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Draft Buzz 5/8/04

Fri, 05/07/2004 - 10:16pm

By Aran Smith

Here They Come

[img_assist|nid=4557|title=Devin Harris|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=157|height=250]

With the early entry deadline looming (Monday), a number of underclassmen have declared recently.

The past week saw Shaun Livingston, JR Smith, and Al Jefferson declare on Monday, Sebastian Telfair, and Robert Swift declared Tuesday, Devin Harris announced on Wednesday and Ryan Gomes, Donte Smith, Johan Petro and Mickael Gelebale declared Friday bringing the unofficial early entry total up to 53.

Devin Harris waited a long time to make his decision. He reportedly loves college, and really feels no rush to enter the NBA. He hasn't hired an agent leaving a possibility for him to return to Wisconsin. But if past history is any indication, consider it highly unlikely as he's a lottery lock and almost surely will follow through as the time draws closer.

Johan Petro is an extremely athletic bigman, however his lack of productivity and perceived motivation this year keeps him from getting as high a draft position as he might. Unless he has spectacular workouts and can get a guarantee in the lottery, he would be best served to wait a year and continue developing his body and game before attempting to get drafted.

Juco wing player Donte Smith who had signed to play next year with Louisville, is considered one of the top juco prospects in the country and would have been a potential first round pick in the next two years. But without proving himself on the Division 1 level, and with an incomplete game, he's a mid second rounder at best missing a golden opportunity if he stays in the draft.

Expect a few "unexpected" players to be on the early entry list when the NBA releases it (most likely Tuesday or Wednesday) next week.

European Overhype?

[img_assist|nid=4558|title=Christian Drejer - photo: ACB.com|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=150|height=180]Are Europeans overrated? With the advantage of "underexposure", playing in Europe, thus giving NBA scouts limited access, are European players benefiting from the intrigue caused by lack of familiarity?

This year saw two obvious examples of players once seen as first rounders who had their games "exposed" by playing in the NCAA.

Christian Drejer
and Andrew Bogut both saw their stock drop considerably with their games shown on TV on a regular basis and against much quicker and athletic players than they were accustomed to.

Drejer had his freshman season cut short last year with a high ankle sprain which according to reports from Florida became a very scary infection that eventually made him gravely ill.

He overcame the injury and his sophomore season was supposed to be a breakout one. But he never was able to break through and establish himself, and midway through the year packed his bags and signed a deal with European team FC Barcelona.

Many criticized Drejer for deciding to leave Florida in the middle of the season. However, the move may turn out to be a fortunate one as Drejer has really struggled since joining the Spanish team. It's beginning to look as though he lacks the necessary foot speed to be an impact guy in high level Europe, much less the NBA. Drejer signed a substantial several year deal, and it's unlikely he will be able to earn the same deal in the NBA.

Had he stayed on with Florida and finished out the season, he likely would have gone on to be a mid second round pick. His stock with European teams would have plummeted and he wouldn't have earned the contract that he was able to. From a player that two years ago was offered a multi-million dollar deal by a European team, playing in the NCAA did nothing positive for his game.

Andrew Bogut was MVP of the World Junior Championships in Thessaloniki, Greece during the summer. He utterly dominated the competition with dazzling post moves, showing tremendous energy, and ultimately brought the championship to Australia. He joined the University of Utah this year and looked like a completely different player. He lost the blonde die job, but also seemed to lose a lot of his quickness. What happened?

Did he try to bulk up too much, and lost some of his mobility? Did he have an injury? Or did he appear much quicker playing against primarily Europeans in Greece, and just isn't quick enough to be a big factor in the NBA? He's obviously going to be a very good college player in the next several years at Utah. And he'll have a real chance to be a first round pick some day. But not this year.

Drejer was close to a sure fire first rounder after having built a solid reputation in International events. Now his stock has fallen so far that some NBA contacts wonder if he'll even get drafted. Bogut looked like a potential lottery pick in Greece, but his season at Utah has dropped his stock considerably as well.

For a European with NBA aspirations, playing in the NCAA has been a drawback.

For the high level European player, the NCAA is better at developing a players game than staying in Europe with professional teams from 18-22. With a few exceptions, being Serbia-Montenegro and Slovenia, where the coaching for the younger players is on the same level.

Other examples of players that came over to play in the NCAA and saw their stock drop are Erazem Lorbek, Linas Kleiza and Lubos Barton.

Last year Lorbek played for Michigan State and his lack of footspeed was more than apparent. This coming off numerous junior competitions where he proved to be one of the very best in his age group in Europe. In all fairness Lorbek was probably too slow for the NBA regardless of being "exposed" by playing in the NCAA . Lorbek you will remember chose to leave Michigan St. after just one season, and is currently struggling for playing time in Europe.

