This past summer I came up with a numerical ranking system for college prospects. The systems ranks players stats compared with those that previously successful prospects did well in. The rankings are done differently for each position, but only in the sense that different stat categories are considered. The system gives a maximum of 40 points. Any player above 35 should be considered a likely future star. From 30-35 is a potential star and at the very least a player who should make the league and have a long career. Players in the 25-30 range are a little more iffy. Some make it, others don’t. Any player below 25 is a long shot, though freshman and sophomores are given some leeway here. I don’t rate freshmen and upperclassmen differently, but it’s safe to say that if a freshman and senior have the same number, the freshman is a much better prospect.
Like with any objective ranking system, the numerical ranking of the players should be considered a starting point rather than a destination in evaluating them. At this early point in the season, it might be smart not to consider it at all, but I think it gives a good idea of some players whose stock might start to rise or fall come draft season. The player rankings as of 12/31 that I listed below are not a reflection of how I feel about each player as a prospect, nor should they be thought of as anything other than a quick snapshot of which players are doing the things that successful draftees have historically done so far this season. Shooting slumps, soft non-con schedules and adjustments to new environs affect every players’ numbers in the early going and the rugged conference games have away of separating the true prospects from the pretenders. When I do the final rankings at seasons’ end, there will be a lot more information going into those rankings than just this number.
I also want to say that other than Michael Beasley, I find this years’ freshmen somewhat underwhelming. There are some good players, but all have some weaknesses that need to be addressed. There are none that appear to be the prospect Durant, Oden or even Conley were at this time last year. I know the freshmen are dominating the lottery in the early mocks around the internet, but I look for that to change as their weaknesses become more apparent and are exploited in tough conference play. Some will adjust and go on to fame and riches in the NBA. Others will be forced to head back to college next year and will never find themselves as highly rated as prospects by the draft pundits as they are at this point in time.
I split the players into 8 categories: Point guards, combo guards, small forwards, combo forwards, power forwards, combo bigs and centers. This might be overdoing it and seem silly and it probably is, but there are so many different players and roles, that it’s hard to cram players into 5 positions when there are different ways players can be successful playing the same position. But I’ll explain all that and the ranking system a little more in updates later in the season.
- Ty Lawson, North Carolina: 31.84
- Derrick Rose, Memphis: 25.12
- Darris Nichols, West Virginia: 24.73
- DJ Augustine, Texas: 23.77
- AJ Price, Connecticut: 23.15
- Jonny Flynn, Syracuse: 22.60
- Mario Chalmers, Kansas: 22.51
- Nick Calathes, Florida: 19.90
- Levance Fields, Pitt: 14.18
- Stefhon Hannah, Missouri: 13.50
I felt Lawson was at least the equal of Mike Conley last season before he tanked in the tournament. He’s back at the level he was and should land in the lottery if he handles the tournament better this year. I can understand why some are ga-ga over Rose, but he hasn’t shown he’s the total PG that Lawson is yet. The rest are a mixed bag. Players who will rise and fall throughout the season. None are too exciting to me just yet, but most of them look draftable at this point and able to fill a role somewhere.
- Brian Roberts, Dayton: 26.23
- Jaycee Carroll, Utah State: 23.02
- Scotty Reynolds, Villanova: 20.82
- Sean Singletary, Virginia: 19.54
- Rob McIver, Houston: 14.26
Roberts seems to be riding a hot streak now. I expect him to cool off and some of the others to surpass him by the end of the season. This is the usual group of mad bombers whose PG game is too erratic to play that position full time. I probably like Carroll the best at this point. He’s pretty fearless and effective as a scorer.
- Danny Green, North Carolina: 34.35
- James Harden, Arizona State: 31.02
- KC Rivers, Clemson: 30.20
- Wayne Ellington, North Carolina: 26.48
- Weyenmi Efejuku, Providence: 25.47
- Dionte Christmas, Temple: 25.18
- Shon Foster, Vanderbilt: 24.39
- Anthony Morrow, Georgia Tech: 24.24
- Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis: 23.37
- Gerald Henderson, Duke: 22.52
Green has added a wildly efficient offensive game to an already strong all-around game. I doubt he’ll keep it up, but he’ll be a star if he can. James Harden has been the nation’s best freshman perimeter player up to this point, though, as with Green, I find it hard to believe he’ll keep this pace up. Rivers ranked high last year at this time, courtesy of Clemson’s easy non-con. He struggled once ACC play started last year and will likely do the same this year. Douglas-Roberts is down some from last season, when I felt he was the best SG prospect in college. I expect his game to improve some. As for Eric Gordon and OJ Mayo, they both just missed the cut. Both were done in by a high TO rate. This really isn’t a huge problem for freshmen, because it’s something that’s usually corrected with experience. It is a problem though and it could send both players back to college for another season. At the very least it could change their status on draft day from savior to developmental draft pick. I do expect to see both players somewhere on this list by seasons’ end, possibly at the top.
