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The final countdown
by George Rodecker / June 23, 2004

Teams are scurrying to complete their final player workouts and Commissioner David Stern gets his suit pressed for Thursday night worldwide television appearance as he announces the 29 guaranteed jobs for next season.

Meanwhile, still being discussed is the draft analysis that was done in Chicago. Chief among the topics is the way in which U.S. based scouts may have a bias against international point guards – and a bias which leads to favoring international bigs over U.S. centers.

The point guard issue bears the most curious reasoning. American scouts assail the lack of explosiveness in the international point’s first step. They also complain about the overall speed and ability to take their man off the dribble. By contrast, those watching the international point guards more closely for a longer period of time claim they play with more composure, turn it over much less frequently and always play within themselves. Their supporters attest to the find-the-open-man tactic that internationals possess, while U.S. evaluators stress the up-tempo game that favors the quicker points.

Whatever the reasoning, the comparisons break down like this: international point guards play more of a John Stockton game, while many of the U.S. points play a Stephon Marbury game.

Several international scouts believe that at least five international point guards will make better pros than Sebastian Telfair, yet Telfair may very likely be selected right after Devin Harris and Jameer Nelson in the first round. Some offer that the Slovenian Beno Udrih is the best lead guard in the draft, yet won’t be picked until the second round.

While the point guard issue has two sides to it, the big man conversation is largely a one-sided affair. Having seen a drought in seven-footers who can play at the NBA level, the scouting departments have become enamored with intentional big men.

The explanation is quite simple. While the NBA has watched the U.S. biggies for more than four years, the international seven-foot phenomenon is relatively new – actually in its infancy. In this draft, perhaps as many as seven first-rounders will be international players over 6-foot-10 This change-around is made possible by the emergence of in-depth scouting overseas, the willingness of NBA teams to infuse serious travel money into their scouting budgets, and a total change in the paradigm of scouting itself.

Call it flavor of the month, but when the draft is all said and done, tally up the number of players drafted over 6-foot-10. Then see what number of them are internationals.

WORKOUT RESULTS

Last week, we mentioned North Carolina Central’s David Young was making inroads in his workouts and had attracted attention. He has continued his explosive debut on the workout trail. Second trips, impressive one-and-done visits and now Young is being mentioned as a late first-round sleeper with tremendous poise and work ethic. We’re hearing he may go as high as 27, but could fall to 44.

Ales Chan’s nomadic career may land him in the NBA. Solid workouts followed an impressive Chicago Pre-Draft Camp performance, and he’s squarely in the front half of the second round.

Donta Smith has had a solid tour of the workout camps and awaits a longshot first-round selection.

Sebastian Telfair is proving that a sneaker deal may be worth more than talent. Despite having the worst set of workouts among any possible first-rounder, Telfair may have a commitment that will land him among the mid-first-round picks. Portland, considered the eventual employer, seems hell-bent on securing his services.

Randy Orr followed up his solid Chicago camp play with good results on the workout trail. Orr, who many expect could find himself drafted in the late 50’s, is a no risk – high return selection with perhaps as much upside as any high schooler in the draft.

Aerick Sanders continues to impress in his workouts. No less than five teams seem willing to take him – all no later than 45. This Walton (yes, that’s Bill) family friend has good roundball senses and seems poised to be selected in Round 2.

Tiago Splitter played himself out of this draft and into next year's after a disappointing performance in a private workout. With a season of play, Splitter could catapult himself right back into lottery contention next June.

Ricky Minard has had an impressive series of workouts culminating with Monday’s Miami stunner. Several pro scouts like his game, his maturity and his readiness to play. A one-time low prospect, Minard too may have played (and worked) himself in the draft mix.

Kevin Martin’s decision to stay in the draft surprised some, but not Martin. Many experts thought another year of NCAA ball might propel him into lottery contention, but Martin wants it now. And despite a horrid individual workout in Chicago, word comes that his team workouts have been nothing less than splendid.

One thing that has helped the workout players heading into the draft is the number of players who pulled out. If you’re performing well in workouts for the teams, you’re moving up the draft list. If players thought to be selected before you are withdrawing, now you’re rocketing up the list.

George Rodecker is in his twelfth season of providing expert analysis on the NBA Draft. He has been diligent in pursuing analysis by acquiring the consensus opinions of experts. Rodecker also writes for Basketball Times, Eastern Basketball and College Hoops Insider, as well as consulting privately with several pro teams and leagues around the globe

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