DraftExpress' All-Underrated 1st Team

DraftExpress' All-Underrated 1st Team
Jun 22, 2004, 01:00 am
PG: Jameer Nelson
(written by Jamie Maltman)


Here's the guy that has helped himself the most in the past few weeks with excellent workouts, which is pretty ridiculous considering that we are talking about the NCAA player of the year here. Rumors say Phoenix has him ranked #1 on their board, the Raptors are very high on him, Cleveland likes him a lot and Portland does not believe he will be there when they pick at #13, but they would take him if he was.

What they are saying: Too smallnot a threat from behind the arcnot a great athletewent to a small school and played against mediocre competition.

Nelson probably will not be a superstar in the NBA, but he's easily the type of guy that could someday be the MVP of a playoff series. He can be a very effective player, leader and fan favorite if he is put in the right situation.

I think the comments about his supposed lack of athleticism have been proven inaccurate or negligible with his results from the testing at the combine (10.95 seconds in the lane agility test, better then both Ben Gordon and Devin Harris, last year he did a 10.66 which would have made him #1 amongst lottery prospects). So he has great quickness and amazing strength (15 reps of the 185 bar). To me those are the two most important athletic abilities a PG needs to hold his own on both ends of the floor.

It's true, his lack of height will be a bit of a disadvantage, but I'd expect him to work hard in every way to use what he has - strength, quickness, smarts, and toughness to be a good defender anyway. And he'll use what he has to beat his man on the other side of the court. Body control and strength are a lot more important when it comes to finishing in the lane than just height. He's as good as any PG in the NBA when it comes to those things. And that plus his quickness is going to earn him a lot of trips to the line, where he's also strong.

This can't shoot thing is really a whole bunch of nonsense to me. He can shoot from anywhere out to the NBA 3, and he has a very nice mid-range game too. You'd only really want him to take smart shots - and if you leave him open, he can make it. That's not an issue at all, and he wants to take big shots as well. He shot 39% from behind the arc this year in the NCAA, better then Harris who is supposedly an amazing shooter. Nelson has better leadership qualities than arguably anyone else in this draft, and as high a basketball IQ as anyone as well. He's a gamer, and he'll be loved by his teammates and the fans as well.

Unlike many, I've always thought he can be a good NBA player. It's just that we have to decide whether we want his package, or the potential star quality in one of the other bigger or younger prospects.

I don't think too many people realize just how smoothly Nelson's transition from scorer to pass-first PG will be in the NBA. Nelson was touted as a pure PG coming out of high school but St. Josephs needed him to score twenty a night early on for them to have any chance of winning games. In the NBA expect Nelson to put up very solid assist numbers. Within three years, in the right situation, Nelson could easily be a 13-15ppg, 6-7.5apg, 2spg type of player.


He isn't the next Iverson or Isiah Thomas but he could be a nice mix of Damon Stoudamire and Tim Hardaway; and who didn't enjoy watching both of those unorthodox PGs compete during their primes? When I mention player comparisons, though, I'm not necessarily referring to statistical comparisons. Instead, I'm referring more to "playing styles." 1990s basketball was VERY high scoring so I don't think it's fair to compare stats between eras. Tim Hardaway, in his prime, would be a great basketball player in any era but I think you could easily argue that his overall effectiveness might differ from era to era. Great players are unique to their era because they bring something new to the table. Nelson isn't necessarily breaking new ground with his style of play because we've all seen it before but I can see that Timmy Hardaway style being effective again. Like fashion trends, playing trends come back in style and I think Nelson's game will translate pretty well to the NBA game next year.

Moving to an NFL comparison, Jerome Bettis was an unorthodox running back but his odd combination of strength, speed and smarts were so different than everybody else in the league for awhile, he became extremely unique and special. Eventually, the Steelers focused their strengths on his strengths and became instant contenders. There's nobody in the league right now like Nelson and that just might end up being the key to his success in the NBA. He's going to be unique and NBA defenders are going to have their hands full with him. This guy is like a bowling ball in the lane.

Nelson, unlike most prospects, has been aware of his weaknesses for years and has worked extremely hard, trying to figure out new ways to turn those disadvantages into advantages. What else can you say about this guy? At worst, in a few years he's one of the best backup PGs in the league and a possible sixth man of the year candidate. You just can't say that about some of the other guys in this draft. At best? He could make the all-star team in the right situation.

Nelson could be draft 6th, 7th, or 8th, and most likely won't fall past 10th to Cleveland. The Warriors are also interested, as are the Trailblazers but that's probably too late for him.

SG: Ricky Minard


Minard has been flying up the board since having a strong outing at Portsmouth and Chicago. He has had 19 private workouts in the past month, probably more then any other player in this draft. The way he has managed to perform despite nagging injuries (a large blister in Chicago and a hamstring injury just recently) makes his performances all the more impressive. He has gone from likely being undrafted just 6 weeks ago to now looking like a possible late first rounder.