Kleiza doesn't lack footspeed the way Lorbek does, however after the WJC in Greece last summer, he was, along with Bogut one of the most dominant bigmen there and many thought a future first rounder. He's still a beast of a player, but a year at Missouri has not helped his stock. Word had him thinking of entering the draft if he'd had a good season. He showed solid potential, but nothing close to the type of domination he displayed in European competitions.

Barton was a great European prospect that came over and played four years at Valpariso and graduated last season. While many of his less heralded counterparts such as Jiri Welsch and Zoran Planinic stayed home and developed in their home countries. Barton was seen as the kid with the most potential of the bunch.

Welsch and Planinic ended up in the NBA as first round picks. While Barton was scoffed over on draft night and didn't hear his name called. Is there really that much difference in talent between the three? No. Just that Barton lost the luster of his game by playing in the NCAA. With the advantage of limited exposure and the ease of throwing together impressive highlight tapes for players, Europeans have a clear advantage over their American counterparts.

Which brings up the question, how would young European players such as Sasha Vujacic, Tiago Splitter, Peja Samardziski, and Kosta Perovic fare in the NCAA? Would they have the footspeed to keep up and contribute? Would they stand out? Maybe they would be fine, maybe they would look slower than molasses!

Early Withdrawals

Kosta Perovic plays for the same (Vlade Divac owned) Partizan team that has held onto Nenad Krstic for the past two seasons after the Nets took him in 2002. Perovic has a similarly stiff buyout which could make it next to impossible for him to get out of in the next year. Negotiations are reportedly not going well indicating he's likely to drop out of this draft. Unless agent Bill Duffy can work some serious magic.

Tiago Splitter has a considerable buyout and likely will be forced to pull out of the draft. With an underdeveloped body combined with getting virtually no playing time past season, his draft prospects are hampered. And although he's a player with nice potential, the buyout and rawness of his game probably mean he'll be forced out of this draft.

There was a report that Dorrell Wright would opt out of the draft and go to DePaul next year. However, as far as we've heard Dorell is still in the draft and weighing his options.

Chiriaev's

Between 12-14 NBA scouts will be up in Canada for today's (May 8) Canadian All Star game. Ivan Chiriaev will get a chance to prove himself. Granted the competition isn't that of a McDonald's or Hoops Summit game. But the players will be solid enough to get a read on his skill level.

He often gets compared to Dirk Nowitzki, but in terms of skills scouts see him as more of a Toni Kukoc with better shooting and a little more nastiness. Chiriaev will start at the SG position and likely see time at the SF and PF spots.

Scouts will have their next opportunity to see Chiriaev workout in Chicago on May 22 in a workout conducted by former Warrior great and new GM Chris Mullin.

Junior Final Four Notes

[img_assist|nid=4559|title=Nemanja Aleksandrov|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=166|height=250]Serbian phenom Nemanja Aleksandrov had 24 points and 21 rebounds in front of a gaggle of NBA scouts at the Junior Final Four in Tel Aviv Israel. Aleksandrov is the consensus favorite to be the top selection in the 2005 draft.

On the negative side, Aleksandrov had 10 turnovers, and just 1 assist and zero steals. Playing against Junior Montepaschi Siena in the first round, Nemanja put up 16 points and 17 rebounds.

The biggest knock against Namanja from scouts is that he lacks court vision. "He sees like a dead fish", exclaimed one scout. Nemanja has the athleticism to potentially play the SF or even the SG positions, but without developing his vision and passing skills his overall game is somewhat limited.

Marty Andriuskevicius had a sub par performance, and is starting to look more like a future mid-to-late lottery pick, as opposed to the top 5 pick he was initially billed as. His size is very intriguing, however he doesn't have the toughness that you'd like to see in a big man. He makes up for it some with great intelligence, but still must prove that he can bulk up and retain his mobility.

The Manheim Under-18 tournament took place in Germany in mid-April, besides Nemanja and Yi Jianlian, the biggest buzz coming from scouts is for a young Turkish kid named Ersan Ilyasova.

Ilyasova impressed a lot of scouts with his scoring ability and intelligence. He's not a phenomenal athlete, but he's very good and he appears to have what Nemanja lacks in intensity, maturity and court awareness.

Look for a more complete report on the top prospects from the Albert Schweitzer Tournament in the next few days.

Next Russian Bigman

[img_assist|nid=4560|title=Roman Gumenyuk|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=150|height=200]Following Pavel, the hunt has begun for the next bigman sensation in Russia. While there are a number to choose from. A top candidate appears to have surfaced , his name is Roman Gumenyuk. For now, he's just a baby, and wont be eligible until the 2006 draft.

But he's got a world of potential. He's 7-2 and reportedly dunking from the free throw line!

Gumenyuk is playing for Avtodor Sarotov, a team located 8 hours outside of Russia. Born in the Ukraine, Gumenyuk played for the Ukrainian cadets team last year. He is starting to put up better numbers although he's far from complete offensively. He'll take a few years just to get a handle of what he can do.

He is still getting his feet wet, but in a couple years you could be looking at a tremendous NBA prospect.

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