Tuesday, June 26, 2007

NBA Draft Preview--#15-25 Prospects

Below is Part II of our draft prospect list. Here we rank the players 15 thru 25, and add a few honorable mentions who could be considered in the late 1st/early 2nd round.
*--Did not rank East Washington's Rod Stuckey because I never saw him play in a live game setting. It sounds like he has the talent to be placed somewhere in the #15-#20 area.

15) Al Thornton (Florida St.) 6-7 SFHe the one a guy I waver back-n-forth on the most in the draft. I could just as easily see this guy being a pretty good long-term pro as I could see him being a bust. There is one or two guys in every draft you just have to go on a gut feeling about their prospects, and I'm just not feeling Thornton starring at the next level. Has he hit his ceiling because he is 23 years old? Tough call. He still seems to have some rawness to his game, which is not a good thing at 23 years. Explosive athlete who finishes with authority, often in traffic. Encouraging that he became more of a 3pt. threat as his tenure at Fla St. progressed. Has shown the ability to hit mid-range jumpers consistently.

16) Javaris Crittenton (Georgia Tech) 6-4 PG--Good size for a PG which perks up the ears of GMs, but actually has the same standing reach as Law. I question how much of a pure point he is--don't know if he sees the floor as well as he could. Did average nearly 6 apg this year, but nearly neutralized this goodwill by averaging a whopping 4 TOpg. Very good athlete who has a nice ability to get into the lane when he wants. Solid shooter, but nothing special. His size & length does allow him to be a pretty solid defensive player, which should translate well to the next level. Again another guy who probably should have stayed in school another year.

17) Spencer Hawes (Wash.) 7-0 C--As you can see I ain't that high on Spencer. Lacks athleticism. Concerned about his rebounding ability. Possible explanation is he played next to one of the most ferocius rebounders/competitors in the NCAA, Jon Brockman, who ate into his reb total--it's possible. But shouldn't the 7-footer be the one dictating what happens on the boards? Can play in the high post with his great passing instincts. Has great footwork & a string understanding of the game. Can finish around the basket with either hand. Uses hook shots well. Not as much of a defensive presence as he should have been. Not really all that enamoured with him, though he could project to be like Rik Smits, which ain't half bad.

18) Marco Belinelli (Italy) 6-6 SG--Has one of the sweetest shooting strokes in the draft & has unlimited range on his jumper. Is a threat to pull-up from anywhere out to 25 feet. Superb athlete who has great slashing ability, just needs to stop settling for jumpers so much. His shot selection needs to be improved upon. Sort of a poor man's Vince Carter--long, slender athlete who would rather shoot off-balance jumpers than using his athleticism to his advantage Also, a good ball-handler & passer who can play a little point like Vince when needed. Need to pack on some lbs. Was the best player on the floor in the 1st half of the US-Italy game last summer.

19) Jason Smith (Colorado St) 7-0 PF/C--Only seen Smith play a few games, so this is a small sample I'm dealing with. First thing you're pleasantly impressed with fluid movement & athleticism for his size. Pretty well-built & has a frame that can fill out even more. The other impressive facit of his game is his nice shooting shooting stroke--solid face-up ability. Seemed comfortable putting the ball on the deck as well, which was nice to see in a 7-footer. Good rebounder. His turnovers were disturbingly too high for a frontcourt guy.

20) Thaddeus Young (Georgia Tech) 6-7 SF--Great athlete with a ton of potential but still probably could use at least another year of college. Solid shooter from the perimeter, but it's tough to say right now what his mid-range ability will be at the next level. Seems to be to a little left-hand dominant right now & needs to work on adjusting that part of his game or teams will look to expose it at will.

21) Morris Almond (Rice) 6-6 SG--Next to Nick Young has one of the better mid-range games of draftees. Great shooter who is adept at drilling shots coming off screens. Not a great athlete, but still was able to easily create shots for himself as well as anyone in the NCAA. He made a living at the foul line, getting there 9 times per game, and was a 85% shooter when he got there. Pretty good rebounder for a 2-guard.

22) Daequan Cook (Ohio St) 6-6 SG--This kid is really hard to gauge, because he really fell out of favor with Matta as the season went on. Somewhat concerning is Cook did most of his damage early on in the season vs. lower-rated competition, then had his productivity fall off as the season progressed. But you did see glimpses of his enticing potential throughout his Frosh year. Very good athlete with strong frame who has the potential to be a potent wing scorer at the next level. Nice shooter from deep who has shown the ability to hit off the dribble in-between as well. Very effective rebounder in limited minutes. Would loved to seen him stay another year so to get a better read on his game.

23) Gabe Pruitt (USC) 6-4 PG--Been intrigued by Gabe since his Frosh year. Great athlete with nice length for a PG. Excellent defender with quick hands who can easily transfer this ability to the next level thanks to his length & speed. Could be a nuisance for opposing PGs with his ability to pressure the ball. My major hesitation with Gabe, much like with Law & Crittenton, is he a true PG? Was moved off the ball more often last year, but was moved backed to more point duty this year. Though his overall numbers might not quite bare it out, he does have a nice shooting stroke.

24) Nick Fazekas (Nevada) 6-11 PF/C--Has one of the sweetest strokes ever for a guy his size, legit 3pt range. Might be the most fundamentally big in the draft. Nice soft hands, good passing instincts. Has the ability to post a little bit away from the block, similar to what Brand does. So I'm not as concerned as others that he can't hold his position on offense. Has a quick release off his post moves, sort of reminds me of Antawn Jamison. Could be great in pick-n-pop situations. Basically, the only thing holding him back from being a lotto pick is his physical package. Very slow with an awkward gait, and though he put on some weight this year, he's still weak, especially a weak base. I have to wonder if his rebounding efficiency goes down because he won't be able to hold position down low very well--opponents should be able to manhandle him, & he should be a major defensive liability. He really does not like much contact, and he wanted nothing to do with mixing it up with Memphis' Joey Dorsey in the Tourney. I think he will struggle to be a starter in the NBA, but should stick around the league for awhile because of his shooting prowess. Does remind me of Christian Laettner somewhat, but think Laettner might have been an even better athlete than Nick.

25) Josh McRoberts (Duke) 6-10 PF--Probably underachieved this past season, but still has promising pro potential. Good athlete with nice length. His most favorable trait is his ball-handling & passing. For a guy 6-10 & could be a very valuable in a system that moves their bigs to the high post. His toughness is definitely a question mark. Pretty good shot-blocker who gets them out of his area. Subpar foul shooter. Solid finisher with good hops, who runs the floor well.

Bonus Sleeper Pick: Jared Dudley (Boston College) 6-7 SF--Savvy, seasoned player. High basketball IQ, a guy who does a little bit of everything well, nothing great. His passing skills have been honed from playing in a flex system. Nice footwork. Subpar athlete who could have some issues trying to defend SF at the next level. Shot the ball well this year, but not sure I would sign off on saying he's a good shooter--the NBA 3pt. line might be a little bit out of his range. Pretty good rebounder. Probably better suited as a back-up, but could be a very valuable addition to any team looking for a role-player off the bench.

Honor Mention (Late 1st/Early 2nd targets): A. Afflalo (UCLA); D. Byars (Vandy); A. Gray (Pitt); T. Green (Florida); P. Koponen (Finland); D. Nichols (Syracuse); R. Sessions (Nevada); DJ Strawberry (Maryland); R. Terry (UNC); S. Williams (BC)