Once again, a virtual flood of underclassmen are bolting for the NBA this summer. The charge for the next wave of “young guns” is to turn around flagging franchises and bring excitment to a league that markets itself on star power.
Declaring for the NBA Draft marks a crossroads. Most of these juniors, sophomores and freshmen who are entering the draft have moved on from the safety of their college life, they've taken the first steps towards professional basketball. And soon, they'll conduct job interviews at pre-draft camps and private workouts.
For those who aren't fully committed to the draft, they have until May 8 to remove their names from the league's selection process.
The cold, hard, facts are this: If you’re not leaving school early, then you’re probably not good enough to play in the NBA. It's just that simple. Duke’s Kyle Singler and BYU’s Jimmer Fredette will not be entering the 2010 draft because they didn't get a gurantee from any team that they would be selected in the first-round.
Therefore, both players have elected to return to school for their senior seasons.
For the lucky few that do get drafted in the first-round, the gamble is worth millions, dreams become reality, and stars can be born. For the others, success in the NBA is a long road and/or never at all.
League experts are projecting nearly the entire first-round of the 2010 draft to be comprised of underclass prospects--few college seniors, and very few Internaltional players.
I blame Kevin Durant for this...
No, on second thought, high schoolers and underclassmen have been entering the draft for decades now, but only a select few have become stars.
Players like Durant are memorable because of the sizzle they bring to the game. He is the next big thing in the NBA.
Looking back, who could have predicted the monster impact this former Texas freshman would have. Wasn't he too skinny to make it in the NBA?
No...not at all.
The "Durantchula" has proven that he's the real-deal. He passes the eyeball test with flying colors.
He became the youngest scoring leader in NBA history by averaging 30.1 points per game and lifting his Thunder into the post-season for the first time ever.
In contrast, 7-foot-3 Connecticut junior Hasheem Thabeet –by all accounts a safe pick at the time— has turned into a colossal failure as an NBA player. The No. 2 pick behind Blake Griffin, is an unmitigated disaster.
Thabeet was so bad he was sent down to the developmental league by the Memphis Grizzlies before season’s end.
On June 24, the NBA will once again flip the switch for another selection show— where “amazing” really does happen— but to be sure, there’s also plenty of room for failure— the problem is we don’t know who will succeed and who will disappoint.
The questions surrounding Kentucky’s John Wall and Ohio State’s Evan Turner are one in the same. Can they develop into NBA stars and help turn a franchise around or will they succumb to the losing ways of the bad teams that will draft them and never be heard from again?
As for the big men of this draft, it’s all about finding the right team for the right player. Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins is a very talented center, but so was Michael Olowokandi. We thought.
I’m not saying Cousins is in that vein, but he does disappear in games.
Those are just a few of the burning questions GM's will be grappling with before it’s time for David Stern to step to the podium and start the draft for real.
In the meantime, lets take a sharper look at the latest "mock draft" and how the plethora of underclassmen will shake things up in 2010.
With the last pick of the first-round, Washington will look long and hard at West Virginia forward Devin Ebanks. Let's face it, the Wizards need help everywhere, but rebounding and defense are key, and that's what the 6-8 sophomore does best.
Strengths: Has great ability to defend the small foward or combo player. Rebounds well, but is a little undersized at 205 pounds. Also runs the floor welland has the ability to get easy baskets in transition.
Weakness: Inconsistant scorer. Ebanks had just four double-digit scoring games in West Virginia's last 10 contests. Stock is also dropping because scouts say he's failed to develope from his freshman year. Rebounding, shooting-percentage, turnovers and free-throws all remain about the same from his freshman season.
The 6'7" power forward flirted with the NBA last season, but was never given enough positive feedback to enter his name in the 2009 draft. He apparently did himself a favor by staying one more season at Geogia Tech.
Strengths: Athleticism and work ethic. He brings a 7'0 wingspan which makes him a potential defensive stopper and shot-blocker. The junior has a nice turnaround jumper with a soft touch off the glass, but needs to use it more often.
Weaknesses: Must be more creative around the rim. Scouts say he's uncomfortable unless he has an obvious dunk situation. Has to be more consistant while closing out shooters and getting in a proper defensive stance--occasionally gets fooled and over-commits on the defensive end.
Memphis will be looking for a well-rounded player of Pondexter's stature. The 6'6" small forward is a senior and has developed by leaps and bounds from his junior season.
Strengths: Great man-to-man defender and has outstanding off-the ball awarness. Has good elevation with his jumper and is strong enough to take it to the rack for a hard-nosed basket or two.
