ORLANDO, Fla. -- With most of the first-round picks refusing to participate in the games -- they show up to be measured and to conduct press interviews -- the annual predraft camp serves mainly as a four-day convention for league coaches, scouts and executives.
5. Derrick Rose is the likely No. 1 pick. Let me start by respecting the statement of Chicago general manager John Paxson on Thursday that he has not agreed to terms with Doug Collins to become Bulls coach. My understanding was that the negotiations were not complete, and until that contract is signed, the possibility remains that Collins will choose to not return to coaching. A long shot, yes, but one never knows ...
Assuming that Collins does take over the Bulls, there is a feeling that he would prefer a point guard like Rose over a finisher like Beasley. Collins is going to want a team leader to carry out his strategies on the floor. As proved by their unfocused play this season, the Bulls have no such leadership. Rose would fill that role.
My take all along has been that the Bulls should use the pick on the best talent available regardless of position, because the No. 1 choice in the hands of a losing team precludes picking for need. They should simply pick the best player and rebuild the team around him. The Bulls don't have nearly enough information to make their decision, as much will depend on their personal interviews (especially their talk with Michael Beasley, whose focus is questioned by some NBA people). While this will be a personnel rather than a coaching decision, Collins would undoubtedly have input. This is always going to be a subjective choice when it comes to rating talent, and while it's a tight decision between Beasley and Rose, the coach may cast the decisive vote.
4. The definition of a point guard is changing. After Rose, a number of point-sized players are expected to go in the lottery -- 6-foot-3 Jerryd Bayless, 6-5 O.J. Mayo, 6-4 Eric Gordon and 6-3 Russell Westbrook -- but none is considered a traditional point guard.
"What really is a traditional point guard?'' said Bayless, the speedy freshman who averaged 19.7 points and 4.0 assists for Arizona. "Steve Nash is a 'pure' point and he can score 40 any night -- or he could when he was younger. Chris Paul is a guy who can go for 35 [points] and 18 [assists]. I don't know what a pure point guard is now.''
Bayless, Mayo and Gordon talked about playing point guard at least part time in the NBA. Westbrook is seen as someone who can make a full-time move to point guard, though he hasn't proved he can do it yet. There is greater demand for scoring at the point, especially in this era of hands-off perimeter defense that has liberated guards to drive to the basket. The dearth of traditional points entering the league (see below) combined with this class of combo guards means that there will be more scorers at the playmaking position like Gilbert Arenas, Allen Iverson and Mo Williams.
"What point guard in the league can't score?'' Bayless said. "Chris Paul knows when to score and when to pass. To be a point guard is all about knowing how to make the right play.''
While these rookies must prove they can make those decisions, it appears they'll be given opportunities to learn on the job.
3. Elston Turner will be a head coach someday. The longtime assistant to Rick Adelman (at Sacramento and now with Houston) is among the leading candidates to take over the Suns."He's done everything but actually be a head coach,'' Adelman said. "He's very good with players. He's very even-keeled. He was that way as a player, and he's that way now.''
Other "rookie" candidates (with little or no head-coaching experience) for the NBA in the near future are Jazz assistant Tyrone Corbin and Lakers assistants Kurt Rambis and Brian Shaw -- all ex-players, like Turner. As a former player, Turner carries himself like a head coach with a quiet presence that commands respect.
"I've been fortunate to work with a guy who has really allowed me to do head-coaching duties without the title,'' said Turner, 48, who played eight years in the NBA as a 6-5 guard. "You're going to have to wear a number of different hats, which I know I can do and have done, in order to run an organization like [the Suns]. But their roster is already intact with a nucleus and good pieces to the puzzle, so whoever gets it, it ought to be a smooth transition.''
2. The two sides of the Brook Lopez question. The Stanford 7-footer is the top center in the draft and could go as high as No. 3 to Minnesota. He averaged 19.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks as a sophomore, but there is great debate over his future.
"I think he is going to be very pedestrian,'' an NBA personnel scout said. "His rebounding numbers are so-so; if he's going to be a rebounder, he hasn't shown it yet. He's a guy who will have a career of 10 or more years in the league, but I doubt very seriously whether he'll distinguish himself.''
Another scout sees Lopez's glass as half full.
"I agree he won't be a great rebounder or a great shot-blocker,'' he said. "I see him as a spurt player who will be very good in bursts of time -- four or five minutes -- and then he might disappear for a while. But he's a very big guy with big hands, and he's very skilled. I think he'll always be a scorer and the kind of smart center who can be a good complement to Al Jefferson in Minnesota. I don't think he'll be a bust, not at all.''
