Here comes our fourth edition of Pro or No and now we are looking at some Pac-10 (or do we now start calling it 12?) prospects. I reached out to one of my good friends who lives on the West Coast and is a HUGE basketball fan for these previews. Trusted his judgement and he didn’t disappoint. Some pretty comical best/worst case scenarios.
Isaiah Thomas, Washington, Jr. – PG
Overview: Isaiah Thomas is an interesting case to open the Pac 10 Pro or No series. He has said he has no intention to return to Washington for his senior season, but he has not hired an agent. The multi-talented Thomas faces an uphill battle to become a professional. The main hurdle he must overcome is convincing NBA teams that his height (listed at 5’9”) is not a detriment to his game. Beyond that, Isaiah must continue to improve his jump shot, which was markedly improved this season but is still not NBA caliber. Despite these two knocks, Thomas brings a lot to the table. As someone who watched every game this year (biased Husky fan), I can say that Thomas plays the game at 110 MPH an hour with one intention: winning basketball games. Look no further than his play in the Pac-10 tournament this season. Washington entered the tournament mired in a second-half slump, partially attributable to the loss of fellow PG Abdul Gaddy (actually a blessing in disguise for Thomas who got to play a ton of point and showed NBA minds what he can do) and the suspension of G Venoy Overton. All Thomas did was play every minute but 2 in a 3-game in 3-day stretch while averaging a red-hot 19.6 points and 10 assists. By the way, he ended the tournament with a shot for the ages, hitting a step-back, fadeaway jumper as time expired in overtime to deliver his ultimate goal: a win and the Pac-10 tournament title.
Best Case: Isaiah Thomas’ best-case scenario is that a general manager falls in love with him during the pre-draft process and wants him on his team. Thomas possesses the personality to accomplish this. His passion for the game and will to win could find its way to an old-school GM who wants to take a chance. If this happens, I fully expect Isaiah Thomas to become a fan favorite. It’s easy to fall in love with a diminutive guard, but fans will really come to love his style of play. Thomas has the ability to make a mid-December home game against the Raptors exciting. Isaiah can come off the bench and score 15 points in 8 minutes, combining fearless drives with timely jumpers as he whips a lifeless crowd into a frenzy.
Worst-Case: Thomas fails to show any improvement in his jumper in the next two months and gets outplayed at pre-draft events. In this scenario, Thomas could potentially go undrafted and face a much tougher road to fulfilling his hoop dreams. I’d argue his game has too much upside for him to go undrafted, but experts seem to disagree.
A Wazzu Cougar and the potential number 1 pick after the jump!
Klay Thompson, Washington State, Jr. – SG
Overview: Undoubtedly gifted and the son of former Number 1 Overall pick Mychal Thompson, Klay Thompson is next in line for this series. Undecided on the draft, Klay has improved his game year after year yet still has plenty of questions to answer. First and foremost, he needs to somehow prove he can be counted on. Missed buses and a marijuana arrest mid-season have littered his scouting report with the dreaded two words “character problems.” While he isn’t dealing with NFL standards, Klay’s actions have opened the door for lots of questions. Beyond all of that lies a player that can be totally lethal from long range and is capable of scoring at the NBA level. Thompson needs to look for his teammates more often off the dribble. He could stand to add some more size to his frame for the 82 game schedule and this should also help his rebounding, which is merely average, and his defense, which leaves you wondering if he only cares about scoring. Herein lies the great Klay Thompson question: is he just a great college scorer who doesn’t realize he needs to round his entire game to become a star? He has shown all the flashes, but he hasn’t shown the will to go score 30, guard the other teams best wing player, all the while collecting his fair share of boards.
Best Case: Thompson’s dad whips his butt all spring and he gets drafted in the middle to late first round. From there he erases concerns of only being a gifted scorer while committing to improving his weaknesses. He has a Landry Fields-esque rookie year by exceeding expectations. It all culminates in Klay knocking down big shots in a first round playoff series for a team like the Mavericks or Nuggets.
Worst Case: General Managers league-wide humble Klay and let him slip to the second round pick. Thompson is drafted into a young, immature locker room in Sacramento/Anaheim. He never attempts to improve his defense and rebounding while gunning non-stop in blowout losses. Tyreke Evans attacks him in front of reporters over a weed debt the same night DeMarcus Cousins walks off the court in the second quarter after Klay freezes him out.
Derrick Williams, Arizona, So. – PF
Overview: What is left to be said about Derrick Williams? A surefire top-3 pick, Williams has athleticism to complement a refined inside-outside game replete with superior rebounding and consistently tough defense. Williams can take over games by attacking defenses relentlessly. Once he wears them down and gets them in foul trouble, DWill finishes it at the Free Throw line. If a team has plenty of bodies to throw at him, Williams will step out to the 3-point line where he shot an otherworldly 57% this season. The next step to his progression is becoming a better passer from the 3-point line. Pair him with smart and athletic guards and this part of his game will come naturally. It will also be a lethal combo to defend because respect for his 3-point shot will leave plenty of lanes for his guards to work without the ball.
Best-Case: Williams goes number 2 overall and resurrects the Cavaliers franchise. The franchise will get a genuinely exciting young player that will have moments of freakishness that will have even the most beatdown Cavs fans excited. The franchise begins improving post-LeBron and drafts the next John Calipari PG in the 2012 draft. Williams and unnamed PG lead them to a 6 seed in Year 2. The Cavs are on their way back.
Worst-Case: DWill goes number 2 to the Cleveland Cavaliers and suffers the unknown virus that effects roughly half of all number 2 picks since the Sam Bowie Pick (see Simmons column in the NBA Power Poll where he explains as he best can). The Cavs struggle again next year and have the worst record in the league. Fans resort to calling him Darko Williams because they passed on Kemba Walker (who ends up playing like Dwayne Wade and wins Rookie of the Year