This year’s NBA Draft is full of potential, but light on impact. There is a lot of size to be had from this group of eligible players, but almost every player has some question marks around his name. Fifty-eight players will be picked in the two rounds of the NBA Draft, and, amazingly, that is the exact number of underclassmen that originally declared themselves eligible for the process. Of course, not all of those underclassmen will be picked, and 11 of them decided to return to school before the NBA’s deadline.
The draft was originally conceived to balance talent throughout the league, but, unless Tim Duncan or Shaq are in the draft, it is seldom that a team gets a true impact player from their selection. The last two franchises that had the first pick in the draft, the Bulls and Nets, respectively, are back for another appearance in the lottery and still looking for an impact player.
The Washington Wizards own the first pick in the draft at the time of this writing, but have been trying to trade the pick, with little success. It seems very unlikely that Jordan will want to take a flier on players like Eddie Griffin, Eddy Curry, Kwame Brown or Rodney White with the first pick overall, considering none of them are thought of as certain superstars, and are probably some time away from making their biggest impact on the league. If Jordan is to return, as has been widely speculated, he will almost certainly want some veterans who know how to win. Unfortunately for the Wizards, without a consensus top player available, most teams feel they have as much value with a pick a bit further down in the lottery as they would with the top pick overall. Griffin is probably the most talented player in the draft, but there have been character issues surrounding him. He was in the middle of a combustible Seton Hall club that underachieved last season, but could be an impact forward for a long time if he decides to grow up.
The Clippers own the second pick, and have had an awful lot of luck with their picks recently. Darius Miles looks like a superstar in the making, and with Lamar Odom leading the way, the future looks bright for the Clips. They seem to need size because Michael Olawokandi, the top overall pick a few years ago, has been a complete disappointment. Curry, who is huge, but young, or Brown, thought of as the most talented of the high schoolers in the draft but a power forward, not a center, could be the pick. The Hawks seem to be the easiest team to handicap, as far as who they’re going to pick. Shane Battier makes sense for Atlanta for a number of reasons. They are a team that generates little interest in their town, but that would change if the popular Battier moves just a couple hundred miles south from his Duke home. He is also the player who will give his team the most impact this season. The Hawks have some decent big men with Theo Ratliff and Nazr Mohammed, but Battier could help a lot at either forward position with his defense, winning attitude and decent perimeter shot.
With the fourth pick, the Bulls still need a little bit of everything, besides power forward, after taking Elton Brand and Marcus Fizer with their two previous top picks. But Jerry Krause is going to take the player he feels is the best available, and that may be White, who is also a power forward. White is the fastest rising player in the draft, and has good size, as well as a strong perimeter game. He can play either forward position, and can also handle the ball. If the Bulls don’t go after White, they may choose one of the big high school centers still available. In addition to Curry, Tyson Chandler and DeSagana Diop are also eligible, and have high talent ceilings. The Warriors should follow suit with the fifth pick, taking whichever of the young, big men that are still left. Golden State has some good players, like Antawn Jamison and Larry Hughes. If they can find some more size to go with Marc Jackson, things could be interesting in the Bay Area.
The Grizzlies still aren’t sure where they’ll be playing next season, but they have the sixth pick in the draft, and a desperate need for talented interior players, like almost every team in the lottery. They may be in the process of trading point guard Mike Bibby, but hope the frontcourt of Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Stromile Swift can be effective for the foreseeable future. They have a decent shooting guard in Michael Dickerson, but could take Joe Johnson or Jason Richardson, if they can’t get a decent big man. This pick seems too high to take Arizona’s Loren Woods, Villanova’s Michael Bradley or North Carolina’s Brendan Haywood, although any of those players is certainly a possibility.
The same can be said about the Nets, who pick seventh. Size is New Jersey’s first priority, but they could use some help at shooting guard, as well, considering the injury problems of Kerry Kittles and Kendall Gill. Trade talks have surrounded the Nets’ Stephon Marbury and Keith Van Horn this off-season, and the team could still make some moves before the draft. Next up is the Cavaliers, who have a new coach in John Lucas, and should play a more up-tempo style this season than they have in the past. Look for them to take a scorer, as should the Pistons with the ninth pick. In addition to the names mentioned above, Gilbert Arenas or Joseph Forte, may jump to one of these teams. The Celtics own the 10th and 11th picks, and should use one of them to take a chance on Pau Gasol, who is considered the best player to ever come from Spain, but won’t be eligible to play in the NBA until next season. Zach Randolph, another power forward from Michigan State, or point guard Jamal Tinsley, could go to the Celtics with one of those picks, as well.
Don’t expect any of these players to be playing in the All-Star Game next season, but a number of these guys, like Griffin, Brown, Curry and White, could be top players in a year or two, depending on when and where they go.
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