NBA draft well-positioned as point guard sweepstakes

Deron Williams, Paul, Felton sure lottery picks

June 28, 2005|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

In certain years, the NBA draft is mostly about one player who will transform a team - Shaquille O'Neal or Patrick Ewing, Yao Ming or LeBron James.

The 2005 draft, which will be held tonight at the theater inside New York's Madison Square Garden, is mostly about one position - point guard. As a result, the future of many teams will be changed for the better.

After Utah center Andrew Bogut and North Carolina forward Marvin Williams are announced as the first two picks, no fewer than five point guards are expected to be taken in the first round.

Three of them - Deron Williams of Illinois, Chris Paul of Wake Forest and Raymond Felton of North Carolina - are sure to be lottery picks. Jarrett Jack of Georgia Tech, Roko Ukic of Croatia and Monta Ellis, a high school player from Jackson, Miss., also could be first-round choices.

"This is a tremendous guard-heavy draft up top," said Kenny Williamson, director of scouting for the Charlotte Bobcats, whose team could take Deron Williams or Paul. "I don't think there's been this many quality point guards since the year Andre Miller, Steve Francis and Baron Davis came out [in 1999]."

Said Tony Barone Sr., scouting director for the Memphis Grizzlies, whose team has interest in Jack: "I think it's a deep draft period, and it certainly is a deep draft in relation to the numbers of point guards who have a chance to make it in this league."

The list is seemingly endless.

Along with the potential first-round picks, there's a passel of point guards who could be taken in the second round: Washington's Nate Robinson, Marquette's Travis Diener, Florida's Anthony Roberson, Atlanta area high school star Louis Williams and Maryland's John Gilchrist.

"Even guys who didn't make it to Chicago [for the NBA's pre-draft camp] are going to be considered," said Ryan Blake, who runs the league's scouting bureau with his father, longtime talent guru Marty Blake. "There are more point guards available; you just don't know if they're going to be good enough.

"What's going to be interesting is to see when it goes past the top three [or four] point guards - Felton, Williams and Paul and maybe Jack, if someone likes him - you might have a lot going in the second round and you might not have that many."

Blake said of the point guards that went to Chicago, Diener was the one who seemed to be the most intriguing.

"Travis Diener played well enough to be considered as a guy you want highly regarded to be in your summer league to see if he can make a team," Blake said of the former Marquette star, whose stock dropped when he was injured last season.

Ryan Blake wouldn't predict which of the top three would go first, but it will likely depend on the makeup of the team drafting.

If you have a fairly athletic team in need of a cerebral player, it would likely be Deron Williams. If you need a player to penetrate, it would be Paul. If you need both, it would be Felton.

Because there are few true centers available - even the 7-foot Bogut is considered by many to be more of a power forward - the premium on having an elite point guard has increased in recent years.

"We have a lot of [younger] point guards, but if you look around, you're seeing a lot of veteran point guards being able to play more than just effectively," said Blake, alluding to players such as Gary Payton of the Boston Celtics. "It's such a knowledge position.

"As the depth of point guards depletes, you're looking for those other point guards, the younger ones, that may have that knowledge. It can be difficult [to find] because you have guys that are coming up that don't have that game toughness."

Barone said the transition to playing the point is the most difficult of any position, especially for those coming straight from high school.

"We're not talking about a position where all he has to do is A. We're talking about a position where he has to do A, B, C and D if he's going to be in this league," said Barone. Availability doesn't automatically mean that a team will take a point guard.

"I had a call a few years ago from a kid who was an early entry and said he was the fifth-best point guard in the draft. I asked him, `Here's the most important question: How many teams are picking up point guards?' " said Blake. "He didn't have that answer."

Blake said he was surprised not only by the number of players who declared for the draft before their eligibility expired (109, 51 of whom later withdrew), but also by some who did.

There are a number who aren't true point guards who will likely not get drafted because that's the only position scouts figure they will play in the NBA. Among those who fit in this category are Indiana's Bracey Wright and Arizona's Salim Stoudamire.

"Do they have the ability to play point guard? Maybe," said Blake. "But if you're an early entry and you have a number of point guards that are proven and are highly regarded, what makes you want to come out?"

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