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Scouting the NBA Draft

Ben Zani

Ben Zani writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Scouting the NBA Draft
By Ben Zani
RotoWire Staff Writer

1. Greg Oden: 7-0, 257 C Ohio State, 19 years old

Strengths: Widely regarded as the No. 1 center prospect of the last decade. Has NBA size, athleticism and maturity. Easily the best defensive center to come out of the draft since David Robinson, and is an elite shot blocker. Can finish with both hands, and played most of the college season with a broken right (dominant) hand. Great at getting position, holds on to passes with very soft hands. Excellent rebounder. Is extremely athletic for someone his size, and outperformed Durant in quickness and agility drills during workouts.

Weaknesses: Needs some offensive improvement, though he is a very quick learner. Can struggle against stronger, more aggressive players. Can get into foul trouble. Is still only 19 years old, and may not set the world on fire immediately.

2. Kevin Durant: 6-10, 215 SF Texas, 18 years old

Strengths: Possible franchise player, and would have been the top pick in most draft years. Uncanny court sense, never hesitates with the ball and always knows exactly what to do with it. Quickness, leaping ability and freakish wingspan make him a matchup nightmare for opposing teams. Maybe the best shooter in the draft, has legit three-point range out to 30 feet. Underrated post moves and passing skill. Excellent rebounder, had higher rebound average than Oden last year. Decent shot blocker, long wingspan.

Weaknesses: Still needs to improve defensively, though has shown willingness to learn. Physically needs to fill out a bit, and is much better suited to playing the 3 than the 4. Lacks upper-body strength. Expectations of being the Sonics' franchise savior and the player to keep the team in Seattle may also be overwhelming.

3. Al Horford - 6-10, 246 PF Florida, 21 years old

Strengths: Powerful, athletic power forward prospect with great upside. Great rebounder, could walk right in and average double-digit rebounds. Surprisingly strong passer and ball handler, rarely gets balls stripped. Very physical in low post. Extremely coachable. Shined in big games and against strong competition.

Weaknesses: Is raw offensively, got most of his points off rebounds in college. Not a very consistent mid-range shot. While he is very strong, he could fill out and get even stronger.

4. Brandan Wright - 6-10, 200 PF North Carolina, 19 years old

Strengths: Potential is the key word here, as Wright is very raw. Very quick for his size, and extremely athletic. Strong shooting touch, possesses a good short jumper. Great rebounder, excels at getting position. Very strong defender, long wingspan could make him an elite shotblocker.

Weaknesses: Needs to gain upper body strength to compete in the NBA. Not a consistent three-point shooter. Certainly a project, and is realistically a few years away from beginning to meet his potential.

5. Corey Brewer - 6-8, 185 SG/SF Florida, 21 years old

Strengths: Best perimeter defender in the draft, without question. Uses long arms, quickness, footwork and height to lock down forwards and guards. Decent rebounder and passer. Great body control, and can make difficult baskets when driving to the hoop. Highly athletic. Decent shooter, especially from 3-point range. Blocks shots well for his size.

Weaknesses: Still has a long way to go offensively, especially shooting off the dribble. Questionable ballhandler. Needs to put on weight and upper-body strength. Will not make nearly the impact on the offensive end that he will on defense, limiting his fantasy potential.

6. Yi Jianlan - 7-0 242 PF/SF China, 19 years old

Strengths: Best international prospect in the draft. Freakish athlete, 7-foot-4 wingspan allows him to play longer than he actually is. Strong work ethic, has improved his rebounding. Great shooter, has three-point range. Good-but-not-great defender, uses quickness and court awareness.

Weaknesses: Position is questionable: lacks upper body strength and post moves to bang with most of the league's PFs, but is a bit rangy to play SF. Not a great shot blocker. Must add strength.

7. Joakim Noah - 7-0, 223 PF/C Florida, 22 years old

Strengths: Great motor, athleticism and defensive skill. Strong passer for a big man. Excellent shot blocker. Can do a little bit of everything. Good finisher in transition. Knows how to draw fouls and use his body in the post. A winner who possesses great leadership ability. Served as the "do-everything" guy on two national championship teams.

Weaknesses: What position does he play in the pros? Needs upper body strength, but his narrow frame suggests that he cannot add much more bulk. Relatively undeveloped offensive game, and could use an arsenal of post moves. Below-average shooter, lacks consistency to mid-range.

