Every year around this time, there are stories about guys who are readying themselves for the draft. Some of them are sure-things. The ones I find more interesting to read about are the long-shots -- the underdogs who aren't likely to make it or who are on the bubble, but persevere nonetheless, ignoring those who tell them to give it up and "get a real job."
I often wonder what would have happened to guys like Sam Mitchell if he'd listened to the nay-sayers. He didn't make it to the NBA until he was 28.
While I was in Florida recently, I read where two kids from Hillborough Community College worked out for NBA scouts at Walt Disney in Orlando. One of the HCC players was Othello Hunter [photo left]. The 6-foot-8 power forward was bagging groceries in Winston-Salem before his high school coach persuaded him to join the basketball team as a senior. He didn't even start in high school, but Ohio State liked his potential.
Then there's Keith Brumbaugh, Florida's best high school player in 2005, the year he declared for the NBA draft. He landed at HCC in Tampa (not far from my grandmother's house) where he averaged 35 ppg. So what's the problem? The 6-foot-8 forward was arrested six times in 26 months. That's been enough to give NBA teams pause.
A quick look at some of the other players I've seen play this past season, either in person, on TV or on tape:
Brook Lopez: The best center in the draft...a good offensive player from 15 feet and in...could end up as a starter in the NBA...has good size...a smart player who knows how to draw fouls...plays hard.
Roy Hibbert: Knows how to play in a system...likely to be a role player in the NBA...works hard, but will be an NBA back-up.
Marrese Speights: Strong athlete with a soft touch...good quickness for his size...he needs work defensively...will need a good coaching staff that will help him develop. [photo left]
Kosta Koufos: Center with good hands...offensively skilled...will improve.
DeAndre Jordan: Has some upside...NBA athlete, but he must get stronger...not a physical player...may be a team's 11th or 12th man for a year or two...might get more work in the D-League...didn't have a productive season in college last year...will be a better pro than college player.
Jason Thompson: Big and strong...had a good season, but low level of conference play makes him somewhat of a risk...a senior, but must improve to play at the next level...can play C or PF...showed some shot-blocking ability, but he's poor in defensvie schemes.
Devon Hardin: Did not improve much this past season...great body...NBA size...put up poor numbers on a team that didn't reach the NCAA tourney...it's important for him to get drafted by a team with a good big man and a coach who will challenge him.
Alexis Ajinca: Frenchman with good size and length...good athlete...NBA shot blocker...must work on his strength...needs some time to develop. [photo left]
Michael Beasley: Will score at the NBA level...a top-two pick...face-up player who also scores in post-up...inside, he can finish left and right...go-to player...even at the NBA level, teams will get him the ball...he's a four-man, but could see time at the 3-spot if he can defend other SF and learn to put the ball on the floor.
Kevin Love: Great outlet passer...knows how to play...good shooter...fundamentally sound...who will he guard in an NBA game?
Ryan Anderson: A multi-dimensional offensive player...will be a good pick-and-roll player to stretch the defense out...can post-up defenders of equal size...will struggle on the defensive end.
Anthony Randolph: Left-handed athlete...needs strength...has a high ceiling...still young after just one year at LSU...needs coaching.
Joe Alexander: Effective from 17 feet and in...draws fouls...because he competes, he will fit in on any team...can he ever be a 3-man?...will he find a way to get on the floor?
Darrell Arthur: Will see minutes in the upcoming NBA season...I spent a week at KU this past season and can attest to his skills...will make mid-range shots.
Robin Lopez: Good defender...plays within himself...non-offensive player...back-up at the NBA level. [photo left]
J.J. Hickson: Low post player...tough kid...not a face-up player...role player.
Javale McGee: Long player, but needs to get stronger ...soft...needs playing time, but won't get it in an NBA game right now...project...size makes him intriguing.
Donte Green: Athlete...skilled...shoots the ball...can create his own shot, but will take bad shots...has the ability to play in the NBA right now and is still improving.
Danilo Gallinari: Good ball skills...handles...passes...a specialty player.