Looking to the Future: The Fantastic Four Still Alive in the Elite Eight

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Published: March 24, 2012

The college season is heading down to the wire, and lucky for all of us, the best players are still standing.

Harrison Barnes, like Andre Drummond did just a week before, has played himself out of contention for the Hornets top pick this summer. Against an Ohio team that came in as a heavy underdog, Barnes was a virtual no-show in a game that a true superstar would have taken over after the team’s point guard went down. Instead, Barnes hoisted up brick after brick, finishing 3-16 on the night. Sure, even the best shooters have poor games, but usually those guys attack the rim and get to the line when there jumper is not falling. Barnes just kept settling for jumper after jumper, and that just reflects poorly on his basketball IQ and overall value to a team.

So the Sensational Six is down to the Fantastic Four, as only Anthony Davis, MKG, Thomas Robinson, and Jared Sullinger remain as guys who will be worthy of the Hornets first pick in the June draft. Some analysts and mock drafts have Jared Sullinger “falling”, whatever that means. We all understand that there is no real and tangible thing from which Sullinger is “falling” right? I just had to ask, because I see people responding to this as if it were a real thing, as if all GM’s must adhere to some universal board that players rise and fall on throughout the season.

I remember when Elton Brand was falling back in 1999. Reports were coming out that GM’s felt he was undersized and didn’t have the upside of Steve Francis, Odom, or B-Diddy. He could even fall out of the top 6 some said, two mock drafts had him going number eight to the Cavs. But draft night came and Brand went first overall, because apparently he magically rose back up those mythical draft boards again. Point is, Sullinger is not rising and he is not falling. GM’s are still in the ‘gathering information’ stage and ranking these kids has not yet become a part of the process.

With that said, let’s take a look at some of the things that took place this week in college basketball.

I’m Coming Out!

- Austin Rivers and Royce White have declared and hired agents, as they are both virtual locks to be first round picks- but can either of them sneak into the lottery? White is perhaps the most unique player to come out in the past five or six years because his game is unconventional to say the least. You can’t help but think about former Hornet Anthony Mason when watching White, but I find myself wondering how many teams Mason could fit on if he were in the league today.

The league is more open and we are in the golden age of point guards, so some of Mason’s (and therefore White’s) skills simply wouldn’t be utilized. Perhaps he can be the leader of a second unit that plays at a slower pace, is more focused on defense, etc.- similar to Chicago’s second unit. Rivers, on the other hand, is better suited for the pros than the college game. He thrives in isolation settings and will benefit from more improvizational offensive sets that don’t have to go against zone defenses. He has to work on his left hand and must work on finishing better in the paint, but he compares favorably to a guy like Monta Ellis at this point in his career.

- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is rumored to be entering the draft according to the infamous “sources.” MKG came out and said that he didn’t know where those rumors came from, but did not flatly deny that they were untrue. The fact is that Gilchrist will be told that he is a lock to be a top five pick, and it will be foolish for him to return after hearing that. That said, he is a team guy and if Kentucky falls short, there is a chance he could return- so I guess I’m telling all of you to pull for Kentucky to tear down the nets.

- Reports are that Damian Lillard will enter the draft, and he is a virtual lock to go in the lottery with New Orleans, Portland, Utah, and Phoenix all hungry for a point guard. Lillard can flat out score but will face much stiffer competition in the pros than he did at Weber State. He played in two games against teams outside of their conference that made the tourney (BYU and California) and he averaged 14.5 PPG and shot 34% from the field; compared to 25 PPG and 47.5% against the mid-major teams that made up the vast majority of their schedule.

- I have never mentioned Moe Harkless before, but I am going to do so now. There is no way he goes in the lottery, but he would be a guy that Demps could target if he picks up an extra pick or trades back. He is 2-3 years away from being a serious contributor, but he can be a Rich Man’s Trevor Ariza if he reaches his full potential.

Time to Shine

- The guy most likely to turn the Fantastic Four into the Pheonomenial Five? Bradley Beal. As I said in the past, if he is the top guy on your board, you have to take him regardless of the similarities between he and Gordon. If the worst happens and the Hornets are drafting fifth or sixth, the Hornets would be foolish to reach on the lesser player (Perry Jones?) just because it filled an immediate need.

