Nowadays, it seems like everyone has a draft best available big board. Jay Bilas...Mel Kiper...others, too...
With that said, in my never-ending quest to be the greatest sportswriter that the world has ever seen, I say it's time for me to make one as well.
And what better time than the day before the 2009 NBA Draft?
Here, I will rank the top 30 prospects based on how much success I believe they will have in the NBA, not necessarily by their draft position.
I don't discriminate.
If I believe that a prospect projected to go in the second round has a brighter future than a potential lottery pick, you bet your ass that he is going to be ranked higher.
Also, if a prospect is ranked 11th, it doesn't mean that I think he should be taken with the 11th pick.
On with the list!
1. James Harden - SG - Arizona State
Harden might just be the safest prospect in this draft, but sometimes they end up being the best. He is a shooting guard who is an improving scorer and a tough defender. He has the ability to run the offense like a point guard or slash like a swingman. He has the physical and mental maturity to be a star at the next level and is ready to be a starter and contributor right away.
Player Comparison: Brandon Roy
2. Blake Griffin - PF - Oklahoma
The consensus No. 1 pick has a bright future ahead of him. He is the prototype NBA power forward with a skill set that should put him up there with the best today. He can defend the interior, overpower defenders inside on offense, run the floor well for a big man, and outrebound almost anybody.
The one knock on him is his ability, or lack thereof, to hit the mid-range shot, as well as his poor free throw shooting, but that is something that can improve with time in the NBA, which has happened with many young big men.
Player Comparison: A more athletic Carlos Boozer
3. Brandon Jennings - PG - Italy
In a draft class laden with point guards, Jennings could very well be the cream of the crop. He is the rare combination of great passing and floor leadership with scoring ability. He made headlines by forgoing college to play a year in Europe, where he didn't have tremendous success.
But the talent is hard to ignore.
He is a quick player who can drive on anybody and is solid defensively. With several teams in need of point guards, Jennings is sure to make the fans of one team very happy.
Player Comparison: Terrell Brandon
4. Stephen Curry - PG/SG - Davidson
I am on the Steph Curry bandwagon. While some tweener guards have busted recently in the NBA, Curry can have great success if taken by the right team. He is the best pure scorer in this class, and his point guard skills and defense have improved within the last season and can only get better.
There are two ways that he can go in the NBA.
Either he can be a undersized two-guard who is only used a scoring spark, a la Steve Kerr, which would pretty much make him a draft disappointment, if not a bust (would you draft Steve Kerr in the top 10?).
Or, he can be utilized as a scoring point guard who continually develops his point guard skills, similar to Chauncey Billups or Monta Ellis. I think the latter will happen and Curry will be a great player in the league.
Player Comparison: Chauncey Billups/Monta Ellis
5. DeMar DeRozan - SG/SF - USC
Every now and then, a prospect (usually a swingman) comes along with frightening athleticism and a bizarre skill set that make you say to yourself, "If he can put it all together, he is going to be a star."
DeRozan is that guy this year.
He could go the way of DeShawn Stevenson or Qyntel Woods and be just a hyped prospect who never becomes a star. Or he could be a Jason Richardson or Vince Carter product who sets the world on fire. Put me down for the J-Rich/Vinsanity category.
DeRozan can score (getting better as a shooter as well), slash, defend, and pass. The only knock is whether he will make use of his potential and truly become a great player, or just do well enough.
Player Comparison: Jason Richardson
6. Eric Maynor - PG - VCU
There are three levels of point guards: the scoring point guard (Stephen Curry), the all-around point guard (Brandon Jennings), and the pure passer.
Maynor is closest to the pure passing point guard (or PPPG for short) who can lead a team and do everything for them but score. Most of the time, the PPPG can score when called upon but chooses to be a distributor instead—and there ain't nothing wrong with that.
Maynor is a natural leader who is a great passer and floor general, and who can defend pretty well, but there is room for improvement. He isn't a bad scorer, but his shot selection can be erratic at times. Still, he has undeniable skills and a history of winning.
Player Comparison: Rod Strickland
7. Terrence Williams - SG/SF - Louisville
Williams appears to be the prospect billed as "jack of all trades, master of none" in this class. He is a swingman who can score, defend, rebound, and pass pretty well, but his upside is questioned. He has great athleticism and can shoot the three pretty well.
The only problem is that he can get trigger-happy sometimes with his shots. Despite questions about his potential, I believe with his talent, athleticism, and work ethic, he will be a very good player in the NBA.
Player Comparison: Josh Howard
8. DaJuan Summers - SF/PF - Georgetown
Summers is one of several prospects that can cause matchup problems at the next level. He is a 6'8 small forward with some ability at the power forward spot. He is a sleeper with true star potential as he can score in a multitude of ways, as well as defend three positions. Summers has good strength and plays smart and within himself.