What they are saying: He's a tweenertoo small to play the 2, doesn't have the playmaking skills to play the 1played for a small school against weak competitiona streaky shooter.

Minard is a combo guard, but to me that's what makes him interesting because he plays both guard positions equally well. He is just a hair under 6-5, which isn't terrible size for a shooting guard, and he makes up for it big time with athleticism. He has a very nice first step and a solid vertical leap. He handles the ball well, good enough to get some minutes at the point without hurting his team defensively, and he is a very smart passer, which compliments his PG skills. He plays every minute as if it's his last, just a fiery competitor that never backs down from a challenge, on both sides of the floor. His defense is excellent, but the best part of his game is his demeanor on the court. Even in the me first Chicago pre-draft camp where everyone is looking to get theirs, Minard played the way he always does, confident but unselfish, always looking to make the extra pass if the shot wasn't there, and always looking like he was having a lot of fun out there. He did play for a small school, but backed that up by putting up 22 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists per game on decent shooting (45% FG). His numbers didn't fall off when he played against top level competition, he was one assist and one rebound shy off a triple double this year at Xavier to go along with 18 points. He also scored 26 points with 4 rebounds and 4 assists at Indiana on the road. He hasn't gotten much attention from the national media until this article (LINK) came out in the USA Today.

We currently have Minard going 35th to the Hawks in the 2nd round. The Blazers, Kings and Pacers are three options at the end of the 1st, although he might be better off going in the early 2nd and getting playing time somewhere so he can develop. The only sure thing at this point is that Minard will be in the NBA next year.

SF: Christian Drejer


What they are saying: Slowdisloyal and should be blackballedoutside shot isn't greatextremely passivelacks the drive or killer instinct to succeed.

They say two years ago Drejer could have been a lottery pick if he came out after tearing up the Danish league at age 18. Instead he followed his life long dream to play in the NCAA and decided to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville over in-state rival Florida State in Tallahassee. Expectations for him were sky high, but Drejer had a very serious injury in his freshman season at Florida. And last preseason, while suffering from a viral infection, Drejer turned an ankle. The infection eventually attacked the injury, causing the ankle to balloon a week later. Drejer, the son of a surgeon, lost 22 pounds in two weeks, missing the season's first 15 games. Muscles in his left leg atrophied, and when he returned, he wasn't the Christian Drejer everyone was expecting.

A doctor at Shands (hospital in Gainesville where Drejer was treated) told me that at some point they thought that Christian might not ever play basketball again because of how serious the injury was. He eventually made a nice recovery, and even played a little towards the end of the season (had 9 assists in the last game of the season vs. Kentucky), but he was clearly out of shape and out of sync. Since then Drejer just hasn't been the same mentally, he is a bit passive and always prefers to make the extra pass instead of using his incredible talent to do almost whatever he wants on the court. It's sometimes very frustrating to watch.

He never really fit in at Florida, was disappointed in Donovan's coaching and mentoring and did not get along with the shoot first point guard Anthony Roberson. He was always the guy looking stupid for moving the ball around while teammates hauled up shots from 30 feet out. He was often ridiculed for playing unselfishly and you could tell that he was unhappy in the NCAA.

In mid February, with about a month left in the season, he left the Gators high and dry by accepting a million dollar contract in Barcelona, where he had a couple of good games (2-3 in the playoffs and even started for a game in the finals) and a couple of bad ones where his head just wasn't in the game. Nothing really to write home about. According to people who are familiar with situation, Drejer was not aware of an obscure NBA rule which states that any player that leaves the NCAA for a professional league will automatically be entered into the next draft. I personally asked Marty Blake why he is forced into this draft and Erazem Lorbek who left Michigan State last year can pull his name out and he did not know how to answer that. It's a rule, and that's that.


All Drejer has to show on his resume entering this draft is one average (considering the expectations) season in the NCAA, a few flashes and some disappointing games in Barcelona that may or may not have been seen by NBA scouts.

In terms of talent, though, we are talking about one of the most unique players around. Drejer is a legit 6-9 SG/SF, with some of the nicest ball handling and court vision you will find out of any player his size in this (or any) draft. His feel for the game is just off the charts. To see a guy his size that can set up an offense and run a team is just mind boggling. I would have trouble naming 5 players his size (6-9) in the NBA who have better ball handling and passing skills then him or even just a better all around feel for the game. They would all (those 5) just happen to be potential all-stars as well, and that's what's scary here.

In terms of actual skills, he lacks a bit of quickness like a lot of Europeans do, he was probably a little more explosive before his injury from what I heard, but in Europe he is still way above average from what I've been told from people who watched him play for Barca. I've seen him shut down future 1st rounders like Kennedy Winston from Alabama when he wants to, but his defense is below average on the NBA level. His shooting is OK but could get better, by all accounts the best part of his game is his court vision and ball handling, along with his ability to set up the offense like a true PG.

