The right stuff?

One year after Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo, Kevin Love and Michael Beasley, the 2009 NBA draft class isn’t creating much excitement among league coaches and personnel.

“Most of these guys aren’t close to being ready,” one league scout said this week. “I wouldn’t count on any of them setting the NBA on fire any time soon – or at least not anyone past the No. 1 pick.”

Indeed, Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin is expected to make an immediate impact on whichever team makes him the top overall selection. Other than Griffin, this year’s field is considered shallow and weak.

Because of that, more and more underclassmen are throwing their names into the mix with the thought being that they have as good of a chance as anyone to sneak into the first round of a watered down draft class.

“For a lot of guys, this is a good time to jump ship,” another scout said.

Yahoo! Sports spoke with three NBA scouts who offered their opinions on whether underclassmen made the right decision to enter the draft along with some thoughts on players still undecided.

Note: the scouts were granted anonymity. Also, evaluations weren’t requested on underclassmen such as Griffin, Arizona’s Jordan Hill, Connecticut’s Hasheem Thabeet and Arizona State’s James Harden – all of whom are expected to go high in the first round, which more than justifies their decision to leave school early.

 

Ten who got it right

Photo Al-Farouq Aminu.

Al-Farouq Aminu
Freshman F Wake Forest
6-9, 215
Status: Staying in school.
Scout’s comment: “I heard he was coming back, which is a mature decision, because he could’ve made a lot of money. It was hard to tell how much, though, because his stock was all over the board. He could’ve gone in the top 10, but he also could’ve been a slider and gone a lot lower than that. He’s a project. He needs to work on his shot and figure out what position he wants to play. Is he a four? Is he a three? He’ll probably end up being a great player. He has so much potential. He just needs to take a little time to develop it.”

Chase Budinger
Junior F Arizona
6-7, 218
Status: Declared for draft. Will hire agent.
Scout’s comment: “He didn’t have the best year, but it’s probably time for him to come out, because he’ll obviously be a first-round guy, just not a lottery pick, like he’s projected before. He definitely listened to NBA people who talked to him when he was testing the waters last year, because his defense has gotten better, and the signs of softness he used to show disappeared the night that guy stepped on his face. So even though he had some off nights, some of his intangibles improved, which was a big thing for him going into the season.”

Earl Clark
Junior G/F Louisville
6-9, 225
Status: Declared for draft. Hasn’t hired agent.
Scout’s comment: “I don’t know how much better he was going to get in college. He had kind of run his course at Louisville. Teams are all over the board with him. A lot of teams like him. He has some serious tools. The drawback with him is his consistency – or lack of it. Some games he’ll give you 20 and play great. Then he goes up against Connecticut and scores five. That’s the big knock with him: Not doing it every night. Some people complain that he stays out on the perimeter too much, but if teams see him as a three (small forward), then they want to see that. It’s all a matter of taste with him. Either way, he’s lotteryish.”

Sherron Collins
Junior G Kansas
5-11, 200
Status: Staying in school.
Scout’s comment: “Coming back was a good move for him. He’s a good player, but I don’t know how high he would’ve gone. He’ll help himself by coming back – mainly because this is such a deep draft for point guards. You’ve got Teague, Lawson, Mills, Flynn, Holiday, Curry. Next year he won’t have so much competition, which means he could end up in the first round with some guaranteed money.”

Another scout: “He’ll improve his stock simply by waiting a year and getting out of this point-guard-deep draft. He’s a great player, but I’m not sure he’d jump any of the top-10 point guards. Next year there’s no question that he could go in the first round.”

DeMar DeRozan
Freshman F USC
6-7, 220
Status: Declared for draft. Hasn’t hired agent.
Scout’s comment: “His stock is all over the place. He was pretty quiet until the Pac-10 tournament, and then he exploded onto the scene. There is definitely some potential there … athletic, good body, good kid. He finally showed the potential that everyone thought he had. For him it was a good choice. I can’t see him falling out of the top 20.”

Tyreke Evans
Freshman G Memphis
6-6, 219
Status: Undecided.
Scout’s comment: “No one is surprised he entered the draft. It’s been the worst-kept secret of the season. People have mixed opinions on him, but I like him. I thought he showed a lot at the end of that loss to Missouri in the NCAA tournament. He was the best player on the floor by far. It was good that [John] Calipari moved him to point guard this year, because he doesn’t shoot it well enough to be a two. He’s a first-round guy, top 20 at worst.”

Jonny Flynn
Sophomore G Syracuse
6-0, 185
Status: Declared for draft. Hasn’t hired agent.
Scout’s comment: “He really helped himself late. He fought his way into the first round, which is great, because earlier in the year a lot of teams had doubts about him. Is he big enough? Can he shoot it? Is he a facilitator? There were a lot of question marks. By the end of the year he had answered all of those questions. I think it’d be a little reckless of him to sign with an agent, but who knows? Maybe he got some good feedback from someone.”

