NEW YORK, June 23
-- Marty Blake would like to go against the most recent popular opinion regarding perception of the NBA Draft 2004.
"I think it's very deep," Blake said. "Though, as of last Thursday, the draft changed dramatically because of the 38 international players, 28 of cancelled out."
Blake says Telfair is a natural at the point, but needs to work on his shooting.
Blake, the NBA's Director of Scouting, said many of the international players may have had better situations with their previous teams.
"I think they want a guaranteed contract from an NBA team," Blake said. "When they found out they weren't going to get that, they were advised by their agents," to drop out.
But their absence means the draft will welcome more home grown talent.
"You're going to have more U.S. college players drafted in the first round because of it," Blake said. "Because a lot of the European players who pulled out were solid and that will change the nature of the draft.
"There will be a lot of guys who attended the Portsmouth and Chicago camps who will be drafted."
Blake also noted that teams have been more ready to swap places this season.
"Seems to me that the trades are coming earlier this year," Blake said. "Take the Clippers. They believe they can get their guy at No. 4. The Bobcats are now No. 2. And they think they'll be able to take Emeka Okafor or Josh Howard at that spot, unless they pull a big surprise.
"I think you'll see a lot more trades, especially after the Expansion Draft."
We asked Blake, who has been with the NBA for 45 years and in pro ball for 57, to give us some quick-hit analysis of some of the more prominent names in this draft. (Also, check out Blake's sleeper pick at the bottom of the page.)
Josh Childress, 6-8, 210, junior, Stanford
Blake: "Very athletic. He can run, he can jump, he can block shots. I'm not sure about his ball-handling skills."
Luol Deng, 6-8, 220, freshman, Duke
Blake: "He's got great quickness. He can beat you off the dribble. He's a good shooter and a smart ballplayer."
Ben Gordon, 6-3, 200, junior, Connecticut
Blake: "I know he's going to step in and score right away at the NBA level. People think he can play the point and he's instant offense."
Devin Harris, 6-3, 185, junior, Wisconsin
Blake: "I think he'll be the first point guard taken. If Shaun Livingston is the first, then Harris will definitely be the second. He's very quick, very astute, knows the game."
Dwight Howard, 6-11, 240, Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy
Blake: "He's got great skills. Is he ready? I don't know, what constitutes 'ready.' He's got to play for a team where he's going to get a lot of minutes. He has a great support staff. He wants to play. He works out every day. He gets up a 5 o'clock every morning. He'll be a superstar … someday."
Andre Iguodala, 6-6, 207, junior, Arizona
Blake: "He's a good athlete. He can run, he can jump, he can guard people."
Luke Jackson, 6-7, 215, senior, Oregon
Blake: "I love Luke Jackson. I think he can play three positions. If you like a guy take him. If I was a good team, I'd take him. Someone will end up with a hell of a player."
Shaun Livingston, 6-7, 175, Peoria (Ill.) Central H.S.
Blake: "He's put on about 15 pounds this offseason. This kid knows how to play. He's a gifted point guard. I think point guards are born not made."
Jameer Nelson, 6-0, 190, senior, St. Joseph's (Pa.)
Blake: "He'll be a great player in the NBA. If you draft him, he'll start for you."
Emeka Okafor, 6-10, 252, junior, Connecticut
Blake: "He's a cinch."
Pavel Podkolzine, 7-5, 260, Varese (Italy)
Blake: "They're going on physical ability with Pavel. He's 7-5, but he's still young. He has some skills. Someone will get a huge guy in the middle."
Josh Smith, 6-9, 210, Oak Hill Academy (Va.)
Blake: "He can jump out of the building. Teams that have worked him out say he's been off the chart with the physical skills. I think he can play in the league right away once he learns."
Sebastian Telfair, 6-0, 165, Lincoln H.S., Brooklyn
Blake: "He was born to play the point. He's very good at getting the ball from point A to point B. He needs to get stronger. He's a terrible shooter and he was only 1-for-11 at the Nike Summit. He takes bad shots, but Portland likes him."
Sasha Vujacic, 6-7, 193, Slovenia
Blake: "He's been around for a while. He's played pro ball for five or six years. A lot of people like him. He's a guy who can step in and play right away … for the right team."
Marty's Sleeper Pick:
"There's a guy named Jackson Vroman from Iowa State who was a star in Portsmouth and Chicago," said Blake. "I think he'll surprise people by going in the first round."