Saturday, February 25

Where will Afflalo land in the NBA?

Thursday's NBA Draft could see junior guard going in the late first or early second round

It may have been a mistake, it may not have been.

We will all know on Thursday.

Former UCLA basketball player Arron Afflalo will learn this Thursday whether his decision to declare early for the NBA Draft was a smart one.

If he gets drafted in the first round, then the decision appears wise. He will be guaranteed an NBA contract in that event, and that would be enough to justify early entry.

If he is drafted in the second round, then the decision becomes more questionable. If he had stayed another year and had the benefit of playing with Kevin Love, his statistics may have been better and certain scouts may have become enamored with him enough to guarantee him a first round selection.

But, as of now, he is firmly planted on the bubble.

Afflalo could be drafted by the San Antonio Spurs with the No. 28 pick in the draft. The Spurs have shown some interest in him, and it is thought that Afflalo could fit in well in the Spurs’ structured, defensive minded system. Afflalo was known throughout his career as a defensive stopper, and he could be the heir apparent to the aging Bruce Bowen as a key perimeter defender for the Spurs.

Or he could fall.

Most draft projections list Afflalo as a late first round or early second round pick. But draft projections have been notoriously untrustworthy in the past. And Afflalo, with his lack of elite athleticism and a NBA-ready long-range jump shot, is not the prototypical type to rise higher than his projection.

And this is a very strong draft.

At the top are the two potential superstars, Greg Oden of Ohio State and Kevin Durant of Texas. Both Oden and Durant would have been candidates to come straight to the NBA out of high school, but with the new rules about athletes having to wait at least a year between high school and the NBA, both attended college.

The rule has helped make this draft one of the strongest in recent memory. A player like Nick Young out of USC, who in any normal year would have been a sure high-lottery pick with his great athleticism and scoring ability, is projected to go anywhere from late in the lottery to the mid-to-late first round.

Last year, Florida’s Joakim Noah arguably could have been the first pick in the draft if he had come out. This year, in ESPN’s Chad Ford’s projections, he is the No. 11 overall prospect.

In this exceptionally deep and talented draft, a good college talent like Afflalo could get lost in the shuffle.

Ford has him listed as the No. 33 overall in his prospect rankings, which would leave Afflalo just out of the first round.

Afflalo tested the draft waters last year, when he came out for the draft but did not sign an agent.

He was told by scouts and NBA talent evaluators that he needed to work on some fundamental aspects of his game, such as his dribble and his jump shot, in order to get drafted in the first round. His teammate Jordan Farmar was taken in the first round that year by the Los Angeles Lakers.

Players are only allowed to test the waters once. After putting his name in this year, Afflalo was committed to the draft. He has impressed some scouts in workouts with his fundamental play. According to Ford, he also measured 6-feet-6-inches in socks with a 6-9 wingspan, which would be good measurements for an NBA shooting guard.

Two of his teammates, sophomore point guard Darren Collison and fellow sophomore power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, also considered putting their names in the draft for this year, but ultimately decided to remain in Westwood for at least another year.

Afflalo is expected to be replaced in the Bruins’ starting lineup by Michael Roll, Josh Shipp or Russell Westbrook.

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