- Three weeks ago, James Michael McAdoo was a talented freshman who looked to be the future face of North Carolina, poised to lead them after all the stars left. Flash forward to today, and there are several people anticipating that he could leave after this season, and not only that, they think he might go ahead of the guys in the front court who start over him, based purely on potential.

The Injury Bug

- Kendall Marshall missed the Sweet Sixteen game due to an injury to his wrist, but it might have been the best thing that ever happened to him. GM’s and scouts watched the talented North Carolina team struggle without their floor general, and now it is hard to argue that anyone else is the MVP of the second best team in the nation.

- Although he has played relatively well, there is growing speculation that Jared Sullinger is playing with an injury, and if he is, that guy just became even more impressive. He just doesn’t have the same range of motion as usual, and it appears that it is due to a lingering back problem. If it is revealed that he played through the pain, and then gets the problem fixed, it should secure his spot in the top five despite all the projections saying otherwise.

Looking Ahead

- Kentucky vs. Baylor- wow! Two top three picks (MKG and Davis) against two guys who could be top three if they come back next year and mature, but probably won’t (Jones III and Quincy Miller). I don’t think Davis or Gilchrist have anything to prove, and their draft status is secure enough to overcome a dud tomorrow, but Miller and Jones could really help themselves by showcasing themselves in this game. A bad performance, however, could force them to do what they should do anyway- stay in school.

- Kansas vs. UNC. Again, we are watching a game that will feature multiple lottery picks and Hornets fans should focus their attention on the paint in this ball game. Thomas Robinson is slightly undersized and he will be forced to go up against two guys in John Henson and Tyler Zeller that have extraordinary length and ability. If Robinson can still dominate the paint and the glass against NBA caliber players, then his status as a top 3 pick will be secure.

- Syracuse’s 2-3 zone should cause all kinds of problems for Jared Sullinger today and might force him out onto the perimeter, but if OSU can get through the Orangemen, he will have an excellent chacne to showcase himself in the Final Four against either Thomas Robinson or UNC’s bigs.

Michael McNamara’s Hornets Big Board (Ceiling/Floor)

1. Anthony Davis (Kevin Garnett meets Hakeem/Alonzo Morning)

2. Thomas Robinson (Young Carlos Boozer + heart / Taj Gibson)

3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Scottie Pippen minus handles / Young AK47)

4. Jared Sullinger (Kevin McHale/ Tyler Hansborough)

5. Bradley Beal (Allen Houston/ Bobby Phills)

6. Andre Drummond (Athletic Andrew Bynum / Javele McGee)

7. Cody Zeller (Greg Monroe/ Jason Thompson)

8. Harrison Barnes (Paul Pierce/ 2011-12 Danny Granger)

9. Kendall Marshall (Young Andre Miller/ Mike Conley)

10. Tyler Zeller (Nene/ Robin Lopez)

11. Jeremy Lamb (Kevin Martin/ Gordon Hayward)

12. Damian Lillard (Russell Westbrook/ Raymond Felton)

13. Perry Jones III (PF version of Tyson Chandler/ Stromile Swift)

14. Terrance Jones (Young Antawn Jamison/ Al Harrington)

Looking to the Future is a weekly feature that you can find every Saturday only on Hornets 247.com. For past articles, click here.

32 comments
bee dat
bee dat

no because davis (tier 1), mkg and t-rob (tier 2) are the only ones I would be happy with earlier pick. Tier 3 (drummond sullinger, beal, barnes) scares the hell out of me. In 11 or 12 range we can hope marshall, lillard, henson,macadoo, rivers, or a zeller falls to us (in that order) all good choices for that range

Lucas Ottoni
Lucas Ottoni

Bradley Beal and Harrison Barnes are scratched off my list. Both are playing very badly. Two disappointments.

