Trey Thompkins will be in the NBA next season, and we need ask: How good a pro can the former Bulldog be?
Short answer: Pretty darn good.
Quick caveat: Providing he gets in shape.
Only once — in his sophomore season — did we get an extended glimpse of how effective Howard Thompkins III can be. He was hurt before games began in 2008-2009 and never played his way into form, hurt again in practice this season past and always seemed to be playing catch-up ball, at least conditioning-wise.
His numbers took a slight dip, and he didn’t ace the eyeball test, either. Only occasionally — against Kentucky in Athens on Jan. 8; against Washington in the only NCAA tournament game of his Georgia career — did he appear as dominant as his preseason SEC player of the year led us to expect. He was good, as opposed to great.
He can, however, be a much better professional. He has an NBA body and NBA skills. He’s 6-foot-10, 245 pounds. So’s Al Horford, although Thompkins wouldn’t appear half as strong. He’ll never be pressed into service as a center: Thompkins is a pure power forward, which isn’t a bad thing to be.
NBAdraft.net projects Thompkins as the 16th overall pick, the highest the site has had him in a while. I’m thinking he could move upward. (The first 14 picks comprise the lottery.) I don’t think he’ll be top 10, but I’d be surprised if he’s not in the top 20. But to become an NBA starter, a double-double guy, he has to get stronger and more forceful.
Speaking of Thompkins back in February, an NBA scout told me: “I’m not sure what he does well.” I can think of several things: He can shoot from distance, score down low and pass from the high post. I think what happened with Thompkins this season is that he didn’t do any of those things often enough to delight scouts, but now that he announced he’s leaving they’ll look harder. There are things there to like.
As for Travis Leslie, the Bulldog who has declared for the draft but has retained the right to remove himself: He’d be better served staying another year at Georgia, although I’m not sure he will. NBAdraft.net projects him as the first pick of Round 2 — in 2012. He’d surely get drafted this year if he leaves, but not so highly as a man of his talent should. Leslie needs another season to prove he’s not just another of those power guards (think Dion Glover) who fizzle so quickly in the pros.
But he probably shouldn’t take my advice. I had Purdue going to the Final Four.
By Mark Bradley