View Full Version : 6/4 ESPN Insider - The BIG buzz from Chicago camp

06-04-2003, 12:39 PM
Talent level looks as good as ever
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider
Send an Email to Chad Ford Wednesday, June 4
Updated: June 4
10:29 AM ET

CHICAGO -- The NBA's annual pre-draft camp finally got underway here Tuesday night, and the general consensus was the talent level was as good as it has been in years.

Several prospects -- including Alabama's Maurice Williams, BYU's Travis Hansen, Duke's Dahntay Jones, St. Joseph''s Jameer Nelson, N.C. State's Josh Powell, Creighton's Kyle Korver and Washington State's Marcus Moore -- already are generating a nice buzz, but the real test will come today when the games get underway at 11 a.m. ET.

Tuesday night, the 69 invitees met their coaches, shot around and ran some half-court and full-court scrimmages. Here's a few observations from NBA GMs and scouts on the scene:

Everyone was anxious to get a look at high schooler James Lang. Lang, a 6-foot-11, 310-pound center, has struggled with weight issues his entire career. Tuesday, however, he looked as slim as ever. That's not to say he looked skinny -- he's still more Oliver Miller than Richard Hamilton -- but it's a start. Lang is a pretty skilled post player. He could really help himself if he plays hard and proves to teams he's dedicated about his conditioning.

Chris Massie could be this year's blue-collar winner at the Chicago camp.
Memphis power forward Chris Massie has generated a little buzz in individual workouts over the past few weeks. He's going to be one of the strongest guys here in the camp, which is always big plus. It seems like every year one of the tough, blue collar guys (last year it was Corsley Edwards) does well for himself here.

Why was BYU's Hansen already getting buzz Tuesday night? "I think it's the hair," one assistant GM told Insider. "You can spot him anywhere on the floor. With 69 guys out there, that's a big plus." Hansen has his hair dyed platinum blonde. "If it was me," the assistant GM continued, "I'd die my hair bright red or something. You've got to find a way to stand out."

Another sleeper in the camp with be Ball State's Theron Smith. Smith, a power forward in college, already has an NBA body and NBA athleticism. But can he make the transition to small forward in the pros? He was shooting the ball really well Tuesday night. If he fights his instincts to take the ball down on the block and instead takes some shots from the perimeter, scouts will notice.

Only two international players, Aleksandar Vujacic and Alexsander Djuric, are here. Of the two, Vujacic is generating the most interest. At 6-foot-6 and just 19 years old, the Slovenian point guard looks like he could be a player. He'll have to share point guard duties with Alabama's Mo Williams, but it does appear coach Tony Barone will let him play the point here in camp. In the past, big guards like Vujacic have had trouble convincing their teams to let them play the point. The great news for Vujacic is that he'll get a lot of attention here. Many of these teams have Euro fever, but they just don't have a good feel for many of the kids. If Vujacic plays well, he could generate enough buzz to push him into the first round. You know how much NBA guys love 6-foot-6 point guards. Combine that with their obsession with Euros, and you've got a recipe for success.

Is it just me or does this seem like Jason Gardner's fifth straight Chicago camp? Ditto for Keith Bogans. After four years on the biggest stages in college basketball, what are they going to prove here?

The NBA relented a bit on the international physicals and will grant 7-foot-4 Siberian center Pavel Podkolzine a physical in Chicago even though he isn't participating in the camp. So many teams have questions about Podkolzine that the NBA ultimately had to relent and let him in. Unlike Maciej Lampe or Alexsandar Pavlovic, Podkolzine couldn't have played at the pre-draft camp if he wanted to. Pavel didn't get his visa to enter the U.S. until Wednesday and can't get here until Thursday.

Speaking of workouts, these 16 guys aren't playing in the camp but will be granted physicals on Friday: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Nick Collison, Brian Cook, T.J. Ford, Kirk Hinrich, Josh Howard, LeBron James, Chris Kaman, Chris Marcus, Darko Milicic, Pavel Podkolzine, Luke Ridnour, Mike Sweetney, Dwyane Wade and David West.

