Interesting fact: Of the 28 players that made up this year’s NBA All-Star rosters, 16 of them (57%) were Top-5 Draft picks once upon a time.
That could mean nothing. Or it could mean that, while we all love the second-round underdogs and outside-the-Lottery gems, the more boring truth is that we typically know where our future superstars are coming from.
While it’s been fashionable over the last few years to bemoan the drop in talent on the college level, when you look across the ’09-10 NCAA landscape, you can still see more than a handful of future NBA All-Stars. Here are my Top 10:
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1. JOHN WALL, PG, Kentucky, Fr.
Even the most staunch Kentucky hater can’t deny Wall’s ability. Whether it’s a three-point play, a contested jumper, or a blocked shot, he always seems to capture the clutch moment and refuses to let his team lose. But more than the intangibles, Wall (16.7 ppg, 6.2 apg, 1.9 spg) is simply a phenomenal talent. He might be faster than any point guard on any level with the ball in his hands, and his strength, length and vertical leap allow him to finish at or above the rim following those hiccup-quick forays into the lane. Pretty much a lock to go No. 1 in the 2010 Draft. And hey, say what you want, but it took LeBron seven years as a pro to get his own song. Wall already has one. Bang on ’em, flex on ’em, do the John Wall…
NBA All-Star comparison — Derrick Rose
2. EVAN TURNER, SG, Ohio State, Jr.
Honestly, he’s the only serious challenger to Wall for National Player of the Year and for that No. 1 Draft spot. For all of Wall’s frenetic explosiveness, Turner (19.7 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 5.8 apg) is controlled fluidity. At 6-7, he could play three positions as a pro. He pulled down double-digit rebounds in Ohio State’s first five games, racking up two triple-doubles in the process. And toughness? Turner broke bones in his back in a nasty fall on Dec. 5, and returned to the court on Jan. 6. He needs to work on his outside shot, but otherwise he’s as close to a polished pro-ready prospect as you’re going to get in college these days.
NBA All-Star comparison — Brandon Roy
3. GREG MONROE, PF/C, Georgetown, So.
The next great Hoyas’ big man is nothing like Dikembe, ‘Zo or Ewing except for the fact he’s going to make a ton of money cashing NBA checks. The 6-11 lefty is about finesse and athleticism, a pinpoint passer and slick ball-handler for his position. Monroe (15.7 ppg, 9.6 rpg) needs to be more aggressive offensively and just plain more selfish at times, but I’d take those issues over a guy who is reckless and doesn’t want to pass the ball.
NBA All-Star comparison — Chris Bosh
4. KEMBA WALKER, PG, UConn, So.
Quick hands, quick feet, swagger, and he’s better fundamentally than you might think. Walker (14.3 ppg, 5.4 apg, 2.1 spg) butters is bread with his defense, going at his assignment with a Gary Payton-like mentality. His three-point and free-throw stroke has improved since his freshman year, but defenses still usually back off Kemba, taking their chances with his jumper rather than let him drive by and wreak havoc in the paint.
NBA All-Star comparison — Rajon Rondo
5. COLE ALDRICH, C, Kansas, Jr.
Old-school big man who relishes defending his territory. Aldrich’s defense is far ahead of his offense (11.5 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 3.8 bpg), but he’ll get his share of points on putbacks and alley-oops. One more year with the Jayhawks would obviously improve his game, but Aldrich is a Lottery pick whether he leaves then or now.
NBA All-Star comparison — Al Horford
6. DERRICK FAVORS, PF, Georgia Tech, Fr.
He didn’t have his first raised-eyebrows-inducing stat line until last week, posting 21 points and 18 boards against Maryland, but Favors (11.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.9 bpg) will still be drafted no lower than fifth based on physical tools and potential alone. From the few times I’ve seen Tech play, it looks like Favors simply isn’t getting the ball that much, in part because there are some more experienced players sharing the low-block with the 6-10, 245-pound frosh. Give him a few years to develop in the League (assuming he’s going pro this summer) and he’ll be a beast.
NBA All-Star comparison — Kenyon Martin
7. DeMARCUS COUSINS, PF, Kentucky, Fr.
Although it’s not rooted in anything major, Cousins will be the token “character issues” guy who could slide a few draft slots lower than he should, or might go Top-5 regardless because he’s just that talented. While John Wall has gotten all the hype, Cousins (16.3 ppg, 10.2 rpg) is just as effective and important to the UK scheme. He’s not a fantastic athlete, but he knows how to use his body to get where he wants and get what he wants. He likes to handle the rock and shoot from the outside, even if his coaches don’t like it.
NBA All-Star comparison — Zach Randolph
8. XAVIER HENRY, SG, Kansas, Fr.
Solid at 6-6, 220 pounds, the lefty Henry would be putting up insane numbers had he gone to a school with less experienced stars (e.g., Memphis). As it stands, he’s been able to develop and fight through the ups and down relatively under the radar for the vet-laden Jayhawks. Henry (13.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.6 spg) dropped 27 points on Hofstra in his college debut, then had 31 against La Salle one month later. There was a stretch cover late-January and early-February where his PT was scattered and he couldn’t crack double-figure scoring, but Henry recently put together back-to-back games of 24 and 23 points against Big 12 competition.
NBA All-Star comparison — Joe Johnson
9. RENARDO SIDNEY, PF, Mississippi State, Fr.
Don’t feel bad if you have no idea who Sidney is, because he hasn’t played a single game of college ball yet. Dating back to his freshman year in high school, Sidney has been an NCAA investigation waiting to happen — and now through no real fault of his own, he is being held out of MSU’s season while the slowest-moving probe since the R. Kelly case inches along to determine whether he should be eligible. But anybody who’s seen Sidney play can tell you he’s special. Built like a big man (6-10, 270) but skilled like a guard, he can dominate inside or play outside with his deft handle and three-point range. He’s had issues staying in shape and keeping motivated, but when he puts everything together Sidney is a star.
NBA All-Star comparison — Chris Webber
10. DERRICK WILLIAMS, SF/PF, Arizona, Fr.
You think I went for a reach just to get a Pac-10 guy in here? Not really. While the Wildcats (13-14) have struggled this season just like the rest of the conference, Williams has been one of the bright spots. As a high school senior he wasn’t even ranked on many Top-100 lists, yet he’s putting up 15.4 points and 6.8 boards on 58 percent shooting from the field. Williams is strong and tenacious enough at 6-8 to play the four, and athletic enough to be a three, although his perimeter game needs work. He dropped 25 points on Wisconsin in the third game of the season, and since then has been AZ’s most consistent player — even more than star senior PG Nic Wise.
NBA All-Star comparison — Gerald Wallace
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