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ALinChainz
06-09-2004, 07:29 PM
by Fanball Staff - Fanball.com


Wednesday, June 9, 2004


We are down to only 15 days before the June 24 NBA Draft, and two events this week will help clarify hazy projections for the two-round player dispersal procedure. Firstly, 60 of the draft's prospects will clash at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago from June 8-11. General managers, coaches, and scouts will all be on hand to take notes and adjust their rankings.

Secondly, all NBA teams (except the Lakers and Pistons) need to submit a protected/unprotected player list to the league on June 12. The Charlotte Bobcats will then know who will be available to them in the June 22 expansion draft. Those lists will also give prognosticators a better idea of what teams might be looking for in the upcoming draft.

As of June 9, however, here is Fanball's latest first-round forecast, complete with comments on each selection.


1. Orlando Magic: Emeka Okafor, PF, Connecticut The Magic haven't ruled out taking Howard here, but Okafor's agent assured us that Emeka is the better pick. Why wouldn't we believe him? Sarcasm aside, Okafor gives the Magic a much-needed inside presence that can start immediately. Then again, there are a lot of rumors that the Magic will trade this pick. If the Magic stay here and eventually use Okafor at center, he could be a solid fantasy player right away.

2. Los Angeles Clippers: Dwight Howard, PF, Southwest Christian H.S. (GA) There will be plenty of speculation about which player will be drafted here, as well as about which team will be drafting him, but for now we'll stick with Howard as the No. 2 overall selection. According to Howard himself—and he's nothing if not objective—he has a combination of Tim Duncan's fundamentals and Kevin Garnett's athleticism. Expect the Hawks to be a potential player in moving up here.

3. Chicago Bulls: Luol Deng, SF, Duke Next week, the Bulls plan to hold a workout with Andre Iguodala, Josh Childress, and Kirk Snyder. They are also hoping to get Deng involved. That workout will go a long way towards determining which small forward they like best here. We'll stick with the Deng at the moment, although Iguodala has leapt over the Duke star on some boards. Luol is well-rounded talent who could put up Lamar Odom-type numbers down the road if given enough control of the offense.

4. Charlotte Bobcats: Andre Iguodala, G/F, Arizona The Bobcats love Deng, Iguodala, and Childress, and we're not sure that Bernie Bickerstaff has a set order yet. They also like high school point guard Shaun Livingston, but Bickerstaff would prefer to grab a college guy. Iguodala had a good workout with the club on June 2, and Childress has been asked to return to Charlotte for a second session on June 22. The more athletic Iguodala gets the nod right now.

5. Washington Wizards: Josh Childress, SF, Stanford The Wizards don't appear to be in the market for a small forward (Jared Jeffries and Jarvis Hayes), but they like Childress and reportedly said that they would not let Deng slip past them. It also helps that president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld's son played with Childress at Stanford, and the two know each other pretty well. The Wizards would prefer to get a big man, but Pavel Podkolzine, Andris Biedrins, and Martynas Andriuskevicious might not be worthy of a top-five pick.

6. Atlanta Hawks: Shaun Livingston, PG, Peoria Central H.S. (IL) Ben Gordon and Devin Harris would give the Hawks stability at the point and a solid scoring punch, but most scouts think that Livingston has greater potential. The Hawks are in the middle of a massive rebuilding project, so we'll expect them to skew towards the younger player. We also wouldn't be surprised if they used this pick to trade up to the second spot or to grab a big man like Pavel Podkolzine.

7. Phoenix Suns: Pavel Podkolzine, C, Russia Podkolzine is moving up the draft board so quickly after his workouts at the Treviso big man camp that by next week's mock draft, he may very well be in the top five. Phoenix has an immediate need at point guard (Devin Harris?) and love the upside of Martynas Andriuskevicious, but they won't be able to justify passing on a 7-5 monster with mad skills.

8. Toronto Raptors: Ben Gordon, PG, Connecticut The Raptors just signed up a new general manager and a pair of assistants, and hopefully they'll soon provide some clues into which players they are looking at. We can say with some certainty that Toronto would like to get a strong scoring point guard like Gordon. The team could also use an inside presence (Andris Biedrins) to compliment Chris Bosh. Gordon is the safer pick, though, and we bet the new management grabs the more known quantity.

