It’s been said ad nauseum that this year’s NBA Draft is one of the weakest in recent memory. In fact, it could be argued that there isn’t one starter from day one in this collection of draft prospects. Will Kyrie Irving, the projected first overall pick, start from the get-go for the Cleveland Cavaliers? Maybe, but there’s Baron Davis to consider and perhaps the team may want to break Irving in slowly into the Association.
That said, this draft could have been so much more talent-rich if some high-profile college hoops kids didn’t pass on the draft. Genuine love of the college life, the oncoming lockout or caring about getting a college degree, whatever it may be, some of the players below would have been guaranteed lottery picks in 2011. We’ll peep them out, as well as some potential first-rounders that also decided to go back to school and “one and done” candidates coming this fall to a college near you.
Potential Top 10 Picks
Harrison Barnes, 6’8” SF, Freshman, North Carolina
Barnes had high expectations coming into his freshman year at Carolina. So much so that he was named on the first team AP preseason All-America team, which had never happened before for an incoming freshman. Barnes had an up-and-down type of season, but he did flash his potential during the postseason. He is physically gifted with long arms (7-foot wingspan) and a good NBA body. He’s not terribly athletic, but he has the ability to make things look easy. He has a solid off-the-dribble shot, but needs to work on catch-and-shoot situations. Possibly the best characteristic of Barnes is his desire to be the best player he can be and actually doing what it takes to get it done.
Perry Jones, 6’11” SF/PF, Freshman, Baylor
Jones was arguably the favorite to go first overall in this year’s draft if he didn’t decide to go to back to Baylor. He’ll miss the first five games of the season due to his mother accepting loans from his AAU coach, as well as going to a preseason NFL game with said coach, but Jones will eventually hit the floor and be featured on offense. Despite possessing excellent ball-handling skills for a big man, an ability to take his defender to the rack, and out-of-this-world athleticism and size, Jones didn’t get as many touches last season as he should have. He has huge upside since he’ll put in the work and has improved his post moves and jumper. Pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops is how he’ll rule in the half-court. On fast breaks, Jones can finish with explosion. There’s a lot to like here.
Terrence Jones, 6’8” SF/PF, Freshman, Kentucky
Jones came in highly regarded along with fellow freshman, Brandon Knight. At the beginning of the season, it appeared that Jones would end up being the better of the two. However, his early season success didn’t follow throughout the rest of the season, he fell back a bit, but still did very well his freshman season. He’s able to score in a variety of ways and being a left-handed player could give him some advantages. Jones has nice extension around the rim and improved his ability in the post out of necessity to fit in for the Wildcats, but he still possesses the ability to take his defender off the dribble and hit jumpers. He needs to be more consistent in regards to his intensity throughout the game and controlling himself. Going back for his sophomore season could be a blessing in disguise for Jones to improve and mature.
Jared Sullinger, 6’8” PF, Freshman, Ohio State
Sullinger was a load down in the blocks for the Buckeyes with a polished back-to-the-basket offensive repertoire. As a freshman, he led Ohio State to an impressive 34-3 overall record and 16-2 Big Ten record. However, considering his teams’ multiple state championships during his high school career and Sullinger’s outstanding leadership ability, Ohio State’s success last season shouldn’t have been too surprising. Sullinger has always been big, but has trimmed down dramatically the last few years while remaining a bruiser down on the block. He’s an excellent rebounder on both sides of the court thanks to a near 7-foot wingspan and uses his body to create space and wear down defenders. Sullinger could do some real damage in the NBA because he’s a worker and a winner.
Potential First Rounders
John Henson, 6’10” PF, Sophomore, North Carolina
Henson is an excellent shot blocker with an incredible 7-foot-6 wingspan and the ability to block shots with either hand. Flat out, he affects opposing offenses shots. He is athletic and can finish on the break or alley-oop and is improving in the post. His only negative trait is his thin frame.
Jeremy Lamb, 6’5” SG, Freshman, Connecticut
Lamb really made a name for himself during the Huskies run towards the NCAA title. He’s an excellent shooter from the perimeter that can also put the ball on the deck. Lamb has excellent length and very athletic. He reminds me of Kerry Kittles from back in the day.
Tyler Zeller, 6’11” PF/C, Junior, North Carolina
Zeller is a solid basketball player that seems to get things done no matter what. He doesn’t possess any specific outstanding skill, but he’s a big man that can move and still has some upside after two injury-plagued seasons that didn’t really help his development.
Players That Are Potentially One and Done
Anthony Davis, 6’10” PF, Kentucky
Davis oozes potential as he has excellent size, a 7-foot-4 wingspan, soft hands, and excellent athleticism. He has great instincts around the rim and could be a monster on the boards. He’s a top-notch defender that goes all out, but needs to temper his aggressiveness to stay out of foul trouble. He’ll also need to fill out his frame, but he did just have a 7-inch growth spurt from his junior to senior season in high school. He’s a potential first overall pick in 2012.
James McAdoo, 6’8” SF/PF, North Carolina
McAdoo has strong bloodlines as his uncle is NBA Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo. James has some nice post skills, solid ball-handling skills, can finish in transition either by himself or dishing off to a teammate for the score, makes space for his shot and has good physical attributes. Right now he’s a tweener that can develop into either the three or four in the NBA with some tweaking for each position.
Quincy Miller, 6’9” SF, Baylor
Miller has a lot of that thing they call upside, but he’ll also have a lot to prove his freshman year at Baylor after suffering a torn ACL at the beginning of his senior season. He has the potential to be a very good tall three in the NBA a la Kevin Durant. Miller can shoot from outside or take his man off the dribble with ease. He’ll need to be more focused on defense, but if you need scoring, Miller can get it done. Again, he’ll need to prove he can come back after such a big injury, but to be ranked within the top five picks of 2012 speaks highly of his skills.
Austin Rivers, 6’4” PG/SG, Duke
Rivers is the son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, so you know that Austin knows how to play basketball. It’s evident in his play offensively, seemingly able to score effortlessly in a myriad of ways — off the dribble, from beyond the arc, taking it to the rim, on the break, etc. He can be a bit of a ball hog, but has the potential to convert to a very good lead guard just like Stephen Curry and NBA prospect and graduating Duke guard Nolan Smith.
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