by Robert Ferringo - 06/14/2005
We all know that feeling of anxious anticipation, that type of nervous yearning that you experience before that first job interview or while waiting for the results of that paternity test. It's the feeling that is inherent in any moment that comes along where you know the result could alter the course of your future forever. Now try to place yourself in the position of an NBA executive or scout, where your entire being, past, present and future, is staked on a $10 million gamble. Is this kid that good? Will he be? Will he be sucked in by the avarice and vice, or will he accept his role and the teachings? For every Kobe Bryant there is a Leon Smith. For every Tim Duncan there's a Shawn Bradley. It is yin and yang, boom or bust, and we'll all have a front row seat as the die is cast on the future of the NBA at 9 p.m. EST on June 28 at the NBA Draft.
So this is how we're going to prepare ourselves: today I'll break down the 2005 NBA Draft prospects starting with the Top 15 college players entering this year's draft, with a few extras tossed in. Thursday we'll analyze the draft over the last 10 years and try to make some sense of the Skip School vs. Stay In School debate, which has become the philosophical debate of the basketball world, underlying hoops like the Nature vs. Nurture debate has divided the field of psychology. Finally, on Friday I'll offer my Mockery Draft - a feeble attempt to predict the chaos and confusion that will reign in New York City next Tuesday night.
My fundamental concern when compiling this list of 2005 NBA Draft prospects was do I rank the players based on who's the best player right now, or do I try to anticipate who's going to be The Man 5-10 years from now? It's a tough call and one must rely on instinct. It's like the choice you have to make on whether to wait for your big man to slip the screen and slide him a bounce pass on the roll, or to pull up over the pick and hit the jumper. Sometimes you hit, and sometimes you miss.
I'm going to pull up for the 3 here, and try to predict which college players in this year's draft will go on to have the best NBA future. This is a dicey task, and requires as much luck as skill. But then again, this is what the NBA execs have to attempt. They may know who is better right now, but who's going to be better when they need them? Mine is clearly a subjective list, but it will at least arm you with some analysis for the big night, and hopefully incite a little debate between you and your boys.
2005 NBA Draft prospects:1. Marvin Williams (6-foot-9 freshman forward, North Carolina) - 2004 numbers: 11.3 points, 6.6 rebounds. This isn't a reach. The sixth man on the national championship team has the most potential of any player in the draft. It isn't raw potential either; he already has shown some polish to his game. He has a smooth shot (85% free throws), good range (43% from deep) and is smooth around the basket.
2. Deron Williams (6-3 junior point guard, Illinois) - 2004 numbers: 12.5 pts., 6.8 assists, 3.6 rebs. Don't be fooled by the numbers - this kid is a player. He was the catalyst and main distributor on a college team that ran the best offensive sets that I've seen in past 15 years. He has exceptional vision, a frame solid enough to take the NBA pounding, and all the intangibles that a franchise point guard needs. The knock is his shot, but he has solid form and legit scoring potential.
3. Joey Graham (6-7 senior forward, Oklahoma State) - 2004 numbers: 17.7 pts., 6.2 rebs., 2 ast. This guy is cut out of stone and tough as nails. He won't be the next Karl Malone, but he certainly has the mid-range game (did I mention he shot 47% from 3-pont range?) and power potential to be an All-Star caliber performer for the next 12-15 years.
4. Raymond Felton (6-1 junior point guard, North Carolina) - 2004 numbers: 12.9 pts., 6.9 ast., 4.3 rebs. Besides the sick handle and obvious creativity, Felton is all heart, was the clear leader of the Tar Heels championship march. He may not be the top point PG next year, but once he learns to value each possession, he'll be a playoff performer for the next decade.
5. Andrew Bogut (7-0 sophomore center, Utah) - 2004 numbers: 20.4 pts., 12.2 rebs. Likely the No. 1 overall pick, the big Aussie is hoping to eclipse Luc Longley as the Land Down Under's best center ever. He has a nice feel, and you can't teach size, so he'll be around for awhile. But will he ever live up to the expectations of a top overall pick?
6. Chris Paul (6-0 sophomore point guard, Wake Forest) - 2004 numbers: 15.3 pts., 6.6 ast., 4.5 rebs. I'm not as high on this guy as a lot of people are. He's ridiculously quick, and is an outstanding passer, but I don't see the next Isiah Thomas here. I think he's too small, which is a tougher obstacle to overcome for a career than guys like Allen Iverson make it look.