Weaknesses: Still needs to get better from downtown, only shooting 39% from beyond the arc. Must get stronger and become more of a reliable spot-up shooter and less of a creative freelancer.
The freshman shooting guard from Texas ranks in the top 30 best players available. At 6'3" and 180 pounds, he's built more like an NFL free-safety than an NBA shooting guard. However, he does have a unique ability to score, which makes him very attractive to the right team.
Strengths: Shows great ability to create his own shot and unless your playing in a system, like the Utah Jazz, having the ability to get your own shot is a valuble asset in the NBA. Bradley can pump-fake, jab-step and force defenders to foul, almost at will.
Weaknesses: Gets out of control off the dribble, often throws the ball up in the general direction of the hoop, hoping it goes in. Can't shoot free-throws (55%) and as an undersized two-guard, teams could have field day shooting over the top.
The 21-year-old Xavier sophomore has developed into a smooth and efficient shooter from downtown and mid-range jumper is solid aswell. Still, he must improve his 39% shooting naverage if he hopes to be more than just a role player. Crawford's best asset is his ability to create offensively and anticipate steals defensively.
Strengths: Very good defensive player, solid in man-to-man and able to anticipate in the passing lanes. Scouts will be looking for him to keep up this intensity and focus on defense. Offensively, the Xavier guard has a little bit of hitch in his shooting motion but he still has great confidence in his ability to score.
Weaknesses: Must improve ball handling skills and effectiveness as a distributor. Questions remain about his selfish style of play and a lack of leadership. He definitely needs to land with the right team to have a chance.
Willie Warren's draft stock has taken a big hit this season. Once considered a top-10 talent, Warren's inability to knock down the catch-and-shoot jumper has got scouts wondering.
Strengths: Can create his own shot off the dribble, which makes him appealing for teams in need of a point guard. Seems to thrive on drawing contact and has the ability to make the difficult shot. Not unlike a smaller version of Sacramento Kings rookie Tyreke Evans.
Weaknesses: Can be a selfish player at times. Had trouble holding onto the ball, avaraged 4.6 turnovers this season. Not a defensive stopper, gets beat at the point of attack and does nothing out of the ordinary to make one think that he'll ever be more than just an average NBA defender.
Great potential as an NBA point guard. Very physical and able to adjust shot in mid-air. Tremendous speed in the open court and has the upper body strength to draw fouls and attack the rim. Can be a good shooter, as he knocked down 41% of his three's last season.
On the flip side, Bledsoe doesn't always take advantage of his explosiness. He could free himself for multiple looks at mid-range jumpers but gets caught dribbling with his head down and turns the ball over. Makes questionable decision in the open court and has too slow of a release on his jumper.
This is where the T-Wolves could add a backup point guard. Elliot Williams transferred from Duke to Memphis, and is now looking to get into the first-round of the NBA Draft.
Strengths: A lefty that can shoot and drive with precision--he doesn't make many errors but he's still got a lot to learn. He has long arms, good quickness and he's capable playing either position in the backcourt.
Weaknesses: Still has to improve his range and accuracy with his jump shot. He shot just 25% from three-point country and isn't a catch-and-shoot type of player. He also favors the left hand too much. Williams must develope more balance if he's going to play the point position.
The Blazers are in need of offensive help for Brandon Roy. Fresno State's Paul George fits that mold perfectly. The sophomore is quickly becoming a Danny Granger or Trevor Ariza type of player. With smooth moves and outstanding ability from three-point range, his stock is rising. At 6'7" George is an ideal shooting guard or small forward.
Strengths: Gets great lift on his jumper, which makes it nearly impossible to contest. Also has ability to finish around the hoop. Doesn't take ill-advised shots and allows the game to come to him.
Weaknesses: Needs to add some weight to his frame, can get pushed around at times. Adjustment to the speed of the NBA is critical, most scouts down grade his abiltiy due to the competition he faced in the WAC.
Interesting bigman with great potential. Some make the comparision to Phildelphia's Samuel Dalembert, but he's not there yet. What makes him a potential first-round selection is his continued growth and development as a post player. He has good footwork and showed improved offensive skills over his sophomore season.
Strengths: Very agile center with ability to create and get dunks on the offensive end. His 7'1" frame and wingspan make him an ideal project at center. Averages just over two blocks per game and could be a sleeper pick with the right team.
