Monday, June 29, 2009

2010 NBA Draft: Top NCAA Prospects

Griffin, Rubio, Thabeet, Curry? They're so 2009.

With the 2009 Draft slowly fading into the upcoming season, its time to focus on the exciting new talents we'll be buzzing about aroudn this time next year.

I've kept this to NCAA prospects because I haven't seen enough of top recruits such as John Wall (the projected #1 pick), DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors to rate them accurately. Anyway, I think they'll have trouble upstaging these stars who have proven be forces at their level.

1. Ed Davis (6-9/215; PF; Sophomore; North Carolina)
Blake Griffin was far and away the best player in college basketball last year, Stephen Curry was the most show-stopping talent, but North Carolina freshman Ed Davis, who came off the bench for almost the entire season, well - how do I say this? - impressed me the most. Often unstoppable, Davis has a remarkably smooth post game, is a tenacious rebounder (6.6 rpg in 18.8 mpg), and perhaps best of all, averaged 1.7 blocks per game while playing just about half of every game. He's not an awe-inspiring physical specimen, and considering what he might become should he add 25 pounds to his light frame should be enough to validate his standing as the top NCAA prospect entering the 2009-10 season.

2. Evan Turner (6-7/200; PG/SG;SF; Junior; Ohio State)
Ohio State's Mr. Everything, the 6-7 Evan Turner reminded me of LeBron James occasionally throughout the season, as he had the ball in his hands every possession down the stretch despite not handling it for long stretches during the game, constantly poses mismatch proplems, is extremely unselfish and was let down by his teammates at the end of the season despite playing his heart out (i'm talking to you, BJ Mullens). One of the most efficient players in the country, Turner averaged 17.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 4 apg and 1.8 spg, while shooting 50% from the field, an incredible 44% from three, and 78.8% from the line. A point guard in a small forward's body, Turner's game should translate as smoothly to the L as any player in next year's class.

3. Greg Monroe (6-11/234; PF/C; Sophomore; Georgetown)
He was the #1 rated recruit by Rivals for over a year before he was finally replaced by Ohio State-bound big man BJ Mullens, and for good reason: Monroe failed to shine on the national statge, sleepwalking through the McDonald's All-American game, and failing to display any sort of will to take over games. That all changed when he arrived at Georgetown, presumably motivated by the challenge of turning the Hoyas around, as Monroe displayed every bit of his talent, stuffing the stat sheet with averages of 12.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.8 spg and 1.5 bpg, while shooting 57.2% from the field. Agile enough to play small forward and long enough to play center, Monroe's rapidly improving game and finally present tenacity should see him drafted early in the lottery.

4. Willie Warren (6-4/200; SG; Sophomore; Oklahoma)
Reminiscent of Eric Gordon, a top 10 pick in the 2008 draft, Warren is an explosive scorer capable of taking over games at will despite his size. Powerful yet lightning quick, Warren gained fame with one of the greatest posterizations in the history of high school basketball - - then proved to be invaluable as a freshman at Oklahoma, his presence elevating the Sooners from borderline tournament team to national power. With a frame and game similar to Gordon and Dwyane Wade, this Sooner has a chance to become one of the game's next great combo guards.

5. Cole Aldrich (6-11/250; PF/C; Junior; Kansas)
In just two years in Lawrence the 6-11 Aldrich has compiled a resume worthy of the greatest ever to play for the storied program, playing an instrumental role in their national championship in 2008 while just a freshman, and posting averages of 14.9 and 11.1 while blocking 2.7 shots per game as a sophomore, including the sixth-ever triple double in an NCAA Tournament contest. A ferocious competitor, Aldrich's length and athleticism allowed him to dominate Big 12 big men routinely, including POY Blake Griffin, against whom Aldrich went for 15 points and 20 rebounds while blocking 4 shots. As of now, he's arguably the most complete big man prospect.

6. Patrick Patterson (6-8/235; PF; Junior; Kentucky)
Deemed a likely one-and-done prospect the day he signed with Kentucky, Patterson has shocked fans not once, but twice, returning to school after his freshman and sophomore seasons despite being a surefire first-round pick. Patterson's devastating post game allowed him to post sensational numbers his sophomore year, averaging 17.9 ppg and 9.3 rpg while shooting over 60% from the field. Though scouts feel he should add 10 or 15 pounds, there's nothing light about his game, as he was a beast on the defensive end as well, averaging 2.1 blocks per contest. Primed to lead Kentucky back to the top - the Wildcats signed the top 2 recruits for the 2009-10 season - Patterson's ability to run the floor like a gazelle, combined with his NBA-ready offensive repetoire, will see him ranked among the top big men come draft day.

7. Devin Ebanks (6-8/205; SF; Sophomore; West Virgina)
After making the difficult decision to withdraw his committment to Indiana following Kelvin Sampson's dismissal and instead choosing West Virginia, Ebanks took some time to settle in (scored in double-figures in 6 of his first 19 games), but wound up enjoying an extremely productive freshman campaign with the Mountaineers (scored in double-figures in 14 of his last 17 games). Reminiscent of Rudy Gay, the only real knock on Ebanks is that he's a good 20 pounds underweight, and with that added strength could become a venerable force in the league. Ebanks has a terrific offensive game, a killer instinct, and hustles and defends like a veteran, averaging 7 rpg despite his rail thin frame. In time, Ebanks could become the small forward every GM drools over.

8. Al-Farouq Aminu (6-9/215; SF; Sophomore; Wake Forest)
If Aminu learns to play inside and use his NBA-ready body to its full potential instead of settling for jump shots, we're looking at a top 5 pick. As a freshman, Aminu propelled Wake Forest to new heights alongside first-round picks Jeff Teague and James Johnson, posting 12.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.2 bpg and 1 spg while remaining consistent throughout the year. Scouts love his athleticism and strength, and a great sophomore campaign could make him the most sought after swingman in the draft.

9. Craig Brackins (6-10/230; PF; Junior; Iowa State)
I admit I didn't see much of him, but scouts enamored of the Iowa State big's size, athleticism, and ability to produce against top competition. An agile 6-10, Brackins caused matchup hell for most everyone he faced last year. You thought DeJuan Blair beasting Hasheem Thabeet, only to be drafted 35 picks later, was bad? How about Brackins dropping 42 and 14 on Cole Aldrich? I'm really psyched to see what he can do next year.

10. Kyle Singler (6-9/201; SF; Junior; Duke)
A protoypical NBA swingman with an rapidly developing offensive game, Singler emerged as the leader of the first contending Duke team in years, averaging 16.5 and 7.7 while playing any one of three positions. Versatile and a proven competitor (his high school squad defeated Kevin Love's seemingly unbeatable Lake Oswego 58-54 in the 2007 Oregon state championship game), Singler has been deemed a can't-miss prospect since he was a underclassmen at high school and will likely continue to be called such until he suits up in the pros.

Friday, June 26, 2009

2009 NBA Draft Grades

Atlanta Hawks -- B-
Picks: Jeff Teague (19,), Sergey Gladyr (49)
Fearing the possibility of Bibby leaving in free agency, and having just traded Acie Law and Speedy Claxton for SG Jamal Crawford, the Hawks likely considered only point guards with the 19th pick. One of the primary reasons for Atlanta's newfound success has been their having at least four players capable of knocking down a jump or shot or creating something on their own on the court at all times, and Teague is that versatile scorer. With Bibby potentially leaving, though, should they have gone for a more NBA-ready PG, such as Eric Maynor or Darren Collison?

