Previewing the Draft
rom the pages of the May issue of Hawk Talk, the Atlanta Hawks' official monthly magazine.
The 2004 NBA Draft will once again be highlighted by the high number of underclassmen and foreign players who will enter the annual talent hunt. However, this year's edition is younger than ever, which means that there might be an adjustment period for many of the top prospects. Many of the likely top picks are so young that they can't even legally celebrate on draft night with a glass of champagne.
The winners and losers of the 2004 NBA Draft will likely not be known for several years as this year's first round will likely feature less than six seniors. This means that teams will draft for potential. This draft figures to be much like the 2001 NBA Draft, which saw only four seniors picked and only one four-year player picked among the top 19 picks.
The Hawks hold the sixth pick, the 17th overall choice, and three second-round selections.
The following is a look at the top ten players at each position, scouting reports on the five at each post and others to watch for the June 24th NBA Draft.
TOP TEN POINT GUARDS HT WT CL SCHOOL/COUNTRY 1. Shawn Livingston 6-7 175 SR* Peoria (IL) Central 2. Devin Harris 6-3 185 JR Wisconsin 3. Sebastian Telfair 5-11 175 SR* Brooklyn (NY) Lincoln 4. Ben Gordon 6-3 200 JR Connecticut 5. Jameer Nelson 5-11 195 SR St. Joseph's 6. Sasha Vujacic 6-7 205 19 Italy 7. Roko-Leni Ukic 6-5 185 20 Croatia 8. Blake Stepp 6-4 194 SR Gonzaga 9. Chris Duhon 6-1 190 SR Duke 10. Ivan Koljevic 6-2 180 19 Serbia
(* high school player)
Others to watch: Timmy Bowers of Mississippi State, Andre Barrett of Seton Hall, Nate Robinson of Washington, Marcus Moore of Washington State, Gerald Fitch of Kentucky, Antonio Burks of Memphis, Cliff Hawkins of Kentucky, Taliek Brown of Connecticut, Demon Brown of Charlotte, Greg Davis of Troy State, Morris Finley of UAB, Luis Flores of Manhattan, Marques Green of St. Bonaventure, Royal Ivey of Texas, Spencer Ross of Queens, Michael Watson of UMKC, Andrew Wisniewski of Centenary and Rashad Wright of Georgia.
Livingston has the size at point guard that NBA scouts love. He led his team to back-to-back state titles and played in the EA Sports Roundball Classic and McDonald's All-American Game. He shined in the KMOX Shootout in December in front of plenty of NBA scouts. Livingston needs to add bulk, but is an outstanding passer with good court vision. He signed with Duke in the early signing period.
Harris was the Big Ten Player of the Year as a junior after finishing second in the conference in scoring. An excellent outside shooter, Harris has good size for a point guard and can play both backcourt spots. He has long arms and good lateral quickness. Harris needs to add bulk and continue to prove to scouts that he is a true point guard.
Telfair is a New York legend who signed with Louisville in the early signing period. He is a high scoring point guard who has excellent court vision and a flair for making the highlight-reel play. Telfair added strength in the offseason and worked hard on his outside shot. There were only eight guards in the NBA under six feet tall last season, so his lack of size is a concern. Telfair graced the cover of Sports Illustrated and has plenty of talent. However, he needs to continue to work on his game to make a jump to the next level.
Gordon helped lead the Huskies to the national title. He is an undersized scorer who will have to move to point guard at the NBA level. A great leaper with good strength, he is a good rebounder for his size and solid passer. Gordon shined in the NCAA tournament, but needs to convince scouts that he can be a playmaker.
Nelson was selected by many media outlets as the college basketball player of the year after leading the Hawks to an undefeated regular season. He is
an outstanding floor general with good leadership skills. Nelson has excellent strength and showed an improved outside shot. But he is undersized and some wonder about his quickness defending top-flight point guards.
TOP TEN SHOOTING GUARDS HT WT CL SCHOOL/COUNTRY 1. Andre Igoudala 6-6 210 SO Arizona 2. Sergei Monya 6-8 220 20 Russia 3. Kirk Snyder 6-6 225 JR Nevada 4. J.R. Smith 6-6 210 SR* St. Benedict's (NJ) 5. Rudy Fernandez 6-5 185 18 Spain 6. Dorell Wright 6-7 210 SR* South Kent (CT) Prep 7. Rickey Paulding 6-5 210 SR Missouri 8. Romain Sato 6-5 205 SR Xavier 9. Tony Allen 6-4 213 SR Oklahoma State 10. Andre Emmett 6-5 225 SR Texas Tech
(* high school player)
Others to watch: Desmon Farmer of USC, Julius Page of Pittsburgh, Tony Bobbitt of Cincinnati, Jaron Brown of Pittsburgh, David Hawkins of Temple, Nick Jacobson of Utah, Matt Lottich of Stanford, Marvin Lewis of Georgia Tech, Jason Maravich of William Carey, Bryant Matthews of Virginia Tech, Ricky Minard of Morehead State, Brandon Mouton of Texas, Michel Morandis of Colorado, Tim Pickett of Florida State and Mike Skrocki of Richmond.