Among the surprise snubs? Reece Gaines is the biggest. Gaines is projected by most to be a top-15 pick. He's a senior and had very little to prove here. Georgia's Jarvis Hayes, UNLV's Marcus Banks, Mississippi State's Mario Austin, Notre Dame's Chris Thomas, Minnesota's Rick Rickert and high school stars Ndubi Ebi, Travis Outlaw and Kendrick Perkins were also left out.

Speaking of UNLV's Banks, word is he is skipping the camp in part because he already has received a guarantee from an NBA team. The team? Boston. One Celtics source told Insider that while they like Banks, there is no truth to the rumor. Still after Boston did the same thing with Kederick Brown a few years ago, you have to wonder if there's fire near that smoke.

Secret workouts?

Some NBA teams will get their first look at the 7-foot-4 Pavel Podkolzine on Friday.
Secret workouts are a big part of what's goes on behind the scenes in Chicago. Most of them aren't really that secret, because the rumor mill churns at a furious pace here. With that said, the two big workouts everyone is dying to get into are that of Ndubi Ebi and Charlie Villanueva on Thursday and of Pavel Podkolzine on Friday.

Ebi and Villanueva's workouts are being coordinated by agent Dan Fegan. While most NBA teams consider Ebi a lock to go somewhere between 17 and 26, Villanueva has been generating zero buzz. Many teams feel Ebi is reminiscent of Jonathan Bender. Bender actually was drafted with the fifth pick in the draft. It's taken him so long to develop (because of his rail-thin frame) that Ebi's stock probably won't ever rise into the lottery. However, many NBA scouts feel he's a top 10 talent based on potential.

Podkolzine's workout won't be open to the media. Most NBA teams haven't even seen him. After Insider visited him in Italy last month, his Varese team wouldn't allow any other NBA teams in to watch him practice. However, now that he's on the verge of finally negotiating a buyout, they agreed to let him come over and test his stock. After the camp workout on Friday, Podkolzine will have individual workouts with the Bucks, Grizzlies, Knicks, Warriors and Sonics. Almost everyone who has seen him believes he'll be in the lottery at the end of the day.

Of course, some workouts aren't all they're cracked up to be. Malick Badiane, the 6-foot-11 power forward from Senegal, was supposed to work out Tuesday at Hoops Gym. He did, for a little bit. The workout was supposed to be at 2 p.m. Badiane arrived at 1 p.m. and began training for about 45 minutes. However, when teams like the Lakers, Rockets, Raptors and Jazz started to arrive, his agent pulled the plug, and Badiane quickly left the gym. The workout was reschedule for Friday, but will anybody be there? It's scheduled to overlap with Podkolzine's workout, and after the rude treatment on Tuesday, who's going to skip the 7-foot-4 guy to take another chance on Badiane?

With that said, Badiane looked very athletic when he trained. He's very long, is a big-time leaper and was stronger than he looked on tape. His game film isn't very impressive -- he's as raw as they come. But someone will probably take a chance on him. The rumor is that Dallas is interested at 29. But right now, he looks much more like a second-round pick.

With Badiane out of the building, scouts did stick around to watch James Singleton, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound power forward from Murray State. Singleton is a big-time athlete, averaging 15.1 ppg and 11 rpg last season.

Hoops Gym, redux

Maciej Lampe and Dwyane Wade worked out together at Hoops on Thursday. What an interesting contrast between the two. Wade has arguably the best first step of anyone in the draft. Lampe is one of the best shooting big men we've seen in a while. But Lampe struggled a bit to keep up with Wade. He isn't alone. Word is that Wade burned Brazil's Leandrinho Barbosa and Louisville's Reece Gaines in recent workouts.

While some are obsessing over Wade's ability to play the point, I'm not sure he has to make that transition. He has freakishly long arms, an explosive vertical and the ability to get to the basket at will. He's a tenacious defender and hard, hard worker. He isn't your protototypical two-guard, but he really grows on you in workouts. He's got a great feel for the game that just can't be taught. It's hard to see him slipping out of the lottery.

Lampe and Wade ended the workout with a game of H-O-R-S-E. They both shot the lights out, and it took around 15 minutes before Wade finally emerged victorious.