June 25, 2004
The NBA draft is all about potential, potential, potential and that was the case Thursday night. I remember 20 years ago, when the draft had major impact players named Olajuwon, Jordan, Barkley and Stockton. Now there are so many high school kids entering the draft and most of them are simply not ready. Yes, LeBron James was something special and an exception to the rule in my book, but the rest of the system is just too wacky. Don't get me wrong I'm not blaming the high school kids for coming out and trying to make some money by being picked in the first round. But the bottom line is these kids don't progress and improve long term, and the big winners in the current system are agents.
Some other thoughts from draft night…
Dwight Howard vs. Emeka Okafor for No. 1 pick. I know Howard has great potential and comes from a great family, but I feel that 10 years from now Okafor will still be a star in this league for the Bobcats. He has already gained 103 games of valuable experience on the college level, and that's a big difference. I also feel that Howard would have been in a better situation if an expansion team with lower expectations took him. There is going to be greater pressure on the high schooler as the No. 1 pick in Orlando.
Jim Calhoun had to be proud and thrilled to see Okafor and Ben Gordon go 2-3. Those are two quality young guys who should have an impact for years to come. For those who have knocked Gordon, saying he could not handle the point, just look at a young man named Chauncey Billups. He has an MVP trophy from the NBA Finals in his house now! I think Gordon could be even better than Billups in years to come. Both went No. 3 in their respective drafts. Kudos to the Bulls for adding character guys like Gordon, Luol Deng and Chris Duhon to help the Bulls improve. I give the Bulls an A for this draft!
The biggest surprise among the top 10 was Toronto's pick of Rafael Araujo out of BYU. The 6-11 center is an experienced college performer but I still was stunned to see him go that high.
While I appreciate the athleticism of Andre Iguodala out of Arizona, I felt the Sixers would have been better off taking Oregon's Luke Jackson at No. 9. Iguodala couldn't dominate in the fast break and transition style at Arizona, averaging around 12 ppg. To me, Jackson, who shot 44 percent from three-point range last season, could have been the outside shooter to play off of Allen Iverson.
I didn't understand Portland's decision to pick Sebastian Telfair at No. 13 when Kirk Snyder and Jameer Nelson were on the board. Mo Cheeks will work hard with Telfair, but here's a guy who has questionable shooting ability and a lack of size.
The Celtics pick of Al Jefferson was interesting because they already have another former high school player in Kendrick Perkins on the roster. Hey, Doc Rivers, are you coaching an NBA team or high schoolers? Seriously, I love ya Doc, and thought you did a super job calling the NBA finals with Al Michaels. I liked Boston's other two first round picks better. Delonte West is an excellent shooter both from long distance and on the foul line (almost 90 percent last season). Tony Allen did a good job for Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State.
A pair of underclassmen that did not get chosen in the first round and may have been better off not entering the draft were Donta Smith and Trevor Ariza. Smith could have played at Louisville this season instead of going to Atlanta at No. 34. Ariza would have been better off at UCLA instead of going to New York at No. 43.
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he has been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.