This is a guest post from my friend Shai. He offers two caveats: 1. He doesn’t know foreign players (he claims this isn’t a racist thing, but c’mon…), and 2. He has no insider knowledge as to which specific players NBA teams are actually interested in, so this is really more a rank of his feelings about the players.
As always, I do not support or stand by Shai in any way, so any issues you have with his choices should be completely directed at him.
|Evan Turner||SG||Ohio State|
|Derrick Favors||PF||Georgia Tech|
|Al-Farouq Aminu||SF||Wake Forest|
|Ed Davis||PF||North Carolina|
|James Anderson||SG||Oklahoma State|
I realized that if I just wrote a phrase or two about everyone projected for the first round, it wouldn’t be very interesting, and the non-top-10 picks I don’t know intimately (Editor’s note: I assume by “intimately,” Shai didn’t mean in the sexual sense, but who knows?). Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton from Kentucky, for example, didn’t get much pub last year because John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins were so ridiculous. Bledsoe is like Jrue Holiday at UCLA, pure potential (but more of a classic PG), no one really knows what he’ll do. I don’t even know what Orton looks like, but he’s a #10-#20 projected pick based just on flashes. He averaged 3.5 points and 3.5 rebs in 13 minutes a game. Who knows?
It’s an interesting year for the draft. Last year everyone agreed Blake Griffin was #1, but they also agreed that the rest of the draft was quite weak. Instead, a number of rookies played major roles on their teams. Tyreke Evans averaged 20, 5, and 5, which only three guys did their rookie year: Jordan, LeBron, and Oscar. Nice company. Stephen Curry broke the record for threes made by a rookie while shooting 43% from there. Brandon Jennings, as I write, is the starting PG for a team that is ahead of the Hawks 3-2 in the playoffs, after losing their best player to injury. Darren Collison, Thornton, Lawson, Taj Gibson…they are not stars, but they are certainly contributors. A lot of people would love to have DeJuan Blair on their bench right now. I thought Blair was too undersized and raw to do much in the League, but he’s doing a lot of the things he did at Pitt, all on offensive rebounds and putbacks. (In Game 4 against the Mavs, Blair had 7 and 7 in 11 minutes. Not bad.) Also, I have learned that energy is a talent. Lackadaisical college players are likely to be lazy pros. Someone with a bounce and a nose for the ball, like Blair, will show up in the League. Looking back, last year’s draft looks pretty solid, and that’s with the top guy not playing. So I think a lot of GM’s are wondering if their outlook and selection strategy is accurate.
So this year, there is a clear-cut one and two, and I will argue no different. The only way you pass up John Wall is if you have a proven top shelf PG. The comparisons to Derrick Rose are fair. Wall is a better shooter and better defender, but Rose is more powerful and a better finisher. Wall’s ceiling is in the Dwayne Wade range, though I think he will continue to play point, with all these new super-athletic PG’s in the league.
#2 is Evan Turner. This season, he came back from a broken back early and immediately started playing out of his mind. Triple-double machine. 6’7″, solid athlete, excellent rebounder, good passer, good defender. Has ‘star’ written on him too. At that height, their team had him at the point. He’s getting fair comparisons to Wade, better rebounder, not as good an athlete, but really an all-purpose player. Needs to work on his release. Caron Butler is a great comparison for Turner, but Turner is a better passer and rebounder.
Now it gets hazy.
