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04-29-2003, 10:22 AM
2003 NBA Draft: Top 15 shooting guards
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider


Quick. Name the last great shooting guard to come out of the NBA Draft.
Don't pause to flip through your draft guide.
Just give me his name.

Is it Jason Richardson (2001)? Desmond Mason (2000)? Richard Hamilton (1999)? Ron Artest (1999)? Good? Sure. Great? C'mon.

Rewind back to 1998 and we can start talking. Vince Carter went fifth that year though his greatness may forever be limited to Nike and Gatorade commercials. Paul Pierce is the truth, but nine teams didn't believe that on draft night. Rewind back one more year and you'll find Tracy McGrady on the board at No. 9. Two more years to 1996 and I can give you Allen Iverson (1st overall), Ray Allen (5th ) and Kobe Bryant (13th). Go back any further and Alzheimer's sets in.

Since 1980, only one two guard, Iverson (and most teams felt he was a point) has been drafted overall. You have to go back to 1979, when Magic Johnson went No. 1 overall, to find a guard with as much hype going No. 1. I give this illustration only to point out an obvious disconnect from the lores of scouting wisdom and reality. To quote more than one NBA scout, good shooting guards are a dime a dozen.

Unlike the rare centers and point guards who only appear in leap years when there's a full moon, shooting guards are everywhere. They grow on trees. Take a shot on the big kid who can't tie his shoes. Grab your two guard of the future off any NBDL roster.

Unfortunately, it hasn't happened that way. It's part of the reason that LeBron James is such a big deal. OK, maybe he's not really a shooting guard. Maybe he's a point guard. Or a point forward. Maybe he can spend 10 minutes at power forward. In a year he could be playing center. The point is that he can play in the backcourt. He can shoot, handle, drive to the basket, post up smaller defenders and run like the wind. Amen.

He's not alone. A kid from France may be the best athlete in the draft, period. Another undersized kid from Marquette is trying to be the next Gilbert Arenas. And then there's the kid from BYU who looks like Eminem with a jump shot. Break out your Nikes and Gatorade. It's showtime.

Here's a look at the Top 15 shooting guards expected to declare for the 2003 NBA Draft. Wednesday we'll tackle the Top 15 small forwards.

Note: The list includes all players seriously considering entering the 2003 draft. An asterisk (*) by a player's name indicates he is an underclassman who has officially declared.

1. LeBron James, Akron, Ohio*
The line: 6-8, 240, High School Senior
The skinny: For all 12 of you left on the planet who don't already own a LeBron jersey, here it goes. . . Put him anywhere on the floor, give him the ball and get out of the way. When you can say that about any prospect, let alone an 18-year-old fresh off his high school prom, he goes No. 1. End of story.

2. Mickael Pietrus, Pau Ortiz (France)*
The line: 6-6, 215, 21 years old
The skinny: Perhaps the most athletic player in Europe at the moment. Pietrus has a very American game. He loves to take it to the basket and use his athleticism and leaping ability to fly past his opponents. He's also a pretty good defender. He's aggressive on both ends of the court. He's very strong for his size. He also has a nice shooting touch. I saw him hit 10 straight NBA threes in warm-ups in December. Think a mixture of Desmond Mason and Ray Allen. Right now, teams have him going in the late lottery. He could move much higher once he gets into individual workouts.

3. Dwyane Wade, Marquette
The line: 6-4, 210, Junior
The skinny: Wade's game evokes comparisons to Desmond Mason, Fred Jones and even Jerry Stackhouse from scouts. It's not hard to see why when you look at his combination of a strong frame, leaping ability and defensive presence. He's one of the most complete athletes in college hoops. So what's the issue? He's picked up the dreaded "combo guard" label. He's too small to be a two guard in the NBA, but lacks the instincts to be top-notch point guard. While scouts are usually terrified of undersized two guards, Wade may be the exception. He has long arms and a pretty good handle. He never plays out of control, leading some to wonder if he could be turned into a point guard. After seeing how Gilbert Arenas proved everyone wrong, teams are more willing to take a chance on a talent like Wade. Expect him to be in the lottery when the smoke clears on draft night.

4. Jarvis Hayes, Georgia*
The line: 6-7, 220, Junior
The skinny: Teams like his body, strength and athleticism for the position and think his shooting has really improved. However, in a draft where being labeled "multi-dimensional" will make you multi-millions, Hayes has the rep of being a one-note player. It's not entirely fair. Hayes is an decent rebounder and defender. But his inability to put the ball on the floor or create his own shot will be a problem. He averaged just 3.3 free throw attempts per game. Think Allan Houston without a first step. Should go somewhere between the late lottery and mid first round.

5. Rickey Paulding, Missouri
The line: 6-5, 212, Junior
The skinny: Like Pietrus, Paulding is an super athlete along the lines of Jason Richardson. He jumps out of the gym and loves to slash to the basket. His last game of the season, a 36-point outburst against Dwyane Wade and Marquette, really helped his draft stock. He shot 9-for-16 from behind the arc that game, quieting critics who wonder whether he's a consistent enough threat from behind the arc. Paulding has publicly said that he's returning for his senior season at Missouri. However, several league sources claim that he's been exploring his options for the draft. Don't be surprised if he declares, but doesn't hire an agent, preserving his college eligibility. Like Kareem Rush, he's probably a mid-first-rounder at this point.

