Tag:Jared Sullinger
Posted on: November 22, 2011 11:46 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 2:27 pm

The Draftbook 11.22.11: Getting to know you

The Draftbook is a collection of notes on prospects from our evaluation of players. Contributors come from all across CBSSports.com and are noted at the end of all notes. Notes on each player may be from multiple contributors. 

Anthony Davis 

[University of Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis has emerged as the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft owing to his unique combination of size, length, instincts, skill level and finesse. His ability to block shots as a one-on-one post defense and help defender are his calling card. He can close down passing and driving lanes, step out to defend the high post and switch onto perimeter players if necessary without getting immediately exposed.

Davis has regularly drawn comparison to Marcus Camby thanks to his shot-blocking and rebounding abilities. He will need to improve his strength – both upper and lower body – to become a Camby-esque rebounder at the next level, but he keeps plays alive and taps balls out relying on his wingspan alone.  

Tall and long enough to eventually play center in the NBA, Davis nonetheless freely moves around the perimeter, is comfortable turning to face the basket and has enough feel to develop a mid-range game. There’s a very real possibility that he turns into one of the best high screen-and-roll threats in the NBA. Davis has the size and footwork to set a worthwhile screen, the grace to roll quickly to the basket or fade to a spot, the hands to receive the pass and the length and leaping ability to finish well above the rim. He also could become an excellent high-post player with the skill to face the hoop and either use a dribble to collapse the defense or feed a more traditional low-post scorer with an entry pass.

Davis isn’t ready to be a franchise-changing player straight out of the gate but his learning curve won’t be that steep. He’s far more polish than project and should be in the All-Star discussion within four seasons assuming he continues to fill out.] - Ben Golliver

[Davis' best offensive ability so far has been in the pick-and-roll. Kentucky has ran it more this season than in years prior, and Davis has been a huge part of that. He sets solid screens and with his prior knowledge as a guard, understands how to navigate the lane for the passer. It doesn't hurt that his 7-4 wingspan allows him to pretty much catch and destroy the rim anytime they can execute the pass. He hasn't been asked to do much beyond that offensively, and scouts will want to see him play with his back to the basket as well as from short-range face-up. He's not the complete package, but his skillset just provides so much, it's easy to see why he's the consensus No. 1. 

Defensively everyone will rave about the measurables and athleticism, but maybe the more impressive element is how much effort Davis puts into that end of the floor. He's able to attack weakside and recover to his man, and there's not a shot he can't block. The phrase "JaVale McGee with a higher basketball IQ" has entered my mind more than one time when watching him defensively. That said, he hasn't faced a true post player defensively, and considering his slender frame and the fact he hasn't grown into his length yet, that's going to be an area of concern. Likewise he needs to improve his ability to hold rebounding ability because eventually he won't be simply long enough to snag whatever comes his way.] - Matt Moore

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

[Davis is the No. 1 overall at this point, but it's entirely possible that instead of Harrison Barnes or Jared Sullinger, two Wildcats are taken back-to-back at the top of the draft. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been very impressive early on, and even more so when you consider his pro prospects. A 6-7 forward, Gilchrist possesses an NBA-adaptable skillset with the mentality to match. His biggest weakness so far has been turnovers, but even that shows a willingness to function as a playmaker and not just as the tip of the spear. His handle in the pick and roll is going to be a major asset, and his frame allows him to back down smaller defenders. He's shooting 42 percent from the perimeter early on, and that range opens up his baseline burst which is exceptional. In short, it's hard to find a prospect element that's noticeably weak.

Defensively, he attacks well in transition and does a good job sticking. He's got a ways to go in that area in terms of technique, but his lateral quickness is sufficient and his chasedown block ability is reminiscent of some of the elite players in the game. He's a driven winner that is prone to visible frustration on the court, but not a degree he disengages when things are going poorly. MKG joins UConn's Jeremy Lamb as the fastest riser early in the season.] - Matt Moore 

Harrison Barnes

[You hear the term "NBA ready" but Barnes is all of that. His body is developed, his game is developed and mentally, he looks like he'll be prepared to step right in to a rotation.

Love Barnes' mid-range game. He strikes me a bit Rip Hamilton-ish in that he's really adept at coming off a screen and getting just enough space to release a jumper.

He uses his body well in traffic. Distributes weight and takes contact really well.

Good help defense instincts. He had one block in particular against Michigan State where he came seemingly from nowhere for a beak weakside block.

Hard to say exactly where he stands athletically. He's doesn't seem to have a lightning quick first step and in the one breakaway he had, his dunk was pretty pedestrian. Not to say he should've done a 360 or something, but I'm just not sure he's a crazy good athlete or anything. Not that he needs to be in order to make it in the NBA, but I just don't see him dunking over Dwight Howard or anything.

With Barnes, there's just a "feel" to him. He just always looks like he gets it. Where he needs to be, what shot is good and what's not, when to drive, when to pass -- he has a tremendous feel for the game. He lets it come to him and is just forceful enough.

Don't write Barnes off because he doesn't have incredible athletic ability. He's polished and understands spacing extremely well. There have been a lot of great scorers in the NBA exactly like him. ] - Royce Young

Jared Sullinger

[Ohio State sophomore Jared Sullinger has gotten lost a bit in the hype surrounding this year’s freshman class hype. After an offseason that saw significant weight loss and continued skill development, Sullinger is an improved version of the dominant low-post player he was as a freshman. Add improved quickness and stamina to his long list of positive attributes that already included soft hands, an excellent nose for rebounding positioning and leverage, a wide frame, a great motor, a positive disposition and confidence as a go-to scorer.  

