This year’s NBA Draft is absolutely loaded. It’s as deep a draft as we’ve seen in years and part of the reason is the influx of top talent to top colleges, due to the NBA’s age limit rule. Last year, Rivals.com listed Greg Oden (No. 1), Kevin Durant (No. 2) and Brandan Wright (No. 3) as the top three incoming freshman in the country. They are now (in some projections) seen as the top three players in this year’s draft.
Georgia Tech’s Thaddeus Young (No. 5) and Javaris Crittenton (No. 7), Washington’s Spencer Hawes (No. 6), Ohio State’s Daequan Cook (No. 13) and Mike Conley (No. 18), were all also listed as top prospects by Rivals. All have decided to enter the draft. So, that got us thinking, with so many kids going the one-and-done route, who’s next?
Here are some incoming freshmen we think will at least consider putting their names into the 2008 NBA Draft.
O.J. Mayo – USC
Guard, 6’5 215, No. 4 ranked prospect on Rivals.com
Solid, locked, done deal. Mayo is going to USC to audition for NBA scouts, nothing more. He will likely be the most polished, skilled, well-rounded and competitive guards to come into college basketball in years. He’ll make an immediate impact, impress everyone and be gone, all in the span of nine months. He can do it all and has impressed me every time I’ve seen him play. The most locked-in one and done guy on this list.
Michael Beasley – Kansas State
Forward, 6’9 235, No. 1 ranked prospect on Rivals.com
Like Mayo, Beasley is incredibly versatile. He has an all-around game, and can dominated on the inside with power or on the outside with finesse. He’s exactly the type of ball-handling combo forward NBA scouts drool over. He’s a match-up problem waiting to happen, think of him as a shorter, stronger Kevin Durant. Probably won’t have the same impact, as Durant has that special “it” factor that comes along very rarely, and Durant is a more polished scorer. But, Beasley will definitely be on everyone’s radar next year and should put up monster numbers. Seeing as how Kansas State isn’t exactly a basketball Mecca, he’ll be gone after a great freshman campaign.
Kevin Love – UCLA
Center, 6’9 240, No. 6 ranked prospect on Rivals.com
Love is a special player. There is a chance he sticks around at UCLA if he’s having fun in college and really feels he can improve. But it will be tough to ignore the lure of the NBA, especially in a class devoid of stud big men. Will immediately be one of the top two or three most polished big men in all of college basketball. He’s a phenomenal passer and shooter, and can finish around the hoop using a diverse arsenal of post moves. If you’re a big college basketball fan you’ll probably recognize that probably the most polished big man to enter the NBA over the last 10 years was Nick Collison. His game hasn’t translated well to the league, but in his senior year Collison could do it all. Love looks to be on that level right now. He’s incredibly polished but he may have reached his ceiling. We’ll see, but regardless, he’ll be a great college player.
Eric Gordon – Indiana
Guard, 6’4 194, No. 2 ranked prospect on Rivals.com
Gordon is basketball’s version of a “five-tool” prospect. He’s strong, can score inside and out, plays tough defense, has great court-vision and can handle the ball. Reminds many scouts of Dwayne Wade. Gordon famously flipped his commitment from Illinois to Indiana – in case you’ve forgotten (and we know you haven’t) we broke the story. He’ll make an immediate impact in Kelvin Sampson’s system, thanks to the inside presence of senior forward D.J. White. They could be one of the best inside-out combos in the country, while should take pressure off of Gordon, allowing him to put tons of points on the board. Despite being a little undersized for a shooting guard at the next level, his all-around game and strength should be enough to make the NBA a viable option next summer. We hope he doesn’t jump, but it’s hard to think that he’ll stay around. If he comes back for his sophomore year, there’s no way he’ll be there any longer.
Bill Walker – Kansas State
Forward, 6’6 220, No. 7 ranked prospect on Rivals.com
Thought he’ll technically be in school for one and a half years, we still put him on the list. A former teammate of Mayo, he would have jumped to the NBA already if not for the new age rules. He enrolled early at Kansas State and ruptured his ACL, forcing him to sit out much of the season. Still, he’s a ridiculous athlete, and playing with Beasley will elevate both of their games. He’ll get drafted on his athletic ability and potential. As long as he doesn’t show any ill-effects from the knee injury, there’s no chance he sticks around after this season.
Derrick Rose – Memphis
Guard, 6’4 194, No. 3 ranked prospect on Rivals.com
After some careful consideration (and a comment on the post) I decided to add Rose to the list. He’s obviously got the talent to play in the NBA but I have a weird feeling that Calipari will convince him to stay for two years. He’s a great pure point guard with very refined offensive skills. He’s improving on defense and his jump shot is getting better and better. He’s probably the most well rounded point guard prospect to come out of high school since Jason Kidd. He’s a great leader with excellent court vision. He’s the type of point guard I love, the type that doesn’t need to fill up the stat sheet to have a huge impact on a game. He reminds me of a taller, more impressive version of Conley. He’d likely be a lottery pick this year. But, like I said, I have a weird feeling that he’ll be convinced to stick around an extra year.
Solomon Alabi – Florida State
Center, 7’1 230, No. 24 ranked prospect on Rivals.com
No one has improved more in the last year than Alabi. He’s a pure center, has great athleticism for his size and will only improve with time. He changes the game on the defensive end, he’s an amazing shot blocker, with his wingspan, jumping ability and timing. Unless he fails to put on weight and maintain a good conditioning program, he’ll be very tempted to make the NBA-leap. With the lack of great big men in this class, he’ll find the prospect of the lottery really hard to pass up. Could end up being a great NBA center, but will certainly be a project.