For four college basketball players, their lives are about to completely change. Fame and (some) fortune are likely to follow James Harden, Jeff Pendergraph, Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger. None of them know which team will be the first to call them during Thursday's NBA draft.
For four college basketball players, their lives are about to completely change.
Fame and (some) fortune are likely to follow James Harden, Jeff Pendergraph, Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger. None of them know which team will be the first to call them during Thursday's NBA draft, but after spending the past couple years as faces of their respective programs at Arizona State and Arizona, it's time to wear a new uniform for a different city.
They won't go No. 1, but whether it's the No. 2 pick or No. 60, the quartet will have beaten the estimated 2 percent likelihood of a college player reaching the pros. Harden is expected to be the Sun Devils' first first-round pick since Ike Diogu in 2005, and this could be the most Arizona-schooled representatives chosen in one year since the Wildcats had five players and ASU had one taken in 2001.
Matching that six-player total is unlikely in 2009, but quality will trump quantity this year, and the wait to learn their fate won't be long.
School: Arizona State
2008-2009 stats: 20.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.7 spg
Outlook: It's likely Harden will be the highest-drafted Sun Devils since Byron Scott went No. 4 in 1983. Anywhere between No. 2 and No. 5 is likely, and that would mean Memphis, Oklahoma City, Sacramento or Minnesota (thanks to a trade with Washington on Tuesday).
Given the uncertainty and lack of sizzle involving the top picks, a couple more trades are a real possibility, but the good news for Harden is that wherever he winds up, he won't be viewed as the "franchise" player the way he was at Arizona State.
Ricky Rubio's place in this draft is a wild card because of contract issues with his team in Spain and a couple high-drafting teams for whom he didn't work out (Memphis, Sacramento), and Rubio appears to have a large impact on what happens with Harden.
Harden canceled a Sacramento visit because of illness (he also plays the same position as Kevin Martin, the Kings' best player). The Grizzlies would make for a fun reunion with former USC guard O.J. Mayo and have a decent point guard in Mike Conley. Oklahoma City would be a good fit for him, as well, as he could play next to Kevin Durant and former UCLA standout Russell Westbrook.
Projection: No. 3 to Oklahoma City
2008-2009 stats: 18.3 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 1.7 bpg
Outlook: Hill and ASU forward Jeff Pendergraph made for some entertaining battles inside over the past three years, and it could continue at the next level. Hill's stock has risen considerably in the past month (though some part of that has to be because of a dearth of big men). He's probably better suited at power forward than center at 6-foot-10, 235 pounds (with some room to grow), and he has a long way to go offensively - especially in the post - but he can rebound and block shots and he's energetic. Harden probably goes first, but Hill should stay in the top 10, with Washington (No. 5), Minnesota (No. 6), Golden State (No. 7) or New York (No. 8) as likely suitors.
Projection: No. 8 to New York
2008-2009 stats: 18.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.4 spg
Outlook: Despite an excellent run with the Wildcats, Budinger took a lot of flack publicly, mostly because it always felt like he could have been even better, though having three different coaches in three years didn't help. He was one of five eligible players to surpass a 38-inch vertical leap and he has the athleticism to be a lottery pick, but it's not likely to happen. Toughness was an issue in college, and that'll only be magnified in the NBA. He should be taken late in the first round, somewhere between No. 20 and No. 30. It's a wide range, so who's the first to believe he can add strength, get tougher, defend and do things besides score?
Projection: No. 26 to Chicago
School: Arizona State
Weight: 240 pounds
2008-2009 stats: 14.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg, .660 FG
Outlook: The heart and soul of ASU's program for most of his college career, Pendergraph has the unteachable tools to carve himself a niche in the NBA (work ethic, model citizen, unselfishness). Most projections have him as an early second-round pick, but it's a draft short on size so it wouldn't be a shock if he squeezed himself into the very end of the first round. Portland at No. 33 is high on Pendergraph's wish list because it's in the West and he has some familiarity with coach Nate McMillan (father of ASU junior-to-be Jamelle McMillan), but the Blazers are short on salary cap space and roster spots, so they might end up wheelin' and dealin'.
Projection: No. 34 to Denver