Sullinger is crafty at sealing his man to establish position for an entry pass or, if possible, an over-the-top lob. He doesn’t require possession after possession of isolation opportunities, moving off the ball to create scoring chances and relentlessly crashing the offensive boards to keep plays alive or to scrounge out garbage points.

His weight loss is most noticeable on the defensive end. During Monday’s game against North Florida, Sullinger denied an entry pass in the post, stepped out to hedge on a high screen-and-roll, recovered and called out a defensive rotation to ensure the ball couldn’t be rotated, and then returned back to his original man as the clock wound down, boxing him cleanly for the defensive rebound. His quickness and ease in getting from the paint to the arc to the paint in rarely seen in someone his size.

Sullinger – who is listed at 6-foot-8 or 6-foot-9 -- will be questioned about his height every day from now until he has the chance to prove he can score against NBA defenders. Until then, he will continue to be arguably the biggest force in college hoops.]- Ben Golliver

Thomas Robinson

[Surprisingly, Robinson may be the Kansas prospect I've been highest on in a decade, and that includes two members of the national championship team and two members of the Final Four team from earlier in the 00's. Robinson came in over the summer at 6-10 in a non-university measurement, with a 7-1 wingspan. His aggression inside in finishing on the putback has made him an abject beast. He's got the NBA body. There's no issue of frame or explosion-loss as he puts on weight. He's beefy and still able to detonate. He runs the floor well and can finish in traffic. He's not bothered by contact and can take and give a bump. 

His lateral quickness is good enough for him to be able to guard stretch-fours at the next level, and while gaurding fives is going to be too steep of a hill to climb (he plays closer to 6-9), he's the kind of body you can trust to take a beating. He maintains a nice consistent effort at both ends and has good instincts of when to bring help. 

He would benefit tremendously from showing any semblance of an offensive game outside of finshing for layups or putbacks. His back to the basket game hasn't been shown as much but he's got great a great baseline spin when he goes to it. He lacks a guard to run a pick and roll with, which is an area he might excel in, given his skillset. Robinson looks to be a solid top-ten prospect early.] - Matt Moore

[Chiseled and ready to take his game to the next level. God, that sounds so cliche, right? Except Robinson only played bench minutes last year. Now he's expected to contribute more than 30 per game. And he's ready for it. Alpha.] - Matt Norlander

Austin Rivers

[Duke freshman Austin Rivers is another in a long line of polarizing score-first guards who need the ball to be at their best but lag behind as natural play-makers. In addition to good size – 6-foot-4, 195 pounds – Rivers has excellent burst off the dribble, comfort going both left and right, a trusty crossover going either direction and NBA range on his jumper.  Put that together and he can break down a defense from the top or the wing in fairly rapid fashion. His bread-and-butter right now is getting all the way to the rim to finish, something he will be doing with less frequency at the next level. Still, he’s not afraid to pull up or toss up a floater, and he moves with sufficient control that most of his attempts are fairly high percentage looks.

He gets into trouble when he starts to force things. He’s prone to forcing up shots in traffic, making inconsistent reads of the team defense facing him and missing open teammates on the block or on the perimeter. It’s clear he has the green light with the ball in his hands, but he can become an efficiency drag right now. If his shot isn’t falling or the ball isn’t in his hands, he drifts; a vast majority of his offense and opportunities are created off the dribble. 

Defensively, he’s best suited to guarding NBA two guards and combo guards given his height and length even if he’s a bit shorter than a conventional NBA two. His generally mentality is head, as you would expect from a coach’s son, but he can range from intensely competitive when things are going well to a half-touch out of control when they aren’t.] - Ben Golliver

[Rivers has issues with identity, and that's going to be a problem if he attempts the leap after the first year. His size indicates a point guard, both in height and frame, but he's clearly looking to score at any and all opportunities. His vision hasn't revealed itself to be adequate yet. More notably, his passes lack velocity and accuracy, too often he's lofting college passes when the Duke offense needs him whipping the ball. He's got more than a passing fascination with NBA range and seems at times to be in a shooting contest with Seth Curry. 

It's very early, so we're definitely not making an predictions about Rivers (or any player), but he's not been among the early impressers.] - Matt Moore

Terrence Jones

[University of Kentucky sophomore Terrence Jones is nearly the prototype for the NBA stretch four: versatile enough to spend some time at the three, strong enough to log minutes at the four.

A lefty, Jones rarely goes right whether he’s facing up off the dribble or backing down a smaller defender in the post. He’s quick, powerful and smooth when creating his own face-up offense, drawing comparisons to Lamar Odom, but his lack of range and preference for settling for easier shots rather than working for quality looks limits his utility to some degree.

Jones isn’t afraid to scrap under the basket and he will be an effective rebounder on both ends at the NBA level. His motor on defense is very good and he is a high-pressure defender both in the post and on the perimeter, racking up blocks and deflections. Right now, he’s equally prone to producing absurd displays of athleticism and making knucklehead decisions.] - Ben Golliver

John Henson

[It's really hard to keep Ed Davis out of your head while watching Henson. Long, lean and left-handed.

I also couldn't get Marcus Camby out of my head while watching him. He's the type of player that impacts everything defensively. His length is just unavoidable. He's everywhere in the paint. His wingspan darn near covers block to block in the paint. He's got great instincts and absolutely could lead the NBA in blocks some day.

