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Archive for Thursday, June 24, 2004

Don’t look too closely at NBA draft

June 24, 2004

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Not long ago, Kwame Brown and friends seemed to have changed the way NBA teams would draft forever. Brown was the first player drafted in 2001, the first in league history to go from high school to No. 1 overall.

Tyson Chandler was No. 2, Eddy Curry was No. 4 and DeSagana Diop was No. 8 in that draft. They were the Diaper Quartet -- all big men, all preps-to-pros and all expected to be franchise cornerstones within three years.

Those three years have passed, and the three teams involved -- the Bulls, Wizards and Cavaliers -- still are in the lottery. If you've chosen to build anything around Curry, Chandler, Brown or Diop, I would suggest spending as much time as possible outside of whatever you've built.

Considering the iffy results put up by these four players, it stands to reason they would have a lasting impact on how not to draft. No way would the league dive so deeply into the high school talent pool again.

But reason has no place here.

Thus, there is this number: nine. That's how many high school kids remained in this draft, and entering the week all nine seemed likely to be chosen. Sure, the Diaper Quartet has failed, but that's not going to stop teams from taking chances on this year's batch of youngsters.

Probably the dumbest thing observers of the NBA draft do annually is look at the players chosen and identify an emerging trend. A trend toward high school kids. A trend toward international players. A trend toward college seniors. Phooey. If you believe nothing else printed in this space heretofore or hence, believe this: There are no trends in the NBA draft. Each draft is dictated by the talent available -- and in this draft, that meant high school kids.

"You just take the guys you think are going to be the best basketball players," says one general manager. "There's no code to doing this. Used to be, you only had one or two high school guys, and they were going to be stars. Now, they're like everyone else. Some are going to be good, some are going to get you fired."

This draft was record-setting in the number of prep players available, but that means nothing in terms of next year's draft. This year's glut also is a reflection of an underwhelming class of draftees at the college level and a so-so group of international players. There is a lack of athleticism in college and international pools this year, so you see some athletic high school wing players filling that gap. These nine kids are: Dwight Howard, Shaun Livingston, Josh Smith, Al Jefferson, J.R. Smith, Robert Swift, Dorell Wright, Sebastian Telfair and Jackie Butler.

There might not be a Tracy McGrady or a Garnett among these players. But there isn't one among the other draft possibilities, either.

Much will be made of the number of high school players in this draft, but that's just this year. After the four high school players were chosen in 2001, there was one chosen in 2002 -- Amare Stoudemire, who was the NBA Rookie of the Year. There were five chosen in 2003, including LeBron James at No. 1, and benchwarmers galore at Nos. 23, 26, 27 and 48.

See the pattern? Of course not.

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