ACC Conference: Top NBA Prospects
By Michael DeStefano
After a down year draft wise, the ACC is back. After producing just one first rounder in 2008 (JJ Hickson), (and 4 picks overall) the Atlantic Coast Conference figures to get 5-6 players in the first round in 2009.
Just four ACC teams made the tourney last year and outside of UNC, the conference was considerably weak. This year things should get back to normal. North Carolina returns four starters (3 are on this list) and comes into the season as the heavy favorite to win the National Championship. Duke is (top 5) good, a veteran team with a Hall-of-Fame coach that brought respect back to USA Basketball in Beijing this summer. Wake Forest is on the verge of great things thanks to three talented underclassmen, and Miami has the talent to make some noise as well. Clemson won’t surprise anyone like they did last year and might struggle with significant senior losses, but don’t count them out.
Aside from having the best teams in the country, the ACC also has the most NBA talent. Many players in this conference will find themselves on an NBA roster within the next few years; however, it’s doubtful that more that a few of them will ever find themselves in an NBA starting lineup. While these players have the skills to play at the next level, this conference lacks the superstar talent of some of the other conferences. Some of these players will be lottery picks, but becoming an All-Star down the road seems unrealistic for most of these players.
Top 5 Prospects:
Henderson (Duke) – He’s got good size and strength for an
NBA 2-guard. He’s one of the most athletic players in the country and
he’ll be an excellent defender in the NBA from Day 1. Nevertheless,
Henderson needs to improve his jump shot and ball-handling if he wants to
become anything more than a defensive specialist in the pros. A solid season
against ACC competition will draw Henderson consideration toward the end of
- Gani Lawal (Georgia
Tech) – The former McDonald’s All-American averaged only about
seventeen minutes per game this past season. Furthermore, scouts are hesitant
when dealing with 6’8 power forwards and the dreaded “undersized”
label. None of that matters when discussing Lawal, whose wingspan (7’1)
and strength makes up for any lack of size. Right now, his defense is ahead
of his offense, but his great work ethic and attitude show that he has the
right mindset to improve on his weaknesses. Even with his limited playing
time, he led the Yellow Jackets in blocks and field goal percentage and looks
to break out in his second year after an impressive summer of putting on much
needed muscle. He’ll likely need more development after this year, but
expect to hear Lawal’s name called within the first ten picks in 2010.
- Wayne Ellington
(UNC) – Of the two guards, Ellington is as refined as they come.
Scouts quickly fall in love with his smooth jump shot and deadly mid-range
game, but questions remain about his ability to overcome his lack of standout
athletic ability and size. He measured very well in Orlando: 6'5 with a 6'7
wingspan which is probably bigger than Gerald Henderson. His quickness and
agility is very good, and with the success of a number of smaller 2-guards,
Ellington finds himself in solid standing. Although his teammates receive
more hoopla, Ellington has the most NBA potential of anyone on the top team
in the nation.
Lawson (UNC) – Detractors have been saying the same things about
Lawson’s game for years. He’s a liability on defense because of
his lack of height. He’s a liability on offense because of his lack
of a consistent jump shot. Now, the rebuttals: He makes up for his small stature
with incredible strength, which will make it difficult for bigger NBA guards
to post him up. And his jump shot is good enough. Rajon Rondo started at the
point for the defending NBA champions with a suspect jump shot, so there’s
no reason to believe the same can’t happen for Lawson. He is a fast
break waiting to happen with incredible speed and vision. His court awareness
and passing ability make him effective in the half court and terrifying in
transition. He’ll go toward the end of the first round, probably to
a run-and-gun team that fits his preferred style of play.
- Tyler Hansbrough
(UNC) – It seems absurd that the man who swept the National Player
of the Year awards and led the ACC in both scoring and rebounding is last
on this list. But when you watch Tyler Hansbrough, he just doesn’t look
like an NBA player. He’s not a great athlete, he’s undersized
at 6’8, with short arms, and his game looks extremely awkward at times.
The possibility of becoming a solid rotational player in the NBA is there;
he shoots free throws extremely well for a big man (80% last year), which
is good because he gets there a lot. He is a beast on the glass and plays
every game like it’s his last. Potential superstar? Not quite. Potential
future Sixth Man of the Year? You never know. His heart and production will
be enough for some team to come calling in the final third of the first round.
Others receiving consideration: Kyle
Singler (Duke), Nolan Smith
(Duke), Jeff Teague (Wake Forest),
James Johnson (Wake Forest),
Tony Woods (Wake Forest), Grievis
Vasquez (Maryland), Jack
McClinton (Miami), Dwayne
Collins (Miami), Brandon
Costner (NC State)
Top Newcomer: Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest) – The best NBA prospect in the conference, Aminu makes Wake Forest a legitimate threat in the ACC alongside sophomores Jeff Teague and James Johnson. Physically, he’s got a long wingspan, above-average athleticism, and great agility for someone his size. Adding muscle would be a plus, but it’s not as vital for Aminu as it is for other potential lottery picks. In terms of basketball skills, there isn’t anything this kid doesn’t do. He has beautiful form on his jump shot, and he has great moves around the basket. He can handle the ball like a guard but rebounds like a seven-footer. And what every coach and scout loves to hear: he works hard and plays with great focus and intensity. He showed his immense talent on national television last year, outplaying fellow All-American Greg Monroe on ESPN. Those skills will be on display on a nightly basis this year. Wake Forest goes from a nice surprise to one of the best teams in the ACC, and Aminu becomes a top five pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.
DON'T LIKE LAWSON ON THE NEXT LEVEL, AGAINST KANSAS IN THE TOURNAMENT HE WAS TERRIBLE UNDER PRESSURE. HANSBROUGH HAS NO POST MOVES AND CANT PLAY AWAY FROM THE BASKET. GREAT DESIRE AND HUSTLE. ELLINGTON HAS THE MOST GAME OF THE THREE, BUT HAS TO SHOW MORE OF AN ALL AROUND GAME FOR THE NEXT LEVEL
I agree that lawson is not much more than a backup pg in the NBA. He is a shorter, quicker version of raymond felton who cant shoot, and is not a creator. He excells in the open court, but lets face it, he's not going to be able to run past everyone at the next level. Hansbrough is a good energy player lacking in athleticism along the lines of a carl landry/leon powe/brandon bass. NBA scouts have shown hesitancy to accept ellington as anything more than a late first-round prospect. Maybe this is because of the lack of production from jj redick in Orlando who, like ellington, has a sweet stroke from long-distance. However, I think ellington is a more versitile player with room for development. He has a nice feel for the game, but could use work on strength and defense.
What about my man Tyrese? Any chance he could have any impact at the next level if he shows some consistency at the pg position and on defense? The guy can flat out score, and I could see him as a Mo Williams type player in the NBA, or at least Salim Stoudamire.