9. Philadelphia 76ers: Josh Smith, SF, Oak Hill Academy (VA) Despite the pressure to select local kid Jameer Nelson, the 76ers have a greater need at small forward. They'll be praying that Deng, Childress, or Iguodala falls to this point, but they'll have to settle for high school project. With Glenn Robinson signed through the 2004-05 season, Smith would spend his rookie season as a backup.

10. Cleveland Cavaliers: Devin Harris, PG, Wisconsin Point guard Jeff McInnis is a free agent after the 2004-05 season, and Harris could spend the season brushing up on his point guard skills before taking over the job in 2005. At 6-3, Harris is a sizeable point guard, which enables the Cavs to more easily start Dajuan Wagner at off-guard and move LeBron James to small forward. The second priority would be to find a future replacement for Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

11. Golden State Warriors: Andris Biedrins, PF/C, Latvia Biedrins gets lost in the Pavel popularity swoon, but the Warriors are the beneficiary of one European big man who is ready to contribute. Remember, Mike Montgomery knows a thing or two about developing big men—even Mark Madsen reached the NBA level—so he won't hesitate to find Erick Dampier's replacement in the first round.

12. Seattle SuperSonics: Kosta Perovic, C, Serbia Martynas Andriuskevicious spent a lot of time on top of the scouts' draft boards, but the Treviso camp revealed his game projects more as a face-up perimeter player like Dirk Nowitzki than a can't-miss, back-to-the-basket power player. That's why the Sonics choose Perovic—because the last thing they need is another three-point shooter.

13. Portland Trail Blazers: Kirk Snyder, SG, Nevada According to reports, Snyder cancelled private workouts with Utah and Denver, owners of four of the next eight picks. With a sliding salary scale for first-round draft picks, one doesn't take that risk unless they've been given a guarantee of some sort.

14. Utah Jazz: Martynas Andriuskevicious, F/C, Lithuania The assumption is that Martynas won't stay in the draft if he drops this far, but Utah may be such a comfortable fit that he agrees to stick with it. The Jazz have done very well with Andrei Kirilenko and Gordon Giricek. They are also competitive enough that they can afford to let Martynas stay in Europe for a little longer—which is exactly the situation he is looking for.

15. Boston Celtics: Rafael Araujo, C, BYU It's been reported that the Celtics recently tried to trade this pick for Timberwolves' small forward Wally Szczerbiak. Minnesota declined, but that leads us to believe that Danny Ainge could use this pick on someone like Luke Jackson, who Ainge reportedly likes. With Mark Bryant headed for free agency, though, the Celtics need help in the middle. Araujo is a rugged, physical player who can score a bit from the pivot. He doesn't have the potential of the other big men available, but he'll be able to contribute right away.

16. Utah Jazz (from Knicks via Suns): Sergei Monya, SG, Russia With three picks in the middle of the first round, it's hard to imagine that Monya is not selected by the Jazz. He shares the same agent as countryman Andrei Kirilenko, and the team has already demonstrated a significant interest. Like Biedrins, Monya is physically prepared to play in the league immediately.

17. Atlanta Hawks (from Bucks via Nuggets and Pistons): Al Jefferson, PF, Prentiss H.S. (MS) The Hawks need to go big after grabbing Livingston with the sixth pick, and there are a plethora of options here. Robert Swift, Peja Samardziski, Tiago Splitter, Anderson Varejao, Kris Humphries, and Johan Petro are all talented enough to have their names called here. As with Livingston, we opted for the potential of the high schooler Jefferson over the others. Jefferson owns a big body and loves to bang on the block.

18. New Orleans Hornets: Luke Jackson, G/F, Oregon With serious questions about the future of Jamal Mashburn and the age of David Wesley and George Lynch, the Hornets should be looking at shooting guards and small forwards. Jackson could play either position, which makes him a desirable and apt selection at this spot. High school star J.R. Smith also makes sense here, and Bryon Scott could be wooed by Smith's high ceiling.

