Take your pick of questions

Possibilities abound, but no immediate stars seen among selections

NBA draft preview

June 30, 1999|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

In less than a year, they went from three-time NBA champions to league pushovers, earning the No. 1 pick in the draft. Now, the Chicago Bulls have some decisions to make entering tonight's NBA draft.

Should they keep the pick and draft Steve Francis, Elton Brand or the mysterious Lamar Odom? Or should the Bulls make a deal with one of the teams eager to move up in the draft?

Those are two of the many questions that will be answered at tonight's draft, which will be held at the MCI Center in Washington. The host Wizards will have the seventh pick in the first round, the first time the team has been a first-round participant since 1995, when the then-Bullets drafted Rasheed Wallace.

Teams entering the draft looking for a star such as Tim Duncan need not participate. No, this will be mainly a developmental draft, with possibly six or seven players making an immediate impact.

"It's decent," Ed Tapscott, vice president of the New York Knicks, said of the draft. "I don't see any franchise players, just a couple of impact guys. Again, it's one of those drafts where the guy you get at 19 could be as good as the guy at 9. And there's always the risk factor of the young guys."

Bryan Colangelo, the Phoenix Suns' executive vice president, agreed with Tapscott.

"We've been saying all along it's actually a lot deeper draft than some people want you to think," Colangelo said. "I think there are some big men, in particular, who will go late in the draft who might be able to contribute long-term in this league."

Still, this is a draft of point guards, with the top talent being Francis, who had considered entering last year's draft after a season at Allegany Community College. The same draft experts who laughed when he considered such a move last year are now praising his game after Francis gained second-team All-America honors after just one season at Maryland.

"Stevie Francis is a tremendous talent," said Kevin McHale, vice president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves. "He's probably more of a point guard than a shooting guard, but he can play both."

Said Francis of his decision to go to Maryland for a season: "I'm definitely glad that I stayed. And I don't think last year, after my junior college year, that I was ready to play."

Rated right behind Francis at point guard is Baron Davis, also an early candidate out of UCLA. In Davis, the league might have an NBA rarity -- a player who actually wants to play for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Other point guards who figure to be among the top 15 picks are Andre Miller, a first-team All-American out of Utah, and Jason Terry, also a first-team All-American, out of Arizona.

"I think I rate right up there with the best," Terry said when asked to compare himself with the other point guards. "I think each one has something different to offer. My game is transition, to utilize my quickness and my speed as much as possible."

Of the front-line players available, the best appears to be Brand, whom the Bulls also are said to be considering with the top pick. One big question about Brand is whether he was, in fact, 6 feet 8 as Duke had listed him. He measured up during the pre-draft workouts in Chicago, and could fill a team's needs at power forward.

What people wonder about Brand is his ability to shoot facing the basket. That's an area of his game he has been working on since announcing himself eligible for the draft.

"I've been working on 10- and 15-footers, and I think I have pretty good quickness for my size," Brand said. "I'm just going to have to go by people and finish. I've been working on my strength, also."

Brand is one of four Duke players who could go in the first round. Trajan Langdon finished out his college career with the Blue Devils, but Corey Maggette opted to leave after his freshman season and William Avery after his sophomore season.

Maggette may have made his decision after an article in a Chicago paper during the NCAA tournament indicated he could be the top pick, but his stock has dropped with poor shooting during team workouts. The 6-6 forward likely will still be a lottery pick.

Avery's decision was not endorsed by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, and in a draft long on quality point guards, Avery won't likely be selected until late in the first round.

Another highly-sought-after player will be Wally Szczerbiak, a 6-8 forward out of Miami (Ohio) who impressed teams in Chicago with his three-point range.

Despite playing at a mid-major college, Szczerbiak is a highly regarded player (the Wizards are hoping he's still available at No. 7) and could have an immediate impact. He'll be drafted as a small forward, but said he can play some shooting guard and power forward.

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