Igoudala is a well-rounded player who led the Wildcats in rebounding, assists and steals. He has long arms and is an excellent defender. Igoudala has the ability to play small forward and even played the four spot for Arizona. He is an excellent passer, but needs to improve his outside shot.
Monya is considered by some observers as the most NBA-ready of the foreign prospects. However, there are concerns whether his Russian team will allow him to come to the NBA. He has good strength and size and can also play small forward. Monya needs to improve his ballhandling skills.
Snyder raised his stock with a strong junior season, highlighted by an outstanding NCAA Tournament performance. He has excellent size and strength. Snyder is a good ballhandler and passer for his size. He needs to improve his shooting consistency and cut down his turnovers.
Smith is an excellent outside threat with terrific leaping and dunking skills. His strong play at the EA Sports Roundball Classic, McDonald's All-American Game and Hoop Summit made him give the NBA Draft a hard look. He was the co-MVP of the EA Sports Roundball Classic and McDonald's All-American Game. He has been compared to Vince Carter and Paul Pierce.
Fernandez is an athletic guard who can play both backcourt spots. He needs to gain strength, but scouts love his upside. He was named MVP of the King's Cup in Spain. Fernandez may need to play at least one more season overseas.
TOP TEN SMALL FORWARDS HT WT CL SCHOOL/COUNTRY 1. Josh Smith 6-8 220 SR* Oak Hill Academy 2. Luol Deng 6-8 220 FR Duke 3. Josh Childress 6-8 205 JR Stanford 4 . Luke Jackson 6-7 215 SR Oregon 5. Trevor Ariza 6-8 200 FR UCLA 6. Donta Smith 6-7 225 SO SE Illinois (IL) CC 7. Damir Omerhodzic 6-10 225 18 Croatia 8. Luka Bogdanovic 6-9 200 18 Serbia 9. Matt Freije 6-9 245 SR Vanderbilt 10. Rich Melzer 6-8 225 SR Wisconsin River Falls
(* high school player)
Others to watch: Dijon Thompson of UCLA, Harvey Thomas of Baylor, Darius Rice of Miami (FL), Justin Davis of Stanford, Christian Drejer of Florida, Kevin Martin of Western Carolina, Luke Whitehead of Louisville, Mike Williams of Western Michigan, Erik Daniels of Kentucky, Delonte Holland of DePaul, Dylan Page of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Josh Allen of Alderson-Broaddus, Jason Detrick of Oklahoma, Charles Gaines of Southern Mississippi, Herve Lamizana of Rutgers, Bryant Matthews of Virginia Tech, and Damien Wilkins of Georgia.
Smith, a native of Powder Springs, GA, is an excellent athlete who plays above the rim. He is perhaps the top dunker in the high school ranks. Smith has demonstrated an improved outside shot. He signed with Indiana in the early signing period, but played in three high school All-Star games, signaling his jump to the pros. Smith needs to add strength and work on his ballhandling skills.
Deng is a versatile player who can play inside and outside. He is an athletic forward who played well in the NCAA tournament and earned College Basketball News' first team All-Freshman honors. Deng is a native of Sudan and possesses an excellent mid range shot. He needs to continue to improve his three-point shots, but is loaded with talent.
Childress is an excellent athlete with long arms and the ability to play multiple positions on the floor. He needs to add bulk, but is an outstanding defender and rebounder. Childress has good quickness and helped lead the Cardinal to a one-loss regular season.
Jackson is one of the top shooters in the draft. He has excellent range and has the ability to play in the backcourt as well. He is an excellent passer and solid ballhandler. Scouts will wonder about his ability to defend the top athletes at the small forward and shooting guard spot.
Ariza is an excellent athlete who was a College Basketball News' first team All-Freshman. He is a good ballhandler for his size, but needs to improve his outside shot. Ariza is a bit of a "tweener" in that he lacks the bulk of a power forward and does not have the outside game of a small forward. He put his name into the draft and has indicated that he will not return to UCLA even if he pulls out of the draft.
TOP TEN POWER FORWARDS HT WT CL SCHOOL/COUNTRY 1. Emeka Okafor 6-10 252 JR Connecticut 2. Dwight Howard 6-11 245 SR* SW Atl. Christian (HS) 3. Andris Biedrins 6-10 235 17 Latvia 4 Ivan Chiriaev 7-1 235 20 Russia 5. Tiago Splitter 6-10 240 19 Brazil 6. Kosta Perovic 7-2 230 19 Serbia 7. Kris Humphries 6-9 240 FR Minnesota 8 Lawrence Roberts 6-9 235 JR Mississippi State 9. Al Jefferson 6-9 260 FR* Prentiss (MS) High 10. Ronny Turiaf 6-10 230 JR Gonzaga
(* high school player)
Others to watch: Anderson Varejao of Brazil, Arthur Johnson of Missouri, Jaime Lloreda of LSU, Amit Tamir of California, Randy Orr of Georgia Perimeter (GA) CC, Andre Brown of DePaul, James Thomas of Texas, Justin Reed of Mississippi, Travon Bryant of Missouri, Kyle Davis of Auburn, Jackie Butler of Coastal Christian Academy, T.J. Cummings of UCLA, Jamar Smith of Maryland, Brian Boddicker of Texas, Marcus Douthit of Providence, Shawson Johnson of North Texas, Marcus Melvin of North Carolina State, Scott Merritt of Marquette, Anthony Myles of Xavier, Pape Sow of Cal St. Fullerton, Cory Violette of Gonzaga, Keith Walesowski of Dayton and Nate Williams of Georgia State.
