Release From Hibernation: NBA Draft Early Entrants Part 2
Continuing the slow return of content on this here blog, some more fun NBA Draft stuff coming your way today. Last week I looked at the guys who declared early for the draft and hired an agent. Today we will look at some folks that are “testing the waters,” as the kids say. Now, there are a million of these folks, so some might get left out and many of these looks will be brief.
Before we get into each player, a disclaimer: With the new rule that NBA teams pay for expenses for a player’s individual workout, there should be some obvious decisions to be made. First, NO ONE should finish college without declaring for the draft. I might be missing something here, but if there is no money to lose, then there is absolutely nothing to lose by declaring and not hiring an agent. The school year is over by draft time, most college coaches are gonna want you in the weight room or on the track in the morning around this time of year, all the chicks are off campus, you get exposure, a chance to play directly in front of NBA execs and you get an idea of where you might fall in the Draft. Plus, if you play decent enough you could get more scouts at your games if you go back to college.
Guys like George Hill at IUPUI, Courtney Pigram at East Tennessee State and Walter Sharpe at UAB are a few players who have realized this. Maybe they have a career game in a pre-draft camp, maybe they fit a specific team’s need, maybe some scout’s latte is spiked with angel dust and he hallucinates that you scored 55 points, grabbed 22 rebounds and swallowed a unicorn whole. WHO KNOWS WHAT WILL HAPPEN
So yeah, keep that in mind as we look at some of these folks.
Darrell Arthur- This is an interesting case because he’s probably already a lottery pick, and yet there is still work to be done. Signs of a mid-range jumper emerged late in the season, which is exactly what scouts were worried about, so the only thing left is probably some strength and overall polish. I think Arthur is a stud, quite frankly and I’m not sure how much better he can get next year at Kansas. He’s very quick and very fast for a power forward and has all the tools to be a go-to scorer once some post moves emerge. Sacramento and New Jersey should fight to the death for this man.
Mario Chalmers- Everyone in the NBA should want Chalmers as their back-up point. He’s probably not going to go as high as he wants, but he has no reason to go back.
Donte Greene- As a Syracuse fan, I obviously want him to come back. The Orange would be filthy next year if he did. And with a final month of the season that basically saw him shoot 25-footers from 30 minutes a game, you wouldn't think he'd be a lottery pick, which is probably what he wants. But the problem is, for me at least, that Greene is a 6-10 athlete with unlimited range and probably one of the top five offensive players in the draft if he stays in. He needs a lot of work, specifically on defense and rebounding, to play either forward spot in the pros, but I fear he's going to hear what he wants once GMs see him in workouts. (sigh).
Chase Budinger- It’s quite possible that Chase has peaked at the ripe old age of 20. The talent is there but if he goes back is he suddenly going to become a good defender or someone that actually cares about basketball 100 percent of the time? No, especially not on a team with a weird coaching situation and yet another incoming guard to steal shots and the spotlight. Budinger isn’t a lottery pick this year, but I don’t think he is next year either. He’s probably a 20-24 guy that will go higher because he’ll be a workout wonder. So I guess he should stay in.
Joe Alexander- I’m not sure what Alexander’s role is in the NBA. It appears his best quality is his scoring and he’s not going to be a go-to scorer in the NBA because there won’t be the mismatches he so frequently saw in college. So why do you draft him? Unless he improves his range out to the NBA three line, you don’t. He’s not an NBA starter right now and should probably go back to school, but I could still justify a playoff team taking him around No. 20 as a potential rotation guy. He and Budinger will have many workouts together, which will most certainly be followed by a friendly milkshake at the diner and some Scrabble.
JJ Hickson- Get the hell out of there JJ, while you still can. I was surprised he didn’t hire an agent right away. I’m assuming due to the atrociousness of the Wolf Pack last year, not enough NBA scouts know about him yet, which is why he might be skeptical of his position. But once he starts working out, he will rise on the draft boards. He needs to work on conditioning and his defense, but the potential to be a great scorer in the NBA is there. He’s a 15-20 guy right now and would be interesting on Philly or Washington.
