Draft follows script, then rewrites itself

Bogut, M. Williams taken 1-2

Villanueva goes 7th

Lakers grab Bynum 10th

Pro Basketball

June 29, 2005|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

There were few surprises among the first six picks in the 2005 NBA draft.

There were few sure things after that.

As expected, Utah center Andrew Bogut was chosen by the Milwaukee Bucks to become the first Australian player ever taken No. 1 overall and North Carolina forward Marvin Williams was chosen next by the Atlanta Hawks, the first of four Tar Heels taken in the first round.

As expected, point guards were plentiful, with three taken among the first five selections for the first time since 1966.

But as the first round unfolded, the draft began to look like some sort of a blind draw, with a few general managers looking as if they were plucking names out of a fish bowl, eyes closed and fingers crossed.

How else do you explain forward Charlie Villanueva, an inconsistent player during his two seasons at Connecticut and one who seemed destined for the middle or bottom of the first round being taken with the No. 7 pick by the Toronto Raptors, who already have Chris Bosh at that position?

How else do you explain the Los Angeles Lakers, one week after rehiring former coach Phil Jackson in hopes of returning to the playoffs next season, picking 7-foot, 285-pound high school star Andrew Bynum, the youngest player ever taken in the draft, at No. 10?

How else do you explain unproven Europeans Fran Vazquez of Spain and Yaroslav Korolev of Russia going 11th and 12th, respectively, to the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Clippers, while solid college players such as Oklahoma State's Joey Graham fell to the Raptors at 16th and Syracuse's Hakim Warrick to the Memphis Grizzlies at No. 19.

"It's the story of my life - being overlooked," said Warrick, the last player to be chosen among those invited to Madison Square Garden for the national telecast.

It is now the story of former Maryland point guard John Gilchrist's life. After Gilchrist appeared to raise his somewhat shaky stock and repair his damaged reputation at the pre-draft camp in Chicago earlier this month, the 2004 Atlantic Coast Conference tournament Most Valuable Player went undrafted last night.

Even the local team passed on him.

With Gilchrist available, and with the need for backup guards to possibly replace former Terps and soon-to-be free agents Juan Dixon and Steve Blake, the Washington Wizards used their only pick in the draft - No. 49 overall - on Andray Blatche, a 7-foot high school player from Connecticut.

Gilchrist notwithstanding, it was a big night for point guards and for the ACC, particularly for the reigning national champion Tar Heels.

Former Illinois star Deron Williams went to the Jazz with the No. 3 overall pick after Utah traded up by giving its sixth and 27th picks to the Portland Trail Blazers. In quick succession, Wake Forest's Chris Paul went fourth to New Orleans and North Carolina's Raymond Felton fifth to Charlotte.

Felton was later joined by former Tar Heels teammate Sean May, who went to the Bobcats at No. 13. Rashad McCants became the fourth North Carolina player taken in the first round - the most ever drafted in the first round off the same team in the same year - at No. 14 to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

In all, seven ACC players were taken in the opening round, with Julius Hodge of North Carolina State being picked by the Denver Nuggets at No. 20 and Jarrett Jack of Georgia Tech taken by the Nuggets at No. 22 and later traded for two other draft picks to Portland.

The Phoenix Suns used their first-round pick to select Washington guard Nate Robinson, then sent him to New York to complete the trade of Quentin Richardson to the Knicks for Kurt Thomas.

In the last year that players straight out of high school can be eligible for the draft, three were taken in the first round. Aside from Bynum, Martell Webster was picked sixth overall by the Trail Blazers and Gerald Green was taken 18th by the Boston Celtics.

Green, a 6-6 guard from Houston, figured to go in the top 10 but fell to the Celtics.

"We were shocked, to be honest, that he was at 18," said Boston coach Doc Rivers. "It was a no-brainer when we saw him there."

The same could be said for Los Angeles' pick of Bynum. Despite Jackson's impatience with young players, and his insistence that the Lakers can be a playoff team next season, this pick was certainly done with the future in mind. The distant future, at that.

"It's very unusual that you can get a center in the draft. There aren't that many," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said of Bynum, who at 17 years, 8 months, 2 days is 12 days younger than Jermaine O'Neal was when he was picked by Portland in 1996. "With his skill level, his athleticism, we thought at the 10th pick, it was our best chance to get a center for the future."

Bynum had the best line of the night.

"Wow, man, I get to play with Kobe Bryant and get coached by Phil Jackson!" said Bynum, who was not seated among the top prospects near the stage but in the bleacher seats with the fans. "I'm looking forward to palm trees and Jack Nicholson."

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