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NBA Draft Chat (6/13/06)

NBA Draft Chat (6/13/06)
Jun 13, 2006, 01:34 am
A chat conducted with the Brazilian basketball website DraftBrasil.net, discussing many wide-ranging topics about the NBA draft in general as well as specific Brazilian prospects.

Thanks to Alfredo Lauria for conducting the chat.

NBA Draft

1) Without taking into consideration the buyout issue, who would you choose first, Andrea Bargnani or Tiago Splitter?
(Breno Pequeno, Belo Horizonte/MG)


I know this isn’t the most popular sentiment out there, but I would personally take Splitter. I think he has a much more defined role in the NBA, and I see him having success almost right off the bat if he’d ever be able to make it over. Bargnani is a very nice prospect, but after watching the half dozen or more tapes I have here on him, I feel like he might be a little overrated right now. Watching him play, I really wonder sometimes how many NBA teams he’d actually be able to contribute to consistently considering his poor defense and rebounding. Every time things start getting a little tough over in Benetton, he seems to disappear. The way he’s played in the Italian playoffs over the past month or so has to be a little worrysome considering the fact that he is a candidate to go #1 overall. When his outside shot isn’t falling, there are major concerns about how else he’d be able to make an impact on the game. I think he will end up figuring it out at some point, but with all the talk about how big his upside is, we need to keep in mind just how considerable his downside is too. I like Splitter a bit more...it’s just a shame that he is going to have to wait another year because he is ready to go right now.

If the trade that a lot of people seem to be talking about happens—which is the #3 pick going from Charlotte to Toronto in exchange for the #1 pick and a swap of Alvin Williams (whose contract is basically non-guaranteed for 06/07) and possibly Brevin Knight---it’s very difficult to say how far Bargnani could fall if he doesn’t get drafted by Toronto. Especially if he can’t make it over for workouts and physicals. If that trade happens on draft night--obviously Toronto will wait and see how much better the offers get--then Morrison goes #1.

2) Would it better for the Raptors to trade the first pick, considering that the top players from this draft play in the same position that the Raptors’ two young stars? And, if they keep the pick, who could contribute more immediately?
(Guilherme Struecker, Santa Cruz do Sul/RS)


I really don’t get why there isn’t more talk about Toronto keeping the pick and drafting Morrison #1. I think he definitely fills a need and compliments Mo Peterson very well. The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that Morrison is the top player in this draft, and not any of the power forwards. And if you’re asking about immediate contribution, I think the answer to that is pretty obvious as well. We’re talking about the leading candidate for rookie of the year honors here. If the Raptors can trade down a few spots and get a proven player at a position of need as well like Marcus Williams or Brandon Roy, I think that’s a legit option, but otherwise my pick would definitely be Adam Morrison. All the talk now seems to revolve around teams like Charlotte and Indiana trying to trade up to make sure they get him, so that should tell you something right there. He is slowly becoming the consensus #1 overall pick.

3) What do you think of Seattle’s strategy of drafting two young centers (Robert Swift and Johan Petro) in a row? Which one do you think will be better next season and in the near future? And regarding this year’s draft, which prospect would be the better choice to fill the team’s needs?
(João Finkler Filho, Mogi Guaçu/SP)


To answer the first question, from the scouting we did before the draft, I didn’t like the Robert Swift pick at #11 when it happened, but I did think that getting Petro at #25 was a great move. To answer the second, I don’t think I have seen enough of either guy this year to have an education opinion on that. From the little I’ve seen of both this past season I would say Petro, but I could be way off on that. From what I’ve heard it seems like Seattle’s team needs all revolve around balancing their budget and stopping the bleeding coming out of their owner’s wallet, not making the team better unfortunately. Don’t be surprised to see them trading their pick for cash and a 2007 1st rounder. They seem to be pretty happy with their 2-man rotation at each position, except possibly the 4/5, where they could use a guy like Shelden Williams. The problem is that the word on the street says that Shelden is gone either at #5 to Atlanta or at #8 to New Orleans (who would trade Houston the 12th and 15th picks to move up and nab him if he’s there).

