ORLANDO, Fla. (STATS) - If the talent on display on the court at last week's predraft workouts was remotely proportional to the star power on display in the stands, the NBA would have come a lot closer to what it was looking for when it decided to prohibit any individual private workouts before the camp.
Instead, basketball royalty like Michael Jordan and Jerry West overshadowed players like Demetris Nichols and Jared Dudley, while first-round prospects with a lot to prove like Josh McRoberts and Glen Davis decided to just skip the thing altogether.
Still, there is no question the camp is worthwhile. Besides being the first chance for mid-major collegians to play against top-flight competition, it's an opportunity for more well-known second-tier players to improve their draft stock as high-level NBA personnel - like Jordan and West - watch intently.
While solid performances may have pushed players like Syracuse's Nichols and Boston College's Dudley toward the top of the second round, lesser-known entities like Nevada's Ramon Sessions and San Diego State's Brandon Heath likely moved closer to securing spots on the draft board.
"That's the whole story here, there are guys here that'll be taken in the second round," said NBA director of scouting Marty Blake. "The trick is, how will he look once they get the tryouts, how will he look once they get to rookie camp, summer programs? It's a long process."
And that second round may be more important than ever. Look no further than this year's playoffs.
Carlos Boozer, the 36th overall pick in 2002, led Utah to the Western Conference finals and teammate Paul Millsap, selected 47th overall last year, was one of only two rookies to get significant playing time among the four conference finalists. The other: No. 42 pick Daniel Gibson, whose 31 points in Game 6 against Detroit lifted Cleveland into the NBA finals.
Both Gibson and Millsap were part of last year's camp, two of 11 players to attend who ended up being drafted. It's possible that number could double this year, and Millsap, who came from unheralded Louisiana Tech, may have provided a blueprint on how to succeed coming out of a mid-major.
echelon of competition."
As Santa Clara alum Steve Nash has shown, there's little question about that. Maybe his Suns, owning the 24th and 29th overall picks as well as the 59th found a little help for him in Orlando?
Phoenix, or any other team for that matter, wouldn't divulge much about potential picks despite all the talking that gets done during these four days in the sun. During a week which coach Mike D'Antoni often spent joking with fellow top executives and coaches, it seems appropriate he would only offer a quick quip when asked about his team's draft needs.
"We just gotta find somebody better than Steve Nash, and that's just hard to do."
Indeed, especially considering all the lottery-type talent chose to take a pass and one of the deepest drafts in years is relatively light in point-guard depth.
Toward the end of the camp, Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Brandan Wright and the like came to Orlando to get their physicals taken, take part in some drills and undergo strength and agility testing - but that's it. Many of those players, as well as some draft hopefuls playing throughout the week, will later go on to have private workouts with teams during their stays in central Florida.
Those workouts being restricted prior to the camp was a new twist this year, a rule change the league hoped would result in more top players competing. They didn't. More second-round hopefuls showed, but many still decided to skip it, and the lottery picks all backed out.
"I think this is the best group we've had in the 26-year history of the predraft camp, and I was involved in the first one in '82 in Chicago," said Blake. "I think a lot of guys don't want to play here because their agents are afraid they might not look good."
Despite the overall depth of talent, it still wasn't good enough to be the main event.
The four-day schedule brings out many of the leagues biggest names, but most of them are not solely focused on what's going on at the gym. Virtually none were in the stands anxiously watching with pen and paper in hand jotting down notes.
Some were more interested in seeing the lottery talent when they finally showed up. Some were there just to make the social rounds with other league personnel.
The camp presents one of the few times all season when so many of the game's most influential people get together in the same city at the same time. That leaves opportunity for plenty of schmoozing, whether to just chat with friends or, more importantly, to discuss job openings or do some wheeling and dealing.
Maybe that's why where-have-they-been former stars like Shawn Kemp, Danny Manning and Moses Malone showed up. And it's no coincidence that three coaching vacancies were filled during the four-day span, with Mark Iavaroni going to Memphis, Jim O'Brien to Indiana and Billy Donovan to Orlando - at least temporarily.
So sure, some GMs might be checking out the competition, but as D'Antoni admitted, how much can he or other top coaches learn in just a few days? They have enough to worry about with their own teams, so they must rely on the scouts who have been analyzing these players throughout the college season.
"Somebody could play well here and maybe you don't like them in the workouts, or vice versa, so we just try to cover all our bases and make the most intelligent decision you can make," D'Antoni said. "Doesn't mean you?re not gonna miss it, you just try to do your best."
What most personnel know they aren't missing at the camp is the likelihood of a first-round selection. Only two came from last year's camp - Renaldo Balkman of the Knicks and Jordan Farmar of the Lakers - and that number is not expected to be much higher this time around.
Many thought the camp gained extra credibility last year with New York's selection of Balkman, an unheralded player out of South Carolina who shined at the camp before being drafted 20th overall. However, apparently that performance didn't matter as much as some thought.
"It was on previous work and the way he played at South Carolina and the things I saw him do there and the way he performed against some of the better teams is what I based my decision," Knicks president and coach Isiah Thomas said.
"What I saw here last year, you know it helped, but it wasn't like I came here and saw him and was like, 'Oh my God, this is the guy I gotta take.' A little bit more thought went into that than a two- or three-day thing."
But for those on the fringe of being drafted at all, that "two- or three-day thing" just might be the thing that allows them to have their name announced on June 26. And that's the dream that brings these players to Orlando.
That and playing in front of Michael Jordan.

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