It's time to tie a little bow around our review of the SoCal Baller Diaspora. The past couple weeks we've spent taking stock of how our local boys are faring in the NBA. We've had the time of our lives ranking the top 15, and by 15 I obviously mean 14. Devoted readers will recall, and less-devoted readers will learn by scrolling downward to previous posts in this series, how I mistakenly included Brook Lopez in the category of former L.A. high-school players now employed in the Association. (Brook played his prep ball in Fresno, it turns out.)
My recognition of this horrific error lead to a vacancy in the number-four pozishe, which I hereby fill by elevating by one spot everyone ranked five through 15. That, in turn, leaves a vacancy at the bottom of the list. So please say hello to our newest honoree....
15. O.J. Mayo (USC). I don't think anyone knows quite what to make of O.J. Mayo yet. His recruitment by Tim Floyd at USC was transparently corrupt, but the one season he spent as a Trojan was solid enough to make him the third overall selection in the NBA draft. His first two years in Memphis showed good promise. Now in his third season, this is when he should be busting out, but it's just not happening. His entire offensive game has taken a big step back, he's never been a good defender as a pro, and he recently lost his starting position to rookie Xavier Henry. He'd likely be better off in an organization with a more respectable track record of developing young players -- ideally one that could teach him to play some defense.
And with that, our rankings are complete. Just so we have it all in one place, here's the final list....
1. Russell Westbrook
2. Kevin Love
3. Paul Pierce
4. Andre Miller
5. Tyson Chandler
6. Taj Gibson
7. Darren Collison
8. Arron Afflalo
9. Amir Johnson
10. Matt Barnes
11. Craig Smith
12. Trevor Ariza
13. Josh Childress
14. Jrue Holiday
15. O.J. Mayo
I have to say, that doesn't look too shabby. Los Angeles is repping strong in 2010. Three or four of these guys will be in the All-Star Game this year, and at least one is headed to the Hall of Fame. Of other major cities, only Chicago, boasting Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade, can match SoCal for top-level NBA talent.
To close, a few words about prominent L.A. hoopsters who didn't make our top 15. These bros fall into two categories: former greats who are now past their prime, and young bucks who haven't yet reached theirs.
Tayshaun Prince (Compton Dominguez). At age 30, Tay's quietly doing some of the best scoring of his career. Too bad he's dropped off so steeply on defense. For his sake, let's hope he lands with a contender while he's still able to contribute. Prince's D on Kobe Bryant in the 2004 Finals haunts Laker fans to this day.
Baron Davis (Santa Monica Crossroads, UCLA). I'm loath to claim insight into players' souls, seeing as how I few insights into my own, but it does seem as if Baron has just never cared that much about basketball. Shoddy conditioning, injuries and an unwillingess to adjust his headstrong game sabotaged what should've been an all-timer of a career. Back in the day, he could bring the awesome.
Gilbert Arenas (Van Nuys Grant). At his 2004-07 peak, Gil was an electrifying scorer. Recent adventures in portable weaponry turned him into a punchline, but even before that nonsense went down a series of injuries kept him sidelined more often than not. His hard-to-believe contract, which will pay him more than $22 million in 2013-14, makes him one of the least tradeable players in sports history.
Austin Daye (Irvine Woodbridge). You see a guy who's 6'11" move like he does, and you think you're watching the future. Then you look at his actual production and you think, "Vladimir Radmanovic." (To be perfectly clear: that's not a compliment.) Daye seems like a dude who could get traded a couple times before finding his place in the league. It's also possible he's just not any good.
Nick Young (Reseda Cleveland, USC). Nick really likes to shoot basketballs. This season, a lot of them are going in, as a result of which he's sporting a PER of 17 after three straight years of PERs in the 11 to 13 range. I kind of hope it's not a fluke as I have a soft spot for lefties.
DeMar DeRozan (Compton, USC). Statheads have always been down on DeMar because he's never shown much of a shooting stroke. He still hasn't -- note his 47 percent effective field-goal shooting this season -- but he's young and athletic and is emerging as a decent playmaker. Like Daye, he passes the eye test. Also like Daye, that's pretty much the best thing you can say about him at this point. DeMar has a slight whiff of Gerald Green about him.
Landry Fields (Los Alamitos). If you're not yet on board with "Dirty" Landry, I don't know if we can hang out. The Stanford product was a second-round pick in last year's draft but has served notice that he's an NBA-caliber starter. He scores efficiently and is already among the best rebounding guards in the game. New York loves him, as well it should.