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Quick. Name the last great shooting guard to come out of the NBA draft.
Don't pause to flip through your draft guide.
Just give me his name.
Is it LeBron James or Dwyane Wade? Technically neither player is a two, though they're certainly able to play that position. Before that? The 2002 draft was a total wash. Jason Richardson and Joe Johnson (2001)? Desmond Mason and Michael Redd (2000)? Richard Hamilton (1999)? Ron Artest (1999)?
Good? Sure. Great? No one, not even Artest, is there just yet.
Rewind back to 1998 and we can start talking. Vince Carter went fifth that year, though his greatness may forever be limited to Nike and Gatorade commercials. Paul Pierce is the truth, but nine teams didn't believe that on draft night.
Rewind back one more year and you'll find Tracy McGrady on the board at No. 9. Two more years to 1996 and I can give you Allen Iverson (1st overall), Ray Allen (5th ) and Kobe Bryant (13th).
Go back any further and Alzheimer's sets in.
I give this illustration only to point out an obvious disconnect from the lores of scouting wisdom and reality. To quote more than one NBA scout, good shooting guards are a dime a dozen.
Unlike the rare centers and point guards who only appear in leap years when there's a full moon, shooting guards are everywhere. They grow on trees. Take a shot on the big kid who can't tie his shoes. Grab your two guard of the future off any NBDL roster.
It just isn't true. These days, superstar two guards appear to be just as rare. That's partly because the college ranks aren't being bolstered by high school and international prospects at this position. Most 18-year-olds drafted in the NBA still tend to be 6-10 or taller.
This year, there are eight or nine two guards capable of being drafted in the first round. None has "star" written all over him. The top spot on the board goes to a kid from Arizona who's averaging just 12.7 ppg. The next kid on the list is still trying to find a way to defect from Moscow. The third and fourth guards on the list are good players who really need another year of school. The best prospect on the list may be an 18-year-old McGrady clone playing at a prep school in Connecticut who few people have ever heard of.
There are promising players here. But none are sure things.
Here's our first look at what appears to be a pretty decent shooting guard class.
Note: The list includes all players who we believe might declare for the 2004 draft.
1. Andre Iguodala, Arizona
The line: 6-6, 210, Sophomore
The skinny: What's the big deal about an averaged sized two guard averaging just 12.7 ppg? Scouts believe he's a Scottie Pippen-type player who can play multiple positions, handle the ball in most offenses and lock down anyone he has to defend. He already has an NBA body and is an elite athlete. The jumper still needs a lot of work, but if the draft were held today, Iguodala is a lock for the top 10 and could go as high as six.
2. Sergei Monya, CSKA Moscow (Russia)
The line: 6-8, 220, 20-years-old
The skinny: Monya may be the most NBA ready of any of the top international prospects this year. He already has an NBA body and strength, which is a big, big plus. He also plays with an aggressiveness both offensively and defensively that scouts really love. He's got a very solid mid-range jumper and his 3-point shot has also improved. Some scouts still question his ball handling, but admit that CSKA doesn't really ask him to put the ball on the floor much. The fact that he has extensive playing experience the past two seasons for a Euroleague team really helps his cause. The scouts who know him the best absolutely love him. The biggest issue with Monya will be his buyout. He doesn't have one and CSKA appears to be reluctant to let both Monya and another NBA prospect, Viktor Khryapa, go in the same year. If his agent, Marc Fleisher, can get something worked out with CSKA early enough, Monya's a late-lottery-to-mid-first-round pick. If he can't, Monya will either pull out of the draft and watch his stock slip into the late first round.
3. Julius Hodge, North Carolina State
The line: 6-6, 190, Junior
The skinny: Hodge is one of the most improved players in the country and has watched his stock sky rocket over the past few months. Don't let his wiry frame fool you. He's a great, tough athlete who can be absolutely fearless taking the ball to the hole. His passing skills are above average, leading some scouts to believe that he could make the transition to the point in the pros. He's shooting an impressive 51 percent from the field this season and has a knack for drawing fouls. His perimeter shot, heavy turnovers and his defense are the biggest question marks. Expect Hodge to be a mid-first-round pick if he declares.