6. Aleksandar Pavlovic, Buducnost (Yugoslavia)*
The line: 6-7, 210, 20 years old
The skinny: May be the hottest riser in the draft. Several teams made the trip to Yugoslavia to see his teammate, Slavko Vranes. Vranes, however, hasn't been playing of late. What they did see was Pavlovic, a 6-foot-7 athletic swingman who some scouts are comparing to Peja Stojakovic. While scouts say that he struggles as a defender and doesn't have a great long-range game, the latest buzz has him hanging around the mid first round.

7. Travis Hansen
The line: 6-6, 210, Senior
The skinny: No one helped himself more at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament than Hansen. Hansen turned out to be a much better athlete than original scouting reports indicated. He also turned out to be a much better perimeter shooter, averaging 15.7 ppg on 57 percent shooting. He shot 63 percent from behind the arc during the tournament. Teams were also impressed with his toughness. Hansen can bench press more than 300 pounds and repeatedly ended up guarding and stopping bigger opponents. Several scouts claimed he reminded them of a more-athletic Jeff Hornacek. Another went even further, comparing him to Danny Ainge. Hooking up with agent Bill Duffy won't hurt his stock either. Right now he's probably still a second-round pick. But a strong showing in Chicago or a series of good workouts could propel him into the late first round.

8. Dahntay Jones, Duke
The line: 6-6, 210, Senior
The skinny: Another super athlete who helped himself with a strong tournament performance. Jones averaged nearly 25 ppg in the tournament this year and proved to scouts that he's outside shooting is coming around. He's got the size, athleticism and strength teams want in a two guard. He's a good defender and proved that, with good coaching, he can improve his game. If he plays well in Chicago he also has a chance of moving out of the second round into the late first.

9. Romain Sato, Xavier
The line: 6-5, 195, Junior
The skinny: Sato's father insists he's returning for his senior season. However, other sources continue to claim that he's mulling putting his name into the draft and playing in Chicago. Sato, an athletic 6-foot-5 swingman, is a gifted slasher who knows how to get to the basket and finish. He owns a solid outside shot and is great off the dribble. Still, there are enough questions about how good he could actually become that it seems unlikely that he could leap ahead of anyone else on the list. He's better off returning to school.

10. Ronald Dupree, LSU
The line: 6-5, 200, Senior
The skinny: Dupree's is another guy who really helped himself in Portsmouth. Dupree, who averaged 15.3 ppg at the PIT, gave scouts plenty of highlight-reel dunks but couldn't bury an outside jumper to save his life. He shot several airballs on 15-foot jumpers during the tournament, but scouts love his explosiveness around the basket. If he starts nailing jumpers in workouts, watch out.

11. Beno Udrih, Israel
The line: 6-5, 195, 21 years old
The skinny: Beno is a guy who could be on the rise, a la Jiri Welsch, last year. He's a combo guard who seems comfortable playing the point and the two. He's a good athlete with quickness, good court vision and can score. He's not an exceptional shooter, but always seems to find a way to score. He needs to work on his ball handling if he hopes to make the jump to full-time point guard in the pros.

12. Bernard King, Texas A&M
The line: 6-5, 200, Senior
The skinny: King is another guy who will improve his stock dramatically if teams believe he's capable of playing the point even part time. He's a good passer and an above-average ball handler. His 5.6 apg last season has caught the eye of scouts. He's fundamentally very solid. The issues are with his athleticism and ability to play in control. Shot selection has been an issue with King in the past, though last season he seemed to get things under control. Like just about everyone else, a lot will depend on what he does in Chicago. If he shines there, teams will give him serious consideration. Right now, however, he's a second-rounder.

13. Carl English, SG, Hawaii*
The line: 6-5, 205, Junior
The skinny: A big-time scorer and shooter. English has strong ball-handling skills and is a decent passer. He'll be trying to prove to scouts that he can make the transition from shooting guard to point guard in the pros. Needs to have a big week in Chicago.

14. Ruben Douglas, New Mexico
The line: 6-5, 200, Senior
The skinny: Douglas, who led the nation in scoring, averaging 27.9 points a game last season, raised some eyebrows in April when he decided to skip the PIT. While everyone agrees that he's a gifted scorer, most scouts feel he's closer to 6-foot-4 and isn't tall enough to play shooting guard in the pros. He also lacks the athleticism teams look for in a two guard.

15. Willie Green, Detroit
The line: 6-7, 210, 19 years old
The skinny: Another undersized Portsmouth sleeper whose athleticism and ability to get to the basket caught scouts' eyes. He's a long shot to get drafted, but he impressed enough people to warrant an invite to Chicago. If he gets it, and plays well, you never know.

Others to watch: Marquis Daniels, Auburn; Keith Bogans, Kentucky; Alexander Vujacic, Slovenia; Quintin Ross, SMU; Ronald Blackshear, Marshall. Marshall