It’s a bit of hyperbole to suggest the Pac-12 has replenished its talent pool to 2008 and 2009 levels, when the conference produced a dozen players taken in the first round of the NBA draft.
Those were the halcyon days when Pac-12 stars Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and James Harden became high draft choices and eventually NBA All-Stars, giving the conference a cache it hadn’t enjoyed in years.
But since 2009, just 10 players from the Pac-12 have been chosen in the first round of the draft, which coincides with a leaguewide dip in production that’s only recently begun to reverse itself.
But as the Pac-12 regains its footing, the conference will once again lose many of its best underclassmen to the NBA draft Thursday.
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“That’s the nature of college sports,” said Marques Johnson, a Fox Sports Net basketball analyst and former UCLA great. “And unfortunately in the Pac-12, we’ve been victim to that, it seems, more than anybody.
“It’s one of those catch-22 situations. You want your players to develop and get to the point where they can play in the NBA, but as a conference you’re losing your best players and sometimes it’s hard to replace what’s walking out the door.”
The Pac-12 figures to be well represented in the draft with as many as five players taken in the first round.
Most of the Pac-12 predraft talk has been about Arizona freshman forward Aaron Gordon and UCLA freshman guard Zach LaVine, a former Bothell High School standout.
Gordon is projected possibly landing as high as No. 5 to the Utah Jazz.
“Aaron Gordon is a beast,” University of Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said during an interview with the Pac-12 Networks. “He got so much better as a freshman throughout the year. There’s been so much talk about his shooting, but I look at Aaron Gordon maybe as a similar threat to Serge Ibaka. Just a little bit more skilled.”
LaVine is all over mock drafts. NBAdraft.net projects Philadelphia will take the athletic playmaker at No. 10, and ESPN’s Chad Ford has Phoenix after him at No. 18.
“There’s somewhat of a level of hierarchy as far as the Pac-12 guys,” Pac-12 Networks basketball analyst Lamar Hurd said. “Right now you’re looking at Aaron Gordon going anywhere from 5 to 10. Then you have the middle-of-the-pack group led by Zach LaVine. He may go lottery or a little later.
“Then after that, you’ve got the bulk of the rest of the guys. Lots of good players, as many as three who could fall into the first round. … Anytime you’re talking about three to five guys going in the first round, that’s not bad for the Pac-12.”
Other Pac-12 players who could land in the first round are UCLA guards Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, Washington sharpshooter C.J. Wilcox and Colorado guard Spencer Dinwiddie.
“If there’s a common theme in this draft it’s that you have a lot of guys who don’t have a defined position in the NBA,” Pac-12 Networks analyst Dan Dickau said. “Gordon is a 3 or 4 who can play both forward spots. Zach played point guard in high school, but didn’t have a chance to do a lot of that in college.
“And then there’s Kyle Anderson. He was a point guard at UCLA, but he’s listed at small forward in many places. There’s just a little uncertainty with those guys in how they project in the NBA.”
Dickau predicts LaVine ultimately will have the brightest NBA career among the Pac-12 draft hopefuls, while Johnson picks Gordon and Hurd tabs Wilcox.
“If we’re having this conversation in five years, I’d say Aaron Gordon,” Hurd said. “But long term, I really like C.J. He might get on a team that really fits him. He does that one thing — shooting — better than almost anyone else. If you shoot like that, you can last 10, 12 years in the NBA.”
|The NBA draft is at 4 p.m. Thursday, in Brooklyn, N.Y., and 2014 could be a good year for Pac-12 players.|
|Potential lottery picks||Ht, wt||Year||College|
|F Aaron Gordon||6-9, 220||Fr.||Arizona|
|G Zach LaVine||6-6, 181||Fr.||UCLA|
|Likely first-rounders||Ht, wt||Year||College|
|G Jordan Adams||6-5, 209||So.||UCLA|
|G Kyle Anderson||6-9, 230||So.||UCLA|
|G Spencer Dinwiddie||6-6, 205||Jr.||Colorado|
|G C.J. Wilcox||6-5, 201||Sr.||Washington|
|Possible second-rounders||Ht, wt||Year||College|
|C Jordan Bachynski||7-2, 254||Sr.||Arizona State|
|G Jahii Carson||5-11, 180||So.||Arizona State|
|G Justin Cobbs||6-3, 190||Sr.||California|
|F Devon Collier||6-8, 215||Sr.||Oregon State|
|F Josh Huestis||6-7, 230||Sr.||Stanford|
|G Nick Johnson||6-3, 198||Jr.||Arizona|
|F Eric Moreland||6-10, 215||Jr.||Oregon State|
|F Mike Moser||6-8, 195||Sr.||Oregon|
|F Dwight Powell||6-11, 234||Sr.||Stanford|
|F Richard Solomon||6-10, 235||Sr.||California|
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