NBA Draft Chat (4/22/2006)

NBA Draft Chat (4/22/2006)
Apr 23, 2006, 12:31 pm
Welcome to the first ever HoopChina/DraftExpress interactive chat. I’d like to thank Shawn Cheng for having us. It’s a very exciting and very confusing time to be a Chinese basketball fan, especially with the Yi Jianlian situation and the Olympics in Beijing coming up in 2008. I’ll be representing DraftExpress on this chat, and you can feel free to ask me anything you want.

Thanks and fire away!

Jonathan Givony

Question: Best and worst case scenario for Yi Jianlian? KG? Bosh? Steven Hunter?

Answer: Best Case…Pau Gasol
Worst Case…Slava Medvedenko

This is one of the biggest problems with projecting a guy like Yi. His upside is massive, but his downside is almost just as big.

Question: What position do you see Yi to play in the NBA? Primarily low-post or inside-ouside? Does he have allstar potential?

Answer: He looks like a faceup power forward to me. In the mold of how Pau Gasol or Chris Bosh play ideally. Regarding whether he has allstar potential…that all depends on his age. If he’s still 18, absolutely. If he’s 21, then he might….IF he has the frame to put on weight and the mentality to develop a mean streak and improve on his defense and rebounding. I’m really not sure to be honest.

Question: Are Yi Jianlian and Sun Yue constantly mentioned among NBA scouts? Which team is mostly interested in them? Any words from the Rockets? Don't they want to have another skilled big man from China? Yi's better than Stro!

Answer: I don’t know if constantly, but they are definitely on their radar screens. Every NBA team has been out to see them this year I believe. It’s very hard to say who is most interested in them. If they were, they wouldn’t tell us about it, that’s for sure. I don’t think the Rockets are interested in either Yi or Sun. Not because they aren’t good players, but more because it’s well established that they don’t consider their window of opportunity to win a championship with Yao and T-Mac that big. They are looking for someone like Brandon Roy or J.J. Redick to help them out right away. In the 2nd round with their very early pick (#32) I expect them to also draft a college senior or established European player like Thabo Sefolosha.

Question: Can Sun Yue play PG in the league? or swingman?

Answer: It’s hard for me to personally see an NBA coach having the balls to do it really. If we’re talking about a Magic Johnson type talent then maybe, but I think we all realize that Sun isn’t at that level. The guy he needs to be watching the most tape of is Boris Diaw. The two have some similarities in their games, although it’s hard to compete with the freakish athleticism of the Frenchman. Sun must improve his perimeter shot to stand any shot at making it. He’s extremely talented so it would be a waste if he didn’t.

Question: you think JJ Redick is a good fit for the Rockets? Rockets may have a top 10 pick ... is it a reach to pick JJ at No.10?

Answer: Absolutely not a reach. In fact, this is exactly where we have him slated to go. Like I said earlier, the Rockets are looking for an impact player to come in and start for them right away. I think Redick can do that. Playing next to a fantastic passing big man in Yao and a super slasher in T-Mac would be ideal for him. If he goes #8 to Houston, he is my pick for Rookie of the Year. Hopefully T-Mac and Yao will both be healthy.

Question: Did Noah, Farmar and Glen Davis just make a mistake by not entering this year's draft?

Answer: Well Farmar just entered, so I guess not . Davis is absolutely not making a mistake. There is no place in today’s NBA for a 6-7, 320 pound center, no matter how nimble. He must lose 40-50 pounds if he’s really serious about making it. I personally do think Joakim Noah is making a mistake and has everything to lose next year, but you have to admire him and his teammates for what they are trying to prove. Let’s hope it all works out for the best.

Question: I think Yi's a mid-late 1st rounder. If he slips to the 2nd round, Rockets got pick him with the NY pick. what do you think?

Answer: It’s possible I think. The Rockets claim they’ll be under absolutely no pressure to pick him. And for Yi and the CBA’s 10 minute per game ultimatum sake…they should hope he doesn’t get picked there. Jeff Van Gundy will never play a guy like Yi who would be such an obvious liability as a defender and rebounder substantial minutes as a rookie.

