Big-10 Conference: Top NBA Prospects
By Michael DeStefano
Top 5 Prospects:
While the Big 10 lacks a great deal of depth when it comes to NBA prospects, they caught one big fish: BJ Mullens, and have a number of other first round candidates at the wing positions. Here are the Big 10's best hopefuls for the NBA:
Mullens (Ohio State) - Mullens comes into Ohio State as the third
straight top rated prep center to commit to the Buckeyes, and will attempt
to be the 2nd in three years to go #1 overall as he figures to compete with
Oklahoma's Blake Griffin for the top spot in the 2009 NBA Draft. He's got
size and polish around the basket; and possesses NBA strength and stand out
athleticism for a 7-footer; as well as a solid basketball IQ and fundamentals.
There are few weaknesses to his game right now, which is unbelievable considering
how young he is. The only weakness is in his attitude; some analysts /scouts
say that he doesn't have a killer instinct, but that can be attributed to
age and playing against inferior competition in high school. Thad Matta will
make sure that he plays hungry and focused every night, so his attitude shouldn't
be a concern come draft time.
Morgan (Michigan State) - Morgan had a breakout season last year,
leading the team in scoring (14 per game) and finishing second in rebounding
(6 per game). For his efforts, he was a 2nd Team All Big-Ten Selection
and was voted co-MVP of the team along with Drew Neitzel. Now, Neitzel is
gone, so Morgan must assume more of a leadership role while also increasing
his production across the board. He's got a great body for an NBA small forward,
he rebounds well for his size, and is a very efficient scorer (56% from the
field last year). However, his numbers defensively are awfully low for a team
that prides itself on that end of the floor. Morgan will be the man for Michigan
State this year, so expect his numbers to go up across the board. Leading
a good Spartan team (with two freshman that figure to play significant roles)
to success in the Big Ten plus improved scoring and defensive numbers should
cement his place as a first round pick in 2009.
Harris (Michigan) - The casual college basketball fan might not know
his name yet, but Harris is a stud in the Big Ten. As a freshman last year,
he averaged more than 16 points per game for a Michigan program on the rise.
A combo guard with nice upside, he lacks a true position in the pros right
now. He doesn't shoot well enough yet to be a shooting guard (38% FG, 31%
from 3), and he doesn't run a team well enough to be a point guard. He needs
to improve his shooting percentages and cut down on turnovers to become a
first round pick in the future. The potential is there (although likely not
for the '09 draft). How high he goes in the first round when he decides to
enter the draft will depend on how much improvement he shows in those areas.
- Hummel did some nice things in his freshman year for the Boilermakers who
got quality seasons from E'Twaun Moore and Keaton Grant as well. Hummel was
the leading rebounder and second leading scorer for a Purdue team that is
looking to compete with OSU and MSU for the top spot in the Big Ten this year.
He's a great shooter and a smart player who always plays hard. He doesn't
have the mentality of a go-to scorer, which could hurt his draft stock down
the road, but he has plenty of time to step into that role. Right now, it
seems like he'll be a four- year player for Purdue, so look for steady development
from the small forward.
- William Buford (Ohio State) - The second Buckeye freshman to appear on this list, Buford will come in and contribute immediately, replacing departed senior Jamar Butler as their main scoring threat on the perimeter. A big-time scorer in high school, Buford has great mechanics on his jump shot and can put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways. He's an athletic marvel, with excellent leaping ability. He doesn't take many bad shots and has no problem playing unselfishly, which is good seeing as how most of the offense will be going through Mullens this year. With Mullens, David Lighty, and Evan Turner garnering most of the attention, Buford has the opportunity to step into a low-pressure situation and thrive. His handle and body need improvement, but the McDonald's All-American is on the NBA radar and could be a big name in college basketball in a couple years.
Sleeper: E'Twaun Moore (Purdue) - Though not the best NBA prospect on his team, Moore is the star for the Boiler Makers. He's style and substance, leading Purdue in scoring (almost 13 per game) and minutes (31 per game) as a freshman last year. He finished second on the team in assists, although he needs to improve at making his teammates better if he hopes to make it to the NBA. At 6'3, he is a point guard at the next level, so 2.6 assists per game will not cut it. On the positive side, he shot almost 44% from beyond the arc and showed the ability to get to the basket with his handle. This team surprised a lot of people last year when two freshmen and a sophomore led them to a second place conference finish and a 25-9 record overall, including a victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Moore was a huge reason for their success and figures to be a big part of it again this year. While an increase in his scoring is inevitable, he'll need to do all the other little things that NBA guards do to help his team win.
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