Weaknesses: Gets in trouble when he puts the ball on the floor. Lacks fundementals that all good post players have. At times, looks awkward and stiff. Interesting: Scouts believe he's got better potential than No. 2 pick Hasheem Thabeet, which might not be saying much.
Robinson will project out as a small forward at the next level. He has good size and athleticism. Defensively, the UConn forward will be able to provide a spark off the bench or be a help to some defensive-mind team. Both the San Antonio Spurs or Milwaukee Bucks will find him to their liking
Strengths: Robinson brings senior experience to the table, and that's not always a bad thing. At 6'8' and quick as cat, Robinson will be a good fit for a team looking build through role players. He's got good size for a small forward and great raw ability.
Weaknesses: Still must master some of the games fundementals. His ball handling skills need to improve and he must get better as spot-up jump shooter.
The best player on a Cinderella team. Hayward's stock can't get any higher, so it's the best time for this sophomore to try his hand at the NBA. Hayward has good size for a small forward and great range from the outside. However, a lack of strength and quickness are two red flags that scouts say the Butler forward will have to overcome.
Strengths: Good perimeter shooter, can be spot up three-point specialist. His size is also an asset. He has good interior moves and can pass out of the double-team.
Weaknesses: Needs to prove he can guard NBA caliber players and use his head to make up for a lack quickness and athleticism. Comparable to Mike Dunleavy Jr.
The "nightmare" as they call him at Baylor. This 6'10 power forward is known for his shot blocking prowess. He's a raw talent but could be a good fit in Miami. Offensively, the junior is still learning, but he brings energy to the floor and a shot-blockers mentality.
Strengths: Moves feet well, has good lateral quickness. Improved offensive game from last season, has a nice mix of post moves but he needs to polish his skills. Made big strides from his sophomore year to junior year. He will now look to score and be more aggressive, as his confindence has grown.
Weaknesses: Stuggled holding onto the ball, drives coaches crazy with unforced errors. Must become stronger on both ends of the court. Doesn't draw fouls like a big man should and commits silly fouls on the defensive end.
The junior combo guard would be agood fit in Chicago. He's a very strong player who can play multilpe backcourt positions. Jones has a polished offensive game and can create problems off the dribble. He's a very savvy player with nice outside jumper.
Strengths: Has great court vision and a quick release to his jumper. His skills are comparable to that of Detroit's Rodney Stuckey. He does things with a purpose and makes smart plays. A very efficient ball player.
Weaknesses: Doesn't have great size for a shooting guard and he's not as quick as many of the elite point guards. He's kind of a tweener for many teams.
The Rebels sophomore shooting guard has slowly moved up the draft boards, since he declared earlier this month. He's a member of the U19 national team, but questions remain about his true intentions. White hasn't hired an agent yet, and could still withdraw his name. This past season he averaged 15 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, as he lead the Rebels to the national-semifinals of the NIT.
The feshman center has the body for the NBA, but does he have the
experience? Scouts believe the 6'10" and 255 pound Kentucky center will obviously get some sniffs from teams that are in need of a backup center.
With the loss of Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee could be one of those teams ready to take a chance on a very raw post player.
Strengths: Great shot blocker, good fundementals and has a rare combination of size and strength.
Weaknesses: Limited range on his jumper, needs more playing time to develop and learn at the pro level. Often commits dumb fouls and could use a mentor like Bogut.
I know the Rockets have a great scoring guard in Kevin Martin, but the team is still looking for a another shooter. If available Anderson might just be the best player for the job. He's a 6'6" swingman, that has tremendous upside as a potential scorer. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy is a textbook shooter with unlimited range and could someday be a replacement for three-point specialist Shane Battier.
Strengths: Good vertical jumper, likes to take thefloater in the lane. Overall, he's very difficult to defend.
Weaknesses: Can't create off the dribble as much as a player of his caliber should. Too much dribbling with his head down and not enough defensive recognition on his part.
With the expected departure of Chris Bosh from Toronto likely, the Raptors had better have plan-B in place . Right now, that seems to be the 6'9" power forward from North Carolina.
Strengths: The sophomore has great upside as a potential NBA power forward. With a 7'2" wingspan Davis can easily get his shot off in the paint and is very skilled in doing so. He can go with the soft-touch of a lefty hook or if given the opportunity, he'll just slam it right down the defenses throat.
Weaknesses: Scouts are looking for Davis to bulk up, adding another 20-25 pounds would help him finish stronger around the hoop and legitimize him as true power forward. Disappointing season at UNC has kept Davis from becoming a top-5 selection.
