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NBA Tough to judge: Young players abound in draft



Published: Sat, July 2, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



It usually takes about three years to accurately judge a draft.

KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS

PHILADELPHIA -- So how does one accurately analyze the 2005 NBA draft and judge its impact on next season and beyond?

It's next to impossible, considering the youth and inexperience of the players selected. Only nine of the 30 picked in the first round were four-year players in college. The first such player to be picked was Arizona's Channing Frye, who went to the New York Knicks at No. 8.

Two high school players went in the top 10. One of them -- 7-foot Andrew Bynum of St. Joseph High in Metuchen, N.J. -- is just 17 years old, yet he'll be playing for the Los Angeles Lakers and legendary coach Phil Jackson. Will Jackson, winner of nine NBA titles and hungry for a 10th, treat Bynum with the same disdain that, say, Larry Brown has shown for Darko Milicic with Detroit?

The Boston Celtics got a high school player in the first round for the second straight year, taking Gerald Green, who was supposed to be a top-10 pick but somehow slipped to 18th. On a team that has six players on its roster (excluding draft picks) with two years or less experience, wouldn't a more mature player have been a better selection?

It's difficult to know, yet people were ready to grade the draft as soon as the 60th and final selection was announced. Some of them were the same folks who had Florida's Matt Walsh going in the first round of their mock drafts, and we all know how that turned out: Walsh went undrafted.

Few before the draft had even heard of 6-9 forward Ian Mahinmi of France. He didn't even appear in the NBA's draft guide. Yet the San Antonio Spurs, who have thrived with such selections as Tony Parker of France and Manu Ginobili of Argentina, took him. So based on their track record, it would be foolish to criticize them

And it's too early to know if 6-foot-2 high school guard Louis Williams, taken by the 76ers with the 45th pick, will be able to play at the NBA level. Fans will have to wait a season or two before deciding whether he's the real deal.

That said, here are the early returns from draft night.

Charlie Villanueva of Connecticut went far too early at No. 7 to a Toronto team that still is having nightmares over picking Rafael Araujo ahead of Andre Iguodala last year. The Raptors' best player, Chris Bosh, plays the same position as Villanueva.

Charlotte also is guilty of ignoring need with their second pick, power forward Sean May. It already had the reigning rookie of the year at the power-forward spot in Emeka Okafor. The Bobcats apparently wanted to keep their ticket people busy. With a new downtown arena to fill, they drafted two North Carolina players in the first round -- May and point guard Raymond Felton.

Antoine Wright might have been the best swingman in the draft, but he went to the New Jersey Nets. The Nets start Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson at shooting guard and small forward -- or is that small forward and shooting guard?

Hakim Warrick, from Syracuse, lasted until the 19th pick. Certainly, someone could have used such an experienced, talented and athletic player before that.

Winners in the draft: Utah, New Orleans, Indiana, Sacramento and maybe Denver. But ask us again three years from now.

In Pierce's corner

Reports are that Paul Pierce has worn out his welcome in Boston because of his refusal to embrace the philosophy of Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

The fact that Pierce got himself ejected from Game 6 of the team's first-round playoff series against Indiana, then played poorly in a 97-70 Game 7 blowout by the Pacers, fueled rumors that the Celtics want to trade him.

But Rivers, at least according to his remarks to reporters last week, seems to want Pierce to stay. He said he thinks the shooting guard is coming off the best season of his career.

"I don't think he gets enough credit for doing what I asked him to do, even though I thought at times he didn't want to do it and didn't enjoy doing it," Rivers said. "But he did it anyway.

"I didn't think the Magic should have traded Tracy (McGrady). I didn't think the Lakers should have traded Shaq (Shaquille O'Neal). I think you keep your best player. There are times where it's just at a point where things don't work for him or you or whatever. We're not at that point. We're not even close to that."

Another free agent

As with Allen, Sonics coach Nate McMillan saw his contract expire at the end of June, and he is now free to negotiate with any team looking for a new coach.

McMillan was expected to visit with the Portland Trail Blazers over the weekend. The Knicks and the Bucks also had him on their lists of attractive candidates.

Then there's the possibility that McMillan, who has spent his entire professional basketball life -- 12 seasons as a player, one season as an assistant coach, and four years as a head coach -- with the Sonics, will return to Seattle.

McMillan left a four-year, $18 million offer on the table with Seattle. He could probably get more money from the Blazers, but sources have told Seattle reporters that he is more likely to re-sign with the Sonics than look for more money elsewhere.




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