Weekly Countdown: Keep an eye on these five draft prospects
Intriguing college talents: Blake Griffin, Demar DeRozan, B.J. Mullens, Austin Daye
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One scout explains why he likes the Allen Iverson acquisition for the Pistons
5 Future draft picks to watch this season
I asked a trusted NBA scout to name the American lottery picks he finds most intriguing as the college season opens next week.
5. Blake Griffin, 6-foot-9 sophomore power forward, Oklahoma. "He's undersized for a 4 but unbelievably powerful," the scout said. "He can jump out of the gym, he has great hands. Really, really strong and explosive. He's going to have to improve his perimeter game a little because his size will make it tougher for him to get to the rim; he can get there with ease in the Big 12, but he can't do it in our league on a nightly basis. He can become a pick-and-pop guy, and I think he will because he has a really good work ethic. He wants to be good, so I think the skills he needs to develop will come his way. He would have been in the lottery last year had he decided to come out as a freshman.''
4. Brandon Jennings, 6-1, 19-year-old point guard, Lottomatica Roma. The former Arizona recruit has averaged 9.7 points in 19 minutes in his first three Euroleague games with his Italian club.
"I'll be curious to see what kind of year Jennings has in the Euroleague and Italian league," the scout said. "He's a highly talented guy, and I think his life has gone well over there so far. His brother is there with him, he's in a great school in Rome, his mom is over there. But the basketball -- I think he's finding out that it's really hard. The Euroleague is more than people think.
"He's left-handed and he can fly. He's a little wild, though, and he's not a great shooter. He can definitely score, and there will be nights when he'll bang out a bunch of jumpers, but that's not his forte. He's not as powerful as Derrick Rose. Jennings has the same kind of speed and elevation, but Rose is taller and wider. This kid is thinner but he's just going to attack, attack, attack.
On Dec. 11, Jennings matches up against Ricky Rubio, the 18-year-old point guard for the Spanish Olympic team who now plays for DKV Joventut of Spain.
"There will be more NBA scouts that day than there will be at the Carolina-Duke game, I promise you," the scout said.
3. Demar DeRozan, 6-6 freshman shooting guard, USC. "Most of the other top Americans in the draft are going to be college freshmen, like it is every year. DeRozan is athletic, he can really score and he can make shots. It's unfair to say this about anybody, but he is Kobe Bryant-ish. What I mean is that if it all works out for him, he can do some of the same things. I don't know yet what kind of kid he is and whether he has the same kind of killer instinct; I doubt whether anybody does. I'm just talking about DeRozan's skill set.
"This guy is a definite one [year] and done. He's different from O.J. Mayo, who always had the ball in his hands for USC last year. This kid is more of a wing. He'll be mainly a 2 in our league, though he'll swing to the 3 sometimes.
2. B.J. Mullens, 7-foot freshman center, Ohio State. "He has skills and a little bit of bounce to his game. I'll be curious to see how he develops this season and to see whether he's grown physically since last spring. He's one guy I don't know enough about yet, but I'm interested.
"The thing with big guys is to find guys like him who have skills, who can catch and shoot and who don't look lost down there. When you have a big man with that kinds of skill set, then you can build upon that. It's much harder to take an athlete and try to teach him a skill set. Give me a big guy with a lot of skills and I'll surround him with athletes.''
1. Austin Daye, 6-10 sophomore forward, Gonzaga. "He's very skilled. He's also -- as of last year -- very thin [190 pounds]. And that's OK, because at his age you're supposed to be skinny and developing physically. I think with lineage of his father [Darren Daye], who played in the NBA and in Europe, he'll tell Austin, 'Look, you've got to get stronger.' And I'm sure his coach addresses that also.
"To me, he's a lottery pick without question. He shoots threes [41.3 percent last season], he shoots free throws [88.1 percent]. If you're asking me how he compares to a guy like Jonathan Bender, I'd say that Bender was way more athletic. I really liked Bender, but this kid doesn't jump like he did. This kid has better ball skills, however. Bender was a 4 morphing into a 3, but Daye is a 3 right now.
"I see something of Danny Manning in him. I never thought of Manning as a super-quick high flyer, and this kid isn't either. But Daye is very cerebral, he cuts without the ball, he's long, he makes shots and he has all of that skill. Plus, he plays on a Gonzaga team that is loaded with multiple players, so people will be seeing a lot of him this year.
"You notice I don't have someone like Tyler Hansbrough on this list. He is a very good player, but as a senior he is an aberration in the draft. He won't get taken in front of Daye because people will see Hansbrough as a finished product -- albeit a very good one -- who doesn't have the upside and skill set of someone like Daye. An NBA team might win more games with Tyler six years from now than with Daye, who is thin and soft as butter. But you know how we all think: We all want upside. That's the nature of our game right now.''