Insider - Chad Ford- Best NBA prospects in the Washington DC & Minneapolis Region


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Oct 3, 2002
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Updated: March 14, 2006, 2:50 PM ET
Best NBA prospects in the Washington (D.C.) Region

By Chad Ford
ESPN Insider
It's March Madness, baby!

College basketball's best players will have as many as six games to show off their skills.
NBA scouts and general managers will be out in force over the next few weeks scouting everyone in the Big Dance.
A great March really can help a player's stock for June's NBA Draft. Last year, UNC's Sean May rose from the late first round to the lottery with his amazing performance for the Tar Heels, while Illinois' Deron Williams surpassed Chris Paul on many talent evaluators' boards as the top point guard in the draft with his stellar play in the tournament.
In 2004, UConn's Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon, Stanford's Josh Childress, Duke's Luol Deng, BYU's Rafael Araujo and Arizona's Andre Iguodala all rode strong performances into the lottery.
In 2003, Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony, Marquette's Dwyane Wade, Central Michigan's Chris Kaman and Kansas' Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison used the tournament to catapult themselves into the lottery.
In previous years, Maryland's Chris Wilcox, Arizona's Richard Jefferson, Florida's Mike Miller, Miami-Ohio's Wally Szczerbiak and Connecticut's Richard Hamilton helped their draft positions significantly in March.
This year, with such an open draft field, a number of players could take advantage of the national stage to supercharge their draft stock.
Who will it be this year? ESPN Insider talked to multiple NBA scouts and GMs to give you a look at the top five NBA prospects (and a few more) they'll be watching in each NCAA region.

Washington (D.C.) Region

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AP/Bob Child
Some teams are eyeing Rudy Gay as the prize of the draft.

1. Connecticut's Rudy Gay (G, So.), Marcus Williams (PG, So.), Hilton Armstrong (F-C, Sr.), Josh Boone (F-C, Jr.) and Denham Brown (F, Sr.)

The Good: You'd expect a No. 1 seed to have one or two topflight NBA prospects. But the Huskies have five legitimate draft prospects this season.
Start with Gay, who has many of the attributes scouts drool about -- athleticism, size, versatility. He can play inside and out and he's a grounded kid.
Williams might be the best "pure" point guard in the draft. He doesn't look for his shot often, but he's an outstanding playmaker.
Armstrong and Boone both have size and athleticism. Brown might be the best pure scorer on the team.

The Bad: Gay hasn't taken his game to the next level in the way his talent suggests he should. He has all the tools to be spectacular, but at times he disappears when the Huskies need him most.
Williams isn't a great athlete and at times presses too hard, leading to turnovers. Armstrong and Boone are both very inconsistent. One night they look like lottery picks, and the next night, not so much. Brown has had an up-and-down year as well. And what position would he play in the pros?

The Upside: All five could get a nice boost with a great tournament.
Gay is considered a top-three pick in the draft this year if he declares. But to improve his chances of being the No. 1 pick, he'll need a big tournament to quiet his detractors, who claim he doesn't come up big in big games.
Williams might be leaning toward returning to school for his senior season, but if he declares now, he's probably a late first-round pick. A national championship could boost his stock into the mid-first round.
Armstrong and Boone are on the first-round bubble. Scouts prefer Armstrong right now because of his size and his energy, but some scouts think Boone could blossom once he gets to the NBA, a la Charlie Villanueva. If either guy blows up in the tournament, his stock will soar. There's a dearth of centers in the draft, so teams are looking for any reason to draft them.
Brown has been on fire of late. While he's still projected as a second-round prospect at the moment, a huge tournament could go a long way to push him into the first round.
2. Washington's Brandon Roy (SG, Sr.)

The Good: Roy has put it all together his senior season. He's strong, athletic, and quick, and he can score off the dribble or with his a greatly improved outside jumper. He's also an excellent ball-handler who can take over the point in a pinch. Add in solid defense, a high basketball IQ and a winning attitude and it's becoming increasingly hard to find things not to like about Roy's game.

