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Sunday, June 25, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The great debate: Roy vs. Morrison

Seattle Times staff reporter

Stash or Stache?

For teams at the top of the NBA draft, which will be held Wednesday in New York, the decision might be just that simple.

What would they rather have?

• Washington swingman Brandon Roy and his stockpile of all-around basketball skills; or

• Gonzaga forward Adam Morrison and his explosive offensive game and suddenly famous lip hair, which have led fans of the Portland Trail Blazers to launch a "Draft the Stache" movement?

Each player is expected to be among the top six selected, making each potentially the highest pick in school history — Washington's Bob Houbregs was the third pick in 1953 by the Milwaukee Hawks; Gonzaga's John Stockton was the 16th pick by Utah in 1984 — and illustrating yet again the burgeoning quality of basketball in this state.

It is the second straight year two in-state players — Roy is from Garfield High in Seattle, Morrison from Mead in Spokane — could be among the top six players selected. (Last year, Bremerton's Marvin Williams went No. 2 and Seattle Prep's Martell Webster No. 6.)

First-round Washington picks


Bob Houbregs

No. 3, Milwaukee, 1953: Back injury derailed NBA career after five seasons.

Detlef Schrempf

No. 8, Dallas, 1985: Had most productive pro career of any UW graduate.

Jack Nichols

No. 12, Washington, 1948: Played nine years and won a title with the 1957 Celtics.

Chris Welp

No. 16, Philadelphia, 1987: Averaged 2.4 points in three seasons. .

Nate Robinson

No. 21, Phoenix (traded to New York Knicks), 2005: Erratic rookie season, but got invited to White House Correspondents Dinner.

Note: Martell Webster, who signed with UW in 2004, was the No. 6 pick by Portland in the 2005 draft.

Notable UW picks


Todd MacCulloch

Center was taken in the second round by Philadelphia in 1999.

James Edwards

Center was taken in third round by Lakers in 1977.

Lorenzo Romar

Seventh-round pick by Golden State in 1980.

Louie Nelson

Guard was second-round pick by Capital (Washington) Bullets in 1974.

Steve Hawes

Center was taken in second round by Cleveland in 1972.

First-round Gonzaga picks


John Stockton

No. 16, Utah, 1984: Went on to become NBA's all-time assists leader.

Dan Dickau

No. 28, Sacramento (traded to Atlanta), 2002: UW transfer has played for five teams since.

Notable Zags picks


Blake Stepp

Guard selected in second round by Minnesota in 2004.

Ronny Turiaf

Taken in second round by Lakers in 2006.

Most mock drafts have Morrison going higher than Roy, with more than a few sending the former Bulldog to Toronto, which holds the top pick.

But one ESPN commentator suggested this week that Toronto might actually have its eyes on Roy or, at least, on taking Roy and then trading him elsewhere (the Lakers, perhaps?).

Both players say being selected ahead of the other is of little real concern with millions already assured.

"Competitively, it matters a little bit," Morrison said when asked if he'd like to be the No. 1 pick in the draft. "But it's more important to be going to the right situation. You're only talking about a spot or two. I'm not sure any of us are going to be crying about being picked fifth rather than third."

Said Roy: "I think the top six is very likely for me, and now that I've made it this far, I don't think anywhere I go will be a disappointment."

For Washington state college basketball fans, however, the decisions this week will add one more argument to the debate that lingered all last winter — which player is better?

It was Morrison who was the face of college basketball much of last season after he led off with some mammoth scoring performances at an early-season tournament in Hawaii, overshadowing Roy in the process.

But by March, some wondered if Roy, who used his versatility to lead the Huskies into the Sweet 16 for the second straight season, wasn't more valuable.

NBA officials say the draft isn't just about declaring that this player is better than that one.

"Needs can dictate what teams will do," Steve Patterson, the Blazers' team president and interim general manager, said last week after watching each player work out for his team.

"But both of those guys are going to have very good careers, though probably for a little bit different reasons. Adam is more of a pure scorer, and Brandon is probably able to play two positions in the backcourt and maybe the three [small forward] against smaller threes. He has more of an all-around game and is probably a little bit better defender. But both will be very good pros."

Those comments are borne out in the stats turned in by each last season.

Morrison led the nation in scoring, averaging 28.1 points, almost eight more than Roy (20.2). But Roy had better numbers in virtually every other statistic, including rebounds (5.6 to 5.5), assists (4.1 to 1.8), blocks (.8 to .3) and steals (1.4 to 1.1). Roy even had better field-goal (.508 to .496) and free-throw (.810 to .772) percentages and wasn't far off from the three-point line (Morrison shot .428 to Roy's .402).

College numbers, though, go only so far in determining how a player will adjust to the NBA.

And while most everyone involved with the NBA gives away little this time of year, some close to each player have few qualms stating a case for their guy.

"I'd take Brandon," said Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar. "And again, that doesn't mean I don't think Adam Morrison isn't a great player. He had 43 on us. But if you're asking me, I just think Brandon. I don't know what Brandon doesn't do. Of anyone in the country, he probably has to make the least adjustment [to the NBA]. Defensively, he'll do fine. And he can adapt to whatever type of system they run."

