- Chad Ford, Senior Writer, NBA Insider
After a major down season in 2009-10, the Pac-10 rebounded a bit last season -- both on the court and on draft day.
Conference player of the year Derrick Williams was the No. 2 pick in the draft. Washington State's Klay Thompson went in the lottery. USC's Nikola Vucevic and UCLA's Tyler Honeycutt were also first-round picks.
This season things don't look quite as good for the newly renamed Pac-12 -- at least at the top of the draft. The conference doesn't have another Williams -- but a number of prospects could be lottery picks with a great season. I spoke with a number of NBA scouts to get a take on five players they'll be scouting closely in the Pac-12 this season. Here's the breakdown:
1. Josh Smith, C, So., UCLA
Top 100 Ranking: 23
Smith is big and NBA teams like big. The question for him is simply ... will he be too much of a good thing? When Smith is in shape (and out of foul trouble), he's a force in the middle and one of the few legit centers in the draft. Smith has great hands, is surprisingly quick for a player his size and can dominate the glass when he wants to.
As a freshman his production didn't scream lottery pick, but he's expected to play a much bigger role for the Bruins this season. If he gets his weight somewhere south of 300 pounds and plays with more heart, he could become a lottery pick.
2. Terrence Ross, SG, So., Washington
Top 100 Ranking: 24
Ross didn't get nearly the hype of other freshmen last season -- but his strong play at the end of the year combined with terrific showings in the various summer camps have NBA scouts excited about his potential.
UW coach Lorenzo Romar says that Ross has the potential to be his next Brandon Roy. I haven't found a scout that is willing to go that far yet, but Ross does have a very complete game. He's a good athlete, can really shoot the ball and knows how to get his own shot. If he has a breakout season as a sophomore, he'll fly up the charts.
3. Josiah Turner, PG, Fr., Arizona
Top 100 Ranking: 26
Turner has as much potential as anyone in the Pac-12. The problem is ... he knows it. Turner reminds me a lot of KU's Josh Selby last season. He's an incredible talent, an elite athlete and can get to the rim at will. But his low basketball IQ and penchant for rubbing his teammates the wrong way could derail him.
As a pure basketball talent, he should be ranked 10 to 15 spots higher -- but the head and the heart matter, too, and scouts have serious questions about both.
4. Tony Wroten Jr., PG, Fr., Washington
Top 100 Ranking: 27
This season's draft class doesn't have a lot of great point guard prospects. The good news is that Wroten has the potential to be great with a capital G. UNC's Kendall Marshall may be the only player in the country who sees the floor better than Wroten -- but Marshall doesn't have the size, athleticism or penchant for the spectacular that Wroten has. It's hard to watch Wroten play and not get excited.
While Romar has compared Ross to Roy, it's actually Wroten whose game is more similar to Roy's. If Wroten can prove to scouts he's matured (temperament was a major issue in high school for Wroten), he also could move way up the draft board.
5. DeWayne Dedmon, C, So., USC
Top 100 Ranking: 41
Dedmon transferred from Antelope College to USC last January and then sat out the rest of the season. His numbers at Antelope wouldn't wow anyone (6.6 ppg, 7.9 rgp), he's already 22 years old and has never played a meaningful game against top talent in the NCAA. But that hasn't stopped Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill from touting Dedmon as a legit first-round pick.
Why? Because O'Neill knows from his assistant coaching days in the NBA that long, athletic big men who will rebound and block shots are hard to come by. Dedmon has all of the physical tools. Can he transfer them onto the court? If he does, someone will be willing to burn a pick on him.
Chad Ford breaks down the top five prospects in the Pac-12, with UCLA Bruins center Josh Smith at the head of the list.