David
David

Robinson and MKG will pan out, both for the same intangible reason: They play their asses off. Robinson's rebound rate is through the roof: Honestly, he compares much more favorably to Kevin Love than Sullinger because of that. K-Love is a great rebounder, that's where most of his points come from. MKG will be a bulldog defender from day one and will put in the work to develop his offensive game.

NOH Domination
NOH Domination

MKG, Drummond, PJ3, Tyler Zeller, McAdoo, and despite my large KU affection probably even Robinson are just destined to not pan out. I don't get why you'd compare him to Tyson though. He can actually score outside of just dunks and he has no passion and not near the defensive animal of Chandler. I see him as more like a Chris Bosh skill set.

BigEasyBaller
BigEasyBaller

To be honest and I don't watch much college basketball, but from what everyone is saying about Sullinger, not athletic, short, low ceiling, etc. I would rather take a chance on Perry Jones III, b/c let me know if I am wrong, he just doesn't have the right attitude and gets lost some times but his potential is really high. I think that Monty Williams is one of the few coaches in the NBA that would be able to help him. So why not take a chance on someone that could be Great instead of someone that could just be ok.

J
J

I'm off the this subeject but the arena should be call the NOLA Garden but thats me

Eli
Eli

Securing Gordon long term and drafting Lillard and a big would be sweet!!

Chuck
Chuck

"I’m Coming Out!" First thought: congratulations! Any opinion on Austin Rivers? It's hard to determine where he would go. Chad ford has him in the mid 20s, but he's hearing from scouts that 10-20 is more likely based on potential. Seems like he's got a lot of maturing to do, but do you think we'd consider him with our second pick if it's in the 12-15 range?

Mike P
Mike P

I've been watching the big boards all year, and cannot understand Sullinger dropping out of the top 10 (and he has on some recently). The concerns are easy to spot: he's slow running up and down the floor and isn't the quickest to rotate on d due to his limited quickness. But weren't they saying the same things about Kevin Love? Sullinger has an advanced post game, great hands, a developing outside shot, is coachable, and hits the boards well. He's more likely to be Kevin Love than Glen Davis. If Sully dropped 20-30 pounds, he'd be a completely different animal. It isn't easy to drop that amount of weight, but any athlete knows that carrying even 10 extra pounds slows you down significantly, so any weight loss would be beneficial. Sully is probably carrying an extra 40. Sully is too good at a young age to say he can't become a great NBA player

504ever
504ever

Nice to see Kendall Marshall enter your Hornet's Big Board, and at a nice spot like 8 (because we need an upgrade at PG most of all). You had said you weren't going to include him because of your belief the Hornets weren't interested in him. Why the chnage of heart?

David
David

Sullinger is short, a B athlete, not long. I can't understand how you don't see this when you watch this dude play. He'll be a good, not great, NBA player and I'd rather see us go boom or bust and take Drummond if he's there at 4 or 5 instead of Sully. No offense to him, very good college player, but another below the rim, limited athlete with good basketball skills is not what this team needs. We already have 12 of those kinds of guys.

J
J

I perfer Davis & Lillard thank you.

Jordan
Jordan

I would be content if the Hornets took MKG with their pick (assuming it lands outside the #1) simply because of how many good PF's there are in the draft this year. MKG could have an impact similar to Andre Iguodala. With the T-Wolves pick you could grab a PF, and if Demps really wants a PG I'm sure he could trade into a late first round pick to get one.

macs21
macs21

The only reason the Blazers (or whoever picks below us if we pick 3rd) would want our pick would be to take the player we wanted at 3. Therefore, it'd be very unlikely the hornets would agree to such a trade. The only way I could see it happening would be if they could get two top 10 picks in exchange for their 3 pick. On the other hand, if they are super keen on someone outside the big 3 (Davis, Robinson, MKG) that they could get with a 4/5 pick and be happy to take that high then they would most likely do it. However, given that the general consensus is they are the 3 players with start potential I think it's very unlikely anyone trades down from the top 3 unless offered multiple lotto picks and a good young player. If you could get two top 10 picks and still be able to go for guys like Drummond, Barnes, PJIII, Sullinger and someone offered you a good starter you;d definitely have to think about it. Worth noting, in the two games without Marshall Barnes had 10 assists combined. Given there were doubts about his ability as a passer I'm not sure he should fall too far in the face of his bad shooting. Super small sample size each way, but still I think he'll be a better pro than Danny Granger.

