• Print


Tuesday June 15, 2010 11:11 AM

Breaking Down The 2010 NBA Draft: Part 1


Draft expert Jim Clibanoff dishes on the big men who might be available when the Rockets are on the clock

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com Staff Writer

HOUSTON - The NBA Draft is right around the corner so the time has come to take an in-depth look at the players hoping to hear their names called out by Commissioner David Stern on the night of June 24. To help with the process, Rockets.com spoke with NBA draft expert Jim Clibanoff.

As always, mystery and smokescreens abound this time of year, as clubs do their best to keep their draft strategies secret. Much like an episode of Lost, any answers which eventually surface tend to only bring with them at least a dozen more questions. This certainly holds true for the Rockets as well, especially given the fact their draft nights have always featured plenty of wheeling and dealing.

Here, however, is what we do know: for the time being Houston has the No. 14 overall selection in this year’s draft. Might they move up or down? Of course. But for now we’re proceeding as if that’s where the team will be picking, so we’ve selected to shine our spotlight on 19 players who figure to come off the board anywhere from the middle stages of the lottery to the beginning of the second round. The format: Jim will do much of the heavy lifting while sharing what he likes and dislikes about each player before Jason chimes in with a few comments of his own.

Today our draft duo is tackling the perceived strength of this draft: an abundance of bigs. Tomorrow they’ll return with a look at some of the available wing and guard prospects. One final note: players' height and weight are taken from the NBA’s combine measurements, with each prospect’s listed height rounded up to the nearest inch while wearing shoes.

Cole Aldrich – Kansas: 21 years old, C, 6-11, 236

Jim’s take: I’m not as high on Cole Aldrich as the general scouting community. When he labors up and down the court, you just don’t get the feeling that this is a fleet-footed guy who’s going to want to run the floor enough to get sufficient minutes and hold up to NBA activity.

He’s a half-court guy who isn’t a great post offensive player. He can take up space, block shots, rebound, he’s got a really good wingspan, he’s low maintenance because he’s not going to need a lot of touches offensively but, because of those things, I don’t think there’s a lot of upside, so I have him ranked lower than 14 on our board. But knowing how the NBA is a center-starved league, he could be taken anywhere from 7 to 18.

Obviously the Rockets need size and he can provide that size. But when you’re leading up to the draft you have these great aspirations that certain guys are going to be a savior for your club. Cole Aldrich is not going to be a savior. He can give you frontcourt depth, he can play the 5-spot in spurts – between 10 to 14 minutes per game – but I can’t see him being a guy who can come in and command huge playing time and convert on that as a rookie.

He gets compared to Joel Przybilla a lot because of his size, length and ability to block shots, but Przybilla was a more energetic athlete at a similar stage.  Aldrich can be a space-filler and it’s going to be important to see if his shot blocking ability carries over at the NBA level. If he can get you a block every 9 or 10 minutes in an NBA setting, that’s really good productivity.

But if not, I just see him as a space-filler; a guy like a Brendan Haywood, who after 9 years in the NBA has averaged 7.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 24.6 minutes for his career. And if that’s your starting center, you’re always going to be looking to upgrade above that. So Cole Aldrich, on a good team, I see playing 14-22 minutes per game. If he’s playing more than that, then he’s probably not on a good team.

Jason’s take: Big men like Aldrich, though unspectacular, are always going to have a home in this league – that’s just how important size is in the NBA. Even if he is simply a “space-filler,” the sort of height, length and toughness Aldrich brings to the table is invaluable. And should he blossom into more than that, you could have the next Kendrick Perkins on your hands.

Then again, Aldrich’s role with Houston, at least for the immediate foreseeable future, would simply be that of back-up big man to Yao Ming. That said, especially this upcoming season with Yao Ming’s minutes likely being very limited, Cole could step right in and give the team significant quality minutes in a season where the Rockets are loaded and poised to contend. 

Daniel Orton – Kentucky: 19 years old, C, 6-10, 269

Jim’s take: It’s always hard to evaluate a one-and-done center prospect who contributed as little as he did. He’s not a great athlete. He sat out most of his senior year in high school (due to injury) and he played short minutes at Kentucky so you never got a true feel for who Daniel Orton was.

If you draft a kid like this, it’s not for what he’s going to do in year one or even year two – it’s more for what he might do in year three and year four. Andrew Bynum was taken out of high school and the Lakers took a lot of criticism for that early but it looks like a nice move now. So if you pick a guy like Orton, you’re saying that, had he stayed at Kentucky, he very likely would have matured into a top-5 or top-7 pick, so we’re getting him early and going to have him work with our guys. But if you have expectations to play him meaningful minutes as a rookie, that could be setting him up for failure. And depending on a kid’s confidence level, you can lose a kid like that.

You need to have a plan of development for a kid like this; and not just from a skill standpoint but from an emotional growth standpoint as well. There’s a good chance that Orton’s basketball profile for a four-year stretch could look like this: limited action senior year in high school, 13 minutes per game at Kentucky and then if he stays on an NBA roster and doesn’t go to the D-league, he could have no productivity his first two years professionally as well.  So I think it would clearly behoove a kid like Orton to spend significant time in the D-League.

Jason’s take: Jim pretty much says it all here since the team which selects Orton is really rolling the dice – there’s just so little on which one can really formulate a strong, fully formed and well-informed opinion.

That said, few teams have more reason to feel confident about their player development abilities than do the Rockets. Their coaching staff and player support group have done an excellent job providing players with the necessary tools, training and expertise to succeed and Houston’s D-League affiliate in Rio Grande Valley churned out one NBA-ready player after another this year.

Ed Davis – North Carolina: 21 years old, PF, 6-10, 227

Jim’s take: When you watch his face, he looks a bit introverted when he’s on the court. He’s a rebounder and shot blocker, and has a rather boring offensive game – he’s the master of the 3-foot layup.

He had the opportunity to continue Carolina’s success after what they did in ’09 but, as everyone knows, they were a very mediocre team this year, so he didn’t have the game to step up and put everyone on his shoulders. He’s still a developing kid. He had an injury at the end of the season, so he missed a bunch of games. He’s shown flashes and teases but I can’t be certain that he’s going to be an above average NBA player.

It might take him two years before he hits his stride or he might never find his stride. I don’t think he’s somebody you can throw in there and get all excited about. I just don’t see that enthusiasm about his game; again, part of that is because of his personality – he’s very introverted and quiet on the court.

When you watch him play, you get the feeling that he’s young. Patrick Patterson has a man’s body out there, Ekpe Udoh not as much, but I definitely like Udoh more than I like Davis because of his overall skill set and basketball IQ. At 227 pounds, I don’t think Davis is going to be able to kick enough butt at the NBA level to push people around. He needs to get to around 240 before he’ll be able to assert his presence in the low post, so he needs more physical maturation before he can be a more impacting player. You can take him for depth and growth but you can’t expect a lot out of him at this point.

Jason’s take: An excellent rebounder and shot-blocker, which the Rockets can certainly use more of. He is definitely raw but this bodes well for his future as he has the size and athleticism to improve significantly in the future.

Ekpe Udoh – Baylor: 23 years old, PF/C, 6-10, 237

Jim’s take: He’s definitely on the upswing right now. I have him lumped in the same group as Greg Monroe and Patrick Patterson. They’re very different players as potential NBA 4-men but Udoh would most likely be the guy out of that group to last until the No. 14 spot in the draft. That said, it also wouldn’t shock me to see him go 6th or 7th.

Despite being a 4th year junior, I believe he still has quite a bit of upside. His game, from what he was at Michigan to what he became at Baylor, I’ve rarely seen that kind of development in one player. He should continue to get better as he fills out a little bit more physically.

He’s still developing. He can score facing up now comfortably from 17 feet, he can put the ball on the floor for two dribbles, he can obviously block shots and grab rebounds, but he hasn’t brought it all together yet and that’s what you hope will come, almost the way it did for a guy like Antonio McDyess, who got incrementally better during his first several years in the NBA. I could see the same kind of thing happen for Udoh. Right now he’s very much an unfinished product.

I’m not sure I would use the word raw to describe Udoh but I would say he’s unable right now to consistently put everything together in a way which merits serious consideration to be a starter right off the bat. He’s be a good guy to come into a rotation, play 12 to 20 minutes a game as a rookie and hopefully he’ll continue to feel more comfortable and bring everything together, executing those individual components on a more consistent basis.

Certain players, when they’re very versatile at an early age – especially frontcourt players – they tend to abandon that low-post mentality and try to show you more of their small forward skills. But I think Udoh knows that his place is in the low block.  For the Rockets, he’d obviously help with his shot-blocking, and his time in an IQ friendly, passing friendly system at Michigan seems to have really paid dividends as well. As I said before, he hasn’t put it all together yet so he’s not going to rank above Luis Scola and Chuck Hayes on the depth chart right away but he’s hopefully a guy who will “get it” sooner than later.

Jason’s take: I like Udoh. His size would most certainly be welcome along the frontline and I don’t have a problem with the Rockets drafting an “older” player, especially after watching guys like Aaron Brooks and Carl Landry excel under similar circumstances.

All that having been said, if upside is what you want Udoh is probably not your guy. His NBA destiny seems to be that of solid starter, not future star. Plus if you’re drafting a more mature player, you’d probably prefer him to come equipped with an NBA-ready body. Yet Udoh definitely needs to fill out, especially in terms of lower body strength. Udoh also shows up on John Hollinger’s list of potential draft duds (to be fair, other players in this piece such as Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich, Ed Davis, Hassan Whiteside and Solomon Alabi are all present on Hollinger’s list as well). 

Finally, he has no resume. Prior to this season at Baylor, he showed no sign that he could be a top prospect. None of these stand as a sufficient reason not to avoid Udoh altogether. As I said, I definitely like the kid. They are, however, food for thought should the opportunity to select him arise.

Hassan Whiteside – Marshall: 20 years old, C, 7-feet, 227

Jim’s take: He’s a very polarizing player. There’s no denying his upside. There are very few players with his sheer length and wingspan (7-7). From a physical standpoint, he’s really impressive.

However, he is young with his game. He can score and can rebound but he didn’t do it with crisp execution where you’d really think, ‘That’s going to work at the pro level.’ Instead it’s more a matter of him being longer, more athletic and agile than the guys at the college level, so he was able to get numbers collegiately.

His is more a kind of green, raw youth that you don’t quite know what to make of. I think you have to look and see if he’s got the work ethic to succeed. But his ability to change the game with his shot blocking is remarkable. He had a couple triple-doubles – I watched one of them – and it was pretty darn impressive.

Jason’s take: For draft purposes, I think we should just be calling him Hassan Upside instead. There’s no denying his star potential. Should he fully capitalize on his athletic gifts he’ll unquestionably be one of the top-5 players in his class and a true game-changer. And should he slip to the middle of the first round, that sort of promise becomes exceedingly difficult to ignore.

Of course, those are all big ifs. Whiteside’s game is raw but he brings skills of significant need for the Rockets – shot blocking and rebounding. . In a league in which height and length are treasured and so very difficult to acquire – much less acquire cheaply – the risk/return ratio may make sense for the Rockets.

Kevin Seraphin – France: 20 years old, PF/C, 6-9, 258

Jim’s take: He’s really an undersized center. He’s not a great athlete, he’s got decent agility, but he’s a power post. I actually spent a little bit of time with him and he’s a good kid and I think he’s still learning the game but he doesn’t have NBA run and jump athleticism. I think he’s more a guy for the half-court game. He’s a power player.

There’s not a tremendous amount of upside. He can take up space and he could become a good player but, again, he needs a lot of repetition and development. He’s probably as unproven from an NBA skills standpoint as Orton is. He kind of reminds me of Marc Jackson; just a big space-eater down low who can get you some boards but if you’re running he’s not going to be much of an asset. 

Jason’s take: If the Rockets trade down and elect to pick a player whom they can stash overseas, Seraphin might be their guy. There’s certainly value in that strategy, especially for a team that can afford patience thanks to an already-crowded roster filled with players capable of contributing while Seraphin continues to hone his craft in his native France.

Larry Sanders – VCU: 21 years old, PF/C, 6-11, 222

Jim’s take: He’s so raw. You can say the defense is there because he blocks shots and he rebounds but he doesn’t have a great basketball IQ. He picked the game up late. He’s extremely long but he’s so raw out there. Sanders doesn’t make great basketball plays, he makes great athletic plays with his vast wingspan. But does he have enough physical core strength to hold his position in the NBA low-post or is he going to get pushed out of the way? I don’t know.

I think he’s destined for significant time in the D-League and that could mean he’s a great asset to pick up if you believe that he’s going to mature into a stronger presence. But I underline that word presence because when you’re in the middle of an NBA game, if you don’t have physical presence, people are not going to take you seriously as a defender. So he can impact the game with his length but is he a good defender and does he understand the concepts? I say no right now but maybe down the road he gets it.

He’s a kid you need a plan for. I really couldn’t see him contributing much of anything his rookie season.

Jason’s take: Though perhaps not possessing the extreme upside of a player like Whiteside, that’s still the key word when considering Sanders. He’s somewhat reminiscent of a guy like Washington’s JaVale McGee, another player with height, length and athleticism in spades who also requires plenty of patience and coaching from his team before you’ll start to see dividends on your investment.

Patrick Patterson – Kentucky: 21 years old, PF, 6-9, 240

Jim’s take: A tremendous all-around talent who understood how to fit in after two years of demonstrating the ability to headline a team. Kentucky is going to have five players in the top 25 selections of the draft, so the fact that he had to fit in at the college level is going to benefit him tremendously at the pro level. He knows what it’s like to go into a game and get 4 shots in a half even though he’s used to getting 9 shots in a half.

His professionalism is outstanding. I’m a huge fan of Patrick Patterson because he has this maturity and poise. He’s the kind of guy who, after his first few years in the league, I can see him being a mentor to young players. He’s just so professional, there’s just no other word to use.

Al Horford (of the Atlanta Hawks) is another guy who is a rock, a pillar for his team who doesn’t make a lot of SportsCenter plays but he fits in at the pro level; he was a really good player for Florida and now he’s a really good player for the Hawks, and I think Patterson can be that same kind of a guy. I’m not sure where you could insert him into the lineup to give him a lot of minutes early but he can become a pillar and I just think there’s very little downside in a Patrick Patterson selection. What you see is what you get, but that mind and that temperament can be your rock for 10 or 12 years.

He has a solid build, he has a solid skill set and he’s a professional on and off the court. He gets a board every 3 minutes, he started to hit the face-up jump shot this year, he put the ball on the floor a little bit and he’s NBA ready right now.

Jason’s take: Similar to Udoh, Patterson is another player who’s hard not to like. As Jim said, the guy is a pro’s pro, a glue guy and should definitely be a contributor on a good NBA team. That said, Jim compares him to Horford but he is shorter, lighter, and less athletic than him. This limits his upside along with a polished game that has little room for growth. In fact, the Kentucky product probably rates lower in that category than does Ekpe Udoh.

The quintessential jack of all trades, master of none, Patterson might rank highly when it comes to prospects who are most ready to contribute at the NBA level right away. But three or four years down the line, when his fellow 2010 draft class members are starting to come into their own and beginning to realize their potential, where will he rank then? The key, after all, is to unearth the best pro prospect long-term, not just for the next 12 months. And that’s what ultimately must be considered by any team contemplating Patterson’s selection a week from now.

Solomon Alabi – Florida State: 22 years old, C, 7-1, 237

Jim’s take: I just don’t get what the fascination is with this guy. The Rockets obviously had the greatest African player of all-time, a guy who was so skilled and so impressive. But finding the next Olajuwon is a nearly impossible task. I think what people are most intrigued by, in addition to his size and length, is he’s got this face-up shooting touch and I think he shot about 79 percent from the free throw line.

But, like a lot of African players who cut their teeth at a late-teen age, he’s just too far behind the curve developmentally where you can say with any kind of reasonable certainty that it’s going to work at the pro level. So his length and ability to block a shot or two definitely helps him but I don’t know yet if there’s enough to cultivate to expect him to ever be more than a 12 minute per game kind of guy.

Jason’s take: Clearly there’s plenty of work left to be done with Alabi’s game and, as Jim mentions, the fact that he’s 22 already might mean that the learning curve could prove to be too great.

However, the physical tools are obviously there and it’s worth noting that Alabi anchored one of the nation’s best defensive teams in Florida State. He has a reputation as having a great motor and being a terrific teammate, and his vastly improved free throw shooting from his freshman to sophomore season shows he’s willing to put in the work necessary to become a better player.

Got a question for Rockets.com? Send it to Jason Friedman. And for up to the second news and injury updates follow the Rockets and Jason on Twitter.