There's little doubt that at the very top of the Class of 2007 are some outstanding talents. Frankly, we considered three players for our slot and they were Eric Gordon, Kevin Love and O.J. Mayo. A case could easily be made for each one, while at the same time, there's a something or someone holding each back.
Love was the best player from the best team who won the most games and in our opinion will be the top collegiate post player of the group. To stave off guys like Donte Greene and Mike Beasley long term (and we mean when it comes time to play for pay) he would have to dedicate himself to conditioning at a high level. We spoke to many college coaches who felt he was the best player this summer.
Gordon, in our minds, had the best summer of anyone on this list. The resume includes an MVP award at adidas Camp and a Big Time performance which was nothing short of big time. Mix in a Peach Jam championship and no one packed more highlights into their summer than this young man. Why is he not the No. 1 guy? Great question. It has less to do with what he's not than with who is ahead of him.
No. 2 Eric Gordon
Gordon is an explosive scoring machine with a rainbow jumper. He's the most consistent scoring threat in the class but doesn't have the overall balance to his game that our No. 1 player does. We spoke to many college coaches who felt Eric Gordon was the best player this summer.
Before we get to No. 1, it's important to note that since July 26, we've spoken with more people on this subject than we ever have in the past. Two hours after the Big Time ended, this observer got on a plane and can honestly say had never been more vexed on the subject of who is the No. 1 player in the country than at any time in his 10-year career. For the next 10 days the question rattled through my brain. Over that time the opinions of our analysts and dozens of credible observers were taken into account as the debate raged on and cases were made for a variety of prospects.
One coach who has a national championship under his belt rattled off Kyle Singler as his pick. Guys shook their heads in amazement at what Donte Greene did at Nike Camp. Ditto for Derrick Rose at the Peach Jam and Big Time, though his name came up less frequently when discussing the No. 1 overall choice. Don't discount the possibility of Rose polishing up the jumper and taking his game to yet another level.
No. 3 Kevin Love
Bill Walker was outstanding at ABCD but didn't get into the equation after the camps ended. Some feel his injury was a major reason why. Athletically he's on another level. The fact that he's No. 8 gives you an indication of how hard it was to come up with this list and indicates the quality of kids at the top of the Class of 2007.
No.'s 4-7 on this list could have been written down on pieces of paper, jumbled into a hat and you could have allowed my 10-month old son pick them out (we contemplated this method but decided against it late in the game) and you'd have been fine with any outcome.
Differentiating between those kids was next to impossible and on any given year guys in those spots would have rated much higher. We conducted a study of past Top 100 players last winter and found that 88% of Scout.com's Top 10 players were NBA draft choices. Barring injury, the Class of 2007 will make that number even higher.
So, why no change at the top of the rankings? Well, there almost was but in the end, O.J. Mayo is generally – fairly or unfairly – held to a different standard of anyone in the class. Did he always play above and beyond that standard this summer? No, at times he did not. Was he able to raise his level of play above and beyond what normal highly regarded guards can do? Sure, and he had his moments. Remember "The Shot" he made on top of Rose to win a game in Vegas? Some knock him for not winning. Didn't he win the King James and AAU Nationals while playing for a unit that was never on the same page off the court.
No. 7 Donte Greene
Mayo's life is different from anyone's in this class. He's been on the big stage longer and in the brightest spotlight of anyone. There have been times when he's handled it poorly; he'd probably tell you that, but he's got the most pressure on him. No one in the country sells seats the way O.J. does and it's not even close. He is a major attraction and the single player who presently defines this class.
At this point, his basketball talents – shooting, passing, ball handling – and overall size at the scoring point guard position are indicative of success collegiately and right on down the line. Aside from our numerous viewings and evaluations of him, the one theme that was almost universally brought up by all parties we spoke with was the overall talent this young man possesses.
Does that mean he finishes No. 1? That's up to him and like we said before the summer, he's got the most riding on it. Lose his title and he's less marketable. If you don't think marketability is important to O.J. think again. There's all kinds of reasons for picking USC (if he does in fact make a public pledge) and one of the main ones we're told is marketing and the base L.A. provides.
Right now, Eric Gordon has a little more of the "Wow Factor" to his game. Vegas is a city filled with impersonators but no one did a better Superman impersonation than Gordon who leapt defenders in a single bound. Next up for Gordon and his classmates is Mayo. Can they leap over him and take the No. 1 spot by the end of the year?
This time of the year the question always comes up: how do you come about these rankings and what is taken into account? It's a complicated answer. You try and predict the future basketball success of these guys while accounting for talent, potential, ability/likelihood of maxing out your talent and overall ceiling for growth. In short, you want to try and predict collegiate success with an eye on the next level.
When you get past the Top 25 guys, predicting successful players is challenging. Guys who aren't elite level talents have it exponentially more difficult. Because they aren't able to overcome things as easily on the court, they have to be mentally tougher, committed to academics enough to succeed in college and take the game seriously. It's one thing to be talented, yet another to put all the pieces together that it takes to be a high level player.