Sometimes we are treated to nonsensical comparisons of college players of today with NBA stars of the past and present. Such reflections are often self-serving to promote a school's agenda or the network brass advertising income.
In short, such comparisons require a reasoned touch, one of looking past "a favorite team" or player, to reveal a true judgement upon who the five best college players of today compare to the men of the NBA.
Guard: Levance Fields, Pittsburgh– Most often compared to powerfully built Syracuse guard Sherman Douglas, it is another former Big East guard and longtime NBA standout with whom Fields is truly similar.
That player is none other than 6' 0" 180 pound Mark Jackson of St. Johns, and 17 years worth of NBA teams, among them the New York Knickerbockers.
Why this comparison? Doesn't the 5'11" 190 pound Fields play with "his face to the basket" more like Deron Williams of Illinois and the Utah Jazz?
He's more like Jackson in three respects:
One, he is "game-smarter" than the opponents he faces. Jackson was notorious for backing down weaker players. Fields, likewise, takes advantage of inferior physical specimens.
Two, and more obvious, he knows how to run a team on the fast break and play the game of basketball in a half court set with a sensational assist to turnover ratio.
Three, they are both from Brooklyn. While Jeff Teague of Wake Forest, Stephen Curry of Davidson, and Jrue Holiday are more publicized, the toughness of a city guard can't be underestimated, regardless of height or leaping ability.
Statistics of many college phenoms end up being the descriptions of NBA bench-warmers. I'll take the know-how to run the team of a Mark Jackson or Levance Fields any day.
For these reasons, I consider Fields a legitimate candidate for a long career in the NBA, similiar to Mark Jackson.
Guard: James Harden, Arizona State–Don't have to go back far to find a legitimate comparison for this fellow. Everyone seems to agree this is Manu Ginobli all over again.
Somehow, Charles Barkley screaming "Harden" in the playoffs doesn't warm me up.
No doubt, over a period of time, Harden will become one of the finest players in the NBA. A truly polished threat to take over any game.
Center: Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut–Although Husky coach Jim Calhoun may angrily deny it, Thabeet has the physical presence and style of the former San Francisco Don All-American, "Big" Bill Cartwright.
The 7'1" Cartwright later added to his fame by patrolling the lanes during the Chicago Bulls' reign of terror in the 1990s. Following a 16 year run as a player in the NBA, "Big" Bill settled down to coaching jobs in the league.
The 7'3" Thabeet is Cartwright's equal as a shot blocker and defensive presence, but he is not about to replace him as an offensive force.
Thabeet will be fortunate to repeat the college and NBA career of "Big" Bill Cartwright.
Forward: Jordan Hill, Arizona–Taking into consideration the quickness and power of this front-line player, the 6'10" 235 pound Hill is high on any team's "must have" list.
Were it not for the sensational Blake Griffin of Oklahoma, Jordan Hill could be considered the finest basketball player in the country this season.
When you have two great power forwards like Hill and Griffin, it is hard to choose between them. Let's give Hill a close comparison to Kenyon Martin of the Denver Nuggets and collegiately, the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Forward: Blake Griffin, Oklahoma– At this point, not quite Dwight Howard, but similiar to Carlos Boozer as a powerful operator in the lane, and quite reminiscent of Amare Stoudemire when closer to the basket (see picture above).
Either way, an absolute no-brainer as the first choice in this year's draft, and certainly should also be the college Player of the Year this season.
Does that translate into the NBA Rookie of the Year next season?
Time will tell, but all signs point to "yes."
A serious look at the five most legitimate college candidates to become premier NBA players has to offend some and anger many. I hope your team and player made the list.
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