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Archive for Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Doping the draft’s dandies

Kansas’ Wright deemed ‘one of most versatile athletes’ available

June 26, 2007

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A look at the top prospects by position in Thursday's NBA Draft:

Small forwards

Kevin Durant, Texas, 6-foot-10/215 pounds (Top 2)

Some scouts invoke the name of Dirk Nowitzki to describe Durant. Others will tell you he has a little bit of Kevin Garnett and Tracy McGrady in him. That gives you an idea of his potential. He'll likely begin his career at small forward and pick up more minutes at power forward as he gets stronger.

Jeff Green, Georgetown, 6-9/228 (5-10)

He's just scratching the surface. Green is athletic, strong and agile enough to defend several different positions. He seems uncomfortable on the perimeter at times, but he makes shots and is a willing passer.

Corey Brewer, Florida, 6-7/185 (5-10)

Several general managers worry about his frame and question his ability to put the ball on the floor and create his own shot. Still, he moves well without the ball and can come off screens and shoot. His long arms allow him to disrupt the passing lanes.

Julian Wright, Kansas, 6-8/211 (5-10)

One of the most versatile athletes in this draft, he runs the court and is explosive near the rim. Wright needs to improve his range and create off the dribble, but he's a good passer. One general manager believes Wright's niche will be the same as the one Shawn Marion has carved out in Phoenix.

Al Thornton, Florida State, 6-7/221 (10-15)

A polished one-on-one scorer, Thornton attacks the basket with a quick first step, displays three-point range and is quick to the offensive glass. He's a good perimeter defender. He doesn't have a great feel for the game, but he plays with confidence and intensity.

Power forwards

Brandan Wright, North Carolina, 6-10/200 (Projected 3-8)

He's arguably the third-most talented player in this draft. He has a nice touch around the basket and can score with either hand. He's skilled enough to play some small forward, and his wingspan (nearly 7-5) allows him to block shots. Some think he's too smooth, meaning he's not mean enough.

Joakim Noah, Florida, 7-0/223 (5-8)

A high-energy player who is in constant motion - think Cleveland's Anderson Varejao, only with more skill. He gets off his feet quickly to block shots and is a good help defender. He handles the ball well for a player his size, is a good passer and knows how to make plays. He's not a great offensive player, however, and needs to add range to his jump shot.

Yi Jianlian, China, 6-11/238 (8-15)

At least one general manager believes Jianlian's more ready to contribute as a rookie than Brandan Wright. He can take his man off the dribble. He doesn't have much of a post game, but he doesn't shy away from contact. He has a nice jump shot, can run the court and pass out of the double-team. His lack of upper-body strength is an issue.

Centers

Greg Oden, Ohio State, 7-0/257 (Top 2)

He would have been the first pick in last year's draft if the rules hadn't changed. He can dominate a game defensively. He rebounds, blocks shots and competes hard. He also runs the floor well. His injured right wrist forced him to develop his left and made him a better offensive player.

Al Horford, Florida, 6-9/246 (3-5)

You know how Kevin Durant couldn't bench press 185 pounds? Horford did it 20 times. He's not a great athlete, but he's rock solid and the most physical interior presence in the draft after Oden. He's raw offensively and a bit mechanical in the post but can pass.

Shooting guards

Nick Young, Southern Cal, 6-6/206 (10-18)

He has something you don't see in the league much today - a deadly mid-range jumper. He has a nice array of spin moves and can create space to get off his shot. He can also post his man and score. One knock is that he settles for the outside shot too quickly.

Rodney Stuckey, Eastern Washington, 6-4 /207 (15-20)

A versatile athlete who can play either guard spot. Stuckey is strong, slashes to the basket and gets to the free-throw line. He needs to improve his ball-handling and decision making, but he plays hard at both ends of the floor.

Point guards

Mike Conley Jr., Ohio State, 6-0/175 (3-8)

He's a pass-first point guard who is intense and has a good feel for the game. Baseline to baseline, he's the quickest player in this draft and loves to push the ball. He can run the pick-and-roll, penetrate and finish at the basket with either hand. He needs to improve his jump shot.

Acie Law, Texas A&M, 6-3/186 (10-15)

Conley may have more upside, but Law is the point guard in this draft most likely to contribute from Day One. He's effective in the halfcourt and in transition. He has a good first step and body control, allowing him to finish in the lane when hit. He's not much of a three-point threat, but he's something more important - a leader.

Javaris Crittenton, Georgia Tech, 6-4/194 (10-18)

He has great size and athleticism for the position. He's an excellent ball-handler but tends to dribble too much. He has a much better feel in transition than in a halfcourt set. He also takes some bad shots, but that probably comes with youth. He's a willing and able defender with quick hands to rack up steals.

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