- Antonio Williams, Basketball Recruiting
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The much-heralded Class of 2007 made a significant impact on the 2008 NBA Draft. Seven Class of '07 prospects heard their names called in the lottery portion of the draft, marking the most freshmen ever selected in the lottery. The 2007 NBA Draft set the high watermark with eight freshmen selected overall, but the 2008 Draft broke that record with 10 first-round selections and 11 freshmen draft picks overall.
Here is a breakdown of how this crop of freshmen could fare with their new teams in the NBA.
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
2007 ESPN 100 Ranking: 5
In draft lotteries past, Bulls GM John Paxson selected Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah -- all players who played an integral part in their teams' deep NCAA tournament runs before turning pro. Selecting Rose with the first pick follows Paxson's plan of shaping the Bulls by drafting talented players from winning programs.
Rose orchestrates his team in transition with amazing ease, especially with the bounce, as he often makes it up the court faster with the ball in his hands than many players sprinting without ball -- much in the same way Jason Kidd used to do in his younger days. Rose's ability to run the break and passing skills should help to provide easy scoring opportunities and speed up the Bulls, who had problems putting the ball in the basket last season.
With his athleticism and quickness, Rose should also help create more scoring opportunities for his teammates through his penetration and passing skills. He also brings a strong defense presence to the backcourt, which would help to improve the Bulls on the defensive end. The Bulls have also had lack of size issues in the backcourt, and having Rose, who has great size for the point guard spot, should help to alleviate some of the problems.
If the Bulls decide to keep Larry Hughes, he should benefit immensely from Rose's presence, and the Bulls will have two guards in the backcourt with length and the ability to defend. Rose will provide some leadership and a winning attitude that the team could use. Look for new head coach Vinny Del Negro to bring some of the high-octane basketball that he witnessed in Phoenix to the Windy City with Rose at the controls.
Michael Beasley, Miami Heat
2007 ESPN 100 Ranking: 8
The Heat finished dead last in the NBA in rebounding by a wide margin and Beasley's impressive rebounding ability should help remedy that problem. Beasley and Shawn Marion, a good rebounder in his own right, should provide the Heat with a dynamic duo next season. With Marion and a healthy Dwyane Wade, Beasley will not have to shoulder the load, but his versatile inside-outside game should make life easier for Wade and Marion on the offensive end.
Having Beasley down low will provide the Heat with the inside scoring threat they have lacked since Shaquille O'Neal departed for the desert in Phoenix. With defenses having to account for Wade and Marion (if Miami keeps him), Beasley should have easier looks and plenty of room to operate inside.
Beasley's skills, diverse offensive game and athleticism will allow him to mesh perfectly with the athletic exploits of Wade and Marion.
O.J. Mayo, Memphis Grizzlies
2007 ESPN 100 Ranking: 3
For years the Grizzlies have searched high and low for a player they can mold into the identity of the franchise, and they might have found their guy after swapping Kevin Love's draft rights for the rights to O.J. Mayo. Mayo has lived in the spotlight since his junior high days and should not falter under expectations in Memphis.
On the court, Mayo's offensive skills as a combo-guard should help the Grizzlies almost immediately. Pairing Mayo and Mike Conley together in the backcourt will provide Memphis with two guards who can put a great deal of pressure on opposing defenses through dribble penetration. Mayo has some point guard skills and should help Conley in the playmaking department. The Grizzlies needed to pair Conley in the backcourt with another guard who could shoot the ball, and Mayo should fit the bill while Conley continues to improve his perimeter touch.
The combination of Mayo, Conley and Rudy Gay on the perimeter gives the Grizzlies a very talented, athletic, young trio to build around. Having Gay means Mayo will not have to assume the scoring load by himself, but the Grizzlies will need him to score almost immediately, which Mayo has the talent and maturity to accomplish. Mayo also gives Memphis a top-notch wing defender, which they could definitely use.
