Marty Blake was part of the NBA Draft scene back when the entire proceedings were held in a smoke-filled ballroom at a New York City hotel in the 1950s. Since that time, Blake has served as a general manager, scout and NBA scouting director for more than 45 NBA Drafts, and he had some interesting observations about the unique goings-on at the 2002 NBA Draft.
Q: There were some surprising moments tonight. Can you give us your impressions?
Blake: I thought this was as fascinating a draft as we have had in years, primarily because of the influx of international players (six in the first round, and 11 in the second round). Few of these players were guards. The key to the draft in my estimation occurred with the fifth pick when Denver chose Nikoloz Tskitishvili of Benetton Treviso. I thought Denver did very well. They coupled that selection with a big trade where they acquired “Nene” Hilario from New York, along with Marcus Camby and Mark Jackson. Here is a team with a rookie general manager and no coach, and they rebuilt their club with power and some offense.
Q: What do you think about Yao Ming’s potential?
Blake thinks the Nuggets drafting Tskitishvili at No. 5 set the tone for the entire draft.
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I think Houston chose the only true impact player in the draft. He is 7-5 and can run the court. He will have to build up his body and he might have a tough first year, since he may miss much of training camp while playing in the Asian Games.
Q: How about Mike Dunleavy going third to the Golden State Warriors?
Blake: Golden State got the best technical player in the draft. He is 6-9 and 230 and he is a very smart basketball player. His improvement was so very evident this season. He is going to a team that is very young and is rebuilding.
Q: After Washington traded Corey Alexander on Tuesday, everyone was wondering what they would do with their two first round picks. How do you think they fared?
Blake: I thought the Wizards did well. Everyone like Jared Jeffries. He worked out well all over the league. Juan Dixon is a winner and will help them at two spots.
Q: Many would say the biggest surprise of the first round by Indiana’s pick of Fred Jones at #14. What is your assessment of Jones?
Blake: He is a fierce competitor. He can shoot the three, and while he is not gifted in some of the nuances of the game, I think he is a winner. I attended several of his practices this year and the young man plays very hard.
Q: Who are some of the less well-known players that have impressed you?
Blake: Milwaukee took Ronald Murray of Shaw (at #42) and this guy can really play. He could make their team and he needs some polish on his game, but there is plenty of talent there. Juan Carlos Navarro of F.C. Barcelona in Spain (#40 to Washington) is a player my son Ryan, who is assistant director of scouting, has seen a lot and thinks will be a terrific player in time. Darius Songaila (50th to Boston) could be a find for Boston.
Q: Any closing thoughts?
Blake: It seems to me that many players who would have been drafted ordinarily were shut out due to the heavy influx of international players. Some of these players can really play and in some respects they may have been fortunate because they can choose which team is the best situation roster-wise for them to make a team. Players like Predrag Savovic of Hawaii, Luke Recker of Iowa and Brooks Sales of Villanova were guys I certainly thought would be drafted.