4) What could the 76ers do in this draft? Could drafting a pure point guard be a good option? Or should the team opt for a big man and then trade either Webber or Dalembert? I hope that Billy King finally brings defensive players to this team.
(Felipe, Rio de Janeiro/RJ)


I like the idea of drafting a point guard, maybe Rondo or Sergio Rodriguez. It would allow Iverson to play his more natural role at the 2, and maybe bring in some better ball movement than the Sixers have right now. The thing is, the Sixers are telling most people that they are going to draft a scoring swingman--Rodney Carney comes to mind here, and that’s if they aren’t able to trade up like they are hoping to.

5) What do you think of Guillermo Diaz going to the Pacers? Would he be still around in the Indiana range (17th pick)? Is he able to play point guard and handle the ball under pressure? Is it fair to say he has got some Steve Francis in his game?
(André Bitous, São Paulo/SP)


I believe he would be around at 17. I think the highest he goes right now is 19 to Sacramento, and he’ll probably end up going lower than that. I don’t think he is a point guard, he projects as more of a scoring combo guard to bring off the bench in my mind. Whether his defensive mindset and dominant offensive style fits in with Rick Carlisle, I don’t know. Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird (and 14 other NBA teams) were at the same workout we were this past week in Orlando where he played extremely well, but I would say they are a lot more likely to take the other first round prospect that was in there—Alexander Johnson. That wouldn’t surprise me even one bit.

6) Why did Rajon Rondo slip so much in the projections?
(Guilherme Struecker, Santa Cruz do Sul/RS)


Rondo is projected to go 13th right now. That seems to be right around where he’s been projected all year on DraftExpress. He’s a real wildcard in this draft in the sense that he’s doing workouts for teams drafting in the top 5 like Toronto and Atlanta, but he’s also conducted workouts for teams in the twenties, like Phoenix and New York. His stock is all over the place as are the many different opinions on him, but I do think he will end up going top 20 when it’s all said and done. He hasn’t had a chance to work out against the top ranked point guard in the draft yet in Marcus Williams, and from what Williams’ agent Calvin Andrews told us, the only chance Rondo does have of working out with Williams is on the 19th with Atlanta, due to their conflicting schedules.

7) How much time young foreigners like Ersan Ilyasova and Yaroslav Korolev will need to be ready to contribute in the NBA?
(Lucas Souza, Recife/PE)


I think it all depends on how much playing time they get. Guys their age need to be playing 1-2 times a week competitively outside of the practices they conduct, and they won’t get that unless they are sent down to the NBDL. The Bucks seem to be VERY happy with how the D-League worked out for Ilyasova, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him there this year again. For Korolev to be rotting on the bench right now is probably the worst thing he could be going through, and I firmly believe that that lowers the ceiling he might end up reaching as far as his potential is concerned. If you look at the international players in this year’s playoffs who did contribute heavily to their team, whether it was Nowitzki, Parker, Radmanovic, Ginobili, Diaw, Nocioni, Krstic, Varejao or Barbosa—these are all players who played at least rotation minutes for their NBA team almost right off the bat. Look at the guys who ended up being busts--almost all of them sat on the bench extensively in their first few years and in turn never ended up reaching their full potential.

8) What do you think about Mile Ilic? And what about Antoine Wright, should we already consider him a bust?
(Breno Pequeno, Belo Horizonte/MG)


I did not see Ilic play this year, so I am not sure how well he’s developed since last year when we scouted him heavily leading up to the draft. Here is what I wrote about him last year before the draft. He’ll be over next year with the Nets apparently, so we’ll find out soon enough how well we scouted him.

Here is the article in case you would like to read about the other international players from last year’s draft.

Ilic has outstanding size at at least 7 feet tall, sitting on a pretty nice frame, with an excellent wingspan to boot. Like most European players his age, he is a skinny player, but his overall build leads you to believe that he will fill out once he comes over and starts hitting an NBA weight room. In terms of size, he might remind you of Nenad Krstic a little bit, but that’s where the comparisons between the two end, as Ilic is a little more gifted physically but not nearly as far along skill wise compared with Krstic at the same age. The biggest thing he brings to table has to be his athletic ability for a player his size. Ilic runs the floor fluidly and is usually one of the first players down the court in transition as he has good speed in the open floor. Even more impressive is the quickness in which he gets off the ground, showing a nice vertical leap, which gives him a lot of potential in the shot-blocking department when you take his size and length into consideration, not to mention the fact that he appears to have pretty decent timing.