4. Rudy Fernandez, Joventut Badalona (Spain)
The line: 6-5, 185, 18-years-old
The skinny: A plethora of NBA scouts and GMs were in Spain in early March watching the Kings Cup. Almost all of them came away raving about Joventut Badalona's Rodolfo "Rudy" Fernandez. The 18-year-old, 6-foot-5 inch two guard walked away with MVP honors and wowed scouts with his athleticism, scoring ability, outside shot and active defense. Scouts claim that he has the ability to play both one and the two, increasing his value. One scout claims that he's the best Spanish prospect since Paul Gasol. Another claims that he could be a "devastating" offensive player in the league. Details are still sketchy about his contract situation in Badalona, but several scouts expect him to throw his name into the draft. If he does, he'll likely be a mid-first-round pick.
5. Rashad McCants, North Carolina
The line: 6-4, 210, Sophomore
The skinny: The word is that McCants will also test the waters this year. Unfortunately, there is no clear consensus at the moment. He's obviously a gifted scorer and a top-notch athlete. He's a dead eye from long range and seems to have no problem getting to the basket at will. What's the issue? Size. Scouts believe he's much closer to 6-3 and don't believe he has the handle or the head to be an NBA point guard. His long arms and athleticism make up for some of those height issues, but not all of them. McCants' value is really in the eye of the beholder. Some see him as a sure fire mid-to-late first-rounder. Others think he could slip into the second. It's really too early to call right now.
6. Francisco Garcia, Louisville
The line: 6-7, 185, Sophomore
The skinny: Will Garcia declare? Several NBA scouts claim Garcia will, but won't hire an agent to retain his college eligibility. That's probably a good thing. While he sports great size and passing ability at his position, concerns about his strength and toughness abound. His inability to shoot off the dribble and lack of lateral quickness are also question marks. If Garcia returns to school, gets stronger and improves his ability to create his own shot, he's got the chance to be a lottery pick someday. Right now? He's probably drafted in the 20s. Reece Gaines' weak rookie performance probably hurts his stock.
7. Luke Jackson, Oregon
The line: 6-7, 215, Senior
The skinny: Scouts were skeptical at the start of the season, but Jackson has done a lot to ease their concerns. He has the ability to handle the ball, shoot on the perimeter and is increasingly proving to scouts he can create his own shot off the dribble with a quicker-than-you'd-think first step. Defensively, he still has issues (his lateral quickness is a problem), and there's no question he needs to get stronger at the next level, but the comparisons to Mike Miller and Mike Dunleavy aren't totally absurd. Scouts believe he'll have to make the transition from three to two guard in the pros. With zone defenses taking over, his ability to shoot and create are valuable assets. Look for him to sneak into the late first round -- especially if several of the other players above him like Hodge, McCants and Garcia decide to go back to college.
8. Dorell Wright, South Kent Prep (CT)
The line: 6-7, 210, HS Senior
The skinny: Right now Wright is the best kept secret in high school ball. Several scouts who have made the journey to see him play in Connecticut compare him to a young Tracy McGrady. He's a do-it-all kid with great athleticism, shooting ability and handles. He's long, quick and can play both the two and the three. He's committed to DePaul, but from what we hear, Wright is going to put his name in the draft. Once he gets into workouts, one scout claims that he could end up a late-lottery to mid-first-round pick. Right now it's safer to say that he's on the first-round bubble, but the upside is tremendous.
9. Kirk Snyder, Nevada
The line: 6-6, 225, Junior
The skinny: The best player in the WAC is starting to get a lot of attention from NBA scouts. "He's one of the most complete guards I've seen in a while," one NBA scout told Insider. "He does it all. He's strong, athletic, has great speed, shoots the ball well, rebounds and defends. He even has some play making ability that's pretty rare for guys like him." With so few good collegiate players in the draft, look for Snyder to be a late-first-rounder if he decides to declare.
10. Rickey Paulding, Missouri
The line: 6-5, 210, Senior
The skinny: A disappointing senior season has torpedoed Paulding's stock. His numbers were down across the board and scouts have walked away from his games this year miffed at the regression. Paulding has NBA athleticism and is an above average rebounder for his position. He's very effective when he takes the ball to the basket, but he spends too much time on the perimeter. His problem continues to be a streaky outside jumper. A great tournament or stellar individual workouts (he's capable of both) could move him back into the first-round picture, but right now he's on the outside looking in.
11. Tony Allen, Oklahoma State
The line: 6-4, 200, Senior
The skinny: Allen is another terrific athlete with a shaky jumper. The good news is that he's been one of the best defensive players in the country this season and already possesses an NBA body and strength. His quick first step and ability to get to the line are big pluses. But he's a bit undersized to be a full-time two in the league. If he could show the ability to play the point, his stock would sky rocket. But right now . . . he's on the first-round bubble with Snyder and Paulding.