Another scout: “I think he’s terrific. I’ve loved him since I saw him at the Nike Hoops Summit a couple of years ago and then at the Reebok Roundball Classic, when he was D-ing up O.J. Mayo. He’s tough as hell.”

James Johnson
Sophomore F Wake Forest
6-9, 245
Status: Declared for draft. Has hired agent.
Scout’s comment: “He really helped himself down the stretch. He closed strong. He’s so versatile. He can do a little bit of everything, and he’s so mean and physical in the paint. You know he’s not going to back down from anyone. My guess is that he’ll go mid-first round, maybe even near the end of the lottery. More and more teams are starting to jump on his bandwagon.”

Greg Monroe
Freshman C Georgetown
6-11, 250
Status: Undecided.
Scout’s comment: “He’s a talented kid, and he didn’t have a bad year, by any means. But it was probably smart for him to go back and develop. You put Greg Monroe on a decent NBA team right now and he’ll hardly get on the floor. But if he goes back to school and gets all those reps in and playing in big games … it’ll help so much. Look at the difference between [Cole] Aldrich between his freshman and sophomore year. That’s when those bigs really start to pop. Hopefully the same thing will happen with Monroe.”

Jeff Teague
Sophomore G Wake Forest
6-2, 180
Status: Declared for draft. Hasn’t hired agent.
Scout’s comment: “A lot of weight gets put on the tournament, and maybe it shouldn’t, but Wake Forest’s loss to Cleveland State is the first thing that comes to mind. That may have hurt him a little bit. He’s extremely talented. The question is whether he’s a point guard and how well he can shoot it. There are no questions about his athleticism, but this was a transition year for him at the point. For awhile he was all about scoring first and being offensive-minded, but I thought he got better as the year went on, with him being less selfish. He’s a little small. He’s in that combo-guard mold, but you’re starting to see a lot of that in our league.”

Another scout: “I think he’s a lottery pick. I love his athleticism and his ability to attack the rim. He’s a Tiny Archibald, a Devin Harris. I think he’s going to be terrific.”

 

Ten who got it wrong

Photo Cole Aldrich.

Cole Aldrich
Sophomore C Kansas
6-11, 245
Status: Staying in school.
Scout’s comment: “He had probably played his way into the top 10. Why did he go back? Defensively, he can contribute right now. Offensively he’s still raw. He’s 6-11. He moves OK and he plays with confidence. He’s got that good length, that good knack for blocking shots. That gives you value in our league. He really developed this year. He reminds of Marreese Speights from Florida last year. He spent all that time on the bench playing behind Joakim Noah and Al Horford. He got beat up for a few years but, when his time came, he was ready to go. The same thing happened with Aldrich after playing behind Darnell Jackson, Darrell Arthur and Sasha Kaun. He would’ve been a lottery pick this year and he’ll be a lottery pick next year – maybe a top-5 guy. If it’s all about money, maybe he should’ve come out and grabbed the sure thing. With him that obviously wasn’t the case.”

DeJuan Blair
Sophomore F Pittsburgh
6-7, 265
Status: Declared for draft. Will hire agent.
Scout’s comment: “He didn’t finish real strong and his team didn’t, either. He’s tricky, though, because earlier in the year he was really amazing. The knock on him is going to be his size and his body. He’s only 6-foot-7 – but he’s super-long, which helps make up for some of that. His body and his weight will always be an issue. Some mock drafts have him fairly high, but I don’t know if I’m buying that, but he’s probably a first-rounder. I wouldn’t read into too many mock drafts just yet. It’s an odd year, and a lot of guys are going to come out, more than normal. You hear some names and you think, ‘Whoa!’ It’s just too early to tell right now.”

Nick Calathes
Sophomore G Florida
6-6, 194
Status: Declared for draft. Hasn’t hired agent.
Scout’s comment: “This is such a deep draft for point guards, and it’s tough to tell where he fits in. It’s an ‘eye-of-the-beholder’ thing with him. Some people love him, while some people aren’t as fond of him because of his lack of athletic attributes. He’s not very blessed athletically, but he’s a tremendous, tremendous passer – probably the best I’ve seen in the NCAA the last two years. He’s like a European point guard. You know he’s not going to blow by anyone and you know he doesn’t have tremendous feet. But the kid’s vision is off the chart. I think he has a chance at the first round, but if I was a betting man, I wouldn’t put my money on the first round. He’d probably be better off waiting until next year, when the point guard class isn’t as deep.”

