DraftExpress Mailbag (#5)

DraftExpress Mailbag (#5)
Mar 11, 2006, 12:38 am
The fifth edition of our mailbag. Every week or so we will try to answer the best questions we are asked either by email or other methods. Questions about specific prospects, requests for features on the site, the policies, methods and principles we try to incorporate into the site, complaints, praise or anything else is fair game. If you would like to write an observation about a prospect, team or trend we are seeing lately anywhere in the world, feel free to as well. If you would like to participate, please get in touch using the “contact us” form or send me an email .

Many of the questions we’ve gotten over the past month revolve around whether or not specific players will declare for the NBA draft or not. We’ll answer them here all in one shot.

The following players were asked about:

LaMarcus Aldridge
Joakim Noah
Quincy Douby
Daniel Gibson
Kyle Lowry
PJ Tucker
Jordan Farmar
Richard Roby
Guillermo Diaz
Shannon Brown
Tiago Splitter
Goran Dragic


Let me just start by saying that at this point in the year, I wouldn’t believe anything you read in the newspapers about who is coming out or not. Most players will say that they are staying out of respect to their coaches and teammates, in order to not make their NBA aspirations a distraction as the NCAA tournament approaches. For the most part, they will all say that they are “staying all four years,” or are “not thinking about the NBA,” etc, even though history shows us that this is almost never the case. The players don’t want to be torn apart by the fans and media if they have a bad outing this late in the season (i.e- “that guy thinks he’s an NBA player after the way he played? Crazy”) and they basically stand nothing to gain by making an issue out of this at this point of the year. If they want to end up declaring, they will do so after the season is over, not mid-way through. Let’s remember that in March of 2005, we were all being told that Chris Paul, Marvin Williams, Ike Diogu, Gerald Green, Martell Webster and Jarrett Jack were all definitely staying another year. In years past, players like TJ Ford, Caron Butler, Shaun Livingston, Luol Deng, Devin Harris and countless others were all 4 player college players without a doubt (according to them).

Anyway, here is what we are hearing from the players themselves, their families, their coaches, NBA scouts, or other people who might be involved in the decision making process:

LaMarcus Aldridge- This is an interesting case. From what we are being told, his coaches at Texas are really putting the clamps on him to stay another year and continue to develop his game. They think he’s not ready at all for the NBA right now, and that another year could benefit him immensely. There is some truth to that, but the question is, will Aldridge really pass up being a top 5 pick considering his injury history and the fact that his stock can only go down if he doesn’t develop as much as some might hope? Unless Daniel Gibson turns into TJ Ford next year, which doesn’t seem very likely, will there be anybody there to get him the ball, or will he starve in the post again the way he did so many times this year? So far, it looks like Aldridge is saying all the right things in regards to staying another two years. That’s probably what most people would do to get everyone off their back. We’re talking about a guy that declared for the draft out of high school already, so you have to think that he has at least some kind of itch to play in the NBA.

Joakim Noah- Similar story in terms of the quotes he’s giving the media, but we’re seeing a very different approach from Florida’s coaching staff. Billy Donovan has always been known as an NBA-friendly coach ever since Brett Nelson took his advice and made the fatal decision to stay another year after his sophomore season. Donovan learned his lesson from that, as Nelson went from being a likely first rounder had he come out to a player that could barely get a summer league invite after two disappointing seasons, and is now no longer playing basketball. With that in mind, Donovan and his coaching staff have begun to collect all the necessary information from NBA GMs and Executives to ensure that Noah makes an informed decision regarding whether he’ll enter the draft or not, as well as having the right people are around him. The latest from behind the scenes at Florida says that Noah is expected to at least test the waters if he continues to play as well as he has lately, in the NCAA tournament.

Quincy Douby- This one will be short and sweet. Don’t buy anything you read in the Rutgers friendly papers. Quincy Douby is gone from what we’ve been told by a number of sources. And with the way he played in the Big East tournament, not just his 31 points against Villanova, but also the 8 rebounds and 8 assists against Seton Hall, it looks like Douby’s working his way into the top-20 as well.

