While the age limit has left this months draft in a bit of a weakened state, it stands to make the 2007 Draft a truly special affair. The high school class of 2006 is one of the strongest in recent memory, and potential one and done candidates will soon be popping up everywhere. The following is a short run down of which incoming freshmen to pay particularly close attention to.
There isnt much that left to be said about Greg Oden. He would have been the number one pick in this years draft, and maybe even the year before that as a junior, had he been allowed to enter. His sheer size and power around the basket is sure to evoke memories of days when players like David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Patrick Ewing were around to challenge Shaquille ONeals dominance in the paint. Where most big men are weak and awkward at this stage, Oden is graceful and overpowering. Known at this time as a demoralizing shot blocker, Oden has worked to add other facets of his game over the past year. He is progressing offensively, and has developed a bit of a mean streak. Rivals.com recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer likes the way Odens on-court demeanor is progressing He is starting to play with more emotion and fire. A lot of players play to show how good they are. Oden plays to win the game. Oden was recently sidelined for what looks like a lengthy period of time due to a wrist injury, and that will be the only thing capable of slowing him down over the coming year. Next June, he will go number one in the draft.
While Odens presence already makes the senior class of 2006 unique, do-it-all forward Kevin Durant wouldnt be a bad candidate for number one in most years. While he checks in at 610, his athleticism and ability to play full-time on the perimeter at such a young age makes him an instant high lottery candidate whenever he enters the draft. Durants shooting form is flawless. His release is effortless and quick, and his range extends out to the NBA 3-point line. He also shows off formidable ball-handling and passing skills, and looks more like a true small forward every time he steps foot on the court. Durant will need to put in a lot work in the weight room, and certainly needs to a bit more willing to mix it up in the paint, but the natural tools are quite staggering. He has a chance to be an offensive juggernaut in the NBA someday, said Meyer. He needs to improve his defense and rebounding, but that has more to do with strength than anything else. He will be scary once he develops a post game. With no significant member of Texas frontcourt returning, Durant will get his chance to hone his craft closer to the basket. If he can put on a bit of muscle and polish up his approach to the game, a top 5 selection is waiting for him next year at this time.
Georgia Techs biggest recruit since Chris Bosh, Young is the prototype NBA small forward prospect. Smooth and shifty, he does a little bit of everything. He can break people down off the dribble, defend the perimeter, hit the outside jumper, and effortlessly runs the floor. Young is left-handed, and the way he creates for himself and finishes around the rim may remind some of Lamar Odom. He puts the ball on the floor very well as a slasher, and defends well on the perimeter, said Meyer. He has an impressive frame for his age, and recently played very well at an international tournament in Douai, France. Even at this early stage Young has no glaring holes to his game, but must simply continue to polish his perimeter skillset. His jumper can become more consistent, and his ball-handling probably needs to improve a bit. Nonetheless, Youngs all-around game is already there; if he asserts himself as Georgia Techs top option and leads the Yellow Jackets back to NCAA Tournament, a spot in the lottery likely awaits him at seasons end.
Hawes is a throwback big man. He wont knock your socks off with rim rocking dunks or emphatic blocks, but his feel for how to operate in the post is something that is very rare in such a young prospect. He has remarkable awareness with his back to the basket, able to seal his man and execute textbook post moves very quickly. His touch on the block is off the charts. Hawes is a brilliant passer, and has range out to the college 3-point line on his jump shot. While Hawes has a lot of work to do in terms of his strength and athleticism, Meyer claims this is an area where Hawes has made a few strides. Hawes is developing his body and has clearly put on some weight. He looked very good at the McDonalds practices with his upper body strength. It may take Hawes an extra year before he is ready for the physical rigors of post play in the NBA, but there is little doubt about his ability to dominate the college game. He could easily be one and done at Washington.
A former volleyball player that has seen his stock skyrocket over his last year in the prep ranks, the curly redhead Budinger may not look the part of emerging NBA standout. Nonetheless, few players anywhere can boast Budingers combination of athleticism and outside shooting ability. He is a truly elite leaper, ferocious in the open court and winner of the McDonalds All-American dunk contest, but his emergence as a shooter has put him in this elite class. Budinger recently dominated the international competition in Douai (he won tournament MVP), and is going to be an instant star for Lute Olson. He is an over the top athlete with NBA 3-point range. The Arizona system was custom built for him. Budinger still needs to work on his in-between game and add strength, but the fact that he has improved so much in recent months bodes well for his future development. The Wildcats already have several other potential NBA players vying for time at the wing this fall, but it may not matter. Chase Budingers star is on the rise, and it may land him in the first round as early as 2007.
When it comes to the class of 2006, these five are just the beginning. 65 point guard Javaris Crittenton will run with Thaddeus Young at Georgia Tech and has the physical attributes star in the NBA, as long as he continues to develop his floor general abilities...While they might not have Crittentons ideal NBA size, point guards Tywon Lawson (North Carolina) and Sherron Collins (Kansas) are explosive, dynamic, and will bring instant success to their respective programs. Both will play in the NBA someday...Syracuses Paul Harris has the build of a linebacker, can play almost any position on the floor, and approaches the defensive end with the recklessness and enthusiasm of a future lock down specialist at the next level...North Carolina big man
Brandan Wright has an impressive feel for the game and NBA length, and is a mean streak away from joining the top group...Countless attention will be given to former high school teammates and new tobacco road rivals Gerald Henderson and Wayne Ellington, who will suit up at the wing for Duke and North Carolina, respectively. Henderson is an elite level athlete with an NBA body and impressive all-around game, but Ellingtons lethal ability to create his own shot from anywhere is just as dangerous. Their rivalry will get a lot of press, but may not last long on the college level...Brook and Robin Lopez will head to Stanford, in the 7-foot twin tradition started by Jason and Jarron Collins. The size, athleticism, and skill displayed by the Lopez twins give them the potential to be better NBA players than their Cardinal predecessors.