He's got a long way to go offensively. But that's not his game. He's not going to back anyone down or pull off a big drop-step move or anything. He's not really going to be effective in the pick-and-pop game. But he's going to be available for any oop you throw and he's going to be a menace on the offensive glass, just because of his length and athleticism.] -Royce Young

[Henson's already penciling himself in for a "known commodity" spot in the lottery. There are players you take on upside and players you take because you know they'll contribute. Henson's got a strong enough set of assets and skills to assure himself a spot without ever being a star.

Offensively his greatest strength is his explosion baseline. He's most comfortable there, and with his handle on his spin move, that could be the kind of signature strength he needs. His spacing of the floor for lobs is superb. Paired with a quality point guard, his rookie production could surprise] - Matt Moore

James McAdoo

[My early impression is that McAdoo might be a player better suited with another year in college. He's just a freshman and while he's got a solid 6-8, 225-pound frame, he could still stand a little more muscle and development, especially if he's going to play the 4 in the NBA.

Speaking of, he saw just 17 minutes against Michigan State. He wasn't all that involved offensively and really looks like he's just a raw talent that needs some development. By the end of the year, he could be seeing major minutes though. There's just so much depth up front for the Tar Heels right now.

His wingspan. Talk about some length.

He's smooth. He has the look of a guy that hasn't even started scraping his potential. He could be a terrific inside-out guy.] - Royce Young

Tyler Zeller

In terms of college production, Zeller is probably the best player North Carolina has. He's a bit Tyler Hansbrough-ish in that he produces mostly on motor and effort over raw skill and athletic ability. But don't take that as he's not a good athlete. Because he can jump and run really well, especially in that seven foot body.

My question for Zeller mainly is, what will he do well in the NBA? Is he a banger? A defensive stopper? A Kris Humphries type that just churns out double-doubles? I don't think he's starting center material, but there's still a little left to his game to be developed. He has some touch.

Zeller is the type of player than can appear dominant in college because he's got tremendous size and a lot of ability within that, but when he gets to the NBA and starts seeing guys as big and athletic as him, will he be able to do the same things?

To that point, it'll likely come down to what Zeller is capable of defending at the next level. His lateral quickness didn't blow me away and I'm not sure he's really got the brute force to take on guys like Dwight Howard, Al Horford, Andrew Bynum or Nene. But is he athletic enough to cover 4s? I doubt it. He could be caught in between a bit.] - Royce Young

Kendall Marshall

[One thing sticks out when watching Marshall: court vision. He sees the floor extremely well. He had one leak out pass against the Spartans that blew me away. He got a long rebound, quickly looked up and hit a streaking teammate in the span of about two seconds. Impressive.

Some are going to think that because Marshall doesn't score much that he's not NBA lottery material. But he's a floor general in the truest sense of it. He tries to control the game from start to finish.

Good size (6-3), but not overly quick or athletic.

Not a good shooter by any means. His form is iffy from outside and he has a pretty slow motion. I could see an NBA coach trying to overhaul that.

He plays with great pace. He's quick without hurrying and always under control. It's extremely rare to see him reckless on a possession. Hardly ever makes a bad decision with the ball in his hands. 

- He's going to have to improve as a finisher at the next level. What makes a good point guard isn't just the ability to control a game passing the ball, but also have the ability to drive and score. He needs to just watch Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker for hours on ends.] - Royce Young

Andre Drummond

[It's still early and Drummond's not yet adapted to that UConn offense yet. It's not the college game -- it's playing for Calhoun. Just give it some time.] - Matt Norlander

Drummond's improved tremendously since his opening night disaster. But one thing should remain in sight: there's time for the kid. It would be better not to rush a big man with his particular set of assets (raw, hyper-athletic, tremendous length, questions about mental preparation) into the next level until he's ready. If he needs a year of coming off the bench or playing a complimentary role to grow into his confidence, that will do more for him than another year of strength training in the NBA. Drummond has every ounce of potential he's been hyped to have. But there's also no reason to force him to be ready right now. We'll give him the year but remain cautious about him being a lock.] - Matt Moore

Jeremy Lamb

[Re: Drummond. Look right here. Lamb was a nobody at this time last year. Now he's seen as a surefire lottery pick -- and he's looked fantastic to start the season. Have already heard top-three talk. ] - Matt Norlander

[The dunk. That's all I needed. Lamb's the alpha dog scouts love, and probably has the greatest gain potential from season start position to season's end. 

An underrated aspect of improvement? Lamb's becoming a ball-hawk. He's got great anticipation on the edge. ] - Matt Moore

Patric Young

[When you make Jared Sullinger look undersized, it's impressive. Young handled himself well against Ohio State last week, even though his team lost the game to the Buckeyes. There are plenty of people still waiting to see what Young is -- is he just a physical freak that lacks a couple of true, go-to weapons? Does he have a particular skill outside of Tyrannosauring his way around the block?] - Matt Norlander

Marquis Teague

[Here's a weird cross-section. Teague's biggest issue has been turnovers early on. He's burning through them at an alarming clip. But Teague also possesses one of the better handles I've seen from the top prospects. He's got the athletic speed you've come to expect from Calipari guards, and a killer crossover. His decision making hasn't caught up to his athletic ability yet, and it shows. Teague's likely to have one or two terrific games as the season goes on and he settles down, but he's also caught up in a team that's bursting with talent. 

