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Who's foolin' who?

6/24/2003

I remember a story John Chaney tells about former Temple forward Tim Perry. And, with the draft fast approaching, it's worth repeating.

It seems after Perry was seventh overall in the 1988 NBA draft, Chaney told him to save his money. Don't waste it on a fancy car, or other frivolous items. Needless to say, Perry failed to heed his coach's advice. And, when Chaney saw him -- in his new car on campus soon after the draft -- an infuriated Chaney told his former player in simple terms:

"Don't you understand, you knucklehead? We tricked 'em! We tricked 'em!"

After eight non-descript NBA seasons, Perry finished up his career in Spanish cities like Valencia and Leon.

Because drafting NBA prospects is not an exact science, mistakes are made throughout every draft. There is so much uncertainty after Toronto likely selects Chris Bosh at No. 4 that San Antonio and Dallas could end up with as good a player at the end of the first round as New York or Washington does in the middle of the lottery.

Historically, there will be second-round picks who become solid NBA players and first-round picks who turn out to be duds. There will be players who shot the lights out of the gym in a single pre-draft workout and get drafted higher, based on that one day, despite the fact that they were poor career shooters in college. Conversely, there will be guys, slightly undersized at their position, who are passed over for a "prototype" player who doesn't get as much done on the court.

Some players will have great early workouts and conveniently "sprain" an ankle or "strain" a quadriceps so their stock remains high. Some agents won't have their guys work out at all, so their draft stature rises due to the misfortunes of others. Teams will "talk a player up" to create the impression that they are high on him, only to divert attention away from someone they like more.

It's all about "tricking 'em."

When I coached against Micheal Wright of Arizona in 1999, it was apparent that he had no right-hand move in the post, nor was he big enough to "bulldoze" people inside at the NBA level, like he did in the Pac-10. After being selected 37th by the Knicks in 2001, he didn't last long enough to keep his practice shorts and is currently in Granada in the Spanish ACB league.

On the other hand, a similarly-sized Malik Rose -- after dominating the likes of Delaware and Boston University in college -- just completed his seventh year in the league, contributing to two San Antonio Spurs championships.

So, with these examples as a back drop, here is one ex-coach's two cents on this year's draft.

On the rise
Dwyane Wade, Marquette: The only thing higher than Dwyane Wade's vertical leap may be his draft status. After leading the Golden Eagles to a magical Final Four run, Wade is primed to be selected in the middle of the lottery because he has all of the intangibles NBA teams look for in a player.

Wade has played in one of the most intensity driven programs in the country, so his work ethic and attitude may be unmatched among this year's picks. He has only played two years, so his potential may be still somewhat untapped. His athleticism and instincts are outstanding.

My question remains, "How will he score?"

What lottery teams need to decide are: Can he consistently knock down open perimeter shots? At 6-foot-4, can Wade finish around the rim? Will he get enough open-court opportunities to take advantage of his explosiveness? Can he make the transition, if need be, to the point guard spot?

Because this is a typical year and there are others with as many questions to answer, Wade will not last past the seventh pick. Because of the type of preparation he has received, he has had some terrific workouts. In fact, if not for Eddie Jones' contract, he could have conceivable gone to Miami at No. 5. Good for him, because he was great for college basketball.

Kirk Hinrich, Kansas: Here is another guy with terrific intangibles who's put together a string of solid workouts. In fact, Hinrich may be the guy who moves all the way up to No. 5. Miami doesn't seem to be enamored with T.J. Ford; they don't think Chris Kaman is ready to help immediately; and Pat Riley may be messing with Maciej Lampe as a smoke screen.

Hinrich seems to have the size, strength, open-court quickness and the point-guard moxie to be successful in the league. There are some John Stockton-like attributes here.

But, I have do have some concerns.

I am not as crazy about Hinrich's outside shooting as some are. In fact, in the Jayhawks' eight losses, Hinrich shot 37 percent from the field, 28 percent from 3-point range, and 64 percent from the free throw line. In addition, he shot just 31 percent against ranked teams and a disasterous 48 percent from the line on the road. Finally, his assist/turnover ratio was a pedestrian 23/19 in the eight losses.

Looking for love
Nick Collison, Kansas: Repeat after me, "He may not be Dave Cowens, but he's not Raef LaFrentz either."

Collison has shown over and over again that he is a "blue collar" power forward who is comfortable banging inside. He has the ability and the size to score inside. He is adept at using both hands, rebounds anything in his area well, and is physical enough to defend players his size in the league. Free throw shooting is an Achilles heel (62 percent).

Still, with Collison, NBA teams at least know what they are getting. The long-term potential may not be great, but if they don't mind a solid 10-year pro in the mold of a P.J. Brown, this will be a safe pick. In a year where there is no "sure things" after the fourth selection, Collison will make someone very happy the further he falls.

David West, Xavier: Having watched this 6-9 forward in person five times during the 2002-03 season, I admit that I wanted not to like him. But, all he did was grow on me. While the knock on him is that he is undersized (there we go again), he does have a 7-4 wing span. After being played straight up in a 47-point, 19-rebound performance against Dayton, he handled double and triple teams in the rematch, en route to 27 points and hit his first four three-point shots. He shot 81 percent from the line on 256 attempts. In addition, West ended his career with 68 "double-doubles," including 22 as a senior.

Because scouts think they have seen him so much, there is a tendency to feel that they have calculated his upside potential. While he may not be Karl Malone, West should be able to get 10 points off the bench in the second quarter and late third quarter in his rookie year as a backup power forward. If he's around after No. 20, someone like Dallas, the Lakers or San Antonio will capitalize again.

