June 27, 2010

Who are the top three picks next year?

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a current topic in the sport. We had two questions this weekend, one Sunday and one today.

TODAY'S QUESTION: Gaze into your crystal ball and list the top three picks in next year's draft.

The pool of college stars in next year's draft appears to be weak, unless a handful of guys really take off. I mean, Vanderbilt's Jeffery Taylor is considered one of the top returnees. Naturally, then, none of my top three are current college players. At No. 1, I have incoming North Carolina freshman forward Harrison Barnes, who has been grooming himself for a big-time pro career. At No. 2, I have big man Perry Jones, who'll play an up-and-down style and will have a chance to blossom at Baylor. At No. 3 is incoming Ohio State freshman Jared Sullinger, who could end up being another Buckeyes big man taken early in the draft.


I'll go with two incoming freshmen and a junior: North Carolina freshman Harrison Barnes, followed by Kentucky freshman Enes Kanter and Georgia junior Trey Thompkins. Barnes has big plans for himself and I think he will make sure he goes No. 1 overall so he can start becoming a worldwide brand, a la Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Kanter, a 6-foot-9 a native of Turkey, is well-schooled fundamentally, but unlike a lot of tall young Europeans, he is physical and tough. Kentucky needs immediate help in the low post, and I think Kanter provides it, then follows the DeMarcus Cousins plan of leaving after his freshman season. Thompkins, admittedly, is a leap of faith. But I like the guy. I like his size (6-9/250), athleticism and strength. I think he will expand his role in his second season under coach Mark Fox, and I think his decision to stay in school will pay off quite handsomely.


The top three players in the 2011 are incoming freshmen who have yet to play a minute of college basketball. I think Baylor's Perry Jones will be the No. 1 overall selection. He reportedly stood out as much as any player during the workouts leading up to the McDonald's All-America game. He'll be any instant starter for the Bears, who lost starting post players Ekpe Udoh and Josh Lomers. North Carolina's Harrison Barnes, the No. 2-ranked recruit in the class of 2010, will be the second player chosen - especially if he can get the Tar Heels back into the NCAA tournament following a one-year hiatus. Kentucky's Enes Kanter will go No. 3, mainly because the foreigner is far more developed fundamentally than the rest of the prospects in his class.


The recent track record of the NBA suggests that I should have at least one incoming freshman point guard in my top three, but I frankly can't identify which one (Kansas' Josh Selby ? Kentucky's Brandon Knight? Duke's Kyrie Irving?) is the best NBA prospect. So I'm going to go with three freshman frontcourt guys instead. North Carolina's Harrison Barnes has the combination of size and skills that should make him appealing to NBA scouts. Ohio State's Jared Sullinger already has an NBA-ready body. And while I'm concerned that Baylor's Perry Jones didn't put up dominant numbers on his high school team, I bet some NBA team will be intrigued by his physical skills and tremendous upside this time next year.




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