Ilic is a fairly aggressive player that plays the game with purpose and understands his role on both sides of the floor. He moves well off the ball and will ask for the ball in positions he feels comfortable creating offense from. He appears to have an effective, although very ugly, jump shot which he can use effectively to score from 15-18 feet out, although not consistently quite yet. Inside the post, his go-to move appears to be a baby hook shot that he can get off as long as he isn’t being challenged physically too much. That appears to be the extent of his game right now, as he’s still a pretty raw player that is also considered a late bloomer compared with other players in this draft.

In terms of weaknesses, once again we are talking about a player that is yet to fill out completely and visibly lacks strength on both ends of the floor. He has very little back to the basket game right now as his footwork is below average and he just doesn’t have the strength to establish and hold a spot in the paint. This lack of strength hurts him in the rebounding department as well, a problem that is only compounded by the fact that he doesn’t box out that well and doesn’t seem to have the best hands in the world either. His size, length and athletic ability make up for things here, as does the fact that he puts in a good amount of effort here.

Defensively, he gets backed down by stronger players, although he does a decent job trying to fight back. As with most raw seven footers, foul trouble is an issue for him at this point. Too often he’ll bite on pump fakes or leave his feet early to come up with a blocked shot. If he can improve his footwork on the defensive end and learn to use his lateral quickness better, he has some potential as a shot blocking threat. His feel for the game is just average, though, and he still needs to do a better job of maintaining a consistent intensity level for every minute he is on the floor. At times he will play with a lot of intensity and make his presence felt in many different ways, while in others he’ll lose his focus for a period of time and look completely out of it.

To his credit, Ilic got better and better as the season progressed and finished off very strong with a 24 point, 10 rebound game in the semi-finals of the Serbian playoffs. In the Adriatic league, he scored in double digits in 10 of his last 11 games, overcoming a very slow start which saw him reach double digits only once in his first 15 games.

All in all, considering his size and athletic ability and the history of the NBA draft, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Ilic get drafted somewhere between 25-35 or so. He could make at least make a very solid backup for someone down the road, and that alone might warrant a pick. He reminds of a slightly more athletic Rasho Nesterovic. There will probably be more talented players on the board where he is picked, as he’s not the most skilled player in the world, but his physical attributes and the fact that he’s still far from reaching his full potential could make a team decide to bite on him somewhere in that area. We couldn’t get a clear cut answer regarding whether or not Mile Ilic will make it over to the States next year or not, but we did find out that his buyout is yet to be finalized. His agent Marc Cornstein claims to have an excellent working relationship with his team, KK Reflex, so according to him that should not be a major concern.


9) I’d like to ask something regarding the foreigners chosen later in the second round (players like Sofoklis Schortsanitis, Marcin Gortat, Mile Ilic, Cenk Akyol, Sergei Karaulov, PJ Ramos, Xue Yuyang, etc). Are they drafted mostly because of their hype, actual performance or due to scouts’ recommendations?
(Lucas Souza, Recife/PE)


I am not sure exactly what went on behind every single one of those guys, but I can assure you that they were all scouted heavily by the team that drafted them, and in some cases came to workout privately for teams or even participate in the NBA pre-draft camp. Whether it was hype or actual performance...the answer is probably somewhere in the middle, which has to do a lot with potential. Akyol is going to be a great basketball player...whether it’s in Europe or the NBA, I am not sure, but the Hawks made a great pick snatching him up that late in the 2nd round last year. Schortsanitis is really coming around from tapes I saw this season. He could end up being an NBA rotation player after one more season in Europe, especially if he can continue to lose weight. Ilic we’ll find out soon enough about, but I know the Nets really like him. Gortat I was never a fan of, but he is very tall and extremely athletic, so I can understand burning a late 2nd rounder on him. Ramos I don’t have much hope for anymore, and the other two I have never seen play.

