Looking ahead to 2011's draft prospects
NEW YORK -- The fear of a lockout drove a number of players into the 2010 NBA draft. If the work stoppage still seems imminent in a year, then college basketball would certainly be the beneficiary during the 2011-12 season.
It's anyone guess how that'll turn out, though. The same can be said for the NCAA's May 8 deadline, which allows for only a tiny window in terms of decision-making. If that date doesn't change -- and lockout paranoia has subsided -- then there should be yet another long list of underclassmen seeking entry into the NBA draft.
A number of pro teams have already built their 2011 database of potential draftees. After speaking with a plethora of NBA personnel this week in New York, here's a look at some of the college players (and soon-to-be college players) with the most buzz in the scouting circles -- and what they must do to be a real factor at next year's event.
Note: Players listed in alphabetical order
Lavoy Allen, Temple: He led the Owls back to the NCAA tournament last season and contemplated entering the draft. If he can average another double-double this season, he'll be seriously considered next June.
Kevin Anderson, Richmond: Anderson will be the focal point for the Spiders. He can score, defend and lead. Do all that and he'll be in the conversation for a look. He declared this spring and withdrew as expected.
Dogus Balbay, Texas: He can't score, but he can defend. The native Turk is the best defensive guard in the country, according to Texas coach Rick Barnes. If that's truly the case, he'll at least get a look.
Harrison Barnes, North Carolina: He enters the season as the No. 1 freshman in the country and will be a headline name from the beginning of the season to the end. What's different for Barnes is that he goes to a Carolina team coming off an NIT season. He will be expected to be a game-changer for a UNC team desperate to recover from a disastrous campaign. He already carries himself like a pro, but he still has to produce. If his game continues to develop, it's hard to see him staying longer than one year.
Will Barton, Memphis: Barton arrives with plenty of pop for Josh Pastner's Tigers. He will be expected to lead a talented freshman class and carry Memphis back to the NCAA tournament after a one-year hiatus. If he does, the NBA might not be far behind.
Talor Battle, Penn State: Battle is a solid scoring point guard for Penn State. He could be a first-team all-conference player, but will he differentiate himself enough to be taken seriously?
Keith Benson, Oakland: He withdrew from the NBA draft this year because he probably wasn't going to get drafted. Now he has another shot to increase his profile. Teams love looking for players that are off the main trail.
William Buford, Ohio State: Buford has the ability to be a knockdown shooter at the next level. But he has to first do it consistently and more demonstratively for Ohio State next season.
Alec Burks and Cory Higgins, Colorado: These two Buffaloes are on the draft radar, but they've got to produce for Tad Boyle like they did for Jeff Bzdelik. Winning would help raise their profile. Keep an eye on these two sleepers.
Mike Davis, Illinois: Davis still has to get stronger and not disappear during stretches. He produced well as a freshman, but two years later must do much more in leading the Illini if he wants to be taken seriously by NBA personnel.
Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech: Delaney will be one of the top scorers in the ACC and should lead the Hokies to the NCAA tournament. As a result, he'll raise his profile dramatically.
LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor: Dunn has a pro body and his Bears will be a good watch throughout the season. But Dunn has to take over the perimeter now that Tweety Carter is gone. He must prove he's a viable option at the next level.
Kenneth Faried, Morehead State: Faried is a live body who is active around the basket. He can score, rebound and will be a good watch throughout the season.
Jimmer Fredette, BYU: Fredette can score and he can shoot, but the ongoing issue with him will be his defense. Fredette will have to do a little bit of everything for the Cougars this season as they likely battle UNLV and San Diego State atop the MWC. Fredette declared and nearly stayed in the draft. But he wouldn't have been in the first round so he made the right call.
Austin Freeman, Georgetown: Freeman has his diabetes under control and is ready to show he remains a prolific scorer. Freeman's ability to make 3-pointers always will keep him in the mix.
Jordan Hamilton, Texas: Hamilton was a classic case of a player who came in with a ton of NBA-like hype, but never found his footing as a freshman. He now has another shot to mature and develop into a contributing player who understands how to play the game. If he does -- if he can emulate the way Damion James incorporated shot selection into his vocabulary -- Hamilton has a real shot to make a difference for the Longhorns and be a draftable player.
Elias Harris, Gonzaga: Harris produced on the international level, so he was already on draft boards. He had his moments last season for the Zags, so he won't sneak up on anybody this season. He will be the go-to player for Gonzaga and it was a bit of a surprise to see him return. He's got a real shot at the first round in 2011.
Tobias Harris, Tennessee: The Vols are expecting Harris to come to Knoxville and be a major talent. If he can maintain Tennessee's spot as an SEC contender, the freshman from New York will be in the NBA conversation.
Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall: Hazell hasn't seen a shot he doesn't like. If he can refine his game and temper the gunner mentality under new coach Kevin Willard, while leading the Pirates to the NCAA tournament, he'll be in play.
