Sunday, February 12, 2012

Checking In With The NBA Draft Prospects

Last week, ESPN's Chad Ford debuted this year's Lottery Machine, and it is an excellent way to waste time that would otherwise be productive. As you can see there, Kentucky freshman sensation Anthony Davis pretty much has a stranglehold on the #1 spot, and here's how I would rank the rest of the lottery prospects after him:

(Here is what I said about them in the beginning of the year.)
It's a bird, it's a plain, it's...the Unibrow!
1. Kentucky F/C Anthony Davis: His superb freshman year has been the rare combination of unbelievable potential and production right before your eyes. His teammates merely have to lob passes in the near vicinity of the rim, and Davis will throw it down. My KG comparison is looking better and better with each passing game as Davis' disruptive defensive presence in the pick and roll, weak side blocks, and tireless rebounding make him a potential franchise cornerstone.

2. North Carolina SF Harrison Barnes: The Black Falcon (as he is affectionately called by Tar Heel fans) has looked more and more like his idol, Kobe Bryant, this season; think of a bigger, less explosive Bryant with a much better outside shot at this point in his career. The Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, and Danny Granger comparisons all have valid points, too, but the point is that he's a big wing player with natural scoring ability, which is always at a premium.

3. Connecticut F/C Andre Drummond: The Huskies have struggled due to a shaky point guard situation, and Drummond hasn't fully shown his plethora of offensive skills as a result. His boundless athleticism has had an impact on the defensive end of the court, but he can do so much more overall. Another year at UConn could benefit him greatly.

4. Kentucky SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: MKG has thrived as a leader of the #1 team in the country despite being just a freshman. Not much has changed my opinion of him as he consistently brings his A game night in and night out. You know you're getting an excellent defender, strong rebounder, willing passer, and explosive slasher with the potential for an even more complete offensive game as he hones his outside shot.

T-Rob separates from his peers with plays like this.
5. Kansas PF Thomas Robinson: T-Rob is fulfilling that breakout year I predicted with an explosive inside game. Although he's not quite the same freak athlete, he's a lot like Blake Griffin in my eyes as he doesn't particularly have a lot of length, but his motor never stops whether it be pursuing a rebound or attacking the rim, and he has great hands and passing ability for his size.

6. Ohio State F/C Jared Sullinger: He's been a bit banged up throughout the year, but he is the same dominating inside force he's always been. His work on his body has made him more mobile, but he will still struggle against the perimeter power forwards or the length of true centers at the next level. The comparisons vary widely from Kevin Love to Zach Randolph to Carlos Boozer to even Glen Davis, so you get the general idea.

7. Baylor PF Perry Jones III: Contrary to the others before him, Jones is about as inconsistent as they come. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of a young LaMarcus Aldridge as he tends to float on the perimeter instead of dominating inside with his length and talent level. You can also compare him to Chris Bosh in that respect, although it's hard to tell how good of a rebounder Jones is because of Baylor's zone defense. Based on potential, he could be picked as high as #2, but based on production and the likelihood of fulfilling expectations, I can't put him ahead of his big man peers.

8. Florida SG Bradley Beal: He's had to play out of position most of the time due to Florida's roster, and his assist and shooting numbers are down, but he has proven to be a surprisingly good rebounder for his size. This ranking is more about reputation than anything at the moment as a complete shooting guard like him is a valuable commodity.

9. Connecticut SG Jeremy Lamb: I'm a bit bullish on Lamb and still think he can a #1 option for a team despite the fact that he has somewhat struggled to fulfill that role this year. He tends to settle too much, but his wide array of skills are undeniable.

The young Big 10 centers are loaded with potential.
10. Illinois C Meyers Leonard: Like many others, Leonard benefited greatly from the experience of playing for Team USA at the U-19 tournament, and he's having an excellent sophomore season. Possessing great mobility with excellent size at 7'0, 240 and a 7'3 wingspan, it's hard to find many flaws. He is continuing to get stronger to work inside with average post moves and has a deft touch from the mid-range and the free throw line. His continued improvement is encouraging, and he could end up being a steal this late in the lottery.

11. Florida C Patric Young: Yet another U-19 participant, I've yet to truly see the Dwight Howard comparison, but Young could definitely become a DeAndre Jordan-like player, which is highly valuable.

12. North Carolina PF John Henson: The lanky shot blocker has played up to expectations with his defense, rebounding, and improved offensive game. He's a surprisingly good passer and will hit both the baseline and turnaround jumper with regularity, so it's perplexing why he's such a horrible free throw shooter.

13. Indiana C Cody Zeller: I admit I haven't seen much of the younger Zeller, but from what I have witnessed, he has a nice touch inside and is mobile defensively. He still needs to get stronger because he's so young, but he's not afraid to mix it up inside and has a lot of potential going forward.

14. North Carolina C Tyler Zeller: It was a tough call to decide who to leave out of the lottery since it's so deep, but I couldn't leave Big Z off the list. He's a senior, so you pretty much know what you're going to get, and that's a pretty good big man. He's very good in the post, hits his free throws, and is an above average rebounder and defender.

Other names that could easily end up in the lottery are Baylor SF Quincy Miller, Kentucky SF/PF Terrance Jones, and Washington guards Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten Jr., who can be quickly compared to Jason Richardson and Russell Westbrook, respectively.

Also, looking ahead to the 2013 draft, the two top prospects have yet to commit to a school. In particular, big man Nerlens Noel just decided this month to enroll in college this fall, and the schools that are rumored to have been ready for this occurrence are Kentucky, UConn, Syracuse, and North Carolina. With his size, wingspan, and athleticism, Noel has a lot of similarities to Anthony Davis. Mr. Hi-Top Fade doesn't have the same perimeter potential as the Unibrow, but he has a better frame to put on more weight as a true big.

The former #1 prospect in his class, Shabazz Muhammad is rumored to be leaning towards Kentucky or UCLA, where he would join good friend Kyle Anderson. Regardless of where he ends up, Muhammad is a big time prospect on the wing. An easy comparison would be James Harden because they're about the same size and have the same smooth lefty stroke. However, I haven't seen quite enough of Muhmmad to get a sense of his passing abilities, and he seems to be a smoother athlete than The Beard. But you get the idea; he's definitely a player to watch out for.

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