Big Name Underclassmen Deepen the 2009 NBA Draft

April 9, 2009

Although the WNBA Draft will take place today, and the NFL Draft is fast approaching, it is the NBA Draft which is garnering much of the attention of late. Throughout the week, several college stars have decided to leave school for the NBA, including the likely number one overall selection, Blake Griffin.

In addition to Griffin, many of the names read like a virtual roll sheet of stars from the power conferences. Those players include Jeff Teague of Wake Forest, James Harden of Arizona State, and DeJuan Blair of Pittsburgh.

Arizona took a particularly heavy hit, as the Wildcats' Chase Budinger and active big man Jordan Hill both declared for the draft. USC could face even greater depletion as all three of their best players -- point guard Daniel Hackett, swingman DeMar DeRozan, and forward Taj Gibson -- put their name into the mix.

Several of the above players plan to hire agents, meaning that they will no longer be able to withdraw their name and return to college. Those players include Griffin, Harden, Hackett, Blair, and possibly DeRozan. DeRozan recently has stated that his mother is in poor health, implying that he would stay in the draft due to financial considerations.

Notably absent from the names is Davidson star Stephen Curry. The sharpshooting Curry would be a sure-fire first round pick should he elect to leave school. He, along with the rest of the nation's underclassmen, must make their decision by the April 26 deadline.

Compared to last year, when Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo, and numerous other "one and dones" brought some real star power into the league, this year's draft class was viewed as somewhat average. Now with the added names, the talent pool could be somewhat deeper than initially thought. More importantly, more players are expected to leave school in the coming days, including such stars as 7'3" center Hasheem Thabeet and Georgetown big man Greg Monroe.

But clearly, the true prize in this class is Griffin. Griffin is a strong, well-conditioned, and ultra-athletic forward, who has a high motor and tremendous will. He is a demon on the boards who easily projects as a 4 at the next level. Still, Griffin is athletic enough to also play the 3, should the need arise.

More than a raw athlete, Griffin brings a legendary work ethic, intangibles, and a solid skill set. He already has a polished back-to-the-basket low post game, featuring a nice drop step move.

No one-dimensional player, Griffin is also versatile enough to make plays on the perimeter as well. When Griffin catches the ball face-up, in a triple-threat position on the wing, he may have one of the most devastating first steps to come into the league since Big Game James Worthy. That quickness should allow Griffin to flourish in any uptempo offense as he will eagerly compete to fill the lane on any fastbreak.

With him in the draft, finishing in the lottery no longer looks quite so bad for some NBA teams.

Early Entrants List (Thus Far)

DeJuan Blair, f, Pittsburgh (sophomore)
Chase Budinger, f, Arizona (junior)
Nick Calathes, g, Florida (sophomore)
Patrick Christopher, g, California (junior)
Earl Clark, f, Louisville (junior)
Dwayne Collins, f, Miami (junior)
Brandon Costner, f, North Carolina State (junior)
Devan Downey, g, USC (junior)
Tyreke Evans, g, Memphis (freshman)
Roderick Flemings, f, Hawaii (junior)
Blake Griffin, f, Oklahoma State (sophomore)
James Harden, g, Arizona State (sophomore)
Jordan Hill, f, Arizona (junior)
Jrue Holiday, g, UCLA (freshamn)
James Johnson, f, Wake Forest (sophomore)
Mac Koshwal, c, DePaul (sophomore)
Jodie Meeks, g, Kentucky (junior)
B.J. Mullens, c, Ohio State (freshman)
DaJuan Summers, f, Georgetown (junior)
Jeff Teague, g, Wake Forest (sophomore)
Greivis Vasquez, g, Maryland (junior)
Nic Wise, g, Arizona (junior)

By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for

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