Boston Celtics -- B+
Picks: Lester Hudson (58)
A 24-year old PG (he'll be 25 in August) from UT-Martin? Best believe! Hudson considered entering last season but dropped out at the last moment, even generating some serious buzz about his being picked late in the first round. Last season Hudson averaged 27.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 4.2 apg and even 2.3 spg, and is profficient at both guard positions. With Eddie House planning to test free agent waters, and their guard situation in utter dissaray, Hudson might turn out to be a brilliant pick.

Charlotte Bobcats --B-
Picks: Gerald Henderson (12), Derrick Brown (40)
I think the Bobcats should have targeted a big man at 12 (you can't expect Okafor to be happy playing with four guards), but Henderson, who played his college ball close by, gives them a versatile scorer to platoon with the oft-injured Wallace and Bell at the swing. Brown is similar to Diaw, but could have a future on this team as an instant-offense boost off the bench.

Chicago Bulls -- C-
Picks: James Johnson (16), Taj Gibson (26)
The Bulls professed the need for another big man to bang they drafted James Johnson to back up Luol Deng and John Salmons at the 3? The plan must be for him to play PF at some point, but that doesn't excuse taking him over DeJuan Blair, who would have been an absolutely perfect fit. Taj Gibson matches that description a lot better, but they should have used one of those picks on off-guard to groom as Ben Gordon's replacement.

Cleveland Cavaliers -- C
Picks: Christian Eyenga (30), Danny Green (46), Emir Preldzic (57)
The Cavs #1 goal should have been to take a player capable of contributing immediately, and Eyenga probably isn't that guy, though he supposedly has great potential. Danny Green fits that mold slightly better, but neither will have any sort of impact for at least a couple years.

Dallas Mavericks -- B+
Picks: Rodrigue Beaubois (25), Nick Calathes (45), Ahmad Nivins (56)
The Mavs scored in their first semi-meaningful draft in years. With experts suggesting that Kidd has played his last full season in Dallas, the Mavs were after a PG, as J.J. Barea is much more effective off the bench. Beaubois is quick, has the wingspan of a SF, and is perfectly suited to run the Mavs offense, from what I glean. Picking Calathes was a smart move; the don't have room on the roster for anyone else it seems, and it will be comforting knowing they have a potential future starter being groomed overseas.

Denver Nuggets -- B
Picks: Ty Lawson (18)
They're virtually stacked, but Antony Carter will only be serviceable for so long. Lawson, whose up-tempo style will be welcome in Denver, has a great mentor in Chauncey Billups, who can hopefully teach him a thing or two about the art of the pull-up J.

Detroit Pistons -- C
Picks: Austin Daye (15), Dajuan Summers (35), Jonas Jerebko (39)
Reports concerning the Pistons' having promised to take BJ Mullens had been circled for a while, reports they dispelled by drafting Daye, who just about everyone seems to have mixed feelings about. He makes sense for a team in a rebuilding phsae, but still shouldn't have gone this high, I don't think. Summers is a powerful forward who I'm not sure they needed.

Golden State Warriors -- C+
Picks: Stephen Curry (7)
It's hard to defend this pick. Curry was the best player available, but he is a carbon copy of Monta Ellis: a scrawny 6-3 combo guard who's just almost always looking to score. I don't have know they will be able to collaborate offensively, let alone guard anyone without being flattended. Curry is great for their system, though, and because he's my fave, I can't stomach giving the team that picked him an awful grade.

Houston Rockets -- A-
Picks: Jermaine Taylor (32), Sergio Llull (34), Chase Budinger (44)
The Rockets work their mid-draft magic again, swiping big-time scorer Taylor (26.2 ppg) and, improbably, Arizona swingman Chase Budinger, whom I projected would go 20th, and thought should go even earlier. Taylor and Budinger help balance out a very forward-heavy team and add sizzling range to a team that lives mostly in the paint, especially with McGrady's future uncertain.

Indiana Pacers -- C+
Picks: Tyler Hansbrough (13), A.J. Price (52)
Hansbrough fulfills his destiny of rounding out the whitest front line in the league, as the Pacers can now potentially start Mike Dunleavy, Hansbrough and Troy Murphy...and when they're out, Rasho Nesterovic, Jeff Foster and Josh McRoberts cans step in and white it up. But seriously, the Pacers set out looking for an athletic big man, and Hansbrough, who tested better than expected at the combine, could be a good fit (though here's another tragic case of DeJuan Blair's being passed up). A guard was their second target, and Price was a steal at 52.

Los Angeles Clippers -- A
Picks: Blake Griffin (1)
They weathered the trade proposals, rumors of their 'getting to work on screwing this up,' and Zach Randolph to finally, finally make the right choice.

Los Angeles Lakers -- D
Picks: Chinemelu Elonu (59)
Have they learned nothing from the trajectory of the Phoenix Suns, who were a perennial 60-win powerhouse, and sold all their picks over about three years - picks that would become Rajon Rondo, Rudy Fernandez, Luol Deng and Marcin Gortat - only to fade into mediocrity, left without a backup to Nash or any youth worth mentioning? The Lakers might think they're stacked now, but let my warning them be noted on the record.

Memphis Grizzlies -- A
Picks: Hasheem Thabeet (2), DeMarre Carroll (27), Sam Young (36)
The Grizzlies arguably accomplished more in their selections that any team on draft day. Thabeet is set to form arguably the best tandem of young bigs in the league when paired with Marc Gasol, his defensive tenacity complementing Gasol's refined offensive repetoire. What most impressed me was their satisfying intangible needs, like more strength throughout the depth chart (Gasol is the only starter who appears to be acceptably nourished). Thin from PG (Mike Conley) through PF (Darrell Arthur and Hakim Warrick), the Grizz added two powerful swingmen in Carroll and Young, both whom could have a real impact without posting big numbers.

Miami Heat -- C
Picks: Patrick Beverly (42), Robert Dozier (60)
Wisely avoiding pure shooters like Jack McClinton, the likes of which they have too many, Miami nabbed two decent talents who might never see the floor. Beverly is highly regarded, but his best case scenario is backing up Chalmers, and right now he's the third PG; Dozier is a lot like Haslem and will have to carve out a niche as a rebounder/versatile post defender if he hopes to contribute.

Milwaukee Bucks -- B+
Picks: Brandon Jennings (10), Jodie Meeks (41)
I think its impossible to accurately grade a team based on picking Jennings; he's the draft's biggest mystery, not because people aren't familiar with him, but because he's either a franchise-wrecker or the second coming of Allen Iverson (let's consider that as a positive in this case). I love Jodie Meeks, though. I'm a firm believer that any player that averages 24 ppg for a major conference school - let alone breaks one of the nation's most storied program's single-game scoring record - should at least get first round consideration, which Meeks was refused. But he couldn't have landed in a better environment, because, you see, Meeks reminds me of another relatively undersized and supposedly un-athletic SG who starred at a major school but was drafted 43rd overall, and wound up having a sensational NBA career - Michael Redd.