19. Miami Heat: Jameer Nelson, PG, St. Joseph's The Heat had a lot of success with college studs Dwyane Wade and Caron Butler, so why not go to the well again? The team needs inside help, of course, but Rafer Alston is not necessarily the guy they want running the show. Nelson and Wade make for a small but talented backcourt, and we'd expect the Heat to do a lot of running.

20. Denver Nuggets: Johan Petro, F, France In the long term, Petro has a chance to do all the things that Marcus Camby did for the Nuggets when he was healthy—dominate the paint with his shot-blocking and rebounding ability. Petro showed himself well at Treviso, and the Nuggets are suddenly talented enough to let him continue playing in France and maturing physically.

21. Utah Jazz (from Rockets): Kris Humphries, PF, Minnesota Thus far, we've got Utah taking two European players, both of whom excel on the perimeter and may not join the team for the upcoming NBA season. That makes Humphries—a power forward with an NBA body and the willingness to bang down low—the perfect choice with their third first-round selection.

22. New Jersey Nets: J.R. Smith, SG, St. Benedict's Prep (NJ) If the Nets can convince center Nenad Krstic to come over from Europe, that will help address their needs up front. This selection should also cue people in as to how the Nets feel about Kenyon Martin's future in free agency and the state of Jason Kidd's knee. Assuming the franchise believes that Martin will be back and Kidd will be fine, it makes sense for them to grab a future replacement for Kerry Kittles.

23. Portland Trail Blazers (from Grizzlies): Sebastian Telfair, PG, Lincoln H.S. (NY) Our projections have the Blazers going big early in the first round, so they'll turn to the point guard position at this point. Only Telfair's 5-11 stature and his immaturity prevent him from going in the lottery. In Portland, he'll train under Mighty Mouse himself (Damon Stoudamire), who has plenty of experience with both of those weaknesses.

24. Boston Celtics (from Mavericks): Robert Swift, C, Bakersfield H.S. (CA) The Celtics grabbed a play-now big man in Araujo earlier, so Danny Ainge can select a project as this spot. Swift and Peja Samardziski both make sense, but we've heard that the Celtics like the California kid and might pick him at the 15th spot. They'd certainly be happy to land him here.

25. Boston Celtics (from Pistons): Dorell Wright, G/F, South Kent Prep (CT) With two centers selected earlier and young power forwards Kendrick Perkins and Brandon Hunter on the roster, it's time for the Celtics to look elsewhere. Wright is a superb athlete, and Ainge is always looking to add more athletic ability to his roster. Wright is raw, though, and will likely need a few years of polishing. If they want a more prepared talent, Ryan Gomes could see him name called.

26. Sacramento Kings: Peja Samardziski, C, Macedonia An annual contender, the Kings are getting dangerously close to watching their window close and should draft for the future. With Vlade Divac nearing retirement and Chris Webber looking permanently gimpy, they would be wise to snatch up another Peja—a seven-foot, 17-year-old who has the upside to go 10 spots higher than this. Of course, they'll have to dance with his agent, who will be tempted to pull him out if he falls this low.

27. Los Angeles Lakers: Sasha Vujacic, G, Slovenia The reason you see Vujacic here in so many mock drafts is that the Lakers were impressed with him before last year's draft, and perhaps more importantly, he has the versatility to play three different perimeter positions. That's critical given all the holes that the Lakers may have to fill this offseason.

28. San Antonio Spurs: Anderson Varejao, PF, Brazil The Spurs' international scouts are obviously on the money (Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili), and they've had their eye on Varejao for some time now. Varejao is also a mature 22 with more experience than most foreign players, making him a solid candidate to help the Spurs frontcourt in their quest to contend out west.

29. Minnesota Timberwolves: No selection The Wolves forfeit their first-round pick (again) due to the Joe Smith contract debacle.

30. Indiana Pacers: Peter Ramos, C, Puerto Rico The Pacers need to upgrade their backcourt, but unless they really like Chris Duhon or Roko-Lenu Ukic, they'll opt for a center to play alongside Jermaine O'Neal. Ramos is young and lacks experience, but he's 7-4 and has shown excellent potential.