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  1. #1

    Great Article about the 2003 rookies

    Sizing up the class of 2003
    Sean Deveney /

    Before the season started, this was to be the Year of The Rookie in the NBA, and there was no doubt who was going to own the year: Cleveland's teenage sensation, LeBron James. Interest in those chosen immediately after James -- Yugoslavian big man Darko Milicic and Syracuse cover boy Carmelo Anthony -- also was high, but after that, being a member of the 2003 draft class got you a shrug of the shoulders and a presumed seat on the end of the bench.

    It hasn't worked out that way, though. Draft night '03 belonged to James and the Cavaliers, but, apparently, there were some very good players taken after the James-Milicic-Anthony trio. In fact, we've got 10 other reasons for you to love the class of 2003.

    1. Chris Bosh, Raptors. Pick: 4th. No question, the Raptors need to acquire some big-man help for Bosh, and even if they sign Tyrone Hill, they'll need more. Bosh is out of position at center, and he has shown signs of wearing down as his minutes have piled up.

    When he is at his best, though, Bosh is an athletic, intelligent player who blocks shots, rebounds and can score in a variety of ways. His post moves look natural -- he's still building his repertoire -- and he can shoot out to 18-20 feet, making him a deadly pick-and-roll partner. He's thin, but stronger than he looks.

    2. Dwyane Wade, Heat. Pick: 5th. Wade was supposed to pose a Jason Terry-type problem on the NBA level -- a shooting guard in an undersize package that would force him to play point guard. He's still not a natural point guard, but when you put him into an offense that features good passers like Lamar Odom and Eddie Jones, that weakness can be masked. And, at 6-5 with long arms, he is a very good defender.

    It may just be rookie enthusiasm (he evokes a younger, smaller Vince Carter at times), but few players attack the rim with as much gusto as Wade. Most of his baskets come on smart, aggressive drives into the paint. When the Heat won seven times in a nine-game stretch in December, Wade was outstanding, averaging 22.2 points on 54.6 percent shooting.

    3. Josh Howard, Mavericks. Pick: 29th. Often, the last pick in the first round can be revealing. During the meat of the draft, so many teams are seeking the next prep school steal or 18-year-old European sensation that they lose sight of the blatant, obvious talents on the draft board. This is how guys like Gilbert Arenas and Carlos Boozer slip into the second round, and it is how Howard wound up with Dallas.

    The Mavs were considering shipping this pick away until it was clear that Howard, the unanimous ACC (yes, that is Atlantic Coast Conference) player of the year would be available. At 6-6, Howard is versatile and smart, with a good scoring touch around the rim, decent mid-range shooting and aggressive attitude on the boards.

    Most rookies fly under the radar screen for a couple of months, then get picked up by scouts, and teams figure out how to defend and attack them. But, lost among Dirk Nowitzki, Antoine Walker, Michael Finley and Steve Nash, Howard probably will stay under the radar all season. He's been starting ahead of Antawn Jamison, and what's more, he is getting more minutes than Jamison.

    4. Kirk Hinrich, Bulls. Pick: 7th. Believe it or not, two of the biggest questions scouts had about Hinrich heading into last year's draft was his toughness and defense. As it turns out, those are the two elements that have secured his spot in the Bulls' starting lineup. He's a relentless defender, and spends more time on the United Center floor than the Bulls' janitor.

    It's the other things -- poor decisions and inconsistent shooting -- that have been the drawbacks for Hinrich so far. He's playing big-time minutes with the Bulls, and by all indications, he won't be able to handle the workload much longer. But if he can leap the rookie wall early, he will be a very solid NBA point guard this year.

    5. T.J. Ford, Bucks. Pick: 8th. The things that had scared away teams like Miami and Chicago have come to fruition with Ford. His size -- he's listed at 6-0, 165 -- makes him a defensive liability against bigger point guards, and he simply can't shoot. His field goal percentage (34.7) is among the worst for NBA starters.

    But you could argue that, after LeBron James, no rookie has had a bigger impact on his team than Ford, who is a lightning-fast ballhandler with great court sense. The Bucks are supposed to be rebuilding, but instead they are in the East playoff mix, thanks in large part to Ford.

    He splits minutes with Damon Jones, but Ford is the starter, and his speed sets the pace for the Bucks. They pressure the ball and run the floor so effectively that you hardly notice they're lacking big men. Ford may never learn to shoot, but if he continues to get into the paint, he can simply dish off and let his teammates do the shooting.

