By Skip Bayless
Page 2

Doubt rules the top of this NBA draft.

You probably love Marvin Williams. I'm not sold.

Will Andrew Bogut or Chris Paul ever make an All-Star team? You probably say no doubt. I'd give it a definite maybe.

Andrew Bynum
It's all good for Bynum . . . for the time being.

As a Western Conference general manager told me: "If in five years you told me that Bogut, Williams and Paul hadn't made an All-Star team, I wouldn't be shocked. With LeBron and Carmelo, I would have been shocked."

Translation: No LeBron or Carmelo in this crop.

I like Deron Williams – you probably love him. But I say the high school kid, Gerald Green, will turn out to be better than anyone else in this draft.

Then again, Green is no Scola. Luis Scola almost certainly will be a better NBA player than anyone who will be drafted Tuesday night.

You probably say: "Who?"

That's why the champions can't stop grinning. Not only did the San Antonio Spurs just win their third NBA title in seven years, but they're also about to add the best power forward playing pro ball in Europe. Six-foot-8 Scola – as fearlessly tough as he is skilled – was as much a force on Argentina's Olympic gold-medal team last summer as Manu Ginobili.

Think Manu at power forward. Scola attacks the glass the way Manu attacks the rim.

No fair, you say?

No, fair.

Though you probably can't name their GM (R.C. Buford) or their director of player personnel (Sam Presti), the Spurs keep beating the system, in the draft and on the court. The more they win, the worse their draft picks are. The worse their picks, the more sensationally (and internationally) they draft.

Three drafts ago, the Spurs took Scola in the second round. Now, their goal is to buy him out of his European contract so he can rejoin his buddy Manu, who will make his transition into the NBA so much easier.

In 1999, the same Spurs, who had just won the championship, took somebody named Emanuel Ginobili with the second-to-last pick in the second round. If you redrafted today, Manu would go No. 1 over '99 top picks Elton Brand, Steve Francis, Baron Davis and Lamar Odom.

Manu deserved Finals MVP over Tim Duncan, who won it six votes to four.

In 1997, the Spurs took Duncan No. 1 overall despite doubts around the league about whether he had the physique or mentality to make a dent in the NBA. "Too undersized and soft," I heard then about 6-11 Duncan, who is from St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. "Too much of that don't-worry, be-happy island mentality."

Duncan still plays too soft at times – and he's still very hard to beat.

In 2001, the Spurs took a kid from Paris named Tony Parker with the 28th pick in the first round. Now, he's their third star. How do you say dynasty in French?

Duncan, 29, and Ginobili, 27, are signed through 2010. Parker, 23, is wrapped up through 2011. Scola will only make this team better.

I know what Scola can do. I saw him lead Argentina to a gold medal.

I'm not sure about Bogut. He averaged a not-bad 14.8 points and 8.8 rebounds for Australia's Olympic team. But he could not carry his Utah team to the Final Four, which should be cause for alarm in Milwaukee (the Bucks have the No. 1 pick).

Bogut's Utes lost a Sweet 16 game by 10 to Kentucky, which didn't exactly have a front line of Walton, Olajuwon and Ewing. Bogut had 20 points and 11 rebounds. But, come on – if he were a future perennial NBA All-Star, he would have dominated Kentucky, then Michigan State, then made eventual champion North Carolina sweat in the Final Four.

Yes, Bogut is a deft and willing passer. For a big man, he's a very good outside shooter. He's fundamentally sound around the basket with either hand.

But will he be Tim Duncan? No. He doesn't have Duncan's leadership gift or Duncan's subtle, underrated athleticism. Bogut will be a nice player, not a great one.

I'm even less convinced about Marvin Williams. His physique, explosive athleticism and shooting touch are undeniable. But his mental and physical toughness are uninspiring.

As a freshman last season, Williams was completely content to come off the bench. Bad sign. The deeper the Tar Heels went in the NCAA Tournament, the smaller he often played. Worse sign. In the championship game against Illinois, he was so nervous he had trouble holding onto the ball. Scariest sign.

Yes, Williams made a big tip-in late in that game. But it looked a little lucky, almost accidental.

You hear so much about this kid, but you don't see it. Williams didn't leap off the TV screen the way Carmelo did carrying Syracuse to the national title. One good look at Carmelo, and you just knew.

Does Williams have Ginobili's team-lifting spark, his relentless energy, his ravenous capacity to score crucial flurries of points? I haven't seen those things yet, and I'll be surprised if I do. Williams is a nice kid who'll be no more than a nice player.

Ginobili has led teams to championships at every level.

Could Paul become a better scoring point guard than Parker? Paul is certainly a better passer than Parker, who becomes a turnover-prone liability against good defensive teams. But at 6 feet, Paul is two inches shorter than Parker and isn't as quick. Parker is astonishingly slippery and inventive. You always know he's on the floor because he's a rare talent.

I watched lots of Chris Paul games in which I kept losing sight of Chris Paul. Is he unselfish to a fault? He was at his best when he was forced to take over to keep Wake Forest in a second-round NCAA game against West Virginia. But long story short: Wake lost.

I've heard so much more than I've seen about how NBA great Paul will be.

Coaches and GMs love 6-foot-3 point guard Deron Williams because he has such a high basketball IQ and makes so many "little plays." The subtly perfect bounce pass, the defensive deflection, the left-handed tip-in. Williams was the most valuable player on what, for much of the season, was college basketball's best team – Illinois.

I'd want him on my team. But I'd wonder how many big plays he would make.

Big plays were all Gerald Green made in the McDonald's All-American high school game. He won the slam-dunk contest and he should have won MVP after making six 3-pointers. The kid from Houston is 6-foot-8 and longer than the Texas panhandle. It wasn't hard to envision another 18-year-old Tracy McGrady.

It was a good sign that Green signed with Oklahoma State. That meant he wasn't afraid to learn the game the right way – the hard way – from tough old Eddie Sutton in no-frills Stillwater.

Now that Green has made himself available for the draft, I'd take him over anyone else and take my chances.

But of course, the Spurs have beaten the system by identifying and snatching the best international players, then often letting them learn the game the hardest way, in European pro leagues. Maybe Green and Marvin Williams would benefit from a year in Europe, where the crowds can be "much tougher than the NBA's," Ginobili says.

But, of course, Green and Williams would sooner play patty-cake than play in Europe.

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich is the son of Serbo-Croatian parents. "Pop" is as big a coaching star internationally as Phil Jackson is in the states. Pop's worldwide network makes him a one-man "Ocean's Twelve" as he steals gems from here to Paris.

He has veto power over a draft committee that includes Buford, Presti, former University of Texas star Lance Blanks and Danny Ferry, who's on his way to Cleveland to be GM.

Who knew Ferry was working for the Spurs? Who can name the owner of this cap-era dynasty? (Peter Holt.) Who had heard of Beno Udrih from Slovenia when the Spurs took him 28th in last year's draft? (As a rookie, Udrih proved to be a solid backup point guard). How many American fans realize the Spurs still have big plans for former second-round picks Viktor Sanikidze from the Republic of Georgia and Sergei Karaulov from Uzbekistan?

If I were the Bucks, I'd have a hard time passing up Gerald Green. And I'd be thankful that, this year, the Spurs don't have a second-round pick.

Skip Bayless can be seen Monday through Friday on "Cold Pizza," ESPN2's morning show, and at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN's "1st & 10." His column appears twice weekly on Page 2. You can e-mail Skip here.


        Paginated view