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Ford on tanking and the prep prospects
Here are a couple of pieces from Chad Ford. The first dives into the
tanking issue. Let me make one thing clear - I'm not saying the Celtics
should try to lose. BUT ... I'm hoping they continue to play hard and
yet miss the playoffs. It's too big a difference this year. Those top
seven picks are vital. Everyone points to the guys who didn't pan out,
but where would Memphis be without Gasol? Would the Suns be considered
up-and-comers if they hadn't drafted Amare Stoudemire? Or Shawn Marion?
How about Denver with Carmello Anthony or Nene? These aren't Duncan or
Shaq, but they're high picks. Where would the Celtics be without Pierce?
The Mavs without Nowitzki? It's not a sure thing, but your odds are a
lot better when you draft that high.
The second piece looks at the top high school prospects, including at
least two guys, probably more, who will end up in the lottery. Dwight
Howard, of course, would be a great fit for the Celts. I'm intrigued as
I hear more and more about Shaun Livingston, the 6-8 point guard from
Chicago. If none of the big guys are there, he might be a good
consolation prize. I don't know. A high school point guard ... scary.
Who should start tanking the season?
By Chad Ford
Send an Email to Chad Ford Monday, March 1
Updated: March 1
10:15 AM ET
Normally, I'm not allowed to use obscene words in my column
something about being family friendly ... but every year I
and push the envelope here and write an entire column using
dirtiest word in the NBA. Cover your childrens' ears if you
happen to be reading this out loud.
Tank, v.: To suffer a sudden decline or failure.
There, I said it.
The Hawks deny they're doing it. The Magic, at this point,
choice but to do it. The Clippers and Warriors are proving
again they've perfected the art form. The Bulls, despite all
talent, can't get off the merry-go-round.
We all know what goes on behind closed doors, in the dark
locker rooms and in the wandering mind of Tracy McGrady.
Avert your eyes if you must. Flee the scene if you can't
heat. Hang a scarlet "T" around your mascot's neck if it
feel any better.
It's tanking time folks. You know it. I know it. And the
people know it. And secretly, you love it. You want Dwight
Emeka Okafor on that wall. You need him on that wall. You
the truth because, frankly, you can't handle the truth.
What else should teams like the Bulls or Wizards be doing at
point in the season?
While it's reprehensible for a team to begin the season with
goal, at this point several teams would be stupid not to
last 20 games.
The Cavs did it shamelessly last season, and look what it
them. Sold-out arenas every night for the next decade and a
chance at the playoffs this season.
Everyone is still playing for something. Playoffs or lottery
Experience or upside? Honor or hope? For the good teams out
there's no time like the present. For the bad ones, there's
The key is understanding which category you're in. Sure,
to say the Suns are playing for the lottery and the Kings
playing for a ring. But what about the Celtics, Sixers,
Blazers and Sonics?
Should they be going for the gold or enrolling in the
Acquisition Program? In our ongoing effort to educate,
reveals the answers today. But remember, sometimes the truth
There should be one simple mantra for lottery-bound teams 60
into the season: If it's broke, don't fix it.
Here's a look at 10 teams that should tank the rest of the
Chance of landing No. 1 pick: 25%
The Skinny: The Magic are playing their best basketball of
season (four wins in their last 10 games) at the worst
of the year. The Magic don't have the flexibility to
alter their roster in free agency or via trade. They just
enough pieces. After severable miserable drafts, they need
to hit a
home run this year. The problem is, the two best players in
draft -- Dwight Howard and Emeka Okafor -- play the same
Orlando's second- and third-best players -- Juwan Howard and
Gooden. The Magic do seem enamored with 7-foot-5 Siberian
Pavel Podkolzine, but he's not ready to contribute yet.