Question: How does the draft position affect a player's development in the NBA? Teams invested more on high picks besides the salary?

Answer: I think they invest in all their players, but there is obviously more pressure for the high ones to succeed. This will come in the form of telling the coach to give their young lottery pick minutes to develop confidence and skills. How much work goes on OFF the court during the regular season, though? You’d be shocked at how little. They just don’t have time between the 3-4 games a week, strenuous travel and constant preparation for that next game.

Question: What other Chinese players are in your radar besides Yi and Sun? maybe Chen Jianghua? Liu Xiaoyu, Han Shuo?

Answer: Chen Jianghua certainly. He is very quick and pretty skilled. If he was really born in 1989 (I have some doubts) I think he is an excellent prospect. There are some attitude problems I heard though.

According to our International director of Scouting Luis Fernandez, Zhou Peng (Jianghua’s teammate in Guandong) is a talented combo forward with good size at 6-9, and good fundamentals. Luis says he is very skinny, but is automatic from the mid-range area, with three-point range, the ability to very easily put the ball on the floor, and even if he's probably not greatly athletic, he looks very mobile. He is playing extremely well at the Albert Schweitzer Tournament from what I was told.

An NBA scout told me a few weeks ago that Tang Zhengdong is still considered a 2nd round prospect. He said he thinks he’s a little more athletic than people give him credit for. I didn’t see that personally myself, but I haven’t studied all that closely to be honest.

Yi Li we wrote an article about ( back in January. I’ve got footage on him (going up against Yi Jianlian) I intend on watching at some point. Our International director Luis Fernandez says he’s a legit 6-9 small forward with nice athleticism, a high basketball IQ, good ball-handling skills and good shooting range. His problem is that he’s obviously incredibly skinny.

Yang Ming (6-4 PG, 1987) is another guy we are looking at from Liaoning. Liu Xiaoyu (6-4 PG, Guangdong, 1989) and Han Shuo (6-5 PG, Jiangsu, 1989) are also on our lists, but more for down the road to see how they develop. It’s a shame we have to take their listed ages with a huge grain of salt. It’s time for China to join the modern world in that regard.

Question: What advantage does Yi possess over US players in his age?

Answer: I will quote our Director of NCAA scouting Jonathan Watters for that. He requested some footage on Yi and I provided him with that. Here are his thoughts. They accurately describe the advantages that make Yi an attractive prospect.

“I got a chance to watch Yi Jianlian last night, and I came away fairly impressed. The level of competition was obviously very poor, but I think he was going up against former Texas big man Jason Klotz there for a while, and Jianlian was on an entirely different level. Jianlian looks very composed on the court, and didn't force anything in this game. He's got nice mobility, and a beautiful jumper that he can get off quickly. Very nice lower body, but he is in desperate need of upper body strength. Jianlian certainly isn't one of those perimeter-oriented big men that just floats around on the perimeter, but he definitely has tons of work to do as a rebounder and general contributor around the basket. He didn't get many post looks in the game that I saw, but at least he started each possession where every big man should - in the paint.

Overall, I like his feel for the game and his upside. I want to see him against some real competition, though.”

Question: Do you think staying at CBA would help Yi's development more than going to the NBA?

Answer: This isn’t going to be a very popular answer, but I don’t think that either one is the right answer for him at this point. I think that going to play for a smaller Euroleague team would be the best thing he could do, since it’s obvious that he’s developing quite bad habits in the CBA league in terms of just being so much bigger and more athletic than anyone else and therefore not having to focus as much on the fundamentals of the game. You can see that in the way he doesn’t really put that much effort in in terms of boxing out, and you don’t see an incredibly advanced arsenal of jump-hooks and such around the paint, he just goes up and dunks everything. I don’t know what they are teaching him about defense, but its obviously not sinking in. This stuff will not fly in the NBA, and I think it would be a shame for him to just rot on the bench for 2 years like a Podkolzine until he can put on strength and improve his all-around game enough to the point that he can get minutes. There is no doubt that he is incredibly talented, but I don’t think he’s being challenged enough at the moment to really improve.

