Blake Griffin has a rare combination of strength, athleticism and work ethic.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
If you could draft the next Karl Malone in your keeper league, you obviously wouldn't hesitate to make that pick, would you? How about the next Steve Nash?
They might be in this year's draft. With almost two months until the 2009 NBA Draft, we will begin our discussion with a handful of this year's best prospects.
1) Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma - Griffin is a consensus No.1 pick and with good reason. He has a rare combination of strength, athleticism and work ethic. At 6'10" 250 lbs he's got the size yet he has the ability to run the floor in a fast break offense. Good hands, good footwork, he got to the line a ridiculous amount of time (324 attempts in 2008) and will do so in the NBA too. Doesn't have a great outside shot yet, but neither did Malone when he came to the NBA. Unless he goes to Phoenix or New Orleans he won't have anything like a John Stockton feeding him the ball either, so don't put him in the Hall-of-Fame yet. Only weakness is at crunch time - didn't seem like he wanted to be the "go-to" guy. Malone averaged 14.9 ppg and 8.9 rpg in his rookie year and Griffin could match those numbers.
2) Ricky Rubio, PG, Spain - Rubio won't even be 19-years-old until October, but already has a great deal of experience playing in the Spanish professional leagues and their National team. He plays all out, all the time. If he gets taken by a team like Washington and has three good scorers to distribute the "rock" (Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Gilbert Arenas), he could put up exciting statistics very quickly. Rubio is regarded by some as the best European guard prospect since Drazen Petrovic. If he continues to improve and gets in the right offense, he could be the next Nash. Playing for DKV Joventut in the Spanish ACB League he averaged 9.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 6.0 apg in just 22 minutes of action.
3) Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut - We have all seen Thabeet dominate at the defensive end, but I'm afraid as a fantasy player he will be more like Dikembe Mutombo (9.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg) than Alonso Mourning (17.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg) or even Emeka Okafor (14.0 ppg, 10.7 rpg). Very raw, but seems willing to learn. He'll likely have little fantasy value except rebounds and blocked shots until his game improves both from the field and the line.
4) Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona - Physically he's got the body to play NBA power forward, but he has also developed a face up game out to about 18 feet. He will have to work on his inconsistent play and at the foul line. He's solid at the defensive end and a huge upside on the offensive side which makes him a keeper- league only pick in 2009, but watch out down the road.
5) James Harden, SG, Arizona State - Harden is the ultimate "team" player - great if you have him on your hometown team, but not quite as good in fantasy where "me first" works better than "team first." Good vision, can shoot, ball handle or pass and makes his teammates better. I've seen comparisons to Manu Ginobili, but he's not the "tough-as-nails" guy than Ginobili is.
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