Tomorrow, in the glitz-and-glam of New York, the 2008 NBA Draft will take place. And with the new, one-year-of-college-is-mandatory rule, you should recognize almost every single name said, with the exception of a small-school prospect here and an International prospect there. There has already been numerous trades finalized, and the whole Beasley-or-Rose debate surrounds the first couple of picks. However, with all three eligible North Carolina Tar Heels returning to school to team up with Psycho T for another season, the top-part of the Draft will be dominated by one team: the Kansas Jayhawks. Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush and Darrell Arthur all entered the Draft early, and all figure to be highly-prized commodities from just about any team 10 and on. All three could go as high as the late Lottery, and all figure to be gone by 20-or-so no matter what happens. No other teammates, other than the Lopez twins from Stanford, figure to both go in the 1st round, although Chris Douglas-Roberts could sneak his way into the bottom 5 of the first round.
While Mario, Brandon and Darrell will draw all of the Kansas-targeted attention, in all actuality, there are five Jayhawks who stand a possiblity of having their name be called tomorrow night. Both Darnell and Sasha have a shot at sneaking into the bottom portion of the second round, although Sasha's appeal will be hampered by the contract he signed on Sunday with CSKA. It will be interesting to see how high the Top 3 go, and if the Bottom 2 get selected at all. Here is a player-by-player breakdown of a best-case scenario, a worst-case scenario and my personal prediction.
Brandon Rush :: Brandon is the most NBA-ready of the bunch, as he is basically a college senior, age-wise, because of his year spent in prep school. He could compete in an NBA game tomorrow without too much difficulty, and should play a large role on which ever team selects him. He figures to be a strong defender at the next level as well as a 3-point specialist of sorts, although he has been shooting up Draft Boards across the league because of his driving ability he has shown off workout-after-workout. While at Kansas, in the zone-heavy congested langes of college basketball, Brandon stuck more to the perimeter, opting to fire up long balls and dish it around to his teammates as opposed to taking his opponent one-on-one to the rack. However, workouts show that this wasn't necessarily an indication of style preference or even lack of ability; it was simply him following the whole 'team concept'. He has been driving all over everyone in workouts, causing him to become a multi-faceted offensive threat to go along with his defensive impressiveness. Thus, the heightened interest.
With all of that said, here is where he figures to end up.
Best Case :: #11 - Portland Trailblazers
Worst Case :: #15 - Phoenix Suns
Most Likely :: #15 - Phoenix Suns
Saying that #15 is as low as Rush will go might be over-doing it, and I guess it is possible that he could slide past the Suns, particularly if the Suns trade out of the pick for a more established vet. That being said, all indications point heavily to the Suns coveting Rush, loving his D and his dual threat on O. Plus, if things break the right way, he could find his way in the starting lineup early on, replacing the traded-away Shawn Marion.
Mario Chalmers :: Speaking of jumping up Draft Boards after workouts, no one has improved their stock more through team-by-team workouts than Super Mario. Put simply, he has wowed at these workouts, which combined with his obvious 'clutchness' because of his absolutely frickin' unbelievable three-pointer against Memphis, has skyrocketed him from the low 20s all the way up to as high as the Lotto. The main concern upon him entering the Draft was his height, and it forcing him to be a PG-or-bust. Considering that he never truly played the position in college, it seemed preposterous for him to be a high-1st-round pick, with all of the risk involved in him having to become a precious PG. However, in his workouts he has displayed almost everything necessary in a PG, and has proven to most of the teams pursuing a point that he is capable of filling the role. Entering the night, he could have gone as high as #11, to the PG-starved Indiana Pacers, but their trade of Jermaine O'Neal to the Raptors for a package including PG TJ Ford likely ends that possibility. Still, him going at 12 to the Kings is still a distinct possibility, one that Chad Ford predicts in his latest Mock. For a Kings' fan reaction to Mario Chalmers going to Sactown, check this out. With all of the teams in need of a PG, Chalmers, having proved that he should be a point at the next level, should be a top-half selection. However, there is little chance he falls all the way down to the 20s, where I originally felt he was most likely to go. My, how a month and a whole-lottta-workouts can change that sorta stuff.
Best Case :: #12 - Sacramento
Worst Case :: #19 - Cleveland
Most Likely :: #12 - Sacramento
Again, maybe my Most Likely is a little on the optimistic side, but everything I've read seems to point to him going at 12. Sacramento badly needs a point, and while DJ Augustin might still be available, if he is gone Mario is clearly the best available option.
Darrell Arthur :: My, how his stock has fallen. Well, actually, his stock has only precipitated a handful of picks, but it seems to be a much heavier drop because of the rise of his Kansas teammates, Rush and Chalmers. While he was originally projected in the Lottery, to Sacramento most often, he has now been passed up by the potential Lotto picks of Rush and Chalmers, while Arthur now seems to sit comfortably on the Lottery bubble. He still has an outside shot at getting picked up at #12, if they pass on Chalmers, or even at #11 with possible interest from the Pacers. Still, he will likely be the last of the Big Three to hear his name called tomorrow night, an entirely unanticipated event that no one would have believed only a month ago.
Best Case :: #11 - Indiana
Worst Case :: #28 - Memphis
Most Likely :: #18 - Washington
Again, DA is easily the most difficult to project among the Big Three. He could, although it is hardly a predictable possibility, end up going higher than his 'Best Case', and he also could slide, potentially, beyond #28 at Memphis. However, he more than likely will fall somewhere in that area, although your guess is as good as mine as far as which team actually calls out his name.
Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun :: Both are dirty-work bruisers, although Sasha does hold one large advantage over D-Block: size. Darnell came in at slightly less than 6'8", not all that great for a big bruiser like Darnell is, as he will almost always be matched up with much taller, larger opponents. However, he still will have a role on whichever team selects him as an end-of-bench garbage man who will do all of the rebounding you need. Same with Sasha, although his deal with CSKA likely killed any chances of him getting selected. However, rumor has it that the deal he signed with CSKA has a buyout option after a year or two, so he could become an attractive option to someone like the Boston Celtics, who could afford a year-or-two of development in Europe while they still maintain his rights. Because, in all technicalities for Thursday's Draft, Sasha technically counts as an international player because of his contract.
in summation, all five figure to be very interesting to watch when and/or if then get picked. The Big Three will draw all the headlines from the Kansas perspective, and rightly so, but it will be equally intriguing in my eyes to see where the senior backbones of our program, Sasha and Darnell and even Russell off a UDFA contract, will end up.
More Draft coverage tomorrow, with quick updates following each Jayhawk news, note or selction.