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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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??
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.
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?