Sunday, June 22, 2003

Raptors likely to start fun with 4th pick

NBA draft overview: Top three selections appear to be set

The Associated Press

NEW YORK - "With the first relatively surprising pick of the 2003 NBA draft, the Toronto Raptors select . . . "

Wouldn't it be fitting if commissioner David Stern walked to the podium at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night and uttered those words?

With so much already seeming certain - LeBron James going No. 1 to Cleveland, Darko Milicic slated for Detroit at No. 2 and Carmelo Anthony all but locked into the third spot for Denver - the intrigue begins with the Raptors selecting fourth overall.

Unless, of course, the Raptors trade the pick.

"There's a good possibility there might be some changes in the (top four) draft order. I'm having some good conversations with teams, so we'll see what happens," Toronto general manager Glen Grunwald said Friday. "I'm happy to stay at four, too, but we have a couple of holes to fill, and there might be another way to do it."

One of the larger players on everyone's radar dropped off Thursday when 18-year-old, 7-foot-4 Siberian center Pavel Podkolzine withdrew his name from the draft. Interest in Podkolzine had been high since his impressive workout last month in Chicago.

The consensus among draftniks is that picks 4-9 will be the most intriguing, with Georgia Tech freshman Chris Bosh, Marquette sophomore guard Dwyane Wade, Kansas guard Kirk Hinrich, Texas guard T.J. Ford, Georgia swingman Jarvis Hayes, Polish center Maciej Lampe, Central Michigan center Chris Kaman and Georgetown forward Mike Sweetney among the top prospects.

"After the top three, it gets a lot fuzzier for everyone involved," Cleveland general manager Jim Paxson said.

Selecting after the Raptors are Miami at No. 5, then the Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks and Washington Wizards.

"After the first three, I think there's a pick that could be had," New York Knicks general manager Scott Layden said.

Seattle has the 12th and 14th picks, Boston has Nos. 16 and 20, Memphis has Nos. 13 and 27, and Detroit has the second and 25th picks.

Minnesota has a first-round pick for the first time in three years, while Sacramento will have to wait the longest to choose. The Kings aren't on the board until No. 56 - the third-to-last selection.

New York will have two of the first 10 selections in the second round, and those picks have extra trade value because second-round picks - unlike first-rounders - do not receive guaranteed three-year contracts.

Among the players selected in the second round over the past five years are Rashard Lewis of Seattle, Cuttino Mobley of Houston, Golden State's Gilbert Arenas, Manu Ginobili of San Antonio, Cleveland's Carlos Boozer and Milwaukee's Michael Redd.

The Cavaliers will be making their first overall selection since 1986, when they chose Brad Daugherty of North Carolina.

They have said they will select James, the high school phenom from Akron.

Milicic, who turned 18 Friday, is a 7-foot left-hander from Serbia who will provide the Pistons with some much-needed frontcourt offense.

Anthony, who led Syracuse to the NCAA championship as a freshman, was the Big East Freshman of the Year while averaging 22.2 points.

If the Raptors keep the fourth pick and go for a big man, they might select the 6-10 Bosh - the Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year after he led Georgia Tech in scoring (15.6), rebounding (9.0), blocked shots (2.2) and field goal percentage (56.0).

After LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Darko Milicic, the next-best players are debatable. Based on interviews with NBA scouts and team personnel directors, here are four who are considered to be potential prize picks in later rounds:

Dwyane Wade, Marquette

Ht. 6-4; Wt. 210; Pos. SG

Draft range: 4-11

He skyrocketed from another intriguing talent to a top-10 pick with a remarkable performance in the NCAA Tournament, getting Marquette to the Final Four for the first time since 1977. He had 29 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in a tournament upset of Kentucky. The most impressive thing about Wade is a remarkable leaping ability that allows him to play much bigger and create his own shot. His outside shot and overall game improved dramatically during the season. The hometown Chicago Bulls are very interested.

Jarvis Hayes, Georgia

Ht. 6-7; Wt. 220; Pos. SF

Draft range: 15-25

If nothing else, Hayes has proven he can put points on the board. How many players have led two Division I conferences in scoring? Hayes topped the Southern Conference as a freshman at Western Carolina. He then transferred to Georgia and led the Southeastern Conference the following season. Hayes can play either shooting guard or small forward. He connected on 42.5 percent of his 3-pointers and is a classic spot-up shooter. Just think how many times San Antonio or New Jersey was looking for a player to knock down a jumper in the NBA Finals, and you have an idea of how valuable Hayes can be.

Brian Cook, Illinois

Ht. 6-10; Wt. 240; Pos. SF

Draft range: 25-35

Cook has a power forward body with small forward skills. For a 6-10 college player, he has great range and a silky outside shot. He also survived inside in the smashmouth Big Ten, being voted player of the year. But for all his skills, he doesn't dominate consistently. He sometimes drifts in games and may have to raise his competitive level. He has the natural ability to do so, as well as some good bloodlines. His father, Norm, played at Kansas and was a No. 1 pick of the Boston Celtics.

Josh Howard, Wake Forest

Ht. 6-6; Wt. 203; Pos. SG

Draft range: 25-35

Few players did more for his college team than Howard, the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year. Howard showed dramatic improvement every year at Wake Forest but doesn't do one thing spectacularly. He is used to overcoming obstacles. Both his legs had to be broken and set by doctors when he was 3.

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