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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

2011 NBA Draft Senior Rankings (#1-5)

The Portsmouth Invitational Tournament is now in the past as well as four college basketball seasons from each of these seniors, so the majority of their evaluation periods are over. Most of these players strengths and weaknesses are no mystery and scouts know what to expect from them. Ranking these players have a lot to do with personal preference over anything else. Most ceilings are relatively low and I wouldn't been surprised to hear that any of these guys are out of the league in three years. In the second round, where most of these guys will go, teams will either take a senior they feel very good about or take a shot with a guy that fills a need and fits their style. This list would look vastly different from team to team, but this is how I would rank them in general.

Top Five (Check back each week for the next five on the list)

1. Kenneth Faried - I've gone back and forth on him a few times. His rebounding, energy, work ethic, and athleticism are great. He is one of the best rebounders in the past ten years no matter what stat you look at, and everyone knows rebounding translates as well as any other stat to the next level. I'm not too worried about his size playing power forward. I think his offense will be better than most think. His scoring isn't pretty, but he gets the job done. In the college all-star game he took home MVP and looked impressive going up against Gary McGhee who is a great defender. He even drove all the way from the 3-pt line to the hoop - finishing with a dunk. His defense is actually what I worry most about. He played in a zone most of his career and didn't always have the best awareness. His energy level is promising, but he will have to body up guys better in the post.

2. Justin Harper - I wrote about Harper in March here. I'll take his shooting from the power forward spot over Jimmer's at point guard.

3. Jimmer Fredette - Mark it down that I'm what some would call a "Jimmer Hater", but I can't bring myself to rank him any lower than this. I think the chances are good that Nolan Smith turns out to be a more solid player, its just tough to disregard Jimmer's explosive scoring. His unique skills make him a more valuable pick than a the dime a dozen player that Nolan Smith is.

4. Nolan Smith - I've gone back and forth on Smith his entire college career. I was a fan of his while he was still figuring out the game and contributing in ways other than scoring. He broke out his last two seasons into a great college player, turning into a great scorer who was finally learning how to play point guard. His point guard skills still leave a lot to be desired, as he dribbles too much for his own shot, but it has nothing to do with him not being a wonderful teammate and locker room guy. I've watched him so many times over the years, waiting to see if he could breakout into a lottery prospect, but he was never able to convince me that he would be anything more of a backup. He does run the pick and roll well which will be even more important at the next level. He's not a point guard, nor is he a shooting guard, but he can do whatever is asked of him and fill a role. He can last in the league for awhile.

5. JaJuan Johnson - I like him and don't get a lot of the criticisms he gets from his detractors. You hear negative things about his defense, but Purdue was the 12th best defensive team in the nation according to kenpom and he was their sole post defender. Awards aren't to be taken as the gospel, but he did win the Big 10 defensive player of the year award this season. I understand that he doesn't have the strength to be as effective in the NBA, but he moves very well and has been well coached. He comes up with plenty of steals (0.9 spg) and blocks (2.3 bpg). The other negative I hear about him is his shot selection. I don't get that either. His shooting percentage went down below 50% for the first time since he had to make up for the loss of Robbie Hummel, but he never forced action with the dribble. He took some jumpshots early in the shot clock, mostly in rhythm, nothing that screamed "ballhog". He is a smart player who filled a role that his team needed him in. I don't see his shot selection being a problem in the NBA.

His athleticism and shooting touch are things that can't be taught and often leave scouts salivating. Johnson doesn't get the kind of respect an All-American should. He should get looks from playoff teams drafting in the late first round. Never underestimate what a good strength coach can do for a player.

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