Wednesday, June 17, 2009

NBA draft guide: talent overview

By Rick Morris

Since FDH began co-producing our draft guides with Sportsology and Card Corner Club last year, we have also been serializing the features that will be involved in it. By the end of this week, HOOPS DRAFTOLOGY 2009 will be available for free download.

With this segment, we examine what is unfortunately a very poor draft relative to what we have seen in most recent years.

2009 NBA Draft Talent Overview: Griffin Aside, Mighty Bleak Indeed!

In an NBA Draft this depleted in terms of sure-fire stars, it’s almost fitting that the only legitimate one is headed for a SoCal-based team responsible for crushing more hopes and dreams than the Hollywood casting couch.

Oklahoma PF Blake Griffin possesses undeniable franchise-player ability, but his ability to develop further will be seriously challenged by the Clippers’ logjam at forward — as well as the very concept of being drafted by the Clippers themselves. He heads up an average power forward class that will see only one other player designated as a certain lottery pick (Arizona’s Jordan Hill). Two other players trying to shake the damning-with-faint-praise description as “great college players,” UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough and Pittsburgh’s DeJuan Blair, should go in the early part of the non-lottery portion of the proceedings. They do project as excellent rotation players over the long haul and are the only other ones who can rest easy that their names will be called during the first round.

If the marquee player’s position in this bad draft qualifies as the average one in the event, how do the other ones rate? In a nutshell, the backcourt positions are both a tad better, while the other frontcourt positions are either a little worse (small forward) or much, much worse (center).

^ Point Guard: Spain’s Ricky Rubio is the keynote talent here and would likely be tagged as the second overall pick in the draft had a team other than Memphis landed in the spot. Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn and high-schooler-turned-Europro Brandon Jennings bring lottery-quality flash and upside to the position, while tweener Stephen Curry is turning enough heads with his shooting and his bloodlines to be certain of a Top 10 slotting. UCLA”s Jrue Holliday may also sneak into the lottery, despite his rawness. Later in the round, low-ceiling-but-safe Ty Lawson from UNC should end up in a nice situation with a good team, while Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague seems very likely to go in the first round. UCLA’s Darren Collison and VCU’s Eric Maynor also have a chance to be taken before the end of the first round.

^ Shooting Guard: Arizona State’s James Hardin is a lock to be the first “2” taken off the board, somewhere in the top four overall, with USC’s DeMar DeRosan and Memphis’s Tyreke Evans trailing close behind. Duke’s Gerald Henderson could crack the lottery, as could Arizona’s Chase Budinger (less likely), with a host of other shooting guards looking to drop between picks 20-30 (Louisville’s Terrence Williams, LSU’s Marcus Thornton, UNC’s Wayne Ellington, Temple’s Dionte Christmas and Florida State’s Toney Douglas)

^ Shooting Forward: Few if any NBA teams can count on an impact upgrade from this position and it is possible that there will not be a “3” taken with a lottery pick. Wake Forest’s James Johnson could well be the first to go based on potential, with Louisville’s Earl Clark, Gonzaga’s Austin Daye and potentially Pittsburgh’s Sam Young being drafted in that vicinity. Other than Israel’s Omar Casspi, there are no other first round near-locks.

^ Center: The toughest position in terms of finding talent year in and year out is truly a “black hole of suckage” in 2009. UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet will go between picks 2-4 overall and is being compared to Dikembe Mutombo in terms of UPSIDE! ‘Nuff said. Other than him, only Ohio State’s BJ Mullins, an offensively-talented 7-footer coming off of a disappointing freshman year, can count on a first-round selection.

The dropoff from Griffin to the next player, likely Rubio, is severe in terms of projecting numerous certain All-Star selections — which, health permitting, would in a normal year be quite likely for at least a few high lottery picks. There are potentially 8-10 players in this draft capable of pulling intermittent All-Star designations during their career if they go through an immense amount of development. It is scant exaggeration to say that most of the players in the top ten would be going at least five slots lower in a normal year and players beyond the top ten would be going no less than ten slots lower in a normal year. In a league that tries to use the draft process to even out the overall talent distribution, this year’s class won’t even come close to accomplishing that.

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