Any serious discussions concerning the 2007 NBA draft must begin with talk of the fabulous freshman class entered in it. In all, eight NCAA freshmen have thrown their hats into the ring for this year's draft, which is not an overwhelming number. However, the talent level of some of these frosh is what sets this year's draft class apart.
A freshman entering the NBA draft isn't a totally new phenomenon. Two of the best "one and done" club members both were top five picks in the historic 2003 draft - Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony and Georgia Tech's Chris Bosh. The next year Duke's Luol Deng surprisingly bolted Coach K's clan and the Chicago Bull's are better off for it, as Deng has blossomed into one of the League's best young talents. However, buyer beware - for every CB4 or Melo there also lurks as many Kris Humphries or Rodney Whites - both freshman lottery pick busts.
Which brings us back to this draft. The historic significance of this year's draft is that there are far more potential studs than potential duds. At the head of the stud list is the projected top three picks in the draft - Ohio State's Greg Oden, Texas' Kevin Durant and North Carolina's Brandan Wright. Oden has been the projected #1 pick in the NBA draft since he was an underclassman in high school and he didn't disappoint in an injury-marred freshman campaign with the Buckeyes. He is a once in a decade prospect and the best big man to enter the draft since Tim Duncan entered the NBA, fittingly, a decade ago. The fact that Durant is even making some NBA scouts consider drafting him ahead of Oden shows what type of talent the young Longhorn possesses. Carolina's Wright is a high enough level of prospect that in many other draft years he would be given serious consideration by the team holding the #1 pick.
A level below the big three are another group of freshmen projected as potential lottery picks. Washington's Spencer Hawes is a gifted big man that just needs to add some strength and experience. Oden's buddy Mike Conley Jr. had a breakout year for Ohio State and is mature beyond his years. While both of these players could benefit from some more seasoning in college, they are good bets to be very solid pros down the road.
The jury is still out on the last three freshmen draft prospects. Georgia Tech's Javaris Crittenton surprised many people with his strong play this past year and is considered a good guard prospect. On the other hand, teammate Thaddeus Young had a disappointing year and his draft stock is riding on his considerable "upside". Another Buckeye, Daequan Cook, had an up and down year on a stacked Ohio State roster. All three could use at least another year in school, but of the three Crittenton appears to be the most ready.
If you were to construct a Mount Rushmore of the all-time best freshmen draftees, you'd probably have Georgia Tech's Stephon Marbury at the point, St. Louis' Larry Hughes at the two spot, and Deng, Anthony & Bosh up front. It is no stretch to predict that within a decade this squad will look very different. The NBA's age limit rules will make freshmen draft prospects all the rage, similar to the effect high schoolers have had on the League over the past two decades. Clear some space Carmelo, the One and Done Club is bound to get a little more crowded in the coming years.