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June 22, 2011
Numbers don't lie on NBA draft, sort of
A handful of college basketball teams and conferences will find something to brag about in Thursday's NBA draft, even if it is one of the weakest draft classes in years.
The numbers don't lie, but they might fudge the truth: Coaches can brag about the top-five pick they coached, whether that top-five pick came in a loaded draft or a lackluster one, which is what is expected this year.
The decision to stay in school by top prospects such as Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, Baylor's Perry Jones and North Carolina's Harrison Barnes watered down the draft pool for college players. That could mean an abundance of foreign players in this year's draft.
Only one international player was selected in the first round last season, when France's Kevin Seraphin went 17th overall to the Chicago Bulls. That also meant an all-college draft lottery for the first time since 1994. The draft won't be that heavily dominated by the United States this year.
The latest mock draft from DraftExpress projects seven international players in the first round. That figure would be the most since eight international players were selected in the 2003 first round.
DraftExpress projects four international players to be drafted in the first 14 picks, which would be the most in the lottery era. Three international players were selected in the lottery in 2002 and '06.
This story isn't about the international players, though. Here, we'll look at the NBA draft numbers for schools and conferences since 2000.
Since the NBA implemented the age requirement, three of the four No. 1 picks were one-and-done players. Irving would make it four of five. The exception is Oklahoma's Blake Griffin, who was a sophomore.
With Sullinger, Jones and Barnes staying in school for their sophomore seasons, this draft will be short on one-and-done selections. Only seven college freshmen even declared for the draft, which is fewer freshmen selected in the first round of the 2008 draft (10) and the 2007 draft (eight). The fewest college freshmen to be selected in the first-round in the one-and-done era was 2009, with four. This draft class should be close to that number.
Kentucky made the biggest jump of any school in draft numbers thanks to five first-round draftees and three lottery picks last season. From 2000-09, Kentucky produced only three first-round picks, the same amount as teams such as DePaul and Fresno State. In that same time frame, the Wildcats had no lottery picks. Now, thanks to last year's draft, Kentucky is tied with Duke for the most first-rounders since 2000. Look for Kentucky's numbers to continue to improve: Guard Brandon Knight is projected to be a top-five pick this year.
Providence's Marshon Brooks seems likely to go in the first round. Should that happen, the Big East's longest first-round draft drought would belong to Pittsburgh, which hasn't had a first-round pick since 1999. But the Panthers have the best conference record (75-29) since the league expanded in 2006 and are one of only three Big East teams to reach each of the past six NCAA tournaments (Villanova and Marquette are the other two).
The only other Big Six programs without a first-round pick since 2000 are Iowa, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Oregon State, Penn State, Purdue, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Washington State. Washington State's Klay Thompson is expected to be a first-rounder this year.
The Big Ten could get shut out of the first round this year. Michigan guard Darius Morris and Purdue forward JaJuan Johnson are considered possible late first-rounders, but if they go unselected, the Big Ten will join the SEC as the only major conference to be a no-show in a first round since 2000. The SEC lacked a first-round pick in 2004 and '09.
Speaking of the Big Ten, from 2000-05 the league produced as much first-round and lottery talent as the Big 12 and Pac-10 and more than the SEC. But since 2006, the Big Ten has lagged behind the other five power conferences. The Big Ten has had 11 first-rounders since 2006, compared to 22 for the ACC, 20 each for the Big East and Pac-10, 17 for the Big 12 and 14 for the SEC.
The Big Ten has produced only four lottery picks since 2006 (three from Ohio State and one from Indiana). In the same span, the Big 12 has produced 11, the ACC, Big East and Pac-10 have produced 10 each and the SEC has produced nine.
Ohio State has the longest active streak of placing a player in the first round of the draft at four years (Evan Turner in 2010, B.J. Mullens in 2009, Kosta Koufos in 2008 and Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook in 2007). That streak likely comes to an end this year, as no Buckeye is projected to go in the first round.
Syracuse and Memphis have been represented in three consecutive first rounds, but those streaks may end as well. No team is projected to extend a streak of more than two consecutive seasons with a first-round pick.
The Pac-10 should rebound after producing only one first-rounder (Washington's Quincy Pondexter) in the last draft. The league had a combined 12 first-round picks in the 2008 and '09 drafts, and the league is expected to have at least three first-rounders this year
Arizona gets the "go big or go home" award: All five of its first-round picks since 2000 (Jordan Hill, Jerryd Bayless, Channing Fry, Andre Iguodola and Richard Jefferson) were lottery picks. That streak will continue with Williams.
The non-Big Six conferences could make a statement on draft day, not necessarily with the numbers drafted but with the programs showing up on draft day. Most of the non-Big Six first-rounders of the past decade have come from Memphis or from former Conference USA programs now in the Big East (Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette). But Kenneth Faried could be Morehead State's first basketball first-rounder and the school's first pick of any kind since 2004. Justin Harper could be Richmond's first first-rounder, too. San Diego State forward Kawhi Leonard could be the Aztecs' first draft pick since 2002 and the highest draft pick in school history (Michael Cage was the No. 14 pick in 1984).
Conference USA has produced 16 first-round draft picks since 2000, but half of those came from teams that later joined the Big East (Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville and Marquette). Rice's Morris Almond (the No. 25 pick in 2007) is the only Conference USA first-rounder since 2001 who didn't play for Memphis or a future Big East team.
Perhaps the biggest aberration in the draft numbers is Fresno State. The Bulldogs have produced the same amount of first-round draft picks (four) since 2000 as Georgetown, Illinois, Louisville and Washington and the same amount of lottery picks (three) as Ohio State and UCLA. All but one of Fresno State's first-round picks during this span played on successful teams in 2000 and 2001 that eventually had to vacate wins. Courtney Alexander was selected 13th overall in the 2000 draft, and Melvin Ely (12th overall) and Chris Jefferies (27th) were selected in the 2002 draft. Fresno State's Paul George was taken 10th overall last season.