by Kevin Roberts
It's less than two months before the NBA draft takes place and shines a light on the game's not so distant future. The following are the Top Ten white prospects, along with an estimate as to where they'll land in the draft.
Too often great white talent is surpassed by black players' potential, leaving capable white players playing overseas, struggling in developmental leagues, or calling it quits altogether. The players listed, in my mind, are realistic first round talents, and if color were not an issue, at least half of them would be first round picks. In the memory of Gerry McNamara and Mike Gansey, and without further delay, here are the "Transparent Ten".
1. Spencer Hawes (C/F) Washington - Dyamite post skills, combined with excellent height, length, and size. He is very Pau Gasol-esque around the basket.
Hawes has a realistic shot at being a lottery pick, and has an outside shot at being a top 5 pick. However, with an ungodly amount of black stars coming out this year, he will probably be the first white player taken, around pick number 15.
2. Marc Gasol (C/F) Spain - Not as good as brother Pau, but he still is a force to be reckoned with in the post. Solid rebounder whose only true weakness is his foot speed. I wouldn't call him unathletic, just a guy who is seven feet tall and plays center. I'm sure Shaq couldn't guard wing players, either.
He has durability issues, combined with his raw abilities, but he is still almost a sure-fire first rounder.
3. Josh McRoberts (F) Duke - Surely would have benefitted from at least one more year with the Dukies, but in this day and age, you have to take the money when it's there. McRoberts posesses insane athleticism, as well as the body and ability to be a great rebounder and shot blocker. He is still very raw offensively, but you could argue he is as good, if not better, than highly touted Joakim Noah.
McRoberts is in the mold of a young Chris Webber, and has tremendous upside, a word usually only heard about a black player. Nonetheless, he has an incredibly high ceiling, and should go no later than the 20th selection in round one. The key word here is "should."
4. Tiago Splitter (F/C) Brazil - Runs the court extremely well for a big man, and if he had a good handle, would be a dangerous small forward prospect. As it stands, Splitter is a smooth, athletic big man who needs to refine his offensive game to earn minutes in the NBA.
People are so high on Splitter, it amazes me. If Oden and Noah weren't in this draft, I'd dare say he could be mentioned for the top pick.
5. Aaron Gray (C) Pittsburgh - There are very few true centers in the NBA, and too many rail thin ones trying to bang it down low with the big guys. Gray is the proto-typical center, with solid post moves, as well as good rebounding skills. He can't really get up very well, but at 7'1" there doesn't seem to be much effort needed for him to throw it down.
Gray's stock will be made or broken in pre-draft workouts. If I had to call it now, I'd say he's still a lottery pick, with a slight possibility of dipping into the late teens.
6. Jason Smith (F/C) Colorado State - Smith is flying a bit under the radar, even after bursting onto the scene as a true freshman. He is highly skilled offensively, with a very nice shot, and an aggresive approach to getting open. He's also an adequate passer from inside the post. Smith, another 7 footer, is in the mold of a Shawn Bradley, but with much better offensive prowess.
Smith may lose some hype, if there ever was any to begin with, because of his lack of high-caliber competition. Even so, his size and fluidity is hard to ignore. He should be a late first round pick, but has a chance to go much higher.
7. Nick Fazekas (F) Nevada - If the NBA Draft were about pure ability, Fazekas would be a top 5 pick three years in a row, already. He is downright dominant. His main knock is his inability to show up in big games (he was never very effective in Nevada's tourney runs), and he looks like he's running with wet socks in the open court.
Even though he lacks great mobility, Fazekas still is a strange talent that should not slip out of the first 30 picks. Unfortunately, he will struggle to even get drafted.
8. Adam Haluska (G/F) Iowa - A pure shooter with a scorer's mentality, Haluska tried his best to carry a woeful Hawkeye squad through the rigorous Big Ten season. Some nights he looked like a superstar, and others, well, not so much. Haluska has a good handle, and above average slashing ability. He is a vastly underrated athlete, with above average leaping ability.
Haluska is a sure first round talent who might not even get a look through both rounds. Fortunartely for him, he should still find a home after the draft due to his good size and excellent shooting stroke. He'll probably end up being the next Kyle Korver.
9. Kyle Visser (C) Wake Forest - There isn't much to get excited about when talking about Visser. He's basically another Jake Voskuhl. The only difference is he is a much better offensive player, and a beast on the boards. He isn't sexy, but he is what the NBA needs, a guy who will fight inside and get the job done.
A Brad Miller clone, Visser could get a look as a late first rounder, but his skill set probably will land him in the middle of the second round.
10. Aaron Bruce (PG/G) Baylor - After his play dropped significantly over the past two years, Bruce would be best encouraged to drop out of the draft and return to Baylor for his final season. He started his career off with a bang as a freshman, avergaing 18 points a game, but has since regressed, mostly due to inferior talent around him. Bruce shows exceptional court awareness and flashy passing ability, as well as outstanding shooting and the ability to create his own shot. His main knock, which is good enough to stop him from getting selected, is his regression into mediocrity, as well as his poor play against top competition.
Bruce needs to drop out of the draft and have a stellar season and then maybe, just maybe, GMs will see he can play both guard spots, and is worthy of a late first or early second round pick. If he stays, Bruce will not be drafted.
11. The Wild Card: Lee Humphrey (PG/G) Florida - You don't start on a team that wins back-to-back titles and not even get a look. Or do you? Humphrey has out of this world shooting credentials, and is as clutch as they come. Scouts will mislead you with his low assist numbers, but if you watch tape on him, Humphrey posesses adequate ball-handling, as well as above average passing ability. The only reason why his numbers aren't higher is because he didn't regularily play the point, and his complete focus while on the court was to shoot the three.
Humphrey will not get drafted, simply because teams know they can sign him instead of drafting him. However, he is a very underrated player, and should find a home as a Steve Kerr wannabe.