Pac-10 Conference: Top NBA Prospects
By Michael DeStefano
Top 5 Prospects:
UCLA has dominated the Pac-10 for a while now, having been to three consecutive Final Fours. Tim Floyd landed another stud recruiting class as USC looks to take another step forward while Arizona was poised for a return to prominence before Brandon Jennings went abroad. Although not as deep as some of the other conferences in terms of the number of quality players, the Pac-10 is at the top in terms of potential lottery picks and NBA stars.
- James Harden (Arizona
State) – Harden’s stellar freshman campaign went largely unnoticed
by the rest of the country as he played in the shadow of fellow newcomers
Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, and the Pac-10’s own OJ Mayo, Kevin Love,
and Jerryd Bayless. Despite the lack of national attention, you can bet that the
Pac-10 took notice, with Harden putting up 18 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists,
and 2 steals per game on 53% shooting (41% from 3.) He’s the best shooting
guard prospect in the nation, a bit of a throwback in the way he uses fundamentals
and intelligence to beat his opponent more often than flash and athleticism. He’s
great finishing around the basket (he needs
to improve his right hand, however). He’s a good jump shooter but needs
to work on his ability to hit consistently off the dribble. He’s a solid
defender, but not a standout. One of the youngest players in his class, Harden
is still learning and improving. He’ll likely be a top five pick in June, and possibly the
first shooting guard off the board.
- Demar Derozan
(USC) – Prediction: He’ll be the best NBA player of anyone
on this list. Not the #1 prospect because he’s yet to prove anything
at this level, it’s only a matter of time before the world knows Derozan’s
name. He’s drawn comparisons to Vince Carter
due to his outstanding athleticism and jump shot. His body is NBA ready, and
jumping ability aside, he's also got a quick first step and great body
control when finishing at the rim. His handle is good, though his one-on-one
defense is still questionable, his athleticism enables him to block shots
and jump passing lanes for easy steals. Derozan is a surefire one-and-done.
The biggest knock on him is that he sometimes goes through the motions;
hence, the Carter comparison – but if he can play inspired basketball
for Tim Floyd and sustain a high level of play all season, he could be a top
- Jrue Holiday (UCLA)
– Another one of the top freshman in the country, Holiday joins a loaded
UCLA backcourt in the hopes of leading them to a fourth consecutive Final
Four. Where Derozan’s heart has come into question, Holiday’s
is one of his greatest strengths. He’s got a great work ethic and attitude
to go along with his talent and versatility. He’s athletic (though not
on Derozan’s level) and exhibits good fundamentals on the court. His
jump shot is solid out to the college line, he’s got a mid-range game,
and he can get to the basket and finish well. A combo guard, Holiday can also
run a team and make the players around him better. The combo guard label had
been a negative thing in the past, but with the success of players like Dwyane
Wade, Monta Ellis, Louis Williams, and Rodney Stuckey, guys who can play at
both backcourt positions have become valuable commodities. While Holiday needs
to continue to hone his point guard skills, he’s the best combo the
college ranks has to offer. A one-and-done possibility if he has a great year
at UCLA, Holiday is more likely a top five pick in 2010.
- Chase Budinger
(Arizona) – Chase is back for his junior year at Arizona after passing
on two drafts in which he could have been a first-round pick. Last year, he
averaged 17 points and 5 rebounds per game. Jerryd Bayless left for the NBA
and Brandon Jennings went to Europe, so although the Wildcats might struggle
to win games, Chase will have the opportunity to put up big numbers and show
he can be the man on this team. He’s got size, athleticism, and a strong
work ethic to go along with his feathery jump shot. He won’t be the
biggest name in the 2009 Draft but certainly should be a lottery pick and
able to contribute right away in the NBA.
- Darren Collison (UCLA) – Collison’s stock took a beating last year after getting dominated by Derrick Rose in the Final Four, but he is still a solid point guard who can run a team and play defense. Jrue Holiday and Malcolm Lee will help to relieve some of the pressure on Collison, but if he is not careful, he could be leapfrogged by the two talented freshmen in the UCLA backcourt. He needs to get much stronger to make a significant impact at the next level. It will take a great season, particularly in the tournament, for Collison to improve his stock, though he is still slated as a late first-round pick.
Others receiving consideration: Jordan
Hill (Arizona), Jeff
Pendergraph (ASU), Quincy
Pondexter (Washington), Jon
Brockman (Washington), Malcolm
Lee (UCLA), Jerime Anderson
Sleeper: Patrick Christopher (California) - The Pac-10 has no newcomers that will take you by surprise; everyone expects great things from the freshman in this conference. But Patrick Christopher is a name that college basketball fans around the country might not know despite the fact that he averaged over 15 points per game last year as a sophomore for the Golden Bears. Ryan Anderson and Devon Hardin are gone, so this is Christopher’s team; look for his production to increase significantly. His draft stock is still considerably low seeing as how he is somewhat of an unknown, but a season with solid numbers in the Pac-10 should put him on the map in the eyes of fans and NBA scouts alike. He needs to improve his outside shooting, become more consistent finishing around the basket, and produce better in other areas besides scoring.
I love John Brockman, but I just dont think he deserves nba consideration. The guy is a less skilled and has less potential than luke harangody. He cant shoot, especially from the foul line (50%), he has minimal post moves (simply overpowers pac-10 big men with stregth which wont work at the next level), and has no athleticism. He is a great college player (most likely an all-american), but he has no pro potential. In terms of nba draft stock, the list for UW should go:
1. Pondexter- Has nba body and athleticism, but has mental lapses and struggles shooting the ball.
2. Isaiah Thomas- The next Nate Robinson!
3. Justin Dentmon- Plays hard on both ends of the court, shows the L Romar toughness, and has decent quickness, playmaking ability, and shooting.
What about the possibility of Aaron Baynes playing at the next level. I think he is very comparable to Aaron Gray from Pitt, who is now contributing solid minutes for Chicago. 7-footers are hard to come by, and although baynes does not have much athleticism, he has good footwork and touch around the basket. He does not garner much recognition at the collegiate level, this may be due to his relatively average statistics. This is more of a function of the system (slow paced, methodical) that he is playing in rather than his overall abilities. I think that he'll have a strong season in the pac-10 now that kyle weaver and derick low have graduated, and will push for nba consideration by the end of the year.