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[INSIDER] Top 25 Prospects since 2000

Discussion in 'NBA Dish' started by FishBulb913, Jun 18, 2014.

  1. FishBulb913

    FishBulb913 Contributing Member

    Jun 21, 2003
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    I've spent the past year ranking the top prospects in the 2014 NBA draft. The anticipation and hype around this class is truly remarkable. Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker have become household names. The expectations surrounding their future NBA careers are off the charts.

    That got us thinking about other drafts. I've been covering the NBA draft for more than 15 years, and some players came in with even higher expectations than Wiggins, Parker and Embiid. Of all the prospects to enter the draft from 2000 to 2014, how did they rank coming into the draft?

    Note that this ranking has nothing to do with how a player has -- or has not -- performed in the NBA. Rather, it's solely based on each prospect's perceived potential coming into the draft.

    Here are the top 25 prospects from the past 15 years to enter the NBA draft.

    1. LeBron James, SF, St. Vincent-St. Mary HS (Akron, Ohio)
    Drafted: No. 1 in 2003 by the Cleveland Cavaliers

    Has there ever been a player, in any professional sport, who came into a professional league with more expectations and fanfare? LeBron was anointed a superstar while still in high school. At 18, he was a supreme athlete, played like a point guard with the body of a power forward and could do just about everything. "If God were to design a perfect basketball player," I wrote in 2003, "it would look exactly like LeBron James."

    Impossibly, James has lived up to the hype. He's a two-time NBA champion and Finals MVP. He has won Most Valuable Player four times. Has played in 10 All-Star Games. In his 11-year career he has been to the NBA Finals five times. While he might never live up to the legacy of Michael Jordan, he recently has been dubbed by many as the best small forward to ever play the game.

    2. Greg Oden, C, Ohio State
    Drafted: No. 1 in 2007 by the Portland Trail Blazers

    Oden was supposed to rekindle the legacy of a bygone NBA era when giants ruled the paint. He was an old-school, freakishly big, freakishly athletic back-to-the-basket center who drew comparisons to Tim Duncan, Patrick Ewing and David Robinson. He was supposed to win multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards. He was a lock to average 25 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks per game.

    Then Oden fell apart. He had microfracture surgery on his right knee before his rookie season. Then, at the start of the 2009 season, he fractured his left patella. Before he ever stepped back on the court, he had another microfracture surgery, this time on his left knee. In 2012 he went through a third microfracture surgery. The Blazers waived him in March 2012. He played a total of 82 games for them. While he showed enormous potential when he played, his career was a disaster by virtually every standard. Oden was signed by the Heat this season and played sparingly, averaging 9.2 MPG in 2013-14.

    3. Yao Ming, C, Shanghai Sharks (China)
    Drafted: No. 1 in 2002 by the Houston Rockets

    Before there was Oden, there was Yao -- the first international player to be drafted No. 1. Yao was a freak of nature. At 7-foot-6, he was the tallest active player in the NBA. While there had been one other player from China before him to play in the NBA (Wang Zhi-Zhi), Yao was the first potential superstar to come out of Asia. When he showed up for a workout before the NBA draft, it was aired on live television -- another first. No one knew exactly what Yao's career would be like. He averaged 39 points and 20 rebounds for the Sharks, but the NBA was a whole different matter. He had many skeptics (myself included), but the Rockets weren't one of them. They went as far as to change their logos and uniform to appear more like the brushstroke of Chinese characters.

    Yao's career, though cut short because of foot and ankle injuries, was a success. He made the All-Star team eight times; was an All-NBA second-teamer twice and an All-NBA third-teamer three times. While he wasn't as dominant as his size and hype portended, Yao ended up being worth all of the fuss.