12. Delonte West, St. Joseph's
The line: 6-4, 180, Junior
The skinny: West is having an amazing year and wants to capitalize on it. The word around the league is that he'll test his draft status this spring, but won't hire an agent so that he can keep his college eligibility. West is a good athlete, big-time scorer, excellent shooter (especially mid range) and passer. Once again, the issue is size with West. Scouts feel that he's closer to 6-foot-3 and just aren't fond of smallish two guards. With that said, West is planning to come to Chicago and prove to scouts that he has what it takes to make the transition to point guard in the pros. His 4.8 apg and excellent floor vision suggest that, like Gilbert Arenas, he's a prime candidate to make the move. If he convinces the scouts, he'll move way up the board. If he doesn't? Another year at school running the point without Jameer Nelson will only improve his stock.
13. Romain Sato, Xavier
The line: 6-5, 205, Senior
The skinny: Sato is another player with first-round potential who stumbled just a bit during his senior season. He's an amazing athlete (38 inch vertical) who does a little bit of everything well. He runs the floor, can take his man off the dribble, is a fantastic rebounder for his size and is a pretty good perimeter shooter, to boot. He also is an above average defender. He's a little undersized at the two, and some teams believe his shot selection needs a lot of work. He could be a poor man's Quentin Richardson as he matures and understands the game better.
14. Andre Emmett, Texas Tech
The line: 6-5, 200, Senior
The skinny: Emmett is another top-notch athlete and scorer. He's strong, has great lateral quickness and really knows how to get to the free-throw line. Like Paulding and Allen, his inability to knock down his outside jumpers consistently really hurts his stock. He struggles terribly to hit anything outside of 18 feet. Right now he's stuck in the second round.
15. Marcus Vieira de Souza, Brazil
The line: 6-9, 205, 21 years old
The skinny: Brazil is the in vogue country in the NBA these days and de Souza is one of its best players. He's got great size and a very nice handle for the position. Like Leandrinho Barbosa and Nene Hilario, he's a great athlete, runs the floor like a guard and has a picture perfect 3-point shot. He has the versatility to play three positions on the floor, which is always attractive to teams. Scouts are concerned about his strength (he looks a little bit like Reggie Miller), porous defense and relative inexperience. With the exception of a brief stint in Italy, he's been stuck playing ball in Brazil -- not the greatest of leagues. He's a second-rounder right now, but a good performance in the Nike Hoop Summit could really boost his stock.
Best of the Rest: Delonte Holland, DePaul; Brandon Mouton, Texas; Desmon Farmer, USC, Michel Morandais, Colorado; Bernard Robinson Jr., Michigan; Julius Page, Pittsburgh; Tim Pickett, Florida State; Marko Tomas, Zagreb (Croatia); Armands Skele, Latvia
Wait until next year: Hassan Adams, Arizona; Antoine Wright, Texas A&M; J.R. Giddens, Kansas; Manuchar Markoishvili, Benetton (Italy); Dijon Thompson, UCLA; Kevin Martin, Western Carolina; Kelenna Azubuike, Kentucky; James White, Cincinnati; Matt Walsh, Florida
With the college season winding down, the high school all-star circuit heating up and a much anticipated match between America's finest and a crack squad of international draft prospects heading our way at the Nike Hoop Summit (see below) -- the draft speculation season is hereby officially under way.
Who's in the draft? Who's out? Here's what we're hearing . . .
Luol Deng out of the draft? Will Duke freshman Luol Deng stick around for a sophomore season at Duke? According to several NBA agents who've been hanging around Durham hoping to land Deng as their next client, Deng is staying in school for at least one more season.
Multiple agents reported to Insider that they've been told by Deng's family that he will not enter the draft this year. That's pretty much in keeping with his decision to forego a mid-first-round selection last year to attend Duke. Scouts predict that Deng would be a top-five pick if he were to declare this year.
We're leaving Deng on our list until the deadline. Many top prospects have changed their minds at the last minute when they've been assured of a top-five selection. Last year Chris Bosh was initially adamant that he was staying in school for his sophomore year before reversing course and declaring for the draft. In 2002, Duke's own Mike Dunleavy flipped positions once the Warriors promised him they'd make him the third pick in the draft.
