By Aran Smith
Blake Griffin 6-9 252 PF Oklahoma So.
Building on a tremendous freshman season in which he would have been the fourth pick in the 2008 draft, Blake has improved his body and skills tremendously.
The biggest addition to his game has been raising the level of his shooting ability from mid-range. Blake now looks confident shooting 12-15 foot jumpers, even showing the ability to go high off the glass ala Tim Duncan. His free throw shooting also has shown improvement.
There has been talk about this year's draft not having a player the caliber of the top two in each of the past two drafts (Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley) however Blake is showing that he can be a franchise type talent on the same level with those four.
His stats, so far, resemble last year's Big 12 player of the year (Beasley) and while he may lack Beasley's offensive prowess, his overall strength and strength of character give him more long term potential.
Griffin's loyalty, opting to return to school and in the process turning down millions of dollars to play alongside his brother Taylor (Griffin) and help Coach Jeff Capel continue to build up the Oklahoma program is just one example of his unique strength of character.
In a preseason interview, Coach Capel described what makes Blake so special: "Obviously he's been incredibly blessed with great talent. He's been blessed with great genes and a great body. But the other thing he's been blessed with is an incredible work ethic, and a desire to be really, really good. And it's not a phony desire. You know I don't think I've ever met a guy that doesn't want to be a good player. But so many guys are not willing to put in the time. And Blake does that. He's a guy that's fallen in love with the process of becoming great, of becoming the best he can be. And he does it in every aspect, from the way he eats, from the way he trains his body, from being in great shape to working on his body. And has such a desire, he plays so hard, so when you add all of those things up, and like I said from the beginning the talent that he's been blessed with, I think those are the things that make him such a special and unique talent."
With his amazing strength and skills, Griffin has the potential to be the top power forward in the league some day. This year's draft may lack the overall talent of recent years, but there's certainly a big prize at the top.
James Harden 6-5 220 SG Arizona St. So.
He is showing added offensive skills, with better shooting range and more aggressiveness going to the rim. At 25.5 ppg 7.3 rpg and 4.3 apg, Harden is dropping some video game numbers himself and has put his name among a short list of All American candidates. If he continues to play at or near this level, it will be difficult to leave him off the First Team All American lists, East Coast bias or not.
Scoring 32 and 40 points in back to back nights, in Anaheim, in front of a host of NBA scouts certainly drew the attention of those who previously had not considered him a top 3-5 pick. Against Baylor, Harden pulled them back into the game with numerous shots off the dribble and long range bombs in the second half. Although the Sun Devils suffered their only loss on the season, Harden's competitiveness and determination to keep them in the game was extremely impressive.
The following day Harden was completely in the zone scoring a season high 40 points on 6-7 from 3 and 14 of 25 overall against UTEP.
While his athleticism isn't on the level with the top NBA guys, his heart and determination will make him one of the top shooting guards at the next level someday.
According to a source close to the Sun Devils, Harden recently measured 6'4.25 barefoot meaning that he's a legit 6-foot-5 by NBA standards, (players are measured in shoes and normally gain an inch minimum) which for a SG is the magic number. He was also measured with a 6'7 wingspan, which is solid. The fact that he is listed in many places at 6'4 might have some fooled, but come June when official measurements take place, Harden's results will dispel any concerns about his lack of size.
Harden's tremendous basketball IQ and feel for the game have him drawing comparisons from scouts to former Pac-Ten and current NBA standout Brandon Roy. And while Harden lacks Roy's point guard abilities, he shares his winners mentality and ability to make his teammates better.
Hasheem Thabeet 7-3 265 C UConn Jr.
Thabeet may never be a true "offensive weapon", but having some confidence and being more NBA ready when he first enters the league greatly enhance his chances of becoming a factor. Thabeet's defensive skills are improved as well, as he has gained better discipline and instincts to stay on his feet and not fall for pump fakes and commit fouls.
Thabeet's dominant play, not only with his Shaq like dunks on school children, but his ability to convert on legit post moves; drop steps and turn around hooks is giving the impression that he may actually have some real offensive ability in the NBA some day. His defensive ability is a sure thing as many feel he can be something close to Dikembe Motumbo on the defensive end.
If he can sustain his current level of play, 14 ppg 10 rpg 4 bpg, Thabeet can be a top 3-5 pick in '09.
Cole Aldrich 6-10 250 PF/C Kansas So.
The champion Jayhawks lost a great deal of talent from last season, but retained one of the top bigmen prospects in the nation with Cole Aldrich. He;s got an intriguing combination of length and mobility. Aldrich's huge 7-5 wingspan makes him essentially a 7-footer despite being just 6-10, and his run jump ability is exceptional for a player his size.
