June 24, 2004

From High School to the NBA

An unprecedented number of high school seniors were drafted in the first round of the 2004 NBA Draft. Not only were eight players chosen in the first round, they were actually taken in the first 19 picks. Leading the way is the No. 1 pick of the draft, Dwight Howard.

Dwight Howard 6-foot-11, 240-pound power forward- No. 1 to the Orlando Magic:

Look for Howard to make an instant impact defensively and on the boards. His offense should come along as the season progresses. He has a well-rounded offensive skill package that needs refinement.

Shaun Livingston 6-foot-7, 175-pound point guard- No. 4 to the Los Angeles Clippers:

Yes, Livingston is physically weak, but he will get stronger. More importantly, his high skill level and knowledge of the game, along with his height, will allow him to make an impact in his first year. In the end, he could be the best NBA player in this year's draft.

Robert Swift 7-foot, 245-pound center- No. 12 to the Seattle Sonics:

Swift has the frame to hold NBA strength, and he already has NBA agility and skill. He will come along as an NBA player as fast as he gains weight and strength. He also must improve his stamina.

Sebastian Telfair 6-foot, 165-pound point guard- No. 13 to the Portland Trail Blazers:

Going much higher than expected, there are a lot of doubters out there about Telfair's ability to get it done any time soon, but look for him to develop into a very good NBA point guard. He is a winner who does not shy away from pressure, and there is always a place on the court for a guy who can handle with quickness and make any pass on the court. His shot will come around. Questions linger about his ability to defend.

Al Jefferson 6-foot-10, 265-pound power forward- No. 15 to the Boston Celtics:

Of all the high school prospects in the draft, Jefferson has the ability to make the biggest impact right away. He has a polished back-to-the-basket game, and he can face up and score from the perimeter. He has the strength to battle inside in the league, with the question being how he will defend on the perimeter.

Josh Smith 6-foot-9, 210-pound small forward- No. 17 to the Atlanta Hawks:

Smith is a freak athlete who must become a better basketball player. He can make plays off the ball on defense, and he can catch and shoot the NBA three-pointer. What he cannot do very well, however, is create off the dribble or defend the ball. He must mature physically and mentally and learn to play hard all the time.

J.R. Smith 6-foot-6, 220-pound shooting guard- No. 18 to the New Orleans Hornets:

The best attribute of Smith is his ability to stretch the defense with his tremendous shooting range. Better yet, he can shoot the deep ball off the catch or dribble. He complements his range with the ability to attack the basket and finish, but he will need to learn to finish at mid-range before he can become a primary scoring option in the NBA. He does not have to be a primary scoring threat right away, yet he will need to defend from the start. His ability to do so is a question mark.

Dorell Wright 6-foot-7, 210-pound small forward- No. 19 to the Miami Heat:

A long, smooth athlete with a great first step, Wright should eventually be a good NBA player. As with Josh Smith, it will take at least a couple years for him to mature into that type of player. His game will come along as he gets stronger.



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