Brazil

1) Does fellow countryman J.P. Batista has any chance of being drafted in this year’s second round?
(Guilherme Martins, São Paulo/SP)


I think he has a chance, the same way that a lot of players this year have a chance. The 2nd round is a real crapshoot and anyone that tells you otherwise is not being very honest. There are always a good 50 players or more that are candidates to be drafted from 30-60, and he is definitely one of them. He definitely didn’t hurt his chances with the way he played in the pre-draft camp for the most part. I personally feel like he doesn’t have the size, quickness, leaping ability or perimeter skills to be anything more than a very marginal NBA player, but I know for a fact that there are NBA people out there that disagree with me.

2) Is there any chance of Tiago Splitter staying in this year’s draft? Also, what can we expect from Splitter and Marquinhos in the NBA?
(Vágner Vargas, Brasília/DF)


It seems like the answer to that is no, although we haven’t gotten final confirmation one way or another. Splitter went on the radio in Spain and denied the reports saying he has already pulled out, and mentioned that the decision will come down to the deadline on June 18th. If he does stay in, I am sure that means that the team that drafts him (likely in the lottery) is willing to wait another year. If I’m a team like Golden State, Seattle, New Orleans, Utah or Chicago, that is something that I would do in a split second. The thing is, teams that were drafting much lower had a chance to do that two years ago also and they foolishly decided to pass. Most GM’s in the lottery have to be feeling some kind of heat to improve their team right now or else, and if they think that they won’t be the ones to reap the benefit because they are fired before he comes over, then why bother?

I am not sure what to expect from Marquinhos because I really have very little feel for the type of player he is, but I do know that he is a really hot name right now. We were taking the wait and see approach to see how he does in Treviso, but his stock might have been closer to the teens than in the twenties like we have him right now before he left for Europe. He was apparently shooting the ball incredibly well in every NBA workout he’s been to so far. His lackluster performances against inferior competition early on in Treviso aren’t helping matters much, though. One NBA scout I talked to there said that “based off the way he’s played here, it’s very hard to see him even getting drafted.”

3) Could you do a short analysis on each of the five Brazilian who played in the NBA in the 2000’s, namely Nenê, Leandro Barbosa, Anderson Varejão, Rafael Araújo and Alex Garcia? Would you say any of them exceeded expectations scouts had regarding their potential?
(Tales Pagni, Americana/SP)


Nene: In terms of pure physical attributes, it’s very obvious why he was drafted in the same area as Amare Stoudamire. The guy is an absolute monster. His feel for the game probably isn’t great, but I still thought that he was on the verge of a breakout year before he got injured. We’ll see how he recovers from it, but he’s got the tools to be a phenomenal NBA player. If he gets the playing time, averaging 15 and 9 should be a piece of cake for him. With Kenyon Martin in George Karl’s doghouse and probably on the verge of being traded, look for him to step it up next year.

Barbosa: From end to end, possibly the quickest player in the NBA. He’s improved considerably over the past few years, and is no longer as much of a liability going to his left hand as he once was. His shooting mechanics aren’t picture perfect, but you certainly can’t argue with the results, particularly when he only uses his shot to open up his excellent slashing game, which he usually does. He was terrific in the playoffs and is basically the perfect 6th man to bring off the bench. Considering his length, he could probably start for quite a few teams, but he’s still untested at the point. His assists are up, and his turnovers are way down compared with earlier in his career, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that he has a future there. He should have been drafted higher than 29th, so you can say that he definitely exceeded expectations. He’s going to be one of the hottest names on the free agent market next year, and a player that Phoenix might not be able to hold onto considering how far over the luxury tax they’ll be once they extend Boris Diaw. The fact that he fired his former agent Michael Coyne and hired Bill Duffy should tell you everything you need to know about the stance he’ll be taking at the negotiation table.

Anderson Varejao: Another impressive guy whose best years are still ahead of him. His skill level is gradually improving, and he’ll always be a solid defender and rebounder due to his size and outstanding motor. In today’s NBA he can definitely play center, but he needs to continue to work on his jump-shot and timing to stay out of foul trouble. The perfect spark plug big man to bring off the bench, and an absolute steal considering where he was drafted.

Rafael Araujo: I was very happy to see him traded to Utah where he originally blossomed at BYU. He’s a player who feeds off emotions, and was never going to be able to be able to find success in Toronto considering how high he was drafted and how much pressure was put on him. He can be a serviceable backup center, nothing spectacular, but good for 10-15 minutes a game and plenty of energy off the bench.

