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05-19-2003, 11:01 AM
Draft Rumors: Lottery or second round?
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider


There is still six weeks to go before the NBA draft and, outside the top three players in the draft, confusion still reigns. I spent a lot of time this weekend talking to NBA scouts and GMs, trying to get a handle on where certain kids are projected to go in the draft.

It's still a crap shoot.

While there's still plenty of time to get a consensus on where kids will ultimately end up, right now many of the top players in the draft are all over draft boards. Here's just a sampling of the highs and lows I encountered from talking to scouts.

T. J. Ford -- High: 4 Low: 12
Chris Kaman -- High: 4 Low: 10
Maciej Lampe -- High: 5 Low: 19
Boris Diaw -- High: 13 Low: 20 Mike Sweetney -- High: 8 Low: 21
Jarvis Hayes -- High: 7 Low: 23
Kirk Hinrich -- High: 8 Low: 20
Reece Gaines -- High: 10 Low: 24
Pavel Podkolzin -- High: 10 Low: 25
Luke Ridnour -- High: 12 Low: 26
Dwyane Wade -- High: 7 Low: 20
Sofaklis Schortsinitis -- High: 10 Low: 29
Anderson Varejao -- High: 6 Low: 28
David West -- High: 15 Low: 37
Brian Cook -- High: 12 Low: 32
Mario Austin -- High 12 Low: 35
Nick Collison -- High: 13 Low: 41


If that isn't enough to drive folks crazy, I'm not sure what is.

Pavlovic set to join Darko

Alexsandar Pavlovic is caught between a rock and a hard place. He's anxious to join friend Darko Milicic in New York to begin preparing for the NBA draft. But he'd also love the chance to knock Partizan out of the Yugoslavian playoffs and try to go for his country's championship.
The two goals are at major odds with one another. The more Pavlovic's team, Budocnost wins, the longer he must stay in Montenegro.

"I'm a professional," Pavlovic told Insider in a phone interview on Sunday. "I know that team success comes before individual success. We will give our all here and think about the NBA draft later." Pavlovic really means "we" when he says it. Teammates Zarko Cabarkapa, Slavko Vranes and Luka Sjekloca are all in the NBA draft this year. That's got to be some kind of record.

Fortunately for Pavlovic, his team is down 0-2 in the five game series with Partizan. If his team loses this week, he'll be on the next plane to New York along with Vranes (another close friend) to begin working out with Darko. Pavlovic's story is an interesting one. He's just 19 years old and has went from star of his team to the bench twice this season. Coaching changes and the influx of NBA scouts watching his game meant that Pavlovic had to take the changes in stride.

"It's difficult for me to sit and watch when I know what I can do," Pavlovic said. "Things are just different here." NBA scouts are learning that the hard way. Scouts who went to see Pavlovic play in December (when Insider got a first hand look at his game) walked away impressed with his shooting touch and athleticism. He was, at 6-foot-7, a protypical two guard for the NBA. The comparisons to Peja Stojakovic weren't that far off.

However, scouts that came in March and April saw a different kid. Regulated to spot duty on his team, many walked away unimpressed and questioned that hype. That's why Pavlovic's stock is all over the draft board. Those who saw him in the winter believe he's a mid first rounder. Those who saw him later in the year aren't so sure where he belongs. That's why workouts will be so important.

When asked to describe his game, he doesn't hesitate. "I've been watching the NBA all of my life and I think I'm going to be a very good player," he told Insider. "I'm a mixture of Emaunel Ginobili and Gordan Giricek. I have a better outside shot than Ginobili and I'm a better athlete than Giricek." If that proves to be true in individual workouts, Pavlovic could a real sleeper for a late lottery selection on draft night.

Diaw named French League MVP

NBA scouts may not have a great handle on Boris Diaw, but the French sure seem to. Diaw was named the MVP of the French League this weekend.
That's not bad for a guy who averaged just 5.8 ppg in the Euroleague this season.

The foreign invasion

The debate continues to rage on just how many international players will be selected in the first round this year. A record 31 international underclassmen (players under the age of 22) declared for the draft last week sending just a few more shock tremors through the league. With just six weeks to go before the draft, teams are still stuggling to get a handle on which players are seriously in the draft and which players are just testing the waters.

Last season, 15 young international players put their names in the draft and 10 pulled their names out. The remaining five, Nikoloz Tskitishivili, Nene Hilario, Nenad Kristic, Peter Fehse and Mladen Sekularic were all drafted.

This year, the league expects about half of the 31 players who declared to pull their names before the June 19th deadline to withdraw from the draft. That still leaves as many as 15 foreign underclassmen and around five draft eligible (born in 1981) international players vying for the 58 possible draft slots in this year's draft.

Assuming the number works out to be in the neighborhood of 20 international players draft in rounds one and two, that leaves only 38 openings for American players.

Lorbek one of the lucky ones

Erazem Lorbek, the 6-11 big man for Slovenia has become the poster child for the league's growing concern about the number of college underclassmen and international underclassmen who are declaring for the NBA draft. Lorbek was considered a young star in Europe before joining Michigan State last season. As a freshman, Lorbek struggled averaging just 6.4 ppg and 3.3 rpg for the Spartans. His decision to declare for the NBA draft last week stunned everyone at Michigan State.

Lorbek met with his father and an agent when he returned to Slovenia after the season and made the decision. He then signed with SFX's David Bauman. Coach Tom Izzo was stunned.

"I don't think he had any intention of doing anything but coming back here," Izzo said. "I saw his plane ticket. He was coming back July 25. I pride myself on not putting my head in the sand around here, whether it be on illegal things or whether it be on relationships with players.

"When things like this happen out of the clear blue, you feel like you've had your head in the sand a little bit. And yet in this case, I don't believe so. People got a hold of him, and that's what happens in this business."

But Lorbek is a lucky one. Unlike many of the college underclassmen who declared for the draft, he has a pretty big safety net. Whether Lorbek gets drafted or not, he'll land a lucrative contract in Europe next season.

His father, Radovan, told me at the Euroleague Final Four that money wasn't the only consideration in Lorbek turning pro. His father was concerned that his soon hadn't developed during his one year stint at Michigan State. In Europe, players practice on average of five to six hours a day. At Michigan State, he was limited to 20 hours of practice a week.

Radovan felt that whether or not he was drafted this season wasn't really the issue. Lorbek can play in Europe for the next few years, get better, and then, as a free agent, choose a team that needs his son. It was a cold, calculated business move and it shouldn't come as a huge shock. In Europe, where the idea of amateurism is basically dead, people look at basketball as a job. Radovan Lorbek didn't like the on the job training his son was getting in the U.S. so he pulled him back to Europe before his stock dropped any further.