Wednesday, June 28, 2006

NBA Draft Preview--Top 25 prospects (Part I)

Most people do mock drafts this time of year and I myself do love examining mocks from all over the World Wide Web. But this year's draft is the most unpredictable affair I can remember in awhile. You could really shuffle the top 5-7 players into a variety of permutations, and there is by no means a consensus #1. All this uncertainty has led to a rash of trade rumors with teams looking trade up or down, or even completely out of the 1st round, which can shred a mock to pieces.

Instead of a mock, I decided to just rank the players. This is not the order I see them being picked, this is just the order I feel that they should be ranked by talent & potential. This list only has NCAA players. I did not rank foreign guys because I've only seen limited, edited highlight packages of them, so I don't feel like I have a good handle on them.

I decided to rank 25 players because it seems like a consensus that there will be 5-6 foreign guys drafted in the 1st round, which equals the 30 first round prospects. The foreign players being mentioned for the first round are: Andrea Bargnani, Sergio Rodriguez, Saer Sene, Thabo Sefolosha, Ole Pecherov, & Joel Freeland. Bargnani has a great chance of going #1 to Toronto and it seems he's at least a sure-fire top 7 pick. The obligatory Dirk comparisons have been made ad nauseum, but he could have some Gasol in him--his Euroleague stats were similar to Pau. Sene is a super athletic, super long 7-footer who seems to be climbing up the charts & might creep into the late lottery

1) LaMarcus Aldridge (Texas) 6-11 PF/C-- Very good athlete who hits the boards very well. Has a very nice turnaround jumper with a nice smooth release. Very good rebounder who can get them out of his area. The major knock on him is he's soft mentally & physically. He's thin now but he has a good frame that is capable of filling out, should not be an issue. I think its debatable about his desire, but I feel his package of size, athleticism & solid offensive skills makes him the best player in the draft.

2) Rudy Gay (UConn) 6-8 SF-- Was the consensus #1 pick at the start of the NCAA season, but dropped a little when questions arised about his tendency to float thru games. I agree he does disappear sometimes and it does give you some pause. Although, he has great size & length for the 3 spot and combines that with superb athleticism. Shown a solid skill set with a sweet high-arching jumper that he can hit coming off screens fairly well. Needs to work on his ball-handling somewhat. Has the ability to be a very good defender. Might have the highest ceiling of anyone in the draft & could become the best scorer to come out of this draft.

3) Adam Morrison (Gonzaga) 6-8 SF-- Well he's not Larry Bird, but he's got the potential to be a pretty good NBA player. The better comparison might be Wally Szczerbiak with some Glenn Robinson & Bernard King sprinkled in. He's got a better mid-range game than Wally, and has the rare ability of hitting shots anywhere on the floor 25 feet & in. His athleticism is definitely not great, but a little better than it seems. He probably will not be able to get his shots off quite to the degree as he did in college, but I think he will be successful enough to possibly average 20-22 pts/game. Can he be #1 scoring option in the NBA? Not sure. But I think he can be a very good #2 option and at worst you have a great 3rd option giving you 15-17 a game like Wally. Has good passing skills, he just does not use them much. He will be a defensive liability, especially on the ball. He eats, sleeps, & drinks basketball and is highly competitive.

4) Brandon Roy (Washington) 6-6 SG-- I know its been said ad nauseum, but he probably is the most complete player in the draft. Does a little bit of everything. Great ball-handler who can initiate the offense and is a very willing passer. Likes to utilize a nifty little mid-range post-up game where he uses spin moves well, then usually finishes with either hand. Plays within himself, and might be the smartest player in the draft--high b-ball IQ. Very good defender who can guard 1s, 2s & 3s. Better athlete than he gets credit for; great hops. Outside shooting is alright but not great--his shot is a little flat, not sure if he has NBA 3pt. range. Can contribute right away. I don't feel he will be an explosive scorer but I think he can give you 17-18 a game with 5 rebs, 5 assts & a few steals a game.