Alex Garcia: Really haven’t seen enough of him to form an opinion.

General

1) In your opinion, what was your worst evaluation about a former draft prospect? And what was your most accurate evaluation, that is, a prognosis which opposed everything said about a former prospect?
(Alfredo Lauria, Rio de Janeiro/RJ)


There are a lot that I am kicking myself about, but you really can’t beat yourself up about this stuff too much because this is the nature of the business, and if you are right 60% of the time then you are in rare company.

Although it was only our first year doing this and we had pretty much no clue what we were doing in terms of scouting, I think we whiffed on big time on Delonte West (who taught me a great lesson about the value of a combo guard) and Peter John Ramos (great size and athleticism does not always equal success, especially when a player has no feel) in that draft especially. Kirk Snyder showed me (in hindsight) how important it is to look at what a player is like off the court in terms of attitude and coachability. Christian Drejer I was way too high on, which again, taught me a lot about the importance of mental and physical toughness. Kevin Martin (projected by everyone to go undrafted when we said he’s a steal in the late first) would probably be our best “hit” from that draft, and for the most part we did OK with most of the others, except for possibly Dwight Howard who we liked less than Emeka Okafor. A lot of casual fans were in the same boat as us in thinking that Jameer Nelson is a stud regardless of his lack of height and supposed upside, but not many draft experts were. He’s a guy I enjoy seeing succeed because we knew and wrote about how underrated he was before the draft.

From last year, I would have to say Channing Frye might have been the most glaring mistake, although the verdict is still out on him. Marvin Williams is a guy that I felt pretty bad about whenever I watched him this year, just in terms of the way that we assumed that he has to go #1 or #2, and never questioned the hype around him. We knew and said many times that Chris Paul is going to be an unbelievable NBA player, but should have stuck to our guns and kept him at #1 overall like we had him earlier on in the season. Ian Mahinmi is a guy we missed the boat on like everyone else, not that we didn’t know him, but more that we just assumed he wouldn’t declare and then that he’d pull out at the deadline rather than “prepare for the worst”.

Guys who I thought we did well on (although again, its still too early to judge) are Jarrett Jack, Ike Diogu (who no one thought was draftable up until a month before the draft), Ryan Gomes, Danny Granger, Orien Greene, Linas Kleiza, Robert Whaley and a few others. There are certain guys who I firmly believe should have been drafted higher (Johan Petro) or lower (Rashad McCants) but still need to go out and prove that on the court. Charlie Villanueva suprised the hell out of me this year, but we never once questioned his talent, but more the place he was drafted at, which again taught us a valuable lesson about positions (or lack thereof) in the NBA.

I think it’s important to follow the players’ progression into the NBA, learn from our mistakes and then take that into next year’s scouting and beyond. We don’t hold a crystal ball and certainly don’t have 30 years of NBA scouting experience to fall back on, so we’re still learning new things every single day.

2) What do you think about the NBA’s decision of imposing an age limit regarding players entering the draft? Do you agree with the set limit of 19 years old?
(João Finkler Filho, Mogi Guaçu/SP)


I really like it personally, partially for selfish reasons, and partially because I really do think it’s the right move.

The selfish reasons would be the fact that getting tapes on and evaluating high school competition is very difficult, and we want to be able to learn as much as we can about every single player in the draft. I never enjoyed scouting a player in AAU competition since basically 90% of what goes on there is non-translatable to the NBA as far as I’m concerned. One of my favorite websites is the the Recruiting Services Consensus Index (RSCI) which compiles and averages the rankings of the various high school recruiting services over the past eight years and gives you a great idea of how tough (at best) or worthless (at worth) it is to rank the players at that stage in their career. That’s not a knock on the terrific work that guys like Dave Telep and Jerry Meyer do, it just shows you how much things end up changing once these players leave the high school ranks. Take a look at the class of 1999 and notice where Gilbert Arenas, Kirk Hinrich and Caron Butler are ranked compared with Donnell Harvey, Marvin Stone, LaVell Blanchard and Brett Nelson.