Scotty Hopson, Tennessee: Hopson hasn't been the shooter he was touted as prior to arriving at Tennessee. He's on the NBA radar, but will stay there only if he can start making shots on a consistent basis for the Vols. He'll also need to show leadership on a team that lost three key seniors.
Robbie Hummel, Purdue: Hummel has the tools to find a role in the league, but will he get knocked down for the perceived lack of athleticism? If he wins, produces and is healthy, he'll get a shot. He's tough, coachable and a winner.
John Henson, North Carolina: He played well toward the end of his freshman season, especially in the NIT, and finally is using his body well. If Henson can be a major factor for the Tar Heels and show consistency, he could be tempted to go pro. He certainly has the "upside" to be a potential first-round pick.
Matt Howard, Butler: It's hard to see Howard as an NBA player unless he diversifies his game. He can't score in the NBA with his back to the basket, at least not yet.
Kyrie Irving, Duke: Irving is already being hyped as an impact freshman. If he delivers and the Blue Devils get the point guard that could change their team, he will be considered a one-and-done. Irving has the chance to show early how much he can lead. The coaches from USA Basketball already are touting how much he'll impact the Blue Devils.
Reggie Jackson, Boston College: Jackson will be the featured player for new coach Steve Donahue. He should get plenty of shots and will put up plenty of points. He's not really a point guard, but he can certainly be a slasher who excels with the ball in his hands.
JaJuan Johnson, Purdue: Johnson declared for the draft, but went back to school. He still needs to show he can do more than block shots. He'll get his chance as the leader along the back line for the Boilermakers in what could be a Final Four run.
Perry Jones, Baylor: The hype over Jones is real. He will be a major talent for the Bears. If he's producing at an elite clip, Baylor can win the Big 12 and Jones might be a one-and-done.
Terrence Jones, Kentucky: Jones is a slasher that should put up points for the Wildcats. But it might be hard to differentiate himself enough to leave after just a season. But role players on elite teams can still get selected in the first round. Just ask Daniel Orton.
Cory Joseph, Texas: The Longhorns continue to have a slew of NBA talent. Joseph will emerge as the lead guard of this squad and if the transformation continues, he'll put himself high on draft boards.
Kris Joseph, Syracuse: This will be Joseph's team. He's the next Syracuse stud who has a pro body, a pro game and will be highly productive next season.
Enes Kanter, Kentucky: If he were in this draft, he probably would've been a late lottery pick. Kanter's eligibility still has to be solved, but assuming he gets on the court for the Wildcats, he'll likely be another one-and-done. He has a real chance to be the Wildcats' leading scorer and rebounder and will likely be too productive to stick around UK for long.
Brandon Knight, Kentucky: Knight comes in as part of another heralded UK recruiting class. He won't be John Wall, but he'll be the next big-time point for John Calipari, who has churned out Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and Wall over the past three drafts. Knight should follow as another pro.
Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State: Leonard can board. If he can lead the Aztecs to another NCAA tournament, he'll get recognized even more. This will be an interesting test to see if he's a complementary player or a star.
C.J. Leslie, N.C. State: Sidney Lowe came through with a monster pickup when he landed the hometown Leslie. In a transition year in the ACC, the Wolfpack have a real shot to climb toward the top five in the league. If they do that, it will be due to Leslie's impact as well as newcomer guards Ryan Harrow and Lorenzo Brown to go with returnee Tracy Smith.
Travis Leslie, Georgia: He's a freak athlete and a ferocious dunker and will be a highlight throughout the season. If Georgia has a breakthrough season, Leslie will probably be tempted to look at the pros.
Jon Leuer, Wisconsin: Leuer has pro skills and should be the featured player for the Badgers. Wisconsin has done a tremendous job of developing upperclassmen and getting them ready for the jump. Leuer is next in line.
David Lighty, Ohio State: Lighty is going to have to shoot the ball well to be a major factor for the Buckeyes and to be taken seriously as a draftable player. It's certainly possible.
Kalin Lucas, Michigan State: Lucas is coming back from an Achilles injury. That's not an easy task. If he is healthy and leads the Spartans to the Final Four once again. his leadership, poise and professionalism will get him a serious look. He's not going to wow NBA personnel, but if he can continue to prove doubters wrong he'll be given a shot.
Shelvin Mack, Butler: He has a Vinnie Johnson-like look about his game. He's a tough defender, is becoming a better scorer and dismissing him as a prospect would be a mistake. If the Bulldogs make another deep run, you'll see lots of love going toward Mack as a prospect.
Demetri McCamey, Illinois: McCamey declared and withdrew from the draft. Good thing. He didn't lead the Illini to the NCAAs last season. He has to be an even better leader for him to be considered.
E'Twaun Moore, Purdue: Moore declared and withdrew, which is good since he probably wouldn't have been selected. If there's going to be a shot at being picked next year, Moore has to be more than a complementary player. That's not his role with the Boilermakers, but as a senior he'll be tossed into the mix with everyone else anyway.
