College production a must in this mock
Ah, NBA mock draft season. Drink it in. It's a special time of year, the time when pro fans hurriedly cram as much info about as many players into as much available brain-space as possible. It's the time of year when NBA general managers salivate and sweat in equal measure.
And, perhaps most importantly, it's the time of year when college basketball fans look at NBA mock drafts and resoundingly, unfailingly, exclaim: "Wait, what?"
There's something funky about the NBA draft for college hoops people: The ordered talent on draft boards only occasionally resembles what we saw throughout a given college hoops season. This isn't hard to explain. NBA scouts and general managers factor in more than just college production when they're looking at prospects; scouts also look at what the team needs, how a player meshes with his teammates, the player's raw athleticism, and whether Joe X will be considerably better in five years than he was during his college days. This concept is called "potential." You may be vaguely familiar with it.
Thanks to all of that, though, actual college production can get lost in the fray. Maybe that's fair. Maybe actual production should just be one tiny branch in the NBA general manager's decision tree. (Depending on the GM, this tree varies from the mighty Redwood to the downtrodden Christmas tree Charlie Brown found on Christmas Eve.) But that doesn't mean we can't have a little fun with the concept in the meantime.
It is in that spirit that I present to you -- drum roll, please -- what may or may not be the first ever College Basketball Production-Only Mock Draft, or the CBPOMD, which I think you could pronounce as "seebpomd." (Catchy name, huh? I came up with it myself.) It is, quite simply, a list of how NBA teams would draft if they tossed off all the other factors and looked only at how a college basketball player played in college. That's it. It's easy. Think of it this way: You're drafting a college basketball player to play college basketball. Who would you take, and why? And how does that compare with the NBA mock draft consensus?
A couple of ground rules: This only includes players in the 2010 NBA draft. To keep this from reaching Tolstoyan lengths, we'll stop after the lottery, or the first 14 picks.
And so, without further ado, it's Seebpomd time. It just rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it? Let's begin:
1. Evan Turner, guard, Ohio State. (Chad Ford mock draft position: No. 3): This one was easy. Turner was the best player in college basketball last season -- hands down. He filled up the stat sheet with a versatility unseen anywhere else in the game, averaging 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.9 blocks per game. At 6-foot-7, Turner made for a devastating point guard hybrid at Ohio State in 2009-10, bigger and more athletic than all of his contemporaries. And he's not tied to that position, either; a college team could take him and slot him just about anywhere. He was the national player of the year for very good reason. He was, simply, the best. Like I said, this one was easy.
2. John Wall, guard, Kentucky. (Chad Ford mock draft position: No. 1): Through two picks, this looks like a semi-bold NBA mock draft and nothing more. But it makes sense. Wall was really, really good in his first and only collegiate season. He wasn't as statistically impressive as Turner, and his outside shooting deficiencies held him back from being an otherworldly force. However, his command of the game, his speed, his ballhandling, his uncanny passing and his ability to finish at the rim made him the top non-Turner contender for player of the year. Wall will no doubt be better in the future. Considering how good he's been already, that's a scary thought.
3. DeMarcus Cousins, forward, Kentucky. (Chad Ford mock draft position: No. 6): We're not quite to truly funky territory yet, but we're getting there. Cousins' NBA draft stock looks like it will be hurt by doubts about his attitude. What isn't in doubt is how good he was in his one-and-done season at Kentucky. In just 23.5 minutes per game, Cousins scored 15.1 points, grabbed 9.8 rebounds and blocked 1.8 shots. He was No. 2 in the nation in offensive rebounding rate and No. 3 at fouls drawn per 40 minutes; when the big man got position in the post he was impossible to keep off the boards, and to stop him from getting easy putbacks -- which he tended to get anyway -- teams frequently sent him to the free throw line. Projected over 40 minutes, Cousins' numbers are downright insane.
4. Wes Johnson, forward, Syracuse. (Chad Ford mock draft position: No. 4): NBA general managers and college hoops fans can agree: Johnson is a valuable tool. A 6-foot-7 swingman most comfortable knocking down jumpers from the perimeter -- he shot 41 percent from 3 in 2009-10 -- Johnson is also comfortable attacking the rim, and he rebounded well, blocked shots and used his long arms to grab nearly two steals per game in Syracuse's stifling zone. Johnson is an all-purpose wonder. He showed why in his one season under Jim Boeheim.
5. Scottie Reynolds, guard, Villanova. (Chad Ford mock draft position: Second round to undrafted): Now things get comparatively strange. He's not an NBA prospect, but no player above Reynolds on this list had as good a four-year career. Reynolds led Villanova to deep tournament runs, carried the Wildcats through an impressive early 2009-10 stretch before a late-February fade and was generally everything you want from a point guard -- smart, tough, clutch. Reynolds isn't getting serious draft attention thanks to his lack of size and athleticism. That's probably fair. But he had plenty of both for the college game, not to mention a host of big-time qualities, and he produced accordingly.
6. Jon Scheyer, guard, Duke. (Chad Ford mock draft position: Second round to undrafted): Scheyer won't sniff the first round of an NBA draft -- he, like Reynolds, simply isn't athletic enough to hang in the NBA. (Scheyer isn't athletic even by college standards; much of his scoring came from crafty hesitation moves and efficient cuts around the perimeter). It's not that hard to understand. But as a college player, especially in Duke's 2009-10 national championship run, Scheyer was ruthlessly effective.
