The NCAA Tournament has reached its Final Four and the NBA regular season is winding down. At this point, we have a pretty good idea of which NBA teams will have which pick and which college players will be testing the NBA waters. Here is our take on what will happen if the lottery balls bounce as expected.
Was there any doubt? Wall wasn't able to carry his young Kentucky team to the Final Four, but it wasn't for his lack of trying. Throughout the season Wall provided us with moments we won't soon forget. In his first game as a Wildcat he hit a game winner against Miami (OH). Against Vanderbilt he had a game saving block. Not bad for a Freshman.
Wall is the consensus #1 despite analysts who say they'd rather have Evan Turner. Wall is an absolutely incredible athlete, leader, and has shown the ability to score from the perimeter. He has the athleticism to be an elite defender, but would need to dedicate himself to the craft. Overall, he's the best prospect for teams that need help now, and far and away the player with the highest upside.
According to NBA scouts, Evan Turner is the second coming of the Blazer's Brandon Roy. He's a do it all player who played four positions for the Buckeye's this season. GMs think he can get even stronger and will probably play a lot of 3 on an NBA roster. He can score from the inside and has the ability to hit the three from NBA range. He's a strong ball handler and finishes through contact well. He's definitely the best player besides Wall in this draft and there's little question that he'll go 2nd overall.
The bigman for Kentucky was absolutely dominant for the Wildcats this season averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds as a Freshman. He showed great touch around the basket and the strength to get deep position against just about anybody. On defense he plays strong, but sometimes too physical and found himself in foul trouble on occasion.
The questions around Cousins are more off the court than on. He frequently was yelling at Coach Cal and didn't seem to be listening to instruction. He reminds a lot of people of Zach Randolph, right down to his temper. In order to make that comparison complete he should develop a consistent jumper and learn from the change in attitude Zach has had this season with Memphis. Cousins won't fall out of the Top 5 unless he gets hurt or has just terrible individual workouts.
After the Orange's exit from the NCAA Tournament Wes Johnson said he wasn't sure if he'd leave for the NBA Draft. We think after giving it some serious thought he'll be declaring and likely rewarded by being a Top 5 pick. Johnson was a First Team All-American this year. He scores in a variety of ways and has ideal length and body type for an NBA Small Forward.
Johnson showed great growth in his outside shooting this year, knocking down over 41% of his attempts from three. That was a huge improvement over his 30% in his two years at Iowa State. He suffered a small and nagging hand injury that hurt his stats late in the Big East schedule, but he rallied back in the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 22 points and nearly 10 rebounds for the Tournament, so the disappointment when the Orange lost was understandable. Johnson will be able to contribute right away for any team.
There may not have been a more poorly used talent this season than Derrick Favors. He was absolutely dominant when he could get the ball in good position, but his guards failed at consistently delivering him the ball. He is an absolute physical specimen and arguably the most athletic big man in this draft.
He shot over 60% from the field and averaged nearly a double-double. There is definitely room for improvement for Favors. He needs to get better from the foul-line and has to do a better job of passing and finding open teammates. There's little doubt that Favors will go very high, but he does have to show he can hold his own against this draft's other bigmen.
Cole Aldrich would have been the best Center prospect in the draft last year, but returned to Kansas to win a National Title. Unfortunately, Kansas got upset by Northern Iowa, and Cole had to wait a year to be a lottery pick.
He is a bit of an odd case because the Jayhawks didn't really feature him in their half-court sets and focused more on Sherron Collins and Xavier Henry to carry them on offense. Scouts will be paying a lot of attention to his individual workouts where he could be the first Center taken if he can outplay DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside, and Derrick Favors.
Al-Farouq is one of a very limited number of players who helped their cause by returning to school for another year. Last year Aminu was a sure fire first round pick, and likely a late lottery pick, but now, after an impressive Sophomore campaign at Wake Forest, Aminu could go as high as the Top 5.
Aminu has great size and length to play the Small Forward position at the next level. He uses his body well and is an efficient rebounder. He's shown growth in his outside jumper, but will need to knock it down from outside more consistently if he hopes on moving up in the draft. He handles the ball well enough to be a threat off the dribble and has the size to post up smaller forwards. Overall, Aminu brings a lot to the table for whatever team picks him without much, if any, downside.
Whiteside certainly was on NBA radars to be drafted, but not this early. The 7-0 Freshman from North Carolina exploded on the national scene with his 14 point, 17 rebound, and 9 block game against Ohio in only his fifth game as a college athlete. Things didn't stop there for Whiteside who was one of only two players (the other was Evan Turner) to have multiple triple-doubles this season.
