Something I’ve been wondering about with the 2010 draft is what affect the potential lockout and new CBA will have on the early entrants. If we go by the theory that players will enter the draft when it is to their financial benefit to do so, we could see quite a few early entrants in 2010. The reason is this is the final season that rookies will get contracts based on the current CBA. The group drafted in 2011 and beyond will likely be looking at less lucrative contracts than previous rookie classes. This reality and the possibility that any rookie entering the league through the 2011 draft could spend most or all of the season locked out and unpaid, could send a wave of prospects into the 2010 draft. In addition to the usual suspects, young players who normally would have returned for their soph seasons looking to star for a year, then go pro–like John Henson or Eric Bledsoe–might decide to make the jump a year early. But that’s just speculation.
The 2010 draft is shaping up as very top heavy. The top 4 players are all very good and very close in potential. Wall has been the consensus top guy all year, but I could see any one of the top 4 eventually emerging as the top guy. After that are a few sleepers and role players, but the depth of the past few drafts isn’t here. There won’t be many bargains found in round 2 this year. Another thing to know here is for many of these players there are only a few games remaining, so this is pretty much it for them. I’ll be doing deeper analysis on all of them who enter the draft, but for most it is unlikely their place will change much.
1. Evan Turner, SG-SF Ohio State: I don’t know that he is the top pick, but the top 4 are so close in my mind right now that I’ll toss the barely significant bone of the top spot on this list to Turner in honor of a terrific year. As a prospect he grades out well as either a SG or SF. The last time a non-PG perimeter player was drafted #1 was David Thompson in 1975.
2. DeMarcus Cousins, C Kentucky: Right now with Cousins I’m trying to get a feel for how serious these attitude/personality problems of his I’ve been reading about are. I haven’t seen anything concrete, other than vague references. I’d like to know what the problem is. Does he not take coaching well? Does he fight with teammates? It is important to know whether this is a guy who is going to give an NBA coach and team trouble or if he’s just a young player with a big mouth. What I keep coming back to with Cousins are his numbers are historically very good. This isn’t a guy whose numbers are on the good, but not great level like a Zach Randolph or Derrick Coleman were as a freshman and now we’re wondering if his career will transpire in the same disappointing way due to being a bad teammate. As a scorer and rebounder, Shaq is the only freshman who eclipses this guy. Another thing to like about Cousins is the fact that he has improved weaknesses in his game throughout the season. I don’t want to dismiss any attitude problems that might come with drafting Cousins, but I also think it would be a mistake to just lump him with past bad apples just because his behavior hasn’t been letter perfect.
3. John Wall, PG Kentucky: In about mid-February he started to show more signs of dominance. He put up a couple of double-digit rebound performances, which is something superstar PGs do and is safely back with the elite of this draft. I still have some concerns about Wall, but I felt the same way about Derrick Rose at this point in the process two years ago. For that reason, I’m not going to go too hard one way or the other on Wall until I get a deeper look.
4. Derrick Favors, PF Georgia Tech: Favors and Ed Davis are in the same boat right now. Both are raw, but talented. Both have spent this season deferring on offense to older, less-talented teammates. But both have put up numbers this year that put them comfortably within what the best PFs of the past 20 years have done at the same point in their careers. To repeat a rant I originally vented in last year’s Jrue Holiday comment, I have to wonder why Favors chose Georgia Tech if he was planning on a one-and-done college career. Wouldn’t it have been better for his career to go somewhere with a steadier PG and no Gani Lawal to share the ball with?
5. Ed Davis, PF North Carolina: Looks like his season is over. Because he also played injured for a good part of the conference schedule we never got that good a feel for him. The only question I would have with Davis is whether he could have kept his FG pct near 60% during conference games.
6. Cole Aldrich, C Kansas: There have been 6 major college junior centers in recent years who have been as prolific at both shotblocking and rebounding as Aldrich has been this year: Shaq, Hakeem, Mutombo, Beniot, Ostertag and Keon Clark. Right now I feel safe in projecting Aldrich’s career as falling somewhere between Shaq and Keon Clark. The Benoit is Benoit Benjamin, in case anyone was wondering. Not sure if he merits single name usage.
7. James Anderson, SG Oklahoma State: Anderson has been very impressive this year. He has been great down the stretch and has emerged as the 2nd best wing player, behind Turner. His intelligence has impressed me the couple of times I watched him play. He’s one of those players who can put points on the board lots of different ways. He can do it from inside, outside or the line.
8. Xavier Henry, SG Kansas: Back on track after a brutal shooting slump in February. I get the feeling he’ll be playing into April. That means unlike some of the others he’ll have more of an opportunity to get his numbers back to where they need to be.
