NBA Draft awaits for those who dare to dream - Part 1

Jared Trexler
College Basketball Contributing Editor

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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Aspirations are bred from hard work, accolades collected, a resume built. Dreams are byproducts of those aspirations, allowing the subconscious to drift, even for a second, to goals realized.

Before the end game, all one has to go on is his accomplishments, skills and a little emotion that grabs at all of us: hope. But the question remains, as it often does, what comes after hope?

In the simplest terms, success or failure with a middle ground that doesn't even last the extent of the first rookie contract. Graduating seniors, early entrants and international stars will all convene in New York in less than three weeks for the NBA Draft with dollar signs on the line for some and a livelihood decided for others.

NBA scouts and front office personnel will sift through game tapes, scouting reports, individual interviews and workout assessments with no stone unturned. Strengths will be accentuated, flaws will be exposed, and in the end, dreams will come true for some, not others, but until then they all share hope.

In the meantime, NBA Editor John McMullen and I discuss below tangible skills and which players will best climb the steep learning curve. For my part, I will look back at what they showed on the collegiate level, while McMullen postulates how those accomplishments and skills equate to the League. We will discuss six players in this column, ranging from lottery pick to those rising and others clinging to hope of hearing their name called on draft night, and six more next week.

Kyrie Irving averaged 17.5 points per game for Duke last season.
Kyrie Irving (PG, Duke)

What he showed in the past (Trexler): Irving's resume, while thin in length, more than passes the eye test. He played in just 11 games during his lone season for Duke because of a foot injury that kept him in a walking boot. But, when in Nikes, Irving averaged 17.5 points per game, shot nearly 53 percent from the floor and shot a nearly unguardable 46 percent from long range when you factor in his explosiveness to the rim. Rust may have been his lone drawback if not for game-by-game improvement once he returned in the NCAA Tournament, including a 28-point explosion in the Sweet 16 loss to Arizona. Opposing point guards couldn't guard his first step, and his decision-making and overall ballhanding far exceeded normal expectations for a freshman. He also embraced a leadership role on what was already a veteran team, asserting himself on the floor and gaining the respect of his teammates.

What he can show in the future (McMullen): The NBA is becoming more of a point guard-driven league and Irving is a true quarterback with the innate feel to make other players better. He has tremendous vision and the burst to blow by defenders on the dribble. He's also a solid decision maker that will not force shots or spend too much time dribbling. The jumper is also there, but like most rookies, he will need a little time to develop the type of consistency from long-range teams desire.

Durability is obviously a concern and Irving doesn't possess the top-tier athletic ability of the NBA's truly elite point guards like Derrick Rose, Deron Williams or Chris Paul.

Derrick Williams (F, Arizona)

What he showed in the past (Trexler): Already known as a freak athlete, Williams added polish to his game during Arizona's NCAA Tournament run. His basketball IQ was on full display against Memphis, getting to the charity stripe nine times (and making all nine) after struggling to a 1-of-9 effort from long range. He showed physicality against Texas, grabbing nine rebounds to go along with 17 points. His outside stroke, deadly by big man standards, returned (5-of-6 from three-point range) in a 32-point onslaught against Duke before an all-around solid 20-point, five-rebound effort in the loss to eventual national champion UConn. Williams is a load, but is very comfortable facing the basket and creating offense off the dribble. He can hover above the arc (shooting 56.8 percent on 74 attempts) and is very good in isolation sets (that just screams NBA-ready). He can be sloppy with the ball, shown in several stretches during the Pac-10 season, and he wasn't a big factor on the backboards until the clock struck March.

What he can show in the future (McMullen): The Arizona star is probably the most NBA-skilled player in this year's draft. A player with tremendous speed and quickness as well as length, Williams is also solid fundamentally and has been called a poor man's LeBron James by some. The body is there to absorb contact and flourish in the mid-range game, but Williams needs to improve the consistency on the jumper and may be a bit of a tweener, at least size wise.

Enes Kanter (C, Kentucky)

What he showed in the past (Trexler): There is not much to draw on from prep school. He was ineligible after committing to Kentucky, so only has minimal tape to pull from when assessing his body of work. He didn't do much for the Turkey National Team in 2008-09, averaging just two points and a 1.5 rebounds per contest in four games. His measurables are what enticed Wildcats head coach John Calipari during the recruiting process, and those same numbers (7-1 1/2 wingspan, 6-foot-11 in shoes with a 9-1 1/2 standing reach) are what NBA scouts will point to when he is likely selected in the early part of the lottery.

