Many have called this the greatest class of all time, the (2011) sophomore class
features 9 players projected in this year’s first round. After putting 10 players
in the first round (7 in the lottery) in 2008, this class remains the strongest
at the college level including college’s premiere talent Blake Griffin. The classes
of 2010 and 2011 were both incredibly deep and talented which have made the current
freshmen (2012) and high school senior (2013) classes pale in comparison.
Top 5 Sophomores
Oklahoma’s man child Blake
Griffin has a rare combination of talent and work ethic. He turned down
being a top 5 pick as a freshman to further develop his game and become the
top overall pick. Some have questioned his height but look for him to measure
out in the 6-9 to 6-10 range in shoes when the combines roll around. Griffin
is the type of player who if he were just 6-7 could actually mold his skills
into becoming a small forward and become an excellent pro. His ball handling
and passing skills for a 6-9, 20 year old post player are phenomenal. Griffin is the one sure franchise talent in this year’s draft and will have a good
chance to become a top 10 player in the league some day.
No one has had a worse showing among the top prospects in the tourney thus far
than James Harden. How bad his poor performance
hurt him depends who you ask. He was completely neutralized by the suffocating
Syracuse zone defense, as Arizona State was eliminated in round 2. He’s definitely
not without flaws as he lacks the freakish athleticism and foot speed of a typical
star. However, in a weak draft and with an excellent body of work over the past
two seasons, Harden has a strong chance of being a top 5 pick with an NBA readiness
and feel for the game matched by few at the college level.
Kansas bigman Cole Aldrich has come a long
ways this season. He’s had terrific numbers over his sophomore campaign averaging
14.8 ppg, 11.0 rpg and 2.6 bpg. His 7-foot-5 wingspan makes him essentially
a 7-footer. Aldrich is still raw on the offensive end and will likely take some
time before he can contribute at the next level. He would benefit with one more
year in college, but then again being a surefire high pick (likely mid to late
lotto) is difficult to turn down.
Iowa State forward Craig Brackins is
already 22 so even though he’s a sophomore there a pressure to leave, which
he is expected to. He still needs to bulk up some but has put on a good amount
of strength in his two years in Ames. With great length at 6-10 with long arms,
underrated athleticism, and a sweet shot with the ability to face up or play
with his back to the basket, Brackins is one of the most versatile and talented
bigmen on the college level. He’ll have a good shot to land in the late lottery
with good workouts.
Jeff Teague is a big wild card for this
year’s draft. Word is he’s leaning toward entering the draft. He had an amazing
first half of the season, for stretches looking like the top point guard in
the country, but his play dropped off considerably in the final month or so
culminating with Wake Forest’s collapse in the first round of the tournament.
He’s got excellent speed and explosiveness, and scoring ability but concerns
remain about him ability to run a team. A third year at Wake would benefit his
point guard development, but then again it will be tough to return with his
stock as high as it is.