That’s the only time the Longhorns produced two first-round picks in the same NBA Draft, when Travis Mays was taken by the Sacramento Kings with the No. 14 pick and Lance Blanks was selected with the No. 26 pick by the Detroit Pistons.
This time, the two likely first-rounders will be shooting guard Avery Bradley and small forward Damion James. Texas could squeeze a third player into the broadcast tonight with center Dexter Pittman. Most mock drafts have Bradley as a middle-first round pick, while James is scheduled anywhere from the middle to the end of the first round. Pittman’s stock places him at the end of the draft, squarely in the end of the second round or the undrafted category.
James finished his Texas career as the all-time school and Big 12 Conference rebounding leader after pulling down 1,318 boards (about 9.3 rebounds per game) over his four-year career. He also holds the Big 12 mark, and ranks second in school history with 55 double-doubles. He accomplished those feats over a school record 142 games played, 140 of which he started. He finished seventh in Big 12 history in career scoring and earned some second- and third-team All-America honors as a senior, when he led the Longhorns in scoring (18 points per game), rebounding (10.3 rebounds per game), steals (57 total) and minutes played (30.3 minutes per game.
In most draft projections, James is ranked just outside of the top-five small forwards in the draft. DraftExpress.com has James as the No. 6 small forward in the draft, while NBADraft.net ranks James as the No. 7 small forward. He’s considered a strong athlete who runs like a guard and who posted a 37-inch vertical leap. Additionally, scouts like his physical presence and ability to rebound, though his ball-handling, shooting consistency and shot selection are listed as parts of his game needing improvement.
Bradley played in all 34 games in his freshman season for the Longhorns, and was named to the Big 12 All-Rookie Team and All-Freshman Team. He was also tapped by league coaches as an honorable mention all-league performer. He averaged 11.6 points per game while dishing out 71 assists and grabbing 44 steals in his lone college season.
Bradley is projected as one of the top five shooting guards in the draft. NBADraft.net lists Bradley as the draft’s No. 3 shooting guard, while DraftExpress.com has him one spot lower, as the No. 4 two-guard. Bradley’s strengths include his athleticism and his length, which helps to make up for his less than ideal height — he’s 6-foot-3 — for a shooting guard. He’s also referred to as a lock-down defender and a strong outside shooter. His weaknesses include his inability to create offense for others and his smaller size/strength for a two.
The 6-10 Pittman was a four-year letter-winner at UT, but really came on as a starter in his junior and senior years. Pittman set the UT record for career field goal percentage (.623) and made a gaudy 65.4 percent of his shots as a senior, another school record. His 124 career blocks rank eighth in school history. Pittman scored 10.4 points per game and grabbed nearly six rebounds per game as a senior. His 63 blocks led Texas and were fourth in the Big 12.
DraftExpress.com ranks Pittman as the No. 13 center in the draft and has him going with the 58th overall pick. NBADraft.net has Pittman as the No. 18 center and going undrafted. Pittman’s strengths include his physical and efficient low-post game, his decent athleticism for his size and his ability to rebound on the offensive end and block shots on the defensive end. His motor, his shooting — both from mid-range and from the free-throw stripe — his lack of height as a center and his inability to avoid foul trouble are listed as his weaknesses.
None of the three prospects is expected to be taken in the top-10, a spot where the Longhorns have excelled at putting prospects. Texas has produced four top-10 picks in the last seven years, a mark only equaled by Connecticut. Overall, Texas has produced 10 draft picks in the last 11 years. LaMarcus Aldridge was the highest pick in school history. He was taken No. 2 overall in the 2006 draft.
Thirty-five Texas players have been taken in NBA Draft history, with nine of those players meriting first-round picks. Raymond Downs was the first-ever Longhorn selected. He was picked by St. Louis with a sixth-round pick in 1957.