NBA Draft Pac-10 Players Review
The Pac-10 was well represented in Thursday night’s NBA Draft with nine of the 60 picks made hailing out of the conference (including three of the top 10). Here is our analysis of those nine Pac-10 draftees.
Player: James Harden, Shooting Guard, 6-5, 222
School: Arizona State
Drafted By: Okalahoma City Thunder, 3rd Overall
Analysis: Both the Thunder and James Harden were winners Thursday night. Harden will join former UCLA standout Russell Westbrook in the backcourt next season. Some prognosticators thought PG Ricky Rubio would be the pick, but Thunder management believes in Westbrook’s ability to run the point. The addition of Harden solidifies a young and talented core for Oklahoma City. Harden’s basketball IQ is off the charts and he can score in a variety of ways, averaging 20.1 points per game last season (as well as 5.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists). He has a prototypical body for a shooting guard, and plays an unselfish brand of basketball that makes everyone around him better. Harden may be the most NBA-ready player in the entire draft. The Pac-10 Player of the Year for 2009 will join Westbrook and forward Kevin Durant on one of the NBA’s most exciting young teams.
Player: Jordan Hill, Power Forward, 6-10, 232
Drafted By: New York Knicks, 8th Overall
Analysis: Few players in this draft have more upside than Hill. It’s important to remember that he has only been playing basketball for five years. Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni compares him to Amare Stoudemire at the same age. The fans in New York wanted Stephen Curry, but Hill is a very versatile big man that hasn’t reached his full potential yet. Last season he averaged 18.3 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats. He is big enough to play center if called upon, but will make a perfect power forward at the next level. He played in a high-tempo offense at Arizona, and has no problem running the floor. If Hill improves as much in the NBA as he did with the Wildcats, this could be a great pick for the Knicks.
Player: DeMar DeRozan, Shooting Guard, 6-7, 211
Drafted By: Toronto Raptors, 9th Overall
Analysis: I just mentioned that few players in this draft have more upside than Jordan Hill; and DeRozan might be one of the few. He is an electrifying athlete that can virtually jump out of a gym, possessing a vertical leap of over 40 inches. He got off to a slow start at USC, but finished like a freight train garnering all kinds of attention in the process. He averaged 13.9 point and 5.7 rebounds at SC. DeRozan still has a lot of developing to do physically and needs to improve his outside shooting (16.7% 3PT-Shooting). He is an extremely long athlete capable of posting-up other shooting guards or flying by small forwards. Overall, DeRozan gives Toronto a much-needed scorer with explosive potential.
Player: Jrue Holiday, Point Guard, 6-4 199
Drafted By: Philadelphia 76ers, 17th Overall
Analysis: Holiday was thought to be a lottery pick coming into the draft but he fell mostly due to injury concerns. He is another player that hasn’t come close to reaching his potential. Holiday lacked production at UCLA (8.5 points, 3.7 assists per game) but NBA experts love what he could become. The 76ers drafted him to be the point guard of the future, and at 6-4 he would be a big-1 guard capable of exploiting mismatches. He was not able to show off his point guard skills last season because of Darren Collison’s hold on the position. While that had some affect on his play, it’s unclear as to why he underperformed so much with the Bruins. He enters the NBA with a lot to prove because of his poor showing in Westwood. Still, he is an exceptional defender (something he did show at UCLA) and has natural court vision. It may take a little while, but Holiday is a rare talent that has all the tools to be a solid NBA point guard.
Player: Darren Collison, Point Guard, 6-2, 166
Drafted By: New Orleans Hornets, 21st Overall
Analysis: A little puzzling here. The Hornets drafted a speedy, undersized point guard with Chris Paul already on the roster. Collison will be a very good backup, but why draft a backup point guard with so many other needs? He averaged 14.4 points last year with UCLA to go along with 4.7 assists. Collison is a proven winner that has been to three Final Fours. He is an intelligent player that has tremendous ball handling skills and can beat almost anyone off the dribble. He shouldn’t have too much trouble continuing to penetrate defenses at the next level. Like Jrue Holliday, Collison is also a terrific defender and will help take the load off of Chris Paul in New Orleans.
Player: Taj Gibson, Power Forward, 6-10, 214
Drafted By: Chicago Bulls, 26th Overall
Analysis: It may take Gibson time to find his place with the Bulls because they have so many frontcourt players. He is an excellent athlete with nice touch around the basket. He averaged 14.3 points and 9.0 rebounds in 2008/09 with the Trojans. Gibson proved to be a great shot-blocker (almost 3 a game) despite going up against bigger players quite a bit during his SC career. The one concern with Gibson is his ability to post-up defenders at the next level. He has a skinny frame and didn’t add much weight over his college career. He may have to rely on quickness and grit to get inside position in the NBA. He is a very good rebounder and possesses great length. If the Bulls work out their big man rotation, Gibson could be a nice addition in Chicago.
Player: Jeff Pendergraph, Power Forward, 6-10, 240
School: Arizona State
Drafted By: Sacramento Kings, 31st Overall (Traded to Portland)
Analysis: The Portland Trailblazers might have specifically wanted Jeff Pendergraph for a reason. After all, at ASU he was a teammate of Jamelle McMillan’s; the son of Trailblazers coach Nate McMillan. Pendergraph saw his stock soar during NBA draft workouts. He showcased his shooting touch and mobility, while also measuring in at a legitimate 6-10. Pendergraph averaged 14.5 points and 8.2 rebounds last year with the Sun Devils, and led the nation in field-goal percentage (67%). He has tremendous leaping ability, which has made him an effective rebounder. Like Gibson, he may have trouble posting-up other power forwards, but his ability to knock down jumpers consistently will serve him well in the NBA. Pendergraph plays with great energy on both sides of the floor and could flourish in a reserve role with Portland.
Player: Jon Brockman, Power forward, 6-7, 255
Drafted By: Portland Trailblazers, 38th Overall (Traded to Sacramento for Pendergraph)
Analysis: Brockman personifies what it means to be tough. He never takes a play off, and believes that no one can outwork him. He compares favorably to Pitt Forward Dejuan Blair. Last season, Brockman averaged 14.9 points and 11.5 rebounds with the Huskies. He is never out of position during a rebound, and clears out space well. He will undoubtedly be undersized for the power forward position, but it was that way at Washington too. He will have to use his high motor to outwork opposing players on the block. Brockman is built like a tank, and can use his compact frame to wear down defenses. He may not be the ideal power-forward prospect, but he is the kind of player that every team should want. Brockman is a leader, with great work ethic and character that should make everyone around him in Sacramento better.
Player: Chase Budinger, Shooting Guard, 6-7, 206
Drafted By: Detroit Pistons, 44th Overall (Traded to Houston)
Analysis: Thought to be a likely first round pick, it was very surprising to see Budinger fall so far. He had opportunities early in his college career to be a lottery pick but chose to stay in school. Budinger is an excellent athlete and an even better shooter. He averaged 18.0 points and 6.2 rebounds last season with the Wildcats. At 6-7, he is a big shooting guard capable of getting his shot off over any defender. Budinger has a 40-inch vertical and routinely finishes ally-oops. He can be streaky and even non-existent sometimes on offense, but when motivated, Budinger can be a devastating scorer. He must improve his defense, as he was routinely beaten off the dribble in college. Although he fell far, Budinger could be a great fit in Houston. His shooting ability fits perfectly into the Rockets system and he could have a chance to play right away.