Kosta Perovic is in: There has been speculation for weeks that Serbia's Kosta Perovic would be forced to stay out of this year's draft because his team, Partizan, wouldn't let him out of his contract. Perovic has no NBA buyout and team president and Sacramento Kings center Vlade Divac had been claiming that with starting center Nenad Kristic headed to the Nets this year, Perovic needed to stick around for another year or two.
Not anymore. Perovic's new agent, Bill Duffy, told Insider that he recently met with Divac in Sacramento and came to an agreement that will allow Perovic to enter the draft and leave for the NBA this summer if he is a top-10 selection.
"Vlade really wanted to do what was in the player and the club's best interest," Duffy told Insider. "I think we came to an agreement that will really benefit all of the parties."
Duffy wouldn't get into details about the buyout arrangement, but he was confident that it would calm any fears that NBA teams would have about taking Perovic in the lottery.
Scouts project the 7-foot-2, 19-year old Perovic as a top-10 pick who could go as high as No. 3 in this year's draft. He's played big time minutes in Serbia this season while Kristic was on the injured list, averaging 6.6 ppg and 4 rpg in 22 mpg in Euroleague play. Scouts feel he needs to get stronger physically, but don't disagree with Duffy's sentiments that Perovic could be a "more athletic version of Zydrunas Ilgauskas."
Biedrins, Omerhodzic, Bogdanovic definitely in: The list of international prospect declaring for the draft continues to grow by the day. Insider has exclusively learned that three top 18- and 19-year-old international draft prospects, Andris Biedrins (Latvia), Damir Omerhodzic (Croatia) and Luka Bogdanovic (Serbia), will definitely be in this year's draft.
Biedrins just hired agent Bill Duffy and is working with his team on an NBA buyout as we speak. Duffy told Insider that he's confident that the two sides will work out something within the next few weeks. Biedrins is considered one of the top two or three international prospects in the draft. The 17-year-old, 6-11, 240-pound power forward has drawn comparisons to Andrei Kirlilenko because of his athleticism, shot blocking and defensive prowess at such a young age. While Biedrins' offensive skills are still pretty raw, scouts see him as a lock for the top 10. Biedrins is averaging 18.6 ppg and 8.2 rpg on 54 percent shooting in FIBA play this season.
Omerhodzic's situation is more delicate. His agent, Marc Cornstein, told Insider that difficult family circumstances are pushing Omerhodzic to put his name into this year's draft. Omerhodzic plays for one of the better teams in Europe, (Cibona in Zagreb, Croatia) but has been mired on the bench all season.
The few scouts who have seen the 18-year-old, 6-11 small forward play claim that he is one of the best young prospects in Europe. However, they also believe he's a little further behind, developmentally, than some of the other international and high school players entering the draft. Omerhodzic is very versatile, runs the floor like a guard and can play both inside and outside, though scouts project him mostly at the small forward position. If he scores well in workouts, Omerhodzic could rocket up the draft charts, but right now he's probably looking at a mid to late-first-round pick.
Bogdanovic is drawing comparisons to Peja Stojakovic and Vladimir Radmanovic because of his unbelievable shooting ability at his size. He also is a superb ball handler and big-time scorer in the Yugoslavian league. The big concern NBA scouts have with Bogdanovic is a rail thin frame. Right now he's only packing 200 pounds on a 6-9 frame.
He's going to have to get much stronger to be a factor in the NBA, but scouts are in love with his potential. He's averaging 10.6 ppg on 62 percent shooting for Red Star in the Adriatic League this season. Right now he's a late-first-rounder to mid-second-round pick. But he could skyrocket up the charts with a good performance at the Nike Hoop Summit and strong workouts.
There are few other big international players in the draft who are worth mentioning.
Sources told Insider early this week that 7-foot-1 Russian forward Ivan Chiriaev will put his name into the draft this year. He's expected to announce his decision at a March 22nd news press conference in Ontario. Chiriaev has been playing high school ball in Canada this season and has impressed scouts with his athleticism and ball handling ability for someone that size.
Chiriaev's draft stock is tough to project, however. He's been playing against weak competition and no one is really sure how he'll fare against better players. The first chance to really see Chiriaev in a better setting will come at the Hoop Summit in April when he plays for the international squad.
Slovenia's Uros Slokar will also be in. Slokar's agent, Roger Montgomery, told Insider that Slokar has received enormous interest from scouts. Slokar is a 20-year-old, 6-10 power forward playing on one of the best team in Europe, Benetton Treviso. He's averaging 4.9 ppg and 2.4 rpg in just under 13 mpg for Benetton in Euroleague play. While the numbers don't really stand out, several scouts claim that he's a legit late-first-round pick based on his size, toughness around the basket and soft 20 foot shooting touch.
