Big 12 rookie predictions: Who will have biggest NBA impact?
Watching seven Big 12 players walk to the stage in the first round of the NBA Draft on Thursday called to mind the superb state of the best conference in college basketball.
Nothing should happen next year to bump the Big 12 from the top spot among all conferences in RPI. Bidding farewell to bottom-feeders Nebraska and Colorado in two years should only make the conference more competitive.
Ten players from the Big 12 heard their name called on Thursday at the NBA Draft.
- 6. Golden State: Ekpe Udoh, Baylor
- 11. New Orleans: Cole Aldrich, Kansas (traded to Oklahoma City)
- 12. Memphis: Xavier Henry, Kansas
- 19. Boston: Avery Bradley, Texas
- 20. San Antonio: James Anderson, Oklahoma State
- 21. Oklahoma City: Craig Brackins, Iowa State (traded to New Orleans)
- 24. Atlanta: Damion James, Texas (traded to New Jersey)
- 32. Miami: Dexter Pittman, Texas
- 47. Milwaukee: Tiny Gallon, Oklahoma
- 54. L.A. Clippers: Willie Warren, Oklahoma
Should be interesting to see guys from the same college but different generations unite, like Jayhawks Aldrich and Nick Collison in Oklahoma City, and Henry and Darrell Arthur in Memphis, for example. How about guys from the same college and same generation, like Warren and Blake Griffin reuniting in Los Angeles? The Sooners duo put on a show in OU's run to the Elite Eight in 2008-2009.
What kind of impact will these rookies make on their NBA squads next season? I thought of three questions that might help figure it out. Feel free to post your answers because I'm not sure there's a clear-cut answer to any of them.
What Big 12 rookie will average the most points next season?
What Big 12 rookie will average the most rebounds next season?
What Big 12 rookie will average the most assists next season?
Here's my take:
1. Most points per game: Udoh.
Golden State lacks any serious threat inside, so Udoh should immediately challenge for a starting role. Udoh's competition for playing time will be Dan Gadzuric, Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf and Brandan Wright. Udoh can play defense, too, probably better than anyone the Warriors have around in the paint right now.
Golden State averaged 108.8 points per game, second in the league last year, so Udoh should see opportunities in this high-powered offense.
2. Most rebounds per game: Aldrich.
Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo
Like Udoh in Golden State, Aldrich steps into a situation in Oklahoma City where he can make immediate impact. The Thunder started Nenad Krstic at center for their playoff series against the Lakers this past season. Not exactly ideal. And Oklahoma City still gave the eventual NBA champs a great run, losing four games to two.
In an interview with ESPN Thursday night, Kevin Durant said the missing piece to a championship run in Oklahoma City last season was a low-post presence. Aldrich won't ever be a prominent scorer in the NBA, but he can dominate the paint on the defensive end. Kansas wasn't No. 1 in the country last season in field goal percentage defense for nothing. Aldrich steps into a fantastic situation with one of the rising teams in the Western Conference.
3. Most assists per game: Henry.
Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo
This one's difficult because most Big 12 rookies who should see minutes next season are post players. Henry's not a distribution machine, but he could see minutes as a backup to O.J. Mayo at the 2-guard or Rudy Gay at the 3. And Gay is a restricted free agent, so he may not even be in Memphis next season.
Most pundits seem to like Henry as an outside shooter in the NBA. That's easy to see with his 42-percent shooting clip from three-point range as a freshman last season. But Henry also said he caught the attention of NBA scouts by being aggressive in pre-draft camps. I wouldn't be surprised if Henry added more slash to his game than people are expecting.
Other random observations from draft night:
• Portland firing GM Kevin Pritchard before the draft was classless. How do you fire a guy and then tell him to stay in the war room and participate in the draft? If I'm Pritchard, I tell the Blazers and owner Paul Allen to shove it.
Pritchard was named GM of the Blazers on March 27, 2007. Here's how Portland has done in his tenure as GM:
2007-2008: 41-41, missed playoffs
2008-2009: 54-28, playoffs
2009-2010: 50-32, playoffs
OK, so maybe Portland lost in the first round those last two years. But before Pritchard was GM, the Trail Blazers hadn't made the playoffs in four years. And they had an awful reputation as the Jail Blazers. This move made no sense.
• Kentucky coach John Calipari called Thursday night the best night in school history after the Wildcats had five players selected in the first round.
Please see the years 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996 and 1998 for more information. Kentucky has seven national titles. I'm quite sure each of those nights was better for Lexington than celebrating a bunch of one-and-dones whose team underachieved and lost in the Elite Eight last spring.
That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.