With the NBA draft coming up this Wednesday, it's time to review the prospects of players coming out of the ACC. It is a bumper crop, to say the least!
Three conference players are sure bets to become lottery picks (#1-13), as many as three more could be drafted later in the first round, and several others could go in the second round. This could be one of the stronger representations the ACC has ever had in the NBA draft.
The locks for the lottery are Duke's Jay (don't call me Jason, I'm not an accused murderer or a punk) Williams and Mike (hell no, I won't stay) Dunleavy and Maryland's Chris (don't ask me about that &@#) Wilcox.
Along with fellow early entries Roger Mason of Virginia and Carlos Boozer of Duke, these players likely would have made up the all-ACC team in 2002-03. I'll be talking a lot about the impact of their departure on the ACC in future columns.
It seems Jason Williams is a lock to be drafted by the Chicago Bulls, where he could lose as many games in a few weeks as he did in three years at Duke. Some scouts have been concerned about his height, or lack of such. It seems he was measured a lot closer to 6'0" than his listed 6'2" (imagine that). I think Williams is underrated as an athlete, possessing surprising strength and great hops. I think he will become a star, although not right away.
Dunleavy has been used as the poster child for how early entries to the NBA is leading to the ruination of college basketball. No less of an authority than Billy Packer recently said that Dunleavy's departure for the NBA would be "the end of college basketball as we know it."
Take a chill pill, Bill!
He could make a lot better case against players leaving college early for the pros if he pointed to how it has hurt the pro game. Younger players with much poorer fundamentals have greatly reduced the quality of play in the NBA over the past few years. Let's face it--many of the games are nearly unwatchable.
Could Packer have an agenda with his comment? Could he be concerned that fewer marquee players at nationally known schools like Duke could hurt the marketability of the college game and the CBS television ratings? Wouldn't that hurt Packer in the pocket book? Just wondering.
Dunleavy is more ready to play in the NBA and more talented than most of the players coming out. It looks like Golden State will make him the third pick in the draft (sort of like sailing a fancy yacht into the Bermuda Triangle) and make him a very wealthy man. As a bonus, the rumors of a package deal with his dad coaching the Warriors will be entertaining, and basketball fans need some entertainment to get through the summer.
The most likely scenario involving Chris Wilcox has him being selected with the seventh pick by New York. I can't think of a worse situation for Wilcox to deal with. He possesses tremendous physical gifts, and there is no reasonable doubt that he has all the tools to succeed in the NBA.
As he demonstrated in the way he handled his departure from Maryland (trying to sneak out of his dorm), he is a very immature young man. He hired Rock Newman, an infamous boxing promoter, as his agent, for God's sake!
For Wilcox to get thrown into the media glare of New York and into a situation where he will be counted on to fill the Knicks' glaring need for a low-post presence on both ends of the court is a recipe for disaster.
I don't think Wilcox is a bad kid, but he is very much a kid. New York is a tough enough town for grown-ups. For his sake, I hope he slides down to Phoenix at #9. After all, joining a team with Stephan Marbury and Penny Hardaway means he won't be burdened with having the ball very much.
Other potential first round picks are Boozer, Mason, and Maryland's Juan Dixon.
There is a wide range of opinions regarding Boozer. He is widely accepted as an effective low-post player, but there are questions about his athleticism and ability to play away from the basket.
I don't understand the questions about his athleticism. He is a chiseled 6'9" 270 pounds who can get up and down the floor very well.
Boozer's game away from the basket is a mystery. He never had to wander very far at Duke with all of the perimeter firepower they always had. The fact that he made 75% of his free throws last season give some hope that he could be effective from 15 feet away. I think he will become a very effective power forward in the NBA if he can get a bit of a mean streak and work harder as a rebounder.
Mason is a talented player who, at 6'5", should have the size to be a solid wing guard in the NBA. He has exceptional range on his shot and should have no problem knocking down 3-pointers in the League.
Mason played some point guard the past two seasons at Virginia due to the injuries to Majestic Mapp, but I don't think he has the handle or the quickness to be particularly effective running point in the pros. He could start out his pro career as a dangerous sharpshooter to bring off the bench and develop from there.
How can the best player in the 2002 NCAA post-season be as lightly regarded as Juan Dixon has been by NBA scouts? Did they watch any of the games? I'm not trying to say Dixon should be a lottery pick (although I've seen stupider things in these drafts), but to see players like Frank Williams, Kareem Rush, Marcus Haslip, Ron Grizzard, and Steve Logan projected ahead of Dixon in the first round is laughable. I'd actually laugh if that fact wouldn't cost Dixon money in his first contract.
Yes, I know Dixon is thin. How thin is he? I just wrapped up my kitchen trash bag with a twist-tie that was wider than he is. Ok, that's an exaggeration. Dixon is deceptively strong and has lightning quickness. He led the ACC in steals and free throw shooting, was second in scoring, and fourth in three-point shooting. He led the nation in toughness and heart, but pro scouts can't put a number on that, so they tend to underrate it's importance if not ignore it entirely.
Among the other draft eligible ACC players are Lonny Baxter and Byron Mouton from Maryland, Delvon Arrington and David Anderson from Florida State, Tony Akins of Georgia Tech, Jason Capel and Kris Lang from North Carolina, Anthony Grundy from NC State, Chris Williams and Adam Hall from Virginia, and Darius Songaila and Craig Dawson from Wake Forest.
Of this group, I think Songaila is the best pro prospect. He is already a polished low-post player, can knock down a 15-foot shot, and can run the floor well for a 6'9", 250 pound player. His Achilles heel at Wake Forest was his propensity to get into foul trouble. The more physical nature of the NBA could be more to his liking. He should go early in the second round.
The star of the recent Chicago pre-draft camp was Lonny Baxter, who led all players in both scoring and rebounding. That performance propelled Baxter onto most mock drafts for the first time. He is still viewed at a potential ‘tweener; too short to play center, not quick enough to play forward. His athleticism is vastly underrated, and I would be surprised not to see him on an NBA roster next season.
I doubt any of the other players listed above will be drafted, but several of them could make an NBA roster or, more likely, play professionally overseas next season. I think Mouton's all-around game and intangibles and Lang's low post skills (if he can stay healthy for once) are the most likely candidates to play in the League next season.
ACC seniors from last year who probably need to get on with their life's work are Jamar McKnight from Clemson, Matt Christiansen from Duke, Monte Cummings and Antwuan Dixon from Florida State, Archie Miller from NC State, and Broderick Hicks, Ervin Murray, and Antwan Scott from Wake Forest.
I'm not saying these guys were bad players or that they will never be able to make a buck playing basketball somewhere. I am saying, however, that they won't see the light of day in the NBA.
For those of you reading "The CourtMaster" column for the first time, thanks for checking it out. I always want to know what you think, either on this site's message board or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I always do my best to respond to both as soon as possible.
I'll be dropping by periodically during the summer. Until next time, court is adjourned.