Wednesday, June 27, 2007

NBA Draft Spotlight: Big Men.

Merry Wednesday, good readers. The time has come to examine the big men available in this draft; those behemoths who dwell in that dangerous area we like to call 'The Paint'.
And what better place to begin than the most eagerly anticipated, earnestly beckoned, longingly yearned for center since Shaq Fu? Greg Oden is the complete package. He's a seven footer with an incredibly polished defensive game, athleticism and ballhandling to make some 2 guards envious, and a post game that flourished when unleashed. His upside is truly special, and it is very foreseeable to see him achieving it. In addition to his incredible game, Oden is exceptionally humble and hungry to win.A truly special prospect, the kind of big man who comes along once a decade.
Comparison: Bill Russell. In an absolute worst case scenario, during which his offensive game does not expand one iota from its current form, he'd be Dikembe Mutombo or Marcus Camby.
It is a testament to Oden that the dropoff is so significant to the #2 player on this list, not at all a black mark on Al Horford. Horford is the concensus third best player in the draft, and Florida's forward (Good lord, what a talented crop of 3s and 4s they eked out this year!) is very deserving of the honor, he'd easily be the #1 of last year's draft. He's 6'10 and possesses an array of talents comparable to Carlos Boozer's. He's a very good rebounder, a good defender, an above average passer and a solid shooter. But his game lies primarily in his post play. Horford is versatile, and was tasked with guarding Greg Oden for the majority of the two matches between Florida and Ohio.
Comparison: Somewhere between Emeka Okafor and Carlos Boozer. More scoring ability than Okafor but less than Boozer. Not quite the rebounder those two are, however.

The best international player in the draft is once again a large one! Yi Jianlian, a 7-foot mostly-forward from China (yeah, really!) has few weaknesses to speak of. Jianlian is a good handler, fundamentally sound, shoots exceptionally well for a man of his stature, is an exemplary passer...and the inevitable catch? His opposition has been... lacking to this point. He is reported to shy away from tough competition and his game declines when Yi comes under pressure. He's not a true post player, usually relying on a turnaround jumper or hook. And his toughness has been called to task in the past. He remains a worthy selection due to his terrific arsenal, but could take a bit of time to work into the game despite being 22 years old (Which, incidentally is under debate-some allege that he was actually born in 1987, not '84).
Comparison: Pau Gasol.

There are winners and losers in every draft. In this case, North Carolina University came out behind in a big way. Losing a player with the repertoire of Brandan Wright hurts badly- subsequently, he could be a lucky team’s next superstar. Wright is not just another of the supremely talented but unsure-about-translation-to-the-association players. He’s a player who, in addition to having the talent that can build a franchise from the ground up, also has the talent to contribute in an immediate manner. There’s very little Wright does not do well; he is a 6’10 guy who, when on his game, can slash to the basket with the ease and fluidity of Dwayne Wade. He’s also a 210 pounder who can pile up rebounds like a pissed off Kevin Garnett. He could use to improve his shot and add some weight, but other than that he’s the complete package.
Comparison: Amare Stoudemire.

There is no doubt that the talent most coveted within the basketball world is center talent. This is the primary reason that Greg Oden will almost certainly be selected ahead of Kevin Durant. And a major beneficiary of this windfall will be Washington’s Spencer Hawes. Hawes is a 6’11, 250 pound 19 year old. He’s displayed good post scoring skills anchored by very good footwork, is a good ball handler, runs the court decently for a man of his size, and is a great passer. Cons? He’s not particularly athletic, could use some work on his post moves, and plays atrocious defense. One can only hope that these faults will cease as Hawes matures and develops his game. Excuse the criticism, but I’m not very high on Mr. Hawes. He could become Brad Miller, and that’s all well and good. But I don’t see it happening, and when people have him slotted as highly as eight-I’m sorry, but frankly he’s not that good.
Comparison: Poor man’s Vlade Divacs.

Intrigue surrounds the troubled frame of Boston College’s immensely talented Sean Williams. Williams is a headcase, the guy who makes you want to scream for his wasted talent. His antics got so bad during this past season that he was permanently dismissed from the university. Why, then, take a player that can’t keep his head aligned out of the crime world and into his profession? Because Sean Williams proved himself as one of the top defenders in all of college basketball. Williams has the lateral quickness and perimeter ability to guard shooting guards, and his 7’5 wingspan in addition to jaw-dropping leaping ability made him college basketball’s top shot blocker. Williams has an unpolished offensive game and could be a far better rebounded if he put some effort into the endeavor, but don’t count on it. However, if the team picking him brings him into a stable, steady atmosphere where people know their place, there’s always the chance it rubs off. Williams needs to go to a good team pronto-that is the only way he will attain his potential. Inversely with the player preceding him in Hawes, I think Williams is actually an undervalued player. I realize that picking him is treading on hot coals, but the potential benefit is great enough to make the risk meritorious.
Comparison: Amare Stoudemire if put in the right situation.

The situation of Brazilian big man Tiago Splitter is a complex one. Splitter has entered and withdrawn from the draft numerous times already, mostly based on the fact that his current Euro team has him on contract and would require a 4.5 million dollar buyout to let him go. Splitter is 6’11 and plays both the power forward and center positions, although he spends more time at the former than the latter. A prototypical skinny big man, Splitter does not have much of a shot. However, with his handy ability to create his own opportunities he more than compensates for this deficiency. But Splitter’s greatest strength lays on the other spectrum: Regardless of the competition, he has always delivered defensively. I do realize the flaw of such a comment, seeing as NBA clashes could prove far more difficult than contending with Marc Gasol a couple of times a year. But he has given nobody any reason to doubt his prowess as a defender.
Comparison: Fabricio Oberto.

Mavs Factor: There are a couple of interesting names who could be available at 34. The foremost is Pau’s brother Marc, who resembles an inferior Mehmet Okur. The second, and someone I’d be more interested in, would be LSU’s Glen Davis. He’s certainly not tall enough to play center consistently at the top levels, but would make a very useful substitute for Dirk, or come in for the Diopampier conglomerate when post scoring is needed. However, I think It’s a definite possibility that the Mavericks trade up in the event that a Williams or Splitter slides to 25 or so. A package could be built using almost certainly this year’s second rounders, and possibly a spare part such as Austin Croshere or big lumbering Pavel (He’s still on the payroll, somehow… common thievery!).
Oh, and all of you theorycrafters who speculate about Donnie trading for a top 10 pick somehow-don’t count on it. Teams greatly overvalue their picks this time of year. Actually, let me rephrase. Teams not completely foolhardy overvalue their picks. Atlanta is a horribly run organization, evidenced by the fact that Luke Ridnour for the #11 pick is even being spoken of. I think I could win a negotiation with that organization.

Tomorrow I will bring you… the Mock Draft! 1-20 in the morning, 21-40 later in the day!

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