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A night of surprises
by George Rodecker / June 25, 2004

The buzz was all throughout Madison Square Garden as the draft began. Rowdy fans booed ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith as well as David Stern. They chanted "Howard sucks" just moments before the draft began.

Rumors whirled around – some making no sense at all, others seemingly valid, but all had the potential to affect the draft.

With Seattle, Dallas, Orlando, Chicago, and Washington all tweaking the mood, the draft finally began.

And so begins our analysis, grading each selection based upon the player, the selection number, how well the player fits the team, and how well the team selected versus who else is available.

1. Orlando Magic / Dwight Howard / Grade: A-

The Magic stunned those in attendance with this selection, but they truly believe that Howard is a franchise player. If they can persuade Tracy McGrady to stay or get enough in return to surround him with some talent, that could very well be the case. A rugged player reminiscent of Kenyon Martin, Howard’s selection will always be measured in comparison to Okafor and Emeka’s success.

2. Charlotte Bobcats / Emeka Okafor / Grade: A+

Perhaps the signature character player in the draft, Okafor is a solid back-to-the-basket player who excels on the defensive side. Expected to be a leader and key part of any team, especially the startup Bobcats, he’ll be the foundation and key building block to their future.

3. Chicago Bulls / Ben Gordon / Grade: B-

The Bulls went backcourt small and the selection of Gordon likely tickets Jamal Crawford for another city next season. Gordon was often regarded as a top 10 pick, but not really top 3. A solid shooter with a good enough handle to run the point, he’ll play the two with the Bulls. While his talents are obvious, his selection at 3 may be overstated.

4. Los Angles Clippers / Shaun Livingston / Grade: A+

A super selection for the oft-maligned Clips, Livingston has the potential to lead his team from lottery land to the promised land. A tall (6-foot-7) point guard with great court vision, Livingston is regarded by many as the top high school prospect in this draft. His shot is under construction, but his athleticism is incredible, his defense improving and the upside is there.

5. Dallas Mavericks / Devin Harris / Grade: A

Picking for Dallas, the Wiz have given the Mavs a great future point guard, one which you can suspect means that Steve Nash is heading to Phoenix or the Lakers. If Dallas intends to package Harris instead to LA as part of any deal for Shaq, then another evaluation would apply. One thing is certain, Harris can run the offense. He’s a solid decision maker, an above average defender, and a starting point guard wherever he ends up.

6. Atlanta Hawks / Josh Childress / Grade: A-

The Hawks need players so badly that anyone is an upgrade. Childress is a solid defender; perhaps the best at his position in this draft. His game suggests a prime support player or a third option offensively. In Atlanta, he’ll be more of a first or second option.

7. Chicago Bulls / Luol Deng / Grade: A+

A great get for Chicago. The Bulls were prepared to select him at 3, but now have him at seven. An explosive open floor player with great hops, Deng’s game is growing by leaps and bounds daily, and his defense is Duke-sound. A good scorer and open floor player, Deng gives the Bulls explosiveness on the wing, something lacking since the days of Michael & Scottie.

8. Toronto Raptors / Rafael Araujo / Grade B+

A stunning selection given all the talk about the international crop of big men. Araujo’s college career was certainly good, but never super. His physical style of play will help out Chris Bosh inside, but it’s questionable just how good he can be. While his potential is never in question, just how good he can become is a fair question. A very risky first pick for Rob Babcock.

9. Philadelphia 76ers / Andre Iguodala / Grade: A+

An incredibly great selection for a team looking for a second scoring option to Iverson. Iguodala can be that option and more. Impressively agile and swift, he’s an open floor highlight film. His perimeter game has come under attack, but it’s improving and he has worked tirelessly on bettering it. At 9, he’s possibly the steal of the lottery.

10. Cleveland Cavaliers / Luke Jackson / Grade: B-

A surprise pick if they keep it. Rumors have them dealing it to Philadelphia or Dallas among other teams, but Jackson is a tireless player who will make any team better. He is a throwback player; diving after loose balls, playing reckless defense and doing all the little things necessary to make his team better. A great complementary player.

11. Golden State Warriors / Andris Biedrins / Grade: A

The Warriors are starved for a dominant interior stud, and they have found one here. He’s a banger with defensive toughness. He’ll run the floor with the swift teammates he’ll have and score a bunch of points. A punishing rebounder and shot deflector, Biedrins is a huge get for new GM Chris Mullin.

12. Seattle SuperSonics / Robert Swift / Grade: C+

A natural center with plenty of upside to his game, Swift has a lot of development to realize and Seattle, power player starved, will certainly give Swift his minutes. An agile player with good interior moves and shot blocking and rebounding abilities, his offensive game will need development.

