- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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Elite college teams can recover from NBA lottery-pick losses.
Others usually cannot.
Fresno State will have as hard time as any team, unless Steve Cleveland's latest hidden gem is as good as Paul George.
George emerged as a big-time talent as a freshman, averaging 14.3 points per game for the Bulldogs. He didn't disappoint as a sophomore either, averaging 16.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Fresno finished just 7-9 in the WAC (15-18 overall), yet the NBA didn't lose track of him. George was a hot name throughout lottery circles, ultimately gobbled up by Indiana at No. 10.
"He was a steal, and he's got a chance to be a special player," Cleveland said of George. "He's got all the physical skills, and he'll learn how to play in the league."
Cleveland has a replacement, however. In terms of scoring, he'll look to Highland Community College (Ill.) shooting guard Tim Steed to be a scorer for the Bulldogs.
But there is another potential pro that Cleveland said can have a lottery-like impact.
Rising sophomore Greg Smith, a 6-foot-10 center from Vallejo, Calif., was a solid compliment to George, scoring 11.5 points per game. Cleveland said the sophomore is fully capable of doing much more, though.
"We're giving it our best shot to replace Paul," Cleveland said. "Greg Smith needs to step up and have a big year for us. He can be a 16 and 10 player every night. He's not as skilled, and he's not on everybody's radar, but he can be."
Cleveland said he thought George would stay for three seasons, not two. But he is firmly behind the notion Smith could be his next star. If that's the case, and Steed produces, the Bulldogs could at least be in the mix behind frontrunner Utah State. The WAC will have plenty of turnover -- see Nevada losing Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson and Louisiana Tech losing Magnum Rolle -- leaving open the possibility of Fresno contending if Smith and Steed are elite players within the conference.
So how will other teams replace their lottery picks?
Wall was the top point guard in the country not named Evan Turner. He was a game changer for the Wildcats and the reason they were able to close many of their 35 wins. Cousins was the SEC Freshman of the Year, a double-double machine and one of the most intimidating big men in the country. These were two special freshmen who had the ability to change the dynamic of a game. You don't replace them -- at least you don't without some uncertainty. Patterson was the veteran player on this squad. He was a lock to do the right thing for the Wildcats. On the court, he was effective facing up the basket around the perimeter and in the corner and made a huge statement by checking his ego at the door so the high-profile freshmen could get their due.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said no one can expect Knight to be like Wall, just like Wall wasn't like Tyreke Evans or Derrick Rose, Calipari's two previous point guards.
On Knight, Calipari said, "He's got the ability to make shots. I think his skill level with the ball is big."
Calipari said Knight's ability to pass will help him in the dribble-drive-motion offense that Kentucky is sure to play more of now that Wall's end-to-end speed is gone.
Kanter, assuming he gets through the eligibility questions, is in better shape than Cousins and has a physical presence around the basket, Calipari said. But he's not as good as the fifth overall pick.
"He's a skilled big guy, but he would have to dominate games [to be like Cousins]," Calipari said.
Calipari said he hasn't decided if he'll play two bigs like Kanter and the seldom-used Harrellson to replace Cousins and Patterson or go with four guards/wings like Knight and a collection of returnees in Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins along with freshmen Stacey Poole, Doron Lamb and Jones.
Lottery loss: Evan Turner, Jr., G, No. 2 to Philadelphia
Turner was the national player of the year. He was Mr. Everything for the Buckeyes. He was also their de facto point guard. He had the ball in his hands as much as possible and scored from a position with the ball.
But Turner was adamant at the draft that not only will incoming freshman Jared Sullinger be the Big Ten Player of the Year as a freshman but that the Buckeyes will be a major threat to make a deep run next season, even without him.
Let's be honest here: No one is going to replace Turner. The Bucks won't have that one scorer who can take over his role. They won't have the one ball handler. They're trying to find out over the summer who can handle the responsibilities, and that's why Diebler and Buford have been working on their ballhandling skills.
"You don't replace lottery picks," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "We'll have to change the way we play as a team because Evan was so dominant with the ball."
While Sullinger is a big and Turner was a guard, you can make the argument that ESPNU's No. 2 recruit will take over Turner's role as a go-to player. Sullinger will be the offensive focus and has the best chance to be a big-time scorer.