Question: Sun Yue will play at Japan this August. What does he have to do to catch scouts' eyes?

Answer: Hit his open shots. Continue to play good perimeter defense. Show that he is athletic enough to play the point, especially defensively. If he can really run a team successfully at 6-9 against legit competition, I think his stock could skyrocket.

Question: What about Yi's age? A real concern for NBA teams, or they pretty much figured out already?

Answer: Absolutely a concern. The draft is all about potential, and there is a huge difference between a player’s potential at age 18 and 21. If he still has the best 3 years of his career ahead of him to continue to improve, then really the sky is the limit for him. Most people are reserved to the fact that he’s actually 21. And that’s pretty much how we think too. I don’t have any real scientific evidence for that. It’s just by looking at where he was 2-3 years ago and where he is now and doing 1+1.

Question: Is Yi going to be an offensive player or defensive in the NBA?

Answer: High-post offense all the way. If he can learn how and show the willingness to play inside-out like Gasol or Bosh, he’ll be in great shape.

Question: Sun is automatically eligible since he plays in a pro league in US? how come there's no buss about him getting drafted at all? IS he a 1st round material?

Answer: Not according to the research we’ve done and the information we’ve received:

We’ll know for sure on the 29th.

Question: If you were Yi, would you attend any pre-draft camp or team workout?

Answer: Team workouts absolutely. He has no choice. And plenty of them too, if he’s going to enter of course. I would stay away from the Orlando pre-draft camp, except for measurements and such. He would get eaten alive by the senior NCAA players there who are all fighting for their lives. He’s just not strong enough and the adjustment in playing style+speed of the game would be too much for any normal player to overcome in 4 days. It’s just not worth it for him.

Question: What happened to all the No.2 overall picks? Okafor, Marvin, Jay, Darko ... .a curse?

Answer: Okafor will be fine. I don’t understand why they made him put on all that weight. That’s not what the NBA is about anymore, especially at the power forward position. They made him into a bulky, clunky center, which is a shame since he can be much more than that. I’d like to see him take off 25 pounds and get back down to 240 like he was in college. Let’s give Marvin some time. He’s only 19 years old. Jay Williams had a horrific accident so it’s nice to see him walking, let alone playing basketball. Darko as we’ve all seen is better than what we saw in Detroit. He’s not #2 pick better, but he’ll be fine eventually I believe.

Question: What do you think of Adam Morrison's NBA future?

Answer: Very bright. He’s going to do whatever it takes to succeed, which makes me very optimistic about his future. Combine that with his phenomenal talent and instincts for scoring, and you’ll see him adjusting to the NBA sooner rather than later.

Question: Who has the most superstar potential among all the draftees this year?

Answer: Tyrus Thomas. You can’t argue with a guy who is already that good after only playing organized basketball for 3 years. Look how much he’s improved. Being such a freakishly long athlete doesn’t hurt either.

Question: If Oden sucks next year ( i know it's unlikely, but), will he still be picked NO.1 overall based on potential?

Answer: It depends how bad he looks. If he really sucks, then I don’t think he’d even enter. Even if he’s great he might not. This is a different kind of kid we are talking about here.

Question: Yi's marketing potential is big. He's a Chinese idol... Will this help his draft stock?

Answer: Some people think so. I personally don’t. All the marketing in the world won’t help you if you aren’t good enough to get minutes in the NBA. That’s to me the ultimate deciding factor.

Question: Seriously... how good is Oden?

Answer: He is seriously good. We’ve written a lot of articles about him:

Question: What do you know about Yi's Chinese agent? Any US agent interested in Yi?

Answer: I don’t know much about him at all. I do know it’s the same people that represent Yao. It’s not really one guy per se, but more a group called Team Yao that went over and signed Yi from what I was told. The American agent running the show there is Bill Duffy of BDA Sports Management, one of the most powerful agents in the NBA. Besides Yao he has Amare Stoudamire, Carmelo Anthony, Steve Nash and many others. Erik Zhang is the Chinese connection. There is also another Chinese guy in there if I am not mistaken by the name of Lu Hao who works with Yao on the CBA side of things. I am not sure if he’ll be working with Yi as well. We’re trying to clear this stuff up as we speak.

