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Pointed questions: Predicting NBA draft not exactly an easy task

Published: Sunday, June 26 2005 12:00 a.m. MDT

Each year, it seems, the challenge of predicting how the NBA Draft will go gets tougher.

And it's the foreign players who are the chief reason.

Take Martynas Andriuskevicius, for instance. The skinny 6-foot-10 Serbian was widely considered a lottery pick when the season ended a couple months ago, even though he's also considered a long-term project. Now, nobody's sure when he'll be drafted.

And this isn't a case of predictors disagreeing by a half-dozen spots, as with such apparent lottery locks as Raymond Felton and Gerald Green.

Sportsline.com offers three mock drafts, which have Andriuskevicius going at either No. 5, or No. 14 or No. 30.

It's obviously easier to spell his name than to foresee where he'll be drafted, and that's saying something.

Fran Vazquez is another good example. The 6-10 power forward from Spain is generally considered a mid-lottery pick. And two Sportsline.com mocks have him going at Nos. 6 and 7. But the third projects him as a No. 24 pick.

Examples like this abound, but you get the idea. Clearly, after the first few spots it's all guesswork. Most predictors are more than happy to actually land eight or nine of their top-10 picks in the top 10, and to come within about five spots on everybody else.

But all it takes is one drastically wrong pick to throw a mock effort way off-kilter.

Last year, that pick was Pavel Podkolzin. The 7-5 Russian was projected to go anywhere from No. 13 up, with some predicting he would go as high as No. 5. But he slid all the way to No. 21, where the Jazz selected him just to trade him to Dallas.

This past season, incidentally, Podkolzin played a total of 10 minutes and scored one point.

Apparently, some mock drafters think Andriuskevicius or Vazquez could be this year's Podkolzin.

NBA GMs should beware of players like Podkolzin who "slide" as the draft gets under way. Most of the time, there's good reason for that slide, as picks like Podkolzin and Curtis Borchardt have proven.

Want more evidence of lack of agreement? In recent weeks, the term "best European in the draft" or some variation thereof has been applied to Vazquez, Andriuskevicius, Russian small forward Yaroslav Korolev and probably some guys who are foreign but not from Europe.

Sports writers aren't notoriously heady when it comes to geographic matters.

This year, the lack of a consensus seems to permeate the draft right from the top. As of Saturday, the Bucks still weren't saying whether they planned to use the No. 1 pick on Utah's Andrew Bogut or North Carolina's Marvin Williams, perhaps because they're so busy answering questions about the sudden axing of coach Terry Porter.

Most think they'll go with Bogut, making Williams the next guy taken, though there is some feeling that the Hawks would use the No. 2 pick on Wake Forest point guard Chris Paul over Williams.

Paul and Illinois' Deron Williams are the top two point guards in the draft, but that seems to be all anyone can agree on, as there are widely divergent opinions on which is better.

Gerald Green, fresh out of Gulf Shores Academy in Houston, is everyone's favorite high school player in this year's draft. He's rumored to be going anywhere from No. 3, to the Blazers, to No. 8, which may be wishful thinking by a Knicks fan. And the Blazers seem an unlikely landing place for Green, too, considering that rumors have the Blazers listening to all sorts of trade offers for their pick.


E-mail: rich@desnews.com

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