Marcus Morris, Kansas: KU coach Bill Self has made it no secret that he thinks Morris is a future pro and could be the player of the year in the Big 12. But this is the first time he will be asked to lead, so that'll be interesting to track.
Aaric Murray, La Salle: This rising sophomore can score and has pretty good range for a big man. He plays on a team that doesn't get much pub, but he's high on the radar of many NBA scouts.
Adrian Oliver, San Jose State: Oliver is a big-time scorer in what has become a prospect-filled league. Look at Paul George of Fresno State and Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson of Nevada. Oliver will be next on the radar.
Mason Plumlee, Duke: Plumlee has been touted as a big-time player since he arrived at Duke. Now that Brian Zoubek is gone, Mason will have to take on a much more assertive role. The frontcourt is his to dominate.
Durand Scott, Miami (Fla.): Scott is ready to have a breakthrough season. He is a major talent that might help lead the Canes to the NCAA tournament. Keep an eye on him.
Josh Selby, Kansas: Bill Self said Selby was the most talented player he has recruited since he came to Kansas. If that's the case, and if Selby is a game-changer and a dynamic player, it may be hard to keep him in Lawrence for more than one season.
Renardo Sidney, Mississippi State: Sidney finally gets a chance to play this season, although he'll sit the first nine games due to an amateurism violation. If he's in shape and produces, then he'll be an obvious candidate to leave. But he has quite a bit to prove. The Bulldogs need him to be a major player for them.
Kyle Singler, Duke: Singler got the better of Butler's Gordon Hayward in the national title game, but Hayward would have dwarfed Singler on the 2010 draft board. But in 2011, Singler could be the national player of the year and a two-time national champ. He made the right move to wait.
Nolan Smith, Duke: Smith has emerged as a first-round talent. He makes shots at the right times, especially at the end of the shot clock. Smith has matured into a pro. Expect him to be a first-round pick and possible two-time champ in a year.
Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: Sullinger has a chance, according to former Buckeye Evan Turner, to be Big Ten player of the year as a freshman. If he is capable of averaging a double-double, as many project, then Thad Matta might have another one-and-done center on his hands. I'm not sure he would complain, either.
Durrell Summers, Michigan State: Expect Summers to be the next big thing out of Michigan State. He'll put up numbers and he'll be a hot commodity for the Spartans.
Jeffery Taylor, Vanderbilt: A.J. Ogilvy's decision to stay in the draft took away the Commodores' go-to post player. That means even more pressure will be on the versatile Taylor to produce. If he does, he'll be high on draft boards and the Dores will be a factor in the SEC East.
Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas: Taylor got on the radar by playing well for the gold-medal USA junior national team last season. But he wasn't the go-to player on KU last season and he won't be again this season. It might be hard for him to differentiate himself.
Isaiah Thomas, Washington: Thomas is quick, productive and has the personality to produce at a high level. He loves the spotlight and will be another possible NBA talent from UW.
Trey Thompkins, Georgia: Thompkins is one of the more unheralded big men in the country. He is one of the reasons I expect the Bulldogs to make a splash in the SEC next season. Thompkins has a chance to be a major factor in the league and climb on the draft boards.
Klay Thompson, Washington State: Thompson might be the best scorer in the Pac-10, but the Cougars finishing last in the conference again wouldn't exactly help his stock. He also has to get stronger. His current body would get beat up in the grind of the NBA.
Tristan Thompson, Texas: Thompson comes in with the high-school rep. It's hard to project him being a one-and-done, but you also can't ignore top-10 high school players. If he produces, he'll have to be considered.
Alex Tyus, Florida: He declared, but wouldn't have been taken in the draft. He put his name out there so he's going to have to do much more to make himself NBA-relevant this season on a team that will have a real shot to go deep in March.
Kemba Walker, Connecticut: Walker's speed gets him into any discussion. But he has to play under control. It would also help if Walker made more shots and the Huskies didn't implode again.
Chris Warren, Ole Miss: Warren will take over the team now that Terrico White is gone. This was always his squad anyway. If he puts up numbers, like he should, he'll be one of the elite guards in the country and well-positioned on the NBA radar.
Maalik Wayns, Villanova: Expect Wayns to be Nova's next star. If he becomes an all-Big East talent, as expected, it will be hard to keep him off the draft boards.
Chris Wright, Dayton: Wright still hasn't been a dominating player for the Flyers. He has had his moments, but this is his chance to separate himself from the pack in the A-10.
Chris Wright, Georgetown: Wright needs to produce more consistently, but he'll have plenty of opportunity to show his value playing in the spotlight of the Big East and in D.C. He's part of a stellar Hoya backcourt.
Patric Young, Florida: The junior national team coaches in San Antonio (OU's Jeff Capel and Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt) haven't shied away from praising Young. His energy, defensive ability and hustle plays will make the 6-foot-9 forward a key player for the Gators next season. All five starters return to Florida, but it sounds like it will be hard to keep Young off the court.
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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