Uncertainty is perhaps the only thing certain about the NBA Draft. Whether that first-round pick becomes the next Michael Jordan or the next Sam Bowie remains to be seen, but those are the chances teams must take.
As usual, uncertainty marks the 2004 NBA Draft, which is at 6 tonight, but for some idea, the Missourian’s mock draft will provide thoughts on who might go where.
1. Dwight Howard, PF, Southwest Atlanta Christian (Ga.) High.
Based on his offensive prowess and body, some have compared Howard to NBA MVP Kevin Garnett. Howard should fit into a nice situation with Tracy McGrady likely en route to Houston. Howard will be the Magic’s star for years to come.
2. Emeka Okafor, C/PF, Connecticut\.
Okafor served as the centerpiece of the best team in the college basketball season, and the Bobcats will look for him to serve as the foundation for their fledgling franchise. Okafor possess refined skills on both ends of the court.
3. Luol Deng, SF, Duke.
Although it should take some time for Deng to improve his quickness and game to make an NBA impact, he will be a star. Deng adds to the multitude of raw talents on the Chicago roster, and if he can have an effect similar to that of last year’s rookie Kirk Hinrich, the Bulls’ win count will increase.
4. Shaun Livingston, PG, Peoria Central (Ill.) High.
At 6-foot-7, Livingston has the stature to physically dominate smaller guards, as LeBron James, last season’s rookie of the year, does. Unlike James, though, Livingston must improve his consistency and jumper.
5. Andre Iguodala, SG/SF, Arizona.
After a trade with Washington, the Mavericks snatch up the flashy, athletic guard. His gritty play on defense should provide some much-needed toughness for one of the worst defensive teams in the league.
6. Ben Gordon, PG, Connecticut.
Disappointed they cannot get the local favorite Howard, the Hawks settle for the steady Gordon. With four picks in the draft, the Hawks will actively search for trades to bring in some proven players to complement Gordon and Jason Terry.
7. Luke Jackson, SG, Oregon.
Many teams, including the Bulls, view Jackson as a more athletic Wally Szczerbiak. Jackson’s perimeter shooting and ability to slash to the basket should help the Bulls immediately. In addition, his toughness reminds Bulls coach Scott Skiles of himself.
8. Devin Harris, PG, Wisconsin.
The Raptors take Harris to steady their inconsistent point guard situation. After playing in the team-based Wisconsin offense, Harris won’t have qualms passing Vince Carter the ball. In addition, Harris can also take some of the pressure to score should the oft-injured Carter miss some action.
9. Josh Childress, SG/SF, Stanford.
In desperate need of scoring help, the 76ers pick Childress, who fluidly moves without the ball and rarely misses an open jumper. The 76ers like Childress’ clutch scoring in Stanford’s consistent exposure to tight games. Childress’ willingness to share the ball will keep him on the good side of star guard Allen Iverson.
10. Jameer Nelson, PG, St. Joseph’s.
Nelson, perhaps, represents the first stretch of the draft. Nelson’s size was questioned during predraft workouts, but it shouldn’t present too big of a problem when he teams with James in backcourt. Nelson’s superb jumper and scoring ability should take some of the load off James’ shoulders.
11. Andris Biedrins, PF/C, Latvia.
With Erick Dampier’s status in doubt, the Warriors look to the draft for help in the post. Biedrins is unpolished on offense but provides an intimidating force on defense. His excellent timing and long wingspan make him one of the best shot blockers in the draft.
12. Pavel Podkolzine, C, Russia.
Podkolzine, with some time and work, could become the next dominant center in the NBA, and considering the Sonics’ situation, they’ve got some time to wait. Even though he is an imposing 7-5, Podkolzine often plays timidly inside, but you can’t teach his size.
13. Sebastian Telfair, PG, Lincoln (NY) High.
Telfair, cousin of the Knicks’ Stephon Marbury, possesses the same play-making ability and quick hands as his cousin. The Blazers will hope to groom Telfair to become the successor at point guard for Damon Stoudamire.
14. Josh Smith, SF, Oak Hill (Va.) Academy.
Smith has the athletic and jumping ability of the NBA’s best, but questions about his level of concentration nearly force him out of the lottery. Smith’s explosive first step will enhance Utah’s fast break.
