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.
AP Photo

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.

  1. What Big 12 rookie will average the most points next season?

  2. What Big 12 rookie will average the most rebounds next season?

  3. What Big 12 rookie will average the most assists next season?

Here's my take:

1. Most points per game: Udoh.
AP Photo

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.

Bad idea.

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.


Ralster Jayhawk 11 years, 11 months ago

Calipari is a fluff, spinmeister, thats all.

Collins playing for Charlotte summer league. Maybe MJ giving Chicago kid a chance?Cole has a really good opportunity to complement OKC. We will see what X can do on the next level. Im a little flustered as I feel (after reading X's comments) that he may have had aggressive and slashing ability, but did not use it at KU, and that ultimately hurt us? I wish them all well.

John Randall 11 years, 11 months ago

I think Charlotte giving SC a look-see probably is due more to HCBS relationship with Larry Brown -- Self was on Brown's KU staff back in the 80s.

Chris Shaw 11 years, 11 months ago

IMO, James Anderson will have the biggest impact. If there are two franchises as a young player that I would want to play for it would have to be hands down San Antonio and the Utah Jazz.

Collins playing for Charlotte has everything to do with the Bill Self and Larry Brown relationship.

Jacobpaul81 11 years, 11 months ago

Agreed. Anderson is going to see minutes early and lots of them. Of all of the rookies, he has the best chance to step in and shine, and skill wise, he's the furthest along. He reminds me a bit of Mitch Richmond (#5 pick, 1988) out of K-state. He's older (he'll be 22 for 2010-11 season), he's already got the NBA skills necessary to start, and he's had experience carrying the shooting load of a team.

didjabuti 11 years, 11 months ago

What about who will have the most blocks? Udoh or Aldrich?

John Randall 11 years, 11 months ago

Which ever one plays the most minutes -- both are on teams with a real need for defensive presence in the paint, both players can provide that.

didjabuti 11 years, 11 months ago

I agree, I want to say Aldrich just because he's probably not expected to produce much offensively and can concentrate on defense. But if he doesn't have the offensive production do his minutes reduce? Also so many of his blocks were on guards driving the lane. It will be interesting to see how that part both of their games translate into the NBA.

Eric Schneider 11 years, 11 months ago

Depends on what you mean by impact. Anderson will have the best statistical year, but the Spurs are on the decline. Cole makes OKC one of the favorites in the west if he stays healthy. That is all they lacked was a defensive presence in the middle. He provides the physicality that gives the Lakers fits.

Sparko 11 years, 11 months ago

Anderson will score the most points and have the most assists precisely because he is NBA-ready right now. He was the best single player in the best conference. And he has great size. How did he fall to the Spurs? I would have selected him as a lottery pick. Three of the UK players had no business even in the draft. Orton is just awful. Just awful. He might improve so he was drafted in the first round. And they fire Pritchard??

ridgetj 11 years, 9 months ago

James Anderson will have the biggest impact. He can do it all. He can take over a game and he doesnt rely on one skill as his whole game. Plus, he had to control every game at Oklahoma State, so he will fit right into the ballhogging nature of the NBA. X could be good but he still needs to evovle, didnt see him do much more than shoot in his one year at KU. Cole could also be good but he has played team basketball for the last three years which, as you know, has to be thrown out the window before anyone can make it in the NBA. Udoh could also make a name for himself, but the guys he was playing with at Baylor weren't all exactly NBA caliber. He'll have to work down low to get the ball.

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