7. Cole Aldrich, center, Kansas. (Chad Ford mock draft position: No. 11): The NBA draft discussion about Aldrich has followed a common script: He's good, he might never be great, but hey, at least you know what you're getting. This isn't true of his college production. Aldrich was a monster on the interior for Kansas, blocking 3.5 shots per game and affecting countless more. He grabbed nearly 10 rebounds an outing, and he triggered his team's secondary break with quick, accurate outlet passes down the floor as well as any college center since Kevin Love. Aldrich should have scored more than 11.3 points per game, too; Kansas guards Sherron Collins and Xavier Henry dominated the ball on the offensive end in 2009-10, even as Aldrich made it clear he could get a dunk every time down the floor (especially when he got defenders to front him from the corner elbow). The Kansas center's numbers belie a far less dominating player. But anyone who saw Aldrich play in 2009-10 knows otherwise.
8. Sherron Collins, guard, Kansas. (Chad Ford mock draft position: Late first to early second): Collins is undersized and not very athletic. He can't create separation from defenders, certainly not in the NBA, and when he gets to the rim his size can make it difficult for him to finish. But there's no denying he has a collegiate résumé most players would kill for. Over four years, Collins never averaged fewer than 22 minutes per game. He won a national title with the Jayhawks in 2008. He played smothering defense, led his teams on both ends of the floor and ran Kansas' break with gusto. If you were starting a college hoops team right now, and you had to pick one point guard -- well, you'd probably pick Wall. But Collins would be hard to pass up.
9. James Anderson, guard, Oklahoma. (Chad Ford mock draft position: No. 17): Need a scorer? Then James Anderson is for you. The 6-foot-6 guard is big for a collegiate 2, can attack the rim in a variety of ways and added a legitimate outside shot to his arsenal in 2009-10. He's a high-volume guy who also makes a lot of his shots -- he fired up a 53.2 effective field goal percentage in his junior season -- and it's no wonder he averaged 22.3 points per game at Oklahoma State.
10. Damion James, forward, Texas. (Chad Ford mock draft position: No. 20): James and the Longhorns had a disappointing season in 2009-10, but college hoops fans would still take the 6-foot-8 forward in a heartbeat. James averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds in his senior season, an accomplishment in and of itself but an especially impressive one when considered in the context of Texas' often unruly, disjointed attack. James' mix of size and versatility -- he's one of the stronger players in the country, he can bang down low with any collegiate center and he has solid ballhandling skills when facing the basket from 15 feet -- made him devastating at the collegiate level. Why wasn't Texas better in 2009-10? That question remains a mystery.
11. Luke Harangody, forward, Notre Dame. (Chad Ford mock draft position: Second round to undrafted): Harangody is the reason this college mock draft exists. If you're looking for the Platonic ideal of a player who is incredibly effective in college but probably won't have an NBA career, well, here's your guy. The Gody's 2009-10 season was a major disappointment. Thanks to injury, Harangody missed Notre Dame's stretch run, just as Notre Dame started winning enough to get into the NCAA tournament; with him back in the lineup, the Irish lost in the first round to Old Dominion -- which, you know, ouch. But Harangody's four-year career was a flurry of production and All-American nods and the constant nagging notion that no way was this guy going to play in the NBA. Like Harangody's unorthodox jump shot, it's weird, but true.
12. Greivis Vasquez, guard, Maryland. (Chad Ford mock draft position: Second round to undrafted): Vasquez was a lot of things in his college career -- a Duke antagonist, a poised leader, a fiery trash-talker -- but most of all he was just really good. Few players are as capable on the secondary break as Vasquez. He did a little of everything in his senior season; it wasn't uncommon to see Greivis grab a rebound on the defensive end, push the ball up the floor, find an open shooter, get an offensive rebound and calmly direct Maryland's offense from the top of the key. He's not everybody's cup of tea, but admit it: If he was on your team, you'd love him forever.
13. Da'Sean Butler, guard, West Virginia. (Chad Ford mock draft position: Second round to undrafted): For the purposes of this draft, let's assume Butler's knee injury -- which he horrifically incurred in West Virginia's Final Four loss to Duke in April -- didn't happen. Because before it did, Butler was having a whale of a senior season. At 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, Butler wasn't a true point guard. He also wasn't a true shooting guard. What he was was a versatile, rebounding combo guy who excelled at leading his team, and who also had an insane knack for hitting game-winning shots. Butler made six game winners in 2009-10. Ability in the clutch, leadership -- whatever vague, unquantifiable term you want to attach to it, Butler has it in spades.
14. Greg Monroe, forward, Georgetown. (Chad Ford mock draft position: No. 9): Monroe should probably be higher on this list, but it's hard to escape the feeling that he didn't get the most out of his potential at Georgetown even as he thrived individually (averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds per game) in his sophomore season, which ended with a first-round NCAA tournament loss to No. 14-seeded Ohio. Still, Monroe's versatility as a 6-foot-11 post man was the focal point of Georgetown's success. Monroe can work in the low post, but he's perhaps most effective from the short elbow, where he can face up, take his man off the dribble and find cutters in Georgetown's motion system. He's a 6-foot-11 lefty with a nice smattering of guard skills. Must be nice.
And there you have it. If there was a point to this, it's that even in the one-and-done era, the NBA draft is profoundly weird. Remember when all those high school guys used to go in the first round based on nothing but potential and draft combine scores? Not the really good players -- LeBron James, Dwight Howard -- but the marginal high school prospects who probably needed a year or two of college to polish their games and prepare for the next level? Wild times, right?
That still happens. It happens to relatively unproven college freshmen now -- think Derrick Favors, a beast of an athlete who couldn't be more raw -- but it still happens. Which is OK. It probably should. Draft picks are investments, and you want them to pay off in the long term. I get it.
Still, it wouldn't hurt to add a little dash of "How did this guy actually play in college?" to the draft-decision mix. Or at least Luke Harangody thinks so.
Eamonn Brennan covers college basketball for ESPN.com. You can see his work every Monday through Friday in the College Basketball Nation blog.