With the addition of Mayo, the Grizzlies have a full house in the backcourt and might look to use some of the surplus of guards as trade assets.
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
2007 ESPN 100 Ranking: 1
Love used to watch tapes on Kevin McHale's dazzling footwork in the post. Now the teacher has acquired the student through a draft night trade with Memphis. Love's combination of skill and will should help the Wolves almost immediately. He has the ability to finish in the post with great consistency, using his impeccable footwork and impressive ability to finish with either hand around the bucket. He can also play in pick-and-roll situations in the NBA, with his ability to finish effectively in the paint or pop out for the jumper. Love's pinpoint accuracy on his outlet passes should help facilitate fast-break opportunities for current Wolves perimeter players Randy Foye and the newly acquired Mike Miller.
With Foye and Miller scoring from the perimeter, Love should have the space to operate in the post and he also has a point guard who will create scoring opportunities for him in a healthy Foye. Love's ability to pass out of the post will give Miller a number of opportunities to shoot it from the outside. He has improved his conditioning and will have to continue to get in better shape for the NBA.
Al Jefferson should also benefit from Love's presence, as he will receive a number of great passes from Love either in high-low situations or from post-to-post passes in the low-block in traffic. In the high-low sets, Love should have chances to shoot his accurate jumper. His rebounding ability will help Jefferson patrol the boards, which the Wolves could use after finishing 22nd in rebounding. The perimeter shooting ability of Love and Miller will stretch defenses and provide more room for Al Jefferson to operate in the paint.
Eric Gordon, Los Angeles Clippers
2007 ESPN 100 Ranking: 2
Gordon can simply score the basketball, and defenses have to account for him whenever the ball advances over half court due to his almost unlimited range on his seemingly effortless jump shot. Gordon also has a very developed body and good strength, which should help make his transition to the NBA much easier. His athleticism will also help him to put the ball in the basket on the next level.
If guard Shaun Livingston, who has the size to defend NBA 2-guards, returns with some level of effectiveness, Gordon can play point guard on defense while he lines up as a 2-guard on the offensive end. With Livingston's playmaking abilities, Gordon could concentrate on scoring if they played together in the Clippers' backcourt. The Clippers finished second-to-last in scoring, so Gordon's scoring prowess should help.
If the Clippers hold on to Elton Brand, they will have the dominant low-post scorer to pair with the outside scoring exploits of Gordon.
Jerryd Bayless, Portland Trail Blazers
2007 ESPN 100 Ranking: 13
The Blazers continue their creative ways of shaping their roster by acquiring Bayless through a trade with Indiana. Bayless gives the Blazers a combo-guard with the ability to attack defenses off the dribble using his quickness and athleticism. Once he gets to the rim, Bayless has the strength to finish in traffic above the rim.
Though Bayless does not rank as a pure point guard at this point on his career, having stud guard Brandon Roy already on the roster will help Bayless significantly. Roy spends considerable time at the point, which should help ease Bayless' transition and also allow Bayless to initially focus on putting the ball in the basket for this young, but very talented team.
Portland could not land the elite point guard it lacks in the draft, so it did the next best thing: find a scoring threat in Bayless it can pair with Roy in the backcourt. Bayless could also see minutes with Steve Blake in the Blazers' backcourt. With Sergio Rodriguez on the roster, minutes in Portland's backcourt will remain scarce unless more Portland GM Kevin Pritchard has more trades on the horizon, which should not come as a surprise given his resourceful and aggressive nature.
Anthony Randolph, Golden State Warriors
2007 ESPN 100 Ranking: 30
Warriors coach Don Nelson loves long, athletic players who play multiple positions, and Randolph fits the bill in Golden State. Randolph, a lefty, has tremendous athletic ability and bounce off the floor, and needs to increase his strength and add muscle to his frame. Sound familiar, Warriors fans? Well, it should due to the fact that Golden State traded with Charlotte during last year's NBA Draft to acquire Brandon Wright, a player very similar to Randolph in stature, though Wright does not have the ability to step away from the basket or handle the ball as well as Randolph does at this point.
