As you know, my Clippers draft board has Al-Farouq Aminu, Greg Monroe and Gordon Hayward 1-2-3. I have no idea if that's how Neil Olshey sees it, but that's how I see it.
The real question is going to be who is actually on the board of course. Of the three, AFA and Hayward are projected as NBA small forwards, while Monroe is a big. Monroe obviously doesn't fill a current need for the Clippers, and would come in as a back up to Chris Kaman and Blake Griffin, but he might be too enticing a talent to pass up if he does fall to eight.
But for now I'm fascinated with the contrast between AFA and Hayward.
I promised to tell you the story of the Wafe Forest professor I know. Here it is. Years ago I was at a party thrown by one of my neighbors. I spent the entire evening speaking to my neighbor's father, who was visiting from North Carolina. He turned out to be a HUGE college basketball fan, in particular of the Demon Deacons, but was also incredibly knowledgable about the rest of the ACC and all of college basketball. We spent the entire party talking hoops - I had an immediate 'hoops geek' bond with the guy.
He returns to Long Beach several times a year to see his grandkids, and for some reason I always run into him in the neighborhood. As fate would have it, I ran into him this morning waiting for my latte. I mentioned AFA and how the buzz was that he could end up a Clipper - he said (and I'm paraphrasing here) "Good luck with that."
I was a little taken aback. This guy knows his hoops, but he's always a die hard Deacons fan. Whenever I've spoken to him in the past, he's had nothing but praise for Wake Forest players. It's easy to love Tim Duncan and Chris Paul, but this guy loves Josh Howard and Darius Songaila and every other player who's been through Winston-Salem. And he didn't love AFA.
His reasons were the ones you would expect. He's not a good shooter, he doesn't handle the ball well, he doesn't have a high basketball IQ, he didn't get a lot better from his freshman year to his sophomore year, he takes bad shots. And it dawned on me. AFA is the complete opposite of Gordon Hayward. AFA is an NBA lottery pick because of his NBA body - his wing span, his lateral quickness, his jumping, his strength. Hayward is an NBA lottery pick in SPITE of his body. But he does everything that Aminu didn't (according to my friend). He handles the ball, he sees the floor, his basketball IQ is off the charts, he makes his teammates better.
Aminu and Hayward are listed at the same height, but AFA's arm span is something like 5 inches longer. That's the story in a nutshell. Length is the new motor - it's catnip to NBA GM's especially with memories of Rajon Rondo poking balls away from different area codes fresh in their minds.
I'm not saying that Aminu is a bad player. He's actually a pretty safe bet. Unlike say Daniel Orton, he was a very productive college player. He's a monster rebounder, an great finisher on the break, a terrific defender. These are all things that translate well to the NBA. He'll be a good player - but I'm not convinced he'll be a great player.
Hayward could be a complete bust. But I don't think he will. He's a player, and he'll help an NBA team. He is the type of player I'd like to see on the Clippers. I know I picked AFA in the mock draft last week - but I was luke warm at the time. It's much easier to warm up to the long shot, small town, opie-looking Hayward.
I'm glad this isn't my decision in reality, because it will be easy to get wrong. But I think I might go with Hayward at this point.