- Chad Ford, Senior Writer, NBA Insider
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The deadline to declare for the 2009 NBA draft came and went Sunday. And a number of GMs in the lottery are still howling.
Sure, there's Blake Griffin -- a surefire NBA stud if he doesn't measure 6-foot-6, which, in this pessimistic environment, a few GMs fear he might.
Ricky Rubio will available, too, if his camp can talk his Spanish team, DKV Joventut, out of charging him that $8 million buyout it's asking.
But after that, the talk turns to who's not in the draft as opposed to who is. A number of elite underclassmen opted to skip this year's draft despite being projected as lottery picks. North Carolina's Ed Davis, Georgetown's Greg Monroe, Oklahoma's Willie Warren, Wake Forest's Al-Farouq Aminu, Kansas' Cole Aldrich and Lithuania's Donatas Motiejunas all said no.
You know it's bad when GMs were frantically wondering last week whether Gerald Henderson, a so-so NBA prospect, was going to declare. At this point, in this draft, he looks like Dwyane Wade.
"Things are so bad, guys that are normally on the first-round bubble are on the lottery bubble this year," said one Western Conference GM. "This is a dangerous time. You start talking yourself into guys. I think the strategy in this draft is to shoot for a role player. Do that and you may walk away OK. Swing for the fences and you probably strike out."
1. The talent seepage may not be over yet
A number of underclassmen are testing the waters and have until June 15 to withdraw their names from the draft. Eleven players projected as first-round picks are not hiring an agent to preserve their college eligibility: Henderson, Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Austin Daye, Patrick Patterson, Jeff Teague, Nick Calathes, Gani Lawal, Jarvis Varnado, Derrick Brown and Patrick Mills.
Sources close to the situation insist that Evans, Henderson, Holiday and Calathes will eventually hire agents and stay in the draft. The other seven are more up in the air right now. If they decide to go back to school, there will be an even bigger void in the first round.
Meanwhile, a few other potential late-first-rounders and early-second-rounders, like Damion James, Michael Washington and Jodie Meeks, are also testing the waters. Throw in a few international players, like Rubio and Israel's Omri Casspi, who could pull out, and this draft could get even thinner.
2. The draft is weak with big men
Right now only two centers -- Hasheem Thabeet and B.J. Mullens -- project as first-round picks.
And power forwards don't fare much better. While there are eight power forwards projected as first-round picks, only three -- Griffin, Jordan Hill and James Johnson -- are projected as lottery picks.
3. The strongest position, by far, is point guard
Currently, we have a whopping 11 point guards ranked as first-round prospects, with five of them -- Rubio, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, Eric Maynor and Holiday -- ranked in the lottery. But given how different all of the point guard prospects are, every executive I talk to has them ranked differently based on their own philosophies about what makes a great point guard.
So while Rubio, Curry and Jennings look like locks for the lottery, other players like Teague, Ty Lawson and Jonny Flynn could all work their way up. Head-to-head workouts between the point guards will be huge in determining the final order.
4. The international class is weak as well
Rubio will go in the top three. But the only other international player with a real shot of cracking the lottery looks like Casspi, who a number of teams, including the Hawks and Spurs, have kept a close eye on this year.
One international sleeper to look out for is Sweden's Jonas Jerebko. A late bloomer in Europe, he had a solid year and his body is really beginning to fill out. If he blows up at the Reebok Eurocamp this year, he could also sneak his way into the lottery.
5. The draft continues to give no love to seniors
We have four seniors -- Maynor, Terrence Williams, Sam Young and Darren Collison -- ranked as first-rounders. A few others, like LSU's Marcus Thornton and North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough, could also crack the first round depending on workouts and who goes back to school.
6. We said this year's freshman class was weak, and it shows in the draft
There are only five freshmen in our top 30. But if Davis, Monroe, Aminu and Warren had all declared, the freshman class actually would've been on par with the elite freshman classes of the past few years.
7. A number of underclassmen are using the NBA's early declaration rule as sort of a free pass to get some publicity and NBA scouts watching more closely next year
With that in mind, look for a large number of players on the list to return to school or Europe before the deadline. A number of the names you hear, including Dominique Archie, Dwayne Collins, Bryan Davis, Devan Downey, Osiris Eldridge, Roderick Flemings, Donald Sloan, Shawn Taggart, Jonathan Tavernari, Jeremy Wise and Nic Wise have virtually no shot at getting drafted. I doubt most of them even get workouts.
8. NBA Workouts are on
The attention will now turn to a number of top workout sites around the country led by elite trainers like Tim Grover and Joe Abunassar. I'll be making my annual visits to L.A., Las Vegas, South Florida and Chicago to check in on what the top prospects are doing to prepare for the draft.
NBA teams are free to workout all prospects once the league releases the official underclassmen list. However, it sounds like most prospects will pass on team workouts until after the NBA combine. Most of them want to take the next month to get into shape.
9. The next big draft event is the Chicago Pre-Draft Combine from May 27-31 at Grover's ATTACK Athletics Gym
The gym is nicer than virtually every NBA practice facility, so it should be a great venue.
However, unlike in past years, there will be no 5-on-5 scrimmages. Players will do athletic testing like vertical jumps and bench pressing, go through light drills and then go through a battery of medical tests. NBA teams will also be allowed to interview players one-on-one. The NBA expects to invite about 55 prospects.
A week later, the annual Reebok Eurocamp will be held in Treviso, Italy, from June 6-8. Camp director and Timberwolves scout Pete Philo says the camp will be loaded with international prospects who are draft eligible and headlined by Jennings, who is itching to show NBA executives and scouts that he's still a lottery pick.
After the camp, teams will be able to begin individual workouts. The league is barring teams from doing group workouts unless the league is notified or unless every team in the league is invited. It will be interesting to see how much teams use this strategy to save money.
On one hand, it provides a convenient spot to watch a lot of prospects at once. It also saves teams lots of money. On the other hand, your coaches and trainers don't get to do one-on-one work and you have to share the information you learn with everyone else.
10. Want a sneak preview of our top 10 prospects for 2010?
Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.
Here are 10 things to know to get you ready for the 2009 NBA draft.