Nikoloz Tskitishvili. The mere mention of the name strikes fear in the hearts of NBA general managers everywhere. After being picked #5 by the Nuggets in the 2002 NBA Draft the 7 footer from Georgia (the country) has done nothing in the NBA. That is, unless you count playing for four teams in five years and being released by two others before ever playing a game. The problem with Tskitishvili was that nobody really knew anything about him other than that he was 7 feet tall, foreign, and allegedly could run the floor and shoot. The problem was though, for all the hype and potential there was very little evidence that Tskitishvili really had the skills scouts saw in him. Going into this years draft there are a few players like Tskitishvili that look like they might turn out being more hype than substance. So who are these prospects?
If you read the reports on Jianlian and compare them to the things that were said about Tskitishvili when he entered the draft, the two are eerily similar. Both are long, tall, run the floor, and both are completely unproven. I find it somewhat curious that Jianlian has declined to conduct workouts except in L.A., and the workouts he has conducted have been against either chairs or Harvard center Brian Cusworth. After being projected as high as #3 or #5 early in the draft process popular opinion seems to be swaying against Jianlian, and many experts now think he may fall as low as #12 to the 76ers.
Recent rumors have the Knicks looking at Chandler at #23, and if that pick were to occur it would be quite fitting. I mean, the Knicks showed in last year's first round that they liked SF tweeners, so why not take another one? When looking at Chandler and his two seasons at DePaul, the most worrisome thing is that he seems to be a man without an NBA position. In college the 6-7, 220 pound Chandler mainly played PF but projects as either a SG or SF in the pros. The problem with that projection though is that Chandler just doesn't have the jump shot or the defensive quickness to play the SF position in the pros. Likewise, he does not have the height or bulk to realistically play PF in the pros. Sounds like a Knicks kind of pick to me.
If I was a GM I would not go anywhere near Cook with a first round pick and the subsequent guaranteed contract. Coming out of high school Cook was touted as the top mid-range shooter in the country, but his performance in his one year at Ohio State was rather puzzling. He averaged 9.8 PPG, but that number is misleading: his six 20 point games came against VMI, E. Kentucky, USF, Valpo, Iowa State, and Coppin State. After that early season run Cook cooled off and by the end of the season Thad Matta had drastically cut Cook's minutes. It would seem to me that if a respected coach like Matta lost faith in a prospect, and said prospect racked up most of his stats against cupcakes, I would be wary of spending a first rounder on that player.
Smith played three solid years for Colorado State, but during his tenure there the Rams did not play often against top flight competition. Smith has a similar build and similar numbers with fellow prospects Nick Fazekas and Kyle Visser, yet Fazekas and Visser are widely considered to be second round picks at best. So why is Smith being talked about as high as #19 to the Lakers? The answer evades me, especially since Fazekas does everything Smith does, except he does it better. Maybe the GMs of the league will prove me wrong, but I just don't see Smith living up to first round status.