The Memphis Grizzlies showed signs of becoming a playoff team and guard O.J. Mayo was one of the reason's why. To compliment this rising star and solidify the paint, Memphis will looking for a center. Marshall's Hassan Whiteside may be the best center you've never heard of. He's a legitimate 7-footer with a rare combination of size and athleticism. The scouts liken him to a Marcus Camby or Tyson Chandler.
Strengths: Defense is his best attribute, the freshman average nearly five blocks per game and was an excellent rebounder for the Thundering Herd.
Weaknesses:The offense is coming along, he does have a variety of post moves but its definitely a work in progress. Must also work on his free-throws, as he shot just 40% from the line. However, as the old saying goes "you can't teach height" and that's what Whiteside has plenty of.
The 6'11" Aldrich is largely considered the finiest college center in the country.
Fundementally, Aldrich has a variety of weapons to rely on. In the low blocks he's developed a very effective hook shot and he can square up and knock down the 15-foot jumper if need be. The former Jayhawk center has excellent footwork and plays with high-energy. The only problem is scouts just aren't sure if he's the next Eric Montross or Kevin Love.
Strengths: He appears ready to take his game to the next level. Aldrich had a good sophomore season, averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds per game.
He can run the floor and shows execellent coordination and athleticism for a bigman.
Weaknesses: Hard to find many flaws with Aldrich's game. Yes, he could stand to gain some muscle and perhaps increase his range on his jumper but other than that, he's very solid.
Just a freshman, this 6'6" shooting guard is NBA ready. He has an effortless game, both as a scoring guard and small forward. Henry is a dead-eye shooter and a hard-charging Jimmy Jackson like player. With loads of potential and a "freakish" wingspan, the only thing that surpasses his game, is his great attitude off the court.
Strengths: Has great range for a shooting guard but he can also wedge his way to the cup. Powerfully built, with great ability to rebound and play defense.
Weaknesses: Must continue to develope a more creative floor game. His moves are predictable and somewhat anticipated by the defense. Needs to take advantage of his strength in the post but is sometimes reluctant to do so.
If the Utah Jazz take Kentucky junior Patrick Patterson in this summer's draft, then that will indicate that starting power forward Carlos Boozer is not in the team's future plans. Pairing Patterson with veteran Paul Millsap won'tbe as dynamic as Boozer-Millsap, but in small-market Utah the choices are limited. Patterson has plenty of upside. He's a physical player and he knows how to play the position. The 6-foot-8 banger averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds per game.
Strengths: A strong player with great instincts for second chance points and first chance rebounds. Patterson dominated the SEC but took a back seat on his own team. Cousins, Wall and Bledsoe received most of the accolades around Lexington, while Patterson did a good portion of the dirty work.
Weaknesses: He must play better weakside defense and learn to rebound against players that will be bigger and stronger than him. Offensively he needs to become a more versatile player and improve his court awarness. He's not Carlos Boozer but capable of being a good NBA player.
The Wake Forest sophomore exploded this season. With the graduation Jeff Teague and James Johnson, Aminu blossomed into a certain lottery pick. Scouts say he does all the things that can't be tought. He also has a rare ability to play multiple positions. Aminu could be a shooting guard, small forward or even a power forward, nobody knows at this point.
Strengths: Has great range with his jumper, a skilled offensive player. He can shoot the three-pointer and is a good rebounder. Has great natural ability to keep the ball alive around the rim, defensively, he's a capable shot blocker.
Weaknesses: Even though he has the ability to knock down the 3, he's not always good at it. Aminu needs to hone his form and work on his mechanics. He also lacks the ability to attack off the dribble. He must become ambidextrous and less predictable with the ball.
The 19-year-old Lithuanian is one of the few European players that could be taken in the first-round. He has the size (7-footer) and potential that NBA teams covet. He's no stiff, Motiejunas has quick feet and a lethal jumper. His best asset may be an array of low post moves, which include: Jump hooks, fadeaways and enough pump fakes to make Kurt Rambis proud.
Strengths: Runs the floor well and has the ability to sky for blocks and snag rebounds. Also has strong desire to win, this sets him apart from the casual European player.
Weaknesses: Thin as a rail, must hit the weights and build some upper body strength to be effective. Teams will have to give time to mature he's only 19-years-old. It took Dirk and Gasol time to reach an All-Star level too. The young Lithuanian has all the tools, he's a sleeper that people are going to talking about.