Daniel Gibson- I’m not hearing anything concrete on Gibson at the moment, except from scouts who think he would be crazy to declare unless he wants to be a 2nd round pick. He’s also saying that he’s staying all four years, but in this case, I tend to believe him a bit more since it could turn out happening out of necessity rather than as a choice. He’s had a very poor year and without an excellent NCAA tournament would be foolish to burn his draft card this early.

Kyle Lowry- It seems like we may have jumped the gun a bit by putting him in the 2006 mock draft. According to someone that is very close to him, he’s 100% committed to returning to Villanova and showing everyone that he can lead a team by himself as the #1 option. When he does decide to enter, there will be no testing the waters or pre-draft camps for him; he wants his entry into the draft to come along with a one-way ticket to the Green Room. This one sounds a bit more legit, but I have to wonder what will happen if Lowry leads Villanova to the Final Four this year already and plays the way we all know he can along the way. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

PJ Tucker- Texas will again try to do everything they can to keep him for another year, but PJ Tucker looks like a lock to test the waters from what we are being told by everyone, including Tucker himself. His stock is all over the board, with some scouts saying they could see him slipping into the late first round and others saying they wouldn’t draft him if the NBA went back to having 10 rounds. He needs to be careful.

Jordan Farmar- This is a tough one, and again I don’t have any inside information except for hearing all year long that Farmar really wants to declare for the draft and play in the NBA, but that it’s unclear whether or not he’s in a position to do so. It looks like DraftExpress is a little higher on Farmar than most scouts we’ve talked to. It was the exact same way almost with Deron Williams in his sophomore year, though, and Farmar is a better player than Deron was at the same point in their career. This means that Farmar might need to go back for his junior year like Deron did, and what UCLA returns could be just as talented as Illinois was that year. An especially weak crop of point guards could change things, so stay tuned.

Richard Roby- We spoke with Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton last month about this subject, and he told us that that Roby will likely indeed up declaring for the draft when it’s all said and done, just to test the waters. We’re personally not 100% sure if that is such a great idea considering the way he’s looked down the stretch when his team needed him most, but that’s how things look right now. Roby shot an abysmal 51/152 (33%) in the months of February and March, saving his worst for last with a 3/18 shooting performance in a 30 point loss to Texas A&M in the Big 12 tournament that essentially eliminated the Buffaloes from contention for an at-large bid. As you may have read on DraftExpress over the past two seasons, we actually very much like Roby’s game and think he has a definite NBA future. He still has a long ways to go as a player, though, particularly in terms of adding weight to his frame, improving his ball-handling skills and shot-creating ability, and becoming a better man to man defender. Burning his draft card in his sophomore year could put him in a very tough predicament next year if he ends up returning. Just ask Jermareo Davidson or Marcus Slaughter about that.

Guillermo Diaz- Diaz is about as close as you can get to being a lock to enter the draft, as well as hire an agent. It’s a move he should have made last year when his stock was at its highest. Diaz was coming off an outstanding sophomore season, averaging nearly 19 points a game on 46% shooting. He had a great combination going for him of not only producing extremely well, but also having an upside that was considered to be nearly off the charts after coming out of nowhere and taking the ACC by storm. Miami’s coaching staff thought otherwise, though, and Diaz was coerced into returning for his junior year with Coach Frank Haith implying that he will end up being a top 5 pick after he learns to play the point and improves his ball-handling skills. That obviously never happened. And while Diaz improved in many facets of his game as a junior, his production dropped as teams scouted and learned to contain him better and knee problems took away much of the explosiveness that made him such an outstanding prospect to begin with. One year later, Diaz appears to have recognized his mistake and will enter the draft this year, most likely for good. Right now his stock is all over the board. Some scouts we talk to think he’s a late lottery pick, and others project him to go early in the 2nd round.

