NBA

BURLISON: After Williams, no great point guards

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Frank Burlison

 
   
 
A Duke student was talking about navigating the final term paper for the political science class he was taking in order to complete the work needed for a degree in sociology. ¿I had to write six (papers) for the class,¿ he said, smiling. ¿And, this is going to be the last one I (write) for a long time, unless I decide to go back (to school) some day.¿ And expects that diploma should be delivered to his parents¿ home in New Jersey some time next week — maybe even by the evening of June 26th, when he¿ll be sitting in the Green Room in Madison Square Garden, awaiting NBA commissioner David Stern to almost certainly call his name as the overall No. 2 selection in the first round of the draft by the Chicago . Yes, he can delay work on a Masters¿ degree for a while. The point guard now referred to as ¿Jay Williams¿ (more on that later) is about to continue his education as a very high priced student of the NBA game. And he¿ll be learning first hand next season, just a couple of months after turning 21 on Sept. 10, as the most high profile rookie in the league. Well, the most high profile American first-year player in the league, that is, assuming China¿s Yao Ming is in uniform for the Houston (who draft No. 1) or any other NBA team, period. Had Williams elected to turn pro after his sophomore season, he almost certainly would have been the No. 1 selection and played on the same Washington ¿ team as the sport¿s greatest player ever, , on his return-to-the-league tour. Now it seems an almost certainty that Williams will be cast in the role of trying to help rejuvenate the — the franchise that Jordan led to six titles in the 90s. Barring a trade, he almost certainly won¿t be the first player chosen in the draft but a very strong argument could be made, despite standing just 6-0¼ and weighing 197 pounds in stocking feet, that he¿s the most physically gifted player in this draft. And, without question, he¿s the elite prospect at the point guard position in this draft pool. Although many can debate as to what type of guard he¿ll ultimately be — the thinking currently being is that he¿s likely to be more of the ¿scoring-point-guard type¿ (think, ) instead of a ¿think pass-first at all costs, then look for my shot type¿ (think, or ). Any way you look at it, his skills, physique — he has explosive, first-step quickness, and a chiseled body that can take a blow without being deterred on the way to the hoop — and determination are such that his transition to the NBA will be a very smooth one. As for now being called ¿Jay¿, he says that¿s what his teammates, friends and family have called him all along. He and the director of marketing for his Bill Duffy-led agency discussed making public that he wanted to be known from now on as ¿Jay¿, in large part to differentiate his identity from the Memphis ¿ , and former NBA player Jayson Williams, who is expected to stand trial for homicide. He said a reporter got wind of the discussion before he could make any public pronouncement. And that¿s that — there won¿t be an ¿official¿ or ¿legal¿ changing of his given first name. ¿Dr. J didn¿t¿ change his name to ¿Dr. J¿ — he was still Julius Erving,¿ Williams said in Chicago, the day after the conclusion of the league¿s Pre-Draft Camp on June 7. ¿And that¿s how it is.¿

