Commentary

Draft Watch: Cardinal ready for takeoff

Originally Published: December 11, 2008
By Chad Ford | ESPN.com

Earl ClarkAP Photo/Timothy D. EasleyLouisville swingman Earl Clark is viewed by some scouts as a more talented Boris Diaw.
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We're now nearly a month into the college basketball season. And a number of players are continuing to either help or hurt their draft stock. Here is what we are hearing from NBA scouts who are out evaluating them.

For a more analysis on this year's draft, check out our updated 2009 Top 100.

The Good


Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma
Griffin's numbers are beginning to slip slightly. But if the draft lottery were held today, I could think of only one team (that would miss the playoffs) that would plausibly not take him No. 1 -- the 76ers. I don't see that changing anytime soon, barring a serious injury.

Earl Clark, G/F, Louisville
A 17-point, 14-rebound, 8-assist game versus Ohio is just the type of performance that makes NBA scouts love Clark. His versatility, athleticism, length and ability to see the floor have some scouts saying he's a better version of Boris Diaw. Clark needs to be more aggressive on the offensive end and improve his consistency, but many scouts believe that at the end of the day, he'll hear his name called in the lottery.


Stephen Curry, G, Davidson
Curry was playing on the big stage again, this time at Madison Square Garden in front of a bunch of NBA scouts and front-office types versus West Virginia. He started off the game strong, scoring 10 points and dishing five assists. But then West Virginia began throwing huge defenders on him, including 6-foot-9 freshman Devin Ebanks, and Curry went ice cold. Over the next 20 or so minutes, he shot 1-for-14 from the field and committed some dreadful turnovers. But with the game on the line, Curry rose from the ashes, scoring 13 of the last 15 points for his team and hitting two clutch 3s in the last minute of the game that clinched the win for Davidson.

For those who believe Curry will struggle to get off his super-silky jumpers versus the bigger, more athletic players in the NBA -- their fears were realized during the middle 20 minutes of the game. For the camp that believes Curry's basketball IQ and fierce competitiveness will allow him to figure it out -- their hopes were realized in the last five minutes. In the end, it's hard to argue against the pro-Curry camp here. His box score was ugly, but he hit the big shots when it mattered, and honestly, how many NBA teams are going to guard him with a 6-foot-9 guy? The kid has poise and is proving to be much tougher than he looks. I've got to believe a team like the Knicks would love to have this kid.


Jonny Flynn, PG, Syracuse
This draft is loaded with point guards. We have 10 of them in our Top 30 this year. Flynn is quickly making a name for himself this season with his stellar play for Syracuse. He has really improved his shot selection this season and has addressed his biggest weakness -- his long-range jump shot -- by shooting 44 percent from 3-point range this year.

He needs to cut down on his turnovers and scouts worry a little about his size (his 6-foot listing by Syracuse is very dubious), but it's been impossible to doubt his skills or his heart. He should be in a very interesting battle with North Carolina's Ty Lawson, UCLA's Darren Collison and St. Mary's Patrick Mills to see who'll be the first small point guard off the board.


Evan Turner, G/F, Ohio State
A growing number of NBA scouts are keeping a close eye on Turner. After a so-so freshman campaign, he's having a breakout sophomore year at Ohio State. Turner's ability to play (and defend) three positions on the floor is turning a lot of heads. He can score and handle the ball, and he really gets after it defensively. His 28-point, 10-rebound, 5-assist game versus Notre Dame created quite a stir. If he keeps it up, he's got a chance to go somewhere between 15 and 25 in the draft.


Patrick Patterson, PF, Kentucky
Patterson has an NBA body and athleticism, and lately his numbers at Kentucky attest to it. He had 31 points versus Lamar, 19 points and 16 rebounds versus Miami, and then 21 and 10 versus Mississippi Valley State. He's shooting a ridiculous 73 percent from the field and is showing some nice offensive versatility. Ideally, Patterson would be a few inches taller than 6-8, but his explosive leaping ability and his long wingspan make up for much of it. Scouts still have him ranked in the 20s, but he's the type of player who could really rise as we get closer to the draft.


Devin Ebanks, F, West Virginia
After getting off to a slow start, the super freshman turned in a pair of 17-rebound performances in the past week. Offensively, Ebanks has been struggling, so he's turned it up on the defensive end. He absolutely hounded Stephen Curry in the game versus Davidson and showed a lot of promise, even offensively. He needs to settle down on the offensive end and let the game come to him, but defensively he's turned a lot of heads the past week.

Jeff Teague, PG, Wake Forest
After a solid freshman season, Teague is having a breakout sophomore campaign. He's an excellent athlete and a terrific scorer who can light it up from just about anywhere on the floor. If he can convince NBA scouts that he can be a full-time point guard in the pros, he's got lottery potential. However, it may take another year to prove it. His turnover rate and decision-making skills aren't yet what they need to be.


Danny Green, F, UNC
Green is buried on a team filled with higher-profile NBA prospects, but scouts aren't sleeping on him. He continues to be the glue that helps keep UNC together. His versatility, defense and improved shooting touch from the perimeter make him one of those players who's likely to go 10 spots lower than he should in the draft. If he were on a team with lesser talent, he could be a star.


A.J. Abrams, G, Texas
The little guy can shoot. He dropped 31 points on UCLA, 23 points on Notre Dame and 26 points on Villanova. He's trying to run the point, which really isn't his thing, but he's kept his turnovers down, stayed in control and generally given scouts hope that he could be one of those sixth men combo guards who, like Bobby Jackson, could provide instant offense. He's still a second-rounder at this point, but given his lack of size and position, that's saying something.

The Bad


Austin Daye, F, Gonzaga
Daye has the talent of a top-five pick in the draft, but so far this season, he's hasn't played like one. In some of Gonzaga's biggest matchups against the likes of Tennessee (6 points, 5 turnovers) and Indiana (7 points on 3-for-13 shooting) Daye just hasn't delivered. To date, he's had only one truly standout performance (a 17-point, 10-rebound game against Maryland). Scouts will keep watching him because the talent is undeniable, but he's capable of much, much more.


Damion James, F, Texas
James isn't having a terrible season by any stretch of the imagination. He's putting up roughly the same numbers he did as a sophomore. That's the problem. Many scouts felt that this would be James' breakout year for Texas. He's been good, but not great. In fact, it's been his backcourt mate, A.J. Abrams who is getting all the love from scouts right now. He's still a solid first-round pick, but a few scouts pegged him as a potential lottery pick before the season. Right now, we're not seeing that.


Scottie Reynolds, G, Villanova
As a freshman, Reynolds looked like he had the talent of a first-round pick. As a junior, you wonder if he's even going to get drafted at this point. He has tried to become more of a full-time point guard and has had some success. But his shooting percentages have plummeted in the process.

Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.

Chad Ford

Senior Writer, NBA Insider

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