On June 24, two former Tech basketball players heard their names called at the annual NBA draft. Forwards Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal left Tech early with hopes of playing professional basketball, and both players will have that opportunity after being selected.
Favors, who left Tech after his freshman season, was drafted third overall by the New Jersey Nets. Before the draft’s lottery, most experts had Favors going to Golden State with the seventh pick. However, because the NBA uses a lottery system to determine the draft’s order, the NBA’s worst team, the Nets, selected Favors.
While at Tech Favors averaged 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Favors’ numbers were good enough to earn him the title of ACC Freshman of the Year.
After a slow start, Favors was arguably Tech’s best player during conference play. He was Tech’s leading scorer and rebounder in conference games, averaging 11.8 points and 8.7 rebounds (No. 2 in the ACC) while hitting 62.5 percent of his field goals. Favors was also instrumental in Tech’s postseason surge and was named to the ACC All-Tournament first team.
Before the draft began, New Jersey was looking to improve at the power forward position, Favors’ natrual spot. With their pick, the Nets selected Favors as the first big man off the board. The 6-10 forward has a great chance of starting from day one alongside New Jersey’s other big man, Brook Lopez. The addition of Favors creates a formidable frontcourt for the Nets as they look to improve upon their NBA-worst 12-70 record.
Lawal’s situation could not be more different than Favors’. Lawal was drafted 46th overall by the Phoenix Suns, and he will most likely be a backup player for a team that went 54-28 last season and made a deep run into the NBA playoffs, reaching the Western Conference finals.
While Favors was selected earlier than most analysts originally thought, Lawal slipped back a few places. Most analysts had Lawal going early in the second round, between 30-40 in the draft.
Favors’ performance in predraft workouts led to him being projected higher in the draft, but Lawal arguably had the better career at Tech. He only averaged seven points per game his freshman season but improved dramatically in his second year. Lawal was statistically the most improved player in the ACC during his sophomore campaign, more than doubling his scoring average (from seven to 14.9) and his rebounds (from four to 10). In his junior and final season at Tech, Lawal was named third-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference for the second straight year, after again leading Tech in scoring and rebounding.
The Suns run a fast-paced, high-scoring system that requires their big men to run the floor quickly, a scheme they will likely try and fit Lawal into. The Suns hope that Lawal’s success in college can transfer over to the NBA. Lawal will most likely be Amar’e Stoudemire’s backup when he arrives in Phoenix.
However, that could all change if Stoudemire opts out of his contract this summer, and joins another NBA team. This move could force Lawal into the starting line-up.