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Final Four: Top NBA Prospects

Thu, 04/03/2008 - 9:27am

By Kevin Duffy
4/3/08

With an unprecedented four No. 1 seeds, the amount of individual talent in this year’s Final Four is at an all time high. Never before have so many big-time NBA prospects been on display. Aside from the actual outcomes of the games, this weekend will be huge in determining where the following 12 potential first-round picks get drafted -- and also when they decide to declare. So without further adieu, here are the top three prospects from each of the four Blue Bloods in this weekend’s Final Four.

[img_assist|nid=3383|title=Derrick Rose - Icon SMI|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=450]Derrick Rose PG Memphis

Ever since Michael Beasley posted his first 20/20 game, he has been considered the clear-cut No.1 draft choice for 2008. Rose, who has been virtually locked into the No. 2 spot all year, is playing his best basketball to date and could make a strong push for the top spot with a dominating performance in the Final Four. His superior end-to-end speed and court vision make him one of the best point guard prospects to come along in years. Add in Rose's LeBron James-esque strength and leaping ability and the sky is truly the limit for this talented freshman.

Strong Final Four: No. 1 overall.
Weak Final Four: No. 2 overall.
Likely Year to Declare: 2008

Russell Westbrook PG UCLA

No one has improved their stock this season as much as Westbrook. He's strong, explosive, plays terrific defense, and has a ton of raw talent in terms of ball handling and scoring. His ability to get out in the open floor and fearlessly attack the basket is absolutely breathtaking. Westbrook could use another year of college to polish his point guard skills, but there’s something to be said for striking while the iron is hot.

Strong Final Four: Top 10 pick in 2008.
Weak Final Four: 12-20 range
Likely Year to Declare: 2008

Kevin Love PF UCLA

There is no bigger mystery in the draft than Love. He's dominated college basketball, but there are questions about how well his game will translate to the NBA. Love certainly isn't the run-jump athlete that some of the other big men prospects are, but it's rare to find a forward with Love's physical presence, basketball IQ and shooting range. Aside from his skills, his stats and big name will get one team to grab him perhaps a little earlier than it should, and sticking around Westwood too long could expose his lack of upside some.

Strong Final Four: 8-12 range.
Weak Final Four: Late Lottery to Mid-1st round.
Likely Year to Declare: 2008

Darrell Arthur PF Kansas

There are a few players whose numbers suggest they'd be ranked ahead of Arthur, but the fact that Arthur plays in such a balanced system has limited his exposure to some extent. He is a freak athlete with a good build, long arms, and fairly well-developed skills. Arthur may blend in with the rest of the Jayhawks, but he is sure to “wow” scouts and coaches in pre-draft workouts. Regardless of whether Kansas wins it all, it is sure to lose a few players next season, which could mean an increase in Arthur's role on offense. This could be the deciding factor in his decision to either declare or return to school.

Strong Final Four: 9-14 range.
Weak Final Four: 15-22 range.
Likely Year to Declare: 2008

Darren Collison PG UCLA

Collison is perhaps the best point guard in the nation. His long arms and quick feet make him a lock-down defender, and he's taken strides on the offensive end this season. The only thing keeping Collison out of the lottery right now is his slight build (6-foot-1, 170 lbs) and perceived lack of experience. He's had a tremendous season, answering the bell numerous times late in the year, and of the three Bruins is the most likely to enter the draft this year.

Strong Final Four: Late lottery.
Weak Final Four: 15-22 range.
Likely Year to Declare: 2008

Wayne Ellington SG North Carolina

There is no substitute for someone who can shoot. And despite standing only 6-foot-4, Ellington can find the bottom of the net from just about anywhere on the court. He's not the best player on his college team (probably third when Ty Lawson is 100 percent), but Ellington has the most pro potential of any Tar Heel. He has been featured on NBADraft.net's 2009 mock draft all year, until he recently found a spot at No. 25 in the 2008 mock. Whether he decides to return to school depends almost entirely on what happens this weekend. If he shoots the ball well and leads North Carolina to a championship, he'll certainly leave. But should the heels go down, he may be forced to return to school or face uncertainty about landing in the first round.