Shannon Brown- Shannon Brown apparently didn’t like the fact that he was placed on our 2006 mock draft this past week, as he was bombarded with questions from the media regarding whether he will enter the draft or not. "It's funny, because people make that decision without asking me," Brown told the Detroit Free Press. "I haven't told anybody anything. I just plan on playing basketball until the season is over. Whatever happens after that happens…"But I plan on staying for four years." Quite an ambiguous answer indeed. The reason he was put on the 2006 mock draft is because we’ve been told by people that are close to him that he is almost certain to enter, and that Tom Izzo will not just refuse to stand in his way, but will even encourage him to go if he’s projected as a first rounder after seeing what happened to Alan Anderson (who went undrafted) a year ago. Brown has been playing outstanding basketball as of late, and has helped his stock considerably all season long. Next time we’ll be sure to look up Shannon Brown in the East Lansing Yellow Pages.

Tiago Splitter- We spoke with his American agent Herb Rudoy to clarify what Splitter had said in an interview in Spain about wanting to play out his entire multi-year contract with Tau Vitoria. Rudoy said that only at the end of the season will Splitter decide whether he wants to enter the draft this year. Only after that happens will negotiations with Tau begin to decide the amount it will take to buy out his contract. Just to remind you, Splitter has no escape clauses in his contract whatsoever, and is completely up to the mercy of Tau in this regard, if he even wants to enter. Yet another bizarre twist in the never-ending Tiago Splitter NBA draft saga.

Goran Dragic-- Dragic is a hot name these days amongst NBA scouts, and it appears that the word has gotten to him too, since we’ve been told by his agent to expect his name on the early-entry list come April 28th. Dragic is a 1986 prospect, meaning that he will only have one more shot at the draft (in either 2007 or 2008) if he withdraws.


Last year we saw a run on bigs after the top 6 who we knew were set. I like most had the top 6 just prior to the draft with the draft starting with Toronto and Charlie Villanueva. We then saw a run on all the bigs through the end of the lotto.

Given this, and the premium on size, rebounding and D, why is Shelden Williams always down around 10 or so? I don't think Splitter will be in the draft AGAIN, which places even more demand up front. With the top 4 pretty much a lock at this point, I would expect Shelden, who has Okafor-like numbers to be closer to 5th than 10th. But I'm not a GM.



I’m not a GM either. It’s true, we did see a run of 5 straight power forwards or centers taken from 7-12 last year, but I am not sure we can only look at that as the lone factor why Williams will get drafted in a certain spot. Keep in mind that a big reason why picks 7-12 were all big guys last year was the fact that picks 2-6 were all guards or wings. This year we have 3 big guys projected in the top 5.

Every draft is different, and every one of those 5 players were completely different players and prospects than Williams is. I think that Shelden’s stock is going to end up being somewhere from 6-14 when it’s all said and done, so putting him at #10 right now is about as good a guess as any I suppose. If he was bigger or had more “star” potential, he would be closer to #5 I believe.


Hi Jon!

If a team had chance to take one player out of the drafts top 3 big man (LaMarcus Aldridge, Andrea Bargnani, Shelden Williams), would they have to take Bargnani because of the match up problems he presents? He seems like a very good package on the offensive side of the ball. Meanwhile Aldridge may have potential but doesn't strike me as a player worthy of the number 1 pick. It seems like there is nothing he does exceptional. And for Williams, while he seems to be the most developed of the 3 on the defensive end he seems too small and mechanical on offense. So what’s your take who the best big man in the draft is and why?

Thanks in advance,

best regards,


I think it really depends on the team that is drafting and who else is there on the board. Aldridge, Bargnani and Williams are 3 completely different players, all filling different needs for a particular team and their own style of play and personnel situation. You say that Aldridge doesn’t do anything exceptional, but I would counter and say that his complete package of offensive skills is like no other big man draft prospect I can think of in the last 5 years, except maybe Gasol. Aldridge is quite a bit longer and more athletic than him anyway.

Bargnani is a great player in his own right, but I don’t think he could play for any coach in the NBA the way Williams or Aldridge could. He’s the type of player that will have to be fit into a very specific type of offense for him to be effective. There are some defensive and rebounding adjustments that need to be taken into consideration as well. Not every coach will be willing to utilize him, and that’s really the key to his success in the NBA.

