With the end of the Marquette Golden Eagles' 2012 NCAA basketball season in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, senior leaders Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom turned their attention to the NBA draft that will commence on Thursday, June 28th.
According to NBAdraft.net, Johnson-Odom is projected to be picked 41st overall by the Portland Trailblazers in the second round of this year's draft. Crowder, on the other hand, did not crack the top 60 and is said to be a likely free agent signing after all things are said and done. According to Johnson-Odom's player profile on NBAdraft.net, "If he impresses in workouts and a team believes his catch-and-shoot ability, he could land in the second round," while Crowder's player profile said, "[he] should garner plenty of looks in the 2nd round."
Both players can be extremely dangerous behind the arc, have very high basketball IQ and are incredibly hard workers. Johnson-Odom's step-back jumper, impressive 6'6" wingspan and solid defensive ability should help him transition from a stellar college career to a solid contributor off the bench in the NBA. Crowder works harder than pretty much any player I have ever seen in college basketball, and while he lacks lateral quickness on the defensive side of the ball, he'll use his speed to score on taller opponents and his strength to power his way past smaller defenders.
Still, I believe both players bring their own special quality to this draft that NBA scouts seem to overlook or not talk about. Johnson-Odom may be undersized for a shooting guard, but speed kills in almost every sport and Johnson-Odom will do just that with his own quickness once he gets to the next level. This guy is a rocket on the court, and not just on the open floor, but in tight spaces around the basket. His quick feet have led to countless points inside for the Golden Eagles, regardless of his height. His speed occasionally causes him to lose control of the ball when running up the floor, but his ability to change direction in seconds is what makes him so difficult to guard.
Johnson-Odom is a very efficient player who rarely takes bad shots and can pass well even when running at full speed. He can also go from full speed to a dead stop before shooting or finding an open teammate for an easy basket. His ability to create offense off the dribble is another dangerous weapon that the shooting guard has developed thanks to his quickness.
According to DraftExpress.com, Johnson-Odom's "0.93 points per shot off the dribble represents a solid improvement off the 0.688 number he posted last year, and he looks significantly more comfortable with pull up and step back jumpers, which he didn't consistently show earlier in his career."
Crowder's talent that many seem to overlook is his ability to create matchup problems that gave opposing coaches fits in college. The talent level is obviously much higher in the NBA, but that doesn't mean Crowder's strong frame and sound fundamentals will not cause matchup problems for opposing teams. It is no secret that Crowder is a less than stellar ball-handler, but he is so talented without the ball, that he can be a very valuable addition to a team looking to add an effective passer who is not turnover prone, possesses solid speed and post skills down low.
In their evaluation of Crowder, DraftExpress.com called him, "extremely intelligent operating off the ball, having a knack for moving to the right spot to catch and finish in a simple and effective manner, despite rarely playing above the rim." He is undersized for both a small forward and power forward, but I can see him being used as a No.2 or No.3 swingman if he improves his ball-handling skills. Last year's Big East Player of the Year has the speed to beat opponents off the dribble and the strength to fight for tough baskets.
If either player is selected in this year's draft, it will be the third year in a row that a Golden Eagle has been taken in the NBA draft. Lazar Hayward was selected 30th overall in the 2010 NBA draft by the Washington Wizards before being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves on the same day. Jimmy Butler was selected 30th overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 2011 NBA draft.
Johnson-Odom and Crowder both had stellar senior seasons for Marquette with both players being named first team All Big East. Johnson-Odom averaged 18.3 points per game, 2.7 assists per game and 3.5 rebounds per game last year. Crowder averaged 17.5 points per game, 2.1 assists per game, 8.4 rebounds per game and an impressive 2.5 steals per game last year.
Look for both players' names to be called in the middle to later second round of the draft with Crowder being picked before Johnson-Odom. I see Crowder going 43rd overall to the Atlanta Hawks while Johnson-Odom goes either 48th overall to the New York Knicks or to the Denver Nuggets with the 50th pick.