On the eve of Senior Night, with junior Gorgui Dieng being honored, a lot of discussion about UofL's NBA draft prospects has been floating around the message boards. So I thought it might be helpful to look at where each early entry candidate is being projected to go by some popular NBA draft websites. I'll also include some of my own opinions but present them as facts because this is the internet and that's how it works. Having said that, I would like to point out that I love all of these players, and if I come across as harsh at times, it's just because I'm trying to take a totally objective point of view, like an NBA scout. I will include a "realistic best-case scenario" for each player on offense and defense. I say realistic because even though Russ Smith has similar size and athletic ability as Chris Paul, he's shown no signs of having a similar style of play. And that won't magically change. I won't include a "worst-case senario" because it seems to me that the worst-case senario for anyone trying to play in the NBA would be to not make an NBA roster.
Let's begin with the man who started all this hubbub. Gorgui is an elite interior defender on the college level and has an offensive game that we UofL fans know is very solid. Unfortunately the "raw offense" tag has been following him around and he's been unable to totally shake it.
ESPN top 100: #36
nbadraft.net top 100: #36 (30th pick of 2014 draft)
Draft Express top 100: #30 (28th pick of 2013 draft)
Hoops World top 100: #30 (28th pick of 2013 draft)
Best-case offense: Serge Ibaka. I actually think Gorgui projects better as PF on offense in the NBA. Like Ibaka, Dieng will get a lot of points off of garbage rebounds or dump-offs from a slashing guard, but he'll also have plenty opportunities to show off his mid-range jumper. He even has an advantage over Ibaka in that you'll never have to worry about Gorgui taking a swing at another man's giblets.
Best-case defense: Hakeem Olajuwon. Certainly this is wishful thinking, but there are similarities. Neither player has/had the strength to bang down low against bigger post-men, but both can use their long reach to affect shots both as a help defender and against their own man.
Early in the season Russ shot up some draft boards with his electric, eccentric play both on offense and defense. He has since fallen back a bit because "Bad Russ" reared his ugly head in a few tough games. He's also proven that, although he can be an excellent playmaker when he wants to, he's unlikely to ever be a pass first point guard.
ESPN top 100: #80
nbadraft.net top 100: Not ranked
Draft Express top 100: #44 (36th pick of the 2013 draft)
Hoops World top 100: #44 (38th pick of the 2013 draft)
Best-case offense: Nate Robinson. Smith and Robinson have very different styles to their game. However, I see Russ being utilized by an NBA team the same way Robinson has been utilized his entire career. Second units need point guards, but more often they just need offense. Someone who can put the ball in the basket. There has been a trend recently of teams in the league having a spark-plug scorer off the bench. Look at Robinson, Jason Terry, Eddie House, etc. Russ can guard opposing point guards and be the primary scorer for second unit.
Best-case defense: Monta Ellis but better. I had a tough time finding a great comparison, but I think Ellis is close. Ellis is a bit undersized for his position, like Russ. And also like Russ, he gambles too much. However, when Russ is playing solid, locked-in defense he is a much better defender than Ellis.
There's been a decent amount of debate about Chane's draft stock here on the CC. We all seem to agree that he's not ready this year, but I have seen some comments that say things like, "If he could just finish around the rim better, he'd be a lottery pick." I love me some Chaniac (Behanimal? Oranguchane?), but he will never be a lottery pick. He's undersized for a small forward, much less a power forward. And he's shown no signs of being able to play on the wings. Having said that, the NBA loves specialists as late first round picks. Chane becoming an absolutely dominant rebounder is his best path to a top 30 pick.
ESPN top 100: #98
nbadraft.net top 100: #84 (48th pick of 2014 draft)
Draft Express top 100: Not ranked
Hoops World top 100: Nor ranked
Best-case offense: Carl Landry. First things first, Chane needs to develop his mid-range jumper to have a chance at getting drafted. But if/when he does, his game could mimic Landry's pretty well. Both are undersized (Landry at 6'8" Chane at 6'6") and so both need to score using finesse around the basket and short jumpers. Chane is a better athlete than Landry but he'll need that athleticism to make up for his lack of height. The talk of Chane becoming a small forward to me seems like wishful thinking. I'm just don't see him having the foot-speed to keep up with NBA wing players.
Best-case defense: Metta World Peace (I can't believe I just called him that). Ok ok, this is a stretch, but hear me out: What does Ron-Ron have physically that Chance doesn't have? In his prime, maybe he was a tad quicker on his feet, but that's not what made him a great defender. He used his strong frame and quick hands to bully and frustrate opponents. Chane has already shown quick hands this season, averaging 1.5 steals per game. If he would take World Peace's mindset of "I'm going to create a wall with my body and you're not getting through it", then he could really be an elite defender. He's got a long way to go but this is a best-case scenario right? Shut up this is my internet and I make the rules.
It's been said quite a few times on this site that the best way for these guys to move up in the draft at this point in the season is to just win. Win the whole thing. If they do that, honestly I think Gorgui and Russ are gone. Maybe Chane if he decides to take the momentum and run with it, though I don't think he'd be drafted. With a National Championship, these guys will be Cardinal legends (with Peyton) no matter what they accomplish in the NBA. And we'll all send them out on a cloud made of rose petals with liquid rainbows leaking all over Floyd Street.