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Pac-10 Draft Prospects: Where Will They Land?

Joey Kaufman |
June 22, 2011 | 4:01 p.m. PDT

Contributing Writer

Derrick Williams is expected to go in the top two. (Shotgun Spratling/Neon Tommy)
Derrick Williams is expected to go in the top two. (Shotgun Spratling/Neon Tommy)
Many are saying Thursday's NBA draft is the most bereft of incoming talent in years. But several players in the (soon to be extinct) Pac-10 are making teams take a hard look. 

Tyler Honeycutt – Forward – UCLA

Forecast: In terms of measurables, size and natural ability, the 6-foot-8 Honeycutt is a surefire first-round pick. He can fit in at shooting guard or small forward, and with his size (he has a 6-foot-9 wingspan) and high release, the UCLA product should fit in very well on the next level. But while playing for the Bruins the biggest criticism the L.A. native received, and deservedly so at times, was that he underachieved, particularly on the offense end of the floor, averaging just 12.8 points per contest. As a result, many felt Honeycutt, who should be selected in the top half of the first round purely based on his skill set, should have stayed in school and taken a more active role on offense, while also getting a chance to develop physically, as he weighs in at just 188 pounds. But the skills are still there. He has a relatively high basketball IQ, natural passing ability and has become a better jump shooter – over 40 percent from the field last season.

Projected: Late first round

Malcolm Lee – Guard – UCLA

Forecast: Lee remains another UCLA product with issues regarding his productivity, or lack thereof on the college scene, as he averaged 13.1 points and two assists per game this past season. Overall, Lee remains a good athlete, as he can finish at the rim and also has the ability to shoot well from the perimeter – 44 percent from the field in 2011. But despite his athleticism and his abilities on the defensive end, possibly the biggest question surround the 6-foot-5 combo guard is that he isn’t a natural point guard or shooter. While playing the point as a sophomore in 2010, Lee struggled in terms of decision making, posting an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1:1, and while he switched to the two guard last season, his productivity failed to skyrocket. Yet, in spite of the question marks, Lee could become a very valuable in the NBA provided he gets plugged into the right role.

Projected: Early second round

Isaiah Thomas – Guard – Washington

Forecast: Thomas primarily served as a combo guard during his early years at Washington, but as injuries began to pile up for Lorenzo Romar’s UW team in 2011, the 5-foot-10 Thomas slid into the point guard role and thrived, averaging 6.1 assists per game as a junior – a major improvement from his sophomore campaign in which he finished with an average of just 3.2 assists per contest. Thomas, who initially arrived in Seattle with a shoot-first mentality, saw his court vision vastly improve, as the Huskies became a particularly tough team to contend with in transition, playing at a high-tempo. But Thomas also showed maturity in the half-court game, using pick-and-rolls to split defenders and get into the lane, where he scored on average 16 points per contest. His size remains a bit problematic moving forward, namely on the defensive end of the floor, and raises a few question marks as to why he declared early. But based on his current skill set, there is a chance he can have a productive pro career.

Projected: Mid-second round

Klay Thompson – Guard – Washington State

Forecast: Thompson, who is widely known for being the son of former NBA great Mychal Thompson, has become a more complete player, particularly offensively, following three seasons in Pullman, Wash. But his shooting ability remains his most valuable asset for most teams. This past season, he shot 39.8 percent from three-point range and 43 percent overall from the field. And with his 6-foot-6 frame he should unquestionably translate into a two guard in the NBA. Granted, he is an average athlete--the acrobatic dunks are not found in his game--but he is a smart player and finds a way to score after ranking among the top 10 scorers in college basketball last season. Following the Dallas Mavericks’ performance in the NBA finals this past June, the importance of having quality three-point shooters remains all the more important, and Thompson would bring that to any team.

Projected: Top 15

Nikola Vucevic

Nikola Vucevic. (Shotgun Spratling/Neon Tommy)
Nikola Vucevic. (Shotgun Spratling/Neon Tommy)
Forecast: Everybody loves the 6-foot-10 Vucevic’s versatility. That’s the word that keeps floating around. He can shoot from the perimeter. Post up inside. Has a nice jump hook and fantastic touch around the basket. A season ago, as a junior, he averaged 17.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game in leading USC to the NCAA tournament. After originally declaring for the draft in March, Vucevic was projected as a mid-to-late second round pick, but since then, he was watched his stock rise considerably, as many mock drafts project the Montenegro native to be selected No. 16 overall by the Philadelphia 76ers. But his development from the outside is what makes him a far more attractive prospect this year. As a sophomore, Vucevic went 8-of-36 (22 percent) from beyond the arc. As a junior, he converted 29-of-83 three-point attempts (35 percent). The ability to score from multiple spots on the floor has made the USC product a sure-fire first round pick despite initial skepticism.

Projected: Mid-first round

Derrick Williams – Forward – Arizona

Forecast: ESPN’s Skip Bayless has called the 6-foot-8 Williams the classic tweener. Others have called the Arizona standout the draft’s most talented player. Teams thus far do seem to agree with the latter. While the Cleveland Cavaliers are expected to select Duke point guard Kyrie Irving with the top pick in the draft, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that Williams is selected No. 2 overall, either by the Minnesota Timberwolves or whichever team tries to trade up to that spot (note: it’s been noted that Minnesota is looking to trade the pick for a veteran player). As for Williams, though, he might have the most “star power” of anybody in Thursday’s draft. In his final season in Tucson, Williams averaged 19.5 points per game, and his combination of size and scoring ability makes him a decorated prospect and many of those skills should translate to the next level. But as a combo forward, there are still questions surrounding his defensive abilities. But even with such question marks, Williams’ scoring ability is enough to make him arguably the most sought-after player in this year’s draft.

Projected: No. 2 overall


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