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Duke recruit on Bobcats' radar
Livingston could be a lottery pick if he chooses the NBA over college
Rick Bonnell


Shaun Livingston seems destined to play basketball in the Carolinas. Probably that means Durham next fall, but there's a chance it could be Charlotte, instead.

A 6-foot-7 point guard from Peoria, Ill., Livingston signed to play at Duke. He is often compared to Magic Johnson, and some NBA scouts say his rare combination of size and playmaking skills make him a lottery pick if he jumps to the pros right out of high school.

Livingston has indicated he needs at least a year of college before he's ready for the NBA. Certainly he needs some more muscle on what is now a fairly thin body to hold up in the NBA.

Still, pro scouts are monitoring the kid this fall. Bobcats general manager/coach Bernie Bickerstaff was in St. Louis, along with a dozen or more NBA peers, to watch Livingston in a recent tournament.

Bickerstaff can't comment on Livingston or any other player with college eligibility remaining, but it's my sense talking to other pro scouts that the Bobcats would have to consider Livingston with the No. 4 pick.

Players like Livingston are valuable because they create huge matchup problems for opposing teams. Guard skills in a forward's body make Tracy McGrady virtually unstoppable. And unlike Penny Hardaway, Livingston appears to have both the skills and the inclination to be an oversized point guard at the NBA level.

It's probably in Livingston's best interest to spend at least one year at Duke. He'd learn from a marvelous coach, he'd compete at the pinnacle of college basketball and hopefully he'd add some meat to those elongated bones.

But if he does go preps-to-pros -- and isn't that increasingly the norm? -- he'd sure be an intriguing first pick for an expansion team that can take a long-term view.

Bobcats Meeting

Bobcats officials met in New York last week with NBA management to discuss details of the expansion rules. Team executive vice president Ed Tapscott said there were no headlines, with the possible exception of this item:If a player can opt out of his contract in the summer of 2004, then his team can't expose him to the expansion draft if that's the only player the team exposes.

Translation: A team has a veteran with an opt-out next summer. The team is trying to avoid exposing another player -- probably someone younger with a smaller salary -- to the expansion draft.

If the team has eight or fewer players under contract for next season, then it can't expose the veteran with the opt-out to avoid exposing the younger, less expensive player.

Prospects

Three potential candidates for the Bobcats' first pick will play in the Carolinas this month. Connecticut center Emeka Okafor plays against North Carolina Jan. 17. Dwight Howard, arguably the best high school player in the country, is in Greenville, S.C., for a Jan. 19 game at the Bi-Lo Center. And Josh Smith, another high school player who could be a top-10 pick, plays at Charlotte Christian Jan. 27 with Oak Hill Academy.
 

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just foul
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He should go for at least one year. He is very skinny for the NBA.
 
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