Minnesota Timberwolves -- C+
Picks: Ricky Rubio (5), Johnny Flynn (6), Wayne Ellington (28), Henk Norel (47)
Utterly beguiling. Since there's no way Rubio is going to play SG, we have to assume that A) Flynn, a 5-11 PG with no real jump shot, will play the 2 or B) They're working ond dealing one of these guys to NY in a sign-and-trade involving either David Lee or Nate Robinson. The backcourt could conceivably work, but it's a stretch. Ellington was a great choice, seeing as they didn't have any shooting guards on the roster Thursday morning.

New Jersey Nets -- B
Picks: Terrence Williams (11)
The Nets have a great young core in Devin Harris, Courtney Lee and Brook Lopez, and expect Louisville's Terrence Williams, one of the most complete players in the draft, will be the glue guy. I think it was a smart, if conservative, pick, and it means that their forwards, especially Yi and Josh Boone, will really have to step it up.

New Orleans Hornets -- A-
Picks: Darren Collison (21), Marcus Thornton (43)
Ironically I had the Hornets picking Thornton, one of my favorite prospects, in the first round. Either way, I'm glad they got him. Collison, who deserved to go in the first round after playing in three Final Fours and having entered the draft seemingly every year, only to return to school to fine tune his game, will be a worthy backup to Chris Paul, and I love Thornton as their future starting SG - he reminds me of Gilbert Arenas.

New York Knicks -- C+
Picks: Jordan Hill (8), Toney Douglas (29)
For once, I actually felt sorry for Knicks fans. Not only was Steph Curry born to run in D'Antoni's offense, but LeBron is one of his biggest fans, having attended Davidson's Sweet 16 contest against Wisconsin for the sole purpose of seeing Curry, who scorred 33 in a 16-point victory. He dropped further than expected, only to be snatched up by Golden State, where he's not an ideal fit. Jordan Hill is a lot like David Lee, and in a draft filled with point guards, you would think this team, dying for one, would have used their lottery pick to take one. They were in a very unfortunate situation though. Douglas could be good.

Oklahoma City Thunder -- B
Picks: James Harden (3), BJ Mullens (24), Robert Vaden (54)
Sam Presi has quickly estabilished OKC as the gutsiest team in the league in terms of drafting. Harden was a sensible, good pick, but it was in drafting Mullens that they pulled out all the stops. He's God-awful, but should he realize his potential, this team could really go places. But then again, the franchise doesn't have a great track record in cultivating the talents of young centers (Robert Swift, Johan Petro, Saer Sene), and were really playing with fire in acquiring the notoriously diffucilt Mullens by dealing away Beaubois, who would have been a solid backup to Westbrook, no doubt about that. The grade comes down to Harden, though, and they were wise to pass on Rubio for the better fit in the Arizona State All-American.

Orlando Magic -- N/A
No Selctions

Philadelphia 76ers -- B
Picks: Jrue Holiday (17)
Many would say he was a steal, I would argue otherwise, but it really was a smart pick. They have loads of talent down low (Brand, Dalembert, Jason Smith, Marreese Speights), but nothing to speak of in the backcourt outside of Andre Miller and Lou Williams. Not a true PG, Holiday will benefit from the tutleage of Miller, who's currently 13th all-time in apg and has played in 501 consecutive games.

Phoenix Suns -- D-
Picks: Earl Clark (14), Taylor Griffin (48)
Run, Steve Nash, run! In the last two days the Suns will have lost Shaq and Amare Stoudemire, and will likely start year with Andris Biedrins and, um...Robin Lopez? down low. Clark and Griffin are big, but neither is the answer. Clark fits nicely into the system, but he's exactly like Boris Diaw, whom they signed to a big contract and then immediately shipped off, recognizing their mistake, and he would be their 1,000,000th SF.

Portland Trailblazers -- A-
Picks: Victor Claver (22), Jeff Pendergraph (31), Dante Cunningham (33), Patrick Mills (55)
GM Kevin Pritchard again proves why he's the savviest GM in the game. Recognizing a slowly growing hole at SF - they're talking about acquiring Turkoglu - they traded up to get their man, 6-9 SF Victor Claver. They then acquired Patty Mills, one my favorite players in the draft.

Sacramento Kings -- A+
Picks: Tyreke Evans (4), Omri Casspi (23), Jon Brockman (38)
Sacramento was, truly, King for the night. Refusing to stand for Ricky Rubio's nonsense, they took the better player and fit in Tyreke Evans, who i'm a big fan of. Unsure of whether they were ready to kick Beno Udrih to the curb, and with Kevin Martin perpetually struggling with injuries, they now in Evans an unselfish, exatraordinarily talented guard capable of playing three positions. Also, like the Grizzlies, they focused on adding strength, especially down low, as Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes both could use 25 pounds. Brockman, as efficient a post player as there was in college last year, is a great addition, and Evans (6-5/220) adds strength to a backcourt that includes Martin (6-7/185) and Francisco Garcia (6-7/195). Finally, Casspi is a well-rounded forward in the Hedo Turkoglu mold, and they hope he'll have similar success.

San Antonio Spurs -- A-
Picks: DeJuan Blair (37), Jack McClinton (51), Nando De Colo (53)
Though he slipped shockingly far, Blair found himself in the best position imaginable, as the Spurs just shipped off two contributing forwards. He'll be able to make a real impact here, and could start as soon as next season, while getting a lot of run as a rookie.

Toronto Raptors -- B
Picks: DeMar DeRozan (9)
Despite not being a fan of DeRozan, I find it hard to fault the Raptors making this pick. Anthony Parker doesn't fit into their future plans, and DeRozan's potential was irresistible.

Utah Jazz -- A-
Picks: Eric Maynor (20), Goran Suton (50)
Its hard to argue against the Jazz as being the best drafting team in the NBA over the past few seasons. Recognizing that Brevin Knight had probably the worst +/- in the league, they went out and finally got a point man worthy of backing up Deron Williams, which Maynor should be expected to do immediately. Some may fault Utah for taking Suton solely for his whiteness - he is very white - but the Jazz expect both Boozer and Okur to opt out, and Suton's an experienced big man with an NBA-ready game.

Washington Wizards -- C
You expected an A here, didn't you? Not a chance. They'll be better next year than they would have been had they kept this pick, but making that trade for Foye and Miller - couldn't they have waited another day? - means that they missed out on Ricky Rubio, who would have been a dream come true for D.C. (and Rubio's camp), and would have erased the Wizards' dissapointment about not landing a higher pick in the lottery. Is a lineup of Arenas-Miller-Butler-Jamison-Haywood with Foye off the bench (remember they also have Nick Young) really more appealing than Rubio-Arenas-Butler-Jamison-Haywood? Ricky Rubio running this offense?? Getting rid of Etan's contract was great, and this team could still win 45-55 games - that's not up for debate, as they're going to be a force in the East - but Grunfeld must be kicking himself. I know they didn't expect Rubio to fall this far, but damn.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

2009 Mock Draft

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Prospects I Love and Prospects I Don't

The Prospects I Love
We all love Blake Griffin, we all know James Harden's a great scorer, and that Hasheem Thabeet has the potential to block 4 shots a game. But these five players, a couple of whom may be considered in the class of those aformentioned three, are prospects that I not only think highly of in terms of talent and potential, but have taken a liken to, as if they were stars on my favorite team. My favorites last year were Eric Gordon, Kosta Koufos, Courtney Lee and Anthony Randolph.