- Tyler Smith, Tennessee: 33.76
- Scott Cutley, Fullerton: 32.16
- Geary Claxton, Penn State: 31.68
- Joe Alexander, West Virginia: 29.70
- Will Daniels, Rhode Island: 26.15
- Malik Hairston, Oregon: 24.44
- Paul Harris, Syracuse: 20.83
- Raymer Morgan, Michigan State: 19.93
- Geoff McDermott, Providence: 19.45
- Bill Walker, Kansas State: 18.64
Tyler Smith has started the season on fire and like Danny Green, he’ll become a high lottery pick if he can continue at this level. Cutley and Claxton are not only both playing over their previous levels, both are listed at 6’5”, so I’m not going to get too impressed with either one just yet. Daniels’ improvement is a little more impressive, because it’s happened across the board in just about every statistical category. This suggests his improvement is more than just a hot shooting streak. Bill Walker is finally starting to show some signs of life as a prospect. One notable player missing is Chase Budinger. I suspect he’ll continue to be MIA here and in the lottery this June, unless he becomes a lot more aggressive on offense.
The reason I separated the SFs into 2 groups is simply because there are two different types of players playing the position. There’s the player who’s more of a wing player who needs to be more skilled at shooting, passing and slashing. Then there’s the bigger SF who can play some PF, but doesn’t rebound well enough to play the position fulltime. The most important skills for such a player to have are a minimal ability to rebound and a varied offensive game. Such players usually play PF in college, but won’t make it there as a pro and will need to show some SF skills.
- Donte Green, Syracuse: 29.44
- Ryan Anderson, California: 22.29
- James Johnson, Wake Forest: 18.90
- Korvotney Barber, Auburn: 17.17
- Anthony Randolph, LSU: 17.06
Green looks like a lot more than just a guy who can back up at both forward positions, as the word combo suggests. He’ll probably start at one position or the other and switch over when the situation calls for it. Either way he looks like he’s going to play a lot at the next level no matter what the position is. The others need to step up there games some before they’re anything more than NBA reserves.
- Michael Beasley, Kansas State: 32.01
- DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh: 30.85
- Richard Hendrix, Alabama: 29.58
- Joey Dorsey, Memphis: 24.47
- DJ White, Indiana: 24.31
- Pat Patterson, Kentucky: 18.96
- Derrick Caracter, Louisville: 18.81
- Blake Griffin, Oklahoma: 18.65
- JJ Hickson, North Carolina State: 16.89
- Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina: 16.43
Beasley looks like a lock for the top pick and is a decent bet to become an NBA star. The only caveat here is that conference schedules seem especially tough on PFs and centers. Beasley looks strong now, but I can’t consider him to be for real until he gets through the Big 12 with his great numbers still intact. Hendrix has been solid for two seasons and seems to have stepped things up so far this year. As for the rest of this group, conference games will either establish or expose them. At this point I prefer freshmen Blair, Patterson, Griffin and Hickson over the vets. I will note that Dorsey has made real improvement so far in cutting down his turnovers and that’s going to help his cause quite a bit. The most notable absentee from this list is probably Darrell Arthur. He’s been a poor rebounder since about this time last year, after looking like a certain lottery pick out of the gate. Poor rebounding kills his number and will eventually affect his draft position if he doesn’t fix it.
- Marreese Speights, Florida: 30.91
- Kevin Love, UCLA: 24.20
- Trent Plaisted, BYU: 22.05
- Devon Hardin, California: 18.22
- Kentrell Gransberry, South Florida: 17.20
Speights’ numbers were off the charts in low minutes last season also, so I’m guessing he’s the real deal. Love has been impressive, but his defensive numbers are a little weak. Even though Love is a freshman, I have my doubts he can ever get to where a prospect needs to be defensively. Of the others, Hardin seems like the most likely to make it due to his defensive prowess.
- Alecks Maric, Nebraska: 27.98
- Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut: 24.09
- Roy Hibbert, Georgetown: 20.11
- DeAndre Jordan, Texas A&M: 19.12
- Mamadou Diene, Baylor: 18.98
- Andrew Ogilvy, Vanderbilt: 17.16
- John Bryant, Santa Clara: 16.30
- Sasha Kaun, Kansas: 13.96
- Kosta Koufos, Ohio State: 9.23
- Omar Samhan, St. Marys: 7.86
First thing to mention here is Hibbert’s number is probably about 5 points too low, because I don’t factor in pace until the end of the season. Usually this won’t make a huge difference, but Georgetown’s painfully deliberate pace is an exception. One other thing to mention about Hibbert is he’s as good a defender as the college game has seen in awhile and that makes him more valuable than his ranking. He’s a lock for the lottery despite his pedestrian ranking here. Jordan is probably the best long term prospect here, but he’s very raw at this point. Diene’s numbers are for very low minutes and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this were the last time I mentioned him. The others are players we’ll all know more about once they’ve gone through the rugged conference games. I don’t expect Maric to stay at the top throughout the season, but there don’t appear to be any truly great centers this year so it’s possible.