Tuesday, June 26, 2007

NBA Draft Preview

So, I know Adam's pretty busy moving in, so I'll get things started with just over 48 hours until the Draft. I think this year's draft is exciting, as always, but beyond the top two choices, there seems to be a lot of unsurety (is that a word) regarding who goes where, and who will develop. There are question marks, as always, but the trend seems to have moved away from jumping at raw Euros, and GMs seem to be looking more for college winners (it's about time) and some good raw athletes. Indeed, as you'll undoubtedly notice in my preview below, most of the top prospects share a common trait: they're all very athletic. It's a new, fast-paced NBA, and teams are looking for players that will fit into that model. So here are some of the top prospects, tossed into categories where I feel they're appropriate. I'm hoping to put up a couple more categories later today or tomorrow, so check back again soon.

Seven Impact Players for Next Year

Greg Oden-There’s not a whole lot I need to say about Oden that hasn’t been said already. He’s a beast defensively; he’ll provide good help-side defense, along with altering and blocking plenty of shots. He runs the court well, and with his (supposedly) healthy wrist, he can supplement his dunks with range out to about 15 feet. As long as he’s healthy, he’ll help right away. Blahblahblah, you’ve already heard all this. He’ll be an immediate presence on D and the boards.

Kevin Durant-Similar to Oden, pretty much everything’s been said on Durant. He can score in a number of different ways, and is offensive arsenal is quite impressive. He’s also an underrated rebounder, and is athletic enough to be a good defender. I expect he’ll average about 18 ppg this season.

Corey Brewer-I love this kid’s game. He put on a show in this year’s NCAA tournament. He’s extremely athletic and has long length (great fake term). He’ll be a lock-down defender, and his rangy arms will allow him to get plenty of steals. He also has decent ball-handling skills, and is a good shooter.

Jeff Green-I want to like his game more than I do. He does everything well, though nothing spectacular. He’s 6’10” but athletic enough to cover most small forwards. He’ll be a solid NBA player right away, but never a star. In my mind, kind of a slightly poorer man's Brewer, so I'm a bit surprised that recent mock drafts have him going ahead of Brewer. Could this be a "Joey Graham before Danny Granger" type of scenario?

Acie Law-Law may not be the most athletic point guard in the draft, but this guy is just plain a winner. Everyone who saw his incredible performance against Texas this past season was awed by his will to put his team on his back will it to victory (or at least another overtime). He gets to the hoop well, and knows how to run an offense. He’ll be a solid floor leader for a long time.

Al Horford and Joakim Noah-I tabbed both members of the Florida frontcourt together. Horford is definitely a better NBA prospect, because he combines a prototypical power forward body with athleticism. He’ll bang down low, can rebound, score in the post, and passes well. He’s not a star, but he’ll be a very good player for many years. As for Noah, his offensive game is much rawer than Horford’s, but he’s very athletic, and as we’ve all heard countless times, a great motor. He’ll never be able to put the ball on the floor or hit a jumper consistently, but he’ll get plenty of rebounds and hustle points, and provide defense and energy.

Five Future Impact Players

Brandan Wright-Wright is extremely athletic and has all the tools to be a potential star in the NBA. It seems like every year, there’s a player like this at or near the top of the draft (Rudy Gay, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, etc.). He runs the court well and has a good offensive game near the basket. If he can add some strength, and maintain focus (there are questions about his intensity), he has All-Star potential.

Yi Jianlian-As an athletic 7-foot foreigner, there are some that think he’s the next Dirk Nowitzki. Other comparisons have been to Toni Kukoc (though Yi is more athletic) and Tim Thomas (hopefully Yi cares more about defense). I haven’t seen enough of him against real competition to weigh in, but he certainly has the tools to be a good player. He can score from the outside, but needs to add strength to become a better interior player. However, he’s a hard worker, and with his athleticism, he can develop defensively. Regardless, it’s hard to tell how far along he is in his development, since he’s anywhere from 19 to 22 years old, depending on which version of his birth certificate you believe (I'm going with 22).

Mike Conley-He’s drawn comparisons to both Chris Paul and Deron Williams because of his pure point guard skills. Personally, I think a better comparison is to Isiah Thomas because of his ability to spend the majority of a game effortlessly distributing the ball to get his teammates good looks, and then take over and score down the stretch when his team needs him. Obviously, he’s not going to be the all-world point that Isiah was, but he’s a prototypical point guard who doesn’t turn the ball over and makes the players around him better, and he has potential to be an All-Star once he gets the NBA game down.

Julian Wright-I’m always partial to Chicago guys, but “the other Wright” has great athleticism (notice a trend here?) and an NBA body. He’s a great on-the-ball defender, is quick, and passes well. He plays with a lot of energy, and once he develops a better jumper, he’ll be a very good all-around player.

Nick Young-This guy actually already has all the tools (explosiveness, ability to run the court and get to the hoop, jumper, ballhandling skills) to be a good swingman soon. However, he lacks intensity and work ethic, and may need a year or two to learn that in the NBA, you can’t get by on pure ability alone.

Six Potential Sleepers

Alando Tucker-After getting “Player of the Year” consideration for the first half of this past college season, Tucker has really fallen off the radar. This is largely due to the fact that NBA scouts wonder what position he can play. However, Tucker is athletic, strong, and confident. He knows how to score, and while he’ll be a bit undersized at the 3, he’s just plain a good basketball player, and he’ll be a solid rotation player for whoever is smart enough to take him in the second round.

Jared Dudley-Similar to Tucker, Dudley was a top college player who has scouts worried about his status as a “tweener.” Also like Tucker, Dudley is strong and plays hard, and will be a decent role player in the NBA.

JamesOn Curry-Curry is great at getting to the hoop, can hit the NBA 3, and is a good passer. Unfortunately, he’s a bit skinny and small for an NBA 2. Nonetheless, he’ll be able to provide good scoring off the bench, and is athletic enough to be a halfway decent defender, if someone can motivate him to care.

Josh McRoberts-I know it sounds silly to put this former McDonald’s All-American and supposed top-five pick in the “sleeper” category, but his stock has dropped so much he may be in danger of falling out of the first round. Yes, we learned that McRoberts doesn’t yet have the ability to be a star player, and he certainly couldn’t carry Duke this past season, but he’s very athletic and agile for a big man, and quite skilled, too. He can score down low along with range out to about 18 feet, and is a good passer and rebounder. Somebody will get a steal in him late in the first round, as long as he can motivate himself to play.

Chris Richard-The forgotten man from the Florida frontcourt, I was impressed with what I saw from Richard in the tournament. While perhaps a bit undersized, he’s strong and tough, and he’ll be an able and willing bruiser in the league.

Curtis Sumpter-He was supposed to be a first-round talent, until torn ACLs made scouts question his ability to ever play pro ball. However, he’s battled back, made himself into a decent 3, and can still score and rebound. With his knees, he’s a risk, but somebody who takes a flier on him as a free-agent signee may end up with a huge steal.

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