However... Teague's also shooting 67 percent from range this season early on.  His spot-up shooting is a terrific addition to his skillset. If he can just quit with the six-turnover games, he's going to go back up the draft board.] - Matt Moore

Posted on: November 22, 2011 5:52 pm
Edited on: November 22, 2011 6:22 pm

NBA Draft Fall Primer: Draft without a season?

By Matt Moore

The 2012 NBA Draft could very well be the most exciting draft since 2003. For starters, it likely could be the first NBA event since the 2011 Draft. It could be a random lottery. It could be weighted. There are a number of interesting variables, and that's before we get to the player pool.

With so many players backing out of the draft last season due to the NBA lockout, this class looks to be one of the most dominant classes in recent history. It would be one thing if it was just those returning players, though, but the freshmen also make up a significant upgrade over the past few years. NBA executives are licking their chops at a chance to get a hold of some of this talent, you know, when they have a sport for them to play in.

So to get you ready for the 2012 NBA Draft, consider this your Fall Primer as college basketball gets underway.

Contingency plans

If the 2011-2012 NBA season is lost, there are only a handful of ways the draft can go. Each has dramatic ramifications and will impact the careers of hundreds of players when factoring free agents and current players on rosters. Here are the options. 

1. No draft: If the two sides can't reach a settlement by late June when the draft is to be held, it's conceivable there would simply be no draft. This is a nightmare scenario as not only are we deprived of the dulcet tones of New York fans randomly jeering and heckling the commissioner, but guys that are ready to make the jump have to risk another year of injury in college. There would be an upside, obviously, with next year being an even bigger class as the studs of this class get another year to season. But it would also set franchises back to not have that draft class at all, especially if they're rebuilding. 

2. Take last year's lottery numbers and re-draw: This is obviously the favorite of the lottery teams, particularly those teams in most need of talent, teams like Cleveland, Minnesota (this protects their pick from Boston), and Toronto. Thing is, given that there's no way to tell what the impact of the last draft would have been on the season, the fight from other teams is going to be seen as legitimate. Who knows what Kyrie Irving could have done for the Cavs? What if Derrick Williams is a bonafide star? This helps the teams that need it the most (unless they've traded their pick), and since it would still be a lottery, would still leave things open for chance (can you imagine if Houston, barely missing the playoffs in 2011, managed to snag Davis, Barnes, or Sullinger?). 

The biggest reason this won't happen is that playoff and late-lottery GMs know the value of this draft. And they want a shot at it. Because rejecting this option opens the way for...

3. Equal-30-team lottery: Imagine you're the Lakers. The sun is setting on the run you had with Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant. Bryant is still very much a viable star, but the overall makeup of the team is shifting, and needs to be built around Andrew Bynum, in all his flagrant-fouling glory. It looks like a hard road ahead. Until you land the No. 1 overall draft pick, allowing you trade Pau Gasol and still have Bryant, Bynum, and now either Anthony Davis, Jared Sullinger, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, or Andre Drummond, should you go for the twin-towers approach. 

And the rest of the league shivered in their sleeping bags. 

This idea is going to be pushed by the elite teams, who are going to argue it's the only fair way to go about it, because of the number of unknowns losing a season presents. Boston could find the answer to what comes after the Big 3. The Bulls could land the second star Derrick Rose needs. Good teams could become great. Great teams could become elite. The ramifications are staggering. 

One team that doesn't improve in this situation? Miami. Cleveland has the option to swap picks in 2012 with the Heat, which would be pretty much the funniest thing ever if it's the Heat's pick in exchange for LeBron James that gives Cleveland the superstar of the future. 

This scenario results in mass chaos beyond all reason. Which is why the most-logical scenario is...

4. A three-to-five-year-weighted lottery: In this scenario modeled after what the NHL chose when it locked out for an entire season, teams are weighted based off their win-loss records over the past three-to-five years, depending on what the league opts for. The benefits are obvious. This rewards teams that have struggled over more than just last season and actually rewards the teams that have been historically bad. 

One team that would be royally damaged by this process is Cleveland. The Cavs would suffer based on the playoff success back when they had LeBron James and last season's epic disaster wouldn't be enough to offset it. On the other hand, teams like the Timberwolves, Kings, and potentially even Grizzlies would benefit a great deal from such an arrangement. Though it would be unfortunate, most likely, for Cavs fans, it does make the most sense, to the point you wonder why each draft isn't treated like this. It's a compromise based on both the elite and basement teams' desire to nab the talent in this class, and if we lose a season, it's the most likely scenario. 

The Kentucky Kid/Freakshow

Harrison Barnes may be the most complete player in the country. Jared Sullinger may be the most polished player in the country. Terrence Jones is a miniature beast. But the top of the draft? It's still kids, it's still freshmen, it's still Calipari, it's still Kentucky.

Anthony Davis has already endeared himself to rebuilding teams' fans all across the non-existent league. With a 7-4 wingspan he grew into after years of playing guard, Davis is able to move seamlessly from one end of the floor. He's active on defense and that wingspan allows him to block nearly anything. His offensive repertoire still raw as he learns to grow into his body, but off the pick and roll, he's been tremendous. Davis is the kind of raw, athletic talent that scouts and GMs drool over, and he's got the ability to back it up.

Davis is considered the No.1 draft pick right now in the eyes of NBA personnel, according to Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com

It's one thing to have the wingspan and athleticism that Davis has, but he's shown an early willingness to commit on the defensive end that few prospects do. The words "JaVale McGee" have been used, and not in the usual negative way, either. He's been a swat machine, with a 17.11 block percentage, which is ridiculous. 

