Looking at the list of hyped prospects entering the 2010-11 NBA season, which 10 players will come into league with the most question marks and doubts?
From Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh, to Butler’s Gordon Hayward, to Kentucky’s John Wall, there’s a plethora of choices when it comes to exactly who’s got the most to prove next season as a pro.
Especially when it comes to the younger—and expected lottery pick—players in this summer’s NBA Draft.
But who are THE 10 incoming hoops stars with the most to prove on the professional hardwood, at least in my opinion?
Kansas junior Cole Aldrich, predicted by many mock drafts to be taken as high as No. 10 in this summer’s draft, will have a lot to prove in the NBA.
Aldrich, who absolutely played a significant role in Kansas head coach Bill Self’s remarkable offensive powerhouse, will be entering an arena far different from what he’s used to as a member of the Jayhawks.
Averaging 11.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game as a junior for Kansas, Aldrich shot 56.2 percent from the field in the 2009-10 season.
His highest scoring totals this year came on the road and in Big 12 Conference play, as Aldrich (6’11” and 245 lbs) poured in 19 points, grabbed 11 boards, and blocked three shots at Iowa State on Jan. 23 before scoring 18 points, pulling down 11 rebounds and swatting away three attempts on Jan. 30 at Kansas State.
But a jump from NCAA play to NBA action will be quite a leap for the junior center, who will likely play power forward in the pros.
If this former Texas hoops star is in fact selected as a lottery pick in this summer’s basketball draft, he’ll have a lot to prove—and there’s a high chance he’ll be getting that opportunity soon after he signs a new NBA contract.
Al-Farouq Aminu, a sophomore forward for the Wake Forest Demon Decons, averaged 15.8 points and 10.7 rebounds in 2009-10.
But with just two years under his belt—albeit in a highly-competitive ACC, a conference at one point and time deemed the best in college basketball—Aminu will need some time to develop into an NBA-caliber player.
It’s better than making that leap as a freshman—and it’s nothing like Kentucky’s we-have-enough-players-to-field-a-team (and we’re all fish) situation they will be dealing with entering the 2010-11 season—but it’s still just two years on the NCAA hardwood.
I’m not saying Aminu can’t successfully make the leap from college basketball to the NBA, but what I am saying is that it will be difficult for him to make an immediate impact.
However, if he’s taken as high as anticipated, he may get a chance very early into next season’s NBA play.
And if that’s the case, a lot will be expected of him.
Can Aminu, at 6’9” and 215 lbs, live up to the pro-hype for a team such as the Detroit Pistons or Los Angeles Clippers?
That draft, and lots of answers (though still many questions), is right around the corner.
As a sophomore for the Georgetown Hoyas, Greg Monroe averaged 16.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
Appearing in 34 games for Georgetown in 2009-10 (after playing in 31 games as a freshman), Monroe also averaged 3.8 assists per game.
The Hoyas center also had his share of defensive moments, as he averaged 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals per game last season.
But, as mentioned earlier, it will be very difficult for Monroe to make the leap from NCAA play to NBA play—especially leaving college as just a sophomore.
Monroe, at 6’11” and 247 lbs, will also likely play as a PF in the NBA.
Being predicted to be a lottery-pick coming out of Baylor University, Ekpe Udoh will have to prove to scouts—and to doubters—that he can make it in the NBA.
After helping lead the Bears to an Elite Eight matchup with Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils, Baylor coach Scott Drew’s redshirt transfer is graduating and heading to the next level of his career.
For Udoh—and coach Drew for that matter—the NBA Draft day will be a dream come true.
But Udoh will still have a whole lot to prove when he steps onto the NBA hardwood for the first time next season.
And depending on who drafts him, he may get the opportunity very early in the 2010-11 NBA season.
As a junior for the Bears (he had to sit out the 2008-09 season after transferring from Michigan and was taking courses while practicing with the Baylor basketball team that year), Udoh averaged 13.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
He also blocked 3.7 shots per game while dishing out 2.7 assists per game for the Bears in the 2009-10 season.
The Baylor forward’s highest scoring output came in a 19-point blowout victory over the Big 12 rival Texas Longhorns on March 11—pouring in 25 points while pulling down eight rebounds and garnering three assists.
Udoh (6’10” and 240 lbs) is also one of the only players in this top 10 list that will be entering draft day with a college degree, and for that he should absolutely be applauded.
I know that Baylor fans, coaches, and players alike wanted Udoh back for another season on the Bears hardwood—and I would have loved to have seen him return also—but the fact of the matter is the time was right for Udoh to make the jump to the NBA.
He’s more than ready, and as stated earlier—he’ll have his degree from Baylor.
One thing is certain: Udoh will be entering the professional basketball ranks as one of the highest draft picks in the Bears history.
With that comes pressure to not only be selected, but to succeed in the NBA.
I have no doubt that Udoh can and will make it in the NBA.
Now he just has to prove it to everyone else in the world…
Wes Johnson’s growth from transferring is also quite a success story, and although he’ll be leaving to the next step of the NBA, he’ll be doing so with four years of college behind him.
And he’s likely ready to make that leap.
Regardless of having the opportunity to enter this summer’s draft with a degree from Syracuse, Johnson is going to have a whole lot to prove next season—especially if he’s taken as high as expected, with some mock drafts having him selected as high as No. 4.
As a junior with the Orange (sitting out the 2008-09 season after transferring from Iowa State), Johnson averaged 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
In addition, the Syracuse forward averaged 2.2 assists, 1.8 blocks, and 1.7 steals per game in the 2009-10 season.
