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June 20, 2007
By Steve Aschburner
Special to CSTV.com
So Kevin Durant has the upper-body strength of Jimmy Durante, who has been dead since 1980. So he has the lateral explosiveness of Kevin "Wonder Years"
Durant still is going to be the second player selected in the NBA Draft June 28, if for no reason other than the Seattle Sonics dare not open themselves up to years, maybe even decades, of second-guessing.
Durant's disappointing scores in the NBA pre-draft physical testing were a little surprising, given the time prospects typically spend in weight rooms. Strength is important in the pros, especially on defense. But skills are even more important, and the guys with the gaudiest strength and quickness results haven't otherwise been able to match Durant in droolability over his basketball talents.
This is a kid who has charisma, too, which could carry forward in a natural and geographic rivalry with likely No. 1 pick Greg Oden--assuming Oden goes to Portland and Durant heads even more into the Pacific Northwest to Seattle--that could endure for years.
Veteran Sonics guard Ray Allen, no weight-room icon himself, didn't sound worried about Durant's potential to help with the team's scoring load, whether he's able to personally move a piano or not.
"He looks like he can really score the basketball," Allen told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "And he has good height on him. Some college players who come into the pros have to put a few pounds on, but then there's an adjustment period to understand what the game is about."
That, more than the power of Durant's pecks and biceps, will dictate how quickly he blossoms into a star out of a small-forward class considered unusually deep this year. Here is a glimpse of the top 10 prospects from that group:
Kevin Durant, Texas, Freshman: 6-foot-10, 190
Durant doesn't just play the game, he knows the game, an instinctive grasp that enables him to succeed and help teammates without the sheer physical presence that some scouts might prefer. He dominated college basketball last season like few in recent memory, and he doesn't flinch from lofty expectations coming from a franchise and a fan base with no small amount of uncertainty these days. "I don't see myself as a savior or anything," Durant said recently. "I just want to work hard every day."
Jeff Green, Georgetown, Junior: 6-foot-8, 228
Green is a little shorter, a little stronger and a little less developed version of Durant. An all-around player who actually is a better defender, Green doesn't excel at any particular area whereas Durant does so many things well. We don't mean to overstate that--being good, if not great, at multiple tasks is why Green will be the second small forward selected. Mostly, Green has to gain consistency with his shot and show which position suits him best.
Julian Wright, Kansas, Sophomore: 6-foot-8, 220
Scouts talk about Wright's smarts and unselfishness, two ingredients the NBA always needs. He is a tremendous athlete who continues to work on his shooting, and he has the quickness necessary to get inside. His long arms and footwork make him a valuable defender. People sense a toughness in his game.
Al Thornton, Florida State, Senior: 6-foot-7, 221
Thaddeus Young, Georgia Tech, Freshman: 6-foot-8, 217
A southpaw who has increased his shooting range, Young has the mobility and size to guard both backcourt and frontcourt foes. He is dangerous in the open court, has a knack for passing the ball and isn't afraid of the work needed to get better. He tends to need the ball more than he ought to, if he's going to help inside at this position.
Derrick Byars, Vanderbilt, Senior: 6-foot-7, 225
A true swingman, Byars is an avid defender and a reliable shooter when he has time. He's not a natural slasher and has average quickness, but Byars impressed scouts in his senior season, his stock rising at tournament time. He will be a help off the bench for a middle first-round team.
Tucker's size has folks wondering if this is his best position, but his lack of perimeter skills make shooting guard a challenge, too. Tucker is good around the basket, is a creative finisher and has developed a decent jumper from medium range. He shoots best when he has his feet planted, and he could stand to goose his defensive energy.
Terry is more advanced as a defender than at the other end of the floor at this stage. Consistency is a challenge, which might stem from losing focus. He is a terrific athlete with a great wingspan, which helps him get his hands on passes and pluck rebounds.
Marcus Williams, Arizona, Sophomore: 6-foot-7, 205
A good ballhandler, Williams is able to post up smaller opponents and moves well without the basketball. He isn't as active on defense as he needs to be, and he needs to get stronger. Still, he's not afraid of contact as a way to get to the foul line.
Demetris Nichols, Syracuse, Senior: 6-foot-7, 205
Nichols is a big-time shooter with range out to the NBA arc. He is savvy at using screens and fakes to shed defenders, though he isn't always able to finish after getting fouled. He'll be challenged defensively, but he did improve during his time at
Steve Aschburner is a senior NBA reporter and columnist, covering the Minnesota Timberwolves for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for 13 seasons and serving as president of the Professional Basketball Writers Association from 2005-07.