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Monday, July 02, 2007

ESPN Insider "Top Prospects for Next June's NBA Draft"

Indiana has a gem in Eric Gordon
By Fran Fraschilla
Special to ESPN Insider
Updated: June 29, 2007

Although there are varying opinions on what the one-and-done rule will do for the college game and the NBA, it's been a roaring success so far. Not only did Greg Oden and Kevin Durant headline an electric NBA draft, considered one of the deepest in recent years, but six other freshmen were taken in the first round. Clearly, a season of college basketball branded them as household names and turned them into can't-miss NBA prospects.

What better examples of the success of this than Durant's sweep of the national Player of the Year awards and the NCAA Tournament performances of Oden and Mike Conley Jr. en route to the title game.

And with the NBA rule firmly in place, this trend is showing no sign of slowing. Get ready for some more precocious freshmen dominating the college landscape and leading their teams to top-10 status.

So here are my top prospects for next June's NBA draft.

1. Eric Gordon, Fr., G, Indiana
Has the size and strength to be a combo guard from Day 1 in the NBA. Look for him to have a monster one-and-done freshman year for Kelvin Sampson's revitalized Hoosiers.

2. Derrick Rose, Fr., G, Memphis
If all goes well for Rose in Coach Cal's up-tempo system, he should be the 2008 draft's version of Conley. No one comes into college basketball this season with a better reputation as a passer.

3. O.J. Mayo, Fr., G, Southern California
Already a household name, Mayo will replace departed Trojans draft picks Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt in Tim Floyd's USC backcourt next season. A do-it-all guard who is physically ready for the league, he just needs to tighten up his game to hear his name called early in next year's draft.

4. Roy Hibbert, Sr., C, Georgetown
The definition of a late bloomer, Hibbert will continue to flourish in JT3's pass-first offensive system. Although he might not be Ewing or Mourning, he will continue a long line of Hoyas centers who go early in the draft.

5. Darrell Arthur, Soph., F, Kansas
Although Arthur would have been a top-10 pick this year, his continued improvement under Bill Self as a Jayhawks sophomore could land him in the top three next June. He is a skilled power forward who is 15 pounds and a little more experience from being an impact rookie.

And because I couldn't help myself, here's one international player to watch, as well.

6. Victor Claver, 6-10, PF, Spain
This upcoming class of internationals, born in 1988, might be one of the best ever. Claver is the poster child for this group, although we might not see him in the league for two or three more seasons.

Fran Fraschilla, a college basketball analyst for ESPN, is a regular contributor to Insider.

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