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05-01-2003, 01:55 PM
2003 NBA Draft: Top 15 power forwards
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider
Send an Email to Chad Ford Thursday, May 1

What do Malik Allen, Othella Harrington, Christian Laettner, Tyson Chandler, Carlos Boozer, Jerome Williams, Eddie Griffin, Pau Gasol, Donnell Harvey, Troy Murphy, Elton Brand, Shareef Abdur Rahim and Reggie Evans all have in common?

They were the starting power forwards for the 13 teams that landed in the lotter for this year's NBA Draft. They all have something else in common, too. They are A) very good but lack much of a supporting cast (Brand, Abdur Rahim); B) still too young to carry a team (Gasol, Murphy, Griffin, Chandler, Boozer); or, C) they have no business getting floor time outside of shoot arounds (the rest).

Now compare that list with this one:

Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowtizki, Kevin Garnett, Chris Webber, Rasheed Wallace, Amare Stoudemire, Karl Malone, Jermaine O'Neal, Ben Wallace, Antoine Walker, Kenyon Martin, Drew Gooden, Derrick Coleman, P. J. Brown, Anthony Mason and Samaki Walker.

With the exception of the Lakers, every team in the playoffs this season has a big-time power forward. While they range from All-Star to pretty good, there's no question that having a big forward makes a big difference. "Everyone talks about the disparity between the West and the East, but it really comes down to the power forwards," one Eastern Conference GM told Insider. "The West has a bunch of good ones, the East has three or four. And none of them are on par with the Garnetts, Duncans and Webbers of the West."

The Lakers were the only team in the West that made it to the playoffs without an All-Star caliber power forward. In the East, Abdur Rahim was the only decent power forward left out of the playoffs. The big guys matter, folks. That's why teams go nuts over power players in the draft. Last year, six power forwards were drafted in the lottery. In 2001, the first three picks were power forwards, and nine overall were taken in Round 1.

Teams still can't get enough. The good news is that, without question, this is one of the deepest drafts ever at the power forward position. As many as 15 power players have a shot at getting drafted in Round 1.
They range from versatile players like Darko Milicic, to Garnett clones like Chris Bosh, to squatty power players like Mike Sweetney to mysterious international players like Anderson Varejao. Like the rest of the draft, an influx of young international players is swelling the depth at the position.

Here's a look at the Top 15 power forwards expected to declare for the 2003 NBA Draft. Friday we'll tackle the Top 10 centers.

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. Darko Milicic, Yugoslavia*
The line: 7-0, 245, 17 years old
The skinny: He's dominant. Like Dirk Nowitzki, he has the full complement of skills. He can handle, shoot the 3 and play in the paint. Unlike Nowitzki, he's tough as nails. A strong defender who gets aggressive in the post. He has the potential, if he fills out, to be a legit center in the league. He's going to be a top-three pick in this year's draft.

2. Chris Bosh, Georgia Tech
The line: 6-10, 219, Freshman
The skinny: Scouts use Garnett and even Tim Duncan as comparisons when discussing Bosh. That is, with one major exception. Bosh's 49 percent shooting from beyond the 3-point line has everyone giddy. He's a very smooth player. Seems equally comfortable facing the basket or playing on the block. Has above-average athleticism. He's a quick leaper and runs the floor extremely well. Has some nice moves in the paint, including a sweet turn-around jumper right around the block. Has a soft touch on shots. Has great shot selection. He's not afraid to fight for position down low and seems to have a knack for rebounding. He plays with aggressiveness on the defensive end. He's very intelligent, gets along well with his teammates and is a model citizen off the court. He needs to get stronger. He'd be a much better rebounder and defender if he added 20 pounds of muscle. Right now he's a top-five pick if he declares, as expected.

3. Anderson Varejao, Brazil
The line: 6-10, 235, 20 years old
The skinny: He's good, but there's lots of debate over exactly how good. Teams get excited about his rebounding, shot blocking and soft shooting touch from the outside. Others claim he's a tweener. He's not physical enough to thrive in the post in the NBA, and his game isn't developed enough on the offensive end to play small forward. Nevertheless, he's probably a lock for the top 10, and he could be rated higher once teams see his workouts. None other than Dejan Bodiroga, one of the greatest Europeans ever, and a Varejao teammate, told Insider Varejao is one of the best young players he's ever seen.