He's the consensus No. 1 right now. He'll need to work on his offensive repertoire to cement his position, but as it stands, Davis looks like a superb No. 1 overall.

The Sullinger-Barnes Circus

Harrison Barnes was a potential No. 1 pick before last season started. But a slump to start the year put a damper on his prospect status. He recovered extremely well throughout the remainder of the year, and would have been a top-3 pick had he not decided to return to North Carolina.

Jared Sullinger, on the other hand, continues to rack up points as the "experienced" player of the draft, and one of the most dedicated to improving his game. Sullinger keeps losing weight, understanding that at the pro-level, his humongous hindquarters won't help him in establishing post position as easily and that he'll need to be a svelt combo-forward to get minutes. It's the kind of self-awareness scouts rarely see and often covet.

The draft is always a youngest-man game, with teams wanting to oversee as much of the players' development as they can. But Barnes and Sullinger will be vying in the top five for which has the most impact as the more "polished" or "complete" product. Sullinger represents the more "polished" aspect with comparisons being drawn of Zach Randolph and Brandon Bass, while Barnes is the more highly touted prospect, and is considered the most "complete" player in the draft. If Davis is the wunderkind who you can't wait to see what he becomes, Barnes is the most "OK, I know where that guy fits right away" player at the top of the board.

Stacked Competition

When North Carolina faces Kentucky in Lexington on December 3rd, there will be ten legitimate prospects on the floor. Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, and Marquis Teague for Kentucky, Barnes, John Henson, James McAdoo, Tyler Zeller, and Kendall Marshall for UNC. That game basically is the draft combine.

But Baylor with Perry Jones and Quincy Miller will face Thomas Robinson and KU, as well as Myck Kabongo and Texas and LeBryan Nash and Oklahoma State. There are a number of matchups this year pitting top talent against top talent, the perks of having so many quality returning players.

More unanswered questions than usual

With a draft as exciting as this one, the questions that abound have more impact than the usual amount of unknown quantities in any pool of prospects.

Is Andre Drummond too raw to be a lottery pick this year?

Is LeBryan Nash a headcase?

How much of Thomas Robinson's aggression and explosiveness will translate when he's been listed as small as 6-8? (NOTE: A Nike camp measurement from this past summer listed him at 6-10 with a healthy wingspan of 7-1.)

What position is Terrence Jones going to play in the NBA and more importantly, did Josh Smith clone his brain and insert it into him?

Is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist actually the best prospect on Kentucky?

Will Austin Rivers be ready to make the leap when he has such a steep hill to climb in terms of point guard skill?

We'll be tracking these questions and many more throughout the college basketball season as part of our draft coverage. There's no NBA at the moment. But the next generation of players is ready to put on quite a show.

Posted on: July 5, 2011 2:18 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2011 2:30 pm

2012 NBA Draft: Light at the end of the tunnel

A look at five top 2012 NBA Draft picks and where they might fit best in the NBA. Posted by Ben Golliver.

A confluence of factors made the 2011 NBA Draft one to forget. The one-and-done class was weak to begin with; there were only 3-4 players selected who are believed to possess eventual All-Star talent; the impending NBA lockout scared many top players into returning to school; there wasn’t an American-born center taken in the first round; two of the most talented international players (Enes Kanter and Bismack Biyombo) had very short resumes and another, Jonas Valanciunas, had a tricky contract buyout. On and on the list goes.

In that light, the 2011 NBA Draft was about assessing risk for bad teams. Which incomplete player fits best with our pieces? Which of these diamonds in the rough might pan out in the right circumstances?

The 2012 Draft couldn't be more different. Yes, we're 11 months away, but it's setting up as an evaluating of rewards rather than riches thanks to a crop that should be in the running for best class since 2003 brought LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and company. Considering that the NBA's lockout is now officially underway, the 2012 class serves as the perfect light at the end of the tunnel.

At first glance, there are arguably 10 prospects who could have been top five talents in this year’s draft. Why? Because the one-and-dones that stayed put – big-name stars like Harrison Barnes and Jared Sullinger – will converge with a very strong high school Class of 2011 – topped by Anthony Davis, James McAdoo, Michael Gilchrist, Austin Rivers and others. 

Here’s an early look at five top prospects and where their impact would be greatest.

harrison-barnes1. Harrison Barnes | Sophomore | UNC | SF | 6-foot-8, 210 pounds   

Barnes should headline the 2012 NBA Draft class and is the early favorite to go No. 1 overall. Despite falling short of preseason All-American expectations and starting slow as a freshman, Barnes came on strong over the second half of the season, averaging 21.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in March. He has all the tools to be an NBA All-Star and an elite scorer. He’s polished, smooth, has a pretty stroke, good size and a scorer’s self-confidence. After he gets a second season under his belt, Barnes should be ready to start from Day 1 and step in as a No. 1 scoring option from the get-go in 2012-2013. He understands the marketing side of the modern game and projects to be a franchise building block.

Best fit: If the Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Bobcats are as bad as everyone expects them to be next season, Barnes serves as the potential savior.