Who is the best big man in the draft? I still think Aldridge personally, but that is probably because I have seen every one of his incredibly dominant outings where he showed everything you could possibly ask a 6-11 guy to show. It’s not that clear cut, though. I might feel different when I can find some time to watch this package of DVD’s I just got in from Europe.


Looking at your list of NCAA All-Conference teams, if Terence Dials is the player of the year in the Big 10, how come he is not in any mock drafts?


That’s a good question. To start with, I don’t think Dials is very far from the mock draft at this point, he was in fact on it earlier in the year. I want to see a little more of him, but the game he had today against Penn State didn’t do much to convince me that he’s being underrated. I do think that the correlation between winning player of the year in your conference and playing in the NBA is probably smaller than you think. There are a million cases of outstanding college players who either did not get drafted or got drafted and did not stick around for very long.

Now, about Dials specifically, there are a few things I think he will need to show in pre-draft camps to help his stock. One would be a face-up game. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him step outside and hit the 16 foot jumper or put the ball on the floor. He is a fantastic back to the basket player in college who scores by just overpowering people with his post moves, but you have to wonder how much that will translate in the NBA when everyone is that much bigger, stronger and more athletic than him. Right now he’s essentially as 6-9 (we hope) center with just average athleticism, but fantastic strength, footwork and post moves. A big part of Ohio State’s offense is built around getting him touches on the block in position to score (much like Marco Killingsworth at Indiana), and there is just no way an NBA team is going to call that many (if any) plays for him. Defensively, there are questions about how he will fare guarding the more athletic power forwards as well. Have no doubt, though, Dials will get plenty of chances to show us (at the 2 pre-draft camps) as well as NBA teams that there is more to his game than meets the eye. I’m coming in with an open mind hoping that he does.


Corey Belser was named National Defensive Player of the Year by College

Gentlemen - This kid needs some pub and recognition. Can you please put something on your website re: him winning national defensive player of the year. Maybe also throw in something about him needing shot at Portsmouth. He has not yet been invited. Thanks.


I agree with you, and we suggested him as an invite in an article last week. He really is a unique player in this draft. We’re talking about a guy that has held Adam Morrison to 6, 9, 25, 16, and 11 points in his career and then was on his way to absolutely shutting him down in the WCC semifinals before the zebras decided they weren’t going to let that happen (as they always do with Gonzaga in the WCC). He’s got great size and extremely long arms, is very physical and moves his feet extremely intelligently. He’s not much of an offensive player, but he shoots the 3 at a pretty good rate, which means that NBA people are probably going to compare him to Bruce Bowen. What’s ironic is that his head coach, Brad Holland (a former NBA player in his own right), coached Bowen at Cal-State Fullerton. From what he told us last week, he feels that Belser is a better defender at this point in his career than Bowen was, as well as a more complete basketball player. An Eastern conference scout I spoke with said he expects him to be invited to Portsmouth just based off what the way he’s shut down Adam Morrison over the past two years. I believe he’ll be a popular guy to invite to workouts featuring first rounds prospects just to give them some better competition and raise the intensity of the workout. At the end of the day, I would not be surprised to see him end up on someone’s roster. Good call.


When is the next mailbag article coming up?

My question for you is how would you rank the following centers? Tiago Spliter, Shelden Williams, Hilton Armstrong Jr., Josh Boone, and Aaron Gray. Aaron Gray is just dominating college basketball, should he be declaring?



Here is the next mailbag. Sorry for the delay. A lot of people emailed me to ask when the next one is coming up, but not enough sent great questions! I just didn’t have much time in the past few weeks since every free moment I had I spent on watching games and writing scouting reports, as well as talking to people on the phone to make sure we’re always in the loop. Keep emailing me questions and I will do my best to answer them either personally or in the mailbag. You can also use our forums which I check every day to ask questions.