Agent David Bauman told Insider last week that another of his clients, Croatia point guard Roko-Leni Ukic, is definitely in this year's draft. He will be joined by three other Bauman clients -- Bogdanovic, Sasha Vujacic and Erazem Lorbek -- Insider has learned.
Vujacic made a major buzz at the Chicago pre-draft camp last season. The 6-foot-7 combo guard has been lighting it up this year for Udine in Italy and has drawn rave reviews from scouts. He's likely a mid-first-round pick.
Lorbek also declared and withdrew from the draft last season. He spent one year at Michigan State and played in Italy for Skipper Bologna this year. Lorbek will be testing the waters again this year looking for a team in the late first round to take a gamble. The 6-10 power forward from Slovenia is averaging 3.4 ppg and 2.3 rpg in 10 mpg for Skipper. Lorbek is locked into a contract with Skipper one more year, so a team that took him would have to leave him in Europe for another season.
Simien, Banks, Samardzski, Splitter out? Here's a quick look at few other big names who claim they won't put their names in this year's draft.
Kansas power forward Wayne Simien wants to return for his senior season at Kansas, several sources close to the forward told Insider. Simien is probably a mid-first-rounder right now who could jump into the lottery with a dominant senior season. However, there are risks involved. Simien has a history of injuries and could damage his stock if he misses long periods of time next season.
ESPN.com college freshman of the year Sean Banks is also claiming that he's staying for his sophomore season at the University of Memphis. Banks has risen from obscurity to the third hottest college freshman (behind Deng and Wake Forest's Chris Paul) on NBA draft boards. While Banks can certainly help his stock by having a stellar sophomore campaign, he could also hurt it. Banks caught everyone by surprise and has enormous buzz right now. He'll be scrutinized much heavier next season. Can he live up to the loftier expectations?
Two other international forwards will likely stay out of the draft. Macedonian big man Peja Samardzski will likely sit this draft out, according to his agent, Marc Cornstein. Cornstein told Insider that Samardzski's inability to crack the senior team rotation at Partizan is a big factor. Scouts have had a difficult time seeing him. With both Nenad Kristic and Kosta Perovic likely heading to the NBA this season, the path for Samardzski to make it onto the senior team and get significant minutes seems clear.
Splitter may still put his name in the draft, but sources claim it's very unlikely that he'll keep it in. Buyout issues with his team, Tau Vitoria, and a lack of playing time this year have pretty much convinced his agents to keep him in Europe one more year before unleashing him in the NBA.
International Nike Hoop Summit Roster: After a three-year hiatus, the Nike Hoop Summit is back and will be played on Sunday, April 4th in San Antonio in conjunction with the Final Four.
The American squad was officially announced last week and includes NBA draft prospects Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Sebastian Telfair, LaMarcus Aldridge and Al Jefferson along with other top high school ballers Jordan Famer, Rudy Gay, Malik Hairston, J.R. Smith and Mike Williams.
Insider got an exclusive peek at who they'll be playing against on the international under-20 side. Among the list of invitees -- Pavel Podkolzine (Russia), Andris Biedrins (Latvia), Yi Jianlin (China), Roko Lenic Ukic (Croatia), Luka Bogdanovic (Serbia), Johan Petro (France), Ivan Chiriaev (Russia via Toronto), Sergio Rodriguez (Spain), Wojciech Barycz (Poland); Andrea Bargnani (Italy) and Marcus Vinicius Vieria de Souza (Brazil).
Several of them, including Podkolzine and Biedrins, are still trying to get permission to leave their teams and play, but all sides are confident that something will be worked out.
Korea's Ha Seung-Jin was also invited, but other commitments will keep him from being attending.
Podkolzine (7-5, 300) and Biedrins (6-11, 240) are considered likely lottery picks in this year's draft. Ukic (6-5, 185), Bogdanovic (6-9, 200) and Chiriaev (7-1, 220) are also expected to be taken in the first round. Vieria de Souza (6-9, 200) will also be in the draft, but is considered a second-rounder at the moment. Yi, who is just 17, will be a high lottery pick once he's allowed to declare for the draft. Rodriguez, Barycz and Bargnani are all considered future top picks for the 2005 NBA Draft.
The event has always been a fertile scouting ground for scouts. Some of the international players discovered at previous Hoop Summits include Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Vladimir Radmanovic and Bostjan Nachbar