2. Jared Sullinger| Sophomore | Ohio State | PF | 6-foot-8, 250 pounds

The No. 2 spot in next year’s draft is Sullinger’s to lose, although he’ll certainly have his share of challengers. A traditional low-post power forward, Sullinger shed questions about his weight to become the best freshman in the nation last season, averaging 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Sullinger is strong and relentless, overpowering older players at the college level. Physically, he’s a throwback in this age of combo fours and he would be the consensus No. 1 pick next year if he were an inch or two taller and a few inches longer so that he could more comfortably play center. His productivity on the glass – and the offensive efficiency that goes with it -- is his top selling point. The biggest concern: Will he be subject to mismatches on the defensive end (too short to guard fives, too big to stay with combo fours on the perimeter)?

Best fit: Pair him with a lengthy shot-blocker. The Washington Wizards – with JaVale McGee -- or the Detroit Pistons – with Greg Monroe -- would allow Sullinger to do what he does best.

3. Anthony Davis | Freshman | Kentucky | PF | 6-foot-10, 220 pounds

The best word to describe Davis is “tantalizing.” At this point, despite a solid showing on the All-Star circuit, Davis is regarded more for his potential than his current ability. That’s to be expected given a well-documented growth spurt that has made him the most hyped American big man prospect since Greg Oden. While Davis is much skinnier and less overwhelming than Oden, he is significantly more mobile. He's also  extremely long and active around the basket on both ends. Kentucky is an ideal situation for him to develop: surrounded by future pros and not asked to do too much, Davis should have an excellent chance to make a big impact games during March Madness, even if he isn’t putting up overwhelming stat lines. There isn’t a team in the NBA that wouldn’t take him today based on the rarity of his physical package. If he continues to develop his strength and size, he has a very good shot to go No. 1 overall, even if he’s riskier right now than Barnes or Sullinger.

Best fit: Pairing Davis with a wide body, low-post presence would be his best-case scenario: Minnesota, next to Kevin Love, or Sacramento, alongside DeMarcus Cousins.

4. James McAdoo | Freshman | UNC | PF | 6-foot-8, 223 pounds

McAdoo is a supremely talented, although sometimes overlooked, combo forward who will likely play four as a pro. His skill level, comfort with the ball in his hands, nose for rebounds, ability to finish and general intelligence make him a can’t-miss prospect. A (very) distant relative of NBA Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo, he raised his profile on the All-Star circuit and declared at the Nike Hoop Summit that he was ready to average 20 points and 10 rebounds as a freshman at Carolina, a feat that would be unprecedented. With UNC returning so much talent, he’s in line for an adjustment of expectations but there’s no question that he was born to play basketball at the NBA level.

Best fit: The Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t get the talented combo forward they desired in Derrick Williams in 2011. McAdoo would make a nice consolation prize. Pending a decision on Kris Humphries and a rumored free agency pursuit of David West, McAdoo would fit nicely next to Brook Lopez in New Jersey too.

5. Michael Gilchrist | Freshman | Kentucky | 6-foot-7, 205 pounds

NBA teams haven’t exactly shown a desire to reward elite wing defenders with top draft selections, but Gilchrist deserves it. He really redefines “motor” and “intensity,” making full use of his ideal wing size. He enjoys playing chest-to-chest defense but is comfortable off the ball as well, equally capable of taking a No. 1 scoring option out of the game or breaking plays from the weakside and finishing in transition. Other than an ugly release on his jumper, Gilchrist is a solid offensive prospect too, able to score and make plays, and fully comfortable with the ball in his hands.   

Best fit: Any team in need of an intensity injection. The Raptors, Wizards, Bobcats and Los Angeles Clippers all qualify.

All height and weight figures courtesy of DraftExpress.com.

Posted on: June 1, 2011 5:32 pm
Edited on: June 1, 2011 6:14 pm

Shaq: larger than life, on and off the court

Shaquille O'Neal's larger than life personality set him apart from the NBA's other great big men. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Shaquille O'Neal took the old “You can’t coach seven feet” cliché and multiplied it to the nth degree.

America can’t reasonably hope to reproduce – let alone coach – a player with his combination of talent, height, weight, strength, quickness and athleticism again. A sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famers and four-time NBA champion, O'Neal's successes have dominated the NBA for nearly two decades.  As a physical specimen, O’Neal stands as a once-ever product. The closest approximation we’ve seen so far – Dwight Howard – would have been overpowered by O’Neal in his prime. The next top American big man in the pipeline – Jared Sullinger – doesn’t belong in the same sentence or weight class as O’Neal; The undersized potential No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft would need to crane his neck just like the rest of us to get a good view of the XXL No. 1 overall pick in the 1992 Draft.

There are bits and pieces of all of the league’s premier big men in O’Neal. His dominance on offense was matched only by Wilt Chamberlain. The shattered backboards were Daryl Dawkins redux. His rebounding drew comparisons to Moses Malone, his shot-blocking instincts to Bill Russell. His jump hook wasn’t nearly as deadly as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook but he made it work. Ditto his footwork and short turnarounds, loosely and somewhat hopelessly co-opted from Hakeem Olajuwon. O'Neal has even carried the philanthropic torch passed down by David Robinson.

Shaq: The Legacy
Stats (All-Time List)
  • Games: 1,207 (23rd)
  • Minutes: 41,918 (17th)
  • Points: 28,596 (5th)
  • Rebounds: 13,099 (12th)
  • Blocks: 2,732 (7th)
  • First overall pick, 1992 Draft
  • Rookie of the Year, 1992-93
  • NBA MVP, 1999-00
  • Four NBA Championships
  • 15-time NBA All-Star
  • 3-time NBA Finals MVP
  • 2-time NBA Scoring Champion
  • Career Salary: $292,198,327

What O’Neal possessed that none of those big men had was a natural, authentic, instantaneous bond with both basketball media and fans. His goofy, oversized, larger-than-life persona made him the center of the NBA’s attention for more than a decade. It's quite possible that personality and his off-court exploits will come to define him even more than his on-court production.