Question: Tyrus Thomas VS LaMarcus Aldridge , please! Which one should the Bulls pick?

Answer: I think Aldridge personally. He compliments Chandler better. Thomas will be a very nice player down the road, but Aldridge is way more skilled offensively and you don’t want to have two athletes that can’t create offense for themselves in the post.

Question: Which swingman fits the rockets best? Roy, Brewer, Carney, Douby?

Answer: Of the four, definitely Brandon Roy. They need an all-around type player like him with a good mentality on both ends of the floor and I believe that Roy is their guy if he is there at #8.

Question: Why haven't we seen many great low-post offensive players out of NCAA since Duncan? Is it because of the lack of good talents entering NCAA recently?

Answer: You can’t expect guys like Duncan to come around every year. He’s one of the best big men to ever play in the league in my mind. The problem in the past few years is that a lot of the excellent big guys like Amare, KG and Dwight Howard went straight to the NBA from high school. With the new age limit, we’ll get a chance to see them for at least one year in the NCAA now, starting with Oden next year. It’s exciting.

Question: People said Yi is lacking the feel of security for the draft. And the teams don't feel secure of drafting him. How can they build up confidence with each other?

Answer: Well if Yi is feeling like he might not DEFINITELY be a 1st round pick, and NBA teams aren’t 100% willing to make a commitment and give him that promise…then maybe this just isn’t the right year for him to enter? The person who knows what his true age and potential is best is Yi. The way the can build up more confidence with each other as you put it is by improving on the things they are looking for out of him; and that is adding weight, and becoming a better defender and rebounder, as well as continuing to work on his post skills. If he shows improvement in those areas next year, the NBA will surely be interesting in drafting him, I can assure you. What he needs to remember is that players can only be in the draft twice now, like NCAA players. So if he enters this year and pulls out, the next time he enters will be his last, since he won’t be able to withdraw.

Question: What if Tang Zhengdong enters the draft this year? Any team interested. Where do you see him gets drafted?

Answer: Tang was (supposedly) born in 1984, so he does not need to enter the draft this year, he is automatically eligible. If he doesn’t get drafted, he becomes a free agent as far as his NBA rights are concerned. Whether any team is interested I don’t know. Maybe the scout for the team I talked to. Hard to say. They don’t tell us these kinds of things, and we don’t really ask since there is no reason for them to give us an honest answer about that. I personally don’t think Tang will get drafted unless he comes to the Orlando pre-draft camp and has a good showing there. Too many question marks about his athleticism and the level of competition he goes up against in my opinion.

Question: Will Van Gundy like J.J. Redick as a SG, considering his height and lack of defensive ability? Will he be better than Luther head?

Answer: Great question. I think that JVG will have to adapt his style of play to a guy like J.J and take advantage of his strengths as a player. Like we wrote in Redick’s scouting report ( “The team that drafts him will need to take advantage of his strengths and be prepared to do what it takes to mask his weaknesses, which means calling plays for him to make sure he gets involved, ideally as a 2nd or 3rd option offensively. A stubborn coach who does not realize what a weapon he has on his hands and is foolish enough to not make the proper adjustments to utilize them would be a clear recipe for disaster both for him and his team.”

Redick is a very different player than Luther Head. I think Head had a great rookie season, and he would be ideally suited coming off the bench in a 6th man role and not forced to do too much ball-handling, instead being able to focus on his perimeter shooting and defense. If you play Head and the 1, Redick at the 2 and T-Mac at the 3, you don’t great ball-handling out on the floor besides T-Mac, so it’s a little dangerous.

Question: Will NBA use so called "bone test“ to verify Yi's age?

I don't now whether this is the right word.... you know if doctors can find out the real age by examining a player’s bones?

Answer: From what I have been told, there is no way to know 100% exactly how old a player is. Doctors can look at different things and get a rough estimate, but you might come away more confused than you started.

