Thursday, January 15, 2009
Updated: April 9, 6:35 PM ET
Draft Watch: Getting to the point
By Chad Ford
With a subpar freshman class, a weak international crop and a lack of star potential, the 2009 NBA draft is shaping up to be the weakest in years. And NBA scouts are looking for bright spots wherever they can find them.
This year, the one shining light is that the draft is chock-full of excellent point-guard prospects. A whopping nine point guards are currently ranked in our top 30, and 14 are ranked in the top 60. As many as eight of those point guards could even crack the lottery this year.
|Spain's Ricky Rubio heads our list of the top point guard prospects in the 2009 draft.|
For this week's Stock Watch, we've spoken with numerous GMs and NBA scouts to get their take on the top 10 players at one of the most important positions in the draft.
1. Ricky Rubio, Spain
Rubio has been on NBA radar screens for years. But it was his solid play against Team USA in the Olympics that convinced NBA scouts and players that he had the goods to make it in the league. A wrist injury kept him out of action for the first month of the season, but he's slowly finding his way on the court. His scoring is down, but his assists are up; he recorded an impressive 12 assists in his most recent game.
While there are legitimate questions about Rubio's draft eligibility this year -- he has a large buyout with his team, DKV Joventut -- I'm told he will likely declare for the draft and come to the NBA as long as he's a top-three pick. Given the need for point guards at the top of the draft, that seems like a safe bet.
2. Jrue Holiday, UCLA
Holiday doesn't even play the point for UCLA. But neither did Russell Westbrook, who was drafted No. 4 in the 2008 draft and is now running the point for the Thunder.
While Holiday's game isn't flashy, he has the complete package of athleticism, basketball IQ and defensive tenacity that scouts love. He currently looks as though he could go anywhere from 4 to 10 on draft night if he declares.
3. Jeff Teague, Wake Forest
Teague is the fastest riser on the board. He has been on a tear lately and has led Wake Forest to an undefeated record, with huge wins over BYU and North Carolina. He's averaging over 30 points a game in his past three outings and has shown he can score from anywhere. One minute he's nailing a 3; the next he's taking it to the basket for the bucket or a foul. While scouts worry that he may not be a true point guard, his stellar play is quickly winning over even his harshest critics. In the past few weeks he's jumped from 32, to 18 to 9 on our Big Board.
4. Stephen Curry, Davidson
Curry might be the most controversial player on this list. Some scouts don't believe he's a point guard. Others worry about his diminutive stature or his lack of explosiveness as an athlete. Still others fret about some of Curry's disappearing acts against quality teams. However, no one doubts that Curry's shooting ability, basketball IQ and clutch play -- combined with an excellent basketball pedigree -- make him a player who will likely be drafted in the lottery.
There's been talk that the Bobcats could be the club that covets him (and the seats he'd fill) the most
but it's way too early for that speculation. Besides, you'd think MJ & Co. would have learned by now that drafting players with local or marketing appeal (e.g., Raymond Felton, Sean May and Adam Morrison) doesn't help much if they're not going to be stars.
|Brandon Jennings' tour in Europe has seen mixed results, but he's first-round material.|
5. Brandon Jennings, Italy
Jennings took a huge risk by bypassing college and going straight to Europe. To date, the experiment has had a mixed bag of results. On the positive side, Jennings is playing on an excellent team in a talented league. The experience has been priceless. On the flip side, Jennings hasn't exactly been lighting up the competition over there. He's been improving lately, but not to the point that it's clear he's an elite prospect.
Many scouts still believe Jennings is the best point-guard prospect in the draft based on pure talent. But his study-abroad trip makes it tough to tell whether he's as bad as his stats sometimes suggest, or whether the brilliance of his game is just somehow lost in translation.
Workouts will be the key to where Jennings ultimately gets drafted. The range is still pretty wide open. No one would be shocked if he were a top-five pick. Nor would anyone be surprised if he slipped into the mid-first round.
6. Willie Warren, Oklahoma
Warren has quietly become one of the top freshmen in the country. Scouts have been impressed with his combination of size, athleticism and ability to score. While there is a legitimate question about what Warren's true position is, the truth is he has the size to play multiple positions in the NBA.
If Oklahoma goes deep in the tournament, Warren might end up cracking the lottery.
7. Jonny Flynn, Syracuse
Flynn is the little engine that could. His toughness and fearlessness have scouts buzzing. He has hit a bit of a slump lately, but earlier in the season many scouts and a few GMs began mentioning him as a lottery pick, despite his lack of size and questionable defensive ability.
Right now he's looking like a potential mid-first-round pick.
8. Ty Lawson, North Carolina
Poor Ty Lawson. He's had one of the most volatile stock ratings of any player we've ever tracked. One minute scouts think he might be a lottery pick. The next, scouts have him on the first-round bubble.
Lawson has been excellent for most of the season, but after Teague abused him in a rare Tar Heels loss, you could hear the air begin to escape from Lawson's bubble. While he still has the talent to crack the lottery, it will take a brilliant performance in the NCAA tournament -- something he hasn't been able to pull off in the past -- to convince an NBA team to hand over the keys to him.
9. Patrick Mills, St. Mary's (Calif.)
Mills is still basking in the rave reviews he earned this summer while playing for Australia in the Olympics. However, his numbers at St. Mary's are good, but not stellar. His high turnover rate and poor shooting percentage have dipped his stock back onto the first-round bubble.
10. Darren Collison, UCLA
Collison has to be struggling with the idea that for the second straight year an NBA team might draft a player who sits behind him on the depth chart at UCLA. Still, Collison continues to do his thing.
He has terrific speed and has improved as a shooter. But his smallish stature and questionable floor leadership have him stuck on the first-round bubble.
Other point-guard prospects in the top 100: Nick Calathes, Florida; Eric Maynor, Virginia Commonwealth; Sherron Collins, Kansas; Kemba Walker, UConn, Curtis Jerrells, Baylor; Jeremy Pargo, Gonzaga; Nando De Colo, France; Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas; A.J. Price, UConn; Courtney Fortson, Arkansas; Scottie Reynolds, Villanova; Jeremy Lin, Harvard; Tyrese Rice, Boston College
Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.