HoopsHype.com Interviews

Chris Monter: "Yao Ming is a lot more skilled than Bradley"
by Matt Krumrie / June 20, 2002

Yao Ming is he the real deal or another Shawn Bradley? Will Houston take him with the top pick?

Chris Monter: I attended his workout in Chicago and Ming looked good, but the workout was set up for him to look good, so it wasn’t a true test of his ability. He gets compared to Bradley a lot, but people forget Ming is 296 pounds and is a lot lot more skilled than Bradley. Bill Walton raves about Ming’s passing ability, which also sets him apart from Bradley. One thing to watch with Ming is the fact that he doesn’t like to dunk because in China dunking is considered showboating, and they don’t like to show players up.

Is there any chance Houston will take Jay Williams or trade the top pick?

CM: If the Rockets take Williams, they have too many people who want to shoot the ball, that’s the problem. A lot of teams want to trade up to get the No. 1 pick, including New York, Dallas and Memphis, and a variety of rumors are circulating, but there are always a lot of issues that go into a trade so it is hard to predict. The Clippers have the No. 8 and No. 12 pick, and a lot of good young players, so they have bargaining power.

Is there anyone whose stock is rising right now and moving up in the eyes of NBA general managers?

CM: I think Mike Dunleavy is a solid pick and will likely go No. 3 to Golden State. Memphis is really debating between Dajuan Wagner and Caron Butler right now, and the Knicks are really interested in Curtis Borchardt from Stanford. One person to watch is Chris Wilcox from Maryland. He has looked great in workouts and is someone who is really climbing the charts. Phoenix really likes him and wants him to fill the power forward position.

What kind of role will high school players play in this year's draft?

CM: Last year was a unique circumstance because you had so many big men that teams were willing to draft and develop. This year that isn’t the case. Amare Stoudemire is the only high school entry that will likely be a lottery pick. I don’t think high schoolers will have a major impact in the first round this year. Others that teams may take a chance on are DeAngelo Collins, who could be a late first round or second round pick, and Lenny Cooke, who could be drafted in the same position as Collins.

A lot of people are changing attitudes about high school players, probably because of the rise of international players. As Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and Andrei Kirilenko, among others, have proved, foreign players appear much more NBA ready than high schoolers and many early entry college picks. Who are some foreign players to keep an eye on?

CM: Nikoloz Tskitishvili is a lottery pick, a guy the Clippers have a lot of interest in. Maybiner Hilario is also another potential lottery pick. Boris Diaw could be a first round pick. There are a number of other players - such as Nenad Krstic and Zaza Pachulia who could be late first rounders, but also may pull out of the draft. Jiri Welsch and Bostjan Nachbar are two other players to watch.

Who are the sleepers in this draft, and who might get passed over now that teams will live to regret not picking down the road?

CM: Qyntel Woods is a likely high lottery pick despite some recent off-court problems. He reminds a lot of people of Tracy McGrady, but at this point in his career he has never had to play defense, so that is the major knock against him right now. He has a lot of athletic ability and could be a real talent. Kei Madison is another potential sleeper, as is Lee Benson Jr. Benson was once a hot prospect but spent eight years in prison and is now trying to make a comeback and hoping to get a shot at the NBA. He’s 29, so his age, and obviously, his past, will play a big role in wherever he goes, but he is a definite talent and talking to him, you get the sense that he has recovered from his mistakes and is ready to move on.

Everybody hopes for a second round gem, or an undrafted blessing in disguise. Can you talk about some guys who could make an NBA roster that are likely second round picks - or even might go undrafted?

CM: The draft is so deep this year that some team is bound to find a player that is overlooked. In addition to Benson and Madison, a player like Ronald Murray or JR Bremer are players to watch. Bremer did not play at the Portsmouth Camp for fear of injury or that he had little to prove by playing.

Will teams picking in the late round teams - the contenders - specifically draft big men to try and throw at Shaq in hopes of stopping the big man and the Lakers?

CM: When you get into the late rounds of the first round, things become so much more unpredictable. It wouldn’t surprise me if teams like Sacramento, Dallas, and San Antonio try and draft big. One person who has size but is a project is Chris Christofferson from Oregon. Some team will likely gamble on his size and hope he can develop.

Spike Lee probably won’t be in the house, but the hometown fans of the New York Knicks will be in full effect at the draft. The Knicks, with the seventh pick, will try to please fans with a rare lottery pick. What is in store for the Knicks come draft day?

CM: The Knicks have all sorts of bad contracts and roster problems. Next year they will be paying out $15 million to point guards Mark Jackson, Charlie Ward and Howard Eisley. They are overloaded at power forward with Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby and Othella Harrington and need help at center. That’s why Borchardt is attractive to them right now. There a lot of good big foreign players who could help the Knicks, but Frederic Weis never panned out or even played with the team, so they are a little skeptical of that happening again.

What about the Milwaukee Bucks, they were a game away from the Finals two seasons ago and now are in the lottery, yet still have the same nucleus in tact. Could the Bucks land a player that helps them get back to the Eastern Conference elite?

CM: The Bucks (13th pick) have a chance to get a good player, but probably not a superstar. But that could be what they need, a person who can come in play a role that was missing last season. The bad thing is George Karl never likes rookies, so how much playing time will the top pick actually get?

Who will the Minnesota Timberwolves pick in the first round?

CM: (Laughs)

Matt Krumrie is a Twin Cities-based freelance sports writer who covers high school, college and pro sports. He is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com

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