Every year you have a player who is either going to be a boom, or a bust. If that particular player performs, you have a steal on your hands. However, if they struggle in their first couple seasons, teams are left with a difficult decision to make regarding that player, and resigning them to a second contract. The 2009 NBA Draft gives us two great examples of these high-risk picks.
The riskiest picks, when taking into account the pick used on the player and the other players available, were Hasheem Thabeet and Brandon Jennings.
Thabeet had dominated the Big East defensively, and teams thought at worst he’d be a defensive stopper from day one. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, that wasn’t the case. Thabeet struggled in all facets of the game before being sent to the D-League. We’ve warned about being too fast to judge a prospect, but for now, taking Thabeet second overall hasn’t paid off the way the Grizzlies hoped.
The opposite side of this coin is Brandon Jennings, the hyper athletic guard who skipped college to play professionally in Italy. Going into draft day some had him ranked as a top-five prospect, but others thought he would slide into the middle of the first round. When Milwaukee took him with the tenth overall pick, some analysts thought that other guards still on the board were a lower risk. When Jennings dropped 55 in his first week in the league, his critics were quickly silenced.
This year is no different, especially with the number of freshmen in the draft. With only one year to evaluate players, there is a lot of risk involved in the lottery. When you add to that the fact that the draft is deep at power forward and center, there is even more risk, as big men tend to “bust” more than guards. When taking a look at the big picture, it looks like we are in for an interesting draft.
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Current Mock Draft Position: 21st Overall - Oklahoma City Thunder
There is no doubt Sanders has the tools to be an effective big in the NBA. It is based on the fact that Sanders laid some absolute eggs this year for the Rams.
He has a long athletic frame, and was a two time defensive player of the year in the CAA, but the fact is he wasn’t playing high level competition, and still had some awful nights. He is currently working out with IMG in Florida, trying to get his game better in all facets, and could really improve his stock in individual workouts.
Currently Sanders is projected anywhere between the lottery, and the end of the first round. If he’s taken at the end of the first, then he’s a lower risk pick, and probably a great value. However, if he’s taken in the lottery, or somewhere in the mid-teens, he’s going to really have to shine to prove that the pick was worth it.
Current Mock Draft Position: 22nd Overall - Portland Trailblazers
Hayward, who we think should be called the Baby Faced Killer, is probably the most polarizing player in this years draft. Chad Ford has him in the top ten. A player with that big of a range definitely has a few question marks. That risk, however, really depends on where he gets picked.
He is definitely a player that has divided the draft analysts, so here is our brief take. Hayward doesn’t have the athleticism to be an elite NBA small forward, so taking him in the lottery seems like a mistake.
But, he has a good consistent stroke on his jumper, and a high basketball IQ that makes him a great role player though, so if he goes in the 20s there is less risk. No matter who takes him, the reaction on draft night will be mixed.
Current Mock Draft Position: 18th Overall - Miami Heat
Playing out of position is often the reason given that explains why Eric Bledsoe isn’t currently projected in the lottery. Thinking about it critically though, what do we really know about Bledsoe? We know that he shot the lights out in a laugher in the first game of the NCAA Tournament. We know that he benefited from playing on one of the most talented teams in the country. We know that he didn’t return to Kentucky to be the man next year.
Now all of that probably paints to negative a picture, and the actual effect of playing off the ball at Kentucky is probably somewhere in between the rosey picture painted by his fans, and the ominous one drawn by his critics.
The fact is, we don’t know what type of point guard Eric Bledsoe is, and will be. The athletic testing from the combine could give us a clearer picture of his athleticism, which we think will be near off the charts, but until then it’s a lot of conjecture. Currently we have Bledsoe in the teens, but it would not surprise us at all to hear his name called in the lottery much earlier than most think.
Current Mock Draft Position: 8th Overall - Los Angeles Clippers
The sophomore out of North Carolina did little to improve his draft stock by returning to Chapel Hill. He played for a team that really struggled, and suffered a minor injury, amounting to a less than stellar campaign. This draft has so many power forwards, and centers who will be drafted based on potential, and Davis is no exception.
Currently, Davis is projected somewhere in the mid to late lottery, and we currently have him off the board at number eight to the Clippers. He has soft hands, a big frame, and has already shown the ability to block shots. His upside is substantial, but there are questions about his face-up game, and if he can add the strength to be a full time player in the paint.
Current Mock Draft Position: 15th Overall - Milwaukee Bucks
Donatas is the top rated European player in this draft after a season against high level competition in Italy this year. Maybe he had a little too good of a season. His agent is on record as saying if he isn’t a Top 10 picks he’ll considering pulling his name out of the draft. What we’re wondering is, what if he leaves his name in but goes 13 or 14? Could we have a Fran Vasquez situation on our hands?
