The NBA Draft is just one night away, and Vanderbilt stands to watch three players who helped guide the team to a SEC championship get selected by pro teams on Thursday. Jeffery Taylor, John Jenkins, and Festus Ezeli are all hot commodities right now, and the trio has been shuffling across the country to participate in individual workouts with NBA executives for the past month. The 2012 draft is one of the deepest of the past decade, and every little bit will help as these three fight for a first round slot and the guaranteed contract that will come with it.
Taylor, Jenkins, and Ezeli have all earned praise for their offseason conditioning and strong performances from scouts. That's a good sign, because months of pre-draft hype tend to emphasize how a player performs in drills over how they looked for four years in college. Players like the Vandy trio have slid to the back end of the first round thanks in part to their veteran status amongst a field of younger athletes. While each of the Commodores could contribute immediately to a team that needs them, they've also shed the lustre that less-accomplished but higher-potential prospects bring.
To get a better handle on when we can expect to hear our favorite Commodores get their names called, we scoured some of the internet's most reliable sports outlets to see what some draft experts are saying. We combed through seven different mock drafts 36 hours before David Stern opens
Madison Square Garden Newark for business. All seven had at least one Vanderbilt player sneaking into the first round. None had all three.
On the bright side, an aggregate of all eight drafts left room for Vanderbilt to fill up the tail end of the first with their three best players. Unfortunately, that swings the other way as well. Thursday night probably won't bring such a boom-or-bust scenario, but the end of the first round can be unpredictable. That's where the best teams are picking, and they may be tempted to bring in a project or overseas player as a lottery ticket rather than adding to an already crowded roster of good talent.
Here's what the experts (and the hired goons of SBNation) had to say about Vandy's prospects:
Taylor only fell out of the first round only once in the eight mock drafts, slipping to 36th in nbadraft.net's projections. Half of the mocks have him going to one of the two most recent NBA Finalists, Miami and Oklahoma City. He'd fit in well in either spot, but he'd be a bench forward in either location for well into the future, as each of those teams is pretty well set at the 3. Atlanta, on the other hand, could groom him to replace Marvin Williams almost immediately.
Jenkins seems to be the consensus pick for Commodore least likely to make it into the first round. Only two sites have him shooting his way into a guaranteed contract. The drafts that expand into a second round tend to have him as an early pick there, however, and that means that there is still a chance that he earns a call early from a playoff team that needs lights out shooting off the bench. Miami would be a great destination for him, but the Heat appear set on signing Ray Allen, which would minimize Jenkins's chance of taking his talents to South Beach.
Five out of the eight mock drafts have Festus landing in the first round, though many state concerns over his rebounding. That lack of rebounding has more to do with the way Vanderbilt used Ezeli rather than his ability, so I would expect that actual scouts and executives may have a higher opinion of the Nigerian center. Miami (or Boston) would be an ideal place for Ezeli to wind up, as both are veteran laden teams that are looking for a physical, defensive presence at center who can learn the game while contributing right away. Oklahoma City would be another soft landing spot for Festus, while places like Detroit and Cleveland may present more of a learning curve for the big man.
Here's the breakdown of all the mocks that we studied on Wednesday:
|Jeffery Taylor||28th (OKC)||27th (Miami)||28th (OKC)||36th (Sacramento)|
|John Jenkins||33rd (Cleveland)||33rd (Cleveland)||n/a||32nd (Washington)|
|Festus Ezeli||27th (Miami)||39th (Detroit)||30th (Golden State)||24th (Cleveland)|
|HoopsHype||CBSSports - Jeff Goodman||CBSSports - Matt Moore||SBNation|
|Jeffery Taylor||23rd (Atlanta)||24th (Cleveland)||27th (Miami)||30th (Golden State)|
|John Jenkins||29th (Chicago)||27th (Miami)||n/a||n/a|
|Festus Ezeli||n/a||32nd (Washington)||28th (OKC)||27th (Miami)|