SCHMIDT: NBA Draft talk; Lazar’s prospects

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It’s April and the NBA playoffs are in full effect, with all the Mark Cuban trash talk and sappy, slow motion commercials you could ask for. Thirteen of the league’s finest teams are still competing for that gloriously slanted Larry O’Brien trophy, while the Bulls, Bobcats and Heat have already been booted from the postseason like an underage drinker at Caffrey’s. The rest of the teams started their extended vacation two weeks ago.

For the likes of the New Jersey Nets and Minnesota Timberwolves, the end of the season served as a bullet to the temple: It put them out of their misery. Writhing in painful futility for 82 games was long enough. Luckily, there’s something on the horizon all the punching bags can look forward to.

What’s that? It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s the 2010 NBA Draft, here to rescue all the damsels in distress from another year of ineptitude.

Every summer, the draft provides even the most disheartened fans a reason to believe. And for Marquette and Milwaukee fans, this year’s draft could prove particularly interesting. Marquette senior Lazar Hayward has a fantastic chance of being selected sometime in the second round, and the Bucks can add another piece to an improving playoff team.

It has to be noted that the talent in this year’s class is oceans deep. The consensus number one player, John Wall from Kentucky, is the most hyped prospect since LeBron James was taking calculus and dissecting frogs at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. He’s going to save a lot of jobs in the Nets’ organization.

Then there are Ohio State’s Mr. Everything, Evan Turner, and Georgia Tech’s Derrick Favors rounding out the top three talents. Turner is a statistical monster who invokes images of Tracy McGrady minus the bad back, bad knees and bad attitude. Favors is the draft’s best post player, a 6-foot-10 marvel with unlimited potential.

After the top three, the slotting is a bit of a situation. Following Favors’ selection, Mike from the Jersey Shore should just walk on stage next to David Stern, show his abs and then we’ll call it a day.

Wall’s college teammate Demarcus Cousins is a big-time player, as are the Big East’s own Wesley Johnson and Greg Monroe, but all have their problems. Cousins may very well eat himself out of the league in a couple years, Johnson has the exact opposite problem and Monroe, while a tremendous passer and shooter, remains a bit soft.

Once the draft moves out of the lottery (top 14 teams), the talent level usually drops off a cliff, and this year should be no different. This is bad news for the Bucks, who could desperately use a big-time athlete at small or power forward.

The Bucks have a solid collection of role players and one star in the oft-injured Andrew Bogut, but in a league populated by high fliers, they lack speed and athleticism in a bad way. Currently, Josh Smith is making the Bucks’ frontcourt look like the Shady Oaks Retirement Home All-Stars.

Solomon Alabi from Florida State is a legit 7-footer with unnatural quickness and leaping ability for his size who could be a nice complement to the steady veteran Bogut. Marshall’s Hassan Whiteside or Kentucky’s Patrick Patterson are also athletic big guys who could fall to the Bucks’ slot. Wing players Paul George and Jordan Crawford are nice sleepers picks.

Then there’s the matter of Big Zar. Last draft, all three of Marquette’s potential selections were somehow overlooked, although Wesley Matthews wound up making the Utah Jazz roster and carving out a starting spot. Hayward is a late second round pick on most boards, with teams scared off by his age and lack of height at the forward position. He’s good enough to play in the NBA, it’s just a matter of opportunity.

It’s now April and the playoffs are just heating up, but come June we’ll watch those lottery balls bounce and see what fate has in store for the league’s 30 teams. Will your squad hit the jackpot?

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