9. Hassan Whiteside, PF-C Marshall: He’s becoming less intriguing as the season progresses and the areas his game needs improvement become more magnified. He was outplayed twice by Jerome Jordan in February. There is still some massive upside here, but Whiteside is a project. Drafting him at this point would be a gamble, but has the potential for a huge payoff down the line.
10. Paul George, SG-SF Fresno State: The only thing that gives me some pause about George is his scoring. He’s been good enough this year as the Bulldogs’ top gun, but his scoring frequency and efficiency numbers are just a tad shaky. Other than that he’s excellent and looks like he could handle either SG or SF.
11. Wesley Johnson, SF Syracuse: In February we saw the return of the Wesley Johnson who played at Iowa State for 2 seasons. He continued to play solid defense and passed the ball well, but his offense was inefficient to the point where he’s no longer the lottery lock he looked like for the first three months.
12. Greg Monroe, PF-C Georgetown: Dished out 12 assists in one game this month and 24 in a 3-game stretch. While passing has never been a deal-maker for big men, such a skill is a nice thing to bring. The problem is his PF numbers have been teetering on the verge of bust territory as the season winds down.
13. Luke Babbitt, F Nevada: That he has risen so high is more a testament to a draft that’s thin after the top 10 than anything else. Timing is huge though and a player like Babbitt need not apologize for performing well when he needs to. He is still soft defensively, but is so good on offense that he’ll definitely find a place as a stretch-the-defense PF for a small lineup. He has also become a surprisingly effective rebounder.
14. Patrick Patterson, F Kentucky: Patterson had a good month. He was more active defensively and better on the boards. His rebounding and defensive numbers had been down this year. I wasn’t too concerned about this, assuming it had to do with the dynamics of playing with new superstar teammates. It is good to see him get back to where he was though. Considering the way he has successfully brought his game outside this year, Patterson looks more like a lottery pick this year than ever.
15. Robbie Hummel, SF Purdue: Out for the year with a torn ACL. While he remains a strong prospect, Hummel now has had 2 of his 3 seasons affected by an injury. Coupled with his slight frame this puts the dreaded injury-prone label squarely on his back.
16. Dominique Jones, G South Florida: As erratic in February as he was impressive in January. As is the case with Wesley Johnson, this is a flaw from Jones’ past that he looked like he had overcome earlier in the year. Now it threatens to knock him back into round 2.
17. Kyle Singler, SF Duke: His season has been disappointing. He’s played more on the perimeter and he just hasn’t been as efficient as I’d like. His defensive numbers, which were pretty strong last year have also taken a hit. He has shown himself to be a deadly shooter, which might be a better thing for his long term success than anything else. But right now he looks like nothing more than a role player.
18 & 19. Elias Harris, SF Gonzaga and Marcus Morris, SF Kansas: Because they have very similar numbers and play the same position I decided to put them together rather than just repeating the same line for each. Both are young SFs who have proven to be wildly efficient scorers as the 2nd or 3rd option on the team. Both have put up weak passing and defensive numbers.
20. El-Farouq Aminu, F Wake Forest: I’m trying to find a good comp at SF for him, meaning a superior college rebounder who succeeded in the NBA at SF. The best ones are Glen Robinson, Cedric Ceballos and Xavier McDaniel. All 3 were also big time scorers and generally superior college players to what Aminu is now. His mission is pretty simple. He has to hit a much higher percentage of his inside shots. If he can get that done, he’ll be an excellent prospect. If he can’t, he won’t.
21. John Henson, PF North Carolina: Starting to show some signs of life as more PT comes his way. He’s kind of skinny for a PF, but has yet to show any skills suggesting could handle a position requiring more finesse. I think it would be interesting to see what would happen in an alternate reality type of season where Henson went to Marshall and Whiteside went to North Carolina.
22. Jarvis Vanardo, PF Mississippi State: He faded a lot during the conference schedule and that was a problem for him last year too. But his rebounding has improved to the point where it would be considered a strong positive and he is blocking shots at a slightly higher rate than last year. My feeling is that he can help a team with some defense and boardwork inside, but will never be good enough offensively to be much more than that. I think we call such guys energy players.
23. Greivis Vasquez, PG Maryland: I’m starting to be sold on this guy. He’s spent 3 seasons coming up short one way or another. This year he finally appears to be the complete player he needs to be. Where he takes it from here is anyone’s guess, but stepping things up in what looks like a terrible PG draft was pretty good timing on his part.
24. Epke Udoh, C Baylor: He has that sub-.500 2-point pct. That is a huge problem. It says he’ll just get killed inside at the next level. But his other skills are all pretty strong, including rebounding, defense, passing and outside shooting. For that reason I could buy into him as an effective role player.
