wondered if he'd ever be able to play again. "The doctors have said it's safe for him to be out there and he's no more at risk of injury than anyone else on the team," Babcock told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

03-28-2003, 11:05 AM
What about this trade:
Tim thomas and dan gadzuric
for mike finley and mladen.

03-28-2003, 01:36 PM
<< What about this trade:
Tim thomas and dan gadzuric
for mike finley and mladen. >>





03-28-2003, 03:32 PM
And NO!

03-28-2003, 03:44 PM
Good grief, NO!!

It's one thing to want to get rid of Finley, but let's try and get SOMETHING for him in return if we are going to trade him.

That's just insulting to Finley and the Mavericks.