Although his shooting motion lacks grace, he has proven to be a consistent shooter this year. Aldrich's excellent start to the season (14.4 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 2.8 bpg, 58 fg% 89 ft%) has been a big reason for Kansas excellent 7-1 start, and puts Aldrich in position to be a potential lottery pick in just his sophomore season.
Stephen Curry 6-1 180 PG Davidson Jr.
It's a foregone conclusion that Curry will struggle mightily to defend at the next level, due to his lack of great strength and athleticism. He also could be put in an impossible situation with a team looking for him to be a savior and deliver more than he can, particularly if he's taken too high.
Curry's incredible outside shooting ability makes him the perfect candidate to fill the JJ Redick role Orlando had envisioned when they chose him with the 11th pick, only Curry has much better quickness and shot speed to catch and release, as well as create shots for himself.
While it's highly unlikely Curry can be a full time PG at the next level, his 6.4 assists to 2.7 turnovers (2.34) is cause for optimism that he can play in spot duty. His 31.3 ppg currently leads the nation by 3 points a game.
If a team can use him in the right way, as a third or fourth option who spots up and spreads the floor, there's no reason to think Curry can't have an excellent NBA career, possibly even mirroring the tremendous career his father Dell had.
Jeff Teague 6-1 180 PG Wake Forest So.
Another player who has upped his game from last season, Jeff Teague has been a player we have loved since high school and he has exceeded all expectations with his quick development at Wake Forest.
He appears to be the top point guard prospect in the entire ACC, and while he still needs to work on his team management and ability to run a team, his scoring ability and athleticism give him NBA starter potential.
Teague had one of the dunks of the early season, also in Anaheim, dunking on Fullerton's athletic forward Gerard Anderson.
Teague's has fantastic numbers on the year with 20.6 ppg and 4.9 apg while shooting 52% fg, 57% 3p and 82% ft. If he can continue to develop his point guard skills, Teague has the potential to be a lottery pick by 2010.
Gani Lawal 6-9 233 PF G.Tech So.
That has carried over to this season as he has come in and been one of the top bigmen in the nation. He's currently averaging 19.8 and 11.3 with tougher foes on the horizon.
Lawal still has work to do on his game and would benefit by returning for his junior year. His free throw shooting is abysmal at 45%, but without a great deal of depth in this year's class he could find himself in the lottery if he can can maintain his current level of productivity. Lawal might just be the top bigman prospect in the entire ACC.
Kemba Walker 6-1 180 PG UConn Fr.
The PG/C combination of Kemba Walker and Hasheem Thabeet has to put some concern in the mind of UNC coach Roy Williams. While UNC has a more experienced and deeper squad than UConn, the Huskies might have the pieces to beat them. Walker's fast start, showing the ability to run the show and make great decisions, gives him, as well as the team, a lot of promise this season.
With such a disappointing start to the season for so many freshmen, Walker is climbing the ladder among freshman prospects. Walker's stats have trailed off some recently, and it's considered unlikely that he would jet after just one year in Storrs, but with the potential he's shown, Walker appears to be a lottery pick candidate in 2010.
"Hello My Name Is":
Paul George 6-7 190 SG/SF Fresno State Fr.
Fresno State freshman Paul George had his coming out party in a nationally televised game against St. Mary's with the Sportscenter dunk of the night. The under-recruited small forward has proven to be more than a just highlight reel athlete with his excellent play early in the season. Averaging 16 pts and 6 boards while shooting 54% fg and 44% from 3 through 7 games, George looks like a top 25 freshman prospect with the potential to be a 2 to 3 year and out first rounder.
Demar DeRozan 6-6 210 SG USC Fr.
DeRozan's 9.8 ppg on 43 fg% isnt dreadful but it isn't exactly filling the top 3 projection that many had for him before the season.
Some are beginning to wonder if he might be better off waiting for his sophomore year to enter the league as right now he doesn't have the skill level to bring anything of substance to an NBA team. In essence it would be like drafting a high schooler based on potential.
On the bright side, it's early in the season, and every time out is a learning experience for him. Right now he doesn't seem to have any clue what to do without the ball in his hands.
Pulling out some old footage of Reggie Miller's off ball activity, running defenders off screens and learning the nuances of timing to get open would be of great service to him. He's got the potential to be an excellent offensive player as he has shown the skills to knock down outside shots. But if he can't develop offensively, he could enter the league as another Gerald Green, only with a year of college experience under his belt.
DeRozan would likely be best served to bypass the urge to be a one and done guy and work at developing his skills, but indications are he will look to get paid sooner than later. It will be interesting to see how he develops as the season progresses.
