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NBA draft well-positioned as point guard sweepstakes

THE BALTIMORE SUN

In certain years, the NBA draft is mostly about one player who will transform a team - Shaquille O'Neal or Patrick Ewing, Yao Ming or LeBron James.

The 2005 draft, which will be held tonight at the theater inside New York's Madison Square Garden, is mostly about one position - point guard. As a result, the future of many teams will be changed for the better.

After Utah center Andrew Bogut and North Carolina forward Marvin Williams are announced as the first two picks, no fewer than five point guards are expected to be taken in the first round.

Three of them - Deron Williams of Illinois, Chris Paul of Wake Forest and Raymond Felton of North Carolina - are sure to be lottery picks. Jarrett Jack of Georgia Tech, Roko Ukic of Croatia and Monta Ellis, a high school player from Jackson, Miss., also could be first-round choices.

"This is a tremendous guard-heavy draft up top," said Kenny Williamson, director of scouting for the Charlotte Bobcats, whose team could take Deron Williams or Paul. "I don't think there's been this many quality point guards since the year Andre Miller, Steve Francis and Baron Davis came out [in 1999]."

Said Tony Barone Sr., scouting director for the Memphis Grizzlies, whose team has interest in Jack: "I think it's a deep draft period, and it certainly is a deep draft in relation to the numbers of point guards who have a chance to make it in this league."

The list is seemingly endless.

Along with the potential first-round picks, there's a passel of point guards who could be taken in the second round: Washington's Nate Robinson, Marquette's Travis Diener, Florida's Anthony Roberson, Atlanta area high school star Louis Williams and Maryland's John Gilchrist.

"Even guys who didn't make it to Chicago [for the NBA's pre-draft camp] are going to be considered," said Ryan Blake, who runs the league's scouting bureau with his father, longtime talent guru Marty Blake. "There are more point guards available; you just don't know if they're going to be good enough.

"What's going to be interesting is to see when it goes past the top three [or four] point guards - Felton, Williams and Paul and maybe Jack, if someone likes him - you might have a lot going in the second round and you might not have that many."

Blake said of the point guards that went to Chicago, Diener was the one who seemed to be the most intriguing.

"Travis Diener played well enough to be considered as a guy you want highly regarded to be in your summer league to see if he can make a team," Blake said of the former Marquette star, whose stock dropped when he was injured last season.

Ryan Blake wouldn't predict which of the top three would go first, but it will likely depend on the makeup of the team drafting.

If you have a fairly athletic team in need of a cerebral player, it would likely be Deron Williams. If you need a player to penetrate, it would be Paul. If you need both, it would be Felton.

Because there are few true centers available - even the 7-foot Bogut is considered by many to be more of a power forward - the premium on having an elite point guard has increased in recent years.

"We have a lot of [younger] point guards, but if you look around, you're seeing a lot of veteran point guards being able to play more than just effectively," said Blake, alluding to players such as Gary Payton of the Boston Celtics. "It's such a knowledge position.

"As the depth of point guards depletes, you're looking for those other point guards, the younger ones, that may have that knowledge. It can be difficult [to find] because you have guys that are coming up that don't have that game toughness."

Barone said the transition to playing the point is the most difficult of any position, especially for those coming straight from high school.

"We're not talking about a position where all he has to do is A. We're talking about a position where he has to do A, B, C and D if he's going to be in this league," said Barone. Availability doesn't automatically mean that a team will take a point guard.

"I had a call a few years ago from a kid who was an early entry and said he was the fifth-best point guard in the draft. I asked him, 'Here's the most important question: How many teams are picking up point guards?' " said Blake. "He didn't have that answer."

Blake said he was surprised not only by the number of players who declared for the draft before their eligibility expired (109, 51 of whom later withdrew), but also by some who did.

There are a number who aren't true point guards who will likely not get drafted because that's the only position scouts figure they will play in the NBA. Among those who fit in this category are Indiana's Bracey Wright and Arizona's Salim Stoudamire.

"Do they have the ability to play point guard? Maybe," said Blake. "But if you're an early entry and you have a number of point guards that are proven and are highly regarded, what makes you want to come out?"

The biggest surprise in Chicago could have been Daryl Dorsey, a former Dunbar star who fell off the map when he went to junior college in Florida and never made it to a Division I school.