25. Landry Fields, SF Stanford: For Fields this wasn’t the best possible timing for his bust out year. It came in a year where there are several good SFs, so it will be harder for him to stand out. It also came in a year when his team is bad and the PAC-10 has been historically weak, so there is little attention paid. But Fields has kept his production at high level all season and had his best month in February. His numbers say he is a legit first rounder.
26. Lasan Kromah, SG George Washington: As his PT and role in the offense increases, he could go either way as a prospect. His freshman numbers are pretty stellar, but I don’t want to go too overboard on him until he’s the main guy.
27. Larry Saunders, PF-C Virginia Commonwealth: One thing to know about Sanders is that despite his length and wingspan, he isn’t a great shotblocker. He had a 7 blocks in a nationally televised game last spring, which was sort of his coming out party as a prospect, but other than that he’s been just above-average considering the level of competition. His other numbers are OK and there’s some obvious upside here, but he seems like a nothing more than a project to me.
28. Dexter Pittman, C Texas: I had been pretty high on Pittman early on, but that faded as his minutes and production did. But he’s still a player who at the very least looks like he can be an inside force for short minutes at the next level. That’s worth a late first round pick.
29. Solomon Alabi, C Florida State: Regressed in February and now seems like he might become a perpetual project. In 4 years when he’s 26 and is on his 3rd NBA team experts will still be talking about his potential. As is the case with Larry Sanders, I don’t want to dismiss his length and the potential that comes with it. Otherwise neither player would make the top 60.
30. Elliott Williams, G Memphis: Offensively he is a terrific player, both as a scorer and a passer. The RSB40 is a tad low, and that brings him down quite a bit.
31. Damian Saunders, F Duquense: This guy is in the top 5 nationally in rebounds and steals and top 10 in blocks. A lot of that is due to playing close to 37 minutes per game, but it is still pretty impressive. He isn’t a great scorer, but not so bad that it would be considered a weakness. His 2-point pct has always been well over .500 and until this year he was solid enough from behind the arc. Saunders doesn’t fit into the traditional prospect mold, but he does enough things so well that he has to be looked at.
32. Quincy Pondexter, SF Washington: Like Fields he has stepped up his game as a senior to the point where he has to be taken seriously as a prospect. His timing could have been better, but at least he is in the discussion.
33. Jeremy Lin, PG Harvard: Lin has shown enough that he should probably be considered a bubble first rounder. There are some things here that suggest he’s a sleeper. Like his 10+ RSB40 and .618 2-point pct. There are other things that are worrisome, like his shaky passing and 3-point shooting numbers and the fact that he put these numbers up playing in the Ivy League.
34. Tyren Johnson, SF Louisiana-Lafayette: Johnson is a player I’ve been watching since he emerged as the Ragin’ Cajuns’ top player early in this, his final season. There are dozens others like him. They’re prospects who are playing well enough to merit watching, but typically fall short of the top 60. Such players are rarely drafted and the only time I’m likely to see their names again are as roster filler on summer league or training camp rosters. Johnson seemed to be on that same road. That was until February when he suddenly started playing like Kevin Durant. Now he has to be considered. I might dismiss this performance if it was limited to scoring, but his improvement has been across the board and his numbers for the season are right up there with the best SFs in the nation. As I find myself mentioning with a lot of the marginal SFs, Johnson’s timing could have been better, but he’s put himself in the draft discussion now and that’s a good thing.
35. Trevor Booker, F Clemson: A very good college player, Booker just hasn’t been able to hit the outside shot with enough efficiency to move up on the list. I wonder if it would have been better for him to enter the draft last year. Last year was by far his best season and the field of PFs was pretty weak.
36. Mark Payne, PG-F UC-Davis: Get s back for a few games following illness. He seems likely to return to college for senior season. Considering the athleticism and improvement already made, he should be something to watch next year.
37. Aubrey Coleman, SG Houston: With Coleman it is time to assume his offense will never be efficient enough and start to look at him as a defensive specialist. He’s big and his defensive numbers are off the charts. He’s also a low TO guy and that’s important for such a player. The two biggest questions would be whether he can get his 3-pointer to fall more consistently and if he can switch from a mad bomber to a supporting player.
38. Jimmy Butler, G-F, Marquette: A sleeper to bust out as a star next year. He’s been on a roster that’s been crowded with other wings players for 2 seasons and he should get his chance next year.
39 & 40. Avery Bradley and Eric Bledsoe, PGs Texas and Kentucky: A couple of highly-touted freshmen PGs. Other than an occasional scoring outburst, neither has shown much. I rank them this high based on potential and flashes of athleticism they’ve displayed. If they stick around campus either one might emerge as a better prospect next year if they’re given the chance to play PG. Then again, each might be eclipsed by some new highly-touted freshman.