    4. Kevin Durant, F, Texas
    Drafted: No. 2 in 2007 by the Seattle SuperSonics

    In virtually any normal year, Kevin Durant would've been a unanimous choice for the No. 1 pick. He absolutely torched college teams as a freshman, averaging 25.8 points per game while shooting more than 40 percent from 3-point range. It's very rare to find such an elite scorer at his size. His highlight reel at Texas screamed "NBA superstar." There wasn't anywhere on the floor from which Durant couldn't score. Unfortunately for Durant, another freshman, Oden, also had declared for the draft. GMs, NBA scouts, draft experts and fans all debated loudly who should go No. 1, which was a remarkable thing considering the hype surrounding Oden.

    The Blazers took Oden No. 1 and the Sonics took Durant No. 2 in a decision that forever changed the trajectory of both franchises. While Oden has played just 105 NBA games, Durant is widely regarded as the second-best player in the NBA behind James. He's coming off his first MVP award this season. He's a five-time NBA All-Star, five-time All-NBA first team selection and four-time NBA scoring champ. Of the players drafted in the past 15 years, only James has had a better career.

    5. Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky
    Drafted: No. 1 in 2012 by the New Orleans Hornets

    Davis never received the hype publicly, but virtually every GM in the NBA was drooling over Davis when he entered the league in 2012. Coming off an NCAA title run as a freshman at Kentucky, Davis' upside seemed limitless. He was long, athletic, ran the floor like a guard and while he didn't always show it at Kentucky, he was a versatile offensive player as well. To top it off, Davis had (and still has) a terrific reputation in the locker room and off the court. He was a hard worker, a leader and humble (thanks in part to a late growth spurt in high school that helped him escape much of the enabling culture of AAU).

    All 30 teams would've drafted Davis No. 1 in 2012. In fact, I polled a number of GMs that year who said they thought he was the best prospect to enter the draft since Oden in 2007 and LeBron in 2003. So far, so good. He made the All-Star team in his second year in the league, averaging 20.8 PPG, 10 RPG and 2.8 BPG as a 20-year-old. If he can stay healthy, he has a chance to win an NBA MVP award.

    6. Darko Milicic, C, Hemofarm (Serbia)
    Drafted: No. 2 in 2003 by the Detroit Pistons

    With a number of international players such as Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and Yao Ming taking the NBA by storm, scouts began looking for the next great big man and thought they had found him in the 17-year-old Milicic. Just about every scout who made the trip to Serbia came back raving about the 7-1 big man who was quick, explosive and could score from everywhere on the floor. On top of it, he had an attitude, an edge/toughness that scouts loved. Compared to everyone from Kevin Garnett to Wilt Chamberlain, Darko was supposed to be a dominant NBA force. Longtime Pistons scout Will Robinson said before the 2003 draft: "He's going to own the game. Own the game. We're going to have to build a new arena."

    As it turns out, two years of getting cleanup minutes at the end of the game, injuries, a rough transition from Serbia to America, too much too fast, led to Darko's demise. While he showed promise in Orlando after getting traded there midway through his third season and once again after he landed in Minnesota, Darko, for the most part, was a punch line. With Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh all going after Darko in the 2003 draft, the decision to draft him haunts the Pistons to this day.

    7. Carmelo Anthony, F, Syracuse
    Drafted: No. 3 in 2003 by the Denver Nuggets

    How great was the 2003 NBA draft? There was the most-hyped high school phenom ever, the most hyped international youngster ever and then there was Melo. Of the three, Melo was the most proven. Ranked as the top high school player in the class of 2002, Melo dominated as a freshman at Syracuse, leading the Orange to an NCAA title. His infectious smile and ability to score from anywhere earned him legions of fans. While LeBron was the unanimous choice of NBA GMs and scouts -- and Darko was second on almost every board -- fans of the game wanted to know, sometimes in obscenity-filled rants, why the Cavs and Pistons were gambling on unknowns when Melo was a proven commodity. Many predicted Melo would be the Rookie of the Year and ultimately become the best player in the class.

    While the fans' predictions turned out not to be true -- LeBron, from day one, was clearly the best player in the draft -- they weren't far off. Wade ended up being the second-best player in the class followed by either Melo or Bosh. Melo has been a seven-time All-Star, made an All-NBA second or third team six times and was the NBA scoring champ in 2013. The fact that he has never won an NBA title and is sometimes pegged as more of a gunner than a winner affects his legacy somewhat, but he has lived up to his talent, if not the hype.

