Tonight, dreams will be made at the 2011 NBA Draft in New Jersey.
For 60 young men, today is the day.
(For a complete draft order, click here.)
JaJuan Johnson tested the NBA waters last season but was smart to return for his final year of eligibility. At 6-10, 221, JJ has the height to play in the league but will need to add some muscle to battle with the big guys inside the paint. He is tall but lean, and must improve his mid-range jumper when outside the lane.
In his final season in West Lafayette, Johnson averaged 20.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. He was also a consensus All-American and named the Big Ten Player of the Year. His defense could also use some work, defending the post and sliding his feet. He does a terrific job of getting his long hands up and blocking or altering shots.
E’Twaun Moore is a versatile guard, who can score from anywhere on the court, especially from outside. Last season he shot 40% from 3-pt range, and averaged 18 points and 5 rebounds a game.
Moore is a player that truly exhibits a high basketball IQ. An Academic All-American, E’Twaun just missed a perfect 4.0 GPA. His senior year of high school, he won the class 4A state championship and went on to Purdue where he is one of the winningest players of all-time.
Like Johnson, Moore entered his name in the draft last year to hear the pros and cons of his game. It would be bold to say he will get drafted tonight, although in a weaker than usual draft, anything could happen.
Now let’s turn to the Butler boys.
Matt Howard is an intriguing prospect. First and foremost, he is a winner. A winner. And what more could you ask for. He is a humble young man who didn’t have NBA aspirations at Butler his freshman year—he was just hoping to get some time on the floor.
Throughout his junior year, his game to evolve and expand. He no longer just hung out in the paint, and forced defenders to guard him from the perimeter. Butler’s first ever Final Four appearance put Howard in the spotlight alongside Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack.
Then he was a whole new man his senior year. He was an athletic big man, rebounded the heck out of the ball, and would knock down a few threes each game. Howard is a force down low, and he takes pride in outworking the opposing player.
His senior year, Matt averaged 16.4 points and 7.7 rebounds, shooting nearly 40% from downtown. Howard himself realizes he is on the bubble of being drafted. If not, there’s no question he will compete for a roster spot in training camp (pending the lockout.)
And finally, you can’t forget about former Butler star Shelvin Mack, from Lexington, Kentucky. He came out early but does expect to be drafted, probably in the 2nd round.
He averaged 16 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and hit so many big time shots in his third year at Butler. Mack is very happy with most of his workouts throughout the country but after all, teams do not put much stock on 3-on-3 workouts. Mack and Howard both have terrific resumes, back-to-back NCAA final appearances and winning mentalities.
I will be at Conseco Fieldhouse beginning at 5 pm for the Pacers draft party. Doors open to the public at 7 pm and the first 1,000 fans get a free coupon for food and drinks.
My prediction: JaJuan Johnson is drafted early in the second round, Mack in the late. Moore and Howard will go undrafted but it will work out for the best because they will be selective, finding a team that best fits them.