March is madness for NBA scouts, too

NCAAs are biggest chance to assess players for draft

March 19, 2002|By Sam Smith | Sam Smith,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

CHICAGO - While most fans are checking their NCAA tournament brackets and reeling from the upsets, pro scouts and executives are comparing notes for June's NBA draft.

March Madness is the unofficial kickoff for the pro scouting madness that includes so-called pre-draft camps leading up to Chicago's in June and subsequent individual workouts.

The Chicago Bulls continue to lead the race for the worst record in the NBA, which will guarantee them no worse than the fourth pick. The consensus No. 1 pick is Duke guard Jason Williams, though several scouts said if high school players were eligible before their class graduates, Ohio prep sensation LeBron James would be the top pick. He's said to be a 6-foot-7 combination of Magic Johnson and Tracy McGrady.

Much will change as players decide to remain in school and more foreign players enter the draft. But here's an early consensus of the top 10 picks, based on interviews with NBA scouts and executives.

1. Jason Williams, 6 feet 2, 195 pounds, Jr., Duke: It's really a one-player draft. Some scouts say he's more a shooting guard, but he's a leader, which is always a need in the NBA. Defends and shoots.

2. Mike Dunleavy Jr., 6-9, 220, Jr., Duke: Most scouts say 7-5 center Yao Ming of China will go second, but not if you're the Bulls. Dunleavy is a Jerry Krause-type player, a good shooter, ball-handler and passer.

3. Yao Ming, 7-5, 283, Shanghai Sharks: A perimeter big man. There has been a great deal of intrigue about him for several years, but many consider him a better version of Shawn Bradley. If he falls to the Bulls, look for a trade. Dallas would love him.

4. Drew Gooden, 6-10, 230, Jr., Kansas: He needs to get stronger, not unusual with college players. But he's close to a classic power forward because of his size. Soft shooting touch, good low-post moves and quick.

5. Dajuan Wagner, 6-3, 200, Fr., Memphis: Hasn't quite lived up to the hype in college, and he'll probably stay another year. A sure-fire scorer.

6. Qyntel Woods, 6-9, 225, Soph., Northeast Mississippi Junior College: The latest rage, the junior college player. He's a scorer who averaged more than 30 per game and is a good passer.

7. Curtis Borchardt, 7-0, 230, Jr., Stanford: Has had foot problems. Helped himself already with his game against Western Kentucky center Chris Marcus. Needs strength but has skills. He can shoot, block shots and rebound, though he's more of a finesse player now.

8. Jared Jeffries, 6-10, 215, Soph., Indiana. Good all-around player, a rare pro prospect from Indiana. Needs time in the weight room to build up to power forward. Can hit threes, pass and handle the ball.

9. Amare Stoudamire, 6-9, 240, Sr., Cypress Creek (Fla.) High School: Mercifully, not much of a high school class this year. He's probably the only one in the first round, an extremely tough kid.

10. Nikoloz Tskitishvili, 6-11, 210, Benetton Treviso (Italy): Another teen-ager, but we've seen the difference when they play overseas. Though a native of the former Soviet republic of Georgia, he has played in Italy for former NBA coach Mike D'Antoni, who raves about him.

Sam Smith is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, a Tribune Publishing company.

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