The Bad: Roy always has had a bit of a suspect shot. He's made great strides in that department this season, but scouts still don't think he'll be a great perimeter shooter in the pros. He also can be passive at times, more content to blend in than to dominate.

The Upside: Roy's stock has been rising all season. He started the season in the second round and has moved all the way into, potentially, the lottery. His rise might not be over. A great tournament (especially shooting the ball) could push him above Ronnie Brewer and Randy Foye as the top guard in the draft.

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Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Not only can he defend, but Rondo hits the glass, too.

3. Kentucky's Rajon Rondo (PG, So.)

The Good: Rondo is a freak athletically. His quickness and explosiveness are off the charts. He has a lightning-quick first step that forces defenders to step back when guarding him. Defensively he's very disruptive, using his long arms and tenacity to disrupt passing lanes. Though he doesn't always show it, he's capable of controlling the tempo of the game and running a team.

The Bad: Start with his jump shot, which is about as ugly as it gets. The form isn't terrible, but it sure doesn't go in. His shooting woes extend to the free throw line, where he shoots 57 percent. Rondo's lack of a jumper really hampers his effectiveness, especially when defenses sag on him, neutralizing his quickness and ability to get to the basket.

The Upside: Scouts ranked Rondo as the top point guard in the draft at the start of the college season, and he started the season hot. But his stock has been in decline for two straight months. A strong tournament could restore it quickly, however. Rondo has all the physical tools scouts look for in a point guard. If he can run Kentucky and get them a big win over UConn, he'll start feeling the love again.
4. Michigan State's Maurice Ager (G, Sr.), Paul Davis (C, Sr.) and Shannon Brown (G, Jr.)

The Good: Ager has a potent combination of athleticism and shooting touch. When he's hot, he's an absolutely lethal bomber.
Davis is a skilled big man with decent athleticism. He's got a soft touch around the basket and has a solid mid-range jumper.
Brown's 3-point shooting actually has been better than Ager's this year, he's an even better athlete than Ager, and he has great toughness.

The Bad: Ager started off the season red-hot and has cooled off since then. He's fallen in love with his jumper and has quit using his athletic ability to get to the basket.
Davis isn't a great rebounder for a player his size and his feel for the game is questionable. He spends too much time thinking about what he's going to do.
Brown is a tweener. He's barely 6-foot-3 and doesn't have any real point guard skills.

The Upside: Ager's a mid-to-late first rounder right now, but if he heats up in the tournament, his stock will rise again. Scouts love players who can jump out of the gym and shoot the lights out.
Davis is one of the few legit centers in the draft. If he works hard on the boards and mixes things up in the paint, he could move into the late lottery as well.
Brown probably has another year left at MSU. He's on the first-round bubble at the moment. However, a big tournament could push him firmly into the first and make his decision to go pro easier.

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AP Photo
Dee Brown may lack height, but he's got plenty of heart.

5. Illinois' Dee Brown (PG, Sr.)

The Good: Brown's speed and quickness allow him to break down defenses and fly up and down the floor. He's got the heart of a lion. He's a real leader on the floor who lives and dies with each game. After some questioned his ability to run the point in past seasons, Brown has toned down his offensive game and looked to get his teammates involved. His unselfishness has led to a pretty impressive win total for a team that lost two players to the NBA last season.

The Bad: Brown is barely six feet in shoes. His shooting percentage this season has been awful. Last season he shot 49 percent from the field; this year, 37 percent. His 3-point shooting has declined from 44 percent to 33 percent. His turnovers are up to a career-high three per game.

The Upside: Brown might be a senior who played in the title game last season, but he still has a lot to prove. Can he lead his own team to the promised land? Can he find ways to get his own shot while still keeping his teammates involved? A big tournament could land him in the first round. Otherwise, it's looking more and more like he'll be a second-round pick.
SLEEPER: North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough (PF, Fr.)

The Good: Hansbrough's tenacity in the paint is a thing to behold. He might not be the biggest or most athletic guy in college, but he outworks everyone to rebounds. Hansbrough's a smart player who uses angles and tricks that usually belong to veterans to score and rebound. He already has an NBA body and some of the strongest hands you'll see. He's been remarkably consistent for a freshman.