8. Mike Conley Jr. 6-1 175 PG Ohio State, 19 years old

Strengths: Best point guard in the draft. A leader, knows how to run a team. Extremely quick, can get by opposing guards and into the paint. Knows how to feed the post. Above-average athlete, can defend bigger guards. Thinks pass-first. A winner, will do anything it takes to give his team the edge.

Weaknesses: Very young for the point guard position, may take a while to earn respect of his NBA teammates. Inconsistent shooter, especially from three-point range. Not very tall.

9. Jeff Green - 6-10 228 SF Georgetown, 20 years old

Strengths: Versatile player who does a little bit of everything. Good defender, long arms, possesses solid upper-body strength. Great basketball IQ, rarely makes mental mistakes. Can post up smaller defenders and has a soft touch around the basket. Moves without the ball.

Weaknesses: Not a great shooter, especially from the perimeter. Needs to develop more of a scorer's mentality, and has been called "too unselfish" bhi his critics. A bit of a tweener between SF and PF. Doesn't have one standout skill.

10. Spencer Hawes - 6-11 250 C Washington, 19 years old

Strengths: Elite passer, will immediately become one of the best passing big men in the NBA. Decent athlete for his size, and runs the floor very well. Great hands and ball-handling skill, and has a soft touch around the basket. Has shooting range out to three-point distance.

Weaknesses: Very raw offensively. Can settle for outside shots rather than scoring in the post. Needs to improve defensively. Can struggle against quicker players. Very young, and is probably a few years away from meeting his potential. Could add upper-body strength.

11. Al Thornton - 6-7, 221 SF Florida State, 23 years old

Strengths: Volume scorer. Uses his athleticism and intensity to put up points in bunches. Excellent perimeter defender and rebounder, uses his NBA-ready body very well. Three-point shooting range.

Weaknesses: Prone to turnovers and is not a great ballhandler. Terrible passer. Can improve post offense. Can force shots and get out of control, and was basically a one-man show in college.

12. Julian Wright - 6-9 220 SF Kansas, 20 years old

Strengths: Most versatile player in the draft. Great athlete with a long wingspan (7-2) that helps him play bigger. Strong passer and defender, and possesses ability to play point forward position in the pros. Suprisingly strong rebounder for someone with his thin frame. Leadership ability, strong character.

Weaknesses: Jump shot is still light years away, and he would be a perennial All-Star with a consistent jumper. Very thin, and could only lift 185 pounds twice. Can be unselfish to a fault.

13. Acie Law - 6-4 186 PG Texas A&M 22 years old

Strengths: Utterly fearless, and a great leader. Has improved nearly every facet of his game while in college. Good slasher and great ball handler. Quick defender. Big time competitor, wants the ball in crunchtime.

Weaknesses: Inconsistent shooter, poor shooting mechanics. Streaky on both ends of the court, and lets his emotions affect his game at times. Could improve defensive mechanics.

14. Nick Young - 6-7 206 SG/SF USC 22 years old

Strengths: Is a prototypical shooting guard, and does everything you expect from the position. One of the best shooters in this draft, both from mid-range and behind the arc. Excellent athlete. Fundamentally sound, including advanced post-up skills for his size. Long arms help him get rebounds. Physical tools to become a solid defender.

Weaknesses: Work ethic is questionable, and has been called downright lazy. Can settle for jump shot when he could drive to the basket. Bad habits on defense, and can get himself into foul trouble. Needs to hit the weight room.

15. Jarvaris Crittendon - 6-4 194 PG Georgia Tech, 19 years old

Strengths: Great combination of size, athleticism and playmaking ability. Good passing skills. Unselfish player, very competitive. Good attitude, coachable. Possibly more upside than any PG in the draft.

Weaknesses: Is a huge project, still very, very young and inconsistent. Looked terrible and made bad decisions in NCAA Tournament. Many believe that he should have returned for his sophomore year, and is probably at least a year or two away from contributing on a winning NBA team.

16. Rodney Stuckey - 6-5 207 SG Eastern Washington, 21 years old

Strengths: A scoring machine. Great off the dribble and is an excellent finisher. Has strength and size to play PG or SG in the pros. Gets to the free-throw line with regularity.

Weaknesses: Didn't play against great competition in college, and carried most of the offensive load for his team. Can focus more defensively. Not an elite athlete. Needs to involve teammates more.