Player Comparison: Jamal Mashburn
9. James Johnson - SF/PF - Wake Forest
Another player who has the ability to play both forward positions, Johnson is an all-around solid prospect. He is a player who can realistically start at either position in the NBA and do well. Johnson can rebound, defend, and shoot the outside shot, but he needs to improve his shot selection. He is a threat to both back down his man and drive to the basket.
Player Comparison: Antawn Jamison
10. Jeff Teague - PG - Wake Forest
If there was a scale of "point-guardness" (how much of a true point guard a player is), Teague would be above Stephen Curry but below Brandon Jennings and Eric Maynor on it, if that makes sense.
Teague is an excellent scorer with lightning quickness. He isn't a bad defender and has solid, improving point guard skills. Teague is sure to be a good starting point guard for a team one day, but he still needs time to develop for a few years.
The best scenario would be for him to go to a team where he begins off the bench and develops certain areas of weakness and becomes a starter in a couple of years.
Player Comparison: Aaron Brooks
11. Jordan Hill - PF/C - Arizona
Hill is an intriguing prospect, to say the least. He has the ability to play the 4 or 5 and is still considered raw by many analysts. He hits the mid-range jumper very well for a big and is a force inside on both offense and defense.
However, the NBA is different than college; Hill needs to add some bulk, or else he won't be able to dominate inside like he did in college. A solid shot-blocker and rebounder, Hill may need some time to develop but will be a good fit for many teams.
Player Comparison: Joe Smith
12. Ricky Rubio - PG - Spain
I am not drinking the Ruby Kool-Aid like the rest of America (seemingly). He might be a solid point guard, but he has as high a bust potential as any prospect in this draft.
He is very young with below average strength and explosiveness. He has good speed and can score in a variety of ways, and his passing ability is very intriguing. Still, Rubio has questionable leadership abilities.
He has very high potential, but the team that takes him needs to be patient; otherwise he may struggle at the next level.
Player Comparison: A taller Jason (White Chocolate) Williams
13. Derrick Brown - SF - Xavier
Brown is an intriguing player who can play shooting guard, small forward, and power forward, defend well at each position, and hit the outside shot. He has great athleticism and can be a great fit for a team that needs a player to take the pressure off some of its stars, both on offense and defense. He is one of the players that contributes to a winning franchise and does things that don't always show up in the stats.
Player Comparison: James Posey
14. Danny Green - SG/SF - North Carolina
Green is a swingman projected to go in the late-first and early-second round. He can score very well and is a solid defender. Green is more of a spot-up shooter than a slasher, and while he doesn't get to the free throw line very often, he is a good foul shooter.
Green is a bit of a sleeper and doesn't have much upside, but he can be a very consistent player for some team.
Player Comparison: Bryon Russell
15. Tyreke Evans - SG - Memphis
Evans is projected to go in the top 10, most likely to Minnesota, mainly due to his scoring ability. However, as a shooter, he is pretty streaky and lacks effectiveness outside of scoring. Still, Evans can run the floor pretty well and isn't a bad defender, but he won't exactly be the future star that some draft experts make him out to be.
Player Comparison: Kendall Gill
16. Sam Young - SF - Pittsburgh
Young is a tough, defensive-minded player who can play the 3 or 4 in the NBA. He is an excellent perimeter defender and has the ability to go up against some power forwards inside.
He is athletic enough to score well in fast break and driving situations, and he has a solid mid-range game. But outside of that, his offense is rather weak.
Player Comparison: Corliss Williamson
17. Gerald Henderson - SG - Duke
Henderson is an athletic wing who can score both inside and outside. He has improved as a scorer and defender in his junior season and will prove to be a solid shooting guard for a team that needs him. He can be inconsistent and will continue to shoot even when he doesn't hit, but a team like Charlotte could really use him.
Player Comparison: John Salmons
18. Jrue Holiday - PG/SG - UCLA
Holiday is flying up the draft boards like hotcakes (yeah, that's right). Some mocks have him going as high to No. 4 to Sacramento, but I'm not buying the hype.
I am a man, and I will stand up for what is right, and I will speak my mind, like a man would. Holiday is going to struggle early in his career—this is almost a given.
An undersized shooting guard, whatever team takes him is going to make an attempt to convert him to point. When a team accepts that he is a scoring two-guard in a point guard's body, then he may blossom into a good role player.
Player Comparison: Jason Terry
19. DeMarre Carroll - SF/PF - Missouri
Carroll is a player with not much upside, but he's more of a sure thing than most other prospects. One thing that you will definitely get from him is good defense.
Carroll is an athletic and versatile player who can lock down the opposition's best player. He is a hard worker who hustles and works hard on both ends of the floor. His offense has improved, and it may end up being fairly strong with some work.
