The Optimist 2004 NBA Draft Preview

by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor
Click here to contact the Optimist

Al salaam a'alaykum, Cavaliers fans! I hope you’re all having as good a summer as your pal, the Optimist is.

I don’t know about you, but since the Cavaliers’ memorable 2003-04 season came to its climatic close, the Optimist has been doing nothing but golfing badly, stockpiling fireworks of mass destruction and celebrity-judging bikini contests in the Flats.

All in all, it’s been a splendid summer and we haven’t even gotten to one of the off-season’s great events: the NBA Draft!

I know what you’re thinking: ‘What’s he using an exclamation point for? The NBA Draft is lame.’ ‘We already got LeBron.’ ‘I don’t know any of the players this year.’ ‘We’re picking all the way down at No. 10.’

Valid points, one and all. But here are a few things to consider.

First, the No. 10 pick has turned out its share of stars: Paul Pierce, Eddie Jones, Paul Westphal and the late, great Bison “Brian Williams” Dele were tenth-overall selections.

Rouzbahani's game and marketability have NBA GMs drooling.

Secondly, the Cavaliers could wind up with one of the exciting new group of international players in this year’s draft. There’s Martynas Andriuskevicius, who reminds scouts of Zydrunas Ilgauskas. There’s Ha Seung-Jin, who reminds scouts of Yao Ming. There’s Peja Samardziski, Jaber Rouzbahani and Victor Khryapa. I mean, how do we know Uros Slokar won’t be the next Zaza Pachulia or that Sergey Lishchuk won’t be the next Zarko Cabarkapa? We don’t! That’s the beauty of the NBA Draft, folks!

Finally, this year’s Draft could provide one of the final pieces of the Cavaliers’ playoff puzzle. Cleveland grabbed a Cavalier cornerstone at No. 35 two years ago and all of their last five choices are currently solid contributors.

Besides, what else are you gonna watch that night? 'Must See TV'? 'Survivor: Detroit'? 'The O.C.'? Feh! Without Jennifer Anniston on the tube on Thursday nights, you might as well watch sports.

Yes, I think you’ll be with me, friends. Tuned in to watch Uncle Dave announce who the Wine and Gold has chosen with the tenth selection in the 2004 NBA Draft. And here’s the Optimist’s Draft Preview to get you through the night.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Jameer Nelson
St. Joe's

The Wooden Award winner and college hoops most solid player would fit perfectly behind Jeff McInnis. When J-Mac went down with a shoulder injury last season, so did the Cavaliers playoff hopes. Jameer Nelson would be an excellent insurance policy and could eventually be the Wine and Gold's version of Eric Snow. At 5-11, Nelson's height has been a major question, but his quickness and strength mitigates any concerns about his stature. He'll also enter the league with a chip on his shoulder; something Clevelanders can sympathize with.

Darkhorse Pick: Tiago Splitter - Brazil - Word is the Nowitzki-esque Tiago is better than fellow countryman, Nene. He would give the Cavaliers frontcourt of "Boozer and Splitter" which would, in the words of Apollo Creed, "sound like a damn monster movie."

Philadelphia 76ers
Ben Gordon
New Sixers head coach Jim O'Brien will anger Illadelphians immediately when he passes on local product, Nelson, for Ben Gordon.
Toronto Raptors
Andris Biedrins
18-year old big man can jump out of the gym. New Raptors' consultant, Wayne Embry, will go out and bring him back.
Phoenix Suns
Martynas Andriuskevicius
The 7-0 Lithuanian reminds some scouts of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, including Z's fiesty temperament. Not good news for Greg "Ostie" Ostertag.
Atlanta Hawks
Devin Harris
If and when the Hawks get a head coach, he will probably love Harris, a 6-3 point guard with excellent athleticism.
Washington Wizards
Andre Iguodala
NBA scouts love Iguodala, a raw talent with unlimited potential. The swingman from Arizona is also a defensive demon.
Charlotte Bobcats
Shawn Livingston
Peoria, Ill. (HS)
The 6-7 point guard is coveted by Bernie Bickerstaff. Aside from his size for a point guard, Livingston also has the quickness and hoops IQ to make an early impact.
Chicago Bulls
Luol Deng
Along with Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry, the versatile swingman from Duke will give the Bulls one of the youngest, most athletic frontcourts in the East.
L.A. Clippers
Dwight Howard
SW Atlanta Christian
The last two times the Clips held the No. 2 overall pick, they moved it, but don't look for them to pass on the 6-10 phenom who can do it all.
Orlando Magic
Emeka Okefor
The consensus No. 1 pick gives Orlando something they haven't had since they traded Ben Wallace: an interior defensive presence.