    6. Zarko Cabarkapa, Suns. Pick: 17th. Cabarkapa had a wink-wink agreement with the Suns before the draft, but there sure were some other teams that could have used him (Orlando comes to mind). He is a 6-11 slasher with good pull-up ability. Cabarkapa's first coach, Frank Johnson, is now the Suns' former coach, and one of the reasons is that Johnson did not give Cabarkapa minutes early in the season.

    When Dallas' Danny Fortson broke Cabarkapa's wrist, the rookie was in the midst of his best game and most playing time, 17 points and 9 rebounds in 29 minutes. In fact, since Cabarkapa has gone down, the Suns have gone 3-13, after a 7-7 start. A tougher, road-heavy schedule and the injury to Amare Stoudemire probably contributed to that mark more than Cabarkapa's absence, but there's no question that the rookie's size and versatility are missed in Phoenix.

    7. David West, Hornets. Pick: 18th. No rookie has been as reliable as West with as little fanfare. With P.J. Brown, Jamaal Magloire and Robert Traylor on board in New Orleans, there are only 12-18 minutes per game available for West, but he takes advantage of them.

    Per-48-minute stats are often deceiving, but in West's case, they show how effective he has been on the boards -- he's first in offensive rebounds per 48 minutes (6.8) and fourth in overall rebounds per 48 minutes (16.6). He's a good offensive player who has yet to find a rhythm in the NBA, shooting just 43.9 percent -- he'll shoot in the 46-48 percent range eventually.

    Many scouts thought he would be too small (6-9, barely) to be an effective power forward, but he is a bit like Elton Brand in that the length of his arms allows him to attack the glass effectively.

    8. Chris Kaman, Clippers. Pick: 6th. Kaman's big problem was supposed to be his strength and his shooting range. His upper body is almost concave, he's a weak defender and his shot outside the paint is awkward. But Kaman is nearly as talented using his left hand as he is with his right, and for a stretch of games in December, Kaman hit the boards strong and made his short-range jumpers.

    Stamina seems to be Kaman's biggest problem, though, and coach Mike Dunleavy is testing out the pairing of Chris Wilcox and Elton Brand ahead of Kaman. He's shown his talent, but how hard he works will determine how much opportunity he gets.

    9. Jarvis Hayes, Wizards. Pick: 10th. Hayes' shooting runs hot-and-cold, and he must establish consistency (that, of course, is a theme when talking about rookies). If he is to become the taller, thicker version of Richard Hamilton that the Wizards hope he can, then he will have to shoot around 45 percent. He has the form to do it.

    Hayes has already shown he can handle himself defensively at the small forward spot, and his ability to move without the basketball and hit spot-up shots will determine his future. Arenas has been out and Hayes has established a rapport with fellow rookie Steve Blake, but the return of Arenas, as well as the eventual return of Jerry Stackhouse, will limit Hayes' role as the season progresses.

    The team clearly is excited about Hayes -- excited enough, say some personnel folks, to consider putting Stackhouse on the trading block this summer.

    10. Luke Ridnour, Sonics. Pick: 14th. The return of Ray Allen and Brent Barry probably will mean a cut in minutes for Ridnour, but he made a good accounting of himself during the early season. He's not especially quick defensively, but he gives good effort.

    His shooting has been improving after some rough games early in the year, and it looks like he has a good stroke. He's an excellent free-throw shooter, too, but he needs more confidence to drive the lane and draw contact. It's doubtful that the Sonics will hold onto Barry (a free agent) after this year, which means Ridnour probably will be the future point guard.

    Sean Deveney is a staff writer for Sporting News. Email him at

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  3. #2
    nice in-depth story!!

    It is amazing how ineffective Darko is.

    the Pistons are treating him like an infant

    he should at least be playing 1-2 minutes every day.

    Pistons aren't gonna win the NBA title (Lakers, Spurs, Kings will).. so why not allow Darko experience time?

  4. #3
    Originally posted by podstock
    nice in-depth story!!

    It is amazing how ineffective Darko is.

    the Pistons are treating him like an infant

    he should at least be playing 1-2 minutes every day.

    Pistons aren't gonna win the NBA title (Lakers, Spurs, Kings will).. so why not allow Darko experience time?
    I thought this was a pretty nice article, that was straight up.

  5. #4
    Very nice article. It's nice to hear something about NBA RC's that's not LEBRON!

  6. #5
    You are right, podstock...I have no idea why they are not playing Milicic at least a little bit...

  7. #6
    I heard from ESPN a while ago that Milicic can really play. He supposedly does some pretty sic moves in practice and is one of the better players in practice. I know they want to bring him along slowly, but this is a little too slow!

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