Stephen Curry
I can very well imagine telling my grandchildren, decades and decades from now, that Davidson College guard Stephen Curry was the best college basketball player I ever saw. Beyond the stats (career 25.3 ppg scoring average, to go along with 4.5 rpg 3.7 apg and 2.1 spg), the eternally memorable performances (25 points in the 2nd half against Georgetown in the second round of the tournament, overcoming a 17-point halftime deficit) is a kid that just loves to play the game, and whose quickness, playmaking ability and lethal jump shot will erase any doubts concerning his size.

Tyreke Evans
The #6 recruit in the 2009 class isn't your stereotypical one-and-done guy who was planning on quitting school after a single season from the moment he signed his letter of intent (for such examples, see the prospects I loathe). Not only did Evans have a legitimate reason for declaring - he was devastated when Calipari left for Kentucky - but he earned the right to immediately join the NBA ranks with a spectacular freshman campaign, in which he nearly one-upped his predecessor, Derrick Rose. Inheriting a 38-2 team that had lost nearly all of its stars, including Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey, Evans averaged more points (17.1) rebounds (5.4), and just half an assist less, and led the Tigers to a 35-4 record. Bred as a shooting guard, Evans even ran the point for the better part of the season, and demonstrated he's the type of dynamic, mature talent that almost never presents itself after just one year in school.

Jodie Meeks
And you thought Jordan Hill made great strides his junior year? Jodie Meeks, who by the end of the 2008-09 proved to be arguably the most dangerous scorer in the country, nearly tripled his scoring average from the year prior, averaging 23.7 ppg, and was known to drop the occasional 40 or 50-bomb on opposing teams. Meeks might be an inch or two smaller than the average shooting guard, and he won't leap over any teammates in the slam dunk contest, but consider my take: If you average 23 ppg for an SEC school and set the single-game scoring record for arguably the greatest program in the history of college basketball, you're a first round pick.

Patrick Mills
The lack of hype surrounding Patty Mills is an absolute mystery to me. Not only did Mills take advantage of the USA in the olympics, or singehandedly elevate St. Mary's to national prominence, but he proved at the combine to be the fastest true PG and appears to be the best shooter after Stephen Curry. I saw him play twice and was blown away each time, especially in a contest against Gonzaga, in which he scored 18 points (on 6 three-pointers) in the first half, but then broke his hand and was sidelined for the rest of the game, and a few weeks after. This kid is a gamer, and he'll prove it in the L.

Marcus Thornton
When I watched Marcus Thornton play, once in the regular season and in two NCAA tournament games, all I could think of was how much he reminded me of Gilbert Arenas. With a killer instinct and an offensive repetoire that even includes a neat post up game, Thornton is a scorer in every sense of the word, averaging 21.1 ppg for the season (to go along with 5.5 rpg and only 1.8 TO) and scoring 30+ on seven occasions. At 6-4/205, it's all too easy to mistake him for Agent Zero on the court.

The Prospects I Loathe

These are the prospects I simply cannot stand, as the mere mention of his name, especially in reference to the lottery, makes my head steam. The players I loathed last year were J.J. Hickson, DeAndre Jordan and Russell Westbrook (as you can tell, I'm slightly prejudiced against combo guards leaving UCLA early, though Westbrook, to his credit, put up numbers and had a real niche as a lockdown defender).

DeMar DeRozan

A top two recruit in the class of 2009, DeRozan garnered a lot of praise for his play at the end of the year, as he put up decent numbers and helped lead a mediocre USC team farther than their regular season record would have predicted. But to judge his freshman campaign based solely on that would be a gross mistake. In DeMar DeRozan we have a great talent, but one who is hardly deserving of being picked near the lottery at this point, for in DeMar DeRozan we have a 'shooting guard' who shot 16.7% from three, and who totaled more turnovers that assists. He's an all-world athlete with great size, but he just hasn't yet proven that he worth drafting higher over the dozens of other NCAA prospects that proved to have truly mastered the game.

Jrue Holiday
Depending on who drafts him, I plan on writing a long, angry article on why Jrue Holiday not only deserves - or deserved - to go undrafted. Quite simply, he's one of the greatest enigmas in draft history. This is bascially the rundown on Jrue Holiday: A scrawny, 6-4 combo guard who can't shoot (30.7% 3PT), is by no means a proven PG, having never started at the point at UCLA (3.7 apg, 2.1 TO) while being a scorer in high school, failed to score in double figures in 21 of his 35 college games, and is by no means a great athlete (#26 vertical at the combine). Will SOMEBODY tell me what the appeal is??

Brandon Jennings
Mark my words: No team will ever win - really win - with Brandon Jennings at the point for he's a PG who only passes when he to, didn't score well enough on the SAT to keep a scholarship, and all but refuses to take instructions from coaches. He's the newest version of Zach Randolph or Stephon Marbury, who can put up 31 points and his team will likely lose by 15. He may put up numbers, and thus give the impression that he's a very valuable player, but what he gives up in lazy defense, poor leadership ability end up hurting much, much more. He's got a lot to prove.

BJ Mullens
If you had told me last season that Mullens was the nation's #1 recruit, I would have thought you were joking. He has great size and is a superior athlete, but, um, how should I put this...yeah, he really just sucked last year. He shot 63.8% from the field, mostly on dunks and putbacks. That statistic is all he has going for him. Aside from seemingly trying to catch passes with his forearms, Mullens seemed to care less than anyone I sawin college, failing to score in double figures 17 times despite the fact that he was often at least 2-3 inches taller than his defender and a much better leaper. Projected to lead the young Ohio State team just had lauded recruits Greg Oden and Kosta Koufos had, Mullens just laid back and forced them to carry him. Is that the type of player you want to pick in the first round?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

THE 2009 NBA Draft Preview

This is not a mock draft. This is the tuesday before the draft, the last possible day for me to churn something of depth out before the crazy, supposed "promises" to players start hurdling out and the player pool gets one big shake-up, highlighted by sure-seeming trades and buyout controveries. This is my getting a feeling for the draft and who each team will take. I'll post a rather bland looking mock hopefully a couple hours before the draft takes place.

1. Los Angeles Clippers
The question concerning the #1 pick in this year's draft is not who the Clippers will pick, but what kind of impact Oklahoma PF Blake Griffin will make, and how the team will change to accommodate him.

2. Memphis Grizzlies
I think Ricky Rubio is a better fit here, but the Grizz are supposedly enamored of Hasheem Thabeet, who would comprise the best combo of young bigs in the league when paired with sophomore Marc Gasol. Playing alongside the offensive-minded Gasol would mean Thabeet wouldn't have to take it upon himself to score, and focus more on defending the hole while he gets comfortable scoring on bigger and more skilled NBA defenders...but unfortunately, Thabeet is not enamored of them. I think the likeliest scenario here is that the Timberwolves trade up to acquire him or Rubio and reluctantly let go of Kevin Love.

