When looking at the available players in the NBA Draft pool, GMs look at their potential targets the same way we look at a dinner menu. You have your safer picks, your "chicken parms" if you will, and then you have your more risky but high rewarding dishes like your sauteed goat and asparagus. With the chicken parm, you know what your going to get, while the goat can go both ways- either deliciously mouth watering, or simply a mistake. Below I put together a list of the highest risk/reward players looking to be ordered, or drafted later this week on draft night…
Lance Stephenson – "Born Ready", one of the most hyped high school prospects entering last season, had a forgetful freshman year in which Cincinnati neglected to remind folks that they also play in the Big East. However, Lance missed a lot of shots in college with teams focusing their attention on the young high profile first year guard. He’s got that "shake you off the dribble and pull up" feature to his game that transforms good players to great players. If those shots start falling for him on a consistent basis, whatever team that drafts will be rewarded. If his 22% percentage from downtown, combined with his 44% from the field become an annual theme, well…you might hear the term, "woops" used by a few scouts and coaches.
DeMarcus Cousins – A long and strong giant, Cousins has the offensive skillset, defensive presence and rebounding tools to be one of the premier big men in this league some day. With soft hands and post moves, a shooting touch and the ability to get to the line, Cousins talent level is among the top 4-5 in this draft. Along with his desirable basketball qualities, Cousins also has the ability to dish out unwanted headaches to his coaching staff. At times he has the body language of teenager going through puberty, as his antics could be harmful to more than just himself. Cousins has the talent to stand out at the next level, but his desire and focus must improve for him to achieve that.
Paul George – George wasn’ t seen in the living rooms’ of most college basketball fans around the country, but he was seen by many pro scouts who love the combination of the words smooth, athletic and NBA Range. He’s a versatile scorer who can light it up from the outside, or throw down a dunk that lights up youtube. He has that Danny Granger/Rudy Gay potential scoring ability, and is the type of guy who can really make teams who pass on players to fill a need rather than taking the best available player, look pretty dumb. At the same time, he played against weaker competition than most potential lottery picks, and struggled at times while somewhat disappearing throughout long stretches of games. Regardless, if he lands in the right situation, he could be a fixture at the 2 or 3 position for a long time.
Gordon Hayward – Hayward has all of the skills a lottery pick should have. He can create, shoot and rebound, and was a halfcourt shot away from leading his team to an unlikely National Championship. The only problem with Gordon is that he’s built like a chemistry student as opposed to an NBA athlete, and some question what position he will be able to guard. His three point shooting percentage dropped considerably this past year, so he will have to show he can knock down the three ball with greater consistency. If he can find a position and show he can hit that jumper, he’ll have a long career ahead of him.
Jordan Crawford – Athleticism and big time leaping abilities, along with impressive ball handling skills and serious NBA range, combine to make Crawford the prolific scorer that he was in college. Crawford loves being the number one option, which will not be the case in the NBA (at least not right away). Jordan will have to learn how to play the complimentary scoring role before he can play the go-to scorer. He’s not considered a great playmaker for others, and he lacks a threatening size at the shooting guard slot to guarantee himself production at the next level. However, he’s simply too good at putting the ball in the basket, and if he figures how to blend in with his team and be effective without 20 plus shots, well then folks, we have ourselves a steal.
Hassan Whiteside – Whiteside is one of those guys who has the potential to be the center in a team’s rotation for many years… or the guy who every little kid asks their dad, "whose the big guy in the suit sitting next to all the players every night?" He’s beyond raw and lacks the maturity you hope to see, but if he learns the game, Whiteside has the qualities to be a force on both sides of the ball.
Terrico White – I’d say your definition of combo guard, White is a crazy talented athlete who can shoot and handle the ball. At his best, he’s a lottery pick. Unfortunately, he’s not always at his best, which is why he’s labeled as a risk/reward type player. He’s got that motor that just burns out from time to time- not something you want when you drive your vehicle through an 82 game season. However he’s got all the tools in the toolbox. If he could just figure out when to use each one for it’s respective task… look out NBA.
Eric Bledsoe – Bledsoe had a phenomenal year shooting the ball at Kentucky, although lost opportunities to dominate the ball with John Wall running the show. When he did play the point, he looked a little shaky in the playmaking department, but capable. If Bledsoe can’t figure out how to play the point, he might have trouble finding a position at the next level. What Bledsoe has going for him is that he’s a straight up basketball player, so making the transition from creating for himself as opposed to creating for others could be a smooth and successful one.
Willie Warren – About a year ago we were talking about a potential lottery pick- a talented and gifted scoring combo guard who helped Blake Griffin and Oklahoma win a whole lot of games. Now, after an inconsistent year in about every category including attitude, Warren finds himself hoping he’s lucky enough to hear his name called in the first round. Warren has the ability to score on a one on one basis with unteachable quickness and explosiveness. There have been rumors of a bad attitude, and truths to a ridiculously high turnover rate at almost 4 per game. His team was not very competitive with Warren as the top gun, but if drafted by the right coaching staff, Warren could be a prolific scorer off the bench for a team who lacks that extra punch.
Daniel Orton – For a guy who averaged 3 points and boards per game in his one and only college season, Orton is sure getting plenty of mid first round attention. Forget the 3 points, he only played 13 minutes per game! Despite his lack of production in college where he played behind the likes of Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins, Orton has all the tools to become another steady player at the center position for a team who lacks depth at the 5, which is almost everyone these days. He’s got strength and touch to score around the rim, but is 13 minutes per game too small of a sample size? Looks like some team in the first round is willing to find out.