The next group of players is DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors, Wesley Johnson, and Greg Monroe. Cousins is a huge thick PF, a bit under-sized at 6’11” because he’s not a great athlete, but he’s so big he powers through. He and Wall on Kentucky just ran people out of the gym this year. …but he’s slightly nuts. He was regularly caught on TV yelling at his coach, and the usual whispers of him as a thug. But I bet no NBA manager asks if his mother is a whore. Uncool Jeff Ireland. Derrick Favors is a pure PF at 6’9″ 250 (Cousins is 280), and he is very strong and athletic. The funny thing about him is that Georgia Tech’s guards were so terrible at getting the ball to their big men, no one really knows how good he will be. He’s pretty raw. But his frontcourt mate is also a prospect this year. You’d think a team with one decent guard could get two NBA first-rounders past the NCAA first round. I’m a big fan of Wesley Johnson. I just realized Joe Johnson is a good comparison, maybe Grant Hill in his prime and with range. I think he’ll be very good. 6’7″, good shooter, a little thin, had a huge game in the NCAA first round. Greg Monroe I loved in college, but the concerns about him are accurate. Lamar Odom-like handle, shot-blocker, most skilled big in this draft, but disappeared for long stretches in games big and small (hello again Lamar). This is why Georgetown bounced in and out of the Top 25 all year; GT is in the Big East, so they play tons of games against top teams. They would have done much better if Monroe comes up big regularly, instead of inconsistently.
There have been a couple of super-talented players that came into the league recently and coasted, so GM’s are a little nervous. I’m thinking of Rudy Gay and Charlie Villanueva. (Both UConn guys. Will Stanley Robinson follow a similar path? Great athlete, some fire, but a massive regular disappearing act. Still, he’s a projected first-rounder.) CV hit some 3’s, rebounded, got a big contract and sat back down. Rudy is probably going to get overpaid by someone who loses the LeBron sweepstakes this summer, but his ceiling is Luol Deng. Anyhow, that makes people a little nervous with Monroe.
The next couple are Aminu, Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich, Ed Davis, James Anderson, Xavier Henry, Damion James, and Ekpe Udoh. Aminu is still a pretty raw PF at Wake Forest, skills have improved, excellent athlete. His progress has been retarded by his terrible coach. Patrick Patterson was the elder statesman at Kentucky, put up great numbers (scoring and rebounding) in his previous years. Still had a solid year at KY with Wall and Cousins dominating, and extended his range to 3. Also showed himself a character guy, both by restricting his game with the influx of talent, and being a senior leader on an immature, ragged team. I think he will be overlooked in this draft a bit, but he could be a Millsap with better shooting touch. I don’t like Cole Aldrich. He was a good shooter at Kansas, nice energy, shot-blocking and rebounder, but he has an insanely ugly shot, is not a great athlete or finisher despite his touch. I’m thinking of Eric Montross, the star white center at UNC, drafted in 1994 in the top 10, averaged 10 ppg his first year, a number that never improved. Aldrich will be drafted too high.
I like Ed Davis from UNC, looked great as a freshman, didn’t improve much this year, but a 6’11” PF with nice skills, nice touch around the basket, not enough fire in the belly. James Anderson is a skilled wing player, shooter and slasher. Xavier Henry disappeared for stretches, but he and Anderson could be nice contributors from the wing, or could be Mo Pete or Von Wafer guys who barely make a mark in the league. I think Damion James is really talented, was a freshman with Kevin Durant and DJ Augustin (and that team lost in the FIRST ROUND. Man, Rick Barnes is a bad coach). All purpose forward, 6’7” battler on the boards, needs to work on his release and shot selection, but could be a rebounder and scorer off the bench, like a Brandon Bass. My favorite in this group is Ekpe Udoh. I don’t know why he’s not higher. I didn’t get to see him a ton this year, but when Baylor went up against Duke, check out Udoh’s line: 18 and 10 (7 offensive), 6 assists, 5 blocks. 6’10”, good athlete, and he’s got the fire. I rate him higher than any big other than (crazy) DeMarcus.
For late first-round value: I like Gordon Hayward, but he needs to work on his handle, passing, and fire. I don’t know if he’s really committed to being an NBA player. I like Avery Bradley, an athletic freshman PG at Texas, and Quincy Pondexter, a 20-ppg wing scorer from Washington. Solomon Alabi is a big 7-footer with ups and long arms, he will be a nice weak-side defender off the bench. Willie Warren, the backcourt partner of Blake Griffin in 2009, could be a very good point guard, strength, shooting and vision like Deron Williams. I should also mention Lance Stephenson, who I didn’t see in many first round projections but should be. PG skills at 6’7”, great passer, can shoot and finish and defend. Could he be a Scottie Pippen? I loved the way he seemed to come up big for his team with regularity.