The excitement always builds as the NBA draft gets closer average players become good players, good players become great players and great high school or college players become legends before they even lace up their signature, multi-million dollar shoes for an actual NBA game.
2008 NBA Draft
- NBADraft.net: Final grades A to F
- Who went where? NBA Draft Tracker
- Kahn: Grading each team's draft
- NBADraft.net: Winners and losers
- Goodman: Chicago's big mistake
- Full pick-by-pick draft analysis
- Bulls take Rose with No. 1 pick
- Wolves, Grizz swap Mayo, Love
- What were top draftees wearing?
- Video Central: Highlights, analysis
- Johnson: Draft winners and losers
- Johnson's recap: 1-5 | 6-10 | 11-14
- Goodman on Mayo-Love deal
- NBA Draft Central 2008
- Complete list of early entrants
Players grow in reputation, size, speed and strength. For some reason, the statistics and criticism from the pre-draft camp in early June always dissipates by the end of the month as the draft unfolds.
And considering the discussion heading into the 2008 draft, certainly this year is no different. At least for one day, these players will be the solution to all that ails the prospective teams that have the good fortune of getting whom they want.
Just as last year's draft appeared to be all about Greg Oden and Kevin Durant going in the first two slots to Portland and Seattle, respectively, it appears the Chicago Bulls will take Memphis point guard Derrick Rose at No. 1 and the Miami Heat will then snap up Kansas State forward Michael Beasley.
It's a no-brainer ... or at least, that's what most people say.
Rose is the second coming of Utah's Deron Williams a classic point guard at 6-3, 190, with strength, quickness, shooting range and the seamless ability to find the open man where he wants the ball to create easy baskets.
Beasley is the left-handed version of Denver's Carmelo Anthony effortlessly scoring in the post or out to 20 feet. He's 6-8, 235, tough, with great hands and a big body to rebound; appearing to be bigger than the story told by his actual measurements.
Somewhere in between those two guys allowing the Heat to play games with the No. 2 pick and thus creating a whole lot of trade speculation is O.J. Mayo, touted as the second coming of LeBron James while in junior high and high school as a 6-5, 210-pound combo-guard. He had controversy swirling around him all the way through from his frequent changing of high schools to his "don't call me, I'll call you" recruitment at USC to the current imbroglio involving a runner for an agent and illegal benefits.
None of it was reflective of Mayo being a bad guy or a problem, just egomaniacal and susceptible to accepting lots of cool inducements, free of charge. Now he'll be free to accept whatever he wants as an actual pro, with the game and body that may be best-suited for the NBA anyway.
On the fringes is UCLA's Kevin Love, blessed with a throwback-game from previous generations ... replete with a slimmed-down but still-beefy 255 pounds spread across a 6-9 frame, with great hands, soft touch and outlet passes that bring to mind Wes Unseld or Bill Walton depending on your point of reference.
And after all, who needs athleticism and quickness when you can flat-out play?
There are other guys who may end up being better than this quartet, of course. They are all so young and this is only the second season of the NBA rule that requires players to wait at least one year after their high school class graduates either go to college for one season or play somewhere else before becoming eligible for the NBA draft.
It doesn't guarantee the players are more ready for the NBA, or even that they have improved much. But it does help some, and certainly has created more hype because players such as Rose, Beasley, Mayo and Love were so highly regarded coming out of high school. They since have become matinee idols following a year of national marketing in which their top-drawer schools were constantly referred to on 24-hour sports television and the Internet. The NBA will reap the benefit of that interest without its marketing department having to lift a finger.
The rest of the guys aren't as well known, may end up being better, or possibly may never make it at all due to the lack of mental and/or physical maturity required to cope with the rigors of the NBA. It's the kind of circumstance that had legendary player and talent evaluator Jerry West continuously railing about what has happened to the draft in the 21st century acquiring players to develop as opposed to the nearly finished products that were available in the draft a generation ago.
Consider for a moment that of the 14 consensus lottery picks only four have reached their 20th birthday. Only Joe Alexander, the suddenly hot commodity from West Virginia, has three years of college ball under his belt and at 21 can actually go out and club with his new NBA teammates after the draft.
West's commentary is palpable, considering it used to take three years to get a read on a draft. That was generally the amount of time it took for a team to get a handle on a particular player's ability to adjust his game to the NBA competitive level. Now it is better to wait five, if only because the players are so young coming out, it may take that much time just to see where they are.
Just consider the 2005 draft, for example. We still don't quite have a handle on what top overall pick Andrew Bogut is going to be in this league, despite being a skilled 7-footer. And out of the rest of the first round from that buffet of talent, only Deron Williams (No. 3) and Chris Paul (No. 4) have proven to be stars. Danny Granger (No. 17) was the sleeper pick of the first round by the Pacers, and Monta Ellis (No. 40) was the steal of the draft out of a Mississippi high school.
That's not to say other players from that draft won't develop into stars, but the point is the jury is still out on most. Marvin Williams, the No. 2 pick by Atlanta from NCAA champion North Carolina after his freshman year, may yet develop into an All-Star forward, but this generation of Hawks likely won't ever overcome the folly of Hawks general manager Billy Knight passing on Williams and Paul. Ultimately, it cost Knight his job.
In other words, not only do you never know, but neither do the NBA personnel people. That was the year Spaniard Fran Vasquez went No. 11 to Orlando and Russian Yaroslav Korolev went No. 12 to the Clippers. Nice picks. Vasquez didn't have the desire to play in the NBA and Korolev didn't have the skill to play there.
Out of the top five picks in 2006 Andre Bargnani, LaMarcus Aldridge, Adam Morrison, Tyrus Thomas and Shelden Williams only Aldridge has been a consistent starter, let alone shown star quality. There are at least a dozen players who haven't seen the light of day, but were taken ahead of No. 21 Rajon Rondo in that draft ... you know, the guy with 21 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds and 6 steals for the Celtics in the decisive Game 6 of the 2008 Finals.
Go back to 2003 and we know LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony are stars. Chris Kaman is a very good center who is getting better, David West was the sleeper at No. 17, with Leandro Barbosa (No. 28) and Josh Howard (No. 29) the steals. Of course, No. 2 overall pick Darko Milicic is a bust of titanic proportions considering those that came after him, but if No. 7 Kirk Hinrich had lived up to expectations as the All-America point guard out of Kansas, do you think the Bulls would even consider taking Rose ahead of Beasley?
So that's where we are today ... nobody really knows what to make of the 2008 harvest, and won't for quite some time. Derrick Rose looks like the real thing, but will be more like Jalen Rose or Derek Zoolander? Will Michael Beasley score with the ease of Michael Jordan or land with the thud of Michael Sweetney?
The odds are in favor of Rose and Beasley ... but the rest, well, your guess is as good as theirs. In the meantime, enjoy the hype for all of these guys ... it could be the last you'll hear from a lot of them.