With Golden State's frantic pace, Randolph's ability to run the floor will mesh perfectly. His ability to step away from the basket and hit jumpers should come in handy in Nelson's free-flowing, nonrestrictive offense. If Randolph, Wright and Andris Biedrins continue to develop, the Warriors will have a very impressive frontline with length, athleticism and shot-blocking ability.
J.J. Hickson, Cleveland Cavaliers
2007 ESPN 100 Ranking: 15
Hickson has a strong, NBA-ready body that should help him absorb the pounding he will endure on the interior on the nightly basis. Once on the block, he uses his strength and body to wear down and overpower defenders. Hickson has solid post skills, but he could develop in that area in addition to adding a perimeter jumper with range in the 12- to 15-foot area.
Playing with LeBron James, Hickson should benefit from a number of drive-and-dish assists coming from the King. The Cavs also have veterans Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Ben Wallace, Anderson Varejao (if they do not trade him) and Joe Smith on the interior. With plenty of bodies on the inside, Hickson does not have to come in and control the boards immediately. Still, the Cavs could use his youth and scoring ability on the frontline rather soon, though Hickson might not have the experience necessary to contribute immediately.
Kosta Koufos, Utah Jazz
2007 ESPN 100 Ranking: 12
Koufos has very good offensive skills with the ability to hit perimeter shots as well as a very impressive post game given his solid footwork in the post. He will have to improve his strength and aggressiveness, but given his ability to go inside as well as outside, he has a good base to build on in the future.
His passing ability should also help in the NBA as he will have the opportunity to play with big men in Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur, who both score very easily. Playing with Boozer and Okur also means Koufos does not have to come in and carry the interior scoring load immediately. Having Boozer and Okur will also ease the rebounding and development burden on Koufos, allowing the Jazz to bring him along slowly.
When Koufos steps on the floor with Boozer and gifted point guard Deron Williams, he should see some opportunities to play off of them, providing nice, open looks for him on the perimeter in pick-and-pop situations or on the block.
Donte Greene, Memphis Grizzlies
2007 ESPN 100 Ranking: 18
Greene has good range on his jumper, but he tends to fall in love with it and not do much else when he has the ball in his hands. He has to increase his consistency from the perimeter, and his shot percentage would increase undoubtedly if he improves his shot selection. Greene also needs to add more moves off the dribble and enhance his ballhandling to play on the perimeter in the NBA. Greene also struggles when he has to shoot the ball on the move. Once he develops in those areas, Greene will have great size for the perimeter and could pose matchup problems.
The Grizzlies will not need Greene's scoring ability from the perimeter with Rudy Gay and Mike Conley currently shouldering the scoring load from the wing, but Greene could make an impact as a perimeter scoring threat off the bench, something the Grizzlies do not have at this time on the roster.
DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers
2007 ESPN 100 Ranking: 26
Jordan had to think he would hear his name called in the first round, but ended up slipping to the second. A lefty, he has very long arms and great athletic ability for a player of his height. Jordan has the ability to block shots and rebound on both ends, but he needs to increase his intensity level to rebound and block shots at a higher rate, which he should easily accomplish if he works.
At this time, he does have not have a polished or developed post game and will need to make major strides in that area for the NBA. Jordan will have to continue to add strength and reshape his body for the next level. Current Clipper Elton Brand (if they decide not to deal him) and Chris Kaman both score and rebound at a high rate, so the Clippers would not have to depend on Jordan immediately. He should benefit immensely from practicing with and experiencing the low-post exploits of Brand and Kaman on a daily basis. Jordan would do well to study Kaman's remarkable ability to finish in the paint and shoot jump hooks with either hand.
Jordan now shares a home venue with guy the Clippers hope his development mirrors in Lakers center Andrew Bynum.
Antonio Williams is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. He previously worked as an NBA scout for Marty Blake Associates.