Eric Devendorf
Junior G Syracuse
6-4, 180
Status: Declared for draft. Will hire agent.
Scout’s comment: “I have no idea why he came out. I have no thoughts on Eric Devendorf. He’s not someone we even discuss.”

Jrue Holiday
Freshman G UCLA
6-3, 180
Status: Declared for draft. Hasn’t hired agent.
Scout’s comment: “He’s an interesting one, because he was so heralded going into his freshman year, but then he was real quiet. I think he’s more in a “test-the-waters” mode. I doubt he signs with an agent – at least not early. He just needs to feel things out. The big thing right now is that he just hasn’t done much yet. He hasn’t produced. He averaged eight points and three assists last year. I know he was on a good team with a lot of experience, but still … look at that loss to Villanova in the NCAA tournament. He was non-existent. People were saying, ‘This kid is a long ways away.’ Plus, what position is he? He’s 6-foot-3 and playing the two for UCLA. He barely played point guard for them at all. So can he play point? Can he run the show? Maybe so. We just need to see more. That’s what’s hard about those one-and-dones. We don’t have much time to watch them.”

Jodie Meeks
Junior G Kentucky
6-4, 208
Status: Declared for draft: Hasn’t hired agent.
Scout’s comment: “He owes it to himself to test the waters, but it’s doubtful he’ll be a first-round pick, and if that’s the case he needs to come back. A lot of people – Billy Gillispie included – thought Meeks got too selfish toward the end of last year, but now he won’t have to do that because there will be better players around him, which will give him the chance to show some things in other areas besides just scoring. Right now his two biggest knocks are that he doesn’t have much length and that he doesn’t make others around him better. But it’s probably unfair to judge him at this point.”

B.J. Mullens
Freshman C Ohio State
7-0, 275
Status: Declared for draft. Hasn’t hired agent.
Scout’s comment: “I wasn’t surprised when he declared, because I think he had the mentality that he wanted to go pro as soon as possible. It’s pretty obvious that another year or two of college would’ve done him some good, because he’s not ready. It could be risky. I imagine he’s a first-rounder, but look at DeAndre Jordan last year. Those young bigs … people love their talent and their upside. But you get them on your team and you have to wait for them to develop and give them a bunch of money in the meantime. Young big guys in the NBA take so long sometimes, because you’ve got to get them bigger and stronger. They’re still growing into their body and their feet, while the guards come in ready to rock. He didn’t have a superb year by any means, but he may end up being OK.”

DaJuan Summers
Junior F Georgetown
6-8, 236
Status: Declared for draft. Will hire agent.
Scout’s comment: “He had such a bad year, but he could surprise some people in his workouts. He’s a very talented guy. His size, strength, shooting ability … you get him into that workout scenario and he could surprise some people. Right now he’s flying under the radar, but the kid is really pretty good. I still think he jumped the gun, though. He could’ve improved his stock by coming back.”

Shawn Taggart
Junior F Memphis
6-10, 238
Status: Declared for draft. Hasn’t hired agent.
Scout’s comment: “He could probably make some good money overseas, but I’m not sure he’s an NBA guy – at least not yet. The way he finished the season was very encouraging. He was scoring from all over the place, taking charges and crashing the boards. His attitude was good. If could go back and show that kind of effort consistently, there may be a place for him. Unfortunately his weight is always going to be a problem. He’s too thin.”

Greivis Vasquez
Junior G Maryland
6-6, 190
Status: Declared for draft. Hans’t hired agent.
Scout’s comment: “I don’t like him at all. I don’t like the way he acts. The things he says and does … I don’t know that you want that on your team. If you’re going to draft a guy and invest a bunch of money in him, I’m not messing with him. I’ll take my chances on maybe a lesser talent. He’s not that good to have to put with that stuff. What has he done that sets him apart, other than talk a lot? “

 

Ten on the fence

Photo Craig Brackins.

Craig Brackins
Sophomore F Iowa State
6-10, 230
Status: Undecided.
Scout’s comment: “I think he’s really, really talented. He’s one of those guys that could go anywhere from 18-30. He might be the guy that really shoots up on draft charts. Iowa State has had such poor teams that no one has gone to watch him, so he might be under the radar. Also, what he’s good at will show up in an individual workout. He shoots the ball well, he puts it on the floor. His scoring ability is going to raise his stock once he gets into those workout situations.”

Stephen Curry
Junior G Davidson
6-3, 185
Status: Undecided.
Scout’s comment: “I don’t know if he could do much more in college. I mean, really: How much more can he produce? How much better is he going to get playing against that competition? I guess he could fine-tune his game a little bit and play another year at the point. It’s tough to say whether he’s going to be a good pro or not. He’s a little frail, and how athletic is he? What position will he play? Who is he going to guard? There are a lot of question marks with him but, in the right situation, he could be just fine. A player is a player, and he can play.”