7. Francisco Garcia (6-7 junior forward, Louisville) - 2004 numbers: 15.7 pts., 4.2 rebs., 3.9 ast. This is high for a guy that might slide into the second round. But trust me, he's going to be a pro for a long time. He is an outstanding passer, is fearless going to the hole, and will be a better shooter than his 36.6 3-point percentage indicates. Think Tayshaun Prince - only with much, much more potential.
8. Hakim Warrick (6-8 forward senior, Syracuse) - 2004 numbers: 21.4 pts., 8.6 rebs. He's a Super Freak, Super Freak! SU players haven't had much success in the NBA, and no player's future in this year's draft hinges more on what team picks him. But if this uber-athlete gets picked up by a run-and-gun team he'll be a SportsCenter fixture for the next decade. If not, his thin frame and suspect defense could condemn him to Billy Owens territory.
9. Danny Granger (6-8 senior forward, New Mexico) - 2004 numbers: 18.8 pts., 8.9 rebs., 2.3 ast. Last year, with Granger in the lineup, the Lobos were 26-3 and wiped themselves twice with Bogut and the Utes. Granger is a prototype swingman, who can do a bit of everything. What really impresses me is his defense. The guy is a strong rebounder and sweet shot blocker from the wing.
10. Wayne Simien (6-9 senior forward, Kansas) - 2004 numbers: 20.3 pts., 11 rebs. People are quick to forget that if Simien wasn't injury prone (he missed 32 games in his four years at Lawrence), he's sitting in Bogut's seat on Tuesday. But that's the problem - he's always hurt. He's damaged goods, but he has the all-around offensive game (very underrated shooter) and power that should make him an effective NBA power forward.
11. Charlie Villanueva (6-11 sophomore forward, Connecticut) - 2004 numbers: 13.6 pts. 8.3 rebs. Has a Swiss Army Knife game, but has a French Army-type attitude. I could see him never reaching his potential, but having a nice career just because he's too talented for no one to give him a chance.
12. Channing Frye (6-11 senior forward, Arizona) - 2004 numbers: 15.8 pts., 7.6 rebs. Lanky, but smooth. Smart move not to participate in the pre-draft camps and let his work in the NCAA tournament speak for itself. He's more athletic than you think, and has a solid mid-range jumper.
13. Sean May (6-9 junior forward, North Carolina) - 2004 numbers: 17.5 pts., 10.7 rebs. He is undersized and needs conditioning work, but he showed in the NBAA tourney that he has Downy-soft hands and is a superb finisher around the rim.
14. Antoine Wright (6-7 junior guard, Texas A&M) - 2004 numbers: 17.8 pts., 6.8 rebs., 2 ast. It scares me that he never broke out against big competition. But like Granger, he can do it all and is a classic swingman.
15. Salim Stoudamire (6-1 senior guard, Arizona) - 2004 numbers: 18.4 pts., 2.3 rebs. Like Chicago's Ben Gordon, Stoudamire is not only a fabulous shooter, but has such great lift on his shot that he'll easily make the transition to NBA scorer.
Finalists for the Bobby Simmons-Chris Duhon Award (five second rounders who will be successful role players):
1. Jarrett Jack (6-3 junior guard, Georgia Tech) - Outplayed Paul when they met last year. Wants to take NBA body back to GTech, but knows he's too good.
2 Ryan Gomes (6-8 junior forward, Providence) - Lost on pathetic Providence, Gomes was the leading scorer and best player on the U-19 national team last summer.
3. Chris Thomas (6-1 senior guard, Notre Dame) - He's the perfect example of the guy whose game will elevate with better players around him.
4. Ike Diogu (6-8 junior forward, Arizona St.) - See: Sean May. Thick power forward dominated the Pac-10 last year. Dominated.
5. David Lee (6-9 senior forward, Florida) - Knock on FU was they didn't play hard. Not Lee, who has a real nice touch from the outside and is explosive inside.
Finalists for the Cal Dowdler Award (four guys who will never do a thing in the pros, like the former Hawks first rounder):
1. Rashad McCants (6-4 junior guard, UNC) - No heart and no defense. I've seen sweeter shots (Trajan Langdon, Shawn Respert) not pan out. Throw yourself down the stairs if your team takes McCants in the first round.
2. Chris Taft (6-10 sophomore center, Pitt) - Take you're pick: "A poor man's Eddie Griffin" or "A poor man's Maurice Taylor". Either way, not good.
3. Randolph Morris (6-11 freshman center, Kentucky) - Absolute stiff with no polish. Could be the next Yinka Dare.
4. Matt Walsh (6-10 junior forward, Florida) - He'll be the NBDL's answer to Dirk Nowitski. In his own mind.
If you enjoyed this article on 2005 NBA Draft prospects, keep an eye out for more NBA Draft coverage all this week!