NBA Draft Update

After two of stronger, deeper drafts ever, the 2009 draft is going to be fairly normal. There are no can’t miss stars and the best player, Blake Griffin, is more of a hard worker than a great athlete. This is mainly due to a weak freshman class. The sophomores who stuck around from last years’ incredible class are by themselves a more impressive group than the ‘09 freshmen. That means the winners from the 2009 draft are going to be players who stayed in school for another year, because they’ll be making more money and will have the security of coming in as higher draft picks. The losers will be the teams with multiple picks in round one who will find the pickings pretty slim after the lottery. That’s Minnesota and Oklahoma City.

I listed 60 players in sort of a tiered system. It’s not really a mock draft, but how I would rank the players at this point in time everything else being equal. These rankings are based on current stats, the player’s history and their size/athleticism/potential. It’s mainly about the stats though. These rankings are also very fluid and will likely change quite a bit as the season gets into the tournaments. Don’t expect many, if any of these players to improve their stock, but there are some who will decline. This includes NCAA players only. I’ll bring the international players in on this later.

The top group

 Blake Griffin, PF Oklahoma

  1. Tyreke Evans, G Memphis
  2. Ty Lawson, PG North Carolina
  3. James Harden, SG Arizona St.
  4. Nick Calathes, PG/SF Florida
  5. Dejuan Blair, PF Pittsburgh 

Griffin is the best player right now and seems like an immediate impact guy. He’s not so good that he’s a lock for the top pick. That will depend more on who wins the lottery. But considering there are no other complete big men available, Griffin seems pretty certain to be taken first. Evans has put up some seriously strong numbers, but has struggled as a PG. Considering the numbers he’s put up so far, along with his size/athleticism potential, I’d have to list him as one of the top prospects in college. I’m not sure yet whether his ultimate position is PG or SG, but I have confidence he’ll be excellent at one or the other. Lawson has stepped up his game to another level as a junior. He was a solid prospect last year, but this year he’s shown he can be a big time scorer if he needs to be without losing any efficiency. Harden was the most productive freshman guard in the NCAA last year and has improved as a soph. I’m not sure what position Calathes will play, but the feeling here is he’d be solid at any one of the perimeter positions. Perhaps he’ll become some sort of hybrid-combo point forward. Blair is short for a PF, but he has long arms and certainly gets the job done everywhere a PF needs to. Right now I feel he belongs in this group. Because of his height, consider him a little shaky until the measurements are done. 

The Guy who’s potentially too valuable to let slide too far 

  1. Hasheem Thabeet, C Connecticut 

A top notch defensive presence inside is very valuable, much moreso than his individual stats would suggest.  Thabeet is such a player. He may not ever be more than a reserve and could be a bust on the level of Bradley or Bowie. But I wouldn’t blame any team that takes this guy once the sure things are gone. 

Players who are putting up numbers that would have them in the top group, but I want to see them do it for an entire season before going overboard 

  1. Kyle Singler, SF Duke
  2. Stephen Curry, CG Davidson 

Singler has done it all for Duke this year, from the point to the paint. He’s emerged from a strong class as the top SF this year. Curry burst onto the scene in last year’s tournament. Too his credit he didn’t rest on that, stepping up his game to include PG skills. This is huge in a couple of ways for Curry. First thing is that I love a player who improves a weakness in his game from one season to the next. It shows a willingness to work hard at the right things that will serve him well as a pro. The main thing though is Curry is kind of smallish for a SG, so coming in as a PG would help his stock immensely. 

Freshman and Sophomores who aren’t quite there yet 

  1. Cole Aldrich, C Kansas
  2. Austin Daye, SF Gonzaga
  3. Al-Farouq Aminu, PF Wake Forest
  4. Robbie Hummel, SF Purdue
  5. Pat Patterson, PF Kentucky
  6. Jrue Holiday, PG UCLA
  7. Jeff Teague, CG Wake Forest
  8. Rick Jackson, PF Syracuse
  9. James Johnson, PF Wake Forest
  10. Greg Monroe, PF Georgetown
  11. Damian Saunders, SF Duquense
  12. Gani Lawal, PF Georgia Tech
  13. Ed Davis, PF North Carolina
  14. Sylvan Landesberg, SG Virginia
  15. Jonny Flynn, PG Syracuse 

This is sort of a usual suspects list of talented players who have yet to break out. Hummel has actually broken out as a frosh last year, but he’s playing hurt this year so there are some questions. Teague has broken out, but I’d like to see his PG numbers improve before I rank him too high. I feel Aldrich is a good prospect in a bad situation for his talents. Holiday is obviously a PG in waiting, but is stuck behind Collison. Monroe is said to be a top 5 draft pick, but right now he reminds me too much of Brandan Wright and Anthony Randolph. He’s a talented big man who just can’t rebound well enough to be an efficient enough C/PF at the next level. What this group has on the one below is time. They still look like nothing more than role players, but they’re younger so the potential for improvement is much greater. I expect a few to be successful, but most will not. 

