April 30, 2010

Ten players facing tough draft decisions

MORE: Early entry tracker

Underclassmen who have declared for the NBA draft have until May 8 to pull out of the draft and retain their college eligibility, as long as they haven't hired an agent.

Here are 10 players with some of the more intriguing decisions to make. We're not including obvious first-rounders and we're also not including guys obviously headed for free-agent land. Instead, each of these guys will have to weigh some pluses and some minuses as they make their decisions.

Oakland F/C Keith Benson
CLASS: Junior
BUZZ: Benson has improved in each of the past two seasons, averaging a double-double this season (17.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg). His blocks totals have increased, too, from 1.4 per game as a freshman to 2.4 as a sophomore to 3.3 as a junior. Benson lacks bulk (6 feet 11/225 pounds) and strength, and one more year in college conceivably means he could put on 10 or so pounds and get stronger. He also could improve his consistency if he returned to school for another season. He's seen as a likely second-rounder. With another year of seasoning, Benson could slip into the first round next year.
Kentucky G Eric Bledsoe
CLASS: Freshman
BUZZ: Kentucky's John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson are certain to stay in the draft, but Bledsoe and Daniel Orton could return to school. Although Bledsoe was overshadowed by Wall for much of the season, he still ranks among the top point guard prospects in this draft class. He is projected as the 23rd overall pick by draftexpress.com and as the 30th overall selection bynbadraft.net . Bledsoe would handle the ball much more next year without Wall in the lineup, and a big season could make him a lottery pick. Kentucky has signed one of the nation's top point guard prospects in Brandon Knight, but he isn't in Wall's league.
Xavier G Jordan Crawford
CLASS: Sophomore
BUZZ: Crawford certainly upped his value during the postseason. He averaged 29 points per game in the NCAA tournament and showed tremendous range while scoring 32 points in a West Regional semifinal double-overtime loss to Kansas State. But he still is only predicted to go early in the second round. Crawford might be better off making the most of his college career if he isn't a sure bet to get the guaranteed contract that comes with a first-round draft selection. Then again, it's tough to imagine him providing a better closing argument to NBA scouts than he already delivered in the tournament.
BYU G Jimmer Fredette
CLASS: Junior
BUZZ: Fredette is projected to go in the second round - if he's drafted at all. But Fredette's stock is high after averaging 33.3 points per game over the season's final four games. That run included a masterful 37-point performance against Florida in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. A second-round selection wouldn't be enough to entice Fredette to stay in the draft, according to the Deseret News in Salt Lake City.
Butler F Gordon Hayward
CLASS: Sophomore
BUZZ: Hayward's height (he's 6-9) and perimeter skills make him a near-certain first-round pick and a potential lottery selection. If Hayward remains in school and improves his shooting stroke in his junior season - his 3-point percentage dropped from 44.8 percent in 2008-09 to 29.4 percent this season - he could solidify his spot in the lottery. But he already put together a heck of a case for NBA scouts during his NCAA tournament run. Hayward would be one of four returning starters for Butler next season if he decides to stay in school.
New Mexico F/G Darington Hobson
CLASS: Junior
BUZZ: Hobson arrived from junior college to take the Lobos to the Mountain West regular-season title. He's a poor man's Evan Turner, averaging 15.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists for New Mexico. Hobson already is 22 years old. His versatility appeals to NBA scouts, though he could become a better-rounded player if he stays in school. Plus, if the returns, the Lobos again will contend for the Mountain West title. He is projected to go late in the first round or early in the second, and he may figure the chance to go in the first is too good to pass up.
UTEP C Arnett Moultrie
CLASS: Sophomore
BUZZ: Moultrie really didn't show that much improvement this season. He's athletic and can run all day, but he has been far from dominant for the Miners. Transfer Derrick Caracter was featured more in the Miners' offense this season, and Caracter's presence also meant Moultrie's rebound total went down. If he stays in school, he and fellow Memphis native Randy Culpepper will give the Miners a nice inside-outside combination. But he has to weigh his potential improvement against possibly being a late first-round selection. Moultrie would be drafted on potential, not production. Some teams like his athletic ability and see a guy who could be a solid role player on both ends of the court. Others see a lack of bulk and wonder whether he would wash out in a few seasons. If he stays in school, you can bet new UTEP coach Tim Floyd will improve his defensive intensity.
Kentucky C Daniel Orton
CLASS: Freshman
BUZZ: Orton played just 13.2 minutes per game this season, but he's a virtual lock to get taken in the first round if he stays in the draft. In fact, he could even become a lottery pick. NBA scouts are clearly betting on Orton's potential because he barely played this season. If Orton had an exceptional sophomore season, he could be one of the top five players taken next year. But if Orton struggles and shows that he's not nearly as good as scouts currently assume, there's always the chance he could fall out of the first round entirely next year.
Baylor C Ekpe Udoh
CLASS: Junior
BUZZ: Udoh transferred from Michigan and made a major impact in his first - and possibly only - season at Baylor. Junior guard LaceDarius Dunn already has announced he will stay in school. If Udoh returns, too, Baylor could pick up where it left off - and the Bears reached the Elite Eight this season. Udoh could add strength and weight, and further refine his offense. But Udoh could be a lottery pick this year because of his defensive skills and potential. Plus, entering the draft as a 23-year-old in 2011 could hurt his value.
Ole Miss G Terrico White
CLASS: Sophomore
BUZZ: White emerged from relative obscurity as a freshman in 2008-09, stepping in and playing key minutes when numerous Rebels guards were injured. He faced much greater expectations this season, but didn't really meet all of them. Still, he had a solid season for the Rebels, who would be one of the better teams in the SEC West next season if White remains in school. But a lot of NBA teams like his size (6-5/210), his ability to play the point and his physical tools. That has some observers thinking he could be selected in the first round, from No. 20 on. But he lacks consistency, especially on defense, and he's not a great shooter. That has other observers predicting he'll go in the second round.



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