What he can show in the future (McMullen): Kanter possesses nice natural size, strength and a soft, polished scoring touch. In fact, it's rare to see a player at his age who combines upper echelon basketball strength with a sharp skill level. The Turkish product also has the hands and basketball IQ to develop pretty quickly and could have the biggest upside in this year's draft. However, like a lot of big guys, Kanter has had a history of knee problems and that will scare off some suitors.

Klay Thompson (G, Washington State)

What he showed in the past (Trexler): Catching the basketball, turning to face the rim and squaring in one motion is a lost art in a game built solely on offense created with the ball. Thompson excelled in his movement off the ball, which led to an eye-opening junior season (21.6 points per game, a nearly 40 percent marksmanship from three-point range) and All-Pac-10 First Team honors. He was almost strictly a jump shooter for the Cougars, taking 308 jump shots compared to 123 shots around the rim according to Synergy). He isn't as comfortable using the dribble to create shots and draw fouls, but he did develop a mid-range jumper and floater in the lane off the bounce. Thompson developed keen court vision later in his collegiate career, averaging nearly four assists per game, which is a solid number for a player that averaged just over 16 shots per contest.

What he can show in the future (McMullen): The second-best pure shooter available behind BYU's Jimmer Fredette, Thompson will head to the NBA with a defined role. A player like Thompson should always pattern his game on Reggie Miller and he does flourish off the ball as mentioned above. Thompson stays active and has a good understanding on how to come off screens to get spacing for the jumper. He is, however, just an average athlete by NBA standards and will struggle with lengthy defenders; Thompson is a much better player in the half-court set than in transition.

Kenneth Faried (F, Morehead State)

What he showed in the past (Trexler): Attacking the glass without the basketball can't be taught. In that respect, Faried is in a rare class. He averaged 14.5 boards per game last season, making a name for his rebounding prowess just as Morehead State was making its own name with a stunning upset of Louisville in the NCAA Tournament opener. Faried's best attributes are his hustle, toughness and tenacity, traits that served him well playing against Ohio Valley Conference competition. He proved his high-energy game can stand up against top-notch competition with his 12-point, 17-rebound effort against the Cardinals and an 11-point, 13-rebound stat sheet in the season-ending loss to Richmond. Faried was the king of the 50-50 play, and the Eagles personified his effort. It became evident in watching some tape from late in the season that his offensive game is based on putbacks and easy shots around the rim. He didn't demonstrated much of a back-to-the-basket game and was heavily reliant on his right hand, even when the shot called for his left. He became uncomfortable when a defender forced multiple dribbles or didn't allow for a drop-step move.

What he can show in the future (McMullen): Faried is an undersized NBA power forward but he's a beast on the glass, plays with a ton of energy and loves banging down low. The Newark, New Jersey, native is also an explosive athlete with the leaping ability and length to make him a better shot-blocker than his size indicates. He also loves the dirty work and will quickly develop into a favorite of any coaching staff. The offensive skills on the low post, however, are very raw as are his skills facing the hoop.

Justin Harper (F, Richmond)

What he showed in the past (Trexler): Efficiency is a metric discovered best through observation. Harper's improvement has been a sight to see over the last four years, transforming his body and his game from lanky and raw to built and polished. He increased his scoring average by over seven points per game between his junior and senior seasons, as he embraced a more active role in the offense by, well, becoming more active, moving more aggressively off the ball and asserting himself with it. The 6-foot-8 swingman is a solid outside shooter (he made 44.8 percent of his long-range shots as a senior) and an effective rebounder (6.9 per game last season). His 6-foot-11 3/4 wingspan allows him to create space offensively with his body and bother shooters defensively, as he averaged over a block a game for the Spiders in 2010-2011. How that translates to the next level is McMullen's guess, but his rapid improvement and ascension into a go-to player was apparent during his senior season.

What he can show in the future (McMullen): A long combo forward, Harper has shooting range out to the NBA three-point line in the mold of a Channing Frye. He's really just a perimeter player offensively that can stretch the floor or excel in pick-and-pop situations. He also handles the ball very well for a 6- foot-9 player and will be able to take defenders off the dribble. His upside as a defender is lacking, however. Harper just doesn't have the strength to handle an NBA power forward and certainly lacks the lateral quickness to check a quality wing player.

Trexler is the author of "99 Things You Wish You Knew Before...Filling Out Your Hoops Bracket." Click HERE to purchase the Kindle version...and stay tuned on an updated hardcopy edition this winter! Trexler also wrote "Penn State Football: An Interactive Guide To The World of Sports", a detailed look at the Nittany Lions' storied football history. It can be purchased HERE.

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