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Previewing the Lottery

June 3, 2003 Columns No Comments

Early Look at the 2003 NBA Draft

by Jed Tai

The 2003 NBA Draft figures to be one of the deepest and most interesting drafts in recent memory.

While the top pick is a no-brainer (LeBron James is the most consensus No. 1 selection since Tim Duncan in 1997), the rest of the draft holds great intrigue. With a record number of international early entrants in the draft and a whole host of U.S. underclassmen “testing the waters”, add in some quality seniors (a rare breed these days) and the sheer amount of talent seemingly available for NBA teams is greater than it has been in years. At this point, if everyone who has declared for the draft does not withdraw, a quality player could be had for a team picking late in the first round, if not early in the second. That’s the depth of talent available in this year’s draft.

However, since so many underclassmen and foreign players are keeping their options open (players have up to a week before the draft to withdraw from the draft if they do not like where they stand), it makes any kind of prognostication difficult at this time — even though the draft order (barring trades) has been set by the Draft Lottery. But given what we do know (the draft order and who’s currently eligible) – and I’m no self-proclaimed draft analyst – here’s one writer’s guess at what might happen in the Lottery if the draft were held today.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers – LeBron James, St. Vincent-St. Mary (OH) HS, 6-8, Forward/Guard

As noted above, James is the consensus #1 selection in the draft. And if you listen to most of the media, he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. With Cleveland winning the lottery, there’s no way the Cavs could get away with picking anyone else except the “hometown” boy. If the NBA allowed it, there’s no doubt the Cavs would lock LeBron up with a contract already, like how the NFL does it.

2. Detroit Pistons – Darko Milicic, Yugoslavia, 7-0, Forward/Center

The second biggest smile on lottery selection night had to have been on the face of Pistons VP Joe Dumars. The Pistons trade away an aging Otis Thorpe and get this? Milicic has been compared to Kevin Garnett and quite honestly it might not be out of the realm of possibility. He’s tall, he’s skilled, he’s getting tougher, and best of all — he’s only 18 (on draft night).

3. Denver Nuggets – Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse, 6-8, Forward

You know you’re in good shape when you finish in third place and can still get a player the caliber of Carmelo Anthony. The Nuggets may already have some small forwards on the roster, but they can’t pass up the chance on getting a guy who not only carried his team to the NCAA title, but has as a complete game as he does. There has yet to be a freshman who’s entered the draft early as ready as Anthony is.

4. Toronto Raptors – Chris Bosh, Georgia Tech, 6-10, Forward

Raptors need help inside and other than Milicic, Bosh is the big man on the board with the most potential. Inside, outside, offense, defense, Bosh has the ability to do it all. In fact, Bosh will remind Raptors fans of a former Raptor, Keon Clark, in many ways. He’ll need to build some muscle, but practicing against Antonio Davis everyday in practice will toughen him up in a hurry.

5. Miami Heat – T.J. Ford, Texas, 5-10, Guard

If there’s a team out there that’s screaming a need for a point guard more than Miami, please let the world know. Ford is the kind of guard who not only changes the game, but can do it without scoring a single point — something we haven’t seen since in the draft the likes of Jason Kidd. Sure, he might top out at 5-9, but playmakers like him don’t come around very often.

6. Los Angeles Clippers – Chris Kaman, Central Michigan, 7-0, Center

Although the Clippers’ draft “success” has been spotty in recent years (two power forwards last year?) you’d think this year they could get it right. Michael Olowokandi is a free agent and you know Clippers management isn’t going to give him a big contract. Kaman’s stock is continually rising and don’t you dare compare him to Todd MacCulloch or Bryant Reeves.

7. Chicago Bulls – Dwyane Wade, Marquette, 6-4, Guard

Now that Jerry Krause is no longer the Bulls GM, expect new GM John Paxson to start getting things right. First step? Draft someone who can play the game. The Bulls need to look no further than do-it-all guard Dwyane Wade as their choice. Wade will be able to help out at a number of positions for Bill Cartwright, and it only helps he’s a local product.

8. Milwaukee Bucks – Maciej Lampe, Spain, 7-0, Forward

The last time the Bucks had a shot at a top-notch foreign player (Dirk Nowitzki in 1997), they traded him away. The Bucks won’t let that mistake happen twice as they snatch up the kid everyone is calling the next Dirk. Admittedly at this point it’s unknown if a) Lampe will stay in the draft or b) he’ll be obligated to stay in Spain, but at this point, the Polish native looks like a good pick for the Bucks.

9. New York Knicks – Luke Ridnour, Oregon, 6-2, Guard

As the hordes of Knick fans attending the draft get ready to boo and hiss the selection, count on David Stern to at least say a name that folks have heard of. Well, at least if they were watching billboards closely – that’s where Luke Ridnour saw his face plastered on buildings all over town during the season. He should shore up what has been a constant weakness for New York in recent years.

10. Washington Wizards – Kirk Hinrich, Kansas, 6-3, Guard

The Wizards need help essentially everywhere, especially now that MJ is 99.9999 percent gone. They especially need a point guard who can score and distribute, since Larry Hughes is clearly not the answer. Hinrich couldn’t make more sense. Many folks forget that Hinrich ran the show before Aaron Miles came along, and that’s the position he’ll play at the next level. He can shoot it too.

11. Golden State Warriors – Leandrinho Barbosa, Brazil, 6-4, Guard

With Gilbert Arenas wanting the dough and the Warriors not able to pay for it, there’s no doubt Golden State needs a new point man. Bring in Barbosa, who has drawn comparisons to Gary Payton. He’s the best point guard left on the board at this point and has that incredible “upside” and the mystique of being a foreigner that will have the Warriors brass drooling and the impatient fans incensed.

12. Seattle Sonics – Pavel Podkolzin, Italy, 7-5, Center

Sonics could use a point guard, but can’t pass up the chance to get help up front. Seattle has had good success with foreign players so why not take a chance at the Russian big man? Podkolzin’s 7-5, can walk and chew gum at the same time, and has oodles of that all-important “upside”. With Shaq, Yao, Duncan in the West, the other teams simply need guys who can hold their own and Podkolzin may be that guy.

13. Memphis Grizzlies – Michael Pietrus, France, 6-6, Guard/Forward

Jerry West is no doubt the standard when it comes to brilliant GM’s, and most think he’ll have something up his sleeve with this selection. Which makes this pick an obvious – he’s got to take a foreign player. Enter Mickael Pietrus. He may be a little raw, but he’s ultra-athletic and explosive. With the tenuous state of the Grizzlies backcourt, Pietrus should be the man here.

The rest of the first round is essentially a crapshoot. It’s unknown just how much influence the foreign players will have in this year’s draft, although it’s been rumored that as much as half the first round could be filled with talent from overseas. And if a lot of players end up withdrawing, some previously unappreciated seniors could sneak into the latter half of the round. June 26 will certainly be a fun evening.

Individual workouts have already started with many teams, but this week things will really start rounding into shape – hopefully – as the Pre-Draft Camp on the campus of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago gets underway. Be sure to stay tuned to Hoopville for updates from the camp!


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