504ever
504ever

It all depends on if you think the difference between 3 and 4 is greater than the difference between the 11 (plus 41) and 12? Specifically, if you trade down and don't get the player you want, you are screwed. So maybe you draft their players they draft your player and then you do it (when picks 11 and 12 happen). I am not sure it works for the 2nd rounder; is there really a second rounder who will make the Hornets next year, let alone improve it? And I do not believe the 11/12 swap comes close to making up for the 3/4 swap. The Blazers would have to throw in a player and I can't see anyone on their roster who fits for us and who they want to part with. Having said all of that, I really applaud your creativity.

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

Rivers will be a guy who goes to a team based on fit. He does not have a prototypical build or game for either guard position, so he fits well with a team that has either: - A big PG who can guard either guard position - A SF who handles the ball - A team with solid starting guards, but needs a spark off the bench If you try to make Rivers your starting PG or SG without one of those first two things, it won't work. To me, he is Lou Williams.

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

Just talked to two scouts and you will not believe the REAL reason that scouts are afraid of him. Will reveal it on this week's podcast. Not being a tease, it is just hard to explain in writing. Either way, I do not believe it is a legit concern, but some it might scare away some teams Also, both scouts have Bradley Beal WAY lower than I do. One had him as the #3 shooting guard in the draft- both liked Jeremy Lamb more.

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

Because, for the first time, I dont think Gordon will be here long term. That was the only thing holding me back. Marshall has always been a favorite of mine, just not with Gordon.

J
J

Marshall is ok great ball skills but Lillard a 40% 3pt shooter compared to Marshall 35% behind the arch.

NOH Domination
NOH Domination

Sullinger reminds me a lot of David West.. I'm ok with David West

da ThRONe
da ThRONe

I don't have a problem Drafting Sully if we are planing on getting super athetic at the 5. If we end up with like the 3 and 6 pick. I'm ok with Sully at 6 if we take Drummond @3 or vice versa. Also I love the kid Trey Burkes from Michigan. He's considering entering the draft and will be a real late 1st or early 2nd if he does. I see him as a Chris Paul type there college numbers are very similiar. Mostly it's because he's been clutch all year for UM and big moment(minus the B1G game against OSU). He walked in as a true freshman and ran the team. He's only like 5-11, but so is Chris Paul. He's tough and scrappy can get his own shot aswell as create for others. He's not as skilled as CP, but he may be a slighty better athlete. I'll continue to keep an eye on Burke. I highly doubt he'll leave before next year. However if he does this kid is a diamond in the rough.

Mike P
Mike P

I'm curious to hear why All of the mock draft sites seem to have Beal right around where you do because of his ability to rebound in addition to his basketball savvy and scoring ability. I only got to watch Lamb once, against Iowa State. UConn played some of the ugliest basketball I've ever seen. Hard to get a read off of him from just one game

bee dat
bee dat

btw, forget the draft maxim of drafting the best player you can irregardless of need. We need a new pg, so I'm hoping against hope for marshall or lillard with the twolves pick

bee dat
bee dat

Unless we have radical regime change we are planning our future AROUND eric gordon. I would personally love to see kendall as our second pick. I see him as a young jkidd.

504ever
504ever

Michael, Under what circumstances will Gordon not be here long term? We sign him to a short term contract? We sign and trade him? (I certainly don't see us letting him walk thus off season.) Your statement begs these questions and more, like why?

David
David

Well if we get Sullinger with the 18th pick, like David West, I would be thrilled as well.

C.C.
C.C.

Jared Sullinger DOES have a deadeye 17 foot jumper. The dude has every single post move in the book. He will be a Zach Randolph/Elton Brand type of player in the NBA. Sully will be a good NBA player, and we should be thrilled if we're able to get our hands on him.

David
David

yeah, just like david west...except without the handle or the dead eye 17 foot jump shot.