There are also obvious privacy concerns. There are some very specific tests that they conduct on players at the Orlando pre-draft camp, and I am sure that testing a player’s bones is not one of them. He’s not a tree you can just cut off and look at how many rings he has. Since the relationship between the CBA and the NBA is already tenuous at best, I really doubt that this would fly. If Yi’s camp is really confident in him being 18 and not 21, they might consider taking him to a respected doctor in the States and then sending the results to every NBA team. Sticky situation for sure.

Question: Why did you take Yi off the 2006 mock yesterday? any update?

Answer: We prefer to wait until there is some more concrete info out there about whether or not he is indeed in the draft. Opinions vary, but most people we talk to think at the end of the day he won’t be in. The 180 his team just did on him doesn’t help clarify the situation at all of course. We’ll know everything when we get the list on the 29th.

Question: Is Oden the next Chamberlain? How great is he? worth tanking a season for?

Answer: I am naturally more skeptical about high school players than most. And thankfully for us, it’s easier to do that now with the age limit in place. I’m too young to have seen Chamberlain play in his prime, so it’s really hard for me to answer that. Oden looks like the real deal, though. We’ll find out everything next season in the NCAA. It should be a lot of fun.

Question: Who’s the best swingman this year? Best swingman with defensive ability?

Answer: The answer to both questions is Brandon Roy. It will be interesting to see what the fallout is after his first few workouts, because he really doesn’t seem like a workout type. Being a good, but great athlete and having some question marks still about his perimeter shooting, he might not look great in private workouts. He’s more of a 5 on 5 type who makes everyone around him better thanks to his basketball IQ and all-around game.

Question: Can Gay become a solid starter in 2-3 years? Under Jeff Van gundy..

Answer: Solid starter…Those are very low expectations from him, especially in 2-3 years, so I would have to say absolutely. The questions about Gay are more about whether he’s going to be a nice starter or allstar. There’s no question that his physical attributes and his talent say the latter. He could definitely play for Van Gundy, but would he fit next to T-Mac? Not sure, and I don’t think that’s going to be an issue, since I don’t think he’ll be around at #8 anyway.

Question: Do you think JJ’s a good fit for Jazz and Sloan? Hornacek 2006 or dissapper?

Answer: Very good fit. Hornacek 2006 definitely. Hornacek was awesome by the way in his prime.

Question: Could you comment on Hassan Adams? He’s an athlete, but isn’t consistent as a senior. What does he need to improve?

Answer: I thought Adams was reasonably consistent this year, even though he didn’t always play within himself. He quietly had himself a very good season this year, but his off the court problems and Arizona’s struggles with winning and team chemistry overshadowed that. At 6-4, he doesn’t have great height for a shooting guard, although his wingspan makes up for that to a certain extent. The problem is he’s more of a small forward than a shooting guard, considering his very average ball-handling skills and perimeter shooting.

Question: How do you like James White and David Noel's NBA future? good fit for Lakers' 26 and 50 picks?

Answer: I think they’d hope to do a little better than that, but it depends on how those guys do at the Orlando pre-draft camp. I heard the Lakers like Thabo Sefolosha more, and his obviously superior basketball IQ seems to fit in better with the Triangle. Noel is a solid player, the question is whether he’s value at #50. I’m not 100% sure myself. You could certainly do worse. Would like to see how he shoots it in a workout. We’ll get the chance from what I was told today…

Question: Would you trade up to get Gay if you were the Rockets?

Answer: If you’re the Rockets I am not sure you are in a position to give up any assets at this point for a maybe like Gay. They don’t have that many besides their cornerstones in Yao and T-Mac. I would just sit tight and take Brandon Roy or J.J. Redick if they don’t move up in the lottery.

Question: Maybe you can answer this one with the previous rockets question: Would you take Carney or Roy if having the choices, for the Rockets?

Answer: Without a question Brandon Roy. Carney is going to be a nice player, but he is not a Van Gundy type player at all. Roy’s all-around versatility is exactly what the Rockets need. His ball-handling, passing, defense and leadership are all perfect for them.

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