Player Comparison: Stacey Augmon
20. B.J. Mullens - C - Ohio State
Mullens is an interesting prospect at center. It would have done him a world of good to stay in college for at least one more season and develop his game further, but being a lock in the top 20, I can understand his decision to enter the draft.
He is talented on both ends of the floor, has good hands for a center, and has unmatched post skills in this draft. It's all a matter of polish and development, and Mullens needs quite a bit of both.
Player Comparison: Andrew Bogut
21. Austin Daye - SF - Gonzaga
Daye's biggest strength is the fact that he is a matchup problem. He is 6'10" but plays like a spot-shooting small forward.
He is quick and athletic but not very strong, and if he doesn't put on some bulk, he will be limited to the perimeter because he will be overpowered inside like a bunny in a minefield (awful metaphor, I know).
Still, his outside shooting is impressive, and his perimeter defense isn't too bad, and with his physical attributes, it can be improved.
Player Comparison: Tim Thomas
22. Wayne Ellington - SG - North Carolina
Wayne Ellington can score—very well. Sometimes he can score great. One way he can score is by shooting. He shoots the ball very well. He can also be a great shooter.
For a team that needs a scorer and/or shooter at the shooting guard position, Wayne Ellington would be an excellent draft choice. This is very redundant...much like Wayne Ellington what with all his scoring.
Player Comparison: Wesley Person
23. Jonny Flynn - PG - Syracuse
Once again, I am not drinking the Kool-Aid. It takes a real man to say no to drugs and/or Kool-Aid, and I am being a man.
Flynn is the classic case of a successful college point guard who scores very well and is fast. Will that make him a great NBA player? Of course it won't!
He is a marginal passer as far as point guards go, and his defense is meh. Still, he is a very solid scorer, and that will make him a good role player in the NBA for teams that need his services.
Player Comparison: Tony Delk
24. Dionte Christmas - SG - Temple
See Wayne Ellington's profile. Add even more emphasis on three-point shooting. Throw in a festive last name. Voila, you have...Dionte Christmas.
Player Comparison: Kyle Korver
25. Tyler Hansbrough - PF - North Carolina
Tyler Hansbrough is a man who does not back down. He is a hard-working player who any coach would be delighted to have and who fans will love.
Many wonder what type of player he will be in the NBA. Most likely, he will be a hustling, rebounding, elbow-throwing, second-chance-point-scoring big man who will come off the bench (occasionally starting) and really help out his squad.
Player Comparison: Tyrone Hill
26. Taj Gibson - PF - USC
Gibson is very similar to Hansbrough, as he is a hard-working hustler whose specialty is rebounding and defense. He will instantly bring toughness to a team that needs nastiness up front, and his athleticism may lend itself to improvement on offense (he really has nowhere to go but up on offense).
Player Comparison: Bo Outlaw
27. Hasheem Thabeet - C - UConn
That's right, Thabeet is 27th. I really don't understand the infatuation with him. He is a tall center who can block shots and...be athletic and tall.
Seriously, his only redeeming qualities are blocking shots and being tall.
Yes, I know that Dikembe Mutombo was in the same situation when he was drafted, but how many "next Dikembe Mutombos" were there who ended up being busts? Several, that's how many. Yinka Dare, DeSagana Diop, Saer Sene—the list goes on.
Player Comparison: Samuel Dalembert (I'm being generous here)
28. DeJuan Blair - PF - Pittsburgh
Ah, the undersized power forward. Quite the entity.
Only one contemporary model has found true success (Charles Barkley), and several teams yearn to find the next Barkley and fail miserably (Marcus Fizer comes to mind).
Yet, it has made a small comeback recently with Paul Millsap and Jason Maxiell, both contributing to winning franchises with their hustling and rebounding prowess. If Blair can find himself in a similar situation, he will be a successful player.
Player Comparison: Jason Maxiell
29. Ty Lawson - PG - North Carolina
Lawson's draft stock is going up and down, and he could land anywhere from the late lottery to the middle of the second round. He can shoot the three ball well, pass effectively, and defend, but the question is whether he can be an effective NBA starting point guard or just a reserve.
Either way, he will be solid, but a starter or future star? Probably not.
Player Comparison: Jamaal Tinsley
30. Earl Clark - SF/PF - Louisville
I'm going to go right out and say it: I think Earl Clark will be a bust. Definitely a disappointment if he goes as high as he is currently projected, but he will likely be a bust.
When a player's best qualities are his size and athleticism, and not so much his basketball skills, there is a problem. Clark has some skills, but not enough consistency or experience to be an effective starter for a long period of time.
He will be a solid role player for some team, but if a team drafts him high in hopes of him being an All-Star and turning around the franchise, they are sadly mistaken.
Player Comparison: Vladimir Radmanovic