3. Oklhoma City Thunder
The Thunder would love to draft a big man who actually likes to play inside, but seeing as this is the shallowest class of centers and power forwards in memory, they'll likely scoop up Arizona State All-American James Harden, who they believe will mesh nicely with Russell Westbrook in the backcourt, and act as a solid distraction for opposing defenses that aim to swarm Kevin Durant night in and night out. I believe that what this team needs most is a point guard, but apparently they're set on Westbrook, who's reportedly warning them not to draft another one. Still, don't be shocked if they scoop up Ricky Rubio - or Thabeet, is he's available - and accept Westbrook's displeasure as a casualty of moving this team forward.

4. Sacramento Kings
Beno Udrih proved to be serviceable, but Ricky Rubio is a franchise-type talent that a team as desperate as Sacramento can't afford to pass up on. Rubio's playmaking ability and uninhibited flash will be welcomed with open arms by a team that was stomped on, by even the dregs of the Western Conference, for the entirety of the 2008-09 season. Adding a true scorer to relieve the pressure on star Kevin Martin would be nice, but Rubio is the best fit. Should they back off in fear, though, considering the possibility that the Spanish-speaking teenager is not yet equipped to run a 17-65 team, they might turn towards the experienced Johnny Flynn, the even more experienced Stephen Curry, or the more versatile Tyreke Evans.

5. Washington Wizards
This is the pick that will decide that will most radically alter the draft, from the 6th pick on down through the early second round. Because I can't possibly organize my thoughts well enough on this matter to write a coherent paragraph, I'll just have to break down the prospects they're most seriously considering - all five of them - and hope that something comes of this.

Jordan Hill - Scouts and websites love him here, but he doesn't make as much sense as a point guard. He could get some run with the Wizards chaotic lineup, but seeing as they've gotten surpsingly solid production out of young bigs Andray Blatche and Javale McGee - with Oleksiy Pecherov in waiting - I have trouble seeing them adding Hill to that rotation.
Stephen Curry - The Wizards' opinion of my second favorite player in the draft depends on how they think he would mesh with Gilbert Arenas. Neither is a true point guard, and starting two offense-minded combo guards might prove disastrous for Washington, which has great chemistry when Arenas, Jamison and Butler are all healthy.
Tyreke Evans - The same can be said about Evans, though he's more versatile than Curry and probably more unselfish. That's not to say he's better, but I think he's a slightly better fit. Keep in mind this team has Nick Young at the 2 as well, so a combo guard, despite his worth, might be out of the question entirely.
Johnny Flynn - I love him here. His ability to run a team from, and only from, the point guard position would do wonders for this team which is occasionally out of whack when Gilbert tries to make everything happen bringing the ball up court.
Ricky Rubio - If he falls to 5, he's not falling any further.

6. Minnesota Timberwolves
Tragically, it appears that Stephen Curry will not become a Knick - at least not on draft day. Without a venerable offensive threat to draw defenses away from powerhouse Al Jefferson, the Wolves will certainly be hunting for a guard, and Curry is their man. Having Randy Foye and Sebastian Telfair on board means Curry won't necessarily have to run the point from day 1, as he adapts to the professional game and settles in. This situation was complicated slightly, though, by a massive PG workout that saw Tyreke Evans possibly steal their hearts (Curry had canceled a week prior), and Flynn, Ty Lawson and Brandon Jennings impress in their own ways (Jrue Holiday, predictably, was not in the same galaxy as these guys). Despite these last lunges, Curry's their man.

7. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have a terribly difficult decision to make here. By all accounts this team is in need of a true point guard, but Monta Ellis is intent on ensuring that he's the only floor general in town, despite his performing much better when he has someone to set him up and create, a la Baron Davis. Should the Warriors heed this threat, their man is Jordan Hill, who would add muscle inside to nicely complement Andris Biedrins, run the floor with the guards, and develop at a more comfortable rate as there will be less pressure for him to produce on the offensive end. And yet another problem presents itself: the Warriors last two lottery picks were Brandan Wright ('07) and Anthony Randolph ('08), both of whom showed flashes of their enormous potential last season and could still become stars - and they're both 6-10 forwards, just like Hill. I see Johnny Flynn as the best fit here - he was born to run this offense - but the Warriors, to their credit, have been great about not letting anything on.

8. New York Knicks
Hungering for a point guard for the future, which Chris Duhon, though serviceable, cetainly ain't, the Knicks won't be able to pass one up this year, drafting in the top ten in a deep PG class. Johnny Flynn, with his playmaking ability, 40" inch vertical and toughness, is a perfect fit. There's been talk of Jrue Holiday, but I think the Knicks are just too smart for that, as they not only want somebody who can competently play the game, but will be ready to contribute, and who can be used as bait when LeBron James becomes a free agent in '010. And you thought that 6OT game was the last of the memorable moments Flynn would have at MSG...

9. Toronto Raptors
Anthony Parker performed admirably for the Raptors in his tenure over the past few seasons, but its come time to replace him. DeMar DeRozan would be a nice fit in the Raptors offense, and best of all, he wouldn't have to start right away, and could soon fill out a dynamite backcourt with the inhumanly efficient Jose Calderon. Similarly, Duke off-guard Gerald Henderon fits the mold as well, and DeRozan's aversion to playing in Canada might encourage them to go with the more manageable of the two.

10. Milwaukee Bucks
Hoping against hope for the opportunity to draft Johnny Flynn, the Bucks pick will inevitably come down to whether they choose to keep PG Ramon Sessions or Charlie Villanueva. It appears that they're more eager to dispose of Villanueva, but because they're less likely to find a replacement for him, with Jordan Hill assumedly off the board, they may have no choice but to go small. Ty Lawson makes sense here, and though they supposedly are high on Jeff Teague, I doubt they have the guts to take him this high. Earl Clark and James Johnson are real sleepers here.

11. New Jersey Nets
The Nets have apparently narrowed it down to Tyler Hansbrough and Terrence Williams, but you've got to think others are still in the mix, as neither of those two are really expected to be lottery picks. Hansbrough makes sense, as playing alongside Lopez would mean his size and athleticism, though he measured better than expected, would not be so much of a factor, and his intensity and love for the game ensure that he wouldn't have the same debilitaitng mindset as Josh Boone or Sean Williams. Terrence Williams is hard to figure, seeing as they have Ryan Anderson and Yi at SF, both of whom appear to have a future in this league, and Bobby Simmons and Jarvis Hayes locked down for at least another year. Don't be surprised if they take a chance on the potentially injured Dajuan Blair, who would add muscle to a relatively weak front line.

12. Charlotte Bocats
Scouts and analysts across the board are projecting a SG here, but I just don't see it, as they have a very solid guard rotation in Felton-Bell-Augustin, and no true PF to aid Okafor in the post (Diaw is more of a SG than a big man)., Draft Express and ESPN all vote Gerald Henderson, but we here at NBAnalysis feel that Dajuan Blair should be their main target.

13. Indiana Pacers
Brandon Jennings is a plausible choice here -, Draft Express and ESPN all agree - but the Pacers, who got an astonishing 31.7 ppg in PG production last season from the combination of T.J. Ford, Jarret Jack and Travis Diener, don't appear too desperate for another point man. Admittedly in search of an athletic big man to pair with Troy Murphy down low, we could see Dajuan Blair, or even Earl Clark set Jennings back even further.

