Blake Griffin is both the No. 1 pick and the best future pro in this draft class. He’s like a 6-10 version of Charles Barkley with stupid athleticism, a great motor, and legitimate ball skills. And Griffin is really 6-10 – there won’t be a Michael Beasley height crisis with him come draft time. He’s got the top spot locked up.
So who’s number two?
Right now, most draft boards have UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet, Arizona’s Jordan Hill, or Arizona State’s James Harden in the two-hole. They then fill out the rest of the top five with the other two and some combination of Brandon Jennings, Duke’s Gerald Henderson and USC’s DeMar DeRozan. You don’t see Louisville’s Earl Clark until 7th on one site, and as late as 13th on another. If GM’s actually see the real draft board taking this general shape, they’re sorely mistaken.
Clark’s game is built for the League. At 6-9, he’s got a two-guard’s first step. With the exception of one game against UConn’s Stanley Robinson during Big East play, I haven’t seen Clark struggle to get into the lane off of a quick burst against anyone this year. It didn’t matter who Michigan State put in front of him yesterday, Clark was able to get into the second-layer of the D. That’s where I think Clark separates himself from the pack. He doesn’t try to finish everything at the rim. Instead, he maintains picturesque shooting form and pulls between six and ten feet when the defense collapses. Aside from LeBron, who can finish over and through anyone in the universe, great scorers all look to get to spots on the floor where they know they can get a bucket. Paul Pierce and Kobe are the two best at this in today’s game – if they get within a step of the free throw line, just count it. Clark has the foundation for that type of game.
His quickness translates to both sides of the ball. At times during yesterday’s loss to Michigan State, Rick Pitino had him D-ing up in the backcourt as part of Louisville’s light two-man full-court pressure. He pestered Spartan PG Kalin Lucas on a couple of trips; and Big 10 POY Lucas could very well be the quickest guy with the rock in the nation. Clark might not have the upper body strength to guard a big three, but his quickness would allow him to stick with an NBA two-guard right now.
Everyone wants to say that this is the weakest draft class in recent memory – some say of all time. Maybe that’s why Clark is going to be the second best pro to come out of it. But he’d be a special player no matter the other guys in his class.