Oh Canada, hold your hats. The Magnificent Seven are headed for Vancouver.
Gunslingers Mike Bibby, Vince Carter, Larry Hughes, Antawn Jamison, Raef LaFrentz, Michael Olowokandi and Paul Pierce headline Wednesday's NBA Draft class at B.C. Place (TNT, 5:30 p.m. MDT)."I think there's seven premier players and after that it's as wide open as I've seen any draft," said Scott Layden, Utah Jazz vice president of basketball operations. "I don't know if it's weak as much as it just levels off."
After the seventh pick, Layden and others around the league said the next 10 selections will come from a pool of 20-30 players. Only Michigan's Robert "Tractor" Traylor and 19-year-old German import Dirk Nowitzki appear capable of cracking the top seven in a draft featuring an abundance of small forwards and shooting guards.
Marty Blake, the NBA's director of scouting, said players drafted as late as No. 35 could pan out.
"This draft could wind up surprising some people," Blake said. "It's not bad."
Good news for the Jazz, who own the 29th and final pick in the first round. Past No. 29 draftees include Chicago's Toni Kukoc and San Antonio's Vinny Del Negro. And don't forget about Utah's plucking of Bryon Russell and Shandon Anderson in the second round.
Layden, however, isn't smiling. As usual, Utah's decisionmaker is wearing his poker face.
"Our focus right now is to go into the draft and get the best player available," he said.
Yada. Yada. Yada.
Layden confirmed that the Jazz will bring some players in for a closer look this week, but he declined to reveal names.
Yada. Yada. Yada.
One potential draftee who won't be working out at Westminster College is University of Utah center Michael Doleac. Noting a shortage of big guys in the draft, Layden expects Doleac to be taken early.
"I think he's going to be terrific," Layden said.
So much so, in fact, that Utah reportedly tried to work out a deal to move into the top eight and select the local college star. The New York Daily News reported Sunday that the Jazz declined their option on Orlando's No. 13 pick after failing to find a way to package the selection and move into position to draft Doleac.
The 6-foot-10 pivotman could be taken as early as No. 7 by Sacramento or Milwaukee at No. 9. Doleac's draft position, however, could change drastically if Traylor and Nowitzki are taken earlier than expected.
Nowitzki is coveted by the Mavericks at No. 6, and Traylor is rumored to be in a deal involving Toronto and Vancouver. The Raptors may take the "Tractor" at No. 4 and ship him and guard Doug Christie to the Grizzlies for Olowokandi. The Clippers, though, could throw a monkey wrench into the works if they decide to take the 7-footer from Pacific instead of Bibby, a point guard, with the top overall selection.
With the draft just 48 hours away, speculation is mounting across the league. Confusion will eventually develop into clarification, promises one general manager.
Only time will tell if he's right.
Draft day party
The Utah Jazz, who have the 29th and 57th picks, will host a free draft day party at the Delta Center Wednesday. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. with the 1998 NBA Draft being broadcast live on the Delta center JumboTron beginning at 5:30 p.m. The first 2,000 fans through the turnstiles will receive a free hot dog as well a discount coupon for Thursday's Utah Starzz game against Charlotte.