    8. Jay Williams, PG, Duke
    Drafted: No. 2 in 2002 by the Chicago Bulls

    Williams was a two-time NABC Player of the Year at Duke. He won a national championship in 2001 and won virtually every single college basketball award there was in 2002. He was a heady, athletic point guard who could shoot and see the floor. The only real question for him centered on his lack of size. Had someone of the stature of Yao not been in the draft, he would have been the consensus No. 1 pick.

    Unfortunately for Williams, a motorcycle accident after his rookie year severed a nerve in his leg, fractured his pelvis and tore ligaments in his knee. The Bulls eventually waived him and, despite a number of rehab attempts, he could never return to form.

    9. Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
    Drafted: TBD in 2014

    Whenever you get compared to a young Hakeem Olajuwon, people pay attention. A little over a year ago, Embiid was a largely obscure prospect who ranked No. 50 in ESPN's Top 100 high school rankings. But dominant performances in practice at the Nike Hoop Summit got scouts excited. And after a slow start to his college career, by midseason he established himself as the most exciting true center to come along since Oden.

    Embiid moved to No. 1 on our Big Board in mid-February before a stress fracture in his back forced him to miss the last month of the season. But with eight weeks of rest, Embiid looks healthy again. And after wowing scouts at a May workout in Santa Monica, California, he impressed the Cavs in a private workout in Cleveland, prompting several sources -- connected to both the Cavs and his camp -- to claim that he's the heavy favorite to go No. 1 on draft night.

    10. Andrew Wiggins, G/F, Kansas
    Drafted: TBD in 2014

    If Wiggins had left for the NBA straight after high school, he would've been four or five spots higher on this list. Blessed with elite athletic ability and size for his position, he came out of high school ranked as one of the best prospects ever. The less informed started calling him the next LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. While his comp was really closer to a Tracy McGrady or a Paul George, the hype surrounding Wiggins was enormous.

    His performance at Kansas dinged his reputation. While he was dominant at times (especially toward the end of the season), too often he looked passive and didn't display the killer instinct that NBA teams covet in a prospect. Regardless, many scouts believe he is an elite prospect who could be a transcendent player once he refines his offensive game.

    11. Derrick Rose, PG, Memphis
    Drafted: No. 1 in 2008 by the Chicago Bulls

    Rose was an elite player coming out of high school, but a slow start at Memphis created some doubt about how he'd translate to the NBA. His elite athletic abilities were apparent, but questions about his position (was he really a point guard?) and his jump shot (he struggled from beyond the arc) swirled around him until he put Memphis on his back and led them to the national championship game. When the hometown Bulls got the No. 1 pick, the illusion of a consensus No. 1 emerged.

    Rose became the first guard to go No. 1 since Allen Iverson in 1996. Obviously Rose proved worthy of the pick based on pure talent. He was the youngest player to win the NBA's MVP award (he was 22 at the time) and was a three-time All-Star before a series of knee injuries (an ACL tear in his left knee and a torn meniscus in his right knee) scuttled the past two years of his career.

    12. Jabari Parker, F, Duke
    Drafted: TBD in 2014

    If Jabari had been able to declare for the draft after his junior season of high school, he might have been No. 2 or 3 on this list after LeBron and Oden. Parker's mug graced the cover of Sports Illustrated with the caption "The best high school basketball player since LeBron James is Jabari Parker." A foot fracture his senior year slowed his progress and by the end of that year, Wiggins had passed him on most NBA boards.

    However, a very strong freshman campaign started to win back scouts and now he's in the mix for the No. 1 pick. While Parker lacks the upside of most of the players on this list, he's one of the most fundamentally sound freshmen we've seen. He knows how to play and if he can get in great shape and find a position to guard, he could end up with one of the best careers of anyone on this list.