4. Michael Sweetney, Georgetown*
The line: 6-8, 260, Junior
The skinny: Sweetney's a beast in the paint. He averaged 22.8 points and 10.4 rebounds on 55 percent shooting this season for the Hoyas. Sweetney is comfortable playing with his back to the basket and often evokes comparisons to Elton Brand. His other big plus is that he gets to the free throw line and actually makes his shots. Sweetney averaged almost 10 free-throw attempts per game this season and shot 74 percent from the line. The downside is that he's not a great athlete, and most scouts feel he's a bit undersized to play the position. Still, the upside should get him into the lottery.

5. Sofoklis Schortsianitis, Greece
The line: 6-10, 287, 17 years old
The skinny: Nicknamed Baby Shaq by his teammates in Greece, he's very strong and capable of playing with his back to the basket. Has a body like Eddy Curry's. His stock has dropped lately as teams question his size, though he recently was measured at 6-10, 287. Will that stop the slippage? Numerous GMs and scouts will check Sofoklis out this weekend in Crete. If he plays well, and measures up to their expectations, his stock will go back up.

6. Mario Austin, Mississippi State*
The line: 6-8, 260, Junior
The skinny: Austin has made a big impression on scouts since his breakout year last season. Austin put his name in the NBA Draft last year but pulled it out just before the deadline after receiving feedback that he might slip into the second round. He's in the best shape of his career. He's strong, physical and has a solid low-post game. The biggest knocks on Austin are his size -- some scouts claim he's closer to 6-7 than 6-9. His long arms will make up some of the difference, but right now scouts have him ranked just a tick below Sweetney and Sofoklis for the "top undersized power forward" in the draft. Head-to-head individual workouts against Sweetney will be key to Austin moving up. Right now he looks like a mid-first rounder.

7. Nick Collison, Kansas
The line: 6-9, 250, Senior
The skinny: Collison is hard-working, fundamentally sound and an intelligent player. He's very crafty under the basket. Uses angles and good footwork to get lots of easy baskets. Has decent strength and a nice mid-range jumper. Can step out and hit a 3 when he needs to. He's a good rebounder and above-average shot blocker, and he plays tough, aggressive defense. His only real weakness is a lack of athleticism. He's a bit slow-footed and doesn't possess the quickness to guard many of the elite power forwards in the NBA. Collison won't be a star at the next level, but scouts think he could be a solid role player, like Shane Battier. That should be enough to land him somewhere in the mid first round.

8. Brian Cook, Illinois
The line: 6-10, 240, Senior
The skinny: Cook has a great all-around game for someone his size. He's very skilled and is now equally comfortable in the post and on the perimeter. He spent most of his first three years hanging out on the perimeter, shooting jumpers. This season he's been a beast in the paint. He's strong enough now to back down his defender. He's also got a sweet turnaround jumper that's close to unstoppable because of his length. Outside, his range extends beyond the 3-point line. The problem is that teams have questions about Cook's stability. He underachieved for three years at Illinois before coming on strong this year. Teams still question his toughness and mental maturity. He's got a lottery-type game. But his other issues probably will slide him into the late teens or early 20s.

9. Zaur Pachulia, Georgia
The line: 6-11, 260, 19 years old
The skinny: Countryman and former teammate of Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Pachulia is more of a classic low-post banger. He's strong, likes to mix it up down low and is an excellent rebounder. Pachulia actually threw his name into the draft last season and wowed several teams in workouts, including the Pacers. He was considered a late-first-round pick last year. His agent felt Pachulia would be better off waiting a year to get more exposure. After a slow season in Turkey playing behind the Euroleague MVP Joe Blair, Pachulia finally got his chance two weeks ago when Blair went down with an injury. He responded with 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting and added eight rebounds, three assists and three steals in a huge win over defending Euroleague champ Panathinaikos. The game wasn't a fluke. He followed it up with a 13-point, 17-rebound performance against Skipper Bologna. He's a sure-fire first rounder.

