Remember the days when the characters in the NBA draft seemed as familiar as those on Cheers'? Now, because of an influx of high school stars, college underclassmen and international prospects, identifying the players in Wednesday's proceedings at Madison Square Garden (TNT, 7 p.m.) feels more like trying to name the contestants in the first episode of Survivor. Fortunately, several websites can introduce fans to these rookies-in-waiting.
The best is information-packed nbadraft.net, run (with the help of contributors and " NBA insiders") by San Francisco-based Aran Smith, 28. The site has an up-to-the-second draft countdown and a mock draft updated once every three days. As of Sunday it had the Wizards, who choose first, selecting Seton Hall forward Eddie Griffin (page 86). On the site's International Prospects link, the top talent is 7'6" center Yao Ming of China. ("This guy is already stronger than [7'6" Mavericks center Shawn] Bradley will ever be.") Looking for sleepers? Check out nbadraftreport.alliancesports.com, which weighs in on the pre-draft camps and offers the predictions of scout John D. Thompson. St. John's guard Omar Cook (above), says Thompson, is a first-round lock after a solid performance at the Chicago camp. Clutchcity.net, run by three rabid Rockets rooters, has balanced, well-reported bios on 24 possible first-rounders. Finally, sportsline.com's Pro Potential Index ranking, compiled, the site says, "with the actual help of several hundred people across the country" by basketball writer George Rodecker, grades 200 players on a 1-to-10 scale in 12 categories. Kwame Brown, a 6'10" forward out of Glynn Academy in Brunswick, Ga., was graded highest (93.25). The site's experts had Brown going no lower than fourth.