Chance of landing No. 1 pick: 20%
The Skinny: Deja vu? The Bulls are in serious running for
pick in the draft. GM John Paxson has a thing for Okafor, so
assume the Bulls are tired of collecting inexperienced
the draft. If they slip to No. 2 and Dwight Howard is on the
pass Paxson the Rolaids. Most believe the Bulls will try to
this pick, along with another asset or two, to land a
all-star. Still, to get the most for their money, they need
this silly streak of winning and get back to what they do
dumping the ball into Eddy Curry, then limping off the court
another "L" in the Win-Loss column.
Chance of landing No. 1 pick: 15.7%
The Skinny: Like the Bulls, the Wizards probably have had
of young, inexperienced draft picks. The team has eight
three years of experience or less. But there is a lot of
Okafor, who by NBA draft standards is a 10-year vet, and
interest in moving the pick. If they can add a tough,
center to play alongside Kwame Brown, the Wizards might
able to make some noise next season. They're another team
been winning a little too much lately.
Chance of landing No. 1 pick: 12%
The Skinny: They have nothing to play for. Next year's
the possible exception of Boris Diaw and Travis Hansen,
anything like this season's ragtag squad. The Hawks' latest
dumping Dion Glover, proves they have the right idea, but
they really going to get serious and sit Jason Terry for the
The Hawks' worst nightmare is an injury to Terry that makes
untradeable this summer. As far as the draft goes, it's
Hawks' chances of landing the No. 1 pick will improve, as
of them reaching 22 wins seems pretty slim right now. Look
Atlanta to nab local product Dwight Howard if it gets the
Chance of landing No. 1 pick: 8.9%
The Skinny: The Suns are, by far, the most talented team in
group. Unlike everyone else here, they have a very solid
Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson and some nice
players in Leandro Barbosa, Zarko Cabarkapa, Casey Jacobsen
Maciej Lampe. Throw in the draft rights to Milos Vujanic,
pretty clear the Suns don't need this pick. Unless there is
legitimate, Western Conference center waiting for them in
draft, you can be pretty sure they'll try to package this
along with Jahidi White's contract, to get the cap room they
make a major run at a veteran free agent. Steve Nash and
have the buzz, with Mehmet Okur as a sleeper should the
decide to only re-sign Rasheed Wallace.
Chance of landing No. 1 pick: 6.4%
The Skinny: The Sixers have crumbled before our eyes this
know they're still trying to grit things out and make a run
playoffs -- and they have a legit shot, as almost everyone
East does -- but is it in the Sixers' best interest? The
getting old and needs fresh blood, especially on the front
Philly's only young players with much promise are Samuel
John Salmons and, to a lesser extent, Kyle Korver. The
Sixers need a
freakishly versatile, athletic player like Howard in the
Landing the No. 1 pick could turn a dying franchise around
Chance of landing No. 1 pick: 2.9%
The Skinny: Danny Ainge loves this draft so much, he was
take on the last two years of Chucky Atkins' contract just
to get a
third first-round pick, even if it's low in the round. With
Celtics playing some of the worst basketball in the league
now, I believe Ainge has decided it's time to throw in the
wants head coach John Carroll to play young players like
Welsch, Brandon Hunter, Marcus Banks and Kendrick Perkins so
a better feel for what he does and doesn't have going into
summer. Given Danny's preference for up-tempo basketball,
you can be
pretty sure he's gunning for a player like Howard to add
versatility to his front line.
Golden State Warriors
Chance of landing No. 1 pick: 1.5%
The Skinny: No one knows this game better than the Warriors.
should miss the playoffs for a league-leading ninth
year. Another late lottery pick isn't going to help things,
playoffs appear to be out of the question now. Time to pull
Dampier (before he gets hurt), Cliff Robinson and Calbert
out of the rotation and let Mike Dunleavy and Mickael
the team into lottery land.
Los Angeles Clippers
Chance of landing No. 1 pick: 1.4%
The Skinny: Does it really matter?