10. Ronny Turiaf, Gonzaga
The line: 6-10, 230, Sophomore
The skinny: Gonzaga's import from France is considered one of the most lethal low-post scorers in college basketball. 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. Turiaf gets to the foul line better than just about any other big man in the college game. He's a solid rebounder, a good shot blocker and an aggressive defender. Scouts love him. They'd like to see him stay in school another year to hone his skills, but his combination of size, athleticism, aggressiveness and ability to play with his back to the basket make him a lock for the first round if he declares now.

11. Rick Rickert, Minnesota*
The line: 6-10, 215, Sophomore
The skinny: Rickert is one of the most-skilled big men in the draft, but his lack of strength and a perceived lack of toughness are killing his draft stock right now. His lack of rebounding for someone his size also doesn't help his cause. Rickert has been working out at IMG in Florida for the past few weeks trying to add strength. Workouts will be the key for him. If he proves he's tough enough to play in the post, he's a late first-rounder. If he doesn't, there's a chance he could slip into the second round.

12. Travis Outlaw, Mississippi
The line: 6-9, 210, HS Senior
The skinny: Of all of the high school seniors, Mississippi native Travis Outlaw, seems like the most predisposed to test the draft waters now. Outlaw, a super-athletic power forward, runs the floor like a guard and is an excellent shot blocker. However, he doesn't have much of a face-the-basket game. Scouts say Outlaw would have to make the transition to small forward in the pros. "He has some real physical gifts, but he doesn't know how to play the game," one scout said. "He reminds me a little of Darius Miles. Great athlete, no real offensive game, thin frame and no position. He really hasn't made big improvements over the last few years. I think he really needs some solid coaching. In a couple of years, he could be a big time prospect if he improves." Outlaw should go to college. But if he does come out, he's a bubble first rounder.

13. Jerome Beasley, North Dakota
The line: 6-10, 235, Senior
The skinny: Beasley burst onto the scene in April, grabbing MVP honors at the Portsmouth Invitational. Beasley played in the championship game and scored 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting. He also grabbed 10 rebounds. He ended the tournament averaging 14 ppg and 8.3 rpg on 54 percent shooting from the field. Beasley's size, combined with his perimeter game, give him a realistic chance of sneaking into the first round if he duplicates his Portsmouth success in Chicago. If he doesn't, he'll be a steal in Round 2.

14. Josh Powell, North Carolina State
The line: 6-9, 230, Sophomore
The skinny: Powell is another kid who'd be better of staying in school. He hasn't officially declared for the draft, but league sources say he's trying to figure out his draft stock. Powell's an athletic combo forward, has impressed scouts with his ability to finish in the paint. He's got a huge wingspan, big-time hops and is a pretty solid shot blocker. Scouts aren't sure, however, whether he has a position in the pros. He's thin, doesn't play great defense and doesn't have a consistent perimeter game. He's a bubble first rounder who most likely slips into Round 2.

15. Malick Badiane, Senegal
The line: 6-11, 230, 19 years old
The skinny: Badiane, a native of Senegal, has long arms (7-foot-4 wing span) and a solid NBA body. He already has the shot blocking and rebounding down, but scouts say he's very raw (think Olumide Oyedeji) on the offensive end. But unlike Oyedeji, he's bigger, stronger, more athletic and has decent pro instincts. NBA scouts concurred that he'd likely be a late first-rounder or early second-rounder if he declares. "He's going to have a big-time NBA body, and his shot isn't that bad," said one Western Conference scout. "He just needs a lot of work, and he's got to get tougher. But when you're working with those raw materials, he's worth a shot."

Others to watch: Ron Slay, Tennessee; Boyko Mladenov, Bulgaria; Szymon Szewczyk, Poland; Will McDonald, South Florida; Theron Smith, Ball State; Brandon Hunter, Ohio University; Robert Jackson, Marquette; Sam Hoskin, DePaul.