Strong Final Four: Top 20.
Weak Final Four: Bubble 1st round.
Likely Year to Declare: 2009

Joey Dorsey PF Memphis

Calling Joey Dorsey strong is like calling Rick Majerus slightly overweight. Dorsey is a monster on the interior, with strength and athleticism that will intimidate NBA centers. Dorsey's offensive skills are extremely underdeveloped, but a player with his physical attributes make him an intriguing prospect nonetheless. He currently sits at No. 28 on NBADraft.net's mock draft, and that probably is as high as he will go given his lack of offense and the depth of big men in this year's draft.

Strong Final Four: Late 1st round.
Weak Final Four: Early 2nd round.

*Senior

Tyler Hansbrough PF North Carolina

If Dick Vitale was the GM of the Miami Heat, Hansbrough would be getting ready to become a very, very rich man. Unfortunately, NBA scouts aren't as high on Hansbrough as some college basketball analysts, but the truth is Hansbrough will find a way into the league because he's simply too determined not to. He'll struggle to score inside against taller, more athletic forwards, but his jumpshot continues to progress and Hansbrough could be a guy who makes a living off of garbage points and 15-foot jumpers. I'd pencil him in for the 2009 draft now, but if UNC wins it all, it wouldn't be surprising to see him pull a Sean May and enter his name when his stock is at its peak.

Strong Final Four: Top 20
Weak Final Four: Late 1st round.
Likely Year to Declare: 2009

Ty Lawson PG North Carolina

Lawson is an absolute jet at point guard. He's built like a running back and has end to end speed that would terrorize NBA defenses if he's put into the right system. Unfortunately, Lawson has some major flaws as well. He is only around 5-foot-11 and has a low release point on his jumpshot, he also shows a tendency to play out of control. While some argue that Tony Parker gets by with some of those same flaws, Lawson isn't nearly as creative around the basket as Parker, and as a result he could struggle in the NBA.

Strong Final Four: 18-23 range.
Weak Final Four: Late 1st round.
Likely Year to Declare: 2009

Chris Douglas-Roberts SG Memphis

CDR isn't overly explosive, but has excellent length and can score in a variety of ways. Truthfully, his game fits college basketball a little better than it does the NBA, and his lack of NBA 3-point range and body strength will probably keep him out of the first round whenever he decides to declare. Despite his excellent shooting numbers, he benefits greatly playing with such an outstanding set up guy as Derrick Rose. Regardless, Douglas-Roberts is an experienced scorer who can put the ball in the basket in many ways, and has the length to match-up with NBA swingmen. CDR is one of those guys who does everything well, but nothing extraordinary, but should become a solid role player at the next level.

Strong Final Four: Late 1st to early 2nd round.
Weak Final Four: Early to middle 2nd round (probably would return to school)
Likely Year to Declare: 2008

Mario Chalmers SG Kansas

Chalmers has been highly effective all season with great quickness and range on his jumpshot. Offensively, he's taken strides this year and he's always been a pesky on-ball defender. The only real issue with Chalmers is his ability to run a team. At 6-foot-2 170 pounds, he doesn't have ideal size for an NBA shooting guard, and he lacks the playmaking skills to be an effective lead guard at the next level. Common wisdom would suggest Chalmers will be a second-round pick, but with an absolute lights out performance this weekend he could sneak into the first round.

Strong Final Four: Late 1st to early 2nd round.
Weak Final Four: Mid to late 2nd round. (probably would return to school)
Likely Year to Declare: 2009

Brandon Rush SG Kansas

After suffering a torn ACL last season, Rush has bounced back nicely and been a big piece to Kansas' Final Four run. He has an NBA body and athleticism, but you get the feeling that he'll never grow into anything more than a slightly above-average player. That's not such a bad thing, but if Rush combined his physical tools with brother Kareem's jumpshot and JaRon's (remember him) versatility, we'd be looking at a lottery pick. Rush shows a lot of upside, but he has never proven that he can step up in important situations and lead the Jayhawks to victory. If he does this, he can be picked in the first round this year.

Strong Final Four: Late 1st to early 2nd round.
Weak Final Four: Early to mid 2nd round (probably would return to school)
Likely Year to Declare: 2008

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