Taking the other side is Don MacLean, who played for the Sonics during a nine-year NBA career and is now an announcer for UCLA, his alma mater, and saw both players last season.

He also spent about two months this spring helping Morrison prepare for the draft. MacLean has often helped work out players represented by Morrison's agent, Mark Bartelstein, who also represented MacLean.

"I don't think it's fair to compare Brandon Roy and Adam Morrison," MacLean said. "I really don't. Adam will be a much more valued commodity because he can flat-out score. I think Brandon Roy is going to be a good pro, too. But people forget Adam Morrison led the nation in scoring, and he saw every single defense that has ever been invented this year and he was still able to score 30 a night.

"Brandon Roy had some big games, but he wasn't getting 30 every night. If Brandon was as good as Adam, he'd have gotten 35 a night because he had the ball in his hands all the time. He was bringing it up court. He could have taken the ball every time and scored — if he could have."

Romar, though, says anyone judging Roy's game by looking at numbers is missing the point.

"If offensively we would have said we are just going to Brandon exclusively, he would have averaged more points," Romar said. "But he's so complete, he has so much more to offer than just scoring. If you did a study on how many points you are responsible for, it would be amazing how many he would have."

NBA scouts, however, spend as much time looking for potential weaknesses as strengths.

Some wonder if Roy isn't merely good at everything but great at nothing, lacking that one go-to trait that will make him special. And does he really handle the ball well enough to be a point guard, and shoot it well enough to be a shooting guard?

At the Portland workout, the Blazers conducted a number of drills using the other players there, including Arizona's Hassan Adams and Connecticut's Rudy Gay, to double-team Roy in the backcourt and see how he would react.

Patterson said Roy handled himself fine. "He gives you good flexibility at both spots," Patterson said. "I think he can probably shoot it up to 17 feet, and he will work on his range. All guys improve their range after they get in the league, and I'm sure being the hard worker he is that he will, too."

As for Morrison, there is no doubt he can shoot the ball. But does he have the athleticism to get his shot in the NBA? And can he play a lick of defense? A writer for the Oregonian reported that he peeked through the blinds of Morrison's workout and saw him get beat several times off the dribble by Gay.

Morrison, who worked out only for the top four teams in the draft — Toronto, Chicago, Charlotte and Portland — laughed off that report, saying, "The important thing is what the scouts thought, not what some guy peeking through the blinds saw. We all have our different strengths. I think I'm more athletic than people give me credit for."

Patterson said Morrison "was competitive [on the defensive end]. You have to look at what you do with your schemes from a team standpoint, where you put a guy and how you play him. Maybe you end up playing like Phoenix, where you want to let the other team get the ball up so you can get it."

Morrison knows NBA scouts also don't have a choice but to consider the possible effects of his diabetes on managing the grueling 82-game schedule.

Bartelstein and Morrison have spent the past few months informing teams how Morrison handles it and pointing out that Chris Dudley, a former Trail Blazer, played 16 NBA seasons with the same disease.

"I don't think it's an issue at all," Bartelstein said.

Additionally, one Portland columnist last week listed a number of reasons he thought the Blazers shouldn't rush to draft Morrison. He included the fact that Morrison was "a blubbering mess on the court while his team still had a chance to win the game" in the final seconds of Gonzaga's Sweet 16 loss to UCLA, a reference to Morrison's crying as time ran out.

MacLean counters by saying that "the minute Adam Morrison finished his college basketball career is the minute he was going to start making a lot of money, and he could have been like, 'We lost, it sucks, let me get on with it.' But that showed me how much he cares, how much he loves basketball."

Not that Morrison and Roy don't love being shown the money, as well.

Each has already signed a number of endorsements. Morrison spent much of a day last week conducting interviews on behalf of Xbox, while Roy is finalizing deals with Nike and Upper Deck.

And under terms of the NBA's labor agreement, each will sign contracts guaranteed for at least three years and several million dollars — the first pick this year will receive roughly $12 million over three years, the No. 6 pick at least $7 million.

For Roy, in particular, it's a vast difference from a year ago, when he considered entering the draft and might have been just a second-round pick.

The two have met a few times on the NBA draft trail, specifically in Portland, where they often held out hands congratulating the other after finishing shooting drills.

For that day, in fact, they were essentially teammates, each wearing Portland jerseys, a brief glimpse of how it might have been had Roy — who listed Gonzaga as one of his top five schools before choosing Washington in the fall of 2001 — decided to head east.

"People make it like there's this big rivalry between us, but that's a little overdone," Morrison said, a sentiment Roy seconds. "We've always gotten along fine."

Enough so that in the midst of their game last December at Edmundson Pavilion, Morrison leaned over to Roy and said, "See you at the draft."

"I was just telling him that I knew it wouldn't be the last time I'd be playing against him," Morrison recalled.

Just where, they will soon find out.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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