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Chicago JK
06-09-2003, 11:21 PM
Seeing all the points, decisions to be made
June 9, 2003
By Dan Wetzel
SportsLine.com Senior Writer
Tell Dan your opinion!





CHICAGO -- Marty Blake was kicking around professional basketball even before he helped found the Continental Basketball Association in 1946. So when the current director of scouting for the NBA declares the upcoming NBA Draft "the year of the point guard," he has the historic gravitas to be taken seriously.

"The draft is just loaded with point guards," said Blake last week here at the NBA pre-draft camp.


Maurice Williams has the talent, but the pool might be too deep for him to be a first-round pick this year.(Getty Images)
Alabama sophomore Maurice Williams agrees, although he does so with a shake of his head. It is a tough year to be a point guard, which might force Williams, a player with unquestioned first-round ability, back to Tuscaloosa for another year of seasoning.

Not because he isn't good enough for the NBA, but because this year, he isn't better than a lot of the other guys who also are good enough.

"It is tough," said Williams. "There are a lot of point guards this year. I feel comfortable I can play in this league it is just a matter of where I am going in the draft,

"You have to just go by what teams want. If a team likes you, they'll draft you. If not, they'll draft someone else. It's not a gimmie. This year it is not a no-brainer."

High schooler LeBron James, Texas' T.J. Ford, Oregon's Luke Ridnour, Kansas' Kirk Hinrich, Brazil's Leandrinho Barbosa and Louisville's Reece Gaines are, according to NBA executives, considered first-round locks. That's six point guards before you get to the murky area of the late first round, where Williams is hoping to get picked and earn a guaranteed contract.

The problem is, he isn't the only one.

Williams is battling Saint Joseph's junior Jameer Nelson, BYU's Travis Hansen, Boston College senior Troy Bell, UNLV senior Marcus Banks, Notre Dame sophomore Chris Thomas, Washington State junior Marcus Moore, Mississippi State senior Derrick Zimmerman and others for the guaranteed deal that comes with a first-round selection.

To make matters worse, the teams with the last two picks in the first round -- Dallas and San Antonio -- are unlikely to pick a point guard.

"It's just crowded this year," said Blake. "Sometimes this happens."

Which is why all of the underclassmen point guards need to think long and hard about returning to college for another season. They have ability, but the timing simply is awful.

"I am going to listen to what I hear from (coach Phil Martelli)," said Nelson. "I know he is calling around because I know he has my back. If it's not first round, I'll probably head back. It's tough, though. It's not like I am going to grow."

At 5-11, Nelson won't. He is the best pure point guard in the mix of contenders -- a likely preseason first-team All-American -- but the height is too much to overcome this year.

Even the seniors feel the crunch and the frustration. Just last year, only three pure point guards were first-round selections, and that includes Frank Williams (No. 25) and Gonzaga's Dan Dickau (last at No. 28).

But that was last year. This is this year. Something Williams knows all too well.

"If I don't like where I am at I'll go back to school," Williams said. "I feel I should have a pretty good idea. But it's not easy. Next year, I may be in a situation where I am not even thought of as a first-rounder. You never know what may happen. You have to go when the opportunity is there."

Here is our advice to the underclassmen and high school seniors who are considering the jump to the NBA at all positions. We spoke to scores of NBA personnel and to the players themselves. Since advice is free, we are free to pass out ours.

Jameer Nelson, Saint Joseph's: The junior is a remarkable talent, and would be the best pure point guard in college basketball next season if he returns. And he should. While it is true he won't be able to solve the height problem ("unless I visit a doctor that can put some more skin on my feet or something," he joked) he isn't going to be a first-rounder this year. Let the crowd clear out, leave a legacy in Philly.

Maurice Williams, Alabama: Would probably be selected ahead of Nelson, but unless he gets a team to guarantee a first-round selection, another year in Tuscaloosa where the ball is all his will only help. This is an NBA talent who could wind up a lottery pick with another year of school.

Marcus Moore, Washington State: The junior is pretty good, just not quite good enough right now. He was quick to squash the idea that he didn't want to return to Pullman and play the half-court set for new coach Dick Bennett. "Coach Bennett is a great guy and I wouldn't mind going back and playing for him at all. And I hope you put that in there." Another year can only help.

Notre Dame's Chris Thomas: The sophomore skipped the pre-draft camp and tried to impress the league with individual team workouts. According to the buzz, the league wasn't overly impressed, and Thomas is a second-round guy right now. Considering how good a situation he has back in South Bend, another year is a no-brainer.

James Lang, Alabama high schooler: Lang actually has signed with an agent so he has no NCAA eligibility, but he made the right choice anyway. School doesn't interest him, and there is no need to square-peg it. He was the only high school player with the courage to compete in the pre-draft camp and that alone impressed scouts. He is a 6-9 big man with decent athletic ability. He has weight issues (316 pounds) but has lost about 40 pounds this spring working out. If he keeps that up, he will make money next year.

Ndudi Ebi, Texas high schooler: The Arizona signee is 6-10 and a fabulous athlete. We aren't entirely sold on his actual basketball skills, but at this point, the NBA has no way of scouting that. He may wind up in the first round on potential alone and if not, someone will put him on a roster. Would he be a better player with a few years under Lute Olson? Of course. But talking with Ebi reveals he has virtually no interest in attending college. Might as well go pro.

Charlie Villanueva, New York high schooler: Not as athletic as Ebi, but at 6-9, he is a better player. Is that enough? He is a borderline first-rounder right now with the option of joining the national championship favorite at Connecticut. This is a tough choice. With Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon in the fold, he won't be handed the ball a la Carmelo Anthony and won't put up huge numbers as the third option. But he risks a lot by turning pro now. His heart appears to be in the NBA, so he needs to do some honest soul-searching. If he thinks he can handle life within a team structure and the reality that he won't be a one-and-done guy, then go to UConn. If not, stay in the draft.

Andre Emmett, Texas Tech: The junior doesn't have a guaranteed roster spot waiting for him back in Lubbock. He'll have to ask back on the team in a face-to-face meeting with Bob Knight. That would probably not be an easy thing to do, but Emmett should suck it up and get it done. He is a terrific player, but his shooting range isn't even at the college 3-point line. To be an off guard in the NBA, it needs to be extended. Go back, work on the deep game and enjoy another season under Knight.

Kendrick Perkins, Texas High schooler: A 6-11 center, Perkins should go to the University of Memphis. One NBA team said they tested him and found he had 27 percent body fat. He has a reputation among scouts for loafing and other than size, there are few recognizable skills. The NBA loves height, so who knows for sure, but a couple seasons of getting in shape and learning the game will reap millions down the line. Go become a Tiger.

Travis Outlaw, Mississippi high schooler: At one point, he was a sure bet first-rounder, but the hype has dulled. He should have played at the pre-draft camp, where his athleticism would have excited people. Right now scouts say he is too thin, too unpolished and too immature (this is a small-town kid) to risk a few million of guaranteed money on him. But in the next breath they talk about his upside. It is a tough call. To be safe -- and if he is indeed eligible to play at Mississippi State -- he should consider school. But staying in the draft isn't a terrible option.

Josh Powell, North Carolina State: The junior big man might have already signed with an agent by now, so this could be a moot point. But if not, he shouldn't. There is little evidence that Powell will be drafted at all, especially after a sub-par pre-draft camp. The best recommendation here is go back to Raleigh and study hard.