Many NBA experts were calling the 2007 draft the best pool of all-star caliber prospects in years, if not decades. Two players Greg Oden and Kevin Durant were universally considered can't-miss superstars-in-the-making.
"I know we're going to be connected for a long time, Kevin Durant and Greg Oden," said Oden as his draft night news conference after being selected No. 1 overall by the Portland Trail Blazers. "He's a really, really good player. I'm a decent player. So I hope things work out."
Well, things seem to be working out for Durant, picked second by the Seattle SuperSonics.
Oden? Not so much right now. The former Ohio State star center is out for the season with a knee injury. Things will likely work out just fine for the Blazers and Oden in the future. He is, after all, still only 19 even if the 7-footer looks twice that age.
But for now, Durant, as long as he stays healthy, appears headed for a landslide Rookie of the Year award.
While Utah Jazz rookies Morris Almond and Kyrylo Fesenko aren't ready to make an impact ust yet, Durant certainly is not the only rookie making a difference in the NBA so far this year.In fact, here's a look at the NBA's top 10 impact rookies this season:
1. Kevin Durant, 6-9, F, SeattleThere is a reason Durant was the consensus college player of the year as a freshman at Texas in 2006-07. He is an all-around talent who is already the best player on his NBA team at 19. Unfortunately, that mean's his NBA team is not very good. Still, Durant is averaging 20 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists. He's too thin, is shooting less than 40 percent from the field and needs to get stronger to be able to endure the punishment of an 82-game NBA season. But his incredible potential has been evident, and it's only a matter of time before he helps Seattle or Oklahoma City regain respectability.
2. Yi Jianlian, 7-0, F, MilwaukeePerhaps the most intriguing rookie is the Bucks' 20-year-old (or thereabouts) 7-footer from China. While there is some speculation that he is really older than his listed birthday of Oct. 27, 1987, there is no question that Yi can play. While some have compared him to countryman Yao Ming, a better comparison would be Dirk Nowitzki. Yi has a good outside shooting touch and can handle the ball well for a big man. Both he and ex-Ute Andrew Bogut have been starting, giving Milwaukee two 7-footers in their lineup. Yi is averaging 11 points and 6.9 boards per game, both second best among rookies.
3. Al Horford, 6-10, C-F, AtlantaThe former Florida star and two-time NCAA tourney champion has been a monster on the boards already. He's pulling down a rookie-best 10.4 boards per game and is nearly averaging a double-double with a 9.1 scoring average. Horford, the son of former NBA player Tito Horford, recently led the Hawks to a victory over Charlotte with 13 points and 13 boards. He's also shooting 51.1 percent from the field, making those who felt he was the most NBA-ready of the '07 draft class look good.
4. Jeff Green, 6-9, F, SeattleThe former Georgetown star gets less attention than Durant, his fellow rookie in Seattle. But Green has also shown he can play at the NBA level. He's two years older and is stronger than Durant and is getting nearly identical rebounding numbers early this season despite not starting and playing 12 fewer minutes per game. Green is averaging 10.1 points in 21 minutes while shooting 49.2 percent from the field. Again, the Green and Durant tandem at forward bodes well for the Sonics' future.
5. Jamario Moon, 6-8 F, Toronto
Who? There was no Jamario Moon in last June's draft.Actually, Moon wasn't drafted last June. In fact, if he was going to be drafted, it would have been back in 2001. But no team picked him. Moon, who is now 27, has several years of pro basketball under his belt, having played in Europe and for the CBA's Albany Patroons and the USBL's Gary (Ind.) Steelheads. But the Alabama native is an NBA rookie and he's making the most of his opportunity. He's averaging 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds and has worked his way into the Raptors' starting lineup, at least for now. Moon could turn out to be one of the feel-good stories of the NBA season.
6. Acie Law, 6-3, PG, AtlantaNicknamed "Captain Clutch" at Texas A&M for his late-game heroics, Law hasn't been given the reins down the stretch for the Hawks just yet. While he has started and is averaging 5.9 points and 3 assists per game, Law splitting time with veteran Tyrone Lue with Lue handling the ball at the end of games. Law is certainly considered the point guard of the future for the Hawks, however, and will likely see his playing time increased as the season goes on as long as his injured ankle doesn't slow him down too much.
7. Corey Brewer, 6-9, G-F, Minnesota
Horford's college teammate at Florida is with a young team that needs help in all areas now that Kevin Garnett has been traded to Boston. Brewer has yet to make the most of his opportunity, however, as he's just shooting 35.5 percent from the field thus far. Things may be looking up for him, however, as he scored 15 points with eight rebounds in a recent game against the Kings.
8. Al Thornton, 6-8, F, L.A. ClippersThe Clippers are off to a fast start, but Thornton has been a part of it, averaging 18 minutes per game. The former Florida State star is averaging 5.9 points and 3.1 rebounds but is making only 30 percent of his shots from the field. His playing time will likely go down when Clippers star Elton Brand is ready to play.
9. Luis Sciola, 6-9, F-C, HoustonSciola may be an NBA rookie, but that hardly means he lacks experience. The 27-year-old is a key member of Argentina's national team and has been a star player in Europe. While he hasn't cracked the Rockets' starting lineup yet, he has become a key substitute at both power forward and center. Sciola's already a better scoring threat than the Rockets' starting power forward Chuck Hayes.
10. Jason Smith, 7-0, F, PhiladelphiaThe former Colorado State star played a career-high 25 minutes on Wednesday for the 76ers. Philadelphia figures to be in for a long season, so Smith may get the chance to play even more as the year goes on. For now, he's averaging 4.9 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.
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