Okafor was the most dominant player in college basketball this season, leading the Huskies to the national title. He led the country in blocked shots and was second in rebounding. Okafor has excellent hands and is a good leaper. He is strong and athletic inside. Okafor was bothered by back problems late in the season, which could be a concern in the pros, and is a bit undersized. However, his wingspan and leaping ability allow him to play taller. Okafor is an outstanding student, who graduated college in three years.
Howard (from Atlanta) is considered the top high school player in the country. He is a versatile big man who is effective in the low post, but can also step outside. He is a good ballhandler for his size and has a nice shooting touch. Howard was co-MVP of the McDonald's All-American Game and won MVP honors at the Capitol Classic. Some scouts feel that he needs to show more of a mean streak.
Biedrins is an athletic, versatile forward who wowed scouts at the adidas Big Time Tournament this summer competition against many of the top USA high school players in the country. He has a well-rounded game with a nice outside touch with solid inside moves. Biedrins has been compared to Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirlilenko. He is an excellent shotblocker and rebounder. Biedrins needs to get stronger to play against the more physical power forwards in the NBA.
Chiriaev is perhaps the biggest mystery in the draft. He is a Russian native who is playing in Toronto. Chiriaev has not played consistently great opposition in Canada and was not able to play in the Hoop Summit Game, due to visa issues. He is an outstanding outside shooter with terrific range. Chiriaev is a good ballhandler for his size and is an excellent athlete. Despite his size, he is more comfortable playing on the perimeter. He needs to get stronger and scouts wonder about his lack of competition. His individual workouts will determine where he fits in this draft.
Splitter is a Brazilian native who is playing in Spain. He is a good shotblocker and rebounder who is more advanced on the defensive end. Splitter has a pro body and is a solid athlete. He is a bit of a "tweener" in that he needs to get stronger to play power forward and lacks foot speed to defend the more athletic small forwards. Splitter has a buyout of his contract, but could use another season overseas to gain experience.
TOP TEN CENTERS HT WT CL SCHOOL/COUNTRY 1. Pavel Podkolzine 7-5 303 19 Russia 2. Predrag Samardzski 7-0 240 17 Macadonia 3. Peter John Ramos 7-3 300 18 Puerto Rico 4. David Harrison 7-0 260 JR Colorado 5. Ha Seung-Jin 7-3 300 19 South Korea 6. Rafael Araujo 6-11 280 SR BYU 7. Robert Swift 7-1 245 SR* Bakersfield (CA) High 8. Jackson Vroman 6-10 220 SR Iowa State 9. Nigel Dixon 6-9 320 SR Western Kentucky 10. John Edwards 7-0 270 SR Kent State
(* high school player)
Others to watch: Chris Garnett of Indiana Southeast, Jared Reiner of Iowa, Adam Parada of UC Irvine, Sean Finn of Dayton, Jabahri Brown of Oklahoma, Velimir Radinovic of Ohio State, Tom Timmermans of Notre Dame and Nick Vander Laan of Concordia University
Podkolzine wowed NBA scouts last June during a private workout in Chicago. However, he decided to pull his name out of the NBA Draft after questions about his pituitary gland disorder. He has outstanding size and skills for a big man. Podkolzine has soft hands and has a nice outside touch. He runs the floor well and is good athlete. Podkolzine is still relatively inexperienced, but is a high risk, high reward pick with unlimited potential.
Samardzski is a versatile big man who can play inside and outside. He is an excellent outside shooter who has solid low post moves. Samardzski has not played against top competition, so he is still a bit of a mystery. He needs to get stronger and improve his quickness, but his youth and skill are very intriguing. Samardzski has a NBA buyout and could spend another season overseas.
Ramos has good strength and a strong inside game. He is a good passing big man. Ramos has good overall skills, but needs to continue to refine his game. He has a good upside.
Harrison is a strong player who runs the floor well. His father was a former NFL lineman. Harrison has good size and strength, but conditioning is a concern. He is a good shotblocker and rebounder, but is still developing. Harrison needs to work on his hands and improve his athleticism.
Seung-Jin has good size and agility. He is still raw, but has intriguing skills. His father was a member of the Korean national team. He has a good upside as well, but needs time to develop.
Top Foreign Prospects-Manuchar Markoishvili, Tiago Splitter, Mauricio Aguiar of Uruguay, Pero Antic of Greece, David Brkic of Italy, Aleksandar Djuric of Austria, Viktor Khryapa of Russia, Kresimir Loncar of Italy, Misan Nikagbatse of Italy, Alassane Savadogo of Burkina Faso, Blagota Sekulic of Serbia/Montenegro, Luka Sjekloca of Serbia/Montenegro and Christos Tapoutos of Greece.