Ten draft prospects who won’t be dancing
RENO, Nev. – March is crunch time for NBA general managers and scouts who are crisscrossing the country to get a last look at draft prospects before the college season ends. And that doesn’t mean just stopping at the power-conference tournaments like the Big East, ACC or Big 12. Twenty-four NBA scouts and executives attended the Western Athletic Conference tournament to see 10 prospects, including heralded Nevada sophomore forward Luke Babbitt.
For scouts interested in watching players who won’t make the NCAA tournament, this past week was especially important. Fresno State sophomore forward Paul George, who said he plans to enter his name in the draft without hiring an agent, possibly played his final college game when the Bulldogs lost to Louisiana Tech in the first round of the WAC tournament.
After flying from Las Vegas to Kansas City and then to Reno this week, one Eastern Conference scout said he was going back to Las Vegas on Friday morning for more scouting at the Mountain West tournament.
“We’re running around like crazy,” one Western Conference scout said. “Most of the talent is east of the Mississippi. For me, I watch video a lot more intelligently after I see a guy live. I imagine a lot of scouts watch a lot of video, but it’s better to scout live to see the size, speed and interaction with teammates and coaches.”
“They should be playing the best they can play,” an Eastern Conference scout said. “This is the best exposure before going to workouts and evaluations. This is their chance to make an impression.”
While the NCAA tournament will be flooded with NBA prospects, there will be a lot of potential draft picks like George and possibly Babbitt, North Carolina’s Ed Davis and Connecticut’s Stanley Robinson who won’t be invited to the Big Dance. With help from several NBA scouts, Yahoo! Sports has compiled a list of 10 of the top draft prospects who likely won’t be playing in March Madness.
1. Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest, F, junior – What the scouts think: “A top-10 pick. He’s an athlete who can play small and power forward. … He’s a man who could definitely score.”
2. Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech, F/C, freshman – What the scouts think: “He’s definitely coming out and has no reason not to. He’s going to be a top-10 pick. He’s a low-post scorer.”
3. Ed Davis, North Carolina, F, sophomore – What the scouts think: “He’s a rebounder, shot-blocker … a lottery pick.”
5. Larry Sanders, Virginia Commonwealth, F/C, junior – What the scouts think: “He’s a raw shot-blocker. He will be a mid-to-late first-round pick.”
6. Luke Babbitt, Nevada, F, sophomore – What the scouts think: “He’s a tough player who can score in every way. Has a good feel for the game. He might be a mid-first-round pick.” Some scouts think Babbitt will end up returning to Nevada for his junior year.
7. Paul George, Fresno State, G/F, sophomore – What the scouts think: “He’s a scoring wing player with long arms. He has a low motor but is highly skilled. He’s a first-rounder, probably 18-30 range.”
8. Willie Warren, Oklahoma, G, sophomore – What the scouts think: “He’s a very good combo guard who’s out with an ankle injury. He had a much better freshman than sophomore season.”
9. Stanley Robinson, Connecticut, F, senior – What the scouts think: “He’s a super athlete who can make plays for you. Some people think he’s a lottery pick and some see him in the second round.”
10. Charles Garcia, Seattle, G/F, junior – What the scouts think: “He’s raw and unskilled, but has an NBA body. He can play point forward. He has the ability to put the ball on the floor. Average shot.”
Others to watch: Craig Brackins, Iowa State, F; Jerome Dyson, Connecticut, G; Kenneth Faried, Morehead State, F; Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech, F/C; Quincy Pondexter, Washington, F; Renardo Sidney, Mississippi State, F; Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State, F/C; Terrico White, Ole Miss, G.
Heady times for Evans
The Sacramento Kings honored Tyreke Evans(notes) by having a rally for his Rookie of the Year candidacy Wednesday night against Toronto. The team gave out commemorative T-shirts and pictures of Evans – a not-too-subtle reminder that with Kevin Martin(notes) being traded to Houston, Evans is now the face of the franchise. The Kings even upgraded Evans to their biggest locker – the same one previously used by Chris Webber(notes) – after the trades.
With so much adulation being thrown Evans’ way, should the Kings be worried about the Rookie of the Year front-runner staying grounded?
