Looking to the Future: Big Games Clarify Draft Picture

Published: February 11, 2012

Rivalry Week helps Hornets sort out their draft board

While it is fun to watch a guy go off for 52 against NW Jabroni State, GM’s tend to focus on what prospects do against big time college programs when making their selections. This week we saw several matchups that featured top prospects going head to head, and as a result, the draft board has come into focus.

#7 Florida (58) at #1 Kentucky (78)

The only chance Anthony Davis doesn’t go #1 is if some Division 1 player crawls down into a cave and finds alien crystals that give him super powers that he decides to use on the court. Davis is that good, and whichever team selects him will have a franchise changer on their hands. But GM’s already knew that- what they really wanted to see in this game was how two other lottery picks (Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal) would perform.

Gilchrist practically had a double-double at the half, finishing with 13 and 13. He was a terror on defense, and his ability to rebound allowed Kentucky to get out on the break time after time. Meanwhile, Beal was explosive in the first half, but as Kentucky made their run Beal started to settle for perimeter shots and he just could not hit (1-7  from three). The comparison for Beal is clear, although I have not seen it made before. He is the young Allen Houston, a guy who can get to the bucket, hit a mid-range shot, and be as deadly as anyone when his deep stroke is on. He is not in that Elite 6, but he is standing just outside of it and could go anywhere between 8 and 13 in the upcoming draft.

#9 Duke (85) at #5 North Carolina (84)

This game will forever be remembered for Austin Rivers’ big three-pointer at the buzzer, but there were many telling moments long before that shot was drained. Harrison Barnes was silky smooth all night and got to the line almost every time he took the ball to the rim on his way to 25 points. Per ususal, Barnes didn’t make a huge impact outside of scoring, but aren’t we starting to nitpick here? Perhaps people are spoiled by guys like Lebron who can go out and get a triple-double on any given night and play lock down defense. Barnes will never be that kind of player, but can he be what Joe Johnson was in his prime? Definitely. Barnes will be a top five pick if he comes out this year, even though all he can do is score. As if that is so bad.

Tyler Zeller and Kendall Marshall also boosted their stock in this game, locking themselves into that mid-first round territory. And while John Henson’s line looked impressive (12 points, 17 rebounds), it is simply brutal to watch him on the offensive end in a game like this where there are so many talented players on the floor. If Marshall wasn’t on the court to get Henson easy buckets, he would struggle to score five points per game.

And that brings us back to Austin Rivers, who had the sports world buzzing the next day. Trending on Twitter, a lead topic on 1st and 10, you name it and Rivers was being talked about. Like Barnes, people love to pick apart his game because he isn’t well rounded, but how many NBA players are? While its true that he is too small to play shooting guard, and he is too selfish to play point, there are guys like Monta Ellis who thrive in the league without a true position. Rivers plays a lot like Ellis, and is more talented than Jimmer Fredette (who went 10th last year), so being selected at the end of the lottery is not out of the question for Rivers.

#10 Kansas (68) at #6 Baylor (54)

Perry Jones III dreams of being a top five pick officially died on this night, as he was thoroughly outplayed once again by Thomas Robinson. Perry Jones was 1-8, scoring just one more point (5) than he had fouls committed (4). Jones just looked completely lost out there and was rather lethargic for such a big game. Robinson, meanwhile, looked like a polished product who could contribute in the league tomorrow.

At some point in the next two months Jones will do something that excites NBA GM’s- he will have a Dunk of the Night on SportsCenter, or fill up the box score against some Big XII also-ran, but if they are smart, they will slip in this game tape to see who it is they are drafting. Jones is a tremendous athlete, and a good kid, but his motor is questionable and he has no leadership skills to speak of. Just a month ago, Jones was being talked about as the #2 overall pick, while Robinson wasn’t even mentioned as somebody who could go top 5. Because of the last four weeks, and this game imparticular, those two have completely traded places.

Hornets Draft Board (Projected)

1. Anthony Davis- If he comes out, Davis is the first pick no matter which team is drafting.

2. Thomas Robinson- Production (Robinson, Sullinger) vs. Potential (Drummond). Production wins. 

3. Jared Sullinger- See above.

4. Andre Drummond- Just doesn’t have the feel of a dominant player around the basket, but neither did Dwight Howard at his age. Potential is enormous. 

5. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist- Edges out Barnes because Demps values intangibles and defense. Gilchrist is a 10 in both areas. 

6. Harrison Barnes- Hornets fans will fall in love with Barnes because it is tough to watch a team that can’t crack the 90 point barrier. Barnes will be an elite scorer in NBA.

7. Jeremy Lamb- He grades out higher than Beal because he is a proven winner and has good enough ball handling to play with Gordon in the back court.

8. Brad Beal- Almost too similar to Eric Gordon to take with Minny pick, but if Demps gets the feeling that Gordon wants out, he could be a great replacement.

9. Perry Jones- Too much upside to bypass if he falls this far, but I would bet Demps is hoping he doesn’t have to take the gamble.

10. Terrance Ross- A sleeper and a fresh face to the top 10, Ross also possesses top notch intangibles and shooting ability. Defense needs to improve. 

11. Cody Zeller- High IQ for such a young player, Zeller could develop behind ‘Mek and give the Hornets a top 10 center three or four years down the road. 

12. Austin Rivers- Dell and Monty will fall in love with a son of a coach, who could be this generation’s Dell Curry for the new look Hornets. 

13. Marquis Teague- He is improving every game for Kentucky and compares favorably to someone like Jrue Holliday. Would make excellent partner down the line for Gordon.

14. Arnett Moultrie- Can get lazy at times, but is an outstanding athlete who can possibly be the best scoring big in this draft if he reaches his potential.




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