The Bad: Hansbrough is a little undersized for the power forward position. Short arms and a lack of explosiveness don't help matters. While he has the makings of a perimeter game (as he showed when he hit a big 3 against Duke), he hasn't shown much of it yet.

The Upside: It's tough to call any former McDonald's All-American -- or North Carolina Tar Heel -- a sleeper. But Hansbrough is better than most people believe he is. Some scouts see a tough white guy who reminds them of Mark Madsen, but Hansbrough's better -- a lot better. If another player with so-so athleticism such as J.J. Redick can get the benefit of the doubt from scouts, Hansbrough should as well.
He understands how to play, approaches the game with a warrior's mentality and has gotten better and better as the season has progressed. He started the season as a probable second rounder and has placed himself firmly in the first round. If he leads a Cinderella North Carolina team deep into the tournament, his stock could rise as high as May's did last season. Personally, I think he's a better prospect.
Others to watch: Rashad Anderson, SG, UConn; James Augustine, PF, Illinois; Reyshawn Terry, SF, North Carolina; David Noel, SG, North Carolina; Torrell Martin, SG, Winthrop.


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Oct 3, 2002
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Updated: March 14, 2006, 1:06 PM ET

Best NBA prospects in the Minneapolis Region
By Chad Ford
ESPN Insider

ESPN Insider talked to multiple NBA scouts and GMs to give you a look at the top five NBA prospects (and a few more) they'll be watching in each NCAA region.

Minneapolis Region

1. Villanova's Randy Foye (SG, Sr.), Kyle Lowry (PG, So.) and Allan Ray (SG, Sr.)

The Good: Foye is one of the most well-rounded players in the nation. He's strong and athletic, and he has the ability to score off the dribble or pull up for the jumper. Also, he is a great defender and plays his heart out on every possession.
Lowry is a quick, explosive, attacking point guard who will throw himself all over the court. He's very physical but also does a great job of running the offense -- how many guys can you say that about? Ray is one of the best shooters in college basketball.

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Foye doesn't need much space to get off his lethal jumper.

The Bad: Foye is only 6-4. Given that he's not a pure point guard, he's probably undersized for the position in the pros. Lowry needs to limit his turnovers, and it would be nice if he grew another inch or two. Ray, who lacks point guard skills, is 6-2. His recent, harrowing eye injury didn't help his situation.

The Upside: Foye has risen steadily up the board all year and is now projected as a likely top-10 pick. If he can lead Villanova into the Final Four, he could have a Dwyane Wade-type rise on draft night, especially now that more scouts believe he could make the transition to the point in the pros.
Lowry is projected as a bubble first-rounder at the moment, but there's no question his stock would get a huge boost if he were the point guard who got Villanova back into the Final Four.
Ray is projected as a second-round pick at the moment and probably will stay there unless the tournament directors are handing out growth pills.
2. Florida's Joakim Noah (C, So.), Al Horford (PF, So.) and Corey Brewer (SG, So.)

The Good: Noah is an athletic big man with a fantastic motor. There aren't many players in the NBA who play harder.
Horford is also an athletic big man, though he doesn't have quite the size Noah does. Horford is an excellent rebounder, shot blocker and passer, but his scoring skills are still quite raw.
Brewer is an athletic, lanky swingman who is murder in transition.

The Bad: Noah needs more experience and another 25 pounds of muscle to handle the beating he'd take in the NBA. He also needs to work on a go-to move or two on the offensive end.
Horford has lottery potential, but he seems to have gotten away from some of the blue-collar effort scouts loved about him in the first place. Like Noah, Horford needs to refine his offensive game.
Brewer needs to get stronger and work on his ballhandling. Although he's a good shooter when set, he struggles to stroke it off the dribble.

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US Presswire
Horford needs to make a strong push during the tourney.

The Upside: Given the dearth of big men in the draft, scouts are beginning to project Noah as a top-10 draft prospect. He could use another year of school -- but that's true of a lot of players.
If he blows up in the tournament, moving into the top five isn't out of the question. Some scouts compare him to Tyson Chandler.

