Monday, June 21, 2010

2010 NBA Draft: Collegiate Center Prospects

Disclosure: Previous draft analysis, both insightful and woeful: 2009 NBA Draft, 2008 NBA Draft, 2007 NBA Draft preview, 2007 NBA Draft analysis, 2006 NBA Draft preview, 2006 NBA Draft analysis/live blog, 2005 NBA Draft preview, 2005 NBA Draft grades


1. DeMarcus Cousins
2. Cole Aldrich
3. Greg Monroe
4. Hassan Whiteside
5. Daniel Orton
6. Solomon Alabi
7. Jarvis Varnado
-----1st ROUND-----
8. Derrick Caracter
9. Brian Zoubek
10. Jerome Jordan
11. Omar Samhan
-----2nd ROUND-----

DeMarcus Cousins combines the best qualities of DeJuan Blair (rebounding) and Mareesse Speights (high-volume, efficient scoring) and augments those attributes with ideal size for his position. Which explains why he spent one rather than two seasons in college. Evaluating these players from a distance prevents me from having a firm handle on any player's off-the-court issues. From what I've witnessed, Cousins, though he may well be immature (which itself may be a function of age as much as personality type), did not display, at Kentucky, immaturity to the degree that Michael Beasley, to take a recent example, did at Kansas State. There could be compelling reasons to take Derrick Favors or Evan Turner ahead of Cousins but those reasons are not clear from this vantage point.

Because people tend to conflate shot blocking and rebounding, a player who blocks a lot of shots and rebounds extremely well might not get full credit for how valuable and rare the combination is. I am not neutral on Cole Aldrich. He's been the best defensive player in college basketball each of the last two years. His size, reach, strength, movement, and positioning sense (note that his steal rate is superior to the other great shot blockers in this draft class) make him NBA-ready today. The concerns about his offensive game are legitimate. His footwork regressed in his Junior season while he also shot worse from the mid-range and the free throw line. Among centers in this draft class, though, only Alabi, Samhan, Jordan, and Andrew Ogilvy shot a higher percentage at the line last season than Aldrich. Though it's unlikely to be relevant to his professional career, he did improve greatly at both recognizing and passing out of double teams. He's an excellent (though sub-Kevin Love) outlet passer as well. The greatest concern with Aldrich should be his health. He suffered a stress reaction in his foot late in his Sophomore season and labored with bronchitis for the first half of his Junior season. If either should be a potentially chronic condition, he's clearly a lesser prospect than Greg Monroe.

It says much for my admiration of Cousins and Aldrich that I rank them ahead of the wonderful Greg Monroe. There's nothing not to like about Monroe's game as is: his defensive rebound rate compares favorably to both Cousins and Aldrich, he averaged just under 30 points and 7 assists per 100 on-court possessions (similar rates* to Sherron Collins), blocked shots and stole the ball at good rates. There's even good reason to believe that his jump shot can improve and/or he'll grab more offensive rebounds if he spends more time in the low-post. I wouldn't blame anyone for rating Monroe ahead of Aldrich.

*Monroe and Collins probably have similar weights as well.

Hassan Whiteside is a year older than Greg Monroe and just seven-and-a-half months younger than Cole Aldrich so the relatively raw nature of his game does not come with the benefit of relative youth. Furthermore, he fattened up the stat sheet by virtue of Marshall playing three regular season games against non-Division 1 opposition. Take away the the 19 blocks and 27 rebounds he notched in just 66 minutes in those games and he's still a super shot-blocking and rebounding prospect. Take away the 21-31 shooting from the field and 3 of his 10 assists on the season, and his offensive game is even more clearly a work in progress. A worthy risk and a team willing to be patient with him could reap ample rewards.

Scouts will earn their paychecks evaluating Daniel Orton. The rest of us have just 502 college minutes with which to attempt to form an opinion about him. There's no shame in playing behind Cousins and Patrick Patterson but Orton was not especially productive in the minutes he received, posting unimpressive scoring (both volume and efficiency) and defensive rebounding numbers. His solid offensive rebound rate, plus above average block and steal rates, suggest he has the physical gifts to play center but he may never develop beyond serviceable at the position. Youth and size are his greatest attributes at this point.

Jarvis Varnado and Solomon Alabi are roughly equal prospects in value. Preference will likely be based on a particular team's needs. Varnado has a slightly more developed post game and is very adept at defending the basket area. Alabi can defend in space as well as in the post (though the time spent defending away from the basket is evident in his lower defensive rebounding rate) and is more comfortable with the ball in his hands in the mid- to high-post though that may be damning with faint praise. Both should be immediate contributors.

Derrick Caracter could be a second-round steal. He's always been a nice offensive player in the post but further impressed last season as part of an excellent UTEP defense. Size (both vertical and horizontal), conditioning, and effort are legitimate concerns but his skill level compares favorably to other second-round options.

It's only a slight exaggeration to claim (as I frequently do) that Duke won the National Championship because Mike Krzyzewski finally came to terms with Brian Zoubek's limitations and left him on the court to produce rather than wasting precious post minutes on the limited and unproductive likes of Lance Thomas and David McClure. As an NBA prospect, Zoubek's upside is a better-rebounding Aaron Gray or Nazr Mohammed (the later years) but he should find employment as a situational backup center.

Jerome Jordan's NBA potential can be summed up in the phrase "lacks Brian Zoubek's athleticism." Only Jordan, Omar Samhan and Art Parakhouski failed to average even one steal per 100 on-court possessions. Jordan combined that achievement with an offensive rebound rate below 10%. His size and productive scoring record at Tulsa should earn him a look or two.

Jonny Flynn's rookie season may have killed the import of charm in teams' draft evaluations and that could be the difference between Omar Samhan getting drafted late in the second-round or not. Samhan was really productive at St. Mary's and it wouldn't be an unreasonable use of resources to acquire him and see how he'd play if he were in shape.

DRAFT BOARD (Collegiate Players)
1. John Wall
2. DeMarcus Cousins
3. Derrick Favors
4. Evan Turner
5. Cole Aldrich
6. Greg Monroe
7. Wesley Johnson
8. Ed Davis
9. Ekpe Udoh
10. Hassan Whiteside
11. Daniel Orton
12. Paul George
13. Damion James
14. Xavier Henry
15. Patrick Patterson
16. Avery Bradley
17. James Anderson
18. Al-Farouq Aminu
19. Luke Babbitt
20. Larry Sanders
21. Solomon Alabi

22. Jarvis Varnado
23. Eric Bledsoe
24. Elliot Williams
25. Craig Brackins
26. Willie Warren
27. Jordan Crawford
28. Quincy Pondexter
-----1st ROUND-----
29. Gordon Hayward
30. Gani Lawal
31. Derrick Caracter
32. Devin Ebanks
33. Lazar Hayward
34. Lance Stephenson
35. Marqus Blakely
36. Trevor Booker
37. Wayne Chism
38. Mikhail Torrance
39. Stanley Robinson
40. Brian Zoubek
41. Manny Harris

42. Jerome Randle
43. Greivis Vasquez
44. Ben Uzoh
45. Luke Harangody
46. Terrico White
47. Sylven Landesberg
48. Jon Scheyer
49. Dominique Jones
50. Sherron Collins
51. Marquis Gilstrap
52. Samardo Samuels
53. Dwayne Collins
54. Scottie Reynolds
55. Charles Garcia
56. Tiny Gallon
57. Jerome Jordan
58. Omar Samhan
59. Devan Downey
-----2nd ROUND-----

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