2011 NBA Draft Preview

This year’s NBA Draft has been mocked, both in terms of those who have made fun of the lack of talent and in the traditional sense of a million different mock drafts across the internet. But for Gator fans, the strength of the draft or whether Kyrie Irving or Derek Williams goes first are rather insignificant. The only thing we want to know is where the next batch of Gators NBA stars will play.

The NBA has seen an explosion of Florida flavor over the past decade. Before Billy Donovan started cranking out quality players that could make the jump to the league, UF hadn’t made much of an impact on pro ball. Right before Billyball, Andrew Declerq was able to make the jump and carved out a solid career as a 10th to 12th man for 10 years. 10 Years?! Amazing. Declerq played in the second most games of any former Gator to that point because he had a ton of heart and worked harder than anyone (which we knew from his days in Gainesville). The opposite of Declerq was Vernon Maxwell, who played the most NBA games of any former Gator by relying on great skills minus the work ethic. Mad Max hit some big shots, scored plenty of points and won a couple of titles with the Rockets. But he was known even more for his off-the-court antics. Same thing could be said for Dwayne Schintzius. Before those two, Neal Walk was the second overall pick in the 1969 draft behind Lew Alcindor. Walk played parts of eight seasons in the NBA, was a serviceable big man and once led the league in fouls. And that was pretty much the extent of the Orange and Blue in the league for 30 years.

But post Billy, the Gators have stormed the NBA. The NBA Finals showcased Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem in supporting roles for the Miami Heat. The Mavericks won the title with Corey Brewer on the bench. The NBA is now at a point where most nights, if you flip on a game, you are likely to see a Gator playing. That’s an amazing turnaround from 15 years ago. Joakim Noah and Al Horford are All-Stars and will be for many years. Haslem, Miller and Matt Bonner are grisled veterans on contending teams.

So that brings us back to this year’s draft. Three Gators are eligible for this year’s draft. Chandler Parsons, Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus all have a chance to play at the next level. Part of that is because of their individual skill sets, part of it is what they learned and how they developed in Gainesville and part of it is because of the recent success of so many Gators before them.

Tyus has the slimmest chances of the three. There is little chance he will hear his name called on Thursday. DraftExpress.com pegs him as a raw prospect who will have to spend time overseas and develop the ability to consistently shoot from outside to have any chance at someday making the league.

Vernon Macklin is a possibility late in the draft. He has an NBA body and can finish around the basket with his patented jump hook. But he was so inconsistent and unfocused at times at Florida that it is hard to see an NBA team wasting a pick on him. I can’t find a mock draft that has him being drafted. However, Macklin has the skills to catch on eventually in the NBA if he can just find the motor and develop a consistent face-up jumper (a lot like Haslem had to do before the Heat signed him).

Chandler Parsons was Florida’s best player last year, the top player in the SEC and is the most likely Gator to succeed in this class. Parsons has been a workout fiend around the league for the past month. NBA writers and scouts have been singing his praises. Parsons spent a month out here in Los Angeles working with my friend, former NBA player Don MacLean. MacLean told me that he really thought Parsons would go in the first round. I’ve seen him pegged to the New Jersey Nets at 27. ESPN’s Chad Ford has him going at the top of the 2nd round to the Cleveland Cavaliers. NBAdraft.net has him at 41 to the Los Angeles Lakers. ESPN’s John Hollinger, though, doesn’t have Parsons in his top 60. Basketball Prospectus compares Parsons most closely to former Tar Heel David Noel, a second round pick in 2006 who played one season in the league. Here’s Parsons workout video, courtesy of DraftExpress.com.

So there is a pretty big window for Parsons. His game reminds me a lot of Danny Granger, who Parsons actually worked out against while under MacLean’s tutelage. He is not as consistent a scorer as Granger but he can definitely play in the league. I personally see him as anywhere from a poor man’s Granger, to a taller James Harden, to a Tayshaun Prince or Mike Dunleavy type. If he can’t defend and can’t consistently hit his jump shot, though, Hollinger could be right and he could flame out.

But given the way Gators have performed of late, don’t be surprised to see Parsons playing crunch time minutes on a playoff team in the next couple of years, Macklin banging bodies as a 10th man or Tyus improving his game in Europe.

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