DECLARED His eligibility for the 2003 NBA draft, Syracuse
freshman forward Carmelo Anthony, just 17 days after leading the
Orangemen to the national championship. Anthony's announcement,
which was expected, came less than 48 hours before high school
phenom LeBron James, a friend of Anthony's, surprised no one by
announcing that he was going to the NBA next year. James, 18, had
been the consensus No. 1 pick for most of the year, but the 6'8"
Anthony's postseason performance--he was named Most Outstanding
Player of the Final Four--has led some basketball insiders to
speculate he could go ahead of James and Yugoslavia's Darko
Milicic in the June 26 draft. "That one year of experience in
college may make a big difference for [Anthony]," says Michael
Jordan, whose Wizards have a lottery pick.
Others dismiss such talk. "Anyone who says Carmelo has a chance
to be the top pick is either stupid or lying," one NBA scout told
SI. "Carmelo's a tremendous player, but LeBron is the whole
package. If LeBron had been playing for Syracuse, they probably
would have won the title more easily." In addition to James's
skill, he was so highly publicized during his outstanding senior
season at St. Vincent-St. Mary in Ohio that he is expected to
attract a large number of fans and have an immediate economic
impact on the franchise that drafts him--especially if that pick
is made by James's hometown team, the Cavaliers. Any general
manager that passes on James would take a huge risk.
"There are no guarantees that LeBron will become the next
Jordan," says the scout, "but he has that potential. That's
something you just can't pass up." --Seth Davis
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS (JAMES) GOING HIGH On draft day James (left) should edge Anthony at No.1.
COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER (ANTHONY) [See caption above]