17. Derrick Byars - 6-7 225 SG/SF Vanderbilt, 23 years old

Strengths: Versatile player, can step in right away and play both shooting guard and small forward. Intelligent defender, and viewed as someone who will never hurt a team when he's on the court. Has an NBA-level understanding of the game, can step in right away and play. SEC Player of the Year in a strong year for the conference.

Weaknesses: Will never be a superstar, may find his niche as a 7th or 8th man on a good team. Average athlete. More of a set shooter, and his shot selection can be questionable. Can get out of control with the ball.

18. Thaddeus Young - 6-8 210 SF Georgia Tech, 18 years old

Strengths: Freakish athlete, downright impossible to stop in the open court. Versatile on offense and defense; can take anyone off the dribble and can defend four positions. Excellent passer. Left-handed. Very intelligent, earned a 4.0 GPA. Strong offensive rebounder.

Weaknesses: Skills are still raw, is still very young and probably a few years away. Needs to add at least 20 pounds of muscle, as he can be pushed around inside. Jump shot isn't consistent. Not great going to his right. Could have stayed in school another year.

19. Jason Smith - 7-0 PF/C Colorado State, 21 years old

Strengths: Fundamentally sound center, does everything relatively well. Shooting range out to three-point. Can run the court and constantly works the low blocks to get open. Underrated post passer and ball handler. Good footwork. Decent mid-range jumper.

Weaknesses: Needs to add upper body strength, especially for the center position. Not a banger. Short arms and small hands, will probably not be much of a shot blocker in the pros. Not a great athlete. Struggles with contact and has a fairly high turnover rate when pressured.

20. Tiago Splitter - 7-0 240 C Brazil, 22 years old

Strengths: Has excelled for years in the Euroleague and in international play. Strong defender and shot blocker. Decent jumper, and can explode for big scoring games. Plays with maturity, honed by years of high-level professional play.

Weaknesses: Has withdrawn from the draft three times already, causing some scouts to sour on him. Needs to improve strength to make transition to NBA. Has an injury history, is viewed as injury prone. Struggles with contact.

21. Rudy Fernandez - 6-6 172 SG Spain, 22 years old

Strengths: Strong shooter, and finds a way to get open looks for his shot. A good athlete, and uses his athleticism to get by defenders with a quick first-step. High basketball IQ. Looks to get teammates involved. Very mature for his age, and played against strong competition in Spain. Seen as a prototypical 2 guard.

Weaknesses: Somewhat short for an NBA shooting guard. Must improve defensively. Needs to bulk up and build strength, as he has a hard time fighting through screens.

22. Sean Williams - 6-10 230 C Boston College, 20 years old

Strengths: Elite shot blocker and athlete. Out-of-the-gym leaping ability and quickness, and could step in as an elite post defender right away. Excellent rebounder. Underrated touch around the basket, and can be a solid finisher.

Weaknesses: Major character and drug concerns. Repeatedly suspended and eventually kicked off the BC team, and has encountered significant drug troubles. Work ethic and commitment have come into question, and he was often outworked by opposing players. Foul prone. Very raw offensively. Whoever drafts him may need to hire a babysitter to keep him out of trouble.

23. Morris Almond - 6-6 215 SG/SF Rice, 22 years old

Strengths: A scoring machine, with shooting range out to three-point (45% from three-point range in college). Can get to the foul line and convert a high percentage of his free throws. Moves extremely well without the ball, and uses effective shot fakes to draw contact, is very physical for his position. Has an NBA-ready body, is physically mature for his age. Underrated passer, despite his scoring numbers. Is an effective defender.

Weaknesses: Can force passes, and ball control can be an issue. Could improve defensive intensity and lateral quickness, especially at the next level, has a tendency to get burned by quicker players. Could bulk up his frame.

24. Josh McRoberts 6-10 240 PF Duke, 20 years old

Strengths: Solid all-around player, strong basketball IQ. Plays the game with hustle and can run the court well for his size. Good passer and rebounder. Decent mid-range jumper. Intense and has a mean streak.

Weaknesses: Not athletic enough to play SF and his post-up game isn't refined enough to play PF. Gets easily frustrated with teammates and opponents when things don't go his way. Not a fan of physical contact. Struggled when asked to carry Duke's scoring load this season. Possesses no one spectacular skill. Could have been top-five after his sophomore year, but has tumbled down the draft board since then.