There are questions about Hassan's maturity and there is no doubt he is a very raw prospect. He struggles with his back to the basket and is currently a very below average passer. However, he has one thing you can't teach which is his uncanny shot blocking ability. He averaged an unbelievable 5.4 blocks per game this year. His shot blocking, ability to face up, and the form on his jumper (although seldom used) present an intriguing package that some team will end up selecting in the late lottery. Even if the team won't see the reward right away.
The Jazz will likely lose Power Forward Carlos Boozer to free-agency this summer, but luckily, they can replace him with a younger version in Patrick Patterson. Some questioned Patterson's decision to return to Kentucky for his Junior year, but the added season gave him the ability to show his versatility as a scorer. Last season Patterson played frequently in the post and took only 1 three pointer all season. This year for the Wildcats, Patterson showed his ability to step outside and knock it down from deep making 24 of 69 from behind the arc.
That marked improvement showed that Patterson can do more than just hit the boards like many thought last year. The complete package he's shown has certainly raised his draft stock and increased his number of suitors. It will be fun to see him battle versatile forwards like Wesley Johnson and Al-Farouq Aminu in competing for a Top 10 spot.
People question whether Greg Monroe is competitive and has the heart to really be a premier player at the next level. For a player as skilled as he is, he disappears for stretches and doesn't take over games against weaker opponents. A Big East game against Syracuse is a prime example: 8 points, 4 rebounds, 6 turnovers and only 7 field goal attempts. That isn't the type of game you want out of your big man.
From a number and skills standpoint there is nothing to dislike about Monroe. As a Sophomore, he improved on his impressive Freshman campaign, increasing his points, rebounds and assists per game. His shooting percentages were slightly down, but that could have been due to the amount of attention defenses were now paying him in the Big East. The question GMs will have to ask is whether they think Greg can flip the switch to go from "solid" to "great."
Xavier has not yet declared for the draft, but based on the lack of depth at the wing position this year, it would make sense for him to enter his name. Henry came into Kansas very highly touted and was incredibly impressive early in the season, but slowed down considerably once the rigors of Big 12 play set in. GMs may be concerned by the fact that Henry was non-existent for stretches this season.
Henry didn't finish the season very strong, which may stop him from declaring for the draft. In the NCAA Tournament he managed only 19 total points in 2 games, including the stunning loss to Northern Iowa. On the bright side, Henry showed that he knows how to use his frame to his advantage and averaged 7 rebounds in the Tournament. His ability to do things other than score will be important to improve his stock, but just based on his size and athletic ability he's a likely lottery pick.
A lot of where James Anderson will be drafted will depend on his individual workouts. His body of work in college shows his ability to score, but some will consider him just a volume scorer who requires a lot of shots to get his points. In the 3-on-3 drills of individual workouts he should work on getting good shots and not forcing his offense.
He is a phenomenal scorer, and reminds me of Richard Hamilton in his ability to score coming off screens. He isn't the best athlete, but can finish around the rim, and got to the foul-line at a surprisingly high rate this season. His ability as a scorer will probably have him drafted somewhere in the lottery, but no later than the mid-first round.
Bledsoe would have been the best guard on any team in the country last year, except for Kentucky, where he played second fiddle to John Wall. Bledsoe came highly recruited to Kentucky and for good reason. He is really a Point Guard, but was asked to be a Shooting Guard when playing with Wall.
He has incredible length and speed, which makes him a very capable defender. He must learn to play in better position so he isn't forced to grab and hold when defending off the ball. Eric showed that his jump shot can become a consistent weapon when he went 8-9 from three in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. If Bledsoe chooses to return to school, he could be a Top 5 pick next year, but by leaving now, a team could get an absolute steal in the late lottery.
The Houston Rockets have been remarkable in the draft the last couple years. They would be wise to take the versatile Ekpe Udoh here at the end of the lottery. At worst, he could spell Yao Ming for stretches at Center and could play alongside Louis Scola.
Udoh brings a wonderful combination of size (6-10) and athleticism. Against Duke, he had a national coming out party with 18 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 blocks. That is the type of stat-sheet stuffing performance the NBA GM that takes Ekpe will be hoping for. He is still a little raw, as evidenced by the games where he disappeared, but has a great basic skill set to work off of. It will be interesting to see if he can help his stock in workouts against players currently ranked higher like DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside, Greg Monroe, and Cole Aldrich.
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