1. Ricky Rubio- Rubio has great size (6’4”) and unreal upside (he’s only 18). It’s conceivable that he’ll be one of the top three point guards in the league (along with Chris Paul and Derrick Rose) inside of his first 3-4 years in the league. The buyout of his contract with DKV Joventut is an issue, especially in the current economic climate, but a talent like this is too valuable to pass on because of dollars and cents. Rubio will almost undeniably land in the top two, with the #1 pick a real possibility.
NBA Comparison: Jason Kidd
2. Blake Griffin- Griffin is the other can’t miss prospect in this draft class, but questions are swirling about his true height. He’s listed at 6’10”, but some believe he may be much smaller, possibly in the 6’6” range. These were similar concerns when Michael Beasley fell to #2 last summer. Unlike Beasley, however, Griffin has a huge motor. The 20-year old also spent a second year at the college level, meaning he should be ready to contribute right out of the gate at the NBA level. Depending on his measurements at the pre-draft camp, Griffin could seal his fate as the #1 pick. On the other hand, if things go the way many fear, the door would open for Rubio to go #1.
NBA Comparison: Charles Barkley
3. James Harden- The 6’4” Harden averaged over 20 points per game as a sophomore at Arizona State this past season, and eclipsed the 20-point plateau in 17 of 35 contests. He has all the ability to score the ball from all over the floor, and is without a doubt the best pure scorer in the draft. He was a little inconsistent throughout the season, and questions remain about his defense, but Harden seems like a safe pick for any of the teams drafting in the top 5. Oklahoma City will definitely take a long look at Harden, as will Washington at #5, but I don’t see Harden falling past the Timberwolves at #6.
NBA Comparison: Jason Richardson
4. Hasheem Thabeet- I’m not as high on Thabeet as some, but there’s no doubt that the 7 foot 3 inch center will have no problem making an impact at the next level. Size is always at a premium, especially early in the draft, and Thabeet will be the first beneficiary. Defensively, Thabeet will likely thrive in the NBA, just as he did at UCONN, but the issue is whether or not he can improve enough offensively to stay on the floor consistently. His hands have improved, but he is still limited by a lack of mobility in the low post, and will likely be an offensive liability, at least at the beginning of his career. Thabeet would be a great fit for the Thunder or the Wizards, but will also get a close look from Memphis and Minnesota. Thabeet won’t fall past the Wizards at #5.
NBA Comparison: Dikembe Mutombo
5. Jordan Hill¬ Hill rounds out the second tier of players in this draft, which also includes Harden and Thabeet. He’s a long, super athletic power forward, who can really get out and run. He has above average court vision and an ability to finish at the rim. He needs to put on some weight and he could be a very good player at the next level, especially in an up tempo system that will allow him to use his athleticism. He could go anywhere from Memphis at #2 to the Warriors at #7, with the Kings at #4 and the Wizards at #5 as possibilities as well.
NBA Comparison: LaMarcus Aldridge
6. Tyreke Evans- Evans has been one of the most difficult players to rank as the draft approaches. He has great quickness and fantastic size for a combo guard type. He ran the point very effectively in his only season at Memphis, and was truly responsible for Memphis’ stellar run down the stretch. He is very strong and finishes well at the basket, but questions linger about his readiness to play at the next level. Evans strikes me as a very similar prospect to Russell Westbrook last year. A lot of people will overlook him, but his size and athleticism will be at a premium at the next level, and someone will likely pick him earlier than many anticipate. I think Evans would be a great fit for Minnesota at #6, Golden State at #7, or Toronto at #9.
NBA Comparison: Monta Ellis
7. Stephen Curry- Curry is an interesting prospect because the jury is still out about his ability to run the point guard. At 6’3”, Curry is much to small and slight of build to handle NBA 2-guards, so he’ll need to play the point at the next level. He moved to the 1 this past season, and nearly doubled his assist output (from 2.9 to 5.6), while increasing his scoring to an NCAA best 28.6 points per game. I’m high on Curry not only because of his all-world jump shot or improving court vision, but also because of his intensity and passion for the game. I’m convinced that Curry will be a consistent and clutch scorer at the next level. He should land somewhere in the late lottery. He could land with the Knicks at #8 and be a good fit alongside LeBron James (…) or at any of the subsequent lottery picks.
NBA Comparison: Derek Fisher (with a better jump shot)
8. Brandon Jennings- Jennings is undoubtedly the biggest question mark of the players expected to land in the lottery. There is no question about Jennings athletic ability or court awareness, but his character and NBA-readiness are huge concerns. Jennings definitely has the potential to be a great player, if he can find the right fit. He has a ton of confidence, and a tendency to be arrogant, and will need to be kept in check by a capable veteran leader. Jennings could fall anywhere from #4 (Sacramento) to #8 (New York), or possibly to Milwaukee at #10.
NBA Comparison: Kevin Johnson
9. Earl Clark- Clark is an intriguing prospect because of his style of play. At 6’10” and 200 pounds, Clark is very long and athletic, with an affinity for handling the basketball. He’s tough to project because he might play the 3 or the 4 at the NBA level. His jump shot is a little sub par at this point, but he has a great understanding for the game, and would be a great fit in an up tempo system. Clark would be a good fit for Golden State at #7, Toronto at #9, or New Jersey at #11.
NBA Comparison: Lamar Odom
10. DeMar DeRozan- DeRozan is a freakish athlete who seems to make at least one highlight reel player per game, but often seems disinterested and disengaged on the floor. He has all of the tools to become an NBA superstar, but his desire remains a question mark. He is the definition of a “boom or bust” prospect- he could turn out to be the next Gerald Green or the next Vince Carter.
NBA Comparison: JR Smith