15. Robert Swift, C, Bakersfield (Calif.) High.The Celtics hope Swift can provide some sort stability to their weak center position. Swift’s long wingspan and shot-blocking ability should deter the guards of the East from repeatedly slashing through the Celtics’ interior. The Celtics, who also have four picks in the draft including three in the first round, will also be active with trades.
16. Rafael Arajuo, C, BYU.
After carrying the load for BYU in nearby Provo, Utah, Arajuo might be a steal at No. 16. Arajuo, a 6-11, 280-pound center, understands how to use his body and never avoids contact. His soft hands and good free-throw shooting make him attractive as well.
17. Anderson Varejo, PF, Brazil.
Provided the Hawks don’t move this pick, they should get a multifaceted offensive player in Varejo. Solid from the inside and outside, Varejo has the agility to play despite his 6-10 size. He can also move to small forward if needed.
18. Al Jefferson, PF, Prentiss (Miss.) High.Jefferson’s work ethic and consistent movement should improve a team infamous for underachieving. Although he sometimes struggles to stay with transition, Jefferson excels at getting position in the post. Scouts also like his humble demeanor and comprehension of roles.
19. Peter John Ramos, C, Puerto Rico.
Ramos, 19, dominated Puerto Rican high schools, has tremendous size and potential but requires some time before he can become a solid player. Thanks to the Heat’s surprising showing the Eastern Conference Playoffs, Ramos will not feel a sense of urgency to do so, though.
20. Sergey Monya, SG/SF, Russia.
Although the Nuggets draft him for his shooting touch and ability to run, they fall in love Monya’s team-defense attitude, perhaps his best aspect. Monya would have gone higher if his ballhandling and driving skills were better.
21. J.R. Smith, SG, St. Benedict’s (NJ) Prep.
Smith might be one of the best finishers in the draft and is a great catch-and-shoot player. After that, this project needs some work. Smith should be receptive to coaching of the Jazz staff, and his athleticism is too good to pass by.
22. Kirk Snyder, SG, Nevada.
With Snyder patrolling the perimeter, the Blazers, delighted he has fallen this far, fill another important need. Snyder’s tremendous accuracy will also create more space for Zach Randolph. Snyder also displayed his leadership in Nevada’s unlikely run deep in the 2004 NCAA Tournament.
23. Viktor Khryapa, SF, Russia.
If Khryapa can fit into the Blazers set offense, he will add an offensive punch. He understands how to get open and create his shot. On the downside, because he is 19, he hasn’t often played late in games. Teams will look to exploit his inexperience.
24. Kris Humphries, PF, Minnesota.Humphries has a tremendously big body, which allowed him to dominate as a rebounder and shot blocker in the Big Ten Conference as a freshman. He always gets to the free-throw line when he doesn’t turn the ball over. Turnovers were his biggest weakness.
25. Dorrell Wright, SG, South Kent (Calif.) Prep.
The Celtics draft Wright to be a future complement of guard Paul Pierce. A raw athletic talent, Wright will shock many with his ability to finish in transition, but his game lacks polish. He improved a great deal between his junior and senior years of high school.
26. Sasha Vujacic, PG, Slovenia.
The Kings hope Vujacic, who has a sleek style with the ball, can fill the role Bobby Jackson plays. Once he develops a better jumper, Vujacic will have a complete game. In addition, Vujacic should feel at home on the Kings’ European-dominated roster.
27. David Harrison, C, Colorado.
No, Harrison won’t be the next Shaquille O’Neal, but Harrison provides the Lakers with a competent backup and a serviceable starter should the Lakers decide to trade Shaq, the NBA’s most dominant force.
28. Tony Allen, SG, Oklahoma State.
The Spurs, desperate for more athletic talent to support Tim Duncan, get that in Allen, who won Big 12 Player of the Year. He brings a solid, all-around game to a team that emphasizes fundamentals.
29. Kevin Martin, SG, Western Carolina.
The Pacers have one of the best forward duos with Jermaine O’Neal and Ron Artest but lacked scoring at guard during the playoffs. Martin shot 44 percent from 3-point range and can attack the basket with excellent body control.
Note: The Minnesota Timberwolves forfeit their first-round draft pick because of the secret signing of Joe Smith before the 2000-01 season.