“There are a lot of forces in this league that can detract from the development of a young kid,” said Kings assistant Pete Carril, a coaching legend at Princeton who has nearly 60 years of basketball experience. “Before you know it, his values are going to change. So [Evans] has to hold onto that. I’ve seen [change for the worse] happen to other guys since I’ve been here. [Evans] has good advisors who watch him. I’m keeping my fingers crossed because the forces are strong and you got all these women around here chasing and all that stuff. Before you know it, you might not be the person everyone thinks you are, or you change.
“You got to evolve, I know that. But you must always keep the values that you have at the same time. You have to keep the youth, you have to keep the energy, you have to work at it, you got to love to play, all those things you have to keep as you grow older. It happened to me, too.”
So far, Evans has seemed to stay grounded. He’s a low-key guy who doesn’t yearn for the spotlight. His entourage consists only of family friend Lamont Peterson, who is there daily in Sacramento to assist him. His older brothers also play a big role in his life. Another positive sign: Evans has stayed on a financial budget; his only car is a leased Mercedes.
“Fame and attention seek him out, he doesn’t seek it out,” Peterson said. “His [late] father was not motivated by all the celebrity. ‘Reke doesn’t play to be famous. ‘Reke plays because he loves the game. What you see is what you get. He’s really that way all the time. He’s humble. He’s selfless. He drives himself. He’s not easily impressed.”
Said Evans: “My brothers have always been around me and they made me act older than my age and hang out around older people. That took a lot off of me and I’ve been a humble person since then.”
While Evans wasn’t named to USA Basketball’s original list of 27 players for the national team program, a source said he is still being considered.
“I’d love the opportunity to have a chance to go there to play against all those guys and improve my game,” Evans said. “It would be a good opportunity. It’s always good to go to an event like that.”
During his three-plus seasons as coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, it was no secret that Maurice Cheeks often didn’t see eye to eye with Allen Iverson(notes). But Cheeks still fondly remembers Iverson’s impact on the game.
Iverson “was phenomenal,” said Cheeks, who is an assistant coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder. “He was a little guy who could score when he wanted to score. He could get to any place he wanted to get to on the floor. The way he played with such fierceness is the way a lot of people would like to play. He played the game with no fear. He gave everything he had on the floor.
“I think we need to celebrate that when and if he is done.”
Mavs’ trade paying off
Nearly a month after acquiring Caron Butler(notes), Brendan Haywood(notes) and DeShawn Stevenson(notes), the Dallas Mavericks have become the NBA’s hottest team, riding a 13-game win streak into the weekend. Suddenly, the Mavericks are even within reach of overtaking the Los Angeles Lakers for the Western Conference’s top playoff seed.
“I’m very happy with the trade,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. “The results speak for themselves.”
Cuban thinks the current Mavs are better “on both sides of the ball” than his 2006 Western Conference championship squad and have more “depth and toughness.” Does that mean the Mavericks are poised to win their first title?
“We don’t make predictions,” Cuban said. “We just try to win games and go as far as we can.”
Mississippi State senior Jarvis Varnado is now college basketball’s all-time leading shot-blocker. But will that be enough to get him into the NBA? The slender 6-foot-9, 210-pound forward/center entered the Southeastern Conference tournament averaging 4.8 blocks and 10.6 rebounds. He also averaged 12.9 points on 54.9 shooting from the field and thinks he has a solid mid-range jumper and improving post game. Varnado says he’s been hearing he can be a late first-round pick, while one NBA scout said Varnado will go early second round at best. Scouts remain skeptical about Varnado’s offensive skills and project him as a forward more than a true center. “The good part of me being a senior is the experience,” Varnado said. “I’ve been through the wars. But most scouts take chances on younger guys.” … A league source said former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Billy King was hopeful that Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown could land a front-office job to help him get back to the NBA. Before the Los Angeles Clippers fired Mike Dunleavy, SI.com reported that Brown contacted team officials about running their basketball operations, though he remains under contract with the Bobcats. The Clippers have since appointed Neal Olsheay as acting general manager. … Fresno State freshman center Greg Smith is considering putting his name in the draft, sources said. NBA scouts think that would be a mistake, even though some of them are intrigued by Smith’s potential.