Austin Daye
Sophomore F Gonzaga
6-11, 200
Status: Undecided.
Scout’s comment: “I keep hearing that he’s coming out, and that scares me. He’s absolutely not ready. He’s [really] 6-foot-10 and 190 pounds. Do you know what guys in the league will do to him? He’s skilled offensively, but he has a lot of room left to grow.”

Wayne Ellington
Junior G North Carolina
6-4, 200
Status: Undecided.
Scout’s comment: “He really helped himself in the tournament. He used to be just a straight catch-and-shoot guy, but now he’s shown that he can put it down a little bit. That helped his cause a lot. He’s close to being a first-rounder. He’s still an undersized two that’s not real athletic.”

Gerald Henderson
Junior G Duke
6-4, 215
Status: Undecided.
Scout’s comment: “I’m high on him. He’s one of the top players in the draft. He doesn’t shoot a very high percentage, but he’s a high-level athlete. He averaged 29.7 minutes a game this year. Look at every other two-guard in his talent class – guys like Chase Budinger and Terrence Williams – and there’s no one that averaged less than 33-34 minutes. He averaged 29, and did some good things with it. He played in a system that isn’t always conducive to pumping out a lot of gaudy statistics.”

Damion James
Junior G/F Texas
6-7, 222
Status: Undecided.
Scout’s comment: “Texas will be loaded if he comes back. I’m sure that’s weighing on him, because they’ve got some good kids coming in. Right now he’s probably a bubble guy – either a late first- or an early second-round pick. I can see why some teams would like him, although he didn’t have a great year. Another year would help him .He’s gotten better every year.”

Another scout: “I’ve seen him a lot. You either love him or want no part of him. What is he really good at? He’s a really good athlete and he really goes after the rebounds. But so does Tyler Smith and some of these other guys – and these other guys can make shots. DeJuan Summers can make shots. Earl Clark can make shots. Damion James has been a very inconsistent shooter.”

Ty Lawson
Junior G North Carolina
5-11, 195
Status: Undecided.
Scout’s comment: “He blew up near the end of the season – especially in the tournament. He was actually playing at that level earlier in the season, too. I don’t think he really slacked at all. North Carolina as a whole just kind of coasted for awhile. But he turned it on big time when it counted. He was almost unguardable. His speed has always been a given – his ability to push the ball and how dynamic he is in transition. But he also really shot the ball well this year, and he was a leader. He got all the right guys involved. He kept that team together. It was a seamless push for them throughout the tournament. They were really good, and it was because of him. Probably the biggest question is what happens to Lawson when the game slows down? He’s played at one speed – fast – his whole career. I think he’ll handle it fine, though. If he’s not a lottery pick, he’ll be close.”

Patrick Mills
Sophomore G St. Mary’s
6-0, 180
Status: Undecided.
Scout’s comment: “His strength is what he did in the Olympics. He produced against the world’s best. That’s why you see him all over the boards. There are guys that saw that and put value with that. Then there are other guys that put more value on how you do in college, guys that use that standard to hold a player to. He didn’t have a bad year, but it was probably a down year by his standards. His injury obviously played a role in that. It’s tough to say whether he should come back. He may be more ready from a mental standpoint than some of these other guards because of his background at the AIS [Australian Institute of Sport] in Australia. They play all day, every day. It’s a grind and he adapted to that. He’s mentally tough enough to handle the rigors of the NBA, and his work ethic and understanding of the game probably exceeds some of the other guards that will be on the board.”

Patrick Patterson
Sophomore F Kentucky
6-9, 235
Status: Undecided.
Scout’s comment: “That’s a tough one. It all depends on what’s most important to him. Does he want to win and compete for a title? Because if he does, there’s a chance Kentucky could have a really good team next year. He’s probably a late first-round guy right now – early second at the worst. He’s a little more proven than some of these other bigs that may come out. He’s always produced. With him it’s always going to be about his knee and the fact that he’s [really] a 6-foot-8 power forward. Some make it and some don’t. It’s hard to predict the future of an undersized four-man. He’s very skilled, but he may be just a step slow athletically. You look at other under-sized small forwards, and most of them are pretty damn athletic.”

Jarvis Varnado
Junior F/C Mississippi State
6-9, 210
Status: Undecided.
Scout’s comment: “He’s intriguing as hell. He’s so long and can really block shots. There’s not much there on offense but, defensively, he’s a presence. I saw one game where he blocked 11 shots. There’s a place for him the league, especially if he goes back to school for one more year and really develops.”