5) Randy Foye (Villanova) 6-3 PG/SG-- I feel he's more of a two-guard, but still think he will be fine cause of his above-average athleticism. Not Dwayne Wade, but felt like he's comparable to Ben Gordon for a couple months, maybe even somewhere on the spectrum between Wade & Gordon. Can get into the teeth of defense, ability to draw fouls with a very strong build. Should really prosper under the new rules. Does have the ability to play some point, and could possibility start there if you place a ball-handling 2-guard next to him--Joe Johnson is a good example. But I think he's better served creating shots for himself. His shooting percentage was a little shaky at 41%--Wade's was 50% his last year at Marq., Gordon's was 43%, but he did shoot 43% from 3pt., Foye shot 35% from 3pt.

6) Tyrus Thomas (LSU) 6-8 SF/PF-- Crazy athlete. Probably the best athletic package in draft. Long reach. Plays with tremendous energy. Very active on the defensive end. A lot of people are salivating over him and have him #1. But even with all that, I am just not sure what we have here. First off, where are the offensive skills? I have not seen much in the way of refined fundamentals either for a 3 or a 4. That leads to the other problem--what position do project him at? A couple weeks ago, he was looked at as a 4, but then the measurements came out & he had the same exact specs as Gay, even being 5 pounds lighter than Rudy. We might have another Stromile Swift on are hands after all. That's not that bad, but Swift has a tough time playing the 4 because he can't hold position on the block & is a liability as an on-the-ball defender. And he's a full inch taller than Tyrus. I have to admit his athleticism is enticing, and he might be able to be a Shawn Marion hybrid type forward.

7) Rodney Carney (Memphis) 6-6 SG/SF-- Another crazy athlete with long arms. Has the potential to be an explosive scorer especially with the new rules on hand checking. When he gets a lane to the basket, its over--tremendous finisher. Solid shooter from the perimeter to keep defenders from totally sagging. Needs to develop a more varied mid-range game and improve his ball-handling somewhat. Pretty good defender and can definitely be a great defender on the perimeter in the NBA. Sometimes known to be too passive, but has wonderful physical tools for the NBA.

8) Marcus Williams (UConn) 6-3 PG-- Old-school, super savvy, pure point. Flat-out the best passer in the NCAA this year--he's great in the half-court or in the open floor. Always looking to get his teammates involved & sets them up wonderfully. Not a good athlete for a point. Lateral movement suspect and should lead to issues on defense; wasn't a good defender at UConn. But even with the lack of speed still can get places with his dribble. Very savvy & smart with his dribble getting into the lane. Uses deception & change of pace well. Sort of like Nash, another suspect athlete. Not a great shooter from deep. Has a very slow set-up & release on his shot. Although, has a knack for hitting mid-range runners in the lane & is willing to take tough shots & made quite a few at UConn. Needs to lose some weight: last listed at 215, which is too heavy for an already slow point.

9) Shelden Williams (Duke) 6-9 PF-- Known for his defensive presence. Great shot-blocker with impeccable timing off the floor & he follows the ball well with his hands. Big, burly build that makes him ready to tangle with the big boys right away. Great rebounder who goes out of his area to get them. Little bit better athlete then he looks. Very limited offensively. Somewhat robotic in his moves. The kind of player who needs to look down at his feet and slowly think out his footwork in his head. Did not show much scoring ability outside of 5 feet. Compare him somewhat to Okafor. Some people obviously compare him to Brand & Boozer. But one minor issue to come up with Shelden was his standing reach came in at 8-8, that's lower than some SFs. Brand, Boozer, & Okafor all have reaches around 9-2, that's a pretty significant difference. These long reaches help Brand & Boozer clear their shots off over taller guys, so an already shaky offensive player could have even more problems adjusting to the NBA. This could possibly affect his shot blocking prowess in the NBA as well, probably not though, because I think it has more to do with his great timing, but something to examine a little.

10) Cedric Simmons (NC State) 6-9 PF-- Very good athlete for a PF. Active on both ends of the floor. Good shot-blocker. Somewhat raw offensively but might have a better upside than Shelden. Hard to truly gauge his low post acumen cause he played in a Princeton-style system that pulls bigs away from the rim a fair amount & is more about ball movement. Has shown some signs of having a decent jumpshot. Good rebounder in college, but could improve a little, and has the ability & motor to corral rebounds out of his area. Wouldn't be surprised if he turns out better than Sheldon in the long run.