Dorsey played in nearly all the U.S.-based minor leagues the past couple of years, turning up most recently in the World Basketball League.

"He's a leader, he's an absolute point guard. He's not a great shooter, but he can do a lot of things," said Blake.

NBA draft

When: Tonight, 7:30

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York

TV: ESPN

First pick: Bucks

THE SUN'S MOCK DRAFT

1. Milwaukee

Andrew Bogut, Utah, C: Will last year's college player of the year get the Bucks back to the playoffs?

2. Atlanta

Marvin Williams, North Carolina, F: Former Tar Heel won't come off the bench as he did his freshman year in Chapel Hill. 3. Charlotte*

Deron Williams, Illinois, G: Heady point guard would fit into Bobcats' (or Trail Blazers') plans.

4. New Orleans

Chris Paul, Wake Forest, G: Needs a point guard to replace Baron Davis, and former Deacon is a smaller version.

5. Portland*

Martell Webster, Seattle Prep, F: High school star with Northwest roots could make immediate impact.

6. Utah

Raymond Felton, North Carolina, G: Will try to fill John Stockton's big shoes, which no one has been able to do yet.

7. Toronto

Gerald Green, Gulf Shores (Texas) Acad., F/G: Could be the best athlete in the draft.

8. New York

Channing Frye, Arizona, C: Proposed Kurt Thomas trade leaves need for size in Knicks' frontcourt.

9. Golden State

Charlie Villanueva, Connecticut, F: Stock has risen during pre-draft workouts.

10. Lakers

Antoine Wright, Texas A&M;, G: Phil Jackson loves big guards, but don't the Lakers need a point? 11. Orlando

Yaroslav Korolev, Russia, F: Will learn the point forward position from one of the best, Grant Hill.

12. Clippers

Hakim Warrick, Syracuse, F: Clips had lost patience with former No. 1 pick Chris Wilcox even before weekend arrest. 13. Portland*

Fran Vazquez, Spain, F: Trail Blazers hope he turns out to be another Pau Gasol.

14. Minnesota

Andrew Bynum, St. Joseph (N.J.) HS: T'Wolves did pretty well the last time they got a high schooler.

15. New Jersey

Roko Ukic, Croatia, G: The 20-year-old fits perfectly as Jason Kidd's backup - and successor.

16. Toronto

Danny Granger, New Mexico, F: Solid rebounder would be great complement to Chris Bosh in frontcourt.

17. Indiana

Sean May, North Carolina, F: Former Tar Heel will prove you can go home again.

18. Boston

Monta Ellis, Lanier (Miss.) HS, G: Can get some valuable time playing behind Gary Payton.

19. Memphis

Joey Graham, Oklahoma State, F: Grizzlies could use some defense and toughness inside.

20. Denver

Francisco Garcia, Louisville, G: Fits perfectly into Nuggets' run-and-gun style.

21. Phoenix

Rashad McCants, North Carolina, G: With Quentin Richardson apparently New York-bound, Suns need another shooter.

22. Denver

Ersan Ilyasova, Turkey, F: Probably could use another year or two in Europe before NBA-ready.

23. Sacramento

Wayne Simien, Kansas, F: Injury-prone in college, but would give Kings an inside presence.

24. Houston

Johan Petro, France, C: Rockets need insurance at center if Yao Ming bolts for Lakers after this season.

25. Seattle

Chris Taft, Pittsburgh, F: Stock has fallen during preseason workouts, but still viewed with huge upside inside.

26. Detroit

Jarrett Jack, Georgia Tech, G: Off-season ankle problems have led to sporadic workouts, but Pistons need another backup at point.

27. Utah

Ike Diogu, Arizona State, F: Just as Felton will have to replace Stockton, fans will look at Diogu to replace Karl Malone, who's been missed.

28. San Antonio

Andray Blatche, South Kent (Conn.) HS, F: Since NBA champs don't need much, the 6-11 shooter could take time to develop.

29. Miami

Martynas Andriuskevicius, Lithuania, C: Given the age of Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning, Heat may need this 7-3 prospect.

30. New York

Julius Hodge, North Carolina State, F: A lifelong dream fulfilled for former city high school star.

Note: The Sun used mock drafts from NBA Draft.net, Inside Hoops.net, Sports Illustrated and the opinions of several scouts to compile its mock draft

*Possible trade between Charlotte and Portland.

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