25. Daequan Cook - 6-5 210 SG Ohio State, 20 years old

Strengths: Explosive athlete with an NBA-ready body. Outstanding jumping ability. Strong shooter, both from mid-range and from three. Surprisingly good rebounder for his size. Aggressive going to the basket. Underrated passer.

Weaknesses: Maturity is a concern. Lost his starting spot midway through the season at Ohio State, and reportedly did not handle it well. Possesses lots of skills, but hasn't developed many of them yet. Poor ball-handler. Can disappear in games at times. Most believe that he should have stayed at least one more year in school, and is probably a few years away.

26. Marco Belinelli - 6-6 190 SG Italy, 21 years old

Strengths: Elite shooter, especially from the outside. His shot has also gradually improved throughout his career in Europe. Possesses solid ball-handling skills and passing ability. Can play point guard, though is developed more as a shooting guard. Mature for his age.

Weaknesses: May struggle to defend more athletic shooting guards. Can pass up drives to the basket for long-range shots. Not much of a rebounder. Can be streaky.

27. Glen Davis - 6-9 290 PF LSU, 21 years old

Strengths: Tremendous physical strength for a player his height, and his game has drawn comparisons to Shaquille O'Neal's. Shooting range out to 18 feet. Great at setting up on the block and establishing position. Nimble for a big man. Underrated passer, good court sense. Very soft hands for a big man. Leader in the locker room, strong character.

Weaknesses: Weight is a major concern. If he lost 20 pounds, his mobility would improve. Lacks lift on his jump shot. Not much of a shot blocker, more of a space eater inside.

28. Petteri Koponen - 6-5 195 PG Finland, 19 years old

Strengths: Strong passer with great court vision. Good size for the position. Had a strong showing against Team USA at the 2007 Nike Hoop Summit. Tough for his size. Coachable.

Weaknesses: Lacks NBA athleticism and struggles defending against quicker and more physical point guards. Very young, and could afford to stay overseas for a year or two.

29. Kyrylo Fesenko - 7-1 270 C Ukraine, 20 years old

Strengths: You can't coach size, and Fesenko has lots of it. Active player down low, seen as a pure inside guy, and seems to genuinely enjoy physical play in the post. Very quick and athletic for his size. Some late-first round teams are reportedly very high on him.

Weaknesses: Extremely raw, seen as a long-term project. His offensive range right now only extends to about five feet, so he would need a great deal of coaching on the offensive end. Tends to rely on his athleticism defensively, and can therefore be foul prone. Any team that drafts him will probably stash him in Europe for a few years to let him develop.

30. Gabe Pruitt - 6-4 170 PG USC, 21 years old

Strengths: Player who seemed to improve as the season went on, culminating in a strong showing in the NCAA Tournament. Great size for the position, also played shooting guard in college. Excellent athleticism and ability to break down the defender. Has legit three-point range, shot 45% from three this past season. Seen as a leader.

Weaknesses: Not terribly consistent throughout his career at USC. May be more of a combo guard than point guard on the NBA level, and is still learning the PG position. Was injury-prone in college. Has more of a scorer's mentality, will need to think more like a point guard on the pro level.

31. Arron Afflalo - 6-5 215 SG UCLA, 21 years old

Strengths: Dead-eye mid-range shooter. Competitive, and isn't afraid to take the last shot. Can penetrate and get to the rim. Moves well without the ball. Has an NBA-ready strength. Strong basketball IQ, excellent leader. Smart defender. Clutch shooter, and was a winner in college.

Weaknesses: Lacks a first step to get by a defender, and some question whether he can create his own shot. Average athlete and size for the position. Some question his ability to make the NBA three-point shot.

32. Nick Fazekas - 6-11 PF/C Nevada, 22 years old

Strengths: Excellent shooter, his range extends to NBA three-point distance. Also an excellent rebounder, uses his body well to box out. Moves well without the ball. Has improved post up moves, possesses an underrated array of jump hooks and turnaround jumpers. Strong footwork for a big man.

Weaknesses: Not a great athlete, with little quickness or leaping ability. Will not be a shot blocker in the NBA. Not very physically strong, and tends to avoid contact down low.

