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An early look
by George Rodecker / August 30, 2004

As the scouts plan their travel for the 2004-05 season, let's take a close look at their likely top targets.

NBA teams looking to spend less on travel will be happy to note that six of our top 10 NBA prospects play in the ACC, while two others toil in the Big East, one from the lowly American East, and one is a Big Ten big man.

In order of their pre-season draft status, the players are:

1. Hakim Warrick, 6-8 SF / Junior / Syracuse

Warrick drew comparisons all season long to the departed Carmelo Anthony, yet few really saw his true worth. Expected to depart the ‘Cuse after his junior year – in which he averaged 19.8 points, 8.6 boards as well as 2.7 assists and 1.2 blocks – he surprised many by returning for this, his final season. A 70 percent free-throw shooter, Warrick shot an impressive 50.8 percent from the floor, but it’s his athletic play that wows the scouts. An elevating high-wire player with explosive closing moves, Warrick is destined for the NBA. He’ll be looked upon by the NBA to upgrade two areas: his on-the-ball defense and his upper body strength. With all the upside attributed to his game, Warrick will begin the season as the top wing player in college ball. NBA Draft Range Pre-Season: 5-15.

2. Paul Davis, 6-11 PF / Junior / Michigan State

Davis returns for a third season at Michigan State and now stakes his claim to being the best interior player in college ball this season. An 80 percent free-throw shooter with great hands and solid low-post moves, Davis needs to excel this year as the NBA continues to track his growth and development. Scouts want to see his footwork improve as well as increase his shot blocking and overall ruggedness. NBA Draft Range Pre-Season: 5-18.

3. Rashad McCants, 6-5 SG / Junior / North Carolina

McCants returns for his second Roy Williams campaign, with a 20-point scoring season under his belt along with 4.6 boards, nearly two steals and accuracy marks – 48 percent from the floor, 75 percent from the charity stripe – that speak volumes about his overall well-rounded game. McCants is a tireless player averaging over 32 minutes a game and playing an aggressive defense. A decent passer and swift runner, McCants gets a lot of points off the wing. NBA scouts will look to see him improve the quantity and percentage of three-point shots as well as see him handle the ball some more. NBA Draft Range Pre-Season: 10-22.

4. Raymond Felton, 6-0 PG / Junior / North Carolina

Felton is among the best point guard prospects in the country, offering up 7.1 assists, 11.5 points along with 2.1 steals per game. He shoots 81 percent from the foul line and over 30 percent from beyond the arc. An avid defender with good ball-hawking skills, he represents the old style of point guard – one who looks for his teammates shots first, and his only as a last resort. The NBA wants to see better mid-range shooting from him along with less out-of-control rushes with the ball. NBA Draft Range Pre-Season: 10-26.

5. Shelden Williams, 6-9 PF / Junior / Duke

Williams is an emerging muscle player with skills worthy of the lottery portion of the NBA draft. He averaged 13.0 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 69 percent from the foul line. Williams is an outstanding, active defender, and has shown excellent low-post moves on offense. He has good hands, and his upside is uncharitable. NBA scouts will watch him very attentively this season. Their main questions will concern his foul difficulty and his stamina. If he can improve both and maintain his aggressive style, he’ll top out on the pro evaluators scorecards. NBA Draft Range Pre-Season: 12-20.

6. Chris Paul, 6-0 PG / Sophomore / Wake Forest

No point guard last season looked more like a future NBA lead guard than Chris Paul. Paul averaged 14.9 points, 5.8 assists, 2.7 steals as well as a surprising 3.4 rebounds. He shot 84 percent from the charity stripe and an amazing 46.4 percent from outside the three-point line. Paul is a pure point guard with leadership skills worthy of a college senior, but never seen in a freshman. Many NBA scouts thought he might have been drafted top 15 had he opted out of college. Of course all that enthusiasm will be tempered as the pro gang watches him with different eyes this year. They’ll try to measure the impact he might have in the NBA, how his smallness may hold him back, and whether he can get the same results with his shot at the next level. NBA Draft Range Pre-Season: 12-22.

7. Jarrett Jack, 6-3 PG / Junior / Georgia Tech

While Jack benefits from playing on a national contender, he also flies under the same radar that elevates the likes of conference competitors Felton and Paul. Still his game has its own special effects. Jack tallied 12.4 points, 5.8 assists and 1.9 steals per contest last year – all from the point guard position. An 80 percent free throw shooter, Jack also made 32 percent of his long-range shots. A tireless player who averages over 30 minutes a game, Jack is comfortable running the offense and his size will be an asset in the pros. The NBA scouts will look to measure his development over the summer into this season. Jack has few flaws about his game and is a scout’s delight. NBA Draft Range Pre-Season: 15- 26.

8. Julius Hodge, 6-6 SG / Senior / North Carolina State

Hodge toyed with the NBA, but the ACC Player of the Year last season returns for what could become his coming out party for the NBA scouts in attendance at Wolfpack games. Hodge averaged 18.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists, while shooting an amazing 83 percent from the foul line, 36.7 percent from three-point land and over 50 percent overall. This gave Hodge high marks all season long. The pros will flock to his games this season and will be evaluating him, but he certainly seems ready for the pros. It’ll just be a watching and waiting game for the pros. NBA Draft Range Pre-Season: 15-28.

9. Charlie Villanueva, 6-10 PF / Sophomore / Connecticut

Fresh off a national championship in his freshman season, Villanueva, who many thought would never play Division I hoops, is poised for his sophomore season as a frontcourt force. Playing limited minutes, Charlie V averaged 9.5 points, 5.4 boards, and over a block and a half per game. He shot 37 percent from long range and 52 percent overall, but his foul shooting was a disappointing 67 percent. Pros will want to see him improve stamina, minutes, and foul shooting while becoming more of a defensive presence on his team. NBA Draft Range Pre-Season: 15-28.

10. Taylor Coppenrath, 6-9 SF / Senior / Vermont

An injury ended his season earlier than expected, but Coppenrath begins the year with Vermont an unlikely, but mandatory destination for NBA scouts. Before the injury, Coppenrath was averaging 24 points, 7.2 rebounds, and was shooting 51 percent from the floor. He also was a serious workhorse, going for 36-plus minutes per game. What the pros liked was his energy, toughness and desire. What they’d like to see more of is better passing and some low-post moves. His defense is suspect, but not dangerously poor. NBA Draft Range Pre-Season: 16-28.

Several other players are on the radar of NBA teams. Among those most interesting include:

Ike Diogu, Arizona State
Jeremy McCulloch, Eastern Washington
Sean Banks, Memphis
Torin Francis, Notre Dame
Mustafa Shakur, Arizona

There are also several international players expected to continue the foreign invasion of the NBA, and many of these prospects are thought to be very high draft picks. Among them are:

Martynas Andriuskevicius, Lithuania
Tiago Splitter, Brazil
Luka Bogdanovic, Serbia-Montenegro
Drago Pasalic, Croatia
Kosta Perovic, Serbia-Montenegro
Johan Petro, France
Erazem Lorbek, Slovenia

Several of these international players could once again comprise a significant portion of the NBA Draft’s first round. Whether or not they make themselves available for the draft will impact greatly the position of the aforementioned 10 U.S. NCAA Division I players.

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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