The Georgetown sophomore would be a prize for the lowly Sixers. His 6'10" frame and defensive abilities are great assets for a franchise that seems to be going nowhere fast. Drafting a key player from the rock solid basketball tradition of Georgetown wouldn't be a new experience for the Sixers and I believe this Hoya wouldn't have a problem going to practice.
Strengths: Handles the ball well for bigman, can create for his teammates, as he sees the court very well. Tremendous rebounder and shot blocker. Shoots a reliable jumper and plays aggressively with his back to the basket.
Weaknesses: Somtimes looks like he is not ejoying playing basketball. Deliberate in his offense and lacks a creative repertoire of post moves. Doesn't distinguish himself with any kind of seperation or quickness and Monroe's leaping ability is just standard or even below average.
All eyes will be fixed on the Kentucky phemon. He's likely the first post player to taken in the draft and he's also the first wildcard of the top-10 prospects. He could be a fantastic player or a complete bust. I hesitate on Cousins, simply because scouting reports are comparing him to Derrick Coleman.
Strengths: Cousins has great everything: Hands, feet, speed, agility, it's all there in one 6'11" package. In a perfect world, he should be able to score just about time he touches the ball. But the NBA is not a perfect world and guys like this have a tendency to rely on their superior athletic ability and worry about the fundamentals later on.
Weaknesses: For starters, he's just a freshman.He lacks composure and maturity. The question is will he grow into it or did he leave the Kentucky program too soon? Cousins also needs to develope more self awarness, his lack of explosiveness can be exploited be smaller and quicker players.
The junior small forward from Syracuse has all the tools to be a success at the next level. He played in the rugged Big East Conference and shined. Johnson has a fluid and smooth stroke and plays unselfish basketball. He's a good creator with the basketball, and knows how to get to the line. A fine addition to any team searching for a small forward.
Strengths: The comparisons to former Denver Nuggets star Alex English are unmistakable. He has many of the same classic moves and with a little development and hard work, there's no reason why he can't reach that level.
Weaknesses: Needs to diversify his game. Relys too much on the jumper and when its not going, neither is Johnson. The 6'7" swingman could become a very dangerous player if he learns to take the ball aggressivly to the rack.
Scouts are very high on the Georgia Tech freshman. They call him a dunking machine. He runs the floor with speed and finishes with power. All of those atributes combined make Favors a worthy top-5 selection. In this case he should be available for the Kings are No. 3.
Strengths: Favors has soft tight end hands, which every post player needs. He'll catch it in the paint and then effortlessly lay-in a left-handed baby hook over the defender. He also has the ability to be scary... mainly as the target of an alley-oop dunk or out in the open court. Favors is a skilled jump shooter who can knock down the 15 footer aswell. Well rounded player, not just a human highlight reel.
Weaknesses: He must get better at handling the ball, for a bigman he does okay, but it must improve in the pros. Also has a tendency to get a lazy and disappear from games. Sometimes prone to turnovers, must work on his passing game.
The Ohio State junior is perhaps the most polished player in the draft. He has great ability in almost every aspect of the game. Turner is NBA ready.
He can handle the ball with either hand, so watch out for that crossover. He's got a smooth mid-range jumper and great upper body strength. Scouts liken him to Brandon Roy.
Strengths: Turner has above average playmaking skills and he's got a great basketball mind, a real student of the game. He's a strong finisher and he knows how to draw contact. A very good athlete with long arms. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him go No.1 --he's probably the safest bet in the draft.
Weaknesses: He needs to fine tune his ability to catch and shoot, that aspect of his game is lacking. Also has a tendency to be taken out close games mentally. If he's going to be the player everyone thinks he can be, then he must step up in big time situations. Not the greatest athlete by NBA standards, he's just steady, not superior.
Speed, speed and more speed. That's the quick and dirty analysis on Kentucky freshman John Wall. Scouts love this player because he can blow by defenders off the dribble and he has the court vision to find open players.
Wall will make multiple brillant plays during the course of a game, and that's why he's considered the No. 1 pick in this years draft.
Strengths: He grades out very high on speed and quickness, thus, his overall potential is very high. Wall is a playmaker because he has extra gear to go to and it's this ability--to get past a defender and turn the corner-- that makes him so enticing. Will the Nets take him at No.1 when they already have a point guard in Devin Harris? Yes, absolutly.
Weaknesses: Can't shoot the ball from the outside. He's not going to beat a zone with his jumper. He has good form, but he needs to work on his mechanics to improve this aspect of his game. Defensively, he has all the tools to be solid stopper, but scouts question if he's actully determined to be a great defensive minded player or if he just wants to get by on pure athleticism.