1. Paul Wissel resembles Bruce Willis. The Wissels are a famous family within the NBA -- father Hal is among the league's preeminent shooting coaches, and sons Scott and Paul are highly regarded advance scouts -- but Paul was missing from their annual trip to the predraft camp. That's because Paul Wissel has been working as stand-in for Willis on the set of The Surrogates, a feature film currently being shot in Massachusetts.
At 6-foot and 195 pounds, Wissel is the same height and five pounds lighter than Willis. Wissel is working 12-to-14 hours per day as a stand-in for the star, enabling the lighting and cameras to be set properly before Willis takes over to film the scenes.
"Bruce has been very good to me,'' said Wissel, a scout for the Sonics. "We talk -- though we don't have any long conversations -- and he always addresses me by my first name.''
He doesn't know if Willis is aware that he works in the NBA. Wissel became his stand-in after trying out as an extra in The Surrogates, a futuristic thriller in which Willis plays a cop investigating the murders of surrogate robots. Wissel is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, with his big break coming in the 2000 Sean Connery film Finding Forrester, in which he played an assistant basketball coach.
"Bruce will probably be done filming at the end of July,'' said Wissel, who figures to make $18,000. "That will be good for me, because that's when I run my boys' and girls' camps in Connecticut.''
4. On my recent argument that major college basketball (and football) players should be paid ...
Decriminalize booster payments? That idea makes you the idiot of all idiots. You do realize that you're using the same logic as the 28-year-old burnout who says the government should legalize pot, don't you? Wait, are you and Josh Howard the same person?-- J.D. Bolick, Greenville, N.C.
Players are getting paid under the table regardless of these rules. For decades now the NCAA has added more and more rules to try to prevent something that can't be stopped -- and shouldn't be stopped, when you consider how much money the players are creating in today's economy.
People have been making a big deal of whether USC's Mayo received money as a student-athlete. To me, the bigger deal is this broken-down system that maintains players like him should receive no money at all, while so many others are raking in the cash from college basketball and football. I'm not saying the coaches don't deserve the money they make from their lucrative sport. All I'm saying is that the players deserve to be compensated too.
I don't understand the complaint about college athletes not getting paid. I ran cross country and track in college and received a small scholarship. If you are on an athletic scholarship that is paying your room and board and tuition, then you are getting paid. Most students end up in debt with loans to get their education. Student-athletes who will go on to make millions should be thankful they are leaving with no debt due to their full-ride scholarships.-- Jim Wangler, Jenison, Mich.
Your point of view applies to the majority of student-athletes who don't go into college dreaming of eight-figure contracts. It's a different dynamic in basketball and football. Those sports are professional operations except for the fact that they've prevented a share of the money from funneling to the players.
3. On my initial mock-draft assessment that the Bulls should use the No. 1 pick on Beasley ...
How is the debate of Beasley/Rose any different than Glenn Robinson/Jason Kidd in the 1994 draft? Beasley will be a great scorer, but the guy is a black hole (one assist to three turnovers). Rose makes your team better. Just one year ago, Luol Deng played at a phenomenal level as the Bulls swept the Heat in the first round. Teaming him with a true playmaker like Rose could get him to play at an All-Star level. And the argument that an All-Star-level point guard isn't needed to win titles is a slippery slope, as great scorers have gone ringless as well (Elgin Baylor, George Gervin, Carmelo Anthony, Karl Malone). Neither guy is going to lead the Bulls to the title by himself; other moves are needed. But Rose helps them become a winning club in fewer moves than Beasley.-- Ron, Chicago
Maybe Beasley will turn into Robinson, and maybe Rose will become Kidd. Or maybe not. There is nothing wrong with the Bulls picking Rose so long as they've decided he is going to become the better player. It would be a big mistake to take him based on his position or his ties to Chicago (it isn't always helpful to play professionally in one's hometown: see Eddy Curry in Chicago).
I feel like there's this backlash to the Rose-point-guard-dominance theory. Problem is, people are using historical arguments on point-guard effectiveness rather than looking at current trends. It seems like recent evidence suggests that great point guards can have amazing impacts on their teams the next 10 years.-- Nathan, Boston
You may be right. The way the game is played may turn the NBA into a point-guard league. But the most important consideration should be the talent of the player when it comes to the No. 1 pick. If Beasley or Rose has it in him to become one of the top half-dozen players in the NBA, then that's the player Chicago should pick -- because that's the kind of player who can lead his team to the championship, regardless of position.