By all accounts he has a great work ethic and is a very smart kid both on and off the court. If the light switch comes on for him while playing for the right team (just in terms of being aggressive enough to utilize his skills) you are looking at one of the most versatile swingmen in the NBA here. Something like Hedo Turkoglu with Mike Dunleavy-esque handles and court vision.

Drejer most certainly lacks that killer instinct, but if he had it he would be a lottery pick I believe. That's a flaw that can be fixed or worked on if he's in the right situation. The kid is only 21, keep that in mind. Florida coach Billy Donovan once called him the "most talented player I've ever coached" which means something coming from a guy that coached Mike Miller, Jason Williams, Brett Nelson and other amazing talents.

He'll probably stay in Europe for another year and make 800 thousand next season, but plenty of excellent Euros have done that in the past. In the 2nd round that's the kind of gamble you can afford to take, especially for a team like the Bulls who have 2 high 2nd rounders and not many roster spots, or the Celtics who have 3 first rounders and also have roster spot concerns.

Drejer is the type of player that in 3-4 years could become a Manu Ginobili like contributor, leaving people to wonder what in the world was going through NBA GM's heads when they decided to pass on him. Or he could be the type of player that never comes over to the NBA. Either way, he is worth an early 2nd round pick.

PF: Kris Humphries
(by Aaron Bronsteter)


How do you hate on a super strong, motivated, hard working bull of a power forward that was one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) standout freshmen in the nation last season? Recruited to the Duke Blue Devils initially, before rescinding his commitment and jumping to the Golden Gophers, Humphries is seen as another gopher who goes pher the cash. The fans were crying "Don't pull a Rickert", but Humphries never intended to stay at home in Minnesota for more than a season. He had an NBA body before even going to college! Believe me, had he stayed on the Blue Devils and provided his strength up front, there's no way he wouldn't be a top-10 pick right now. Humphries performed very well in the Chicago combine results, tying Emeka Okafor for the most 185 pound reps with 22 (which is 22 more than Shaun Livingston) and was the 2nd fastest power forward, with Dwight Howard testing at 12 milliseconds faster.

What they are saying:They were saying that he was too short to play power forward, but he's now weighed in at a legit 6'9" without shoes (6'10" with shoes), the same height as Chris Garnett, whom many were touting as a center. Others were saying that he isn't strong or athletic enough, but the guy is chiseled and still growing and his combine results make the people implying he is too white to be athletic look silly. The main thing that is currently holding back Kris Humphries is that nobody paid much attention to him from the get go and word spread that he wasn't tall enough. Right now, he may be the best power forward prospect in the draft aside from Dwight Howard (and Emeka if you don't think he'll play center).

Another thing holding him back is his perceived inability to play defense. This is something Humphries needs to work on and until he becomes a better man-to-man defender, he will be a liability. He is not a naturally gifted shotblocker either and must improve his skills in that area as well.

One thing that teams have also notices is that his father is a bit of a headcase and is very protective of his son. This does not bode well for someone who wants to make the NBA as the last thing coaches want is an unnecessary headache. Teams don't like his agent? If Dan Fegan gives them a double double every night on a rookie contract, they'd build a statue of him.

All in all, Kris is a bright, young prospect who can help a team immediately and has a very high ceiling. He has a great work ethic and will be able to do much of the frontcourt dirty work that teams desire.

C: David Harrison


What they are saying: Lazyuninspiredoverweight and out of shapenever lived up to his huge potential out of high schoolshould have dominated the Big 12 but never did.

With all the hoopla around the teenage 7 footers in this draft (Pavel, Ramos and Swift) and all the complaining about how there are no true American centers anymore, Harrison is always somehow written off as a player that will never live up to his enormous potential. But what if he does? And why do the teenagers get a free pass from being called busts while the more polished 21 year old with just as big of an upside slips?

So what do we have here? Harrison is a legit 7 footer with a great NBA body with great potential to add even more strength. He has slimmed down over the past few months and is probably in the best shape of his life. Whether he'll maintain that or not is up to him and the team that drafts him, but right now he is likely to be the most ready 7 footer to come in and have an impact for his team.

He is strong and athletic; he gets up and down the floor extremely well and has a great vertical leap that just screams shotblocking potential. He has excellent moves in the paint, very nice footwork, and a soft touch around the basket. Harrison is a great target to have inside; he establishes position very well and loves to get the ball with his back to the basket. He has a nice shooting stroke for a big man and will occasionally step outside and hit the 14 footer.

If some team can motivate this kid to live up to what he can do on the court, he will EASILY be the best big man in this draft, and possibly even an all-star. If not, you are looking at another Jerome James or Elden Campbell, which isn't all that bad if you are picking in the mid-late 1st.

The Heat have watched him a few times in the past few months, the Trailblazers have interest as do the Supersonics if they decide to trade down, and the Spurs would almost certainly take him if he falls to them. If the Jazz or Celtics do not take one of the young 7 footers, they will also be in the mix.

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