"It'll be interesting to see how Jared does," Matta said. "He's got a chance to be a heckuva player."
Lottery loss: Gordon Hayward, So., F, No. 9 to Utah
Hayward was one of the best all-around basketball players in college last season. He wasn't the top closer or the best shooter, but he may have been one of the best to play in a five-on-five setting. That's the word from a number of teams that worked him out during the draft process. Don't focus on the last two shots he missed in the title game loss to Duke. Hayward continued to be a tough matchup for any team during the season. His leadership in the locker room will be missed.
The replacement: A collection?
Butler coach Brad Stevens was noncommittal on who would replace Hayward.
"It literally could be anyone," Stevens said. "It should be interesting."
But the reality is no one will fill Hayward's exact role. What the Bulldogs will need is more production from Shelvin Mack (certainly possible), Matt Howard (if he stays out of foul trouble) and Ronald Nored (if he's unleashed offensively).
Nored may have the most room to grow. He was a defensive specialist for the Bulldogs last season and wasn't expected to be an offensive threat. Now he must be.
Lottery loss: Wesley Johnson, Jr., F, No. 4 to Minnesota
Johnson was a real pro during the draft process and carried himself as such during his one season for the Orange. He transferred from Iowa State to Syracuse and immediately had an impact in the locker room and on the court. He gave the Orange star power, not just in leading the team in scoring but in the way they headlined every arena.
The replacement: Kris Joseph
But Joseph is the one player who has the star power of the group. He was the third-leading scorer behind Johnson and Andy Rautins.
"Joseph is getting there, but he's not there yet" Boeheim said.
Boeheim, who is always honest in the preseason about his team's chances, didn't hide his view that the Orange should be a top-15 team next season even with the loss of Johnson, Rautins and Arinze Onuaku. The key will be whether Joseph emerges as the star he has the ability to become next season.
Aldrich was a key reserve on the 2008 national title team and was the leader up front for the top-ranked Jayhawks as a junior. He was fourth on the team 11.3 points per game, but it was his 9.8 rebounds per game and scrappy play in the post on the defensive end that will make him difficult to replace. Aldrich was rarely given the credit he deserved for how much he helped move the Jayhawks defensively, disrupting opposing team's plans.
Henry was a talent, averaging 13.4 points per game for the Jayhawks, but he wasn't a star player in one season with KU; he was more like a quiet complementary player. What will be missed with Henry's absence is what could have been had he stayed for his sophomore year.
Kansas coach Bill Self has already anointed incoming point guard Josh Selby as the most talented player he has recruited to KU. Selby was a must get, and he'll replace Sherron Collins at the point. He'll be a lock to be the star of this team.
Self said he fully expects Marcus Morris, who was the third-leading scorer last season (12.8 ppg), to be a potential all-Big 12 player, if not the conference player of the year. If that's the case, then the need is for Morris' twin, Markieff, to be the defensive replacement for Aldrich, which Self expects. A combination of Releford, Reed and Morningstar need to be a threat on the perimeter -- especially from beyond the arc -- the way Henry became during Big 12 play.
Lottery loss: Greg Monroe, So., F, No. 7 to Detroit
Monroe was the top passing big man in the Big East and possibly in college basketball. He was the perfect player to play on the top of the circle for Georgetown's offense. He averaged 16.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, but he wasn't a bust-out scorer like guard Austin Freeman.
"Obviously Greg was key to what we did," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "But we have a good thing with a veteran team."
The replacement: A collection
Thompson wouldn't put it on one player. And he's right. The Hoyas will need Julian Vaughn, Hollis Thompson, Jerrelle Benimon and Henry Sims to produce much more than they have in the past. The best passer, though, is probably freshman Nate Lubick, according to JT3. He'll need Lubick and center Moses Abraham to get on the court to make a difference.
If the Hoyas can get a rotation down and enough finishers in this bunch, there is hope the Hoyas could and should be a top-four Big East team next season.
Lottery loss: Ekpe Udoh, Jr., F, No. 6 to Golden State
Udoh started his career at Michigan, but he grew into a lottery pick at Baylor. He was able to score (13.9 ppg) and rebound (9.8), but he was much more of a pest on the defensive end (133 blocked shots).
