NBA Draft: Okafor, Gordon lead juniors

UConn's Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon lead a bumper crop of college junior draft prospects.

Originally Published: November 28, 2003
By Chad Ford | NBA Insider
Cheer up draft fans. The 2004 college senior class may be weak on top-tier talent, but the class of 2005 has a lot of NBA scouts smiling right about now.

College juniors, in the minds of most NBA folks, are just as good as college seniors. They've had a chance to hone their skills, learn responsibility away from home, get an education and learn how to balance basketball with life.

However, lately it's tough to find any good ones who haven't left for the NBA already. Last summer, only five college juniors were drafted in the first round.

This year, that probably will change drastically. Credit a small number of early defections (Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, DeSagana Diop, Dajuan Wagner, T.J. Ford, Josh Powell, Mo Williams) for a bumper crop of juniors this year.

According to scouts, as many as six college juniors, led by UConn's Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon, have lottery potential, and as many as 10 could be drafted in the first round next June, depending on which other underclassmen declare.

Here's a quick look at 10 juniors whom scouts will be watching this season.

Chad Ford

ESPN Senior Writer