By Angus Dunk, WSOE Sports
The L.A. Clippers made a solid choice with forward Blake Griffin who was probably the most consistent player in the draft, even if he was not the top scorer. I was a little disappointed that Hansbrough (one of the most offensive minded players in the draft) was drafted as late as he was, but Indiana did the right thing by finally staking a claim to him. He will make a good addition to point guard, Danny Granger (2009 Most Improved Player in the NBA). Center Hasheem Thabeet was another smart selection; the Grizzlies went with the top defensive player and will see that improve their finish in the final standings next year.
1.) Blake Griffin, Power Forward, (drafted 1st overall by the Los Angeles Clippers) – “Consistency” is the label for Blake Griffin. Just as easily as hockey comes to John Tavares (top pick at this year’s NHL draft), basketball seems to do the same for Griffin. In the NBA’s scouting report, Griffin is described as the “prototypical power forward.” This couldn’t be truer. With his 6’ 10,” 250 pound frame, he drives to the hoop with a strong presence and repetition that is hard to beat. Griffin is not only hard to defend because of his physical presence and size, but because of his accuracy from every position and angle on the court including from the three point line and when he takes fade away shots. The Clippers got to see their boy in action this July in their first NBA Summer League game vs. the Los Angeles Lakers. No one on either side could match Griffin as he recorded a double-double and totaled 27 pts, 12 rebounds, and 1 assist. This past season at the University of Oklahoma, Griffin improved nearly all his career high college statistics by playing in 35 games in which he recorded 794 points, a .694 field goal pct (field goal percentage), and 22.7 points per game (ppg.). Griffin’s sophomore year (2008-2009) also saw him sharpen the defensive aspects of his game as he recorded 504 rebounds and 41 blocks. Prior to college, Griffin played basketball in high school as a stand-out at Okalahoma Christian School. He has drawn comparisons to former NBA player, Karl Malone. Overall, Griffin’s determined work ethic and flexible personality will help phase the Clippers out of their recent slump.
2.) Hasheem Thabeet, Center, (drafted 2nd overall by the Memphis Grizzlies) – If anything else, Tennessee’s NBA franchise keeps getting more and more interesting. While struggling on the court, off-court the scouting staff is slowly making Memphis more and more diverse. Thabeet is the first Tanzanian born basketball player to be drafted and slotted to play in the NBA. He becomes the 4th international player to enter the team’s current roster in addition to Marc Gasol (Spain), Hamed Haddadi (Iran), and Marko Jaric (Yugoslavia). Thabeet has clearly persevered as the #2 selection in this year’s draft. Coming from a broken home across on the other side of the Atlantic, Thabeet managed to turn into a stand-out defensive prospect after only beginning to play basketball at the age of 15. His size (7’3,” 263 pounds) definitely gives him an advantage at his position, but his college statistics are clear indications of his dedication to the game of basketball. In his junior year at the University of Connecticut this past season, Thabeet established career highs in many categories including games played (36), blocks (152), rebounds (388), and steals (22). Thabeet also established a healthy respect amongst competitors on offense with 489 points, a 640 field goal pct., and a 13.6 ppg average. Thabeet’s honors include being named the “NABC Defensive Player of the Year” for two consecutive years (2008 and 2009). Defensively, Thabeet’s height will give him an advantage over other players especially when it comes to blocking shots; in turn I would like to see how Lebron James approaches a center such as him. Offensively, Thabeet’s height will be a major factor again on rebounds and second chance points. “Yahoo! Sports” compares him to DeSagana Diop (Charlotte), but I’m tending to lean toward the consensus opinion that he compares with Emeka Okafor (New Orleans).
