Big fish are ready to say goodbye to small ponds in a month when college stars begin submitting their names to the NBA draft.
The Atlantic Coast Conference consistently lights up the board on draft night better than its peers. In the last three seasons, 13 former ACC players have been selected in the first round.
When the league convenes for its postseason tournament this Thursday, there are several prospects that will be looking to improve more than just their team’s NCAA Tournament outlook.
Al Farouq-Aminu (Wake Forest) Soph. SF 6-8, 205 lbs.
2009-10 Stats: 15.9 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 45.8 FG%
Aminu tested the NBA waters last season, before ultimately returning to Winston-Salem for his sophomore year. He is a consensus top-10 pick if he comes out this year, which he will be required to if he submits his name a second time.
His playing style may be better suited for the power forward position in the NBA. He lacks an outside jump shot, but his mid-range game is above average for a “4” at the next level. His outstanding athleticism shows there is plenty of upside for him entering the league. He has developed into one of the nation’s best rebounders this season.
NBA Comparison: Antawn Jamison
Solomon Alabi (Florida State) Soph. C 7-1, 245 lbs.
2009-10 Stats: 11.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.3 bpg
Alabi is an undeveloped transplant from Nigeria whose superb shot-blocking skills make him a potential first-round pick. He has room to add strength, which would help him tremendously at the next level. Scouts have spoken to his leadership ability as a huge attribute.
Where Alabi needs to improve the most is developing a low-post offensive game, and showing more effort on the boards. He is sliding down recent draft boards, however. His paltry average of six rebounds per game is a red flag for a seven-footer in the ACC.
Considering all the areas he has room to improve in, Alabi would be best served to return for a junior season and be a top-10 pick in 2011.
NBA Comparison: Samuel Dalembert
John Henson (North Carolina) Fr. PF 6-10, 200 lbs.
2009-10 Stats: 5.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg 14.4 min/game
I’ll admit it, a month ago I was in the minority opinion by saying Henson would be nuts to enter the draft. After the injury to Ed Davis in mid-February, I can see where Henson thinks heading out of Chapel Hill would be a good idea.
Take one look at him, and you’ll see he needs to find a weight room and stay in there for quite some time. However, the same questions were raised about Kevin Durant. Big difference: Durant was scoring 30 points a game in college, while mid-level posts in the ACC are abusing Henson.
He has shown in the final weeks of the season a distinct ability to block shots and grab rebounds. His problem at the next level would simply be getting destroyed by much more physical post players.
If he develops his body, he could be a future star in the NBA, but he probably needs another year or two at UNC before he is ready.
NBA Comparison: Josh Smith
Trevor Booker (Clemson) Sr. PF 6-7, 240 lbs.
2009-10 Stats: 15.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg
Booker is one of the most physical players in the country, which makes up for his lack of ideal height. Unfortunately for Booker, that height disparity will grow even larger in the NBA, and it will ultimately doom his career.
He made his name at Clemson by out-muscling his opponents. In the NBA, there will be nights when opposing shooting guards are taller than him. He simply has nothing close to the necessary perimeter game to play small forward in the pros.
To dispel the theory that his physical game will translate to the pros, take his numbers from last year’s game against North Carolina and Tyler Hansbrough – arguably the most physical player in college basketball this decade. In 28 minutes, Booker scored seven points and grabbed four rebounds. Let’s face it, Hansbrough wouldn’t be the biggest of his troubles in the NBA.
NBA Comparson: Jason Maxiell
Kyle Singler (Duke) Jr. SF 6-9, 235 lbs.
2009-10 Stats: 17.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 38.6% 3pt.
Singler’s outside shooting ability made him an impossible matchup for opposing power forwards. When Mike Krzyzewski moved him to small forward mid-season, he initially struggled. He rebounded from that slump to shoot the lights out, including an 8-for-10 performance from behind the arc against Georgia Tech.
Singler’s biggest problem is his athleticism and quickness on the defensive end of the floor. If he can improve that, he could become a decent role player at the next level.
He’s projected as no higher than a mid-to-late second round pick, but at that point in the draft, he’s one of the safer bets. In all likelihood, however, he will return for a senior season at Duke and a run at a national championship.
NBA Comparison: Hedo Turkgolu
Greives Vasquez (Maryland) Sr. PG 6-6, 197
2009-10 Stats: 19.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 6.3 apg
Vasquez is one of the ultimate tweeners in this draft. It’s just not clear whether he will play the point or shooting guard in the NBA. He has excellent attributes for both positions, along with serious detriments.
Let’s start with the strengths. At point guard, he has excellent court vision and is a strong passer. His length is a rare component in NBA point guards. He has the commanding respect of his team that reflects well on his leadership ability. As a two-guard, he is very good at penetrating into the lane, and is a physical defender.
Now the weaknesses. He is slow defensively at point guard, which he makes up for in college with his great length. He’s not very strong, which will give him problems on both ends of the floor at either backcourt spot. He needs to improve his jump shot significantly if he wants any hope of playing off the ball in the NBA.
NBA Comparison: Manu Ginobili
Malcolm Delaney (Virginia Tech) Jr. PG/SG 6-3, 170 lbs.
2009-10 Stats: 20.9 ppg, 4.2 apg
Delaney’s stock has fallen tremendously in the last month. His shooting percentages have plummeted in ACC play, which lost him any chance to be drafted this year as a shooting guard. He shoots more free throws than anyone else in the ACC, but has had trouble getting to the line in recent games. He needs to develop a more consistent offensive game to make it at the next level.
Like Vasquez, he has strengths and weakness at both guard positions. Delaney is ultra-quick with good floor vision and an excellent work ethic. He has been overpowered at times by more physical guards in ACC play, and can sometimes disappear for stretches of games.
He is another player who could shoot up draft boards if he stays in school one more year.
NBA Comparison: Jason Terry