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Chicago JK
06-19-2003, 07:26 AM
There's world of difference in philosophy

By Jackie MacMullan, Globe Columnist, 6/19/2003

he No. 1 pick will be a teenager from Akron, Ohio, one month removed from his senior prom. The No. 2 pick will be a European who just turned 18. The No. 3 pick just finished his freshman season at Syracuse -- unless an 18-year-old, 7-foot-4-inch Russian who averaged 6.2 minutes a game for his European team leapfrogs him at the 11th hour.

Remember when teams used to rebuild through the NBA draft? Forget about it. There is no more instant gratification. These days, the motto is Hurry Up and Wait.

''It's a different exercise now,'' said Indiana general manager Donnie Walsh. ''I'd feel confident taking a high school kid or a young European if I had a really good team. But if I'm rebuilding? That would make me nervous.

''In the case of the European kids, you either know what you're doing, or you make a really big mistake. In the case of the high school kids, you just have to flat-out wait.''

Cleveland is willing to wait for high school phenom LeBron James, the consensus top pick, because he has all the skills -- and a $90 million shoe contract. Detroit has a full-time European scout who believes center Darko Milicic is the real deal, so the Pistons will take him second -- even as Georgia Tech forward Chris Bosh turns their heads. Denver will take Orangemen hero Carmelo Anthony third -- unless Russian center Pavel Podkolzine blows away the Nuggets' brass in Monday's individual workout.

Don't bet the farm (or even the barn) on that one, although Denver general manager Kiki Vandeweghe said he would not commit to anyone until he scouts Podkolzine again.

''The draft is like a big treasure hunt,'' Vandeweghe said. ''Some guys sit and worry. When I walked in the first day, I promised everyone they'd have ample chances to criticize me, because I was going to try things.

''If you want to play it safe, I'm the wrong guy. I plan to do unexpected things. I plan to make bold moves.''

The influx of unproven Europeans is what makes this draft dicey. Atlanta Hawks president Stan Kasten drafted Alexander Volkov in 1986, and became the first to sign a European player. The gamble then was not on ability, but availability.

''I think we drafted seven or eight Europeans that year,'' said Kasten, ''but they were all in the third round or later. I held onto their rights, with the idea that one or maybe two of them would some day come over.''

There will be a plethora of foreigners drafted next Thursday, but the bulk of them are young, developing talents, not guaranteed commodities. Two of them -- 20-year-old forward Viktor Khryapa of Moscow, and 19-year-old Aleksandar Pavlovic of Serbia -- have drawn interest from the Celtics, and appear in mock drafts by other NBA teams as Boston's 16th pick.

Khryapa played limited minutes on a deep, veteran team, but proved to be a solid rebounder and shot blocker despite his lack of bulk (6-9, 210 pounds). He averaged 6.7 points and shot 59.2 percent. Pavlovic, a small forward, is a promising talent who has impressed with his shooting touch. Lauded one Western Conference GM, ''He's a pure, pure shooter. He has the same shot every time. It's very tight. He cocks it, and it's gone. He needs to get stronger, but he'll be a good one.''

Mark them both down as prospects.

Texas star T.J. Ford is a known player, and was once the consensus No. 4 pick to Toronto. But, suddenly, the word on the street is that Ford is dropping because he is under 6 feet and isn't a strong shooter. This is a news flash? Ford is still the quickest guy in the draft, but if the Raptors balk, they'll take Bosh. That would leave Marquette star Dwyane Wade for Miami at No. 5, which would leave Chicago disappointed because it wanted Wade at No. 7. So the Bulls could take Frenchman Mickael Pietrus instead -- unless they are successful in trading either Jay Williams or Jamal Crawford, which would make room in the backcourt for Ford.

Boston's search for a point guard is in the hands of Danny Ainge, whose $3 million salary makes him among the highest-paid GMs (the only one we could find making more is resident genius Jerry West in Memphis).

Three general managers said they expect the Celtics to take Nevada-Las Vegas guard Marcus Banks with the 20th pick. Said one Eastern Conference GM, ''He had a very good workout there. They liked his strength. He's explosive. He has a Robert Pack type of body.''

Banks, who stands a shade over 6-2, averaged 20.3 points last season and shared Defensive Player of the Year honors with BYU's Travis Hansen in the Mountain West Conference, and has been scouted countless times by Ainge. He was seventh in the nation in steals (91) and led his conference in assists (175).

Does this guarantee Boston will take Banks? Of course not. All sorts of things could change the landscape of the draft, particularly where Ford falls. Kansas point guard Kirk Hinrich will almost assuredly be a lottery selection (Milwaukee likes him at No. 8, and Washington, especially if Pietrus is gone, might take him 10th), and Oregon guard Luke Ridnour can deliver the ball as well as anyone available, but the question mark that accompanies his name is his lack of strength. Ridnour couldn't bench press 185 pounds at the Chicago predraft camp.

Reece Gaines of Louisville has been impressive in workouts, but prognosticators do not expect him to get past Orlando at 15. Troy Bell of Boston College will probably last until the second round. Here's hoping he makes all who passed on him look really, really bad.

Brazilian point guard Leandrinho Barbosa, once higly touted, continues to slip. As one Eastern Conference scout explained, ''He's far behind in basic development. He won't help anyone for a while.''

Apparently, very few members of the class of 2003 will.

''You draft a player based on potential now,'' said Bucks GM Ernie Grunfeld. ''Is it an inexact science? Of course, but it's always been. Even Red Auerbach made mistakes, on four-year guys. He was the one who drafted Michael Smith, wasn't he?''

Sure. Bring that up. Auerbach has long since been forgiven for that error. Ainge, a rookie at this game of chance, must now create his own legacy