Now, obviously this isn’t the most likely scenario, but it is a risk that doesn’t really exist with any of the other projected lottery picks. A college player doesn’t have the same luxury, if they’re taken their options are much more limited, but a player like Donatas could go overseas, make similar money, and come over in a few years (or not at all).
Again, we aren’t saying it’s going to happen, but it makes us a little weary of using a late lottery selection on the Lithuanian big man.
Current Mock Draft Position: 24th Overall - Atlanta Hawks
Devin Ebanks certainly is an intriguing prospect. Another player who is a little enigmatic, but who lacks the undeniable skills of a player like DeMarcus Cousins. He has good size, overall length, and can shoot the ball well in spurts. All the physical needs seem to all be there, but the question is whether it will translate to the NBA level.
As player he didn’t show much improvement in his sophomore year, and there are now more questions than there were if he had declared after his freshman year.
The team that selects him will have to deal with the up and down mood, and what at times seemed to be a disinterest in the game often times deferring to senior leader Da’Sean Butler.
What he has going for him, that Cousins doesn’t, is that he’ll likely be going to a good team with veteran leaders who can show him the ropes. This severely limits his downside in our eyes, as a player with his physical tools, Ebanks could commit himself to defense and rebounding, and contribute in the league for years to come.
Current Mock Draft Position: 10th Overall - Indiana Pacers
Whiteside boasts the longest wingspan in this year’s class, and is a legitimate seven-footer, despite what the combine measurements say. Those physical tools make him a strong candidate for the lottery, and when coupled with his incredible weak-side shot blocking, and under appreciated face-up game, you could make the case that he’s the third most intriguing prospect in this draft.
However, Whiteside hasn’t been playing basketball for as long as the other prospects, so it's understandable that he is a little behind in terms of his basketball knowledge at this point.
A team taking him as a prospect to stash long term could be rewarded with a future all-star, but a team expecting him to come in, and contribute right away may be disappointed. Since he is currently being projected in our top 10, we obviously think Hassan has what it takes, and it’ll be interesting to see what NBA GM agrees with us.
Current Mock Draft Position: 3rd Overall - New Jersey Nets
Currently projected at second or third overall depending on who you choose to believe, Favors' questions come more from his demeanor rather than his skill. In his lone season at Georgia Tech, Favors showed that he was highly skilled, and a fantastic athlete. His production, and upside make it a no-brainer to use a top five pick on this sort of talent.
However, some think that Favors doesn’t have the motor or killer instinct to ever reach that full potential. We spoke about the misconceptions about players demeanors, and feel that Favors does have that next gear, even if he isn’t wearing a scowl on his face every possession.
With that being said, we know that the question will come up in the team interviews after individual workouts, and Favors will have to convince a GM that he does have the fire. We think that he’ll be able to convince the Nets at No. 3, and wouldn’t hesitate taking him anywhere in the top five.
Current Mock Draft Position: 5th Overall - Sacramento Kings
Now don’t get us wrong, we think DeMarcus is one of the top-five prospects in this draft. What that means is that you’re going to have to probably spend a top five pick to get him. With a high pick comes great responsibility, and while we believe he can handle the pressure, he definitely is the biggest gamble in the top five.
We said in our radio interview that character is overrated, and we still believe that. What isn’t overrated is how someone reacts to adversity, and losing.
DeMarcus, and all the Wildcats, came from a team that was dominant most of the season, and likely will be going to teams with many losses as rookies. Adjusting from the care free college life to the 82 game grind of the NBA can wear on anyone, and while we respect DeMarcus’s gifts as a player, we can’t help but wonder if the pressure will get to him.
Current Mock Draft Position: 13th Overall - Toronto Raptors
The big man out of Kentucky certainly does come off as calm and confident in interviews, but we wonder what has made him so confident? He’s coming off a freshman campaign at Kentucky where he averaged only three points, and three rebounds.
There is no question that he has the physical make up to play in the post, and his body is on its way to being ideal for an NBA big, but he doesn’t have any production yet. Couple the low stats with very little game tape, and the team selecting Daniel in the first round will be rolling the dice for sure.
We still think he’s a lottery pick based on the little we have seen, and his physical makeup, but is he worth a pick ahead of more known commodities like Ekpe Udoh, Patrick Patterson, or Greg Monroe? Right now he’s on the fringe of our lottery, but we’ve seen mocks with him in the top ten. Will he be able to live up to such a high pick? Only time will tell.