Ryan Anderson- He’s like Alexander, except taller and better in my opinion. Most people don’t have this opinion. Chad Ford thinks he’s a bubble first-rounder and NBADraft.net doesn’t even think he’ll stay in the Draft, while Alexander is in most top 20s. Anderson is a guy that needs the right fit, an up tempo team with multiple forward options and a good point guard. Some people will say he’s a “tweener” but I don’t there really are tweener forwards anymore. He’s a small-ball power forward and with basically every team in the NBA making frequent use of a small line-up, Anderson could be a legit 15-point scorer pretty soon on a team that likes the pick and pop or has a go-to post scorer that attracts double teams. Teams in the 17-24 range that make sense are Toronto, Cleveland, Denver and (obviously) Utah.
Russell Westbrook- You’re gone Russ. Seriously don’t go back there; we need you in the NBA. I would take Westbrook over every guard in the Draft besides Rose and Mayo. He’s got perfect size, quickness and explosiveness for a combo guard in a league that has seen combo guards thrive under the new rules. He is already a great defender and if he can develop any type of consistent jumper, he will be an assassin. Some will say he needs to be more of a point guard but that would take away a lot of his value because he wouldn’t be going to the basket as much. I hate comparing players but he reminds me very much of Monta Ellis, who will be a top 25 NBA player soon. When all is said and done I expect Westbrook to be a Top 7 guy and end up as possibly one of the top three from this class looking back. So yeah, he should stay in the draft.
Jamont Gordon- Consider me a staunch Jamont Gordon supporter. The big point guard fits much better in the NBA than college because teams can't pack it in on you if you're not a great shooter, which Gordon is not, and guards can actually utilize a post game, which Gordon possesses. He’s going to have to cover shooting guards in the NBA though and is useless as a spot-up shooter off kick-outs, but I don’t see how a guy with his size, ball-handling and strength can’t be a major asset in the NBA. In terms of draft position, which you know, affects his well-being, he should go back, but for me, he is a perfect early-second round steal.
DeAndre Jordan- No one player’s value will be more disputed by me than Jordan. Obviously based on athleticism and size, he is a perfect NBA center. People will see Andrew Bynum and flip out and want to take him Top 10, which will keep him in the draft. But seriously, the guy was terrible last year. He couldn’t stay on the court, took bad shots and nearly all of his success was due to just being bigger and more athletic than everyone. In the right, patient organization he could be great but, man, how can you take someone this unproven in the age-minimum era? Either way, Dick Vitale’s head will explode over Jordan’s draft slot.
Antonio Anderson- Antonio knows exactly what I was talking about in the intro.
Robert Dozier- In cahoots with Antonio Anderson.
Marreese Speights- He could go back to Florida and be a Top 10 guy in 2009, but right now, he’s still pretty freaking good. He’s already got the prototypical NBA power forward body and will be able to hold his own athletically. Speights won’t be a post scorer in the League for another few years though, so whichever team between 12 and 17 takes him will need a viable starting option already.
AJ Abrams- He doesn’t really have any chance of making the first round unless teams are just foaming at the mouth to give a guaranteed contract to a guy whose ceiling is “Eddie House.” Come back and learn to play some point AJ, then we can talk.
Wayne Ellington- I can’t decide if Ellington is a sucky prospect or if he’s just equivalent to Rashad McCants (sadly, not this Rashad McCants). He’s a first-round bubble guy because he pales in comparison to guys like Brandon Rush and Chris Douglas-Roberts. His problem is he doesn’t do one thing exceptionally well and he is undersized. Again, returning to school isn’t going to help his stock that much, but it will be a weaker draft class next year and UNC would probably win the title. Oh, and something like this will still be in the realm of possibility for his life.
Danny Green- He’s actually a better pro prospect than his teammate Ellington because he has better size, long arms and more athleticism. Green sacrificed his numbers because he fit that sixth man role on UNC so well and I think he could eventually fill that role in the NBA. Plus there is the potential for him to be a defensive stopper on an opponent’s best wing player. For some reason I still feel like him, Ellington and Lawson already know they are going back and are just testing the waters in case some team makes a crazy promise. With Isiah Thomas and Billy Knight not in this draft, they shouldn’t hold their breath.
