It's no secret. This year's 2009 NBA Draft Class is one of the weakest, most puzzling (and unpredictable) draft classes of the decade. It is littered with ambiguous talent, bland lottery selections and team GM's trying to force a smile about their potential first round futures.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this class is a disaster or that not a single selectee will make an impact on his team or even become a league leader. I'm just stating that with a class as thin as this, I'd focus my pick on an experienced college player whose athleticism and college competition level would enable them to contribute.
They might not develop into the best player from the class, but they would provide immediate impact.
A player that fit the bill: Louisville's Earl Clark.
At 6'9 (6'10 in shoes) and 200 lbs. Earl Clark is a rare athletic specimen. He has the ability to play both SF and PF, and his wingspan could potentially allow him to see time at Center in a small lineup. See Houston's lineup against L.A. with Scola and Landry down low. Clark is quicker than both Landry and Scola, and more versatile.
Aside from mere physical build, his numbers are tough to hide. He averaged almost 14 points and nine rebounds in arguably the toughest conference in the nation, including averaging 18 points and eight rebounds in the NCAA tournament.
He proved he can shoot from the outside as well, hitting 34% of his threes during his Junior year campaign. I know it's going to be different shooting NBA threes, but if he works he should transition into it well.
Scouts and analysts have been comparing him to the next Shawn Marion, with the ability to run the court and score both in and out of the paint. To extend this metaphor, Earl Clark would be a nice pick up for the Suns at the #14 Pick.
Even the Knicks at the #8 Pick... I know the Knicks are high on Steph Curry, but either Curry or Clark would fit well into D'Antoni's run and gun style. Clark's experiences with Louisville indicate he has the lungs and the hustle to fit this style. With Earl Clark and David Lee in the post, the Knicks would fly on the transition break.
Another spot for Clark could be to the Bucks at the #10 pick. With the Bucks potentially (probably) losing Charlie Villanueva to free agency, they will need to fill the gap at PF.
I see Clark as the second best PF in the draft, behind Blake Griffin. While Jordan Hill boasts better numbers (18 points and 11 rebounds), he didn't play against the competition that Clark saw in the Big East. Also, Clark's Cardinals contained better talent from top to bottom. Put him in the NBA where he has more opportunity to display his personal skills and one-on-one ability to create, and his numbers will jump.
Hill, on the other hand, can't shoot from the outside and is limited to the PF by his weight and lack of mobility. Don't get me wrong, I think Hill is a very solid player with proven ability to score and rebound, but he just doesn't have the intangibles that Clark brings to the table.
Instead of trying to salvage a bad situation by picking for "the future", I would look to the versatility and mobility of the present - Earl Clark.
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