The more objective reason would be the fact that I think it’s great for the NCAA and even better for the players who will end up playing there. There is no doubt that the NBA is depriving a few select players of millions of dollars of potential income by making them enter the NBA a year later than they normally would. The thing that most people don’t think about is, for every one player that will be set back a year, two, three or forever by being forced to go to college, there are 20 players who absolutely have no business thinking about the NBA, but start doing so anyway from way too early of an age. Kids who are 14 or 15 already start being groomed for the NBA and in turn neglect important things like staying eligible for college, working on their basketball fundamentals, keeping their feet on the ground in terms of being a “normal” kid, and gaining a perspective on life that they otherwise might not get.

Some players turn out fine, but others never get a chance to live a normal life and in turn be able to experience and go through the type of adversity that usually makes people stronger in the long run. I’m not saying that taking Calc I is essential to a person’s growth process as a human being, but I do think that the extra year of maturuty players gain by being forced to leave home and not jump straight into the NBA lifestyle could make them more ready for what they’ll face down the road. It’s obviously not black and white, but I do think it helps more than it hurts. I am looking past the Kevin Garnetts and Lebron James’ of the world, and more towards the guys like James Lang, Evan Burns, Deangelo Collins, Lenny Cooke and dozens of other busts you’ll see at the top of the various RSCI rankings every single year.

What I think you’ll end up seeing is top 10 college prospects going to school and then finding out that they aren’t quite as good as they or others thought they were, which will force them to work harder on improving their game an in turn come into the NBA as a more polished product that is more ready to contribute to their team. Being one and done is almost impossible based on what we’ve seen over the past few years, so I think most of the top high school players will end up staying 2-3 years. Like I mentioned earlier, I think that the years from age 18-21 in a player’s career are probably the most important as far as his development goes, and the more they actually play and develop during that time rather than sit on the bench, the better off they are.

3) Could you tell us about your daily routine, like following the prospects, traveling to attend the workouts, talking to scouts, making evaluations and, finally, writing and posting the articles?
(Tales Pagni, Americana/SP)


It really depends on the time of the year. DraftExpress isn’t the only thing that I do, so this is supposed to be something I do in my free time, although this time of the year it ends up being much more than that.

During the college season I usually wake up in the morning, post the relevant articles on our headlines section, try to catch up on the day’s news and then head off to live my other life until the late afternoon. When I get home, I do my best to talk to my staff and lay out the content we have planned for the coming days. Around 7 PM the NCAA games usually start on TV, so I will flip through the ESPN Full Court schedule (premium service that broadcasts 5-6 games every evening from around the country) and try to figure out which games are most pressing to watch that night. Saturdays are basically an all day marathon of college basketball, especially in February and March. The biggest challenge over the course of the season is first of all figuring out who the prospects are and then making sure I get to watch them play one, two, four, five, 10 or maybe 15 times depending on how good they are, the matchups I want to see, and how often their team is on TV. I’ll record all my thoughts in the most raggedy looking notebook you’ve ever seen, which is absolutely jam packed from cover to cover with notes on both sides of the pages and everything I’ve evaluated over the course of the year.

Once the college season is over, the politicking begins with making sure we talk to everyone in our network as often as we need to, always trying to stay on top of what is going on both in the States as well as overseas, and evaluating the game footage we taped, acquired from the colleges, traded between ourselves, etc. I try to set aside 2-3 hours a week for writing scouting reports, although it usually ends up taking more than that once I actually sit down to write it. I have another notebook that I use to take notes on interesting conversations I have with basketball people so I don’t forget anything and am able to keep strict records to see who is saying what, when, about who and why. In terms of talking with scouts, the phone rings all the time this time of the year and I try to call people myself when I want to talk about what they are hearing about various issues and then hopefully confirm them myself. Answering emails takes a lot of time, but I really do try to answer every single one unless it’s absolutely outrageous with people asking me to write an entire article just for them. The workouts we usually get by talking with the player agents and just trying to negotiate a good time for both sides, which is easier than it sounds. Going to the camps (Portsmouth and Orlando) was a lot of fun, but draining both mentally and physically when you think about how many hours of basketball you need to watch and then go home and write about.

I honestly cannot complain, though, this isn’t something anyone can make a living off of, but its very gratifying and obviously something that I really enjoy doing. The goal is to be able to make a career out of this, and it looks like that’s indeed going to happen if we keep putting the time and effort in.

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