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Draft roundup: Points disappoint

2006-01-23 00:00

  Draft roundup: Points disappoint

  It's time for another NBA draft update. Who's on the rise and who's falling? Each week we update our Top 100 and highlight a few of the best and worst from the week.

  Who's No. 1? At the beginning of the season, it looked as though the strength of the draft would be at the point guard position. So far, that hasn't panned out, as most of the top point guard prospects are off to shaky starts to the season.

  In the last two drafts, a total of five point guards have gone in the top five. At the beginning of this season, it looked like two more point guards might go in the top five in 2006. Both Kentucky's Rajon Rondo and Texas' Daniel Gibson were ranked in the top five in our preseason Top 100.

  But neither has been a standout performer this season. Neither have other top point guard prospects like Memphis' Darius Washington, UConn's Marcus Williams, Temple's Mardy Collins, Spain's Sergio Rodriguez, UCLA's Jordan Farmar, Illinois' Dee Brown, Iowa State's Curtis Stinson or Oklahoma's Terrell Everett.

  Rondo is having the best season of the group, but that's relative. It seemed like he had improved his shot this summer, but whatever shooting touch he gained, he now seems to have lost. He has also seemed very passive of late for such an explosive player, leading some NBA scouts to question his leadership skills. Rondo is still the best athlete of the group, an awesome rebounder and a lightning quick defender. But he hasn't put it all together for Kentucky this season and has seen his stock slip a bit.

  Gibson started off the season horribly, but he's been better in conference play. Although no one questions his ability to both score and shoot the ball, scouts have been turned off by his inability to run the team as a point guard and his low-assist, high-turnover rate. Many scouts now project him as a two guard in the pros.

  That still makes him a first-round prospect, but not the high lottery prospect we once thought he could be.

  A suspension for selling stolen laptops ruined the first part of Marcus Williams' season. However, UConn's starting point guard is finally back and he's starting to get his groove on. A 14-point, 11-assist game against Syracuse on Monday impressed of number of scouts who watched the game. His stock is back on the rise, though it's still not back to where it was before Williams' off-court problems.

  Everyone else on the list is just trying to sneak into the first round at this point. Brown can't buy a bucket. Washington's and Everett's numbers are down across the board. Collins can't hit a 3-point shot. Neither can Farmar or Stinson. And every one of them has been turnover prone this season.

  As of Wednesday, it sure appears that teams looking to solve their point guard problems in the draft might want to wait until next year. Rondo, Gibson, Williams, Washington, Farmar and Rodriguez are all underclassmen and might be better off staying in school and trying it again next year.

  Sleeper: Teams are still on the prowl, looking for a few dominant big men to step up in the draft. One sophomore big stepped up in a huge way in front of a host of NBA scouts on Wednesday: N.C. State big man Cedric Simmons was awesome against Duke, scoring a career-high 28 points and grabbing nine boards against the No. 1 team in the nation.

  Simmons has the stuff of an NBA lottery prospect. He's a big-time athlete with a body that's beginning to fill out. He's an excellent shot blocker and rebounder, thanks to his explosive leaping ability and long arms. He's put on quite a bit of muscle this season, leading scouts to believe he might be able to play center in the pros.

  The downside for Simmons is that the 28-point outbursts are few and far between. He is still a pretty raw player on the offensive end. He has no shooting touch to speak of and gets most of his points via dunks.

  In fact, it makes you really wonder whether Duke's Shelden Williams is going to be able to guard anyone in the pros. Simmons isn't the first big man to have a career night against Williams and the Dukies this season. He's given up huge nights to Marco Killingsworth and LaMarcus Aldridge as well this season.

  Still, Simmons picked a great night to have a breakout game. There were lots of scouts in the stands to watch Williams and J.J. Redick, and even though Duke got the win, it was Simmons who stood out.

  This is a terrible draft for bigs, so anyone with a pulse is catching the attention of scouts right now. Simmons isn't ready for the NBA, but he's got a lot of potential, which could be enough to get him drafted in the first round, or even the lottery.

  College kids: In scouts' never-ending search for big men, another player really impressed this week.

  Scouts have been watching Alabama's Jermareo Davidson ever since he declared for the draft last spring. He has begun to look more and more like an NBA prospect. He has been excellent of late, going for 21 and nine against Mississippi, 28 and eight against Kentucky and 21 and eight against Arkansas.

  Davidson has the athletic ability and size to be a star in the NBA. He's already an excellent shot blocker and rebounder. Scouts have just been waiting on him to develop a better offensive game and to gain some weight. Davidson still is too skinny to play in the post at either end at the pro level, and scouts do wonder why he hasn't gained more mass in the past three years at Alabama.

  Still, the production combined with his athleticism should get him a long look in the first round if Davidson decides to enter. Since he's already entered once and withdrawn, this is his last chance. So he'd better be sure.

  Although most of the point guard prospects this year have been disappointing, one relative unknown is gaining favor in a number of NBA circles: Villanova point guard Kyle Lowry, who has been steadily moving up our rankings all year. While Randy Foye and Allen Ray have been getting all the love, Lowry has been quietly impressing scouts with his steady play. For years, scouts have loved his motor and his willingness to lay it all out on the line on the defensive end. He's got a strong body, long arms and good athleticism, he's physical enough and he never seems to try to do too much.

  Although scouts have complained in the past that he was a poor shooter and a poor offensive player, he has improved greatly this season. He's shooting at an impressive 57 percent clip from the field this season and has been a key player in Villanova's resurgence. Right now he's still a second-round prospect, but if he plays another year at this level, he's going to get a lot of attention.

  In terms of big guys, it's getting tougher and tougher to ignore the way Denver's Yemi Nicholson is playing this season. Unlike most of the other big guys in the draft, Nicholson has the size and the body of an NBA center. He's putting up great numbers, averaging 19.7 ppg, 11.7 rpg and 2.7 bpg and shooting 59 percent from the field. His 28-point, 16-rebound game against Northern Texas was just one of many huge games he's had for the Pioneers this season.

  So why isn't he ranked higher? First, he's putting up those numbers in the Sun Belt conference, not stellar competition for a 7-foot, 260-pound monster like Nicholson. Second, scouts question his conditioning and overall athleticism. He doesn't get up and down the floor as well as scouts want. Still, in a draft devoid of bigs, he's going to get a lot of individual workouts come draft time.

  International man of mystery: Brazilian forward Tiago Splitter has come on strong lately with two very good Euroleague performances for TAU Ceramica in the past two weeks. Splitter had 17 points and eight rebounds against Olimpija in just 18 minutes of play last week, and followed it up with an impressive 13-point, nine-rebound performance against AEK on Wednesday. If his agent can figure out a way to get his NBA buyout in order, his stock will start moving up again.

  He's fallen …… Can he get up? Everyone's looking for a center to step up and grab a place in the lottery. But the minute everyone gets excited about one, he stumbles.

  Last week, Bradley's Patrick O'Bryant found himself in this space. This week it's KU's C.J. Giles.

  Giles has awesome size and ability, but he's still trying to figure out the game. Lately, the puzzle seems to be getting harder, not easier. After several strong showings early in the season, Giles has been in a major rut. He hasn't had more than six rebounds since Dec. 19 and he's had only one double-digit scoring game in that same period. With his minutes dwindling, I don't think it's a stretch to say that we might not be seeing Giles in this year's draft.

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