When it comes to pure marketability, O’Neal was the heir to Michael Jordan, but with a key difference.  “Be Like Mike” was the ultimate one-way road. Jordan was omnipresent and yet, oddly, inaccessible. The enduring image of Jordan is his competitive stare. He was an old-style hero in the Mt. Rushmore sense.

O’Neal was not that. He cast himself, against all odds, as the everyman. O’Neal never cared if he was carefully packaged or not. He helped turn the phrase “self-promoter” from a slur into a full-fledged business plan. He was who he was – whether you, or his critics, liked it or not. He rapped poorly on his own terms, appeared in terrible movies on his own terms, “sold out” to Hollywood and the Los Angeles Lakers on his own terms, shacked up with a reality TV star on his own terms and, through all of it, made himself appear totally accessible, on his own terms. 

He was able to accomplish this because he developed a unique brand of fearlessness: He was never afraid of being the punchline because he was always in on the joke. O’Neal wasn’t burdened with the world that faced Russell. He never took himself too seriously or criticism too personally, like Abdul-Jabbar. He learned to deal with the attention his size and skill attracted without turning on the media or turning into a recluse, like so many big men that came before him. He defied every stereotype constructed for star NBA centers up to that point: he was too cuddly to be a freak; too happy to be a monster.

In doing so, O’Neal established himself as a super-sized superhero, paving the way for modern athletes to re-think their interactions with fans. An early adopter of Twitter, O’Neal, true to form, announced his retirement in a video appeal directly to his fans which, conveniently, helped get the video delivery service into headlines across the country. A shrewd marketer but one, always, without pretense. 

If Jordan was the greatest manufactured NBA commodity of all time, O’Neal stands as the league's most effective self-promoter. Jordan’s aura sold you his shoes, underwear and sports drink; Shaq sold himself … and whatever products go along with him. Legions of professional athletes – across all sports – have followed his path. It feels like there's no turning back. 

It’s a credit to O’Neal’s personality that we never tired of it. Despite the injury-plagued seasons, his weight problems, the endless string of nicknames –The Big Aristotle, Diesel, Shaq Fu, Big Daddy – and the regrettable forays into reality television, we can’t get enough, even after all these years.

O’Neal may be leaving the NBA but he’s not about to disappear from the planet. He will make sure of that. Shaq isn't going anywhere whether we like it or not.

Posted on: April 1, 2011 9:33 am

Report: Irving leaning towards entering draft

Kyrie Irving is reportedly leaning towards entering his name in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Posted by Matt Moore

Kyrie Irving had a great season for Duke. That you can say that considering he missed almost the entirety of the season with a foot injury shows you just how good he was. When Irving returned for the NCAA tournament, there was concerned he would be rusty. Instead, he was his usual brilliant self. Duke's early exit from the tournament thanks to Derrick Williams and company for Arizona was the only thing stopping a fairytale story. But having missed so much of the season, would Irving want to wait to assure himself the top pick? Would the likely lockout prevent him from making the jump to the pros this soon?

Apparently not. 

ESPN reports that Irving is "leaning strongly toward declaring for the NBA Draft."  With Jared Sullinger stating publicly and emphatically that he's returning to Ohio State, it would pretty much be down to a two-man race for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. From there it would really just end up as a question of need for the team in the top spot. 

The lockout complicates matters here. If Irving does declare, he'll be drafted before the current CBA expires, but will not have his contract negotiated until after the lockout. So the question of whether he'll be under current or new salary structures for rookies is unclear. An interesting note, however. NBA players are paid on various calendars, but in most cases, rookies don't receive their first check until November. So should a lockout extend for six months, say until the beginning of 2012, Irving would only really lose two paychecks in that scenario, as opposed to six. 

Irving has the complete package. Prior to the summer of 2010, Brandon Knight was considered the top freshman point guard and expected top overall pick. But Irving absolutely exploded in summer play, and then showed even more on the national stage at Duke. He's at an elite level in terms of touch, speed, agility, handle, and play-making ability. He doesn't have John Wall's vision, but he has a better jump shot to start. He's a total package, provided that his foot checks out after a physical. 

Should the Cavaliers land the top spot based off what will be the worst record in the league, it's easy to see them passing on Irving. Not only do they have salary tied into Baron Davis and Ramon Sessions, but going for a big is the more traditional route. The Kings, however, would likely love to find Irving available. That scenario could lead to Tyreke Evans moving to small forward, creating a devastating lineup of Irving, Marcus Thornton, and Evans, with DeMarcus Cousins down low. That's Thunder 2008 stuff. 

Irving could still decide to return next season, should his foot have issues, draft evaluations come back lower than expected, or Coach K pulls some Magic, again.  But with Austin Rivers as widely acclaimed entering the season, the logical choice is to make the jump, take the money now, and ensure a high pick. Irving looks every bit the next NBA star. 
Posted on: March 26, 2011 1:48 pm

Bummer for GMs: Sullinger says he's coming back

Posted by Royce Young

A lot of players have said they're coming back to school following a tough loss in the NCAA tournament. Kevin Durant. Greg Oden. Jonny Flynn. It happens. But Jared Sullinger's declaration last night after Ohio State's tough loss is a bit different.