Ty Lawson- Unfortunately the lasting image of Lawson was him clearly not at full strength. He is really fast and a good playmaker, but there were some serious flaws evident this year. He can’t shoot, he has no mid-range game and he seemed to play smaller this year than his freshman year, if that makes any sense. He’s not an NBA starter, plain and simple. That being said, he is probably a late first-rounder, so that might be enough. I’d stay in school, try to get that swag back, win a title, ride some Psycho T coattail and be a Top 5 point in 2009’s class.
Alonzo Gee- Maybe next year.
Lee Cummard- Google search nightmare.
Kosta Koufos- I went all crazy over Koufos in the beginning of the year, as did many NBA scouts I’m sure. Then he basically hit the wall and realized they don’t take kindly to his kind in the college ranks. I still don’t see how a 7-1 power forward who can shoot and handle the ball will fail in the NBA, but I’m not sure he’s a lottery pick right now. Although once NBA scouts see a 7-1 kid nail threes over chairs in workouts, who knows. If he stays another year, he’s probably a lock for the Top 10.
Bill Walker- He can go back to KSU and be “the guy” for a year, which would make him a possible lottery pick in 2009 unless he is murdered by Frank Martin, Crazy Person. It’s impossible to know how the Beasley Effect changed his game. It could have either made him look much better because of the lack of attention or make him look much worse because touches were limited and he had to force everything just to get his numbers. I’d take him in the 20 to 25 range if I was a playoff team that could take a gamble. Oh, and this doesn't fly in the NBA.
Richard Hendrix- Reminds me of the Cedric Simmons, Hilton Armstrong, Josh Boone type as a guy who will be drafted too high by a team loaded with guards just because he is best big man available by default. In that case, he should stay! The NBA: Where multi-million dollar contracts given out by default Happens.
Lester Hudson- I love Lester and would love to waste a second-round pick on him.
Shawn James- Coming to a Turkish League near you.
Josh Carter- He’ll be back, although he probably won’t be happy about it, as the best player on a dismal-looking Aggie team next year. He can shoot and uh… shoot.
DeMarre Carroll- No idea.
Leo Lyons- Whatever you say, Leo.
Jerel McNeal- He is the type of guy that will always be undervalued because of his limitations (ball-handling, shooting) despite the potential to be a great role player in the NBA as a lock-down, Bruce Bowen-type defender. There’s no real reason for him to not come back for another year of college, but I’d put him on my NBA bench today.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute- Should probably go back to school but in doing so, would immediately risk breaking every bone in his body.
Jeremy Pargo- Prototypical undersized scoring guard. That used to mean you go undrafted, but in today’s NBA, you’re a valuable bench player. He’s actually very much like his brother Jannero, who is great for the Hornets, except stronger with a bit less range. He’s not going to gain anything from another year of college except maybe some more TV games, but he’s probably a 30-40 range guy that sneaks on a roster.
Trent Plaisted- Chad Ford says he could be a mid-to-late first rounder, which is insane. He’s got good post moves but is way too mechanical to be a consistent scorer and won’t be able to guard 80 percent of the 4s and 5s in the NBA. Some terrible franchise that is mesmerized by 7-footers (uh oh, Memphis has the Lakers pick) will take him if he stays.
Josh Shipp- Probably should have done this after last season. Might want to stay in the draft to avoid the embarrassment of losing his starting job with the Bruins next year.
Ronald Steele- Obviously he needs to go back but if I’m Steele (and particularly Steele’s knee), I am scared shitless of Alabama right now. I just hope people don’t forget how incredibly sick he was as a freshman.
Robert Vaden- Under-sized shooting guards who can only shoot make for great tenth and eleventh guys on NBA rosters. Live the dream Robert.
Last time I gave my 2008 lottery picks in no particular order, this time I am giving the guys on this list that would be lotto picks, barring a disaster, next year if they were to go back. And then also the guys who have already announced they are going back to school who will be lotto picks in 2009. And yes, this is pointless.
Blake Griffin (going back)
Austin Daye (going back)
Hasheem Thabeet (going back)
Tyler Hansbrough (going back)
Patrick Patterson (going back)