Small crop of small players

It¿s definitely a very thin crop for players 6-3 and smaller in this draft crop. The only other ¿small guard/point guard type¿ who¿ll be tabbed in the lottery (top 13 selections) will be Dajuan Wagner of Memphis. Wagner, who measured at 6-0¾ and weighed in at 193 pounds in Chicago, is considered even less of a pure point guard prospect than Williams. There¿s no question that what Wagner does best is score and, during individual workouts, he has demonstrated the kind of jump shot that that would belie a player who shot just .317 on 3¿s and .410 overall during his one season in college. Dan Dickau of Gonzaga and Frank Williams of Illinois have long been considered the only point guard prospects likely to be chosen in the first round. The thinking of most has been that Williams — the MVP in the Big Ten this past season — would be chosen before Dickau, who has the ¿is he quick enough to guard NBA point guards?¿ rap he¿ll never shake until he actually proves he can do it in the league. But, apparently, Dickau may have surpassed Williams in the thinking of some of the teams who have seen both players work out behind closed doors. Williams, who weighed in at 212 pounds and was measured 6-1½ — and, yes, that makes many wonder about his quickness and endurance — was projected by most to be selected no later than the late teens. Is he slipping closer to the bottom of the first round — or worse? It does seem hard to envision, especially with a shortage of prospects at the position who have played as well as he did against high-caliber college competition. Five other U.S. point guard prospects — Steve Logan (Cincinnati), Smush Parker (Fordham), Marcus Taylor (Michigan State), Ronald Murray (Shaw University) and Tito Maddox (Fresno State, in 2000-01) — are expected to go in the early- to mid-second round range. Logan is easily the most advanced of the group. He played for four seasons with the Bearcats and was a consensus All-America as a senior. At 5-10, 207, he doesn¿t have the size — or speed, for that matter — that coaches and GMs ideally want to see in the position. But they don¿t come any tougher — physically or mentally — and Logan has a great understanding of what he should and shouldn¿t do at all times ... a heck of an attribute for a floor leader, by the way. Are those qualities enough to get him into the first round? Probably not. Juan Dixon of Maryland is looked at by some as a point guard prospect but he will be discussed at greater length when the topic turns to shooting guards.

Draft notes:

  • Wednesday is the deadline for college underclassmen (or foreign players younger than 22 in the draft pool for the first time) to withdraw from draft consideration. As of Monday evening, there were no official pronouncements from the four most high profile underclassmen — Mike Dunleavy (Duke), Casey Jacobsen and Curtis Borchardt (Stanford) and Roger Mason (Virginia) — who were still holding returning to college as an option. The feeling throughout the league was that Jacobsen (who was expected to make his decision public on Tuesday evening, once he arrives in New Jersey for a workout set for the on Wednesday), Borchardt and Mason would stay in the draft. And what about Dunleavy, projected as either the No. 3 (Golden State) or No. 4 (Memphis) if he gives up his senior season? Too close to call, most believe.
  • Chris Wilcox of Maryland — whose agent is former boxing promoter Rock Newman — is scheduled to hold his third and final workout Wednesday in Phoenix. He was apparently quite impressive — no shock, there — in earlier workouts in Chicago and New York. If Dunleavy stays in the draft and there aren¿t a plethora of trades in the lottery spots, the likely falling of the dominoes could mean a No. 6 (Cleveland) or No. 7 (New York) selection of Wilcox.
  • Two projected lottery picks, forward Qyntel Woods and swingman Caron Butler, worked out for the L.A. and were headed to Oakland for Tuesday workouts with Golden State. Woods reportedly shot and handled the ball very well in front of ¿ personnel, including Elgin Baylor and Alvin Gentry. Butler is expected to be long gone before the make the first of their two (eight and 12) lottery choices.
  • The NBA office distributed a memo to its front offices about the contract situation of 6-9¼ forward/center Nene Hilario (San Carlos, Brazil). If a team believes the player¿s sticky contract dispute with Vasco de Gamo (the team he signed with two years ago) can be resolved, some draft observers wouldn¿t be surprised if he were to go as high as No. 8 (Clippers). He¿s been very, very impressive in workouts.
  • The Benetton Treviso team captured the Italian League championship Saturday night and two of its players, Nikoloz Tskitishvili and Bostjan Nachbar, could be in the U.S. shortly to work out for selected franchises. The 6-11 Tskitishvili, who turned 19 in April and didn¿t play in the final game, is a sure-fire lottery selection and could be among the top five picks. Nachbar, who is 6-8 and turns 22 next month, could get into the lottery with great workouts.
  • Wagner has had, by some accounts, brilliant workouts. But the abundance of high caliber power forward/small forward prospects — and the respective needs of some of the teams — could still mean he won¿t get picked until the 10-12 (Miami, Washington and ) range. Senior writer Frank Burlison can be reached at his e-mail address, fburlison@foxsports.com.
  • Tagged: Pelicans, Bulls, Cavaliers, Rockets, Clippers, Nets, Wizards, Grizzlies, Baron Davis, Andre Miller, Jason Kidd, Jason Williams

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