By Paul M. Banks and David Kay
As usual, the ACC will be represented with numerous prospects in this year’s NBA Draft. Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague emerged as a legitimate NBA caliber player thanks to the Demon Deacons winning their first sixteen games of ’08-’09 and garnering national attention. Teague is a shoot-first point guard which isn’t a discouraging trait considering his percentages this past season (49% FG, 44% 3-pt FG, 82% FT.) Some reports have the Bucks interested in him with the tenth pick, but Teague more than likely falls into the late teens/early twenties. At the Draft combine, Teague discussed what he needs to work on the most to improve his NBA stock. “Being a pure point guard, I’m a scoring point guard right now, just show them I can really run a team and get everybody involved,” he said.
At the Combine, Teague’s BFF, roommate and college teammate James Johnson’s measurements stood out. It wasn’t so much his height of 6’8”, but more his 257 pound frame. That type of strength combined with his impressive athleticism is what allowed Johnson to be successful at Wake Forest. He was able to muscle weaker defenders down low while also using his ability to drive and finish. Johnson’s range from deep leaves plenty of room for improvement, but he did develop a more consistent mid-range game as a sophomore. “I can create my own jumper and I’m an inside/outside guy,” Johnson told me when I asked him about his best selling points.
If Johnson can become a bigger threat from downtown, he could play the three at the next level and be a difficult match-up for opposing defenders. As it stands now, his game is better suited to power forward, despite his lack of height. He’s one of this draft’s many wild cards- he could go as high as #11 to the Nets, but could also easily slip down to the early twenties.
On a side note, Johnson inadvertently validated my theory that every team’s public relations department distributes a set of talking points and canned responses to each player, and trains them to recite these platitudes as responses to media queries.
I asked him if he and Teague “compare notes” at the end of the day meeting the media. “You know how we had a tumble at the end of the season, after starting off great, so sometimes we get asked the same question. We compare, we talk a little bit, it’s funny cuz they ask us the same questions, we laugh it off, because I tell him one thing, he tells them the same thing and we didn’t even talk about it,” Johnson said.
Like many Dukies, Gerald Henderson arrived in Durham with a lot of hype. But during his first two years as a Blue Devil, Henderson was known more for being the player who bloodied Tyler Hansbrough’s nose in Chapel Hill than for his performance on the court. That all changed this past season when Henderson stepped his game up and emerged as a legitimate NBA prospect. So what kind of team might be a good fit for Henderson? “I like fast pace, transition like the Phoenix Suns. I like their style of play, the way they get up and down the court,” Henderson said at the NBA Draft Combine.
His athleticism is ideal for an NBA-two guard. He is very aggressive when attacking the basket and is a great finisher around the rim. What allowed Henderson to become a more valuable player his junior season was his mid-range game. He plays well off the ball, using screens well, but can also create space with an effective pull-up jumper. From three-point range, Henderson still has issues with his consistency, hitting just 34% of his attempts this past season. Henderson also talked about who he looks up to in the Association. “A guy I like to watch a lot is Brandon Roy. With his athleticism, his strength, his ability to get to the basket, maybe him the most,” He said.
The other areas of his game help his value as he is a strong rebounder, good passer, and plays hard on the defensive end. Henderson could hear his name called as high as number nine to the Raptors on draft day and likely doesn’t fall below #16 to Chicago.
In yet another example of a public figure describing a coincidental circumstance, and mislabeling it ironic, Henderson spoke about his BFF Wayne Ellington. “Wayne’s my best friend, I played with him in high school together, he had a great career at Carolina and it’s just ironic that we came out of high school the same year and we’re going on to the next level the same year.”
(Note: I want to congratulate ESPN’s Steve Berthiaume who stated on the June 21st episode of Baseball Tonight: “In a manner of coincidence and not irony, Justin Verlander had the same home plate umpire in both of his career starts against the Brewers.”
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