At this point in the year, there is no way to tell who will be the surefire first pick in the NBA Draft. Shoot, we do not even know what the 2012 NBA Draft will look like with all of the bad NBA lockout news and rumors going around. At this point, there’s superstar talent littered throughout the college game, and NBA scouts – with nothing to do other than go to college games – are working harder than ever. Right now all we can do is speculate, but there are some interesting story lines to follow.
Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond are separating themselves from the pack right now. Barnes is the most proven commodity while Davis and Drummond are hyped-up off of potential.
So who is the early favorite for first pick in the draft? There is no consensus at the moment, but Anthony Davis looks to have the edge. The 6-10 power forward moves like a guard with the size of a center. He is skilled and athletic beyond belief. He put up 14 points, six rebounds and seven blocks against Kansas last week. Through his first four collegiate games, Davis is putting up 13 and eight (with 4.5 blocks a night), and shooting a godly 72 percent from the floor. Even if Davis broke his toe and was out for the rest of the season, he would still have a shot to be the first pick in the draft.
All Davis needs at this point is to put on weight (which – despite his frame – isn’t a problem considering how good NBA weight training programs are) and develop a better feel for the low post. Those are two weaknesses that can be easily fixed.
Davis seems like a no-brainer, but Harrison Barnes may give him a run for his money. Barnes is 6-8 with good athleticism and an elite skill set. He has the perfect size for the small forward position in the NBA. So far this year, he has looked significantly more comfortable as a leader, and while his number are identical outside of his scoring (up from 15.7 to 17.3 a night), his shooting percentage has jumped from 42 to 51 percent.
[Related: Who’s Better – Jeremy Lamb Or Terrence Ross?]
The only question mark with Barnes at the moment is his ceiling. He’s been ready for the professional level since his senior year in high school and has all of the tools to succeed at that level. But scouts think Davis and Drummond could have more success if they set their minds to it.
Outside of one dominating game (11 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks against Maine), Drummond has not gotten off to a great start (5.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, two blocks a night on 41 percent shooting). Patience is key here. You never turn your head on a 6-11, 260-pound big man who has drawn comparisons to Amar’e Stoudemire and Dwight Howard. Not only is he on a stacked team where he does not get many touches, but it definitely doesn’t help that he is playing with a broken nose. Check back in February and we could have Drummond pegged as a lock for the first pick in the draft. That’s how talented he is.
Early Draft Risers
While it may be early, here’s a list of some of the early risers:
Quincy Miller – Quincy Miller has as much talent as Davis, Drummond and Barnes. He is a 6-9 small forward with a smooth game, and he’s averaged 18 points per game through three games. The big question before the season was how well he would recover from his season-ending leg injury that curtailed his senior year. So far, Miller has looked excellent. In fact, he has looked even better than teammate Perry Jones did last year. It will be interesting to see if this continues once Jones returns from his suspension. If there were any questions about how Miller would recover from injury, they have been answered.
Jeremy Lamb – Lamb set the college basketball world on fire in his first game of the year with a dunk that many said could be the best dunk of the season. That, however, is not the reason why his stock has risen. Many scouts questioned his leadership ability after he could not lead the U-19 USA team to a gold in the FIBA World Championships this past summer. Perhaps that was a function of a few bad fits on the team, but Lamb has proven thus far that he has indeed taken his game to another level.
Thomas Robinson – Robinson is another guy who has stepped into a leadership role and excelled. Playing behind Cole Aldrich and the Morris twins has truly benefited him. In the past few years, he has been known as just an “energy guy”. But in the game against Kentucky, Robinson was facing double and triple teams and still scoring. Last night in the Jayhawks’ win over Georgetown, he went for 20 and 12. He could not have done that two years ago. Now just imagine if you switched him with Terrence Jones.
Casper Ware – Beating the projected Big East player of the year on his home floor is definitely a way to catch eyes and that’s exactly what Casper Ware did. He dropped 28 points on Pittsburgh and made Ashton Gibbs look like a fool. He may not play for a big-name school and he may be a bit undersized, but Ware showed some scoring instincts that a lot of this year’s point guard prospects would envy.
Point Guard Problems
While this lineup projects to be one of the stronger draft classes in recent years, it is weak at the point guard position. The top three consensus point guard prospects are Myck Kabongo, Marquis Teague and Josiah Turner and all three are freshmen going through an adjustment period. If the three of them do not catch up fast enough, there could be some shifting in the point guard position draft boards.
Who would you take at No. 1? Any sleepers you see emerging this year?
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