2. On my questionable assessment that Ben Wallace will make the Hall of Fame ...
Ben Wallace? Hall of Fame? He's averaged 6.5 points a game in his career. Dennis Rodman was a far better player than Wallace and he isn't in the Hall of Fame. Wallace, although he was a solid role player and critical piece of that Pistons championship team, is nowhere near HOF material. I love reading your articles, but I seriously can't believe you just said that.-- Laith, Washington, D.C.
A one-dimensional player who had a slow start to his career, a four-year peak as a one-way player, and then fell off a cliff. I guarantee you that Ben Wallace never sniffs the HOF.-- Mike Enlow, Coral Springs, Fla.
I may be on the wrong side of this argument. Wallace dominated in a unique way that belied statistics, but I accept your case that he may not have played at a high level for a long enough time to merit the Hall of Fame.
1. Explain how Doug Collins is a good fit for the Bulls. I just don't see it.-- Ronald, Oak Grove, Ill.
I haven't been able to talk to GM Paxson about it, but I assume the thinking is that he could provide direction and discipline to a very young team that went sideways this year. He obviously has the backing of owner Jerry Reinsdorf, with whom Collins has built a strong relationship since he last coached the Bulls almost two decades ago. The issue for Collins is that his intensity as coach has tended to eat him up, which means that he must hire an assistant or two to provide him with perspective. But for the short term, I'm imagining that the Bulls believe he will bring structure to a team that had fallen out of sorts.
3. Andrew Bynum isn't there. No playoff opponent has punished the Lakers for the absence of Bynum, a 7-foot center who was unable to return this season after suffering a knee injury in January. Instead of trying to squeeze Bynum back into the lineup during the playoffs, the Lakers have seen Pau Gasol settle in nicely at center since arriving from Memphis in a February trade.
"If you think about the triangle offense, center is the easiest position to play,'' a rival team's scout said. "If Bynum had come back, it might have screwed everything up, because Gasol would have had to try to figure it out all over again as a power forward. That would have made things a lot more complicated for him because the Lakers like to move their power forwards out to the wing.''
As a center, Gasol has been able to play a relatively simple but crucial role by playing near the basket. Had Bynum returned from his knee injury, the Lakers would have been dealing with two major issues: getting Bynum up to playoff speed when he may have been lacking confidence as a young player coming off knee surgery, and working Gasol into a more complicated position.
2. Phil Jackson is the best coach. No coach has a better feel for how and when to apply demands to his team than Jackson. He'll be seeking his 10th NBA championship; his opponent -- Doc Rivers or Flip Saunders -- will be coaching in his first Finals.
1. Kobe Bryant is MVP. The best player on the floor usually wins the NBA Finals. However, the last time the rule failed was in 2004, when Shaquille O'Neal and Bryant were upset by the Pistons.
There may be only three "traditional'' point guards taken in the first round. Here are the other two ...
2. Ty Lawson. The 5-11 sophomore from North Carolina played well in the predraft camp and could be a late first-rounder. "He's inconsistent with his outside shot,'' an Eastern Conference player personnel director said. "Lawson is better in the open court; he might struggle in a slower-paced game. But if you look at the number of point guards available, his value will be inflated.''
1. D.J. Augustin. As the consensus No. 2 pick among "true'' point guards, the 6-foot Texas sophomore is expected to be drafted in the top 10. "He has improved in his point-guard skills,'' the player personnel director said. "He's pretty smart, but his size will hurt him. I saw Derrick Rose crush him during the season with his size.''
"He is definitely a pass-first, shoot-second point guard,'' another Eastern player personnel director said. "I know many times [Texas coach Rick] Barnes had to tell him to shoot more often. You don't see that very much these days.''
1. J.R. Giddens. No one made a major leap by competing in Orlando, but the 6-5 senior guard probably played his way into the first round. "He has an NBA body and he has a true position, which is important,'' a GM said. "He's the kind of guy that fills up the stat sheet. His shot doesn't look great, but it goes in. He'll compete athletically and he's a pretty tough kid.''
Giddens transferred from Kansas as a sophomore after he was stabbed in the leg during a bar fight. As a junior at New Mexico, he was suspended for being a bad teammate. But the 23-year-old matured to have an impressive senior year at New Mexico, where he led the Mountain West in rebounds (8.8) and ranked in the top 10 in points (16.3), shooting (51.6 percent), assists (3.1), steals (1.4) and blocks (1.2).
"He was my sleeper in the draft,'' added the GM, who hoped to steal Giddens in the second round. "Now I'll have to find somebody new.''