Lucas at Large: Leuer poised to be Badgers' latest draft pick

110623_MBB_Leuer.jpgHere's how one NBA executive sized up the draft.

"The trend of underclassmen coming out certainly makes it a more talented draft than it was,'' he said. "But these guys are getting younger and younger as they come out.

"Some of them may not be quite as ready as they think they are.

"The expectation sometimes is NBA stardom and that might not happen.''

Most would agree with that assessment of today's NBA.

Only these comments weren't made today. They weren't made yesterday, either.

They were made 16 years ago by Sacramento Kings' vice-president Geoff Petrie.

The more things change, the more ...

Petrie is now Sacramento's team president, but his opinions are still tangent to the 2011 draft.

Here's how another NBA executive saw the draft.

"If you don't feel comfortable that a player has a strong work ethic,'' he said, "that a player is coachable, that a player loves the game and that a player is competitive, then you probably aren't going to have a consistent performer.

"Consistency is as important as anything. You have such a demanding, grueling, lengthy schedule that consistent performers and coachable people become so valuable. NBA teams value that tremendously and the players that stand out regarding intangibles are ones that team target.''

The speaker was Brad Greenberg, then the vice-president of the Portland Trail Blazers -- then being 1995. Greenberg would move on to Philly, where he would draft Allen Iverson over Kobe Bryant. After a four-year coaching stint at Radford, Greenberg resigned amid allegations of NCAA violations.

Why the flashbacks? What Petrie and Greenberg had to say THEN still applies today; then was also the draft year of two former UW players, Michael Finley and Rashard Griffith. The former was taken in the first round, No. 21, by Phoenix; the latter went in the second round, No. 38, to the Bucks.

Finley carved out a very nice NBA career. Griffith never played in the league. But he has made a comfortable living playing as a professional in Europe. "I believe God does everything for a reason,'' Griffith once told me. "And it was meant for me to go overseas.''

It definitely worked out for Griffith, 36, who has played on a number of championship teams during his career, which included stops in Turkey, Spain, Israel, Italy and Romania. While Finley had less of a need for MapQuest in the NBA, he also has a championship ring, thanks to the San Antonio Spurs.

The moral of this story? Roundball success is not limited to one path. Finley was a four-year player at Wisconsin, Griffith was not. He played two seasons and declared for the draft during a coaching transition from interim head coach Stan Van Gundy to incoming coach Dick Bennett.

For the record, Finley was one of seven UW players chosen in the first round of the draft.

Will Jon Leuer be the eighth when the draft begins Thursday at 6 p.m., joining the likes of Alando Tucker (2007), Devin Harris (2004), Paul Grant (1997), Finley ('95), Wes Matthews (1980), Albert Henry (1970) and Don Rehfeldt (1950)?

Based on the early projections, Leuer has been slotted for the second round though there's a chance that he could sneak into the first round with the Celtics, Mavericks, Nets, Spurs or Bulls, who will select at the end of the round. The Bulls currently hold the 28th and 30th picks.

Hit rewind to Greenberg's sentiments from 16 years ago about the value of players who are coachable and possess a strong work ethic; players who stand out for the intangibles. If that is still the case today, you would think that Leuer would be a fit for somebody in that first round.

It will be interesting to see how the draft treats the senior class -- four-year players like Leuer, Jimmer Fredette, Kenneth Faried, Nolan Smith, Justin Harper, JaJuan Johnson, Kyle Singler, Charles Jenkins, Norris Cole, Demetri McCamey, Marshon Brooks, E'Twaun Moore, Chandler Parson, et al.

The only "sure thing'' about the 2011 draft is that Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams will likely be among the top picks, if not No. 1, and No. 2, respectively. Irving played all of 11 games at Duke because of injuries. Williams played a couple of seasons at Arizona.

The Badgers have some history with Williams. In fact, Williams said recently that one of the turning points in his brief college career was a game that he played in the 2009 Maui Invitational against Wisconsin. Williams, then a freshman, scored 25 points, including 13-of-21 free throws.

The Badgers had the last laugh, winning 65-61, behind Trevon Hughes, who finished with 24 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and five steals. Williams, of course, will be laughing all the way to the bank tonight when he hears his name called by NBA commissioner David Stern.

But there is one caveat - one word -- that will impact everyone's immediate future.

Lockout.

To be continued.
ON WISCONSIN