It's the year of the mature draft pick

June, 24, 2010
NEW YORK -- This is the year of the mature draft pick.

Trends are cyclical but for this draft, for this past college basketball season, it has become clear that the NBA isn't looking just for potential. The league is searching for players who can come in at a higher maturity level and approach the game like a pro.

So don't be surprised to see in the lottery a number of "seasoned" players selected. A few of the NBA's head coaches in the lottery have told me that the difference in professionalism in the interview process is quite grand.

The way in which Kentucky freshman John Wall (not a veteran, but someone who has handled the process like a pro), Syracuse fourth-year junior Wesley Johnson, Ohio State junior Evan Turner and Georgetown sophomore Greg Monroe carried themselves paled in comparison to other players who will be drafted on potential. You can also add in Baylor's Ekpe Udoh, who will likely be a top-six selection. Udoh started his career at Michigan and is a fourth-year junior as well.

Coaches, especially those coming into the league for their second, third or fourth stint like Doug Collins (Sixers) and Avery Johnson (Nets), don't want to wait for someone to mature. The Nets, according to a source, are going with Derrick Favors, but more so because he is a tradeable asset. It may be asking quite a bit for a 19-year-old rookie to act like a 25-year-old pro. But that's the warped world of professional basketball at this stage. Most 19-year-olds aren't mature enough to handle the demands of a man's league on and off the court -- nor should they be expected to be.

Professionalism was exuded throughout draft-day eve, notably by Turner and Johnson. They fully understand the demands that will be set forth on them, the responsibilities they will need to adhere to and how they should carry themselves, whether it was in how they dressed (nattily attired in traditional suits or business casual clothing) or how they greeted those they were meeting for the first time. They were true pros. That will serve them well in their transition and speaks volumes about the importance of college to mature, not just athletically but as a person.

I'm still an advocate of going back to the previous rule of giving high schoolers the right to turn pro if they so choose. But I'm just as much in favor of once you get to college, raising the minimum you must stay in school to two years. Once you've committed yourself to being in school, it's a mature decision that can help lead you down a more fulfilling path where you mature and grow at a more traditional rate.

Teams, owners and coaches will be served well by how Johnson and Turner handle themselves once they arrive.

• Turner didn't mince words when discussing his expectations for Ohio State incoming freshman Jared Sullinger.

"I told my buddy Talor Battle of Penn State that [Sullinger] will be the Big Ten player of the year,'' Turner said. "You heard it here first. I can't see anything less than 18 points and 10 rebounds a game. He works hard and he's been blessed with his body.

"He'll have to get in shape, but he's a better ballhandler and dribbler than people give him credit for,'' Turner said. "And he can shoot.''

Turner said he's confident the Buckeyes can challenge Michigan State and Purdue for the Big Ten title. He said the "veteran" presence of Jon Diebler, David Lighty, Dallas Lauderdale and William Buford, along with the forward Sullinger should make them a real threat.

"In the Big Ten, it's not just talent, but you need experience,'' Turner said. "We will have the pieces added with Sullinger and [incoming freshman point] Aaron Craft. The Ohio State Buckeyes will be the team to beat if they have one player that can fill my role and take over a game.''

Who would that be?

"Sullinger or Jon if his shot is on, he can be a game-changer,'' Turner said. "William Buford can do it, he's a pro. And David Lighty, too. It's all about the ability to do it. It's about who wants it more and who's not scared to take the shot. He's not scared to make the mistake and come back and get the victory.''

• After working the phones the past two days, here are early afternoon predictions for the top 15:

1. Washington -- John Wall, Fr., G, Kentucky
2. Philadelphia -- Evan Turner, Jr., G, Ohio State
3. New Jersey -- Derrick Favors, Fr., F, Georgia Tech
4. Minnesota -- Wesley Johnson, Jr., F, Syracuse
5. Sacramento -- DeMarcus Cousins, Fr., F, Kentucky
6. Golden State -- Ekpe Udoh, Jr., F, Baylor
7. Detroit -- Greg Monroe, So., F, Georgetown
8. L.A. Clippers -- Al-Farouq Aminu, So., F, Wake Forest
9. Utah -- Ed Davis, So., F, North Carolina
10. Indiana -- Paul George, So., F, Fresno State
11. New Orleans -- Patrick Patterson, Jr., F, Kentucky
12. Memphis -- Luke Babbitt, So., F, Nevada
13. Toronto -- Gordon Hayward, So., F, Butler
14. Houston -- Cole Aldrich, Jr., F, Kansas
15. Milwaukee -- Xavier Henry, Fr., F, Kansas

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer




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