41. Damion James, F Texas: There is a place for a player with his multiple skills, but his high TO rate remains a huge problem.
42 & 43. Rick Jackson and Curtis Kelly, PFs Syracuse and Kansas State: A couple of junior PFs who are similar players. Both are strong defensively and hit a high percentage of their shots. Neither is a monster rebounder, but both board well enough. I mention both players, because they fit the profile of Taj Gibson who has had some surprising success as a late first round draft pick this year. Both are smart, steady veteran college players who put up strong numbers while playing with a team-first mentality. The big thing for both might be how close they come to matching Gibson’s 7’4” wingspan.
44. Jimmer Fredette, PG BYU: I like him quite a bit, but his numbers took a huge hit after he missed a couple of games in January. Because it was his 2-point shooting and defensive numbers that took the brunt of the hit my guess is he’s pacing himself somewhat while dealing with recovery from some illnesses. He’s a player who could well explode in the tournament if he’s 100%.
45, 46, 47 & 48. Marshon Brooks, Cory Higgins, Jordan Crawford and Marquez Haynes, SGs Providence, Colorado, Xavier and UT-Arlington: Four SGs with numbers good enough in that they meet all the minimum benchmarks for some level of NBA success. The same could have been said about Marcus Thornton and Wesley Matthews last year at this time. None of these players is having the season Thornton had last year and all 4 have some negatives that need to be examined, but all are good enough for a 2nd-round flyer.
49. Willie Reed, PF Saint Louis: Reed had a terrific start, but faded so badly in January that he fell off the map. He looked like a typical college PF who started fast, caught my eye, but faded once the competition heated up. Reed has battled back nicely in Feb though and merits mentioning again.
50. Gordon Hayward, SF Butler: A prospect with good athleticism and skills. He’s getting some hype in some places, but his numbers remain just a little soft.
51. Corey Fisher, PG Villanova: Still a good, solid backup PG prospect.
52. Omar Samhan, C St. Mary’s: Samhan is the best prospect of what I’d call the 3rd tier centers. The 1st tier would include the potential stars, like Cousins. The 2nd tier would include both solid role players like Aldrich and Pittman and huge upside guys like Whiteside and Sanders. After that remains a group of players with impressive college numbers who will probably need to step up their games a tad to stick in the NBA.
53 & 54. Chris Singleton and Devin Ebanks, SFs Florida State and West Virginia: Still in that great defense/weak offense rut. Unlike Damian Saunders, neither has shown any sign of life on offense. Both are still sophs with great length and athleticism so there’s some hope for improvement.
55. Devan Downey, SG South Carolina: His efficiency has never been great and his PG numbers have declined throughout his career. But in his 4 seasons at SC, Downey has shown enough skills that he’s worth a look as a changeup/combo type bench guy.
56. Willie Warren, G Oklahoma: February was a bad month for prospects. Hummel, Harangody, Davis and Warren all went down. For Warren this could be something of a redo. He shot up the charts as a freshman and even was in the top 5 in some mocks as a soph. I never thought that highly of him as a prospect. This down season should put him in a place more in line with his ability going into his junior season. That’s a good thing for him. Now we’ll see how he responds.
57. Luke Harangody, PF Notre Dame: It probably hasn’t helped his cause that the Irish went on a nice run once he went out. Because he has that rebounding/shooting combination, I think he’ll get himself drafted.
58. Jerome Jordan, C Tulsa: Even though his senior year has been disappointing, Jordan has shown enough in his college career that he’s in end-of-bench big guy territory.
59. Brian Zoubek, C Duke: Finally getting big minutes and is producing enough that he’ll merit a look. Zoubek has always been a good per minute producer, but Duke has been so in love with smallball in recent years so most of his time has been spent on the bench. There are some serious negatives here, including the fact that he is slow, weak on defense and limited to layups and putbacks on offense. But he can crash the boards better than most and might be able to play some effective minutes as a 3rd center. When it comes down to it I’d rather take a chance on Zoubek than any of the better small college centers, the best of whom are Atsiom Parakhouski, Jeff Foote and Keith Benson.
60. Jon Scheyer, PG Duke: I’m not the Duke-hater most basketball fans seem to be, so I have no qualms about wedging a couple of Duke seniors into the last two spots if they’re the players I feel are worthy of a mention. Scheyer has some obvious flaws that would normally eliminate a PG prospect. But he also has some PG numbers that are so off the charts that I can’t ignore him either. What I like best about Scheyer and his chances is he fits the type of player NBA coaches like to surround a superstar with. He’s tall for his position, can hit a 3-pointer and plays a low-mistake game.