The Pac-10 is not as loaded with NBA talent the way other major conferences are. In fact, the Kentucky Wildcats and Kansas Jayhawks may send more players to the NBA from their 2010-11 rosters than the entire Pac-10 league.
At the top of the Pac-10, guys like Derrick Williams, Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee are almost guaranteed draft picks if they choose to leave college early. However, after those three, the gap between No. 4 and No. 15 is incredibly close.
The players four through 15 still have a shot at the NBA, and even though they may not be destined for stardom, many of them could become solid role players for their professional teams.
Anthony Brown would be crazy to leave after his freshman season at Stanford.
However, if he does choose to enter his name into the NBA draft, teams may find interest in the 6'7'', 19-year-old who plays on the perimeter and shoots well from the outside. In a game against Oregon State this year, Brown showed what he's capable of, scoring 21 points, grabbing eight rebounds and ripping away three steals. More impressively, Brown shot 7-of-11 from the field and 3-of-7 from behind the arc.
Brown was the No. 41-overall recruit from last year and has plenty of potential to be a leading man. He's best suited to come back for at least another year and show what he can do when he's given more than 23.9 minutes a night.
Dwight Powell is another talented freshman for Stanford. If both Powell and Anthony Brown stay for their sophomore seasons, which they most certainly will, Stanford could be in the hunt for an NCAA berth.
At 6'10'', Powell plays at the power forward/center position, but uses a face-up game rather than overpowering his opponents with his back to the basket. He's the type of big man you tend to see on Wisconsin or Illinois, and he was highly recruited due to his versatility. There are even flashes when Powell handles the ball or makes a pass like a point guard.
Powell needs to spend the offseason bulking up. As of now, Powell would neither be physical enough to body up with the power forwards, nor would he be quick enough to stay in front of the small forwards in the NBA. He is best served spending two more years with Stanford.
For players who at best will be selected with the last couple of picks in the second round, it always helps to have a specialty.
DeAngelo Casto specializes in defense. More specifically, he specializes in blocking shots. At 6'8'', 255 lbs, Castro can muscle with the big men, but also has the quickness to guard small forwards. He would be a perfect fit for a team like the Atlanta Hawks or Chicago Bulls that may be looking for a cheap piece that can come in and guard Amar'e Stoudemire for six minutes one night, and then LeBron James for a few minutes the next.
Also, Casto provides a little bit of offense. He averaged 12.1 points per game on only eight shots a night.
The problem for Casto is he's proven himself as a good post defender, but not as a small-forward stopper. To be drafted, he will have to show teams he can fill in two roles, not just one.
Alex Stephenson is another defensive and rebounding specific guy.
The teams that will be making their picks at the end of the second round are the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs. I could see all three of these teams having a need for a guy to come in, scrap for a few minutes and simply grab rebounds while the starters are out.
I think Stephenson would be a good addition to the Lakers. The Lakers could use another big man and Stephenson is a solid 6'10''. Also, Stephenson is a hometown kid, born and raised in Los Angeles.
For a night when Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol is injured, the Lakers could call on Stephenson to come off the bench and simply play smart, defensive-minded basketball. Stephenson would not be called upon to score and his maturity would fit in well inside the Lakers locker room.
It has happened relatively under the radar, but Ben Howland has brought in some great young talent to UCLA in the last couple years.
While Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt are far higher up the NBA draft board, sophomore Reeves Nelson led the Bruins in both scoring (13.9 points per game) and rebounding (9.1 rebounds per game).
From all reports so far, it sounds like Nelson is coming back to UCLA for his junior season. He will need to develop more than just a low-post game, because his size (6'8'') will not move anyone around in the pros.
The comparisons between Isaiah Thomas and Nate Robinson are plentiful.
The height (5'9''), the explosive offense (both around 17 points per game in their best seasons) and, of course, they both played for Washington.
Even though he is short, some NBA team should take a risk in the second round on Thomas. I think Thomas will be somewhere between Nate Robinson and Earl Boykins in his NBA career.
Jorge Gutierrez will be hoping NBA scouts saw his 34-point performance against UCLA this year.
Gutierrez is a scrappy player who averaged 14.6 points per game with several above 20-point performances. NBA teams will like his toughness and he somewhat reminds me of Matt Barnes.
