Thursday, May 24, 2007

End of the Bench: Top 10 Players Board, II

By Jared Trexler
The Phanatic Magazine

So this space struck its first chord in yesterday's column, and its anger resides in Columbus, Ohio. You'd think unequivocally endorsing Greg Oden as the draft's top player would appease my Buckeye-loving friends.

But, like Jim Tressel at the all-you-can-eat recruiting table, they are greedy. Maybe they need to spend an extra semester in school because of too much partying during Ohio State's championship game run. Maybe they found out where I got my diploma.

It's a good possibility they have a man crush on Mike Conley, Jr.

Speaking of Conley, he was the focus of two rants from Buckeye Nation -- typed with anger straight into the email box of "Satan."

Let's kick off the Final 5 with those emails before rounding out our board. As always, shoot me off an email at

Roger (The Horseshoe, OH)

Dear Satan,

Al Thornton ahead of Mike Conley? Where was Big Al in the NCAA Tournament when Conley singlehandedly led the Buckeyes to victory with Oden constantly in foul trouble. The kid is left-handed, always a plus, is great with the ball and is unselfish. Thornton is a great athlete, but Conley is the better PLAYER. Moron. No wonder you write for this no-name BS.

Dear Roger,

First, the Horseshoe isn't all it's cracked up to be. Second, I believe if one single player and one single shot defined Ohio State's survive-and-advance run to the title game, it was Ron Lewis' heave to force OT in the second round against Xavier. Third, I'm not talking about the best college player, though I believe Thornton's resume over four years in the ACC stands up impressively against Conley's tournament run. Remember, Conley is a detriment at times on offense because of his lack of a perimeter game. NBA defenders will have an easier time controlling his dribble penetration, forcing him to improve on an inadequate deep game. Don't get me wrong, Conley is a great player and a pure point guard -- a pass-first guard who will make a big-time scorer happy at the next level, but I'm not sure he can change games. Thornton can, and that's why he just edged out your Buckeye.

Nate (Columbus, OH)

You are a moron. Did you even watch the NCAA Tournament? How did you ever get a job on this website? Mike Conley is smart, great with the ball and a finisher around the rim. He also has a fantastic mid-range game, a lost art in the NBA these days. Al Thornton? Another sports writer enamored with dunking.


You are falling for the trap as another casual fan with selective memory. I watched Conley play about a half dozen times in Big 10 conference games and his defenders consistently sagged off and forced him to hit the outside shot. He started making more in the NCAAs, opening up his dribble-drive-finish and dribble-drive-dish games, but he needs to hit those shots regularly before I start comparing him to the Andre Millers of the world. I agree, Conley does have a fantastic mid-range game, but I question his ability to utilize the pull-up jumper with longer, faster defenders riding his hip. It'll be interesting to see.

6. Mike Conley, Jr. (Ohio State)

There is plenty of pluses and minuses on Conley above. He'll be a good, solid point guard for many years. He's just not a GAME-CHANGER. O-H-I-O. O-H-I-O.

7. Jeff Green (Georgetown)

The reigning Big East Player of the Year may be the safest pick of the lot -- save God's two gifts to hoops. Green announced Wednesday he is staying the draft, but likely won't be selected until the early teens. MISTAKE! The Georgetown star's basketball IQ is genius, he understands the nuances of defense, allowing him to exploit individual weaknesses and holes in a team defense (i.e. the foul line in a 2-3 zone, a hard curl off a screen in man-to-man). He uses the window effectively from either block, has an underrated 16-foot and in game and rebounds well for his size. Green's only weakness may be the extension, or lack thereof, of his offensive game. He appears comfortable from the foul line and in, but at just 6-8 needs to develop somewhat of a perimeter game.

8. Al Horford (Florida)

Horford is ranked higher than this if I was measuring NBA-ready prospects. Another safe selection, Horford had an NBA body in high school, yet developed necessary complementary skills during the back-to-back title runs in the Swamp. The 6-9 forward is excellent on either block with his back to the basket, though he worked hard on and developed a nice 8 to 10 foot baseline face-up jumper during his junior season. Fundamentally sound on both ends, Horford utilizes his wide build on block-outs and is a superb interior passer. He is a can't-miss solid pro, but again not a game-changer. If he develops a foul line jumper and works on his legs to get some extra spring, that could change.

9. Acie Law (Texas A&M)

Law's face may appear next to "it" in the dictionary. Undersized and not as athletically gifted as his counterparts, Law just works harder in practice then takes that some tenacity to game action. Like a good coach always says, "you can't teach want to." Law wants to be a dynamic pro player and chances are he will fit in nicely as a combo guard with a decent long game, deceptive quickness off the bounce and the ability to finish during contact. Don't let his slender appearance fool you. The reigning Big 12 Conference Player of the Year is tough as nails, a mentality many pampered college athletes don't discover until they've been physically beaten once around the league. Law has a step up on players (Julian Wright, Thaddeus Young) more talented because of that trait. Stick him alongside or as a super sub with Hornets guard Chris Paul or Bobcats point man Raymond Felton, and you have a glue guy for years to come.

10. Spencer Hawes (Washington)

He has the prototype body and offensive skill set to match. But does he have the toughness, the wherewithal, that extra something inherent in all top-notch NBA big men? I'm not sure Hawes has discovered that mean streak, an aura of cockiness and confidence that elevates games and establishes reputations. The NBA is very much a reputation league, and you aren't going to the foul line 10 times a game or getting away with the extra step unless you BELIEVE you've earned it. That's the history lesson. In the present, Hawes is a fantastic face-up big man with solid rebounding skills. He uses his body well, it's a big body, but some question his footwork and agility on the defensive end of the floor.


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