Chance of landing No. 1 pick: 0.7%
The Skinny: Nate McMillan hates this. You don't blame him.
the Sonics decided not to make a move at the trade deadline,
Sund essentially told McMillan the playoffs weren't a
year. It's probably just as well. Now's the time to throw
Murray and Luke Ridnour out there and see how well they'll
NBA Draft: Howard's No. 1
By Chad Ford
First for the good news. There will be no Dwight Howard
season. No endless replays of him dunking over scared,
6-foot-4 kids. No talk of him signing a $100 million deal
No Hummer scandal. No Michael Jordan comparisons. Chances
you'll never see him play before a highlight reel rolls on
Now for the tough love. Howard, a 6-foot-11, 255-pound,
power forward from Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy
not save the NBA. He will not average 19.9 ppg during his
months in the league. He may not even be the top candidate
NBA Rookie of the Year.
Finally, the hating. His game resembles Kwame Brown's more
However, if things continue as they have, he will be the
player to hear his name called at the 2004 NBA Draft on June
Ladies and gentleman, we give you the consensus top NBA
Is he the next Tim Duncan as one scout claims? Is he the
Garnett as another gushes? Or is he the second coming of
Kwame, as a
third scout warns in hushed tones?
The comparisons to the only other high school big man to be
No. 1 are obvious. Like Brown, Howard is an athletic freak
size. He runs the floor like a guard, can jump out of the
from the perimeter, handle the ball in traffic and packs
on his bones to pass for a guy five years older.
He has dominated at the Adidas ABDC camp and won top honors
Player's Association Top 100 Camp in Richmond, Va., this
AAU team, the Atlanta Celtics, is the most talented in
three legit NBA prospects. This season, Howard is averaging
27 points, 18 rebounds and 8 blocks.
And like Brown, he comes from a little school in Georgia.
polite. He comes from a big family. He's humble, even soft
and, some claim, just a little bit soft.
"You're not going to find a better person that's in the same
position he's in," SACA coach Courtney Brooks says. "He's
humble. He's a kid. He has a little boy smile about him and
that's God sent."
You're not helping, Coach. Three years ago scouts were
Brown had the skills to become a new breed of multi-skilled
power forward in the NBA. America's answer to Dirk Nowitzki,
will. After seeing him flounder in Washington for three
think a scouting report like that would be the kiss of
You'd be wrong. Comparisons to Brown won't stop Howard from
No. 1. Scouts believe he's mentally tougher and has more
Brown and, in the right situation, could turn into the
player many thought Brown would be.
That's why the reports from NBA scouts all appear to agree
best prospect in the draft. At his size, he can do just a
of everything. He dominates in the paint but also has the
step out and hit shots on the perimeter. His ball handling
good, he often handles for his team in the fourth quarter.
murder on the fast break. He's quick off the dribble and off
floor. He's not afraid to crash the glass and is an
blocker. He hustles, has a nose for the ball and always
seems to be
in the right place at the right time. He's mature, a hard
has a great attitude and has improved dramatically over the
of his three years playing high school ball.
On paper, at least, he's the perfect prospect.
One scout asked about the weaknesses in Howard's game gave
stunning response: "I'm still looking. He's almost too good
true. You hate to claim that a guy might be too nice for the
but that's about the most that I can come up with. I'm not
really has the edge that the great ones like Garnett and
Stoudemire had. He's going to take longer to adjust than
because he still needs to learn the game, but he's got the
be a really great player."
Every other scouting report is pretty similar. Comments like
needs time to develop" or "he needs to be a little nastier"
about the only negative things you hear.
Emeka Okafor might have more experience. Several
players are taller and have more big-time playing
experience. But no
one eligible for this year's draft has the package Howard
which is why he's mentioned, now almost unanimously, as the
No. 1 pick.