    13. Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma
    Drafted: No. 1 in 2009 by the Los Angeles Clippers

    Griffin was ranked by ESPN as the 18th-best player in his high school class, but by the end of his sophomore year in college was the consensus No. 1 pick in the draft. Blessed with incredible, explosive dunking ability and an NBA body, Griffin was a human highlight reel.

    While scouts worried about a lack of perimeter skills and Griffin suffered a stress fracture that forced him to miss his rookie season, he has gone on to have a terrific career with the Clippers. He's a four-time All-Star and has been named to the All-NBA second team three times. He has really polished his offensive game.

    14. Ricky Rubio, PG, FC Barcelona (Spain)
    Drafted: No. 5 in 2009 by the Minnesota Timberwolves

    While a number of international big men had caught the eye of NBA scouts leading up to 2009, Rubio was the first international guard to really generate buzz as a potential No. 1 pick in the draft. He turned pro at 14, was playing in the Olympics with and against NBA players at 17 and was drawing comparisons to a young Pete Maravich. Concerns about a buyout with his Spanish club and Rubio's inability to shoot caused his draft stock to slide a bit on draft night, but many in the league expected him to be a superstar once he got here. While Rubio has proved to be a wizard with the ball, his shaky jumper has held him back from superstar status.

    15. Chris Paul, PG, Wake Forest
    Drafted: No. 4 in 2005 by the New Orleans Hornets

    How Paul fell to fourth in the 2005 NBA draft is still a mystery we are all trying to figure out. He was widely regarded as the best point guard prospect to enter the league since Jason Kidd. The Bucks had the first pick and wanted to go big, taking Andrew Bogut. The Hawks desperately needed a point guard, but decided to gamble on the upside of Marvin Williams at No. 2. The Jazz traded up to No. 3 and shocked everyone by taking Deron Williams ahead of Paul. But both before and after the draft, the refrain was the same: Paul will be the best player and point guard in the 2005 NBA draft. As it turns out, he might end up being the best point guard of all time if he can just get a few rings on those fingers.

    16. John Wall, PG, Kentucky
    Drafted: No. 1 in 2010 by the Washington Wizards

    Wall was ranked as the No. 1 prospect coming out of high school and held onto that position throughout his freshman season at Kentucky. Blessed with blazing end-to-end speed, he was easily one of the fastest, most athletic point guard prospects of the past decade. Questions about Wall's floor vision and jump shot coming out of college keep him a bit lower on this list. Injuries held him back a little early in his career, but he really came on in his fourth year, averaging career highs in points, assists and 3-point percentage while making his first appearance in an All-Star Game.

    17. Michael Beasley, F, Kansas State
    Drafted: No. 2 in 2008 by the Miami Heat

    Before Rose made a push in March and Rose's hometown Bulls secured the No. 1 pick, many regarded Beasley as the best prospect in the draft after a dominant freshman season at Kansas State, where he averaged 26.2 PPG and 12.4 RPG. Beasley also was considered an elite prospect in high school, and had the ability to play both inside and outside. Concerns about Beasley's off-court issues and potential "tweener" status arose before the draft, and both ended up being well-founded as he went into rehab after his rookie year, struggled to replicate his dominant college season and has bounced around between the Heat, Wolves, Suns and then back to the Heat.

    18. Dwight Howard, C, Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy
    Drafted: No. 1 in 2004 by the Orlando Magic

    Howard might have turned into the NBA's version of Superman in his career, but it didn't start that way. In what was considered a weak 2004 NBA draft, he battled veteran UConn big man Emeka Okafor for the No. 1 pick. He didn't have the body he has now and, with almost no offensive skills (I watched him work out once where he was shooting jump shots and missed almost all of them), there were legitimate questions about whether Howard was worthy of the No. 1 pick. But with that said, everyone saw his raw abilities and knew that if he bulked up, he'd be tough to stop. No one was screaming superstar with Howard in 2004, but it didn't take long after to change their tune.