14. Phoenix Suns
What'll it be? A PG for the future? A more athletic wing player? A big man to platoon with the oft-injured Amare and Shaq, who may soon be gone? Any way you slice it, the Suns need depth, and fast, as this team might be utterly unrecognizable in a couple years. Earl Clark seems to be the best fit to me, though he's eerily similar to Boris Diaw, whom they threw tens of millions at and then shipped off soon after, recognizing their failure. I think this is going to boil down to a dogfight between Ty Lawson , Eric Maynor, Brandon Jennings, and Jrue Holiday to become Nash's apprentices, though they'll strongly consider the versatility James Johnson offers at the forward position.

15. Detroit Pistons
There's been talk of a promise to B.J. Mullens, which in most cases would sound preposterous - he's the least NBA-ready prospect - but a franchise such as this, in the midst of a massive overhaul, can afford to take the plunge. Should they come to their senses, though, Earl Clark would be a great fit.

16. Chicago Bulls
Fearing Ben Gordon's departure, the Bulls will likely target an off-guard, such as Gerald Henderson or Chase Budinger, and are even considering dealing their two first round picks - #16 and #26 - to the Nets for pick #11. A big man capable of banging inside like Dajuan Blair or Tyler Hansbrough is also a pressing need.

17. Philadelpiha 76ers
This forward-heavy Philly team's outside shooting woes might be eased by the arrival of Jason Kapono, but they're still in search of a guard who can shoot the rock. Chase Budinger and Wayne Ellington fit that description to a T, and Ty Lawson's name has popped up in discussions as a possible successor to Andre Miller.

18. Minnesota Timberwolves
In search of depth in the backcourt, the Wolves will likely target the 'supposedly' versatile Jrue Holiday, who's 'supposed' ability to run a team will be key, especially should they trade up for Thabeet and remain saddled with Sebastian Telfair at the point.

19. Atlanta Hawks
With Bibby set to become a free agent and Acie Law not performing up to snuff, expect the Hawks to go small or reach for a big man to eventually supplant ZaZa Pachulia down low. Jeff Teague would make sense even if they do decide to keep Law on board, and Victor Claver, though more of a finesse type, could provide immediate assistance.

20. Utah Jazz
Pining for a someone who can come off the bench and score points, especially with Kyle Korver prepping to test free agent waters and Paul Millsap gearing up for a starting role should Carlos Boozer depart, the Jazz will look for a scorer with this pick. LSU's Marcus Thornton, one of the best scorers in this draft class when he's feeling it, might be the answer, as could Chase Budinger, who's ever-improving stroke and dynamic offensive game undoubtedly appeal to the Jazz.

21. New Orleans Hornets
It will either be a SG or a SF for the hornets, as Rasual Butler is struggling to justify playing next to CP3 and Peja continues to wrestle with injuries. They're said to be very high on local product Marcus Thornton, who would be an ideal fit, but the potential of a guy like Austin Daye will be hard to ignore.

22. Dallas Mavericks
Of deep concern in Dallas is the team's point guard situation, as many experts speculate that Kidd won't play another full season in Big D, which would leave J.J. Barea, who's much more effective off the bench, in control of the team. You couldn't blame them for drafting Eric Maynor , but the defensive toughness and leadership chops UCLA point man Darren Collison would bring to the table should be even more enticing.

23. Sacramento Kings
In need of another impact guard but also without any real post presence outside of starters Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes, the Kings will consider a host of big men with their second selection, with James Johnson, Taj Gibson, and Jeff Pendergraph at the top.

24. Portland Trailblazers
You never know what Portland will do on draft day, but you can be sure that whatever they will do will be genius. In the enviable position of laying back and drafting the best player available, the Blazers will still target a SG, as Martell Webster missed the entire '08-09 season, and Toney Douglas of FSU would be a nice addition.

25. Oklahoma City Thunder
This team is drafting a PG whether Russell Westbrook likes it or not, meaning you can expect Patty Mills, Darren Collison and the L-ready A.J. Price to get equal consideration here.

26. Chicago Bulls
Chi-Town's stacked from PG-SF, and though they could use a little bit of help down low, they'll opt to go small again in this weak big man class. I like Sam Young as an immediate contributor, especially with Luol Deng's future up in the air.

27. Memphis Grizzlies
You've got a real problem on your hands when you only have one PG on your depth chart, and he's awful young and inconsistent. I hope GM Chris Wallace loves Patty Mills as much as I do.

28. Minnesota Timberwolves
Odds are the Wolves aren't going to keep three first round picks. Should that be the case, they can take Rodrigue Beaubois and stock him overseas.

29. Los Angeles Lakers
With no holes to fill, the defending champs take the best player available and steal the highly-regarded Israeli swingman Omri Casspi.

30. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs will probably be focusing more of their energy on the draft than any team that's ever picked last before, as they're desperate for an impact player to liven James' confidence in their front office even the slightest bit, which means going with a more experienced talent. I love Jodie Meeks, who proved to be capable of putting up 40, or even 50 points on any night, and whose silky smooth J should translate fine to the NBA. Taj Gibson would make a fine complement to Ilgauskas down low - they're dying for a reliable post scorer - and Toney Douglas, who drove every ACC team nuts, could be of use right away.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Best NBA Draft Prospects of the Decade

The 2000s offered as much by way of draft intrigue as arguably any decade to come before, as high schoolers entering became a full-blown phenomenon, globalization led to the introduction of many game changing foreign prospects, and the notorious #15 talent on this list was drafted before Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade, successively. The lessons offered up by this decade in drafting are invaluable as the NBA embarks upon its eight decade in operation, but that is not what I am here to discuss.

Below are the top 30 prospects - think of it as a mock first round - of the past 9 drafts, and the one comping up later this month, in my opinion. In compiling this list the players were judged solely on their resume upon entering the draft, and not what they did, or did not accomplish in their NBA career.

1. LeBron James
Vitals: 6-8/245; High School Sr.; G/F
Stats: 31.6 ppg 9.6 rpg 4.6 apg 3.4 spg
Team: Saint Vincent-St. Mary's High School
Hook: What do you get when you combine Magic's basketball IQ, Larry Bird's killer instinct, MJ's athleticism, and Karl Malone's physique? A player that can never be passed up on, ever.

2. Yao Ming
Vitals: 7-6/296; 5-year veteran of Chinese Basketball Association; Center
Stats: 32.4 ppg 19 rpg 72.1% FG
Team: Shanghai Sharks
Hook: Most heavily hyped big men are raw, athletic specimens, some of whom can't hit a shot outside three feet...and some heavily hyped big men averaged 32 and 19 for one of the best teams in China. While Yao's mammoth frame is what initially attracted the hoards of scouts and GMs, it was his remarkably refined game, poise and experience that established him as the most talented super big man ever to enter the NBA draft.

3. Greg Oden
Vitals: 7-0/257; Freshman; Center
Stats: 15.7 ppg 9.6 3.3 bpg 61.6% FG
Team: Ohio State University
Hook: The first ever two-time Gatorade National Player of the Year in high school, Oden entered college with a reputation as not only a dominant force on both ends of the floor, but also as a hardened leader, and he delivered on that notion almost immediately, leading a young Ohio State team to a 35-4 record and National Championship Game birth. In an age where big men (Shaq, Tim Duncan, Ben Wallace, Kevin Garnett) supplanted guards (Jordan, Isaiah Thomas) as centerpieces of championship teams, Oden was arguably the most sought after center out of college since Lew Alcindor.

