Since I was interested in hearing the perspective of some NBA talent evaluators or basically because I'm lazy, I brought in Michael Levin from SB Nation's NBA Draft blog, Ridiculous Upside, to answer some questions about USC hoops and tomorrow's NBA Draft. Hope you enjoy!
Q: USC doesn't have a ton of NBA talent (only 5 players are currently on an NBA Draft roster), but some of the guys have been rather successful lately. O.J. Mayo remains one of the cornerstones of the Memphis franchise, and Taj Gibson had a fantastic rookie season this year with the Bulls. Does the recent success of 'SC draft picks have any barring on this year's draft eligible players?
A: Honestly, no. Because they come from a bigger program, sure, they'll get exposed more. But no one is looking at Taj Gibson and OJ Mayo who are completely different players but having moderate NBA success and saying that Alex Stepheson is gonna be a stud. Players are typically evaluated on a case-by-case basis, with few exceptions. Ben Howland's system in UCLA and Jay Wright's at Villanova are ones that come to mind, because they're uniquely different from the NBA game. USC does tend to run a more pro-style offense from what I understand, so that may play some advantage, but not much to guys that can't hack it.
Q: Tim Floyd was a former NBA coach and did a great job at getting guys drafted while at USC (Gabe Pruitt, Nick Young, Mayo, and Gibson, were all drafted within a 3-year span). Obviously, he did his part. What's the reputation of Kevin O'Neill as a developer of talent in most NBA circles?
A: To be determined.
(Editor's Note: Coming up with appropriate questions about USC and the NBA Draft can be rather challenging so your editor does realize that his last question was basically bull shit.)
Q: There's been some talk that USC's Marcus Johnson and Dwight Lewis may be drafted late in the 2nd round on Thursday. Is this the case? Or are they looking at just a training camp/summer league invite. Regardless, what're the odds either players cracks the league this season?
A: For whatever reason, I like Dwight Lewis as a player. He's a big guard with some (albeit limited) point guard experience that's capable of getting hot from deep. But for a guy that doesn't have the best court vision or awareness, he turns the ball over way too many times, and shoots too poor of a percentage. Marcus Johnson, on the other hand, I hate. He's been in college for about 87 years and I haven't seen any improvement in his game. I thought I saw some potential as a redshirt sophomore at UConn, but then he transfered, sat a year, had to deal with the coaching change, and blew. He shot sub-40% as a 6th year senior in the unconsciously weak Pac-10 and racked up almost 3 turnovers per game basically from the power forward position. Both seniors, both with a very little chance of getting drafted, unless they impressed some teams in workouts. I'd say D-League for Lewis and overseas for Johnson, but that's just a hunch.
Q: 'SC is also graduating another draft eligible player in Mike Gerrity. It's doubtful he gets drafted at all, but even still, what are the chances he plays professional next season (either in Europe or in the NBA).
A: Again, I have an unnatural love for Mike Gerrity. I think I'd actually like him more if he was under 6'0, but that's just because I like building an army of Gerry McNamaras. While I liked watching Gerrity play, here's another skinny point guard that shot under 40% from the field with unspectacular percentages from the foul line and beyond. There were games where he'd involve his teammates, play scrappy on defense, and hit some key shots, but then he'd jack up ill-advised three's, turn the ball over in crucial situations, and get pushed around on D. I think overseas right away. Good luck to the kid.
Q: NBADraft.net's mock draft has former Trojan commit Renardo Sidney, who played at Mississippi State, going 29th overall to Orlando. How would you size up Sidney's pro prospects?
A: You're looking at the 2011 Mock for Sidney. Freaked me out for a second though. He's a kid with tons of talent, but really no idea how to use it yet and no way of proving it until he plays a full season at Mississippi State. He seems like a decent kid that's handled all the crap well, but he's just gotta play. Also, lose some weight, gain some muscle, and work on his footwork. We'll see what he's got in a few months. I'm excited to see him play on a bigger stage.
Q: Looking into the future, there's been some talk that USC incoming junior forward/center Nikola Vucevic could make a big impact in the NBA ala Taj Gibson. What are your thoughts regarding Vucevic?
A: I think Vucevic got neglected by the media last season for a number of reasons. One, the west coast just doesn't get the pub that the east coast does. Two, the west coast sucked at basketball last year -- easily the worst season of any power conference in the past 20 years. Three, not participating in any postseason tournament hurt a lot. Next season, with Stephenson and Vucevic in the front court, they may be able to make some noise, but I think you're a few years and a few big prospects away. I blame this almost all on Davon Jefferson -- I hate him for breaking my heart. But back to Vucevic/Gibson. Yes, there's a chance that if he gets some a more consistent midrange game and keeps the opposition off the board that he could make it as a backup PF in the NBA.
Once again thanks to Michael and the staff over at Ridiculous Upside for helping us out with this Draft preview.