The problem with Gutierrez is he had too many four or five-point performances this year. His consistency was not where it needed to be to solidify a spot in the NBA draft.
Marcus Simmons may find his way into the second round of the NBA draft.
If NBA scouts review Simmons's Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year season, they will find that he held Klay Thompson to 12-of-35 shooting, Jeremy Green to 5-of-22 and Tyler Honeycutt to 6-of-16 in three games this season. He is not much of a threat on offense, but the 6'6'' perimeter player is phenomenal on the defensive end.
Teams in the Western Conference looking for a defensive force to throw at Kobe Bryant may take interest in Simmons. Think of Simmons as a less offensively-gifted version of the Memphis Grizzlies' Tony Allen.
Matthew Bryan-Amaning is a skilled post player who averaged 15.3 points and eight rebounds a night. He has a good mix of post moves and a 7'4'' wingspan.
The best fits for Amaning would be in Phoenix with Steve Nash or Golden State with their fast-paced, guard-oriented offense. In both situations, Amaning could set screens and roll to the basket for easy points. Amaning is not meant for a slow-it-down, half-court offense type of team. In a system with a talented point guard, he could really do some damage.
Jeremy Green averaged 16.7 points per game and shot nearly 43 percent from behind the arc.
NBA teams know he can score, but they are worried that he's neither tall enough, strong enough or fast enough to play the shooting guard position at the highest level.
That is not a good list of flaws.
Maybe the Miami Heat or Los Angeles Lakers would go after Green as a potential third-string guy.
Nikola Vucevic has already declared for the NBA draft and signed with an agent. This was the right decision.
Vucevic led USC in scoring with 17.3 points per game and led the Pac-10 in rebounding with 10.3 rebounds per game. He can block shots, he's 6'10'' and he's constantly improving.
Look for the New York Knicks to go after Vucevic in the second round. The Knicks desperately need size and could greatly benefit from the Montenegro star's presence on their roster.
If the first time you saw Klay Thompson play was his six-point performance last night in a blowout loss against Witchita State, please do not judge him by that alone.
Thompson was the highest scorer in the Pac-10 this season at 22 points per game; he was the No. 13 scorer in the entire country.
In their toughest games of the year, Thompson scored 24 against Gonzaga, 31 against Butler, 26 against UCLA, 30 against Arizona and a ridiculous 43 against Washington. The man plays at his best against the top competition.
At 6'6'', 202 lbs, Thompson has the perfect size for the shooting guard position in the NBA.
The New Orleans Hornets, Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls could all benefit from drafting Thompson.
Russell Westbrook. Aaron Afflalo. Darren Collison.
Ben Howland is building quite a list of UCLA guards who have moved on to do very well in the NBA. Malcolm Lee has the potential to join them.
At best, Lee is a late first-round pick, and is probably more likely to be taken in the early second. He would be a great grab for teams in need of a backup point guard.
Lee is a tall point guard at 6'5'', but he is only around 175 lbs. Expect to see something like the infamous Shaun Livingston bench press take place when Lee works out for teams this summer. His weight will scare a few teams away from risking their pick on him.
Scouts will love his potential, and in a few years he may reach these expectations, but until he puts on some muscle (or even some fat), he's not going to be more than a limited-use, backup point guard next season.
Tyler Honeycutt reminds me a lot of Austin Daye of the Detroit Pistons. Honeycutt is a few inches shorter than Daye, but both are long, wiry, athletic guys who provide their team with a unique low-post presence.
Honeycutt's stats this year were solid with 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He has made it clear that he plans to hire an agent, and most draft boards have him listed in the top 25 picks.
The question for NBA teams is how high of a pick do you use on a guy who will probably max out at the impact of an Austin Daye. Daye is a quality player, and I think Honeycutt will be too, but he's not a lottery pick.
Derrick Williams should be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
He's explosive getting to the rim, he has good post moves, ridiculous athleticism and shoots nearly 60 percent from long range. At 6'8'', he has an NBA-ready small forward body, and he should immediately start for whichever team uses a top-three pick on him.
Williams is a special player, and if he chooses to declare for the draft, we will be talking about him as the Rookie of the Year this time next season.
For more on Williams' potential impact, give this a read: