If you're one of the many who thought the Pac-10 was down this season, consider this: three of the first nine picks in tonight's NBA draft came from our humble little conference. That's one more than the much more ballyhooed Big East, and three more than the ACC, who was surprisingly shut out of the top ten (and yet still able to steal our conference's coaches, apparently). Overall the Pac claimed six first round picks, and nine draftees overall - the bulk coming from UCLA, ASU and the sinking battleship otherwise known as USC.
How did the Pac-10 fare? More importantly, did the teams grab their West Coast player at the appropriate position? Allow me to break it down, with my opinion on each individual selection.
#3 The team that shall not be named - James Harden, G, ASU - Don't get me wrong, James Harden is a special talent and is as NBA ready as any player in tonight's draft. Of course, the reality is there just aren't that many NBA-ready talents available in 2009. And Harden, as good as he is, can be frustrating. He all but disappeared for the Sun Devils in the NCAA tournament, a place where he (and his team) really should've shined. And it was not too long ago that Derek Glasser struck fear in the hearts of our Cougars in overtime, while Harden sat on the bench, having fouled out with an unimpressive ten points in 35 minutes.
And I haven't yet mentioned that Harden's arrival in the dust bowl seriously harms Kyle Weaver's chances of once again cracking the starting lineup (maybe even pushing him off the roster as a whole). That alone makes me dislike this selection. Result: Overrated
#8 New York Knicks - Jordan Hill, F, Arizona - Jordan Hill is a freakish athlete. Even as the Cougs' drubbed Arizona at Friel in their second meeting, it was clear one player on the floor was head and shoulders above the rest. At least in terms of athleticism. Arizona has a good track record of players excelling in the NBA, and Harden is a Top 5 talent that slipped down the board in 2009, and I'm not really sure why. Perhaps teams are basing too much off of individual workouts and not enough on in-game performances. He lacks dominance at times, but there's a lot of room for him to grow on offense and as a shot-blocker under the basket. Arizona's struggles weren't due to Wise-Budinger-Hill, they were too to a complete and utter lack of depth. The ceiling is highest for Hill, and the Knicks got a steal at 8. Result: Underrated
#9 Toronto - DeMar DeRozan, G, USC - I was wrong about O.J. Mayo, and so I'm hesitant to rule out DeMar DeRozan as an impact player in the association. Toronto has quietly made some of the better decisions in regards to personnel in the Eastern conference, and I trust their judgment on DeRozan. Had the age limit not existed, it was very likely that DeMar would've been a Top 5 player in 2008, based on his high school performance. His stock slipped a bit as he struggled to hit his stride at USC, but you could see flashes of greatness throughout. I'm not sold on him as a big-time scorer, but if he can bulk up and get in the lane, he might do some damage. Result: Just right
#17 Philadelphia - Jrue Holiday, G, UCLA - I don't understand how a shoulder injury could make teams so shy about Holiday, but somehow it did. The result is an already decent playoff team (see: series, Philadelphia vs. Orlando) getting an excellent point guard prospect in the middle of the first round. Granted, this year's board was stacked with point guard talent, but Holiday is one of the better talents. I worry a little bit about the fact that Taylor Rochestie averaged more assists than Holiday last season, and Holiday had a much better supporting cast to pass the ball to. Nevertheless, great value pick. Result: Just right
#21 New Orleans - Darren Collison, G, UCLA - When you consider where Russell Westbrook went last year, Collison is a relative steal in the mid-to-late first round. The bad news for Collison is he'll be backing up Chris Paul, which means if he ever wants a starting job he'll have to find it somewhere else. Still, you have a solid defender, passer and scorer to augment (arguably) the greatest point guard in the league right now. Collison is still a top 15 talent in my book. The Hornets make an excellent selection. Result: Underrated
#26 Chicago (from Denver via OKC) - Taj Gibson, F, USC - You could do a lot worse in the first round than an athletically gifted forward with skills that should at the very least allow him to crack an NBA rotation. This is one of those guys Jay Bilas would praise for "tremendous length". Between Gibson, DeRozan, and the rest of USC's starters, it's still confusing to me why USC wasn't a better team last season. Result: Just right
#31 Portland (via Sacramento) - Jeff Pendergraph, F, ASU - Ok, I'm sorry, but I thought my Blazers and Kevin Pritchard had this whole thing figured out. Which is why when Greg Oden magically becomes healthy the Portland lineup is stacked enough to make way for at least four or five championships in the 2010s. But then they go and do something stupid, like draft Pendergraph with DeJuan Blair still sitting on the board. Pendergraph is a good talent, but I have a hard time seeing his skill set translate to being a contributor in the NBA. This almost made me as mad as when the Blazers passed on Kyle Weaver. Almost. Good thing they made up for it with an inspired pick of Patty Mills in the late second round. Result: Overrated
#38 Sacramento (thru Portland) - Jon Brockman, F/C, Washington - What is Sacramento's fascination with Husky big men? First they go out of their way for Hawes, and now they make me cringe as my own favorite team selects their next purple and gold warrior on their behalf. We've gushed about Brockman's talents over the last year here, and we're Coug fans. But let me say this: you can get a solid double-double guy from the Pac-10 with good athleticism and rebounding skill, along with the great "hustle" and "grit" we all expect from our white players, without spending a single draft pick. That guy's name: Aron Baynes. Look it up, NBA GMs. If Jeff Varem can earn a roster spot....
Anyway, we like Brockman here at CougCenter. But the fact remains he's a better mid-to-late second-round pick. Also, I like describing him as overrated. Result: Overrated
#44 Houston (through Detroit) - Chase Budinger, F, Arizona) - What, ESPN says? Chase Budinger isn't a lottery pick? How dare you, NBA general managers! Now all the lanky white pressure is firmly on Tyler Hansbrough's shoulders. You can do it, Psycho T.
Kidding aside, this is a decent value pick for a tall shooter with reasonable potential. Result: Just right
That's all for tonight. Enjoy your Friday, and pre-holiday weekend, Coug Nation.