Tuesday, April 15, 2008


by Robbi Pickeral, Staff Writer Raleigh News & Observer

One NBA Draft analyst said Monday that North Carolina basketball players Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington likely won't be lottery picks if they choose to declare early and make themselves a part of the NBA Draft.

But returning to college for another season could significantly increase the stock for at least two of those Tar Heels, simply because the talent in the 2009 draft is expected to be thinner. Lottery picks are considered the top 14 selections; underclassmen must submit their names for the draft by April 27.

"It's a really deep draft already this year ... and not everyone has declared yet," said Chris Monter, the publisher of College Basketball News, who frequently talks with NBA team scouts and attends NBA pre-draft camps.

"There were nine freshmen taken last year, and this year there could be even more."

Per NBA rules, team scouts are not allowed to comment on underclassmen. Monter, who does not publish a mock draft until the declaration deadline has passed, said that:

* Hansbrough, a 6-foot-9 junior and the consensus national player of the year, will be an effective pro player for years because of his work ethic. But he isn't viewed as having as much "NBA upside" as younger, more athletic players.

He expects Hansbrough to be a mid to late first-round pick -- whether he goes this year or next.

* Lawson is a strong, physical point guard, but because of his two ankle sprains and seven missed games this season, "people will wonder about his durability."

And although NBA point guards such as Chris Paul and Deron Williams have shown that height doesn't necessarily matter in the pros, "there might be a question about his size in such a deep draft."

He projects the 5-11 sophomore as a first-round pick, "but outside the lottery."

* Ellington is "a very athletic player who can score," but the draft is particularly loaded at shooting guard, so another year would help. He projects the sophomore as a late first-rounder.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams had initial meetings with the players last week and has said he tries to gather information from 10 NBA teams.

UNC will hold its season-ending awards ceremony Thursday. Hansbrough announced his intention to return to UNC at that event last season.

(Photos by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images and Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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