This is a tentative ranking, but here goes nothing:

Tiago Splitter
Shelden Williams
Hilton Armstrong
Josh Boone
Aaron Gray

Regarding your 3rd question, if you have been reading DraftExpress over the past few months you would know that Aaron Gray is going to at least put his name in the draft this April. I wouldn’t say that he’s dominating college basketball at 14 points a game, but he’s having a fantastic junior season for sure. Whether he stays in I think depends on what kind of shape he can get in after the season is over, since he really has a lot of work to do still on his frame. He’s a bit earth bound and on the slow side and I wonder how he will be categorized if a guy like Andrew Bogut (who is a much better athlete) was ragged on incessantly for being a poor athlete. He reminds a bit of Brad Miller with the way he passes and can step outside for the jump-shot, but his hands, lack of touch around the rim and vertical leap remind me a bit of Rafael Araujo at the same time. He’s a guy that has a lot to gain from his senior year since this is really the first season he’s getting consistent playing time for Pitt, but I imagine that someone could fall in love with him in the 2nd half of the first round draft if he slims down a bit during the offseason.


After looking over your mock draft, I was curious to know if Iowa's Greg Brunner has the potential to be a free agent signing after the draft. Despite his lack of size, he does average a double double and has some good post moves. He compares favorably to some off your bubble players, too. He has shown he can take his game towards the three point line this year.

Drew H.


Predicting undrafted free agents isn’t easy, but I have my doubts about one of them being Greg Brunner. His flaws are pretty glaring, whether it’s his size (6-7) or his very average athletic ability. Maybe he can develop into a Brian Cardinal type guy after a season or two of playing overseas, but I think that even Cardinal was much more of a small forward in college than Brunner is right now. The guy is tough as nails, so it’s hard to rule out someone like him, but I don’t see why he would insist on trying to make the NBA (taking the NBDL route or what not) when it’s obvious that he can make a ton of money playing overseas.

Observation of the week:

Jonathan- very good scouting report on Rudy Gay. I wasn't sure what to expect when I opened it up, and was very pleasantly surprised with the detail and specificity.

With regards to his strengths, I might've put even more focus on his defensive potential as an on the ball wing defender in the NBA. His combination of lateral quickness and length is extremely disruptive in the mold of a Prince-type defender. I think he does well guarding guys smaller than him...although often it is a function of his intensity.

That's the only part of the report that I might disagree with, in terms of his weaknesses. Today vs. Villanova, he took 6'3" Foye out of the game in the second half with his stellar individual D, and that's a player that has a major quickness advantage.

Sometimes I see Rudy guide a perimeter player into the help a little too readily, in terms of giving him the lane, but it's hard to know whether that's what he's being asked to do because of their terrific shotblocking at the basket. I don't get the feeling that he's getting beat, even when the guy has a shoulder past him. With his on-ball defense, usually if he's getting beat at all, it's an intensity issue.

The question I would ask you is whether there has been a better defensive prospect as a wing defender in the last three years of the draft? I'm that excited about his defensive potential.

His team defensive awareness, in the broader attentional focus dimension sometimes makes me question. He can narrow in very well, and play his man individually, but sometimes I feel he could be more aware of when to crash for boards, and when to leave his man to get involved in the defensive play. This applies to the offensive end as well, and I'm not sure whether it's an issue of aggressiveness, or awareness.

I feel some of his ballhandling problems are somewhat symptomatic of that difficulty he can have of switching his narrow attentional focus to a more broadly aware sense of what is going on around him. He can get his head down when he puts it on the floor and lose a sense for where defenders are coming from. I thought your analysis of the mechanics of his struggle to develop his ball handling was very good.

Also, he seems to excel with 'moves', in the sense that if he is within a scripted type of movement, whether it be putting it on the floor for a pull up, or working off the low block, he seems more comfortable and can overwhelm with his athleticism and skill...another aspect that makes me question his level of broad awareness.

I guess his steals fly in the face of that, as well as his passing, but again, I don't see his success in those areas as being the result of 'creative' understanding of spacing, in the way that you would see with someone like Lebron.

Offensively, I don't see him as having a great nose for the ball, in the sense that he doesn't seem to have that innate ability to know where the play is going, or where the ball is going to go that maybe his ex-teammate Charlie Villanueva is able to do.

