Elmore: Top four players stand tall

Analyst gives take on NBA prospects

June 27, 2000|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

March Madness is history for 2000. And the Los Angeles Lakers finally ended the NBA Finals with a championship.

The next order of basketball business involves tomorrow night's NBA draft.

To help with the pre-draft analysis, Len Elmore, college basketball analyst for ESPN, was enlisted to offer some details. Before his television duties, Elmore had been a sports agent, representing such players as former Maryland standouts Joe Smith and Walt Williams, and ex-Dunbar star Sam Cassell.

Elmore was an All-American with the Terps, then played two seasons in the American Basketball Association followed by eight years in the NBA that included a stint with the Knicks and Nets.

Interestingly enough, Elmore's first pro team was the Indiana Pacers in 1975, then of the ABA. In his first playoff game, against the San Antonio Spurs, "I dropped 30 points on them in that game," Elmore said. And he made the winning basket.

Elmore, who also is a practicing attorney, highlights eight players of this past college and high school season, all of whom he has seen play during his broadcast travels.

"The one thing that I think is important to point out is that except for four guys, the rest of them are about the same," Elmore said about the talent pool at the top of the draft. "They all have good potential."

The big four

Kenyon Martin, Cincinnati: "I think the biggest thing Martin has going for him is the fact that he's a senior. Dominant skill on the defensive end notwithstanding, this young man has matured to the point where he's ready to have instant impact. The fact is that he developed himself into a surprisingly good offensive player between his junior and senior seasons. Since he was measured at about 6-9 at the Chicago pre-draft camp, his stock has risen even more so. This is not to say that he will be the No. 1 pick. I believe the New Jersey Nets will be very wary of selecting someone who is recovering from an injury that is so eerily similar to that of their fallen leader, Jayson Williams.

"The prognostication for Martin's recovery from that injury from most medical observers is excellent; some even say he could be stronger when he comes back. Having said all that, defensively he changes a lot of shots, and that's where he'll have his greatest impact. But more importantly, he's a fierce competitor. He's a fierce competitor who on more than one occasion lifted his college teammates and forced them to win by sheer will."

Chris Mihm, Texas: "He is probably one of the most athletic 7-footers to come along in a while. Certainly he will need to bulk up a little bit. He has the frame to add another 20 pounds and maintain his athleticism. He runs the floor extremely well. He has excellent lateral mobility that helps him patrol the lane on defense. He has very good shot-blocking timing. Offensively, Mihm has a variety of moves, but he has to develop the nastiness to be a dominant offensive player. Mihm reminds me of what Tim Duncan may have been if he came out his junior year. In Mihm's first year in the NBA, he will be a work in progress, but if he develops on schedule and brings with him a take-no-prisoners attitude, he could be something special."

Marcus Fizer, Iowa State: "He made great strides as a leader. I remember flying back from the Great Alaska Shootout two years ago, where Iowa State had a mediocre showing, and having a three-hour discussion with head coach Larry Eustachy. Larry predicted that if Marcus Fizer ever took control of the team and a game, that there would be no stopping him. This past year, Eustachy proved to be a prophet because Fizer utilized that strong 6-8, 245-pound body as well as a desire to win, and made Iowa State one of the biggest surprises in college basketball. Fizer is quick off the dribble, with tremendous touch on the perimeter, but the question mark is whether or not he instinctively looks to bang bodies and draw fouls inside. ... Fizer has to demonstrate that he's willing to fight opponents for the key offensive rebound and be the go-to guy down low as a power forward. Otherwise, he's just one of several talented small forwards in the draft."

Stromile Swift, LSU: "He has a surprisingly smooth perimeter game, runs real well and has the ability to take his man off the dribble. That will be a benefit because at 6-9, he'll be matched up against slower defenders not willing to guard outside. Defensively, he can block shots and seems to thrive on making the big play. That turns his game on. Many people think he's the best athlete in the draft. I think he's one of the best, but realizing his potential is a whole different ballgame. If he does ... he just might be among the best pro prospects that LSU has ever produced. And that includes the Big Aristotle and Pete Maravich."

The next four

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