Michael Sweetney, Georgetown: If NBA scouts think he is "undersized", they better tell him to get in line behind Elton Brand, Malik Rose, Kurt Thomas and Clarence Weatherspoon. Sweetney has terrific hands and is a bull inside with a long wingspan. While dominating the Big East is not always a determinant of NBA success, he was impossible to keep away from the basket one-on-one. His 10 free throw attempts a game are impressive.

If Sweetney were 6-10, he would be mentioned with Milicic and Anthony. As it is, he will be double-teamed as a rookie, thereby making his veteran teammates very happy. He is my sleeper pick in 2003. If he ends up slipping past No. 10, someone will have a "steal."

Brian Cook, Illinois: The Big Ten's player of the year has had some terrific workouts lately. The big mystery about Cook was his roller-coaster first three years with the Illini. But there has been steady improvement.

Think back to the late 1980s, because there is a good chance that he will end up being a Horace Grant-type power forward. Because Cook can really shoot the ball, he will be excellent in the pick-and-roll game. He can put the ball on the floor from the perimeter, allowing him to play some small forward, as well. He also doubled his free throw attempts this year from his junior season, showing a willingness to take a pounding.

It may have taken a while, but people have figured out how skilled he is. Hopefully, the "soft" label has dissipated as well. Given the right opportunity to play as a rookie, he will surprise people.

Josh Howard, Wake Forest: You had to watch him a lot to appreciate that he dominated ACC play and was a clear-cut choice for player of the year. Howard is a "jack of all trades," finishing among the ACC's leaders in nine different statistical categories. A wing player who plays bigger than his size, Howard doesn't have the handle of a Derek Anderson or the athleticism of a Doug Christie, but he can score out to 19 feet, make plays going to the basket and is an excellent defender. He would be very good in a "system-oriented" situation like the Utah Jazz.

Carlos Delfino, Argentina: It seems like Delfino has been around forever because of his three years in the Italian league, but Delfino will still only be 21 years old in August. He is the same type of competitor as fellow Argentine, Manu Ginobelli. He is a streaky shooter and an "attack the basket" player.

Some European coaches I've talked to think he could be more assertive as he has sometimes passed up scoring opportunities at the end of games. One bonus a team will get with Delfino is that he is already a solid defensive player. If his ankle is completely healed, he should be an instant contributor next season at the big guard or small forward spot. He is the type of addition that will make the playoff teams at the bottom of the First Round happy.

A few questions to answer
Chris Kaman, Central Michigan: After seeing him play at Miami of Ohio in early January, I jumped on the bandwagon. His athleticism, footwork and agility were impressive, and had he gotten the ball more that day, he could have scored 40 points. With the dearth of centers in this year's draft, and because of the uncertainty surrounding the fifth pick and beyond, Kaman is in great position.

In talking to people around the league, the biggest adjustment to the NBA level will be mental and not physical. I think it will take Kaman a season to adjust to everything surrounding NBA life (i.e., the travel, the schedule, etc.). The tools are there, however, to be a top five center in the league. Think of his adjustment like that of a European player and be patient.

Marcus Banks, UNLV: Banks may be the single best athlete in this year's draft. Built like an NFL cornerback, he is the only player in the draft who comes close to giving T.J. Ford a run for his money in the open court. He has excellent lateral quickness and will be able to defend any point guard his size in the NBA.

Having coached against him, I worry about two things: his playmaking ability to run an NBA offense and his ability to consistently knock down open shots. While I like him at No. 15 or higher, he may be a reach for Seattle with the 12th pick. Orlando would be ideal because Tracy McGrady will have ball in his hands 70 pecent of the time.

Travis Hansen, BYU: This is another guy I coached against in the Mountain West Conference. Hansen is a 25-year-old "overnight sensation." He is athletic, fearless and a terrific competitor. He played extremely well at the Portsmouth Invitational and was solid in Chicago. In Portsmouth, he shot the 3-point shot extremely well (5 of 8), but he never showed that consistency in college. He should make someone's team as an "energy" guy, but I don't think the "upside" is there to warrant a late first-round pick. Carl English, who will go mid-second round, shoots it better, makes better decisions with the ball and has more long term "upside."

Worth the gamble?
Are these guys two years away? Or, are these guys two years away from being two years away?

These players' "upside" is hard to calculate, either because they haven't played a lot, haven't been seen a lot, or both. These picks, for the most part, will be a "crap shoot."

Malick Badiane, Senegal: According to coaches who just saw him at the recent Reebok Top 40 Euro Camp, he is extremely athletic but doesn't know the game yet. He doesn't turn 20 until Jan. 1 ... or, does he? Some scouts question his true age. Nevertheless, someone will take him in the late first round and can leave him in Europe to develop another year. He is probably three years away from someone's rotation.

Sofoklis Schortsanitis, Greece: He's measuring anywhere from 6-8½ to 6-10 at his workouts so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt and call him 6-9. "Baby Shaq" has a chance to be more like a "baby Elton Brand." He turned 18 this week, so, while he has competed against much more experienced players, his game is in its infancy stage. Although he has already shown signs that he will be an excellent rebounder, one NBA assistant was surprised at how advanced his offensive skills around the basket were. Of course, the same scout also mentioned that he can't defend an NBA power forward yet.

James Lang, Central Park Christian H.S.: One of the top high school prospects in the country, this guy would have benefited from the wide array of treadmills and stair masters that Rick Pitino has at the University of Louisville practice facility. He is currently at 315 pounds, down from a whopping 400 pounds last year. Here's the good news: Lang helped himself at the pre-draft in Chicago by showing surprising agility and excellent hands. Conditioning is, obviously, a big factor, but someone will draft him early in the second round and "redshirt" him. Look for him to be heard from three seasons from now.

Fran Fraschilla is a college basketball analyst for ESPN and ESPN.com