33. Jared Dudley - 6-7 225 SF Boston College, 21 years old

Strengths: Possibly the best basketball IQ in the college ranks. Great court vision, excellent passer for his position. Has grown into a strong shooter and scorer, with legit three-point range. Knows how to initiate contact from defenders. Has improved every year. Hustle player, and always gives maximum effort.

Weaknesses: Some feel that his potential has hit a ceiling. Not a superior athlete, and doesn't possess a great body. Could struggle on defense against quicker small forwards. May be a tweener on the pro level.

34. Taurean Green - 6-0 177 PG Florida, 21 years old

Strengths: A winner. Led his team to two national championships, and knows how to run an offense full of talented players. Has three-point shooting range and an extremely quick release on his shot. Showed composure in big games and confidence in his play. Can shoot from a set position or coming off the dribble. Gets to the line and converts high percentage of his free throws.

Weaknesses: Very small for position. Was streaky at times in college, especially on the offensive end. Can make bad passes; his assist/turnover ratio leaves much to be desired. Not a great defender, could show more effort defensively.

35. Alando Tucker - 6-5 205 SF Wisconsin, 23 years old

Strengths: Excellent college credentials, was the star of several Wisconsin teams. NBA-level athlete with an elite vertical jump. Knows how to score, has great back-to-the-basket skills for his size and is great at drawing contact. Has three-point range on his shot. Great work ethic and has excellent court sense, viewed as very coachable. Solid rebounder, uses his above-average strength to box out.

Weaknesses: Height is an issue for his skill set; he plays like a SF but is too short for the position in the NBA. Needs to improve defensively, tended to focus most of his energy on the offensive end in college. Slow release on his shot, may have trouble getting his shot off in the NBA. Poor free-throw shooter.

36. Wilson Chandler - 6-8 215 SF/PF Depaul, 20 years old

Strengths: Outstanding athleticism and size for either forward spot, regularly threw down highlight reel dunks. Excellent rebounding ability, especially from the offensive end. Solid shot blocker. Decent array of post moves honed while playing PF in college.

Weaknesses: Still very raw, tended to get by on his athletic ability in college. Had a tendency to coast through games in college, and his work ethic is questionable. Generally waited for the game to come to him, rather than try to make things happen. Probably a few years away, and will need a fair amount of coaching to realize his athletic potential.

37. Marc Gasol - 7-1 270 C, Spain, 22 years old

Strengths: Reliable center with a high basketball IQ. Uses strength and aggressiveness in lane, and does not often give up post position. Fundamentally sound. Soft hands and solid inside shooting touch. Brother of Grizzlies star Pau Gasol.

Weaknesses: Poor athlete, lacks the fluidity of movement that his brother possesss. Not a great shot blocker. Not much of a left hand. Often slow to the ball, is viewed as a poor help defender. Not a great passer. Doesn't wow people, more of a complimentary center.

38. Marcus Williams - 6-7 207 SG Arizona, 20 years old

Strengths: Good all-around shooting guard. Size creates mismatches at his position. Good finisher, and uses court awareness to attack opponents. Solid midrange jumper. Can defend multiple positions.

Weaknesses: Some question whether he can extend his shooting range out to NBA three-point distance. Defensive intensity can improve. Poor free-throw shooter. Very streaky offensively. Very thin, especially in the upper body.

39. Jared Jordan - 6-2 183 PG Marist, 22 years old

Strengths: Amazing playmaker with one of the best basketball IQs in the draft. Surprising rebounder for someone with his size/athleticism. Always looks to push ball upcourt. Has legit NBA three-point range on his jumper.

Weaknesses: Not terribly quick or athletic. May have trouble gaining separation from defenders. Inconsistent shot, can be streaky. Didn't play against great competition in college. Seems to have reached his ceiling.

40. Aaron Gray - 7-2 272 C Pittsburgh, 22 years old

Strengths: Amazingly soft hands for someone his size, does not lose many balls and goes straight to the hoop offensively. Solid rebounder, knows how to utilize his frame to box out. Decent array of post moves, including hook shots. NBA-ready size for the center position. Shooting touch out to 15 feet.

Weaknesses: Not a great athlete by any stretch of the imagination, and often struggles against more athletic players. Has trouble in fast-paced offenses. Not explosive enough to be much of a shot blocker on the pro level. Has struggled with his weight in the past.

Article first appeared on 6/26/07

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