A Look Into The 2009 NBA Draft: The Top Five Big Men

New England Sports Correspondent IApril 5, 2009

MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 29:  Blake Griffin #23 of the Oklahoma Sooners walks off the court after losing to the North Carolina Tar Heels during the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional Final at the FedExForum on March 29, 2009 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Tar Heels defeated the Sooners 72-60 to advance to the Final Four.  (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

1. Blake Griffin, Sophomore, Oklahoma, PF

Just yesterday, Blake Griffin was named the AP College Player Of The Year, and rightfully so, finishing his sophomore campaign with just under 23 ppg (22.7), and 14 rpg, all while shooting 65.4 percent from the field.

Granted, a good portion of his points by way of the dunk, Griffin has shown steady improvement on his outside game, shooting 37.5% from behind the arch.

An explosive player with a legitimate power forward frame for the NBA level at 6'10, 250, and the consensus No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, Griffin is already a household name.

Add in a continually improving outside game to go along with a surprisingly polished back-to-the basket game, and ability to explode to the net, and you'll see he has all the tools necessary to succeed at the NBA level.

But of course, with all the positives, there must be some negatives.

For Griffin, the positives outweigh the negatives, but there are some slights against Griffin and his ability to hang tough in the post. Even at 6'10, 250 pounds, smaller players have been able to take Griffin out of his game with overly physical play.

Not to say that Griffin is soft, but he's certainly not someone whose going to be banging down low in the post.

He has shown also some hesitation this season while running the break, often trying to make routine plays more difficult then they need to be. Rather than going in for what could be an easy two points, Griffin has been known to try and get his teammates involved on the break.

While getting your teammates involved is never a bad thing, it often leads to Griffin making ill advised passes. However, overall, Griffin is certainly this year's top big man, and likely the top overall pick come draft day.


2. Jordan Hill, Junior, Arizona, PF

And here come the hate comments and criticism of how I don't have Hasheem Thabeet as my No. 2 big man, but hear me out.

Jordan Hill brings a freakish combination of size, speed and athletic ability that is a rarity in today's game. Not an incredible defender by any means, but his freakish leaping ability, combined with his length and 6'10" frame, helped Hill to average nearly 2 bpg (1.7) and made him an intricate part of Arizona's run in this years tournament.

He finished off his junior year with an impressive 18 ppg, and 11rpg, and his extended time in college (by today's NCAA basketball standards) have allowed him the time needed to develop a nicely polished face-up game while adding some solid bulk to his frame.

Hill, however, could still stand to muscle up a bit and add some bulk to his frame.

He seemed to do so in his time in Arizona, but he's still a bit frail compared to NBA forwards. He'll often put the ball on the floor trying to make something out of nothing by passing on the 15-footer and trying to get to the rim.

Hill could struggle at the NBA level due to his overall lack of strength, and while his length should greatly benefit him, he'll likely have a tough time backing down NBA power forwards.

It also doesn't help that Jordan Hill will be a year older than most of this year's junior class, which can often hurt a player's stock, but as we saw with O.J. Mayo last season, it doesn't always hurt the player development and transition into the NBA.


3. Hasheem Thabeet, Junior, Connecticut, C

One of what I consider to be two pure centers expected to enter this year's NBA Draft (BJ Mullens out of OSU being the other), Hasheem Thabeet has all the tools needed to be an absolute defensive monster.

He anticipates shot blocks better then any other player I've seen in the last 20 years, rarely falling for shot fakes, and almost never leaves the floor until his opponent has put up the shot.

He's not an overly athletic big man like Griffin or Hill, but has shown tremendous ability to gain rebounding position. At 7'3", he's an excellent candidate for center on a fast-paced, up tempo team, as he seems to be able to run the floor with ease, showing no alarming stamina issues.

Offensively, Thabeet is extremely limited and raw right now. Throughout his years as a Huskie he has shown some improvement on his inside game, notably his short-range hook shot, but it's not yet a consistent enough weapon to fall back on.

Thabeet also needs to become more aggressive, even at his 7'3 frame, he seems to be pushed around quite easily by smaller big men, often leading to him losing his post position.

A final year in college might do him well, but at this juncture, it seems unlikely that he will be returning.

Footwork in the post could also stand to improve.


4. Cole Aldrich, Sophomore, Kansas, PF

At this point in his college career, Cole Aldrich may be smart to declare as soon as possible. After his strong showing in the tournament, his stock has nowhere to go but down right now.

He's a good shot blocker, he anticipates the shot well, and has overall good footwork in the post.

A real hustle player, Aldrich will battle for offensive rebounds, and has shown soft touch around the basket. He's great at gaining low-post position and boxing out. May very well be the most fundamentally sound player on this list.

However, he's not an overly athletic player, and lacks the ideal burst to the rim that you typically like to see out of your strong forwards. At this point, his offense is somewhat limited to offensive put backs.

He can be too aggressive on the boards at times, often leading to early foul trouble—a problem which could follow him into the NBA.

Although Aldrich excels at gaining post position, he needs some work on his low-block moves. He showed flashes of a developing up fake this season, but has yet to show that he can fully take advantage when he gets his defender in the air.

Aldrich could ultimately prove to be a major project player at the next level.


5. DeJuan Blair, Sophomore, Pittsburgh, PF

There are several players that could have made the cut here at No. 5, but Blair is an intriguing prospect at the power forward position.

For what Blair lacks in size, he makes up for with pure muscle and length (287 lbs., 7'3" wingspan).

Blair has a great touch on his shot, and excels when banging down low in the post.

He's the type of player who can really anchor a team's interior defense. Think a much stronger Leon Powe with a far more polished offensive game. He will step in and take a charge, and then draw contact at the other end, getting himself to the line.

The ultimate hustle player, and has always been praised on his leadership ability.

For his size, Blair has a surprisingly quick first step, but ala Glen "Big Baby" Davis, has been criticized this year for some weight issues. He does have some room to trim down a bit.

Some slight improvement on his face-up game would greatly benefit him at the next level, as his size may prevent him from fully utilizing his back-to-the basket game.

Blair is a true hustle player and is very fundamentally sound, and while it may be tough to find any specific part of his game that will dazzle you, there is no particular area where Blair has proved to be weak.

Join in on the discussion.


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