6. Ekpe Udoh (Baylor) - Hakim Warrick
Strength: Mismatch ability. Udoh is undeniably a great collegiate shot blocker, but that skill doesn't always translate at the next level. What is exciting about Udoh from an NBA perspective is his ability to put the ball on the deck and use his quick first step to get by his defender. That will be tough to stop for most NBA four men.
Weakness: Upper body strength. Udoh looks like he's been on the McLovin weight lifting program for the past three years. He needs to put on a significant amount of muscle to be able to withstand the marathon that is the NBA schedule.
Verdict: As a die-hard Michigan fan, it's hard for me not to hold a grudge against Udoh, but seeing him play in the NCAA tournament was like watching an entirely different player. His improvement was tangible and admirable, which speaks of his work ethic, a trait which is often the key to a player's development and success at the next level.
Best Fit: Udoh is being projected somewhere in the 10-20 range, and I really like the idea of him in Toronto. His commitment and hustle on defense will be a welcome addition, and his versatility would be a real asset for the Raptors.
7. Larry Sanders (VCU) - Serge Ibaka
Strength: Consistency. In tracking the statistics of the top college prospects this past season, Sanders really stuck out because whenever I updated the numbers, his line saw very little deviation. Consequently, the same is true of his draft stock.
Weakness: Lack of quality experience. Although former teammate Eric Maynor had success as a rookie, I think Sanders' lack of big time collegiate experience will really hurt him in his transition to the NBA.
Verdict: Sanders certainly has what it takes to mature into an effective NBA rotation player, but I worry that his lack of physical strength and experience against the NCAA's elite will be the basis for some growing pains. Unfortunately, I see Sanders as having an Earl Clark type of rookie season, which involves a lot of time riding the bench. His mental toughness will eventually determine his fate, but it is difficult to overcome the label of 'bust', which is often attached way too soon (See: J.J. Redick).
Best Fit: Sanders would be lucky to find a fit with a high level of stability and a low level of pressure. Unfortunately, in the range he is being projected (from 18-26), only the Boston Celtics (#19) offer such a combination.
8. Gani Lawal (Georgia Tech) – Reggie Evans
Strength: Rebounding. In my opinion Lawal is the best rebounder in this class, able to leap laterally and control the ball with one or two hands. I regularly tuned into Tech's games looking to get a glimpse at Derrick Favors and walked away impressed not only by the things Lawal was able to do, but the way in which he did them.
Weakness: Skill. No one will ever confuse Lawal with Pau Gasol. He isn't a great passer and doesn't have great footwork or touch offensively.
Verdict: Don't confuse my assessment of Lawal's lack of skill as a characterization of his ability to play the game of basketball. In fact, I love Lawal as a prospect. He'll never be an All Star, and he'll likely never be a regular starter, but Lawal will perennially be one of the hardest workers in the league, and he'll be well appreciated by his teammates and coaches.
Best Fit: There are two reasons that I like Lawal as a prospect. First, there is zero risk. You know exactly what you'll get and exactly what you won't. Second, there is no such thing as a bad fit for a guy like this. He'll work hard enough to be a factor in any team's frontcourt rotation.
9. Trevor Booker (Clemson) – Jason Maxiell
Strength: Competitiveness. Booker is a four-year player who flew largely under the radar at Clemson. He is very tough, and like Lawal, competes on every trip down the floor.
Weakness: Skill. Is this starting to sound familiar? I think Booker is very similar to Lawal, in that he's somewhat of a liability offensively. Aside from the occasional lay-up or put-back, he will likely be a non-factor offensively at the next level.
Verdict: Booker was one of the biggest winners in last month's NBA Combine. Although Lawal out-measured him in each physical category (including body fat %), Booker had a wonderful performance in the athletic drills, and was consequently named by this blogger as the winner of the Joe Alexander Workout Warrior Award. However, despite his excellent track record and Combine workout, I see Booker having a less pronounced impact than Lawal at the next level.
Best Fit: I would like to see Booker slide back to the Detroit Pistons with their second round pick at #36. He is similar to Jason Maxiell, who is already on the roster, but he would benefit from the tutelage of Ben Wallace (who may or may not be back next season), and would gain favor from the hard-nosed attitude of the Pistons' front office and fan base.
10. Craig Brackins (Iowa State) - Charlie Villanueva
Strength: Shooting. Brackins is the best domestic stretch four man in this class, and his stock should benefit from teams' increasing reliance on that role. He was in fine form from 18-20 feet at the Combine, which should help his stock rebound after a disappointing junior season.
Weakness: Lack of true position. Brackins certainly has the size to play power forward in the NBA (6'9.75" with a 7' wingspan and a 9'1" standing reach), and it's not that he doesn't have the ability to do so. Rather, the issue is his willingness to get his hands dirty in the paint.
Verdict: Brackins is tough to project because players with his style have had a variety outcomes in the NBA. Charlie Villanueva has had a tough time making an impact, while guys like Troy Murphy have been very successful. For some reason, I like Brackins' attitude. I think he'll be willing to put in the work to be successful at the next level.
Best Fit: I would like to see a team draft Brackins for value, not need. The key to his ability to stick in the NBA will be his defensive effectiveness, and the best way to improve is to be tested by a proven veteran day in and day out.