Evaluating the 2008 Draft Class
By Mike DeStefano
Thu, 06/19/2008 - 5:16pm
With the 2008 NBA Draft a week away, it’s hard for fans to avoid wondering how this draft class might turn out. How will it compare to other drafts? Strengths? Weaknesses? Let’s break it down.
Big Men (4s and 5s):
Everyone knows about Michael Beasley. Coming off a dominant freshman season, Beasley is the only can’t-miss frontcourt prospect in the draft. After him, this is one of the better drafts for big men in recent memory, especially centers.
[img_assist|nid=1163|title=Roy Hibbert|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=427] First, the positives. There is a lot of upside in this group of players. No two players in this group are overly similar, so teams with different frontcourt needs have a diverse bunch of frontcourt players to choose from:
Polished Skills and Big-Game Experience – Kevin Love and Darrell Arthur
Offensive Specialists in a Half Court Set – Brook Lopez and Roy Hibbert
Defensive Specialist – Robin Lopez
Great Upside – DeAndre Jordan, Javale McGee, and Marreese Speights
Versatility – Jason Thompson, Ryan Anderson, and Kosta Koufos
International Projects: Serge Ibaka, Alexis Ajinca, Nathan Jawai, and more
Now, the negatives. How many of these players jump out at you as future All-Stars? How many of them will be ready to contribute immediately? Kevin Love is the most ready player of this group (after Beasley), but will he be able to adjust to the athleticism of NBA players? Brook Lopez has a nice offensive skill set, but will he get the time to show it off or will he be relegated to the bench as a rebounding and defensive liability? Will DeAndre Jordan ever realize his Dwight-like potential or will he ride the bench like he did at Texas A&M this past season?
There are many question marks with this year’s crop of big men, but more depth and potential than most years. Some team in the mid-first round is likely to strike gold with a "potential pick" bigman.
This category might be the toughest to evaluate. There are only two true point guards in this draft: Derrick Rose (can’t miss prospect) and DJ Augustin (not so much). The strength of the point guards of the class of 2008 will depend on whether or not OJ Mayo, Jerryd Bayless, and Russell Westbrook can shake the label of combo guard and succeed as full-time NBA point guards.
Combo guards are valuable when they are splitting time between the guard positions, but teams struggle to advance in the playoffs with these undersized 2-guards running the show. That’s why the Wizards were better without Agent Zero, why AI isn’t the Answer to the Nuggets’ point guard problem, and why Chicago is leaning toward Derrick Rose with the #1 pick even though they’ve coveted a go-to interior scorer for years.
Mayo, Bayless, and Westbrook are three guards with star potential. But are they pass-first players? Can they fit a system and make their teammates better? All three have shown the ball handling and passing ability to play the point at the next level, and they are also saying all the right things. Mayo points out that his volume shooting was at the request of Tim Floyd, Bayless says that he was asked to focus more on scoring by his coaches, and Westbrook was moved off the ball because Darren Collison was already at the point.
After those three, DJ Augustin will be the next point guard off the board. The diminutive 1st team All-American has drawn comparisons to Steve Nash (sorry, I don’t see it), and his jump shot and quickness should help him succeed in the right system. However, there are concerns about his size, and it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to defending bigger point guards.
With Ty Lawson dropping out, the last option at point guard is Mario Chalmers. Another player with the combo label, don’t sleep on his ability to make it as a point guard at the next level: he’s gotten better taking care of the ball (2.25 A/T ratio), he’s a tenacious defender (2.5 steals per game), he’s deadly from the perimeter (46% from 3), and he’s clutch – all the makings of a successful NBA point guard. Jamont Gordon could also get first round consideration.
The jury is out on the strength of the point guard position in this draft until we see what happens with Mayo, Bayless, and Westbrook. But the potential for greatness is there, especially with Rose at the top.
Swing Men (2’s and 3’s):
[img_assist|nid=1091|title=Eric Gordon|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=350|height=399]This draft is strongest on the wings in terms of depth, even if the aforementioned combos end up point guards rather than shooting guards. Headlining this year’s group of swingmen is Eric Gordon, the leading scorer in the Big Ten this past year at over 21 PPG. Though built in the mold of a combo guard himself, his strength, athleticism, and outside shooting will allow him to be a full-time shooting guard in the pros. Although his stock has slipped since December, there is a good chance that, in a couple of years, we will be talking about him as one of the top 3-5 players to come out of this draft. The other notable shooting guard in the first round is Brandon Rush, whose size, athleticism, and all-around skill may help him go as high as 15 to the Suns.
The small forward position is the single deepest position in this draft. Three of them – Anthony Randolph, Joe Alexander, Danilo Gallinari – are widely considered to be lottery picks, and two others, Donte Greene and Nicolas Batum, could sneak into the lottery as well. Randolph is raw but shows great potential as a Shawn Marion/Lamar Odom-type player, Alexander is an athletic freak that could play both forward positions and has a nice mid-range game, and Danilo Gallinari is thought by many to be the best facilitator and playmaker not named Derrick Rose. Greene and Batum are furthest away but have just as much star potential. Chris Douglas-Roberts will make a team very happy late in the first round.
Food for thought: This group already contains a potentially lethal bunch of scorers. If Beasley makes the transition to small forward, and Mayo, Bayless, and Westbrook end up playing off the ball, how good could this group of wings be? It’s too much to even think about.
The 2nd round in this year’s draft is one of its biggest strengths, with players that can contribute at the NBA level well past the 40th pick.
This is where the swingmen cement their title as strongest position in the draft with potential first-rounders Bill Walker and Courtney Lee, draft camp star Gary Forbes, and other athletes like JR Giddens, Davon Jefferson, Sonny Weems, and L.R. Mbah a Moute.
Second-round big men DJ White, Joey Dorsey, Devon Hardin, and Richard Hendrix can save face for higher profile frontcourt players as they try to become the next Paul Millsap or Carl Landry. Each has the ability to contribute at the next level, perhaps even exceed the immediate contributions of their first-round counterparts.
The draft's strengths appear to be distributed well with quality and depth at most positions, with great scorers, athletes, and potential superstars scattered throughout each position. Teams in the mid-first round are in a better position than those in the mid-lottery as picks between 5-18 are fairly similar in talent level. After the first handful of guards, the potential drops off considerably, while a bigman with considerable upside can be had further down in the draft There are contributors available in the frontcourt, but no one that jumps out at you aside from Michael Beasley. A great draft if you need help on the perimeter, not so great if you need immediate help in the paint.