Freshman 10: Rookie Ranking

    
January 31st, 2007
So ESPN has finally picked up this whole Kevin Durant/Greg Oden thing (right on time as usual) which means they will probably beat it to death like they did Lebron’s senior year of high school and make everyone hate the two of them by late March. I mean with no J.J. Redick or Bob Knight chokings or George Mason, the ESPN “personalities” need something to yell and disagree about, right?

 

The first step of the Durant/Oden media ogling began this weekend with this Page 2 article. I’m guessing this was just a shameless promotion for the two otherwise meaningless games ESPN aired Saturday night (which ended up being decent games, but that’s not the point) and Wednesday night’s doubleheader. The article, which was meant to compare Durant and Oden’s pro potential, was yet another example of ESPN’s generally poor college basketball coverage (besides Andy Katz and Hubert Davis).

 

Kieran Darcy’s exclamation-point-laden argument for Oden was terrible. Informed fans like CHN readers can probably see that just by reading the column, but I’ll save you some time and summarize why he thinks Oden is better:

·   He is big.

·   He shoots 61 percent from the foul line with his left hand.

·   Because his wrist injury requires rehab, he is a hard worker.

·   He gets good grades (or at least Darcy claims this despite not having any actual info about Oden’s grades).

·   He’s being compared to Bill Russell, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Tim Duncan.

 

The inanity of the first four arguments are obvious but I want to look at the last one. The comparisons to past NBA centers are coming from people in the media that are just as uninformed as Darcy (the comparison to Russell is one of the more irresponsible things I’ve ever heard). In fact, it’s possible Darcy is just making up these “common” comparisons because he doesn’t credit them to anyone, he just says they have been made. If I say Greg Paulus is the second-coming of John Stockton does that give the comparison any credibility? Of course not.

 

Bomani Jones writes the case for Durant and does a much better job. He recognizes the change in the way the NBA is played compared to when Russell, Robinson and Olajuwon played and the emphasis going away from size and defense and towards athleticism and scoring (see Phoenix). He also writes about how Durant has showed a mental make-up, especially in close games, that could transfer to not only stats, but wins in the NBA. He eventually gets stuck up on an Oden/Ewing comparison (again, not sure who is saying this) and a Durant/Garnett comparison but it’s a decent argument in comparison to Darcy’s.

 

So, OK, it’s a bad article, what’s the point? The point is, these two kids are going to get hyped like crazy over the next few months and every sports writer in the country is going to try to pen their own two cents. And often when all these opinions get thrown around (many of them as ignorant and irresponsible as Darcy’s) it’s the hype that gets more attention than the actual players.

 

The focus shouldn’t be who is better, who deserves No. 1 pick or which NBA legends these two are supposed to resemble. The focus should be on the fact that these are two of the most special talents college basketball has ever seen and we are just lucky to be able to watch them play in a pure basketball setting like the NCAA. Both of these guys should be gone after this year and I don’t want to waste my time arguing about who will be better on a 20-62 NBA team next year, I’d rather let their play, not the media, do all the talking.

 

On with the list. Durant and Oden have gotten their ink so no blurbs on them this week. E-mails welcome as always.

 

1.       Kevin Durant, Texas

        Stats- 24.4 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.8 bpg, 1.4 spg, 3.0 TO, 48.5 FG%, 36.9 FT%, 84.6 FT%

 

2.       Greg Oden, Ohio State

        Stats- 15.6 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 0.8 apg, 3.6 bpg, 0.5 spg, 1.9 TO, 63.7 FG%, 63.5 FT%

 

3.     D.J. Augustin, Texas – He’s flying up this list like BACs during Super Bowl Week and it seems to be due in large part to his growing confidence. Seeing him down the stretch in that Oklahoma State game (where he played all 50 minutes) and almost single-handedly carrying the Horns to a win against Villanova when Durant was struggling—it looked like a different player from the beginning of the year. He’s fourth in NCAA and first in the Big 12 in assists and despite struggling with his shot in the last two contests, he has 21 assists and three turnovers in those games.

        Stats- 13.4 ppg, 6.9 apg, 2.9 rpg, 1.5 spg, 3.1 TO, 46.4 FG%, 25-55 3-PTs, 80 FT%           

        Freshman perk- Well, he gets to play with Kevin Durant, so that’s not so bad.

 

4.       Chase Budinger, Arizona – Budinger is struggling in Pac-10 play and it’s not a coincidence that Arizona has lost five of its last seven games. He’s shooting 40 percent from the field over his last five, four Cats’ losses. He got in early foul trouble against North Carolina and then decided to jack up a shot every time he got the ball in the second half. When Arizona was playing well, it was Budinger’s ability to play the team game that made him so valuable. His overall numbers this year still make him No. 4 on the list but he needs to get his game back. Somewhere Napoleon Dynamite is sulking.

        Stats- 15.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.4 TO, 51.8 FG%, 34.2 3-PT%, 85.3 FT%

        Freshman perk- If the whole basketball thing doesn’t work out, he can always be the next Jud Buechler.