    19. O.J. Mayo, SG, USC
    Drafted: No. 3 in 2008 by the Minnesota Timberwolves (traded to Memphis on draft night)

    Before Parker was the best high school player since LeBron, Mayo was that guy. Hailed as the next LeBron while he was in (gulp) eighth grade by Sports Illustrated, the hype around him never quite matched up to the player he was. He was good as a freshman at USC (he averaged 20.7 PPG and shot 41 percent from 3), but by the time the season was over, scouts had downgraded his status from potential NBA superstar to potential NBA starter. The fact that he was taken ahead of both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love explains just how much hype still clung to him. Mayo's career has been largely disappointing. He averaged 18.5 PPG as a rookie but his numbers have significantly declined since then.

    20. Marvin Williams, SF, North Carolina
    Drafted: No. 2 in 2005 by the Atlanta Hawks

    Williams was an elite prospect in high school, but found himself as the sixth man on North Carolina as a freshman. However, a couple of breakout games during the NCAA tournament convinced everyone (including me) that he was going to be a star someday, as someone who could thrive at both the 3 and the 4. Williams never lived up to hype and has been a marginal starter for his career, averaging 10.8 PPG and 5.1 RPG in nine years.

    21. Adam Morrison, SF, Gonzaga
    Drafted: No. 3 in 2006 by the Charlotte Bobcats

    Morrison was an exciting, mustached scoring machine who averaged 28.1 PPG during his junior season. The inevitable Larry Bird comparisons and a "draft the 'stache" campaign by fans raised his profile to the point that he moved from mid-first round material up to the No. 3 pick in the draft. Unfortunately for Morrison, injuries, a shaky 3-point shot and diabetes destroyed his career. He averaged just 7.5 PPG in three NBA seasons.

    22. Nikoloz Tskitishvili, SF, Benetton (Italy)
    Drafted: No. 5 in 2002 by the Denver Nuggets

    The fall after the Grizzlies' Pau Gasol won Rookie of the Year, NBA scouts descended upon Europe in force looking for the next great thing. They found Tskitishvili, shooting jump shots in an empty gym in Treviso, Italy, where an exiled Mike D'Antoni convinced his friends in the NBA to come up and work out "Skita." Forgetting that D'Antoni was barely playing him, scouts were mesmerized with Skita's ability to shoot, handle the ball and move in workouts. Nuggets GM Kiki Vandeweghe drafted Skita without ever seeing him play in person. His greatest accomplishment was winning a Summer League MVP award. He averaged just 2.9 PPG for his career and couldn't even end up sticking in Europe. His last three seasons were played in Iran, Lebanon and United Arab Emirates.

    23. Kwame Brown, F/C, Glynn Academy HS (Georgia)
    Drafted: No. 1 in 2001 by the Washington Wizards

    Brown might have single-handedly destroyed the dreams of hundreds of kids who wanted to make the jump from high school to the NBA. After several years of struggling in the NBA, the league moved to ban high school players from the NBA draft. Brown was one of four high school seniors taken in the top six picks in 2001. He reportedly outplayed Tyson Chandler in a one-on-one game in front of Michael Jordan to claim the No. 1 pick in 2001. No one really knew how much Kwame's game would translate to the NBA. The size and athleticism were there, but he had small hands, lacked skills and the Wizards did a horrible job acclimating him to the NBA. Brown, who was a journeyman in the NBA, averaged just 6.6 PPG and 5.5 RPG in 13 seasons.

    24. Shaun Livingston, PG, Peoria HS (Illinois)
    Drafted: No. 4 in 2004 by the Los Angeles Clippers

    Livingston, at 6-7, stoked the NBA's love affair with tall point guards. He had an incredible handle for a player his size and saw the floor as well as any top point guard to come out in a while. He was rail thin and couldn't shoot, but every time he stepped on the floor special things happened. A horrific knee injury in 2007 that tore his ACL, PCL and sprained his MCL derailed his career for a time. He came back the past few years as a valuable role player, playing especially well this season for the Nets, but Livingston's promise was never fully realized.