4. Shaun Livingston
Vitals: 6-7/186; HS Senior; Point Guard
Stats: 18 ppg 6.3 rpg 5.4 apg
Team: Peoria Central High School
Hook: Watching Livingston play in high school, fans swore they were witnessing a young Penny Hardaway, as he led Peoria to back-to-back state titles, and won MVP of the McDonald's High School All-American Game in his last high school contest. Livingston was the pinnacle of the almost unattainable vision GMs had of that towering guard who could see over the defense and make show-stopping plays in the vein of Magic Johnson, and the one most ready to accept the challenge of avenging Penny's fated career.

5. Carmelo Anthony
Vitals: 6-7/234; Freshman; Small Forward
Stats: 22.1 ppg 10 rpg
Team: Syracuse University
Hook: To witness Carmelo Anthony, with his million dollar pull-up J and matching million dollar smile, ravage the competition his freshman year at Syracuse was to witness the greatest one-and-done player in the history of the sport. Boasting an offensive repertoire as dynamic as that of any player in league, I can't think of another NCAA prospect whose NBA debut was so eagerly anticipated, for seeing what he had done in just one year in college had fans salivating to see just what he could do in a longer game with a 24-second shot clock.

6. Kevin Durant
Vitals: 6-10/215; Freshman; SG/SF
Stats: 25.8 ppg 11.1 rpg 1.9 bpg 1.9 spg
Team: University of Texas
Hook: The only freshman ever to win Player of the Year, Durant really frustrated fans - he frustrated them because there was no one to compare him to. A 6-10 shooting guard with range well beyond the three-point line and devastating moves in the paint, Durant was truly a unique prospect, a pro player in the college game, and one of the most unmistakably superior ballplayers in NCAA history.

7. Dwight Howard
Vitals: 6-10/240; HS Sr.; PF/C
Stats: 25 ppg 18 rpg 8 bpg 3.5 apg
Team: Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy
Hook: Will he play defense? Does he have the heart to defend the basket? Those are the questions most often posed about teenage big men, but nobody ever bothered with Dwight Howard, the awe-inspiring Atlanta talent who proved early in his high school career that he would almost immediately become a great defender at the next level. Howard's defensive tenacity, combined with his otherworldly athleticism and rapidly improving offensive game, established him as the can't-miss preps-to-pros big man of the past ten years.

8. Derrick Rose
Vitals: 6-3/196; Freshman; 19 years old
Stats: 14.9 ppg 4.7 apg 4.5 rpg
Team: University of Memphis
Hook: The point guard is the position by which NBA teams live and die, and when the #1 rated high school prospect, who just happens to be an exceptionally big and athletic point guard, leads his team to the National Championship Game, well, that's not a prospect most any team would conceivably let slip by.

9. Kwame Brown
Vitals: 6-11/240; HS Sr.;
Stats: 20.1 ppg 13.3 rpg 5.8 bpg
Team: Glynn Academy
Hook: The comparisons to Kevin Garnett abounded as Brown made his way up the national ranks, eventually prized by Wizards GM Michael Jordan as the future of the franchise. Extraordinarily athletic and coordinated with a versatile offensive game highlighted by a masterly 17-foot jumper and a variety of go-to post moves, the only question seemed to be whether he'd fit in better at PF or at center.

10. Blake Griffin
Vitals: 6-10/252; Sophomore; Power Forward
Stats: 22.7 ppg 14.4 rpg 65.4% FG
Team: University of Oklahoma
Hook: A fiery competitor bearing eerie resemblance to the greatest of all power forwards Karl Malone, he's considered as much a sure thing as any player to enter in the last many years. Boasting a prototypical PF frame and deceptive athleticism similar to Malone (who stood 6-9/255), Griffin not only has the physical tools to be a force at the next level, but was inarguably the most dominant player in all of college basketball his sophomore year, posting averages of 22.7 and 14.4 while shooting an inhuman 65.4% from the floor.

11. Yi Jianlian
Vitals: 7-0/242; 5-year veteran of Chinese Basketball Association; SG/SF/PF
Stats: 24.9 ppg 11.5 rpg
Team: Guangdong Tigers
Hook: A 7-footer with 25 ppg potential, and oh yeah, he can play the point, too. That was essentially the hook for Yi, whose NBA-tailored game, which he utilized to average 18.6 and 9.6 over a 5-year career in the Chinese Basketball Association that began at age 14, had scouts salivating, wondering just how many ways a player this skilled and versatile, at such an age, could change not just their team's losing ways, but the forward position as well.

12. Dwayne Wade
Vitals: 6-5/212; sophomore; Combo Guard
Stats: 21.5 ppg 6.3 rpg 4.4 apg
Team: Marquette University
Hook: Call him what you want: a combo guard, a power guard - either way, he's a bona fide stud. A tremendous scorer, athlete, stat-stuffer, and leader (taking an inferior Marquette team to the Final 4), Wade was the complete package.

13. Ricky Rubio
Vitals: 6-3/180; 4-year veteran of Spanish ACB League; Point Guard
Stats: 10 ppg 6.1 apg 2.2 spg
Team: DKV Joventut
Hook: Having graced magazine covers since age 15, when he memorably scored 51 points, grabbed 24 rebounds and dished out 12 assists in a FIBA Europe U16 tournament game, Rubio is ready to take his unapologetically Euro-style game to the states. Compared on numerous occasions to Pete Maravich, Rubio's ideal size for the point guard position, unprecedented maturity and refined all-around game have scouts the world over swearing by his potential.

14. Michael Beasley
Vitals: 6-8/239; Freshman; SF/PF
Stats: 26.2 ppg 12.4 rpg
Team: Kansas State University
Hook: The Rivals #1 recruit for the class of 2008 erased any doubts about his on court demeanor the moment he arrived in Manhattan, proving to be not only one of the best scorers in the country, but the top rebounder, as well. When you consider Beasley's dynamic offensive game, prototypical size, and game changing athleticism, it's not hard to see how he set 17 Big 12 records his freshman year.

15. Darko Milicic
Vitals: 7-1/253; 3-year veteran of Serbian League;
Stats: 9.5 ppg 4.6 rpg
Team: Hemofarm
Hook: Starring on the Serbian national team as a teenager got him noticed, but it was his play against recent lottery pick and future All-Star Pau Gasol, against whom he scored 18 points and grabbed 15 boards, that led to his stature in the eyes of scouts and NBA brass. With his fluid game and 7-foot frame, Milicic was arguably the most coveted European big man of his time.

