2008-09 NBA Draft Kit: Rookie Report, Part II
The 2008-09 RotoRob NBA Draft Kit rolls on, today with the second of our three-part look at the top rookies.
Roy Hibbert, C, Indiana Pacers: This 21-year-old is an absolute behemoth, gifted with incredible size (7’2”, 278) and strength. A big part of the package sent by Toronto to Indy for Jermaine O’Neal in a draft day deal, Hibbert has a chance to be the next Big Z, a true old school centre who may lack the athletic qualities of new age big men, but one who should make up for it with his sheer frame and excellent hands. I expect him to be a strong defender from day one, but his quickness could hold him back in an up-tempo offense, which is something the Pacers attempted to employ last year with better results. Fortunately, long-term, Hibbert fills a major gap in the Indy game by bringing a post presence, but don’t look for him to help out much this year.
JaVale McGee, PF, Washington Wizards: This 20-year-old has an NBA body (7’0”, 237) that has scouts drooling. Compared to Channing Frye, McGee needs to add major strength before he’s ready to bang bodies under the basket with wider big men. McGee didn’t get the kind of press other big men did in this draft class, but few can match his potential. Unfortunately, the future will have to wait for the Wizards as McGee is a long way from contributing at the NBA level. He’ll spend the year learning the system and bulking up.
J.J. Hickson, PF, Cleveland Cavaliers: Hickson, compared to Brandon Bass, looked solid in Summer League play, showing a nice ability to play in traffic. He has the physical tools, despite the fact that he’s just 6’9”, making him a tad undersized at the four slot. However, he makes up for that with great strength and tremendous rebounding ability. Where he falls short is in his lack of quickness. Hickson is another project, not nearly ready to contribute in the NBA. However, given the fragility of the Cav frontcourt with Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Anderson Varejao and Ben Wallace, there’s a definite chance that Hickson will be counted on to help at some point this season.
Alexis Ajinca, PF, Charlotte Bobcats: I like this 20-year-old’s size (7’0”, 238), and his potential – especially as a defensive stalwart, but like many young, big men, he simply lacks the strength to be successful in the NBA right away. A possible Mikki Moore type when he matures, Ajinca is gifted with an impressive wingspan, but damn, he needs to eat some Fromage Royales. New Bobcat coach Larry Brown is talking like Ajinca could help the team now, but the reality is this Frenchman needs time to develop.
Ryan Anderson, PF, New Jersey Nets: The first Cal soph to ever top 1,000 points in his career, Anderson has great size for the four (6’10”, 240), but like many young big men, he needs to add strength. In time, he could become a Troy Murphy-type, gifted with a strong jump shot and nice post skills. He’s not overly athletic, however, so may struggle on defense – especially if matched up against quicker players. Reports of him schooling Yi Jianlian – his main competition at PF — in Nets’ scrimmages certainly raise hopes that Anderson may be able to make some contributions this season. If the PT comes, this kid will produce.
Courtney Lee, SG, Orlando Magic: Lee, compared to Anthony Parker, has been lauded for his excellent body control, but there’s some concern that as a product of Western Kentucky, he hasn’t been tested against elite competition in the Sun Belt Conference. For my money, this kid has a jump shot to die for, and that makes him a player ready to make an impact as a rookie. Lee’s size (6’5”, 200) may be a factor at the two guard spot – and given his less than stellar distribution skills, PG seems a stretch (although the team has tried him there during training camp, so maybe he can develop into a combo guard). I’m not sure how much I like him as a long-term prospect, as I think that given that he’s 24 already there’s only so much upside, but that will work to his advantage as a freshman. He’s already wowing in training camp, but faces a tough battle in getting PT given the depth the Magic has at SG.
Kosta Koufos, C, Utah Jazz: This 19-year-old, a former McDonald’s All-American, will try to use his excellent size (7’1” 245) to one day take the job of the man he’s often compared to – Mehmet Okur. Koufos is a decent athlete, but not exactly lauded for his athleticism. Still, he showed he’s capable of helping out on offense given his play in Summer League action. With a great jump shot and tremendous post skills, Koufos has a chance to be a special talent. But – stop me if you’ve heard this one before – he needs to add strength. Such is the lot for young big men; it just takes time before they can handle the day-to-day pounding of NBA life. Having said that, this kid is even impressing notorious rookie-hater Jerry Sloan with his play in training camp, so maybe he’ll steal some minutes from backup Jarron Collins this season.
Serge Ibaka, PF, Oklahoma City Thunder: One of the most athletic players in this year’s draft, Ibaka is a Tyrus Thomas-type whose frame and wingspan had scouts drooling. The biggest downfall with him is he’s raw and lacks experience. Ibaka is yet another big man who needs to get stronger, and he also needs lots of work on his post game. In fact, he probably won’t even see this side of the Atlantic this year, making him currently nothing more than a name to stash away for the future.
Nicolas Batum, SF, Portland Trailblazers: At 6’8”, 214, Batum has tremendous size for a small forward, drawing comparisons to Rudy Gay. Unfortunately, the 19-year-old Frenchman needs work on his ball handling, and doesn’t appear to be the type of player you can build a team around. However, given his speed and athleticism, Batum has great potential and gives Portland yet another possible stud in the making for an organization overflowing with young talent.