Heading in to the 2011-12 season, we figured we would get the ball rolling on some admittedly early NBA Draft talk. Unless the 1-1 Cavaliers shock the world (150/1 odds as NBA Champion, bettering only Toronto), it is widely assumed that the team will be selecting fairly early in the lottery once again. That said, we’re going to provide WFNY readers with some thoughts on who should be a target of Chris Grant come this spring.
We will update this not-so-big board on a bi-weekly basis – feel free to comment, critique or debate in the comments below. Do enjoy.
Harrison Barnes, SG (North Carolina)
Barnes was on the verge of being knocked back down to No. 2 on this list before he caught wind of such demotion and dropped 26 points, 10 boards, two steals and a block on the Texas Longhorns. It’s bizarrely frustrating that he can’t dominate teams like Nicholls St and Appalachian St, but this makes two of his last four games of the 20-point variety. He’s still getting the benefit of the doubt due to his slow start last season, but Barnes certainly has to kick his game up a notch once the ACC slate is in full gear. It also helps that the man who would’ve passed him…
Andre Drummond, C (Conneticuit)
…Laid down an absolute egg of a game (four points on five shots, seven rebounds) on Wednesday night against South Florida. Drummond would have been back atop this not-so-big board had it been published a day earlier; he had averaged 17 points, eight rebounds and nearly three blocks over his last three contests. His 24, eight and five-block night against Holy Cross was the Beast Mode type of game we have all been waiting to see from the kid who projects to be an All-Star NBA center. He still needs to bulk up and be as dominant as his frame allows, but this kid would look great in Wine and Gold.
Jeremy Lamb, SG (Conneticuit)
Where Drummond opted to disappear against South Florida, Lamb seized all opportunity by putting up 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting and getting to the line eight times in what wound up being a close contest, iced by the UCONN guard. Take it away USF coach Stan Heath: “Obviously, Lamb is Lamb. When Lamb’s playing like that, that’s what a pro looks like.” A few GMs have Lamb ranked higher than Barnes when it comes to wings and if he can keep on producing, with Barnes relying wholly on jump shots and mystique, this list will reflect such.
Anthony Davis, PF (Kentucky)
Again, I’ve been looking for a reason to move Davis – who many want to consider the consensus top pick – up this board, but can’t find one. One part scheduling, as Kentucky hasn’t played in a while, but another part lackluster play against better opponents as evidenced by his 13 combined points against UNC and Indiana. Hopefully, by this time in two weeks, we’re all talking about that epic Anthony Davis game against Chattanooga which is set to go down this weekend. 2012 should bring us good things from this big man. The ball is in his court.
Bradley Beal, SG (Florida)
While I’m still very high on last week’s No. 5, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky hasn’t played and Bradley Beal surely has. In his last four contests, Florida’s swingman has averaged 17 points, five rebounds, and almost three steals per contest while piling in 12 combined three-pointers. Six free throw attempts against No. 22 Texas A&M show that his game is solely predicated on launching three-balls, and the boards/steals combination show that this kid has the hustle (along with the skill) to make a difference at the next level. It’s easy to point out that he’s only 6-foot-3 until you see the work this kid is doing on the defensive end.
Some additional thoughts on…
Perry Jones, PF (Baylor) – THATS the Perry Jones I’ve been waiting to see. I love the kid’s talent, but he continues to underwhelm as seen in his four-point (2-for-9) outing against West Virginia two games after his six-point night against the vaunted Paul Quinn (University?) Tigers. PJIII’s inconsistency is too frustrating to garner top-five consideration at this stage.
Thomas Robinson, PF (Kansas) – More for TD than anything, if we’re going to be mentioning power forwards at all, Robinson deserves some love. Averaging 17 points and 12 boards per game with a block and a steal, the Jayhawks power forward has definitely stepped in admirably for the departed Morris twins. Though the team lost in an upset, Robinson’s 21 and 18 agasinst Davison was a pretty nice line in the box score. Returning to Kansas this season was the best decision this kid will ever make.
Kevin Jones, PF (West Virginia) – Not necessarily for the first-round pick, but West Virginia’s Jones is one worth keeping an eye on. Typically, 6-foot-8-inch power forwards won’t draw a lot of attention from NBA scouts, but if anything is going to open up a few eyes, it’s going to be a 28-point, 17-rebound game against Perry Jones and No. 7 Baylor. This kid is consistently putting up solid lines, averaging 20.4 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. Count me in.
Tony Wroten Jr, PG (Washington) - Wroten, presently, is looking at a mid-to-late first round selection come draft day. The reason I wanted to mention him here is because he is also presently the top point guard prospect in the country. If anyone decides to tell you that the Cavaliers should have went a different route this past summer and “took a point guard next year,” please remind them of this little tidbit.
Austin Rivers, SG (Duke) – I knocked Lil’ Doc for his shooting woes earlier in the year, so it’s only fair that I add him back into the discussion if only to mention his latest string of double-digit scoring outings coupled with adequate (read: not terrible) efficiency from the floor. I know it sounds like I’m picking nits here, but the fact that he doesn’t do anything else with above-average skill is also worrisome. I’d like to see at least averages of three boards or assists with well over a steal per game.
12/29 Elon at (6) UNC – 7pm EST, ESPNU
12/29 (10) Florida at Rutgers – 7pm EST, ESPN2
12/30 Western Michigan at (5) Duke – 7pm EST, ESPN2
12/31 (2) Ohio State at (15) Indiana – 6pm EST, ESPN2
12/31 (4) Louisville at (3) Kentucky – 12p EST, CBS
1/3 (9) Connecticut at Seton Hall – 7p EST, ESPN3