3.) Tyreke Evans, Guard, (Drafted 4th overall by the Sacramento Kings) – Evans was a player who went from having a rough start last year to a team leader. However, after he found his game about halfway through the season at the University of Memphis, he took off. Evans played point guard with the Tigers in his freshman year, but can play shooting guard as well. He likes to drive the ball often straight to the hoop for the lay-up and put in a quick basket. Evidence to the point that he is a shooting guard as well, Evans is also capable of making numerous fade-aways from behind the 3-point arc. This season he recorded 632 points, 17.1 ppg, and a .455 field goal pct. on 505 attempts. Evans was also sound defensively notching 177 steals (2.1 steals per game), 29 blocks (0.8 per game), and 198 rebounds (5.4 per game). In high school, he was an All-American at American Christian Academy in Aston, Pennsylvania. During his senior year he averaged 32.1 points per game and was named MVP at the McDonald’s All American game. Evans has continued to develop this game after being drafted by Sacramento by playing on the Kings’ summer league team. In his 2nd game in the summer league, he recorded a double-double with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. Overall, Evans shows a lot of promise for the Kings who would strongly benefit from some up-tempo offense. However, in my opinion, to work out any remaining kinks he may have in his game he should play in the NBA-D League (NBA Developmental League). He still is very young and could benefit from a farm-system team (The Reno Bighorns) to improve his defensive game if he continues to play point guard. At 6’6,” 220 pounds, Evans will definitely be a force within the paint.
4.) Ricky Rubio, Point Guard, (Drafted 5th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves) – Rubio will definitely bring a sense of freshness with his fast, up-tempo European style of play. Rubio is definitely the complete package of a point guard. He shoots, scores, passes, and plays aggressive defense. At 6’4,” 180 pounds Rubio can hold his ground amongst players on the court, but what’s more impressive is his ability to do so against larger and taller opponents. On offense, he particularly loves to drive into the lane for the lay-up regardless of whose on defense and 80% of the time seems to make the shot. However, he also fulfills the generic point guard description as well with his excellent ball-handling and passing. Rubio seems to find his teammates from any point on the court and make whatever pass is necessary including numerous behind-the-back bounce passes and toss-up’s for alley oop’s. Look out for him to become the league leader in assists one day. On Defense, Rubio’s most vital asset is his ability to simultaneously pressure other point guards and hold his ground and yield no space at all to his opponents. His size and speed make him effective at stealing the ball. Rubio has played the past four seasons with DKV Jovenut Jugadors of Liga ACB (the Spanish ACB League) and has led the squad to three Catalan Championships (2006, 2008, and 2009). Rubio has been compared to current NBA Star, Jason Kidd (Dallas Mavericks). Fun facts: His nicknames include “La Pistola” and “The Rolling Earthquake.”
5.) Stephen Curry, Guard, (picked 7th overall by the Golden State Warriors)- One would think that leading NCAA Division I basketball in points per game would give a player a higher draft pick, but Curry was plucked when was. This season with the Davidson Wildcats Curry was the leading scorer with 28.6 points per game. He also established career highs in points scored (974), assists (189), and steals (86). In his sophomore year (2007-2008), Curry established a new NCAA single season record after making 162 three-pointers. That same season, Curry established highs in all shooting percentages which included field goals (.483), three-pointers (.439), and free throws (894). Curry comes from a strong basketball oriented family. His father, Dell Curry, spent 16 seasons in the NBA for 5 teams (the bulk for the Charlotte Hornets, 10 seasons) and his brother Seth Curry spent his freshman year at Liberty University, where he led all NCAA Division I freshman in points per game (20.2). Curry is a very offensively focused player, but has also improved on the defensive aspects of his game over the course of his three years at Davidson College. He can score comfortably from almost anywhere on the court, but possesses the unique ability to consistently score from outside the paint whether it be a long shot for 2 points or a 3-pointer. As so many have already said, his shot range is what makes him phenomenal overall. Dave-Te Thomas of “rivals.com” compares Curry to Mike Bibby of the Atlanta Hawks. Curry is originally from Akron, Ohio; where Lebron James is also from (NBA MVP 2009). Despite choosing to not attend Davidson for his senior year, Curry still plans to earn a degree and is in the midst of online summer classes.