Could go either way at this point 

  1. Tyler Smith, SF Tennessee
  2. Danny Green, SG North Carolina 

These are two players I’m having trouble getting a feel for. Smith is a good prospect, but he hasn’t handled an increased scoring load too well this year. His efficiency has been poor and the rest of his game has suffered. He’s gone from being a highly-efficient do-it-all supporting player as a soph to a low-efficiency scorer who doesn’t do much defensively. Green has put up some monster numbers this year, but when the final analysis is done he probably won’t have scored enough points to be considered with the top group. I have to decide whether that’s because of him or his situation.  

Role players at best 

  1. Lee Cummard, SF BYU
  2. John Bryant, C Santa Clara
  3. Jarvis Varnado, PF Mississippi State
  4. Luke Harangody, PF Notre Dame
  5. Damian James, SF Texas
  6. Gerald Henderson, SG Duke
  7. Trevor Booker, PF Clemson
  8. Jordan Hill, PF Arizona
  9. Eric Maynor, PG Virginia Commonwealth
  10. Darren Collison, PG UCLA
  11. Terrence Williams, SF Louisville
  12. Earl Clark, SF Louisville
  13. Michael Washington, PF Arkansas
  14. Jerome Jordan, C Tulsa
  15. Jerel McNeal, CG Marquette
  16. Tyrese Rice, PG Boston College
  17. Chase Budinger, SF Arizona
  18. Curtis Jerrells, PG Baylor
  19. Luke Nevill, C Utah
  20. Jodie Meeks, SG Kentucky
  21. Wayne Chism, PF Tennessee 

These are good college players who fall a little short. Most will make it somewhere in the league, but probably won’t stick for too long. Some will find a place where they’re a great fit and do well, but as nothing more than a role player. I’m sure 1 or 2 will surprise and become impact players on some level. 

Seniors who have stepped up their games to a new level, but I have trouble believing it’s for real. 

  1. Aaron Jackson, PG Duquense
  2. Demarre Carroll, PF Missouri
  3. Marcus Thornton, SG LSU
  4. Wesley Matthews, SG Marquette
  5. Ahmad Nivins, PF St. Josephs 

Remember Pat Calathes from last year? He had been a good, but fairly ordinary player at St. Joe’s for 3 seasons. As a senior last year statistically he was one of the best players in the country through January. He then tanked and disappeared as a prospect. These 5 players are where Calathes was last January. In the cases of Carroll and Matthews it seems like a new coach has changed the offense in their favor. As for Jackson, Duquense used a deep bench and spread the minutes evenly the past couple of seasons. This year they’ve gone to more of a star system featuring Jackson and Damian Saunders. Thornton was the Tigers leading scorer last year, but has improved his efficiency, A/TO and defensive numbers fairly dramatically over last season. He’s gone from good college player to legit prospect if he can keep it up. If any or all of these players continue to play the way they have been, they’ll be drafted in the first round. Right now I’m just a little skeptical about them keeping it up, and I’m not going to rank them too high until they’ve done this for an entire season. 

Highly touted freshmen and a soph who just don’t look very good at all 

  1. BJ Mullens, C Ohio State
  2. Demar DeRozan, SF USC
  3. Samardo Samuels, PF Louisville
  4. Luke Babbitt, SF Nevada
  5. AJ Ogilvy, C Vanderbilt 

Do I remember Mullens being #1 in some mocks this past summer? Right now he’s overmatched in the big 10. This isn’t to say these players won’t eventually get it together. There’s time, but none has been the player he was advertised to be. 

It was great watching you play, but that NBA career just isn’t happening 

  1. Jeff Adrien, PF Connecticut
  2. Tyler Hansbrough, PF North Carolna
  3. Jeremy Pargo, PG Gonzaga and AJ Price, PG Connecticut 

Perhaps that’s a little harsh. Hansbrough will probably be drafted late in round one if for no other reason than to give some team a PR boost. Adrien has also been a tough college player, but just hasn’t developed anything other than rebounding skills. Price and Pargo are having disastrous senior seasons. Both have been decent enough in the past that there’s still probably some hope.

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