-- Chris Paul couldn't resist. After spending a month training for the NBA draft in the Washington area, where he had access to some of the finest restaurants in the region, he could hardly wait to get home last week to Lewisville, N.C., where his mother, Robin, was sure to prepare his favorite dish: tuna-bean-and-hot dog casserole. "It's pretty good. It is," Paul said. "I had it the other night to tell you the truth. I was without it a long time."
Deron Williams had to resist. He spent a month in Houston trying to slim down for the NBA draft, which meant no more McDonald's or late night pizza. By giving up red meat, dairy and most carbohydrates, Williams dropped about 15 pounds and, in the process, "I found some food I like," Williams said. "Grilled chicken. Pork chops. Fish. Once you get a routine, you get used to it."
It's a matter of taste. Paul and Williams are considered the top two point guard prospects in Tuesday night's NBA draft. And, much like their distinct preferences in cuisine, they also have different games. Paul is the 6-foot point guard from Wake Forest with the jitterbug moves, quick release and the ability to score, pass, defend and lead. He has been compared to Isiah Thomas and Tiny Archibald.
Williams is the 6-3 point guard from Illinois with uncanny court vision, the strength to overpower defenders and the desire to play lock-down defense. He has been compared favorably to Jason Kidd because of his similar build and ability.
Neither point guard is expected to slip past the sixth pick. And, with North Carolina's Raymond Felton expected to go in the top 10, this could be the first time since 1999 -- when Steve Francis went No. 2, Baron Davis went third, Andre Miller went eighth and Jason Terry went No. 10 -- that at least three point guards were drafted that highly.
But unlike the 1999 draft, which ushered in a new school of some of the best combo guards in the league in Francis and Davis, this draft will usher in a new class of old-school point guards; the type who will make the highlight reel with a nifty pass instead of a tomahawk slam; the type who will take delight as the setup man instead of the finisher.
"I think you look around the league, there aren't too many true point guards anymore," Williams said. "You've got Jason Kidd, Steve Nash -- guys who look to get players involved, then involve themselves. I think the NBA got away from that. I think with us coming in, the true point guard is coming back."
Williams said that Phoenix's Nash winning the NBA's most valuable player award made the pass-first, pass-second, shoot-third point guard cool again. "It definitely helped," Williams said. "He averaged 15, 16 points a game and 12 assists. He's just as important as the guy scoring 30 points and leading the league in scoring. He's more important, actually, because he's getting his points and getting everyone else on the floor involved and making everybody on his team better and happy."
"The point guard is the vital position," Paul said. "He has to be the leader of the team. The point guard runs the show, so the other guys better be nice to him if they want the ball."
Utah's Andrew Bogut and North Carolina's Marvin Williams are expected to go with the first two picks in the draft, to either Milwaukee or Atlanta, respectively. Portland, which has the third pick, handed its team to point guard Sebastian Telfair late last season. So teams in need of point guard help -- such as Charlotte (at No. 5) and Utah (at No. 6) -- have been clamoring to move up in hopes of acquiring either Paul or Williams. With so much uncertainty in this draft, neither has any clue where he might fall.
Asked where he thought he might go, Paul said: "I don't know. It hurts my head to think about it."
Asked why he should be the first point guard taken, Williams said, "Because somebody likes me better."
Paul and Williams sat down Monday at a ballroom at the Westin Hotel, separated by about 15 feet, each discussing his prospects, each knowing that no matter what he said, it was too late to distinguish himself.
Williams said he had hoped to end the debate in workouts, but Paul never competed against him head-to-head. "Chris was considered the best guard in the draft, that's who I was trying to prove my spot against," he said. "He wasn't going to do that. It's a business. That's how things are. He didn't want to work out with me. He didn't have a reason to."
Paul said his representatives advised him not to battle Williams in workouts. "I wouldn't have minded working out against anybody, that's my competitive nature. But being in a situation that you're in, if you're projected as a top-three pick, you really have more to lose than a guy who wasn't projected to go as high as you," Paul said. "My agent advised me that you'd really be dumb to do that. You really have nothing to gain."
So, now, it simply comes down to taste. Speed over size. The ability to score over the ability to shut down somebody. Winner over . . . um, winner. "You have to, as a team, determine which player fits your system the best and which one you like best," said Dick Van Arsdale, the Suns' senior executive vice president. "You have to ask yourself, 'Who do you really want, with your style of play?' They're on equal footing with me."
If he was a general manager, Felton said, "I'd take both of them."