There are potentially nine freshman that will be taken in the first round of this year's draft. Freshman are notoriously hard to get a bead on - one year of college is simply not enough time to get an accurate picture of what a player can potentially become. If this draft seems particularly dicey, a big reason why are these nine freshman. It's hard to know what to make of them.
There is a chance that the best three or four players in this draft are freshman, but there is also a possibility that all nine of them will disappoint us. So it goes. Many of these kids are in the first year living away from home. They have to adjust to the social landscape of college, along with the realization that they are no longer vastly superior to the players they are competing against. There is so much going on that the actual baskeball aspect can sometimes be secondary for these guys - and that is pretty understandable.
Therefore from a business standpoint you can see why it makes much more sense for the NBA to require two years of college before players can enter the draft, for the simple reason that it is easier to have a fuller sense of a player after watching him for two seasons as opposed to one. And with all that said, I'm very high on this freshman class. I have a feeling that quite a few of them are going to be excellent pros.
Here's a breakdown of the nine, listed in my order of preference. Honestly, once you get past Davis there is not that huge of a difference in how I feel about almost all the others. There is a lot of intrigue and risk surrounding all of them...
Anthony Davis - Not much to say here that has not been already said. He looks like a future hall of famer, and is the unanimous first pick. Here was the rare freshman with virtually no difficulties transitioning from high school to college.
Bradley Beal - Beal seemed to get more comfortable as the year went on, and looks to me like a future all-star. His freshman numbers were good, but not great. Also he is a little on the short side. I think he will be in the very least a solid pro, but you never know. A risky pick at #2 or #3.
Andre Drummond - Nobody in this draft is simutaneously as fascinating and frightening as Drummond. His upside is tremendous. This makes him probably the most controversial pick in the lottery. Statistically Drummond was just adequate, but I wonder if we are being too negative judging him by his numbers. He is very young, not even 19 until August. We should not necessarily expect all freshman big men to be dominant, and Drummond's physical traits are incredible. Would I take him #2? No. But would I strongly consider him with the fourth or fifth pick? Absolutely. Especially in a draft as dubious as this is up top.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - Kidd-Gilchrist was another freshman who had little difficulty adjusting to the college game. Unlike Davis, his talent does not necessarily translate to dominance on the next level. Statistically he does not look like a surefire top prospect, and watching him I never got the sense that he would have the skills necessary to make an All-Star game. That said, he seems like the safest freshman pick besides Davis, and should be a fine pro.
Tony Wroten - Wroten has flashed a variety of skills - a scorer's mentality, superior athleticism, and great size - that make his freshman inefficiency less worrisome. He might drop out of the first round, potentially making him one of the steals of the draft.
Quincy Miller - Miller scored high in Hollinger's rating system, and he was still recovering from an ACL injury last year. He seems like a prospect with considerable potential.
Moe Harkless - Harkless showed up at Saint John's and was good right away, always a good sign. The advanced stats don't shine too brightly on Harkless, but his athleticism and youth implies a pretty decent prospect in my eyes.
Marquis Teague - Teague was somewhat underlooked playing alongside his more touted Kentucky teammates, but he flashes many of the skills that have made his brother Jeff a starting point guard in the NBA. He could be a relative steal later in round one.
Austin Rivers - Like Teague, Rivers has familial pedigree working in his favor. A fine college player, many of us are concerned that his skillset will not translate well playing against bigger and more physical guards. However, Rivers will be given plenty of opportunities to succeed - being young and intriguing affords you that luxury.