At 6’7” and 205 lbs, Johnson is—without a doubt—going to get that chance to make an immediate impact on the NBA hardwood.
The question is, can he successfully do so?
DeMarcus Cousins, entering this summer’s NBA draft with just one year of college basketball under his belt, averaged 15.1 points and 9.8 rebounds per game for the Kentucky Wildcats during the 2009-10 season.
But he won’t have John Wall as a teammate next year.
He won’t have the hugs and high fives waiting on the bench that are often a part of college hoops.
And he will no longer be the center-point of attention (along with Wall, of course) like he was on campus at Kentucky—and, no doubt, at the after-game parties that flow like kegs of beer when it comes to celebrating NCAA basketball victories.
With all that in mind, however, Cousins can still be quite a success story in the NBA if he learns to adapt to the professional game.
He’ll most likely get that opportunity early into next season, as many mock drafts have Cousins being selected as high as No. 4.
And at 6’11” and 270 lbs, he’s definitely got the build to make it in the NBA.
We’ll all know soon enough if he’ll be a vital heartbeat to a team—such as the Minnesota Timberwolves or Sacramento Kings—or just another bench warmer learning to develop to the professional aspect of playing basketball.
Georgia Tech’s Derrick Favors joins a handful of other freshman on this list that believe they are ready to make the jump from the NCAA to the NBA.
And Favors will be entering next season with a bunch of pressure on his shoulders, as the Yellow Jackets forward is predicted to be taken at No. 2 in this summer’s NBA Draft.
If Favors does end up going to Philadelphia with the No. 2 pick, there’s no doubt that he’ll be getting a quick opportunity to be a part of turning around the 76ers program.
Favors averaged 12.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game in the 2009-10 season with Georgia Tech, and he also blocked 2.1 shots per game.
His highest scoring output of the season came against the ACC rival Blue Devils, leading the team with 22 points and 11 rebounds in a 65-61 loss against Duke on March 14.
At 6’10” and 246 lbs, the freshman forward will be getting quite a wake up call when he pulls on a 76ers jersey next season in Philadelphia.
Being the on-the-money No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft is never easy, and filling those shows will be tough for Kentucky’s John Wall.
And it could easily be argued that Wall could be No. 1 on this list of players with the most to prove—and it was really tough to decide on the order of the final trio of guys on my personal top 10.
Wall, who averaged 16.6 points and 6.5 assists per game in 2009-10 with Kentucky, pulled down 4.3 rebounds per game while also averaging 1.8 steals per game.
His highest scoring output of the season came in a 25-point effort on Dec. 9, 2009 at Connecticut, while he scored 24 points twice (at home against Tennessee on Feb. 13 and at Georgia on March 3, 2010).
At 6’4” and 195 lbs—along with being a constant highlight reel last year on ESPN’s top plays during college basketball season—the Wildcats guard should be a slam dunk in the NBA when he’s selected No. 1 by the Washington Wizards.
But he’ll also be entering next year with a whole lot to prove, and hopefully he can do so for a team in dire need of a new face to the franchise.
Leading the underdog Butler Bulldogs to a Final Four appearance against the Duke Blue Devils in 2009-10 is one thing.
Playing in the NBA, though, is a completely different story.
Butler’s Gordon Hayward is about to find that out.
With just two years of college basketball under his belt, Hayward is one of a majority of underclassmen in this summer’s NBA Draft.
But he’s predicted to be chosen quite high, with most mock drafts having him being selected in the first round.
As a sophomore for the Bulldogs, Hayward averaged 15.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game—while dishing out 1.7 assists and averaging 1.1 steals per game.
Hayward was also clutch from the charity stripe during the 2009-10 season for Butler, shooting 82.9 percent from the free throw line.
At 6’9” and 207 lbs, the guard/forward also shot 46.4 percent from the field while draining 29.4 percent from three-point range.
How Hayward fairs in the NBA has yet to be seen, but there will absolutely be a lot of pressure on the young guard as he makes the leap from NCAA to the professional hardwood.
Ohio State’s Evan Turner, projected by most to be selected as the No. 3 pick in this summer’s NBA Draft, is the player whose stock has likely dropped the most—with guys like John Wall and Derrick Favors cementing the top two spots.
Turner will still be a great addition for the franchise that nabs him, with that team likely being the New Jersey Nets.
And everyone knows the Nets and their new billionaire owner are ready to make a statement as quickly as possible.
Adding Turner may be a big step in the right direction, and could salvage New Jersey’s franchise as much as Wall improves Washington’s.
Only time will tell, but Turner is—at least in my opinion—going to have the most to prove next season in the NBA.
With three years under his belt, Turner will be entering the professional arena with a solid amount of experience—and being 6’7” and 210 lbs will definitely help in the growth process.
As a junior for the Buckeyes, Turner averaged 20.4 points and 9.2 rebounds during the 2009-10 season.
And he showed constant improvement every year—developing from a fish in the pond into a junior leader for Ohio State.
Turner also averaged six assists per game last season while shooting 36.4 percent from beyond the arc—along with garnering 1.7 steals per contest.
From Ohio State to New Jersey.
Welcome to the new face of the franchise for the Nets, Turner.
All of us hope you can live up to the hype and excitement of being the spotlight of attention in New Jersey.
Face it, fans—Turner will likely be entering next season in the NBA with the most to prove.
But that’s just my opinion…
Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org