16. and 17. Deron Williams and Chris Paul
Williams: 6-3/202; Junior; Point Guard
Paul: 6-1/178; Sophomore; Point Guard
Williams: 12.5 ppg 6.8 apg 3.6 rpg
Paul: 15.3 ppg 6.6 apg 4.5 rpg
Williams: University of Illinois
Paul: Wake Forest University
Hooks: These two floor generals, who could not have been less alike in terms of style and appearance, would become relentlessly compared for years and years to come. Paul, the flashy Wake Forest product, put up sterling numbers the moment he arrived at school, and stunned with his flashy, yet controlled, offensive game and defensive tenacity; Williams, the rock solid team anchor, made less headlines, but proved to be an irreplacable leader, as he helmed an Illinois team that started 29-0, eventually losing to North Carolina in the National Championship Game. Both were prized for their size for different reasons, as Paul was touted as one of the quickest players in the coutnry, and Williams the nation's strongest, most phyisically imposing PG prospect. Compare them against each other, and you might never be able to pick the better of the pair; compare them against the field, and you have two totally superior point guards head and shoulders above the competiton.

18. DaJuan Wagner
Vitals: 6-2/200; Freshman; Combo Guard
Stats: 21.2 ppg 3.6 apg
Team: University of Memphis
Hook: How does a bigger, stronger Allen Iverson sound to you? Something of a phenomenon by the time he arrived at Memphis, having scored 100 points in a high school game and having averaged 42.5 ppg average his senior year, Wagner more than delivered his freshman year in college, as he led the Tigers to a 27-9 record (a 6-win improvement over the previous year) while averaging a healthy 21.2 ppg. A scorer in every sense of the word, Wagner seemed destined to one day dethrone Iverson as the league's best scorer.

19. Tyson Chandler
Vitals: 7-0/220; HS Sr.; PF/C
Stats: 26 ppg 15 rpg 8 bpg
Team: Dominguez High School
Hook: An explosive 7-footer with a rapidly developing offensive game, Chandler immediately established himself as one of the nation's elite prospects, having appeared on 60 Minutes his freshman year, when he stood a mere 6-11. Though he dominated on the high school level, scouts were even more enticed by the fact that Chandler hadn't even tapped his extraordinary potential, and had still been one of the absolute best players in the country.

20. Andrea Bargnani
Vitals: 6-11/240; 4-year Euroleague veteran; SF/PF
Stats: 10.9 ppg 4.1 rpg
Team: Benetton Treviso
Hook: Deemed less of a risk than Darko Milicic due to his experience and unselfishness, Bargnani might have been the epitome of what legendary basketball Bloggers FreeDarko describe as the Myth of the Next Dirk Nowitzki. Extraordinarily nible and agile for a near 7-footer even by NBA terms, "Il Mago" ("The Magician") wowed with his maturity, advanced offensive repertoire and versatility.

21. Darius Miles
Vitals: 6-9/200; HS Sr.; SG/SF
Stats: 22.1 ppg 12.4 rpg 7.2 bpg 3.4 apg 2.4 spg
Team: Lincoln High School
Hook: A stat-stuffer with the ability to play four position with equal ease, Miles' fluid game led to his being hailed as one of the most complete players to enter the draft straight out of high school. A legitimate threat to compile a triple-double on any given night, Miles' had the potential to aid a team in near every aspect of the game, a la Grant Hill.

22. Pau Gasol
Vitals: 7-1/220; 1-year veteran of Euroleague experience; SF/PF/C
Stats: 10.9 ppg 5.2 rpg
Team: FC Barcelona
Hook: Here's something rare: a young big man from Europe that really loves to play down low. A true 7-footer with a masterly post game, Pau impressed with his Spanish League Finals MVP honors and ability to make NBA centers seem like, well, your average European big man on the block.

23. Adam Morrison
Vitals: 6-8/198; Junior; SG/SF;
Stats: 28.1 ppg 5.5 rpg
Team: Gonzaga University
Hook: It's the most tired cliche in sports: the hottest new white guy on the national basketball scene is touted as the next Larry Bird, usually soley on the basis of his standing 6-9 and ability to known down a jump shot. But in the case of Adam Morrison, that comparison was not so far-fetched, as he not only averaged 28.1 ppg his junior year, but reflected Bird's passion for the game and will dominate as well.

24. Kenyon Martin
Vitals: 6-9/230; Senior; Power Forward
Stats: 18.9 ppg 9.7 rpg 3.5 bpg
Team: University of Cincinatti
Hook: Most elite prospects are extremely athletic, skilled, and physically gifted, but few are downright ferocious. K-Mart earned National Player of the Year honors due as much to his tenacious play on the defensive end as his offensive game, as his tremendous hops and ideal size allowed him to shut down three poistions on D and score with ease over and around most any defender he came across.

25. O.J. Mayo
Vitals: 6-4/200; Freshman; Shooting Guard
Stats: 20.7 ppg 4.5 rpg 3.3 apg 1.5 spg
Team: University of Southern California
Hook: A staple on the scene since age 14, when he averaged 23.1 ppg on the high school varsity team as a 7th-grader,
Mayo brough his uninhibited swagger to sunny Southern California, where he proceeded to dominate as the basketball gods projected he would. Were it not for his occasionally lackadaiscial atitdue on defense, reluctance to pass and perpetual off-court issues, he's top 10.

26. Sebastian Telfair
Vitals: 6-0/170; HS Sr.; PG
Team: Lincoln High School
Hook: Hailed as the next great New York City point guard, Telfair was two years of college experience short of being a perfect prospect. A great scorer but still a pass-first point guard, Telfair shattered all kinds of records in high school while garnering attention as perhaps the best amateur in the country.

Vitals: 6-11/300; HS Sr.; Center
Stats: 22 ppg 9 rpg 6 bpg
Team: Thornwood High School
Hook: A venerable force of nature, the mammoth Curry was compared to Shaq due to his nimble footwork and agility despite his 300-pound frame, which he always used to his advantage. Considered utterly unguardable on every level at which he had played due to his size and skill, scouts had no doubt Curry would dominate at the highest level in basketball for many years, too.

28. Andrew Bogut
Vitals: 7-0/251; Sophomore; Center
Stats: 20.4 ppg 12.2 rpg
Team: University of Utah
Hook: The 2005 NCAA Player of the
year, Bogut was arguably the most skilled American center of the past ten years to enter the L. Though he spent just two years at Utah, Bogut cultivated a dynamic offensive attack, shooting 62% from the floor his senior year. Scouts were duly intrigued by Bogut's prototypical size and 7-5 wingspan, and were confident that he was as safe a top pick as had come along out of college in quite a while.

29. Amare Stoudemire
Vitals: 6-10/240; HS Sr.; Power Forward
Stats: 29.1 ppg 15 rpg 6.1 bpg
Team: Cypress Creek
Hook: The word 'athlete' doesn't remotely desribe Amare Stoudenmire; it's too human sounding. One of the bounciest, most explosive players many scouts and fans had yet laid eyes on, Amare's athleticism - coupled with his intensity and thirst for the rim - allowed to guard players as small as 6-4 and as tall as 7-4, because no matter how big you are, he's just not letting you go over him, and basketball types loved that about a kid fresh off graduation.

30. Andrew Bynum
Vitals: 7-0/280; HS Sr.; Center
Stats: 21 ppg 12 rpg 5 bpg
Team: St. Joseph High School
Hook: Ready to take the NBA by storm at age 17, the baby-faced Bynum parlayed his tremendous size and lethal post game into standing as the best big man in the high school ranks. A nightmare down low, Bynum manuevered his giant frame around the block like a seasoned veteran, ensuring that when the cnofidence to compete against the NBA's elite came, he would be unstoppable in the paint.