Looking to the Future: Crashing the Party

Published: March 10, 2012

The top prospects have apparently seperated themselves from the pack, but is there any chance the pack can catch back up? 

Since this series began, I have maintained that there are six players (Davis, T-Rob, Drummond, Sullinger, MKG, and Barnes) who have seperated themselves from the pack. And with the Hornets seemingly destined to finish with a bottom three record, they will be guaranteed one of those six. But the most important part of the season is still to come and we have seen huge March performances elevate a players stock. It could decrease it as well, if he is a no-show when the lights are brightest. So with that in mind we look at what would need to happen for an outsider to crack the mythical Top Six, and whether someone on the inside could fall out.

On the Inside Looking Out

Anthony Davis is going number one; case closed. But none of the other guys are stone cold locks to go in the first six picks this year. First of all, they are all underclassman and they can choose to stay in school for another year. Andre Drummond and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have already hinted at returning and Jared Sullinger could have been a high lotto pick last year, but passed it up because he wants to bring OSU a title. Harrison Barnes and Thomas Robinson are the most likely to leave, but the lure of college life or chasing a title might be enough to make them stay.

Even if they all do come out, however, there are flaws in their game that scouts can pick apart. Beyond that, only Barnes and Sullinger have had success in the tournament prior to this year, so if they do not step up big on the biggest stage, their stock could drop. We’ve already seen Thomas Robinson have a mediocre game in the Big XII tournament, as Kansas was upset last night. If they are bounced early from the NCAA tournament and Robinson fails to deliver, those concerns about his height and lack of athletisicm will become magnified.

The point is that none of these guys are safe as of right now, partly because of minor flaws in their game, and partly because the guys behind them are extremely talented as well. It has been said that this might be the deepest and most talented draft class since 2003, and if that is the case, nothing is guaranteed. These prospects will have to fight and claw for their positions, and if they fail, there will be someone right there behind them to take their spot.

Gunning for the Top

Bradley Beal- Shooting Guard, University of Florida

You wouldn’t know it by looking at his numbers, but if there is one player who can get hot from deep and carry an underdog all the way to the Final Four, it is probably Florida’s Bradley Beal. Beal is often compared to Ray Allen by scouts, but he has been wildly inconsistent shooting the ball during his freshman year. He started off ice cold, then got hot in the middle of the season, and has again turned cold as the postseason heats up.

But today he gets #1 Kentucky, and the formula for beating Kentucky is getting hot from the perimeter. Florida (and Beal) have the ability to do just that if everything falls right. A win, or a close lose, to Kentucky today plus a steller tournament showing could elevate Beal to the #1 spot amongst perimeter players. He has already shown the toughness that Barnes lacks, as well as the scoring touch MKG hasn’t developed yet. If he puts it all together, he can easily be a top five pick.

Jeremy Lamb- Shooting Guard, University of Conneticut

As I mentioned before, a lot of these guys have not done it on a big stage. Lamb, however, has come up huge in some big moments for Conneticut, as he helped lead them to a Big East title and the NCAA title just last season. Most of the credit was given to Kemba Walker last season, but there is no way UConn wins either of those tournaments without Lamb. This year, UConn has been a huge disappointment, but Lamb has come to play and has solidified himself as a lottery pick in the 2012 draft.

To crack the Elite Six, however, Lamb is going to have to showcase himself in individual workouts because the Huskies likely won’t make the tournament- and even if they do, they are likely one and done. Lamb is one of those players that can go 28 of 30 from three in a private workout, but what GM’s will want to see is some added muscle and an ability to defend bigger 2 guards at the next level. The wingspan is there, and he will be a terror playing the passing lanes, but he needs to get bigger to have an impact playing man-to-man D.

Perry Jones III- Power Forward, Baylor

The premise for this article, in all honesty, came from me thinking about Perry Jones’ play as of late. He started the season as a consensus top five pick, then fall drastically, and now after two great games, he is back in the picture. He followed up a 31 and 11 game against Kansas State with 18 and 7 in an upset win over Thomas Robinson and #3 Kansas. He look rejuvinated and fierce in both games, going full speed throughout and rarely took a play off. His athletisicm is undeniable, as are some of his skills. He handles the ball better than 99% of guys his size and he has shown potential as a jump shooter.

For Jones to climb back into the elite group, he has to help Baylor go deep in the tournament and play consistantly along the way. He has been up and down all season, and has actually scored in single digits 10 times this season, despite having the potential to go off for 30+ like he did against Kansas State. And it is not just the scoring that has wavered. Sometimes Jones looks like a beast on the glass and in the paint, while other times he simply has no impact in those areas. In the previous matchup against Kansas State, for instance, he had just four points and four rebounds in a 57-56 loss. That is the SAME team he went off for 31 and 11 against just three weeks later! Now just imagine- you are a GM of a bad team with a top five pick- how scared would you be to bet the future of your franchise on this guy? But somebody just might be crazy enough to do it.

Austin Rivers- Shooting Guard, Duke

Okay this one might be a bit of a stretch, but Rivers would be the guy I would put money on to have a Steph Curry type of tournament if I was forced to bet. And if he does, then why wouldn’t you consider him in the top five? A coaches son with a high basketball IQ, terrific body control and athletisicm, and the ability to score in a multitude of different ways. Obviously Rivers is a bit one-dimensional, but he is light years ahead of Jimmer Fredette, who went top 10 just last year.

With Rivers, a team would likely be drafting more on need, and that is probably the only way he cracks the top six. Power forward is a pretty stacked position in the NBA right now, and several teams already have their PF of the future. Rivers could leap frog the other perimeter players with a terrific postseason and land on a team like Charlotte, should they fall to the 4th pick in the draft.

Hornets Big Board as of today:

1. Anthony Davis

2. Thomas Robinson

3. Andre Drummond

4. Jared Sullinger

5. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

6. Harrison Barnes

7. Bradley Beal

8. Perry Jones III

9. Jeremy Lamb

10. Austin Rivers

11. John Henson

12. Cody Zeller

13. Damian Lillard

14. Terrance Ross

Looking to the Future is an article that runs every Saturday only on Hornets247.com. For past articles, click here.



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