AJ Price 6-2 180 PG UConn Sr.
Price appears to be slow to bounce back from the horrific knee injury that ended his and the Huskies season last year against San Diego. Price's scoring numbers are way down (14.5 to 8.1) so too are his efficiency from the field (44% to 34%). The emergence of aforementioned point guard Kemba Walker has obviously cut into Price's minutes and productivity, however his effectiveness and confidence appear to have waned on their own.
Price's A/TO ratio has also seen a steep decline (2.5 to 1.5). It's early and with a team that has a real chance to make the final four and even win the title, Price's stock has a chance to climb as the season progresses. But right now, it appears Price has fallen from a potential first rounder to a likely mid to late 2nd rounder.
Gerald Henderson 6-4 210 SG Duke Jr.
Now in his third season at Duke, Henderson has been slow to live up to the potential he showed coming out of high school. Maybe it's the Duke system that limits top athletes to a degree or maybe it's Henderson's lack of confidence and development in his outside shooting. Whatever the case, the projected preseason lottery pick has struggled early in the season with his consistency.
Sophomore Kyle Singler has taken over as the team's offensive focus, and while Henderson is surely a featured player, he has not had a great start to the season. In Duke's recent loss to Michigan, Henderson got in foul trouble and ultimately fouled out after just 19 minutes.
Henderson's numbers will need to improve (10.3 ppg, 43 fg%, 36 3p%) if he wants to secure a spot in the mid-first round in his junior year.
Austin Daye 6-10 200 SF Gonzaga So.
His offseason took a lousy turn when he injured his knee on a fall at the LeBron camp early in the summer. The good news was he hadn't torn his ACL, which was the initial diagnosis, but the injury did keep him off the court for much of the summer and slowed his physical and basketball progression.
He has put on some weight since last season but the improvement has not given him the strength and athleticism to get to the rim and finish. He still appears to be a guy that will struggle to add weight and carry much additional weight without seeing a drop off in mobility.
The sophomore Zag is currently playing with a knee brace which might be merely a security blanket, but decreases his appeal in scouts eyes. According to sources, Daye would like to enter the draft after this season, but there's no guarantee he'd be a first rounder. His stats are down, and outside of his great length and tremendous shooting ability, he has a lot of question marks surrounding his game.
Daye's lack of explosiveness and strength makes it easier for defenders to play his shot on the perimeter and dare him to drive by them. While his ball handling is excellent, his first step is below average and his ability to finish is decreased by his lack of explosiveness.
We'll see if David Stern can fine some way to rig the draft so that the Oklahoma City Thunder can pick local boy Blake Griffin with the number 1 pick...LeBron going to his home-area Cavaliers reminded us that there is basketball in Cleavland...if Griffin does go to the Thunder to team up with the young talent Durant, Green, Westbrook, along with all the salary cap space they'll have this off season this could very possibly look like a nice little team to watch for next season.
These guys are also rising.
Although he is not scoring as proficiently as some hoped, his defense is profound. He is definitely a work in progress. If I were him I would stay 2 more years.
where is he??????????????????????????
I think its terrible that you guys don't have him "Rising" on this list or on the "Mock Draft", especially since the game he had against G'Town. I know his percentage wasn't the best but when they needed a bucket he scored or created an opportunity for his team to. I don't understand how you guys have Demar DeRozan getting picked 14 and Tyreke is not even on the list. When you compare the numbers and the overall talent I don't think its really close. Tyreke is a much better scorer, shooter, and defender. Evans is putting up 16.7ppg, 6rpg, and 2.7spg, as oppose to DeRozan's 9.8ppg, 4.4rpg, and 0.8spg. The comparison is not really that close. Tyreke's putting up better numbers then Brandon Jennings who's going 5th in your Draft. He's been terrible overseas putting up 8.4ppg, 1.3apg (mind you he's a PG) and 1.4rpg. All Im saying is if your going to have these guys on your Mock Draft then give Tyreke Evans some respect because he deserves to be up there too.....
These new age looks like their going to make it on the top. All of them has their own style of playing.
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His free throw shooting is abysmal at 45%, but without a great deal of depth in this year's class he could find himself in the lottery if he can can maintain his current level of productivity.
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Griffin apparently broke his kneecap during the Clippers' final exhibition game against New Orleans last Friday, perhaps after a dunk that left the power forward wincing in pain. The team initially said Griffin only had a sore left knee, making him questionable for the opener, before revealing the break.
Griffin was the consensus college player of the year with 22.7 points and an NCAA-best 14.4 rebounds per game last season for the Sooners.
It is so nice .Thank you for sharing.Good post.
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