The Bears also lost senior Tweety Carter, but they do have LaceDarius Dunn, the team's top returning scorer, and his 19.6 points per game to ensure the Bears are still a threat on the perimeter. As for the frontcourt
The replacement: Perry Jones
The 6-11 power forward out of Duncanville, Texas, is easily the highest-touted newcomer in Baylor history. Had the old NBA rule been in place, Jones would be a lottery-bound forward in the draft. He comes in with plenty of hype to be more of a scorer than Udoh and an immediate difference-maker.
"Perry definitely has a chance," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "Perry is probably little better on the perimeter, but Ekpe was an elite shot-blocker and set the Big 12 record. While he was better known for his defense, Perry is better known for his offense."
Drew said Udoh was an undervalued late bloomer, while Jones came on the scene last summer as a highly-touted newcomer with huge aspirations to make a splash. If Jones lives up to the hype, the Bears will have the inside-out combo to compete for a Big 12 title.
Lottery loss: Al-Farouq Aminu, So., F, No. 8 to L.A. Clippers
Aminu led the Demon Deacons in scoring at 15.8 points per game and averaged a double-double with 10.7 rebounds. The one thing Aminu lacked was the vocal aspect of being a leader. Last season, Ishmael Smith handled that responsibility, and there was even more input from freshmen C.J. Harris and Ari Stewart. But one of the frustrations for former coach Dino Gaudio was getting enough out of Aminu in a demonstrative way.
The replacements: Travis McKie and Stewart
New coach Jeff Bzdelik said he expects freshman small forward McKie and Stewart to step into Aminu's role. Getting McKie to keep his commitment was one of the more important things Bzdelik did when he got the job. He needed a marquee player to jumpstart the squad after the loss of Aminu.
Bzdelik was diplomatic in his approach when he said that the collective aspect of the Demon Deacons will have to make up for the top individual stats that Aminu provided. Of course, that was Bzdelik's mantra when he was at starless Air Force earlier in his career.
Lottery loss: Ed Davis, So., F, No. 13 to Toronto
North Carolina coach Roy Williams said he was convinced Davis would have been the best shot-blocker he would have coached had Davis stayed for his junior season. Davis played in only 23 games last season because of a broken wrist and still blocked 64 shots. Davis proved during the NBA draft that he could hit face-up shots, and that's one reason he was selected as a lottery pick.
The replacement: John Henson
Henson had already started to replace Davis during the NIT Final Four run, scoring in double figures in wins at Mississippi State and at UAB.
Williams said Henson isn't the shot-blocker Davis is, but he can be the rebounder. Williams said Tyler Zeller would replace Deon Thompson inside next to Henson, with freshman Harrison Barnes at small forward. Henson certainly has comparable upside to Davis, but he will have to continue to get stronger. This tradeoff could be a wash, especially if Henson can be more durable than Davis.
Lottery loss: Derrick Favors, Fr., F, No. 3 to New Jersey
Favors had his moments where he was a dominant force for the Yellow Jackets. He didn't command the ball as much as other big men in the ACC or in the lottery, but he didn't disappoint with 12.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Favors averaged 27.5 minutes and played next to Gani Lawal and Zach Peacock, so he had plenty of players to play off in the post and didn't have to do everything himself.
The replacement: Hmm
Not sure there is one. The Yellow Jackets have their perimeter returning with plenty of pop from Iman Shumpert, Maurice Miller, Mfon Udofia, Glen Rice Jr. and Brian Oliver. But the roster is thin with bigs. The Yellow Jackets will need 7-foot center Brad Sheehan to rebound. Expect Tech to go with a much smaller lineup.
The Yellow Jackets redshirted Daniel Miller, a 6-11 center, and Kammeon Holsey, a 6-8 forward, will be high up in the rotation. Holsey tore his ACL, but he's ready to go.
Hewitt, who turned down the St. John's job, spent a lot of the spring putting in a four-out, one-in motion type of offense. When Hewitt took the Jackets to the 2004 national title game, Luke Schenscher was the lone big man. It will be close to that kind of team this season.
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.