Howard, despite his perceived humility, doesn't disagree.
does he think he's ready, he believes he could be better
"If I go pro, I'm thinking I'm going in there to dominate
away," Howard told USA Today a few weeks ago, "What I want
to do is
... show everybody LeBron just set a standard for high
that we can play basketball with the big boys ... I think I
Howard isn't alone. Scouts generally agree the high school
2004 is the strongest since the class of 2001 that featured
Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry and DeSagana Diop in the top
Scouts believe as many as four high school seniors could
lottery this year, and two or three more could end up in the
round -- a record for high school draft entrants.
Clearly, that backlash scouts predicted after Kwame and Co.
struggled in year one hasn't materialized.
Here's a quick look at five other high school seniors whom
are watching this season.
Josh Smith, SG/SF, Oak Hill Academy
The facts: 6-8, 200
The skinny: Think Darius Miles with a jump shot. That's the
Smith has going into the draft and why most scouts claim
he'll be a
top-10 selection if he comes out. Before you get too excited
went No. 3), the comparison evokes both the good and the
is a top-notch athlete and has guard skills for his size. He
out of the gym and can run all day. Unlike Miles, he's a
proficient shooter, though he still needs to improve on his
range. The problems, however, are also there. He's rail
scouts wonder how he'll handle the rigors of the NBA. He
shrinks in the paint and isn't the rebounder scouts think he
be for his size. He relies on his athleticism too much at
still is learning the game. He doesn't have any real go-to
sometimes hesitates to take his man off the dribble. His
ball-handling needs improvement if he's going to make the
to the three in the pros. Even with all those holes, scouts
think he's a lottery prospect, though some say mid-first
Shaun Livingston, PG, Peoria, Illinois
The facts: 6-7, 180
The skinny: When the best point guard in the country also
be 6-foot-7, talk of making a jump to the NBA is inevitable.
thing about Livingston is that, despite his size, he's a
guard with amazing court vision and a real flair to his
snuck down to Hoops Gym in Chicago this summer to play with
NBA players, and word was he more than held his own. While
love his artistry with the basketball, scouts adore that he
that way without being prone to turnovers. Think Jalen Rose
the selfishness. Livingston has committed to Duke, but
he'll come out if he's projected to go in the lottery. Right
scouts have him right on the fence, but a strong workout or
could easily get him in.
Robert Swift, C, Bakersfield
The facts: 7-1, 240
The skinny: Swift already is earning a rep as possibly the
American center in the draft. He's quick, relatively
knows how to score and rebound in the paint. He has great
footwork for someone his age, plays aggressively and,
believe it or
not, is a decent passer from the post. While scouts know
to have to bulk up to play heavy minutes in the pros, almost
them believe he has the talent to go in the late lottery
Some scouts believe he is the second-best high school
fact that academic issues may keep him from keeping a verbal
commitment to USC also will factor into his decision to turn
Al Jefferson, PF, Prentis High, Mississippi
The facts: 6-9, 270
The skinny: Jefferson is perhaps the strongest high school
the country, and many believe he's the best pure low-post
his class. Jefferson is a man child, with an NBA body and
athleticism. He's a fierce worker in the paint, drawing
to Amare Stoudemire. He has soft hands for his size and has
surprising mid-range jumper that he's been improving over
year. Scouts worry about his conditioning a bit, and about
position. Weight has been an issue, with most scouts feeling
could stand to lose 10 to 20 pounds. He plays center in high
but at 6-foot-9 will have to make the transition to power
the pros. While scouts think Jefferson is a good athlete,
limits his quickness and explosiveness. Originally scouts
Jefferson would enter the draft as long as he was projected
to be a
first-round pick. However, he has made some recent
indicate he may honor a commitment to Arkansas if he isn't
to go in the lottery. That may be a stretch, given the other
talented prospects ahead of him.
LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Seagoville, Texas
The facts: 6-11, 225
The skinny: Aldridge has made drastic improvements over the
year, leading NBA scouts to take a second look at the big
Texas. Once considered just a low-post guy, Aldridge worked
over to improve his outside shooting and ball handling. He
succeeded to the point that many scouts feel he could end up
some three in the league.