Commentary

Forecasting the pro potential of top college players

Originally Published: December 28, 2007
By John Hollinger | ESPN Insider
OK everyone, it's time to tiptoe through the minefield again. Last June, I introduced a draft rating method that looked at a player's college stats and attempted, from those numbers, to forecast his NBA potential.

Going back through five drafts, the method has worked fairly well, and early returns for this year are encouraging too. For instance, the method's support of Marvin Williams as the No. 2 pick in 2005 looks a whole lot better now. So do Ronnie Brewer and Rudy Gay as top-five worthy picks in 2006 and Big Baby Davis and Jared Dudley as sleepers this past June.

[+] EnlargeTyler Hansbrough
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesWill Tyler Hansbrough's game translate to the NBA level?

It ain't perfect, but over the past six years it's picked out fewer dogs and more stars than the people doing the actual drafting, so the results are worth noting. And with a few teams already looking ahead to the 2008 draft (I won't name names, but one of them rhymes with "two pork sticker shockers"), it seems a good time to bust out the method again and start looking at some collegians who could be in the draft.

Because we have so few results from the 2007-08 season, there's a catch -- we're looking only at the rising sophomores, juniors and seniors who stayed in school, based on their numbers from 2006-07. Obviously, freshmen like Michael Beasley, Eric Gordon, Derrick Rose and O.J. Mayo, among others, will alter this list in a major way come June -- not to mention all the international players. Nonetheless, this exercise gives us a lay of the land as we head into the noncupcake portion of the college hoops season.

Before I begin, we need a few disclaimers. The biggest is that I used the heights given by the schools, which in many cases are suspicious. Since height is a factor in the system, especially for guards and power forwards, how these guys measure at the pre-draft camps can send them zooming up or down the chart. Second, birthdate information for collegians is a bit erratic. In fact, I'm thinking of setting up a Web site called "collegeplayersbirthdays.com."

Finally, keep in mind that several of the top-rated players in the upcoming draft are likely to be freshmen and international players. If you buy the logic that there are only about 10 impact players in each draft, then it follows that there might not be more than a couple players on this list who turn into strong pros. Since most of last season's top underclassmen turned pro, we're basically sifting through a barrel that's already been cherry-picked.

But with that out of the way, let's have the chart please. Here are the top 20 rising major collegians for 2007-08:

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