When Toronto Raptors president Bryan Colangelo was describing the landscape of tonight's NBA draft he said it was unusual because it was considered quite deep yet relatively flat.
There is one player at the top with superstar potential and a small handful considered potential all-stars and then a broad pool of good players projected as contributors, if not stars.
Picking 13th, Colangelo said there are players his team might like that other teams might have projected as low as 20th, and vice-versa. The depth of the draft has the Raptors considering picking up a second first-round pick. Confusing the picture even further is the pending free agency period where a swath of the league's best players will be available and multiple franchises have the cap space to lure them. What promises to be one of the most riveting off-seasons in recent memory gets underway tonight.
John Wall, guard, University of Kentucky: As quick as electricity and a spectacular leaper, the 6-foot-4 point guard is the prototype for the position in an era when there is no hand-checking allowed on the perimeter and play makers who can get to the rim at will can dictate a game. In is unfathomable that the Washington Wizards and new majority owner Ted Leonsis won't take Wall first overall as his hardwood Ovechkin as he seeks to rebuild the Wizards through draft, mimicking his success with the NHL's Capitals.
Evan Turner, shooting guard, Ohio State: This is effectively the first overall pick for the Philadelphia 76ers as they need both a potential star and a shooting guard. At 6-foot-7 Turner can do almost everything well on the court as his 20 points, 9.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists a game suggest. He's drawn worthy comparisons to the Portland Trail Blazers Brandon Roy for his all-around play. The question is will his presence compliment the 76ers Andre Iguodala or inspire Philadelphia to trade their star and they try to remake themselves around a young core under new coach Doug Collins.
DeMarcus Cousins, centre, University of Kentucky: A tremendous talent with the ability to score in any range of ways in the paint thanks to great touch, good feet, long arms and a frame that the 19-year-old comfortably carries 300 pounds on. Cousins would have gained serious consideration as the top overall pick except for concerns about his conditioning and coachability. He's considered a bigger and more athletic version of Al Jefferson for his low-post skills, but a younger and equally unstable version of Rasheed Wallace for his potential to combust at any time. As a result he's widely projected to fall to No.5 overall where the Sacramento Kings will be happy to find out how to calm him down.
Wesley Johnson, forward, Syracuse: A fluid 6-foot-7 forward who will probably play shooting guard in the NBA, Johnson has become a hot favourite of late to end up being taken No. 3 overall by the New Jersey Nets who would like to slide him in alongside Devin Harris and provide some spacing for emerging centre Brook Lopez and - many think - increase the likelihood the Nets will be able to sign Carlos Boozer as a free agent to play powerforward for them as Johnson and Boozer share the same agent.
Derrick Favours, power forward, Georgia Tech: Loads of potential here as the 6-foot-10 freshman is just beginning to find his game, much like his mentor, Chris Bosh, was at a similar stage. The Minnesota Timberwolves are said to covet Wesley Johnson, but would do well here to pair the hyper-athletic Favors with Kevin Love and allow them to trade Al Jefferson. Favours reportedly didn't impress in his workout there, leading to speculation this pick could be traded by David Kahn, Minnesota's unpredictable general manager.
Greg Monroe, centre, Georgetown: It's a draft that is weighted toward quality big men and Monroe is typical of why in that it's rare that a 6-foot-11 player who can play power-forward and center and who is considered among the best passers in college basketball, regardless of position. His short-comings include a lack of athleticism and periodic intensity, but a big man with skills is worth the risk which is why it's considered unlikely he'll slip past Golden State and No.6.
Cole Aldrich, centre, Kansas: The personable junior has been to Toronto twice and is attractive to the club because he is a tough, competitive interior player who would fit in nicely alongside Andrea Bargnani, demanding little in the way of touches but willing to block shots, defend the post and rebound as a long-armed 6-foot-11 post. His behind-the-head jump shot is, as he describes it, as "unnormal,." but it is accurate to 15 feet.
Avery Bradley, guard, Texas: His freshman season was relatively underwhelming but that doesn't diminish the fact that he's got the speed, length and athleticism to contribute at a position that has largely become a track meet on wood. His calling card is his smothering defence and he's a solid shooter. The question is can he make the transition from under-sized shooting (6-foot-2) guard to a play-making, ball-hawking point guard in the mould of Rajon Rondo. The Raptors have had him in Toronto twice in the lead-up to the draft and he is expected to be available when they pick at No.13.
Patrick Patterson, power-forward, Kentucky: If there is one trait that has proven to be a little bit over-valued in recent years among big men it is - ironically enough - size. Players like Carl Landry, Paul Millsap and Glen Davis, among others, have shown that giving up a couple of inches in height can be overcome with added width, long arms or simply superior basketball skills. At 6-foot-9 in shoes Patterson is a little shorter than ideal for power-forward, but is a willing rebounder, decent shooter and solid all-around player considered a player who could help a team like the Raptors - presumable minus Chris Bosh - immediately.
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