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Scott Howard-Cooper

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The numbers don't show much for Daniel Orton, but he's hoping to make a splash in the NBA.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Kentucky's Orton jumps on radar out of nowhere


Posted Jun 2 2010 11:45AM

You're surprised?

A grand total of no one saw this coming, including Daniel Orton himself. Especially Daniel Orton, the guy about to go from averaging 3.4 and 3.3 rebounds as a freshman power forward at Kentucky to the first round of the Draft.

"Very surprised," he said. "Probably the most shocked out of anybody, to tell you the truth."

Tied for second-most shocked: everyone else.

Orton missed most of his senior season of high school in Oklahoma City because of a knee injury, wasn't thinking one-and-done when 2009-10 started, and he didn't exactly pile up numbers that forced the NBA to notice. It wasn't the drawback of playing on a team loaded with likely No. 1 pick John Wall and several other next-level prospects, either. Orton, though physically impressive in frame and movement, too often made himself easy to miss, undetectable at 6-feet-9 and 270 pounds.

His Draft run-up is unique even in a league that routinely picks players on potential. Now, potential is one thing and 13.2 minutes a game without astart is quite another. Those are the kind of numbers that, with an intriguing upside, might get someone a spot in the second round. Orton, he'll get guaranteed money on June 24, and he heads into the final three weeks of workouts projecting to go as high as the teens.

Orton is asked why he thinks there has been so much positive buzz.

"Just to go in there and do what I did in such little amount of time, I guess," he says. "That's what people were telling me. I really couldn't see it myself, to tell you the truth."

So he also has honesty going for him.

A general manager is asked why there has been so much positive buzz.

"Good question," comes the response. "Probably that he's a big body and athletic. But I saw them twice in person and he barely did anything."

Forget unique, come to think of it. This approaches the bizarre.

Thirteen minutes a game.

Three points, three rebounds.

Zero starts.

"It says what it says," Orton said of the numbers. "I know what people say about me. I know everybody's commented on how I couldn't dominate the college game, I couldn't do this, couldn't do that. But I really didn't get the chance to prove myself. I figure it won't hurt me to get to the next level."

He hears words like "upside" and "potential" a lot, at least when he's not hearing wonderment at the upward trajectory he never would have imagined. And, indeed, he moves well for someone his size. He can get in better condition and has long arms that help him project as a promising shot blocker after finishing second at Kentucky in that category, despite the limited time behind fellow big man DeMarcus Cousins, who is a candidate for the top five, and Patrick Patterson, who could go in the lottery.

So there is a lot to like. Size, athleticism, seems grounded.

"I really have a lot of things I didn't get to show this year, like my shooting ability," Orton said. "At times, I did a poor job of that. But I was just really nervous at times. There's a lot of things I need to work on, but a lot of things I could have done a lot better this year and really didn't give myself a chance."

The consideration for the NBA is that he had the kind of season when those increases would have been needed to become a college starter. And yet here Orton is, hoping to improve into a player who within a couple years will make an impact in the pros. Surprise.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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