"I'm gonna be here, gonna be at Ohio State next year," Sullinger told Matt Norlander of CBSSports.com. "I made this decision today, and I'm a man of my word. I don't go against my word. If I tell somebody I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it."

Well then. If we're to take Sullinger at his word, that means a certain top five pick has just been taken off the board. Why would Sullinger come back? Because as he says, he doesn't want to go out on a loss. Of course some are wondering if the uncertainty of the next NBA season has anything to do with it, but that wasn't part of the questioning last night.

What this means is that Derrick Williams is certainly a bit more pumped. Like I said, Sullinger was a top five pick and likely the first big man coming off the board. Now that honor goes to Williams. Lucky for him. Then again, he may be earning it regardless with his stellar play in the NCAA tournament.

Most projections have Sullinger somewhere between two and four right now. For teams that were definitely eying him like Cleveland, Toronto and New Jersey, this is quite the bummer. This draft just got a lot thinner at the top without Sullinger in it.

That is of course, if he sticks to his guns. Once the emotion of the loss finally settles and he gets a whiff of what his future could be, he might change his mind. But maybe not. Some guys just like college. The NBA can always wait another year. Remember, Blake Griffin played two seasons at OU and he was all the better for it. He was much more prepared to make an immediate impact in the NBA.

The freshman averaged 17.1 points and 10 rebounds per game this season for the Buckeyes, who spent the majority of the season ranked No. 1 in the polls and were the No. 1 overall seed in this year's NCAA tournament. He's a bit undersized at 6-8, but he's a wide body with great touch around the basket. Plus he clearly works hard on and off the court and by all appearances, is a great kid. He would've made some general manager very happy. Too bad though.
Category: NBA
Posted on: December 8, 2010 1:17 pm

Among other things, players want age limit at 18

Posted by Royce Young

Other than LeBron James and his Heat buddies, the biggest story of this NBA season starts with an "L" and ends with an "out". It's kind of hanging over everything. Just when we all start having fun and forget about a potential work stoppage, it rears its ugly head again. Bummer.

The basics around where the league and the players are hung up is over the salary cap situation, player salaries and revenue sharing. You know, the usual stuff.

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com dropped a bomb's worth of knowledge Wednesday updating the current situation. Included in all of that information was a small nugget about other things the players are asking for in addition to all the salary and money stuff.

They want the NBA's age-limit requirement returned to 18.

Berger says the players suggested a few non-cap related things that would "improve the game" and "benefit both our players and the league." One of those is a re-examination of the age-limit rule that currently requires players to be at least 19 years old and one year removed from their senior year of high school before they're allowed to enter the draft.

(Along with the age rule, the NBAPA is also adding this Berger says, which I found incredibly interesting: They want to enhance pension benefits for retired players, which would be paid for, in part, by a so-called exit tax on owners who sell their teams and earn capital appreciation far beyond historic levels. So when an owner that bought his team in 1973 for $19.7 million sells it for $400 million, the players want a tax on that money that would pay a pension for retired players. Anyway, just wanted to point that one out too.)

While the players want the rule back at 18 years old, they also threw in that they want to work with the league and NCAA to incentivize players to stay in school longer. I think we all rolled our eyes there together, didn't we? Stay in school kids! Money's not important! Ignore the fact we're willing to go to a lockout over it!

The age rule probably isn't as important to the players as the money related issues, but the fact it's included in their recent proposal is interesting. Feelings on the current rule is sort of split. Most think it's an NCAA rule, but it's not. It's an NBA one. While it helps college basketball in some ways by bringing star power like John Wall, Kevin Durant and Greg Oden to college, it also hurts because everyone knows they're one-and-done. Bobby Knight was one of the biggest detractors about the rule talking about how nobody has to go to class the second semester and that is creates an unfair advanatge to the big name schools and recruiters. And it's easy to see that point.

The idea behind the original creation of the requirement was to help prevent the massive busts that were coming straight from high school, thus ruining potentially solid careers. Kids that has dollar signs in their eyes and skipped a college scholarship because an agent told them they'd make millions in the NBA as a first-round draft pick. But for every DeShawn Stevenson, Jonathan Bender and Kwame Brown, there's a Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwight Howard. It's always worked both ways.

And it's not some guarantee that if you go to school you won't bust. Ed O'Bannon, Robert Traylor, Stromile Swift, Marcus Fizer... lots of names there too. I guess they got an education or at least a few college credit hours out of it, but the rule doesn't guarantee anything.

Players want to be able to make money. And the fact that the NBA is preventing an 18-year-old from having the opportunity to have a job in the NBA obviously bothers the NBAPA.

It's a small issue and probably not one they're worth fighting that much for. But it's in the current proposal. The fact it's on their mind is interesting nonetheless.

But what's so ironic is that a lockout could greatly affect players like Terrence Jones from Kentucky, Harrison Barnes from North Carolina, Jared Sullinger from Ohio State and Kyrie Irving from Duke. Guys that would likely be one-and-done and headed for next June's draft. Except a lockout may make them think twice about it. They may either return to school and let the CBA stuff get settled or head to Europe for a season, especially the ones that have been tanking in their academics because they never thought they'd come back for a sophomore season. 

But remember, the NBAPA wants to educate and encourage players to stay in school. And they may be doing exactly that, only by accident.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com