    25. Emeka Okafor, F/C, Connecticut
    Drafted: No. 2 in 2004 by the Charlotte Bobcats

    Okafor didn't have a lot of sizzle, but he was seriously in the mix to be the No. 1 pick in 2004 ahead of Dwight Howard. Concerns about Okafor's back and age ultimately led to Howard getting the nod, but at the time many thought Okafor was a sure thing in the NBA. He averaged 12.3 PPG, 9.9 RPG and 1.7 BPG in nine NBA seasons.
  2. Ziggy

    Ziggy QUEEN ANON

    Jun 11, 1999
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    Paul, Morrison and Darko seem a bit too high.

    Paul was great, we knew he'd be great, but his perceived ceiling was low.

    Nobody legitimately thought Morrison was that good, it was like Tebow all over again. Way more folks believed in Tskitishvili who ranks lower.

    Were than many people really that high on Darko? I don't think so. People were reaching for something that wasn't there. I think he easily could have slid. Bargnani on the other hand, who isn't even on this list, people thought he was Dirk 2.0 - that guy was super hyped.

    Wall and Bargnani aren't ranked high enough.
  3. justtxyank

    justtxyank Contributing Member

    Jul 7, 2005
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    Yeah Darko too high. People were stunned when he was drafted over Melo.
  4. kevC

    kevC Contributing Member

    Jul 19, 2007
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    Chad Ford has never heard of NBA Champion Mengke Bateer.
  5. DeAleck

    DeAleck Contributing Member

    Jun 14, 2003
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    One of the best articles Ford has written. It was fun to go back to memory lanes and look at these prospects at the time of their drafts regardless of the final outcomes of their careers.

    That being said, Ricky Rubio should not be on the list. By the time he was drafted, he had stagnated for two years and there were many doubters. By Ford's own rule, he wasn't looking at the height of these players' pre-NBA hype, but at the draft. There was a reason Rubio was chosen behind Thabeet and Evans.

    The same thing goes for Tskitishvili. He was an extremely intriguing prospect, but people thought Dunleavy was the next Larry Bird and rated him higher.

    Marvin Williams should have been mentioned, and so should Tyson Chandler and maybe Eddy Curry. I remember the crazy hype surrounding these guys.
  6. Alvin Choo

    Alvin Choo Member

    Aug 11, 2007
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    not a single mention of Bargani - dirk 2.0?
  7. meh

    meh Contributing Member

    Jun 16, 2002
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    I remember differently. That he was all the rage at the time, in part due to overreaction to many foreign players finding success like Dirk, Yao, Manu. He was the Dwight Howard to Melo's Okafor of that draft.

    The only player I was surprised in hindsight to be rated so high was Morrison. The guy couldn't even get a shot off in the NBA. How in the world did NBA scouts miss that so badly?
  8. JMAD21

    JMAD21 Member

    Jan 14, 2010
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    3 guys from this draft in the top 12.
  9. Voice of Aus

    Voice of Aus Contributing Member

    Jun 28, 2013
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    lack of dante
  10. AMS

    AMS Contributing Member

    Oct 8, 2003
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    The whole 2000 draft class was hyped up. Stromile Swift, Darius Miles. What a pathetic fail that group was.
  11. B-Bob

    B-Bob "94-year-old self-described dreamer"

    Jul 26, 2002
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    I thought that was crazy as well, given the span of time he's including.

    I don't really think many people are that excited about Jabari Parker. He's an exciting prospect, but I don't think he makes this list.
  12. CCorn

    CCorn Member

    Dec 26, 2010
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    I really think embid is going to be a huge bust.
  13. Mirri3000

    Mirri3000 Member

    Jun 23, 2011
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    Diabetes. No joke, it destroys lives. Put me in the hospital 18 times my first two years when I was 20. Ran track and field and had high BB aspirations. Now it's difficult to just play golf, and running is completely out of the question. In college his size and the nature of the NCAA game got him by. The NBA is all about athleticism.

    Still admire him for just being able to compete, but if you don't have the disease, there is just no way to relate, and the scouts obv didn't.

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