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A New Leap Year

Making sense of a 2010 NBA draft heavy on early entrants

With a fluid jump shot and superb body control, Gordon Hayward has NBA-caliber skills. As with many of his fellow early entrants into the 2010 draft, however, we'll now see how well the Butler sophomore has timed his leap. Last Saturday, 50 underclassmen formally declared their eligibility for the June 24 event. Unlike in previous years, when a player could test the waters and change his mind up until almost a week before draft day, this year the window for U-turns was minuscule. Though a pair of premier guards, Kentucky's John Wall and Ohio State's Evan Turner, are the acknowledged top two picks, "slotting [the rest] is not going to be easy," says a Western Conference executive.

While everyone can agree that the 6'9" Hayward could stand to tack some muscle onto his 200-pound frame, most believe he made the right call. "All that stuff about winning a national championship, who cares?" says a Western G.M. "His skills are there. They wouldn't get significantly better staying in college." Hayward, who is projected as a mid-to-late first-round pick, could even benefit from lowered expectations. "If he goes in the late first round, he won't be on a [bad] team that expects him to carry them," says an Eastern Conference scout. Among others who'll be rewarded for leaving school is 6'11" Kansas center Cole Aldrich, a junior, who'll be a top 10 pick because, says the exec, "teams don't want to miss out on the next Brook Lopez."

Other early entrants have murkier prospects. Guard Eric Bledsoe and center Daniel Orton, freshman teammates at Kentucky, are skilled but unproven. "These guys were second fiddles," says the Western G.M. Others will rise or fall in predraft workouts. North Carolina forward Ed Davis's sophomore season was cut short with a broken wrist. "I'm interested to see if he can play power forward," says the scout.

"This is one of the deepest drafts in years," says the G.M. "There are going to be a lot of good second-round picks."



WAYWARD HAYWARD? Nope. Most NBA scouts agree: The time is right for the former Bulldogs guard-forward to bulk up and turn pro.