Some of that needs to be qualified a bit because of the depth of the team at UConn, and his role on that team, which I think has gone a long way to putting his stock into greater question than it might be if he was working in a different system.

You made the point about needing an in-between game, which I would agree with, and at the same time maybe disagree with, if only in the sense that I think he could be used so much more effectively in a different system, and with some development.

I totally agree with the assessment if we're talking about the ability to put it on the floor from the perimeter and get a mid-range jumper or attack the basket. Right now, he's comfortable taking the longer jumper, or working closer to the basket off of the post up.

The x-factor I see in his game, in terms of a unique potential that I haven't seen talked about that much, is in his ability to move off screens and take mid-range jumpers, ala Rip Hamilton. I don't think we're seeing it now, but I see a lot of potential for that if he's in the right system. You're right that he needs to have set plays drawn up for him to be most effective, and within his comfort zone.

With his shot, I think we're going to see in the first couple of seasons in the league, his percentages are going to start catching up to his beautiful mechanics. He's got too good a shooting form for it not to.

Again it goes back to the way that he thrives with structure, and I could see the more one-on-one style half court sets in the NBA as being much more suited to the type of way he focuses.

I think a lot of his perceived passivity is as a result of that lack of structure at UConn, where he is concerned. To be honest, I think that every player benefits from staying in school, but in Rudy's case, I see a lot of aspects of his role there that aren't very individually catered to his strengths. I'm hesitant in saying that, cause I don't want it to sound like I'm faulting Calhoun so much as I think Gay defers to his teammates because of the team-oriented offensive system.

If he can get on an NBA team that will run plays for him off screens where he can come right off the screen into a mid-range jumper, I think that will ultimately be how he gets a mid-range game...more so perhaps than any major leaps in his ball-handling ability. It's one of the possibilities within his game that excites me the most.

Roy Jones



Thanks for the very detailed analysis. I agree with you on a lot of things there. Regarding his defense, I’ve seen him being burned by too many guys this year to really call him a shut-down defender rather than a potentially excellent defender if he puts his mind to it. Like you noted, he just isn’t always intense enough, which has frustrated the UConn coaching staff from what I’ve been told. Defense to me is not like 3-point shooting; there is no reason for it to be streaky. If you have the tools there is no reason not to show it all the time, beyond the occasional lapses that everyone has. You ask whether there has been a better defensive prospect as a wing defender in the last three years of the draft. I would say that Andre Iguodala was right there with him, while guys like Pietrus and Wade had similar hype as defenders if I remember correctly.

You talk about the stuff he is missing in his ball-handling and in-between game…more than anything I would say that he just doesn’t have a great feel for the game. He wouldn’t be the first to make it as an all-star without having amazing basketball instincts, but I think that lowers his upside a bit from being the potential superstar that a lot of people think he can be.

About coming off screens and shooting mid-range jumpers, UConn and just college basketball teams in general don’t get that kind of spacing to pull that off the way we see in the NBA because of the 3-point line being that much closer in, which makes it more realistic to just go for the 3 ala J.J. Redick. Even if they could, their big guys clog the paint area too much for that to be a realistic option. Can Gay develop that part of his game? He sure could, but it’s not something we can project at this point since he’s shown nothing that would lead me to believe that he has that in him.

About UConn not catering to his strengths, I strongly disagree. Calhoun calls plenty of plays for him (way more than any other player on the team) and his point guard Marcus Williams delivers dozens of fantastic passes to him on a silver platter every single game. That should not be an excuse for Gay’s struggles this year. At the end of the day, they still need to win games, and with the kind of talent they have on their roster, Gay should be happy to get as many offensive plays called for him as he does considering the way he’s capitalized on them (or rather the way he hasn’t). Obviously Calhoun is doing that because he knows he will need him with a full head of steam in the NCAA tournament, because there are things that Gay can do on the basketball floor that only a handful of basketball players can, and he knows they’ll need that. Great stuff you wrote there.

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