NCAA BK

BURLISON: A starting five from 2002 draft class

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Frank Burlison

 
   
 
OK, so are you ready to play a little Fantasy League, NBA style? You've bagged about $500 million lottery dollars, have been granted an expansion franchise and have your choice of any five players in the June 26 NBA Draft from which to create your team's starting lineup for next season. As I said, we're talking Major Fantasy League here. Well, make me your GM (a salary of about $3.5 million per season, or maybe a bit less, might tempt me). Check's in the mail? Cool ... here's who we're tabbing, position by position. The No. 1 caveat? I'm only recommending players that I've actually seen in person. This eliminates Nikoloz Tskitishvilli and Nene Hilario, a couple of players that several NBA folks I trust implicitly insist will eventually be all-stars. But trust me on this one: There will ultimately be an all-star or two or three from among the five guys we're building our team around.
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Caveat No. 2? We're going with the player at each position that seems best equipped to be a successful (granted, a very relative term) NBA player the soonest. So here they are. Now, just toss us into the Eastern Conference and we might be playing well until June next season.
ALL-2002 NBA DRAFT CLASS
Player Position College/team Height Weight
Center Shanghai Sharks 7-5 290
COMMENT: Enough with these Chicken Little "He's going to be another Shawn " rants. His basketball skills would be considered exceptional even for a player a foot shorter (he's about 7-foot-5). He'll immediately present the biggest matchup problem in the league other than the one posed by the guy from the who is this generation's Best Big Man Ever. He's never going to just flat-out brutalize opponents like Shaq does and he needs to become a much sturdier force (yes, even despite his 290-plus pounds) down low, especially offensively. But if he truly has a passion for being a great basketball player, as many who know him believe, how can he not very quickly average, say, 15-18 points, 10-12 rebounds, 4-5 blocks and 4-5 assists per game? Should he, in fact, turn in that kind of production, he's the second-best center (unless you'd like to call a center) in the NBA before the end of his rookie season.
Point guard 6-0 1/4 197
COMMENT: Sure, he was a little high risk with his decision making at times and he missed an alarming number of big free throws during his final season with the Blue Devils. But he'll breeze past NBA defenders and get into the lane almost at will, and finish with all of the gusto that does, and another 6-1ish guard of recent vintage (Kevin Johnson) did. And, with his strength, quickness, relative low center of gravity, and competitiveness, becoming a solid on-the-ball defender should be just a matter of his deciding that's what he wants to be when he grows up.
Shooting guard 6-8 230
COMMENT: He'd be the perfect sixth man for this team if he weren't the best "big guard" available in this draft pool. Sure, he can nail NBA 3s, but his slashing, ball-handling and passing skills will also make him about the most difficult of backcourt matchups in the league before long. His open-court vision with the ball is so good, too, that he could also spend a lot of time with this team at point guard. Of course, we already have a dandy one of those on this team, and Dunleavy's already pretty familiar with him.
Power forward 6-8 1/4 218
COMMENT: of is a better all-around player and prospect (yeah, despite the results of the Final Four semi) but he's anything but a pure power forward. Wilcox is, with heavy emphasis on "power." He could still use some more bulk to mix it up with the Malones, Wallaces (the Ben variety) and Brands of the league. But from Jump Street he'll be one of the league's fastest "four men" (only Amare Stoudemire might be faster at the position in this draft) and one of the league's quickest jumpers, regardless of position. Once his perimeter offensive skills get a tad more refined, he'll use that startlingly quick first step to scoot past most power forwards who check him away from the lane.
Small forward 6-10 230
COMMENT: Forget about all of the JJ naysayers who mocked his decision to enter the draft because he wasn't strong enough to compete in the NBA yet. Last time I checked, the game is still mostly about how advanced your skills are and not how big your biceps are or how macho you sound or look after a dunk or blocked shot. And, inch-for-inch (6-10, minus shoes), pound-for-pound (now lugging around about 230 of 'em), no one, at least coming out of college, has more innate basketball skills than Jeffries in this draft. He'd get minutes at every position but center on our All-Rookie franchise. Who does he have a chance to be like someday? Oh, try (with healthy knees and more quickness and jumping ability)
Tagged: Mavericks, Lakers, 76ers, Spurs, Jazz, Tim Duncan, Indiana, Kansas

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