Hakeem Warrick

Warrick won the NCAA Championship as a freshman teammate of Carmelo Anthony's in 2002. He actually has better hops and athleticism than Anthony, but needed a couple seasons to fatten up his frame. Warrick is a fierce rebounder on both ends of the court, can hit the turnaround jumper and has great handle for a man who's 6-8. His physique and reliance on the purely physical aspects of his game are considered his weaknesses. Warrick will be NBA-ready by the time he enters the 2005 Draft and the angular swingman might even have his second NCAA crown to show for it.

LeTaylor Vernburton
St. Agatha's
Gary, Ind.

This eighth grade phenom has rewritten nearly all the Indiana state records for a prep athlete, eclipsing the likes of Larry Bird, Kent Benson and Jimmy Chitwood. Vernburton led St. Agatha's to an 18-4 record as a seventh grader and a perfect 22-0 record (and the greater Gary [Ind.] CYO title) in his eighth grade season. Pro scouts love his outside game and rebounding intensity, but are understandably concerned about how his 5-8, 105 lb. body will hold up under the rigors of an 82-game NBA season. Vernburton has been projected as a Top 5 pick next year, and at just 14 years old, would become the youngest player ever drafted. He's been compared to a younger, smaller, slower Danny Ferry.

Sergei Hfuhruhurr
Point Guard

The man NBA scouts have dubbed "Baby Drago" has teams licking their chops. At 7-5, 365, Hfuhruhurr handled nearly all the point guard duties for the Kaliningrad Bolsheviks of the Siberian League and led them to the title in four of the last five years. Cavaliers' advanced scout Wes Wilcox has been monitoring the statuesque point man's progress for the past year-and-a-half and raves about his game. "I've looked at seven-foot European guards from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and this kid's the best of the bunch," said Wilcox. "For a guy 7-5, he's got handle like Jason Kidd. It's really amazing." Hfuhruhurr, who's married to Russian tennis star, Anne Uumellmahaye, does have some negatives. He is all-but allergic to the paint, he refuses to guard any of the opponent's frontcourt players, he relies solely on the three-point shot and averaged less than one rebound (0.7) per game this season.

Dear Optimist,

Since this seems to be a weak draft year at the top, would the Cavaliers be better off trading their first round pick (No. 10 overall) to get multiple picks in later rounds? This would allow them to strengthen their offensive line, which continues to be their achilles heel.

Your thoughts?

Bort Stein, Parma, Ohio

Dear Bort,

I'm not sure where to start on that question. The only thing football (the sport your question is about) and basketball (the sport I'm writing about) have in common is that their balls are inflatable, something it seems you might be currently experiencing, Bort. But to answer your question, no, I don't think the Cavaliers should trade down. Some solid players have been drafted at No. 10 and every draft looks weak until the players actually start panning out.

Dear Optimist,

You're a shameless Cavaliers shill and obviously a tool of the man. Let's see you shed some light on the Tragic Langdon pick! Well! Let's see it!!!

Kendall L., Bristol, Connecticut

Dear Kendall L,

Well, Kendall, you're right. I am both a shameless Cavaliers shill and a tool of the man. Just last week, I did some landscaping at Len Komoroski's palacial digs on Wednesday and waxed DeSagana's Escalade on Thursday. But to answer your question about Trajan Langdon, we can start and end the argument by looking at the shooting guards available after Rip Hamilton went off the board. The list of luminaries the official NBA 1999 Draft Guide listed as the best prospects at 3-17 (following Hamilton and Langdon) were Kris Clack, Melvin Levett, Rodney Buford, Laron Profit, Geno Carlisle, Adrian Peterson, Marcus Wilson, Roberto Bergerson, Bryant Smith, Willie Farley, Robert Johnson, Galen Young, Eddie Lucas, Howard Brown and Damion Frierson. The top-rated Euro guards were Giorgos Diamantopolous and Antonis Fotsis. Let me just tell you, Kendall, that I played a pickup game a few weeks ago with Diamantopolous and Kris Clack and man, did they suck.

Dear Optimist,

What are the best and worst Draft Day moves that the Cavaliers have ever made?

Bobby Bohanavich, Garfield Hts., Ohio

Dear Bobby,

Well, I'd have to say that the worst Draft Day move the Cavaliers ever made was swapping local product and great dresser, Charles Oakley to the Bulls in exchange for Keith Lee in 1985. Oakley would have provided toughness through three generations of Cavaliers. He even suited up for the Rockets this season. The best Draft Day move was one year later, when the Cavaliers traded Roy Hinson and few thousand dollars to Philadelphia in order to draft Brad Daugherty in 1986. Not only was getting Daugherty a coup, but the players drafted after him (Len Bias, Chris Washburn, William Bedford) were not exactly Cavalier material.