 

5.       Brandan Wright, North Carolina – Wright’s numbers have been almost boringly consistent but even his play has taken a slight hit since conference play began. With UNC being so deep, he’s not the focal point and can afford some growing pains but come March he’s going to be important. He didn’t contribute to the big win Saturday although I heard he sneezed in Arizona’s locker room before the game just for good measure.

        Stats- 15.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.7 bpg, 0.9 spg, 1.5 TO, 64.6 FG%, 55.6 FT%

        Freshman perk- When he goes to parties with Tyler Hansbrough he gets a lot of touches when Hansbrough is double-teamed by the ladies.

 

6.       Ryan Anderson, California – The Bears have lost six of their last 10 since DeVon Hardin got hurt and if it weren’t for their struggles Anderson would be getting a lot more attention. On the bright side, Anderson is getting a taste of what it’s like to be a team leader and he might be more important to his team than any freshman in the country besides Durant. Should bode well for a guy that could be around a few years.

        Stats- 17.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 0.5 spg, 1.3 TO, 49.2 FG%, 38.7 3-PT%, 80.6 FT%

        Freshman perk- Even at the most routine of photo shoots, Golden Bear groupies still show up to flash Anderson and show their support.

 

7.       Spencer Hawes, Washington- The Huskies bounced back after a terrible Pac-10 start getting a big win over Oregon last week and Hawes being at 100% was probably a big part of that. Overall though, he’s another guy whose production has dropped off since league play began. Washington still has an outside shot at a tourney bid and Hawes might be the key to those chances.

        Stats- 15.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.7 bpg, 0.6 apg, 2.6 TO, 56.2 FG%, 72.4 FT%

        Freshman perk- He was second behind Dikembe Mutombo on George Bush’s sports-related guest list for the State of the Union Address.

 

8.       Scottie Reynolds, Villanova – As I’m writing this, Reynolds isn’t having his best game against Pitt, but it’s what he’s done in past weeks that has him on the list. Excluding last night, in his last seven games he’s averaged 21 points and just under five assists after struggling to get playing time prior to that. He was also the best freshman on the court with 26 points in the Cats big win over Texas last week. He is the X-factor for a Nova team looking to build a tournament resume.

        Stats- 12.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 4.1 apg, 1.2 spg, 2.8 TO, 41.0 FG%, 37.3 3-PT%, 82.2 FT%

        Freshman perk- Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis called him an “exploding supernova,” which either means he thinks Reynolds is a good scorer or he has a sexual crush on him.

 

9.       Jon Scheyer, Duke – Man does this kill me. If you look to the left you’ll see that I despise Duke, basically for the same reasons everyone else does. I know with some people there’s a racial component to that sentiment, but that’s never really been an issue for me. So when people say they hate Jon Scheyer or J.J. Redick because they look like the dorky white kid no one ever wants for pick-up games, I don’t get it. I hate Jon Scheyer because he’s on Duke, that’s it. The problem is that he’s one of the few freshmen who has gotten better in conference play and is a big part of Duke’s ACC success. He’s averaging 15 points per game in conference and his defense and passing ability should put any Redick comparisons to rest. He also seems to have a knack for the big play in the big game… but I still hate him.

        Stats- 12.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.8 TO, 40 FG%, 36.8 3-PT%, 87.1 FT%

        Freshman perk- Already on his way to being called the Jon Gruden of college basketball.

 

10.    Robin and Brook Lopez, Stanford – Since I get to make my own rules for this list, I’ve decided if you come from the same womb you are the same Freshmen 10 entity. The resurrection of Stanford’s season has been due in large part to the emergence of Brook who had been playing second fiddle to Robin for most of the year. Of course it’s easy to get noticed when you put up a triple-double like Brook did against Cal last week with 18 points, 11 rebounds… and 12 blocks (pronounced in the Wise Lebron voice). I haven’t been able to see them play because the Pac-10 is banned from the airwaves on the East Coast but it’s clear they’ll have a big impact on the conference this year.

        Stats- Combined: 19.0 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 2.0 apg, 4.3 bpg, 3.3 TO, 51.3 FG%,

        Freshman perk- After his triple-double Brook got an extra helping of mashed potatoes at the Lopez family dinner the next night… Robin did not.

 

Heading out- Steven Curry, Davidson; Javaris Crittenton, Georgia Tech; Brandon Costner, NC State.

Honorable mention- Mike Conley, Ohio State; Taj Gibson, USC; Eugene Harvey, Seton Hall; Wesley Johnson, Iowa State; Wayne Ellington, UNC; Jonathan Rodriguez, Campbell; Patrick Beverly, Arkansas; Ty Lawson, UNC; Daequan Cook, Ohio State; Thaddeus Young, Georgia Tech; Tyler Smith, Iowa; Jeremy Wise, Southern Miss; Paul Harris, Syracuse.