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Commencement: Draft-Class Superlatives

by Dan Shanoff

Posted: Thu June 18, 1998

Good morning, dear parents, posses, agents, toadies, summer-league coaches and—of course—the members of the NBA Draft Class of 1998. We would call you graduates, but perhaps that's not the most accurate word....

We are gathered here to salute you, as you prepare to make the leap from dorm to mansion...exam to endorsement...bus to BMW (though some of you surely got there as collegians).

A common high school rite of passage is the "senior superlatives," distributed at the end of the year—the list of "mosts," "leasts," "bests" and "worsts" that can define an academic career or saddle the recipient with expectations, or mockery, for a lifetime..

We've assembled our own honor roll of superlatives to send off the NBA Draft Class of 1998.

Cue the commencement music...

MOST LIKELY TO ENDORSE JOHN DEERE:
Michigan's Robert "Tractor" Traylor, who will also get his pick of fast-food sponsorship opportunities.

BEST SHOT TO BE A CBA ALL-STAR:
Charles Jones
, Long Island U., whose collegiate scoring prowess will play well on the marquee in places like Yakima, Wash., and LaCrosse, Wis.

LEAST LIKELY TO MAKE ANOTHER SPORTS ILLUSTRATED COVER:
Felipe Lopez
, St. John's. 'Nuff said.

MOST DESTINED FOR THE "WHERE-ARE-THEY-NOW?" FILE:
1998 NCAA Final Four MVP Jeff Sheppard and 1997 NCAA Final Four MVP Miles Simon, whose best years are behind them.

LEAST LIKELY TO MEET A SHOT HE'D DISLIKE:
Oregon State gunner Corey Benjamin. Too bad we have about as much confidence in his jump shot as the American public has in Kenneth Starr.

BIGGEST 'TWEENER:
North Carolina's Antawn Jamison, with the heart of Karl Malone and the height of George Karl.

MOST LIKELY TO REGRET LEAVING COLLEGE EARLY:
Iowa's Ricky Davis. Unless your name is Marbury, one good-not-great college season does not an NBA player make.

MOST LIKELY TO REGRET MISSING COLLEGE ALTOGETHER:
Ellis Richardson
, Polytechnic H.S. in Sun Valley, Calif. This guy is so far off the NBA radar screen, he could double as "most likely to endorse the stealth bomber."

BEST IMPRESSION OF MATT BRUST:
North Carolina's Makhtar Ndiaye, who, like the former St. John's standout, seemed to be in college for a decade. Also known as the "Barry Goheen Award."

SAFEST BET FOR THE FANTASY LEAGUE ALL-ROOKIE TEAM:
Arizona's Mike Bibby, who will be handed the ball and given the green light right away for some sorry team. Winning games? Nah. It's all about the stats.

WORST PRONUNCIATION NIGHTMARE FOR DAVID STERN AT THE PODIUM:
Slovenia's Radoslav Nesterovic, followed by Vladimir Stepania from Olimpia Ljubljana in Georgia (of the former U.S.S.R., not U.S.A.), then Greece's Dimitris Papanikolaou.

MOST THANKFUL TO BE LEAVING COLLEGE:
Indiana's Andrae Patterson, who says "goodnight" to Bob Knight.

MOST DESPERATE TO FIND A JUMP SHOT BEFORE DRAFT NIGHT:
UCLA's Toby Bailey, who has the athleticism of a pro but the shooting mechanics of your local YMCA stiff.

MOST UPSIDE:
Pacific center Michael Olowokandi, who brings the physical tools of a nimble 7-footer, even if he doesn't have the talent yet.

MOST LIKELY TO ENDURE A LITTLE HAZING:
Eastern Michigan's 5'5" point guard, Earl Boykins.

BEST IMPRESSION OF VERNON MAXWELL:
Florida point guard Jason Williams. Same alma mater, same scoring punch, same off-court wild streak.

LEAST LIKELY TO TOP HIS COLLEGE EXPERIENCE:
Valparaiso guard Bryce Drew, who captured America's heart for a week with his Hoosier heroics in the 1998 NCAA Tournament.

AND THE OBLIGATORY MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED:
Kansas' Paul Pierce, whose smooth wing game and pro body will have people thinking that he's Scottie Pippen with a better jumper.

Related information
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Jackie MacMullan's Mock Draft
Position-by-Position Analysis
SI's Seth Davis: 12 Intriguing Prospects
Prince or Frog? Keon Clark from UNLV is the great unknown
A Decade of Drafting
Chicago Pre-Draft Camp Notes
Your Turn
You Be the GM: Who would be your top pick?
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