- Jay Bilas, College Basketball analyst
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This isn't a mock draft. This isn't a prediction of the first round. This isn't a guide as to who'll be chosen where in the draft.
This is simply one man's opinion of the best players available to NBA teams Thursday night. That man is ESPN's Jay Bilas, who breaks down the strengths and weaknesses of each player -- many of whom will be drafted higher or lower based on teams' needs in the first round.
James already has an NBA body. He is strong, well built and a superior athletic talent who is a Magic Johnson-type passer. James is just as skilled as Kobe or Garnett was at the same age, but much more physically imposing. With improvement in his jumpshooting and defensive intensity, James has superstar potential.
Milicic is a 7-foot lefty who will not turn 18 until June 20, and he is an absolute freak on the court with his combination of size, skill and athletic ability. Milicic has great upside. He can run, jump and handle the ball. He has great touch, can step away from the basket and shoot, and is quick off of his feet. As he gets stronger and more mature, Milicic has the tough-mindedness to be great.
Anthony is a multi-skilled small forward who can post, face-up, shoot from the perimeter and create space with a jab step and shot fake. He is a great post-up player and an extraordinary rebounder who is excellent on his second-effort jumps. Anthony is a good passer and a good shooter, but does not blow by people off the dribble and is suspect defensively. Anthony will play his tail off for any team who picks him right away, and is a potential all-star at the next level.
Bosh is a long and athletic lefty with shot-blocking ability. He is a set-shooting big man with touch to 19 feet, but he can run the floor, and he is a very efficient and productive rebounder. Bosh needs to develop physically and learn how to dominate games, but he has the most potential of any big man outside of the Big Three above.
Hinrich is the best all-around guard in the draft. He can play two positions, point or shooting guard; he can run all day, and he excels in transition. Hinrich is a good shooter, and is long-armed, athletic and very competitive. He's a throwback who will be in the league for a long time, and he'll be a winner.
Wade is an athletic shooting guard who may be able to transition to the point with significant work on his handling ability. He is a slasher with a great first step who can get him to the basket off of one bounce, and he can finish at the rim. Wade is a good passer and adequate handler, a long-armed defender who gets a lot of deflections. Bottom line: he's a productive player. With improvement in his shooting, Wade is a steal as a mid-lottery selection.
Pietrus is a stone-cold athlete who has an American game, which translates to taking the ball to the basket. He is not a consistent perimeter shooter, but has a similar game to Desmond Mason, being just as athletic but not quite as polished. Pietrus has long arms and toughness, and he can really guard people.
Ford is the best point guard in the draft. He is jet-quick in the open floor, a pinpoint passer and a good decision-maker. He is difficult to stay in front of, active and competitive, but his size and questionable shooting ability make you a bit leery. His ability to knock down free throws indicates that Ford's shot can improve.
Kaman is the most skilled low-post center in the draft, with the ability to use either hand around the basket. He's very good with the ball on the low block and has good footwork. He can run the floor, and he is very clever with the ball in the low post. Kaman needs to get stronger and take more pride in his defense, but he rebounds at a high rate, and will get better.
Ridnour is a slick-handling point guard who is at his best in the open floor. He has a great work ethic and a high work rate. Ridnour is a creative handler and passer, not to mention a very good shooter with deep range. But while he's outstanding on the break, Ridnour can be careless with the ball in the name of daring and speed. He also needs to get stronger and improve his on-ball defense.
Gaines is an excellent all-around player who can score from the perimeter, get to the basket, and defend multiple positions. He has played the point, anticipates well on the defensive end, gets to loose balls and has very active hands and feet. Gaines is a true 6-6 with long arms and can lock people up. He is strong and can score. He will be a solid NBA pro.
Collison is an accomplished and skilled power forward who can step out and hit a standstill jumper, or put the ball on the floor and drive. He has a full compliment of post moves, knows how to play, and is fundamentally sound. Collison runs the floor and gets deep post position, looks for early offense, and seals off very well. He has questionable explosion skills near the basket, but he is a really solid player that will work hard for any team that picks him.