Horford's stock was high at the beginning of the season, but it has begun to dip with the rise of Noah. He'll need a big tournament to push himself back into the lottery.
Brewer draws comparisons to Tayshaun Prince because of his versatility and the smoothness of his game. He's just coming back from injury. Right now he's in the late first round, but a huge tournament could really push him up the charts.
3. Nevada's Nick Fazekas (PF, Jr.)

The Good: Fazekas is a lanky big man who can play both inside and out, although he prefers the perimeter. He has NBA 3-point range on his jumper and is a very skilled midrange shooter. He's an excellent rebounder, thanks to his length.

The Bad: His body is not ready for the beating it's going to take at the next level. Fazekas has neither the quickness to guard threes in the pros nor the strength to guard fours. Is he the classic tweener?

The Upside: Scouts are all over the place on this guy. Some see the second coming of Keith Van Horn (not a bad thing if you look at his career numbers). Others see Dan Langhi or Zarko Cabarkapa, a sweet-shooting big man without the muscle to do anything inside. He's probably a late first-rounder right now, but a big tournament would help. Last year's stinker torpedoed his stock. He's going to need a few big games to convince the doubters.
4. Oklahoma's Taj Gray (PF, Sr.) and Terrell Everett (PG, Sr.)

The Good: Gray is a big-time athlete with great hops and an NBA body. He likes to play with his back to the basket, and he's fantastic in the open court. He's a physical player with a lot of energy.
Everett is a big point guard cut out of the Antonio Daniels mold. He's an excellent penetrator and defender with good quickness.

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AP Photo/Ty Russell
Gray scored 22 points in a must-win game for Oklahoma.

The Bad: Gray hasn't dominated the way his talent suggests he should, which has really hurt his stock lately. Scouts also question how tall he really is.
Everett has struggled shooting the ball this year and is a turnover machine, averaging four turnovers per game this season.

The Upside: Both players really need a big tournament to resurrect their stock. Scouts love the talent of both players, but they've been disappointments so far. A great tournament would go a long way toward restoring faith. The problem is that their opening-round opponent, UW-Milwaukee, is a very tough matchup for Oklahoma.
5. Arizona's Hassan Adams (SG, Sr.)

The Good: A big-time athlete with a spectacular body, Adams is an explosive leaper and a great rebounder for his size and position. He plays bigger than he actually is, thanks to his physical strength.

The Bad: He's a terrible shooter, but no one seems to have told him. Adams spends way too much time shooting 3s when he should be in there posting up guards.

The Upside: Some scouts love Adams, but most aren't that high on his NBA potential. He's an amazing physical specimen, but his basketball IQ is suspect. The comparisons to Andre Iguodala are ridiculous. Both are great athletes, but Iguodala has a great feel for the game. Adams doesn't. Adams needs a great tournament in which he plays to his strengths. Otherwise, he's doomed for the second round.
SLEEPER: Arizona's Marcus Williams (SF, Fr.)

The Good: Adams, Mustafa Shakur and Jawann McClellan have gotten all the pub, but the best NBA prospect on the team is freshman Marcus Williams. Williams is long, athletic and smooth. His quickness, versatility and sweet jump shot really have won over scouts. He has the ability to play both the two and the three at the next level.

The Bad: He could stand to gain a little more weight and experience, but the way he has been playing lately in the absence of Adams, it's tough to find much fault.

The Upside: With Adams out of the lineup, Williams proved he could take over. He's averaging 18.3 ppg and shooting 70 percent from 3-point territory in his last four games. If he can lead Arizona to a win or two in the tournament, he's a mid-to-late first-round draft pick. He's another kid who really would be best served by staying another year in school, but if he gets hot, there might be no stopping his run to the draft.
Others to watch: Craig Smith, PF, Boston College; Jared Dudley, SF, Boston College; Sean Williams, F/C, Boston College; Jeff Green, F, Georgetown; Roy Hibbert, C, Georgetown; Terence Dials, PF, Ohio State; Alando Tucker, SF, Wisconsin.

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