NBA awaits a Devil of a draft
Posted: Tuesday June 29, 1999 04:25 PM
Show me the money: Elton Brand leads a large class of Blue Devils looking to get some NBA dollars. Jamie Squire/Allsport
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -- Duke lost the national championship three months ago. The Blue Devils will lose a whole lot more Wednesday in the NBA draft.
Players such as Grant Hill, Christian Laettner, Danny Ferry, Mike Gminski and Gene Banks never left Duke early for the riches of pro basketball.
But Duke's luck ran out this season. Elton Brand said he would turn pro after his sophomore season, setting off a domino effect involving underclassmen William Avery and Corey Maggette.
Add senior Trajan Langdon and the Blue Devils most likely become the first team to have four first-round picks in the same draft.
Five schools have had three first-round selections in the same year: Indiana (1976), Michigan (1990), UNLV (1991), Arkansas (1992) and Kentucky (1996).
"It is really hard to imagine that this could happen very often," said Keith Drum, an area scout for the Sacramento Kings.
There was talk of a Duke dynasty after coach Mike Krzyzewski led the team to a 37-2 record with players such as Brand, Avery and Maggette returning to join Chris Carrawell, Shane Battier and Nate James.
Now the Blue Devils begin next season with six freshmen among their 10 scholarship players.
Krzyzewski said last week he felt hurt after some of the players bolted early, the trio not even staying for their junior seasons.
"I think we have allure here," Krzyzewski said. "We have one of the great schools, we have an outstanding basketball program and we have great people. To me, that's a heck of a thing to be a part of. To me, that stands by itself against anything."
Not millions of dollars, though.
Brand, Avery and Maggette are expected to go high in the first round, but teams have questions about all three.
Is Brand tall enough? Can Avery run the point in the NBA? Does Maggette have the experience?
Brand is 270 pounds and 6-foot-8, and some speculate he is closer to 6-5 1/2. In fact, Brand was measured twice when he worked out for the Chicago Bulls.
"Teams made a big deal about it," Brand said. "When it was my turn to get measured it was like, 'OK, it's Brand, shoes off, socks off, head straight' because there were so many rumors."
But Brand's height checked out and he has surprised some teams.
Charlotte Hornets coach Paul Silas, whose team picks third, has a drill in which players are fed the ball in a stationary position and dunk it repeatedly. He said most of his players can do about 10 straight dunks. Brand did 20.
"He has great physical size, long arms, great hands, a soft touch, quick feet and he can run," Drum said. "Without question, he was the best low-post guy in college basketball."
Avery, a 6-2 sophomore, joins Maryland's Steve Francis and UCLA's Baron Davis as the top point guards in the draft.
"There are questions to be answered like will he get his shot away or get stronger?" assistant director of NBA scouting Ryan Blake said.
"He'll have to learn more about running a team while he uses his skills," Krzyzewski added. "Our team was an easier team to run. That will be his biggest thing he has to learn while still trying to hit his shot."
Maggette, a 6-6 freshman, was Duke's sixth man. He may be the draft's biggest mystery -- or reward.
"I saw him play twice. I didn't notice him," said Marty Blake, the head of NBA scouting. "The guy looks athletic."
While Maggette already has a pro-type body, he averaged only 17 minutes a game for the Blue Devils.
"He is the epitome of a world of potential," Drum said. "He is a great athlete and is an explosive jumper. Now he just has to bring the game together. Right now he more athlete than basketball player."
Krzyzewski thinks Langdon, his senior star, is the one most ready for the pros.
"He should be a longtime NBA player," the coach said. "He's solid. There is very little variance in his game."
The 6-3 guard also has one big edge in a pro game desperate for scoring.
"He does the one thing that everybody in basketball all want to see more of -- he shoots the ball," Drum said. "He is one of the best shooters in this draft, if not the best."
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