Sweetney may be undersized, but he is the best low-post scorer in the draft. He has long arms and is very productive and efficient in the low post, and at times unstoppable. He takes tough shots, but he has a variety of power moves. Sweetney has good footwork and agility for his size, and can really rebound the ball, especially on the offensive end. Sweetney does not explode to the basket, but finds a way to score. He reminds you of Elton Brand, but needs to be just as tenacious.
Lampe can step away from the basket and knock down shots. He is a great shooting big man who is fundamentally sound, skilled, and can handle, pass and shoot for his size. Lampe is a bit heavy-legged, and also needs to be a reliable defender. He is a decent rebounder and needs to get into the low post, but has the saving grace of being able to shoot it.
Planinic is a point guard with good size and all-around skills. He is not overly strong physically, but similar to Marco Jaric. He has a quick release and is a good shooter with time, but does not hit his free throws at a high rate. Planinic has great potential, and will rise in the draft as he works out for different teams.
Hayes is a jump-shooting big guard who is athletic and capable of big numbers. He can put it on the floor and create some space, and he is pretty good when he punches the lane, but often takes it inside to pull up, rather than finish at the rim. His size and athletic ability will make him a mid-first-round pick.
Banks is an outstanding defender and strong penetrator who can move his feet, stay in front of people and deny his assignment the ball in scoring areas. He has good lateral quickness and is very strong for his size. Banks can score, draw fouls on his penetrating moves, and has more of a scorer's mentality.
Pavlovic is an athletic swingman who can run the floor. He has long arms and good explosion skills, good speed and can shoot off the catch or the dribble. Pavlovic can finish plays at the rim in Europe, but needs two bounces to get somewhere. He has NBA range on his jumper and can really jump. He will only get better with time.
West is a long-armed rebounder who reminds you of a smaller Derrick Coleman. He is a good low-post scorer who battles and has a knack for scoring around the basket. He is a good athlete, but not incredibly explosive. West has improved his perimeter skills, but reminds me of a shorter Drew Gooden. He may have trouble finding a position at the next level.
Cook is a skilled big man who can step out and shoot the ball from range. He has been labeled as soft, but improved his intensity and productivity as a senior. Cook has long arms and a pretty good athleticism, and he can pass and shoot to 20 feet. He can play pick-and-pop, and he can guard a perimeter player as well as defend in the post.
He's strong, likes to mix it up down low and is an excellent rebounder and shot blocker. He's also an above average ball handler for his size. He's still very raw, but he's not a stiff. He sometimes looks a little awkward.
Cabarkapa has long arms and very good ball skills for his size. He has been compared to Denver's Nikoloz Tskitishvili, and is fundamentally sound; agile, and can run the floor. He needs to get stronger and work to get somewhere off the dribble.
Barbosa is athletic and explosive and can attack the basket off the bounce. He is a good handler with long arms, and he can defend, getting steals and deflections. Barbosa is a scoring point guard who has a funky release and suspect shooting consistency, but he is dynamic. He only played a few minutes at last year's World Championships, which is interesting and should be looked into by teams, because he could be over-inflated with all of this attention on foreign imports.
Howard is an athletic, long-armed rebounder and perimeter shot-blocker who can really close out and recover. He has good speed with the ability to make plays, and he is an excellent offensive rebounder. Howard must improve his handle, especially his left hand. But he reminds you of a stronger Stacy Augmon.
"Baby Shaq" has a great body and is not a bad athlete, but not a super athlete either. He reminds you of Eddy Curry, but not as big. He carves out space with good footwork and he can change ends and score around the basket. His height was overestimated last year, and he is a low-post power forward who has good feet and good efficiency around the basket. He is not Robert Traylor, but he is not Charles Barkley, either. A good prospect to take late in the first round.
Based on talent and potential alone, ESPN's Jay Bilas ranks the top 29 players in the draft.