Thursday, June 01, 2006

Christmas in June

- Posted by Chris Kenna

It's June, my friends, which means my favorite time of the year is back. Baseball's starting to get rolling into the heart of the season. The NBA Playoffs are heading into the homestretch. Hockey is being broadcast on High-Definition television. Chicagoland sushi buffets are offering all-you-can-eat (or more-than-you-should-eat) for just $12.95 (okay, this one is unrelated, but just fresh in my head after a recent nearly disastrous outing.) The trees are full of leaves. The birds are chirping. The polar ice caps are thawing. But most importantly, Chad Ford has returned from his Hawaiian hiatus and is working feverishly to bring me the latest updates on all the goings-on in the world of the upcoming NBA Draft.

That's right, the NBA Draft is just 25 days away, and I can't wait. I know, I know. The general consensus is that there are no surefire "franchise-changing" superstars at the top of the draft, but that does very little to deter my excitement. As far as I can tell, those types of drafts happen maybe once every 5-6 years. However, while I don't recall great pre-draft excitement over guys like Dwyane Wade, Amare Stoudemire, Vince Carter, Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, or, dare I say it, former #3 overall pick, Michael Jordan...I think all of those guys turned out to be what you might consider "franchise-changing" superstars.

As demonstrated by Michael Granieri, this is probably one of the most unpredictable drafts we have seen in years. Given that I have seen 100 different mock drafts with 100 different possible results, and seen Sam Smith and various media figures predict a million different trades for any and every NBA player, I hate to speculate on just how this draft is going to shake out, at least at this point. However, I have formed some pretty strong opinions on some of the players being considered at the top end of the draft, and I will not hesitate to share those opinions now. Hopefully, we can all look back at this in 5 years, and laugh at the absurdity of my non-scientific findings. These are strictly opinions, and are not based on extensive knowledge, but on extensive reading of NBA Draft articles, extensive watching of NCAA Tournament basketball, and extensive speculation in its purest form.

As far as I see it, there are 6 players in contention for the top pick. With that in mind, I present them in the order of how I think they will rank as NBA players 5 years down the road. Let's go 6 to 1, how about?

6. Adam Morrison - I think he will be a serviceable NBA player, that's just not what you're looking for at the very top of the draft. He scored extremely well in college, but I think a lot of his scoring prowess will be negated by superior athleticism, quickness and size at the NBA level. I can't see him being much more than a liability at the defensive end either. A Wally Szczerbiak type career is not totally out of the question, but I think that's his high-end.

5. Brandon Roy - Another serviceable NBA player who is enjoying the typical pre-draft overhype of the 4-year fundamentally sound college vet. I can't help but think of Shane Battier every time hear the name Brandon Roy. I think he may be a slightly greater contributor at the NBA level than Battier, but not much. Not bad, but certainly not the stud that everyone seems to be making him out to be.

4. Lamarcus Aldridge - I think Lamarcus will end up somewhere better than Channing Frye and worse than Chris Bosh. Take that for what it is.

3. Tyrus Thomas - Tyrus is hard to project. Anyone who saw him play in the tournament knows that he's got all the potential in the world, but there are two things that worry me about him. First, injuries are a concern for a kid who missed his entire freshman year, and several games as a soph. Second, I once thought that Tyson Chandler, Stromile Swift, and Darius Miles also had all the potential in the world. I think he'll end up as a better NBA player than those guys, it's just a question of how much. If he continues to develop, he could be a young Shawn Kemp.

2. Andrea Bargnani - In the great tradition of "Next Dirks" comes Andrea Bargnani, straight out of Italy. I must qualify this by admitting I haven't seen him play at all, but something tells me this one might actually make an attempt to live up to the hype. Unlike with some of the past international phenoms, GM's are getting more and more hesitant to take foreign players without seeing them play first. So, if the rave reviews I've been reading about from NBA GM's who have seen him play are any indication, this kid might be one of two potential superstars in the draft.

1. Rudy Gay - If you're asking me, this is the one guy I have seen play who I think has a legitimate shot to become a superstar. The only knock on Rudy at this point is that he has not shown the ability to take over games, but I don't think that is a huge knock considering that he is just 19 years old and has been playing on a UConn team loaded with NBA talent for the past 2 years. Look at the stats of Grant Hill, Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, etc. at age 19 in similar situations. Some guys are just better NBA players than college players. I think a lot of teams could end up regretting passing on this guy one day.

Also keep an eye out for a couple Villanova guards who I think may end up as 2 of the best players to come out of this draft: SG Randy Foye and PG Kyle Lowry.

You heard it here first...unless I'm wrong, then you never heard it, and I will come back and delete this post as quickly as possible.

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