13. Portland Trail Blazers / Sebastian Telfair / D

Amazing that an undersized high school point guard with little in terms of an offensive game would go so high, but for weeks we’ve heard all about this pick. Telfair has potential, but at this point in his career, he’s more of a project than a prospect.

14. Utah Jazz / Kris Humphries / Grade: B+

A good prospect with a world of potential, Humphries can be a solid long-term interior player for the Jazz. He’s a strong inside player with good range on his shot. His one big challenge will be to find his place in a team concept and eliminate the selfish reputation.

15. Boston Celtics / Al Jefferson / Grade: A-

An explosive player who has interior strengths and outside range on his shot. Jefferson runs the floor well, crashes the boards with fervor and can sky with the best players around. The Celtics need youth and strength and Jefferson provides both.

16. Utah Jazz / Kirk Snyder / Grade: A-

Viewed by many as the best pure shooting guard in this draft, Snyder had an explosive season and has catapulted himself right into the NBA. A very good ball handler and passer, he’s played some point, but is best known as a deadly shooter and defender. A great get for the Jazz who have solidified the shooting guard position for the rest of the decade.

17. Atlanta Hawks / Josh Smith / Grade: C-

Smith is a risky pick for a team devoid of talent and looking for immediate help. He is more project than prospect. Fluid yet rugged, Smith needs a lot of roundball education before he’s more than a role player in the NBA – a evaluation only helpful to the Hawks if they have the time needed to develop Smith.

18. New Orleans Hornets / JR Smith / Grade: B

JR is a sound backcourt player with incredible range on his jump shot. He runs the floor quite quickly and can play the wing as well. His one drawback is that he is a horrid defender, a liability which may cause his minutes to suffer – and thus his development.

19. Miami Heat / Dorell Wright / Grade: C-

A player of questionable ability. He’s athletic and can shoot the ball, and is a high energy wing player. His defensive play has come under suspicion, but he is far away from being able to contribute anything in the short-term future.

20. Orlando Magic / Jameer Nelson / Grade: A

Nelson has been dealt to the Magic and will be a lead point guard for a team with limited skill players at the one. Nelson is a sterling floor leader who will make his teammates better and distribute the ball. A good on the ball defender and an excellent long ball shooter, Nelson is a great fit for the Magic

21. Dallas Mavericks / Pavel Podkolzin / Grade: A

A great selection at 21, his trade to Dallas may signal more moves from Big D. If Pavel stays, he could help form an impressive front line. Playing for an organization deeply experienced in international players will help his development. He can dominate the inside play, but his offensive contributions have been limited.

22. Portland Trail Blazers / Viktor Khryapa / Grade: C+

An intriguing selection who plays the wing and has real good range on his shot. Khryapa is a prospect with good potential. Now with the Trail Blazers, Khryapa will certainly get a long look.

23. Portland Trail Blazers / Sergey Monya / Grade: C+

An excellent defender with decent range on his jumper and a solid work ethic, Monya is a team player with good fundamental skills. Playing in Portland with Russian fellow Khryapa can only be a positive.

24. Boston Celtics / Delonte West / Grade: D

West is an undersized shooting guard who will have to play point in the NBA. In the Chicago camp he showed some abilities to play the one, but appeared overmatched somewhat. It’s very likely that he’s not ready to play meaningful minutes at the next level. With some more seasoned players available, it’s a questionable selection at best.

25. Boston Celtics / Tony Allen / Grade: C

More of a scorer than a shooter, and a average defender at best, many NBA teams had Allen in the mid to late 30’s. He’s a four-year player at the college level, but is not thought to be an impact one. Considering the depth of international talent available, the past two picks are hardly wins.

26. Sacramento Kings / Kevin Martin / Grade: B-

Martin is an athletic backcourt player with great hops and is explosive off the dribble. A good long range shooter, the drawback to his game is his poor defensive play – something that could curtail his minutes.

27. Los Angeles Lakers / Sasha Vujacic / B+

A tall point guard with good ball instincts, Sasha is a great get for the Lakers, a developing lead guard who can shoot it and defend. Being in an organization where he won’t be expected to contribute immediately will allow him to transition nicely to the NBA game.

28. San Antonio Spurs / Beno Udrih / Grade: A-

A classic European point guard with a mature approach to the game, Udrih is more of a walk-it-up and distribute lead guard. A great pick at 28 from a team known to find diamonds in the rough. He defends better than most of the point guards available this year and may be the smartest point guard as well.

29. Indiana Pacers / David Harrison / C+

Big and strong center with poor foot speed but an aggressive style. Harrison offers limited offensive abilities, but works hard and will be a good support role player.

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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