SI.com's Ian Thomson asked unnamed NBA Executives on their thoughts on who will be the draft dark horses defined as "a player who will turn into a formidable pro".
Not surprisingly, both Russ and KLove make the list.
"There are a lot of questions in this draft, but there are very few uncertainties regarding Kevin Love. You know he's going to rebound, he knows how to play, he's a good passer, he has good hands and he plays hard. There's value in knowing exactly what you're getting in a draft pick. He'll be a 4, and in today's [smaller] NBA he can guard some 5s. I haven't mentioned his shooting, which is a wrinkle to his game. He'll be a solid starter in the league.''
To be honest, I don't see him guarding 5's where he'd be severely undersized, but to put confidence in him as starter material should bode well for his draft stock.
"I like Westbrook because of his scoring ability, and he's able to handle the ball some too. His defensive ability is an obvious strength, as he demonstrated against some of the better players. Watch the Pac-10 semifinal game and the last UCLA [regular-season] game vs. Southern Cal, and you'll see that Mayo wanted no part of attacking him. So far he's relied on his athleticism offensively, but the underrated part of his game is that Westbrook can make shots. His shot looks good, and he's a guy who is going to work hard to keep improving it. He has a chance to be a guy who can score and handle the ball enough to play as a 1. He'll be a very solid player."
I agree with this exec that the shot looks good. I'm just not sure it's NBA level consistent, although I will say that since that is the main knock on him as repeated by many scouts, that this particular weakness is rather overblown. As a coach, he's consistent enough that you wouldn't necessarily mind him taking the open shot, and it's not as if his development has peaked in that department.
Edit: Thomsen's Mock Draft has Russell going at #4 to the Sonics and Love at #9 to the Grizzlies. While predraft speculation is often the result of GMs messing with each other, the real news is that there is confirmation that the GMs with the high picks really dig what Russ brings to the table.
The big shock here is the possibility of the SuperSonics' taking Russell Westbrook at No. 4. Many in the league would criticize this high territory as too rich for Westbrook, who must grow into the new role of NBA point guard after filling in at the point part-time as a UCLA sophomore, but he is in the Sonics' mix because of his athletic potential, character, work ethic and defensive ability. The Sonics are willing to give their draft pick a couple of years to develop, in hopes that he'll be ready to contribute to a winning program as Kevin Durant begins to peak. In that context Westbrook makes sense, as do Jerryd Bayless and Brook Lopez.
Remember that Russell was a late signing after the departure of Farmar for the draft. The way he has shot up the draft boards reinforces our mantra: Trust In Howland.