Wednesday, June 24, 2009

NBA Draft: Prospect overview

The NBA Draft is tomorrow, and this year it is as wide open as any that I can remember. It seems like every so called expert differs on everything and everyone except for Blake Griffin.


Because outside of Griffin, every potential lottery pick has some serious question marks. But never fear, I'm here to help you. While I may not technically be as qualified as an NBA GM or, say, Chad Ford, I can guarantee that I can be just as bad.

Let's take a look at this year's class of college prospects.

Most likely to be a star: This is easy. Blake Griffin maybe? Look, the guy is 6'10", a freak athlete, has a pretty well-developed offensive game, and is a tireless worker. Barring injury, I don't see anyway he doesn't develop into a top five power forward for a decade.

Runner-up: I'm going with James Harden on this one. There are definitely players in this draft with higher ceilings, but not many with the all-around skill set and knowledge of the game that Harden has. He really knows how to score the basketball, but generally doesn't force too much. He probably won't ever be a go-to, 25 ppg guy, but I wouldn't put making an all-star team or three while playing a Manu Ginobli/Josh Howard type supporting role out of the realm of possibility.

Most likely to be a bust: Most people would probably say Austin Daye made a dumb decision going pro. I think he made a great (business) decision. Daye oozes potential, but did not show much in the way of improvement from his freshman to his sophomore year. To be honest, I don't ever see Daye developing into much of a pro. He has an attitude problem, does not seem like the hardest worker (how did he not put on any weight last summer?), and simply does not have a frame that can hold the weight he needs to be a successful pro. That said, I still believe this was a smart decision by Daye to go pro. If he returned to school and had another mediocre year, it really would have hurt his draft status. There is only so long you can have potential or a high upside before people realize you just simply aren't that good. He is a first-rounder this year. Why not take the guaranteed money?

Runner-up: BJ Mullens. As you will see in a post tomorrow, Mullens fits the mold of a guy that will never develop as a pro (see Spencer Hawes, Chris Mihm, Darko, etc.). I like what Mullens brings to the table in terms of size and athleticism, but if he could barely crack the Ohio State rotation, how will he be able to contribute in the NBA.

Riskiest pick in the draft: I'm going with Demar Derozan. The kid has a ton of potential, but he had an up and down freshman year. He seemed like it took him a while to get used to the physicality of major college basketball, and as a result he did not really gain his confidence until the end of the season. But he ended the season on fire, nearly averaging 20 and 10 during USC's run through the Pac-10 tournament before playing very well in two NCAA games. But a lot of that late success was a result of his tremendous athleticism. If he puts it all together, he could develop into some combination of Vince Carter and Gerald Wallace. But if not, he could be the next Gerald Green.

Runner-up: Hasheem Thabeet. Yes, Thabeet is 7'3" with all kinds of length and athleticism. He is as good of a natural shot-blocker as there has been coming out of the college ranks. It isn't hard to understand why he draws comparisons to Dikembe Mutumbo. But unless Thabeet develops some semblance of a post game and manages to put on some strength, he may be nothing more than a shot blocker.

Runner-up #2: DeJuan Blair, for one simple reason - the guy has bad knees. He had surgery on both acl's in high school, and when a guy has weight problems and bad knees at 20, it generally doesn't bode well for the future. To be fair, it has been reported that Blair did not miss one practice or game because of his knees in two years at Pitt.

Least risky pick in this draft: Discounting Griffin from the conversation. I don't think Stephen Curry is ever going to make an all-star team. He may never average 15 ppg in the league. But Curry is a smart player, a crafty defender, and an unbelievable shooter. I would be shocked if he didn't hang around the NBA for 12-15 years as a hired gun. Tell me, what's the difference between Curry and a guy like David Wesley?

Runner-up: Gerald Henderson, as long as you temper your expectations. Henderson is long, athletic, plays defense and hustles. His offensive repertoire can still use some improvement, but if you are expecting a Dahntay Jones/Shannon Brown kind of role player - a guy that will contribute in ways that don't necessarily show up in a box score - Henderson should produce right away.

Second round pick most likely to make GM's regret passing on them: I love Danny Green as a pro prospect. Here is a 6'6" wing that can get out and defend three positions on the perimeter, but is also a solid offensive player and excellent three point shooter. Bruce Bowen anyone?

Runner-up: DeMarre Carroll. I just think this guy is cut out to be a pro. He has size, athleticism, and can play inside or outside. Concerns over a liver condition will probably drop him into the 2nd round, but keep an eye on this kid next year.

Five years from now, the top five players from this draft will be:

1. Blake Griffin

2. James Harden

3. Demar Derozan

4. Steph Curry

5. Hasheem Thabeet

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