It's only the beginning of February, March Madness hasn't hit yet, the lottery hasn't been decided. We don't even know who's leaving school or staying.
I think I've only seen punches thrown once so far on Jersey Shore—it's just early.
A lot can change between now and June 26th.
Regardless, it's never too early to get creative, analyze the first few months of the college hoops season and put together a mock draft for the 2011-2012 season.
With the Cleveland Cavaliers losers of 30 of their last 31 games, including 20 straight, let's assume they'll have the best shot at landing the number one pick.
As a high school senior, Irving walked into Madison Square Garden and took home MVP Honors of the Jordan Brand Classic, displaying the perfect balance between playmaking and scoring. His steady outside game compliments his lightning quick first step and tight handle, making him nearly impossible to guard one on one in both transition and the half court.
A amicable and coachable kid with a rare combination of both talent and brains (he wouldn't be in a Duke uniform without both), Irving has shown an understanding and willingness to put in the extra work and continue to improve. Despite playing just a small portion of his freshman year due to a toe injury, Kyrie Irving should be atop everyone's draft board for more than one reason.
For a team looking to rebuild and start from scratch, who better to build around than a kid who practically has the words "role model" written on his head. A sure thing at the game's most important position, Kyrie Irving is the top prospect in the 2011 draft class.
Williams has exploded into the national spotlight as a sophomore, fulfilling the role as college basketball's most daunting mismatch. Possessing a combination of size and quickness, Williams has the ability to take his defender off the dribble, or square up from 20 feet and knock down a jumper. He leads the country in free throws attempted, which is a good reflection of his ability to create his own shot- a promising quality in a developing big man.
The Kings should have plenty of choices here early in the draft, but I like Williams as polished scorer with a ceiling that could be a few stories higher than the remaining prospects in the draft.
The NCAA recently declared Kanter ineligible, disallowing the Turkish star from bringing his physical game to Kentucky and beating up American college kids. Kanter lit up last year's Nike Hoops Summit, putting up 34 points and 13 rebounds on Jared Sullinger, Terrance Jones and the rest of Team USA in a dominant effort.
At 6'10, possibly 6'11, Kanter is a bruiser in the paint with a strong frame in an NBA ready body. He'd be a good fit for a team lacking strength in the front court, particularly one sporting Darko Milicic as the starting center.
Arguably the top prospect in the draft with a ton of upside, Jones poses as an inside/outside threat with enough length and size to get off any shot he desires. He's an outstanding athlete for a 6'11 big man, sharing the same skillset and necessary tools as a 6'7 wing.
Jones' athleticism and versatility as a scoring center would bring a new dimension to a team that lacks offensive weapons. If Jones slips to the 4th spot, I can't see anyone passing on this lengthy, talented young man out of Baylor.
Jones is a versatile forward who's been Kentucky's most productive scorer three months into the season. This smooth lefty can play the 3 or the 4, showing off a promising mid range game and a sweet ability to slip off his defender and finish around the rim. His steady body control and long arms allow him to shoot on the move and off the dribble, an aspect of his game he should make a habit of doing as a professional.
His post game may not be a refined as Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, but Sullinger occupies the same space as Derrick Favors, who the Nets took last year as the third overall selection. Both players are worthy of the 5th pick, but Jones might be a better fit for this particular lineup.
The most dynamic and electrifying scorer in the country, Kemba Walker truly looks like a NBA vet who's been sent to the Development League. Playing in arguably the best and deepest conference in college basketball, Walker has consistently taken the shot of his choice despite opposing defenses zoning in on him. He's hit multiple game winners, showing a desire to have the ball in his hands in crunch time.
Walker's biggest attribute revolves around his athleticism, explosiveness and ability to create his own shot, and with his much improved outside game, Walker has escalated from question mark to exclamation point in just a few short months.
He stands only 6 feet tall, making it imperative that he improve his playmaking abilities as a point guard since he won't be able to guard NBA shooting guards. Still, he could fulfill the role of an instant offense provider, and a spark for a dull lineup like the Toronto Raptors.
From a talent perspective, Sullinger is the real deal. He's got really quick feet and a mature post game that makes him look likes he's been playing college ball for years. You could argue that Sullinger is the best player in college basketball right now, leading the Buckeyes to the number one ranking entering February.
As an NBA prospect, Sullinger is a tad undersized as a power forward, just a few inches short of being a sure thing in terms of your ideal prospect. His basketball skill alone won't let him slip out of the top 7, adding to the long list of talented big men in the draft pool.
Entering the season as the top high school recruit and consensus one and done number one pick, Barnes has struggled early in his first season as a Tar Heel. He's long and athletic with the ideal body for a swingman. Barnes' automatic midrange game is one of his more important offensive weapons, one that should translate to NBA play.
His inconsistency shooting the ball was an early cause for concern, but it looks as if Barnes has settled down with some big games in the month of January. He'll need to improve his range to maximize his offensive potential at the next level, but Barnes is a smart kid who should figure it out sooner rather than later.
Motiejunas announced himself two years ago at the Nike Hoops Summit, however pulled out of last year's draft as a potential lottery pick. He stands 7 feet tall and maintains impressive scoring instincts in the post, with an ability to spot up from behind the arch and knock shots down from the perimeter. His versatility as a 7 footer is what sets him apart, making him a can't miss prospect at the next level.
A fiery competitor who speaks impressive English, Motiejunas will be a great addition to the NBA and for any team he lands on.
One of the most highly touted prospects coming out of high school, Hamilton had an up and down freshman year displaying poor decision making and lackluster defense. Returning for his sophomore season at Texas, Hamilton has the Longhorns ranked third in the country, scoring 19 per game on 41% shooting from downtown.
He's a natural scorer with great size for his position. His weakness however is tied to his biggest strength: the guy can score in bunches, which generally leads to unnecessary heat checks and an overall poor shot selection.
If Hamilton can tone it down a little bit and learn to play without the ball in his hands, Hamilton's shot making ability will have him putting up points in the pros in no time.
Despite being labeled as a surefire lottery pick last summer, Jan Vesely of the Czech Republic removed his name from the draft board. At 20 years old, Vesely has a ton of potential but might take a few years to hit it.
He's extremely mobile for a 6'11 forward, finding ways to score in transition or off second chance opportunities under the glass. What makes him tough is his ability to put the ball on the floor and take his man off the dribble, considering most players that guard him lack the lateral quickness to keep up.
Vesely plays the game with a lot of heart, and if he can develop a consistent perimeter game he's going to be very difficult to defend in a couple of years.
Valanciunas is close to 6'11 with a wingspan that could potentially hug his entire starting lineup at the same time. He's extremely efficient around the rim and has a great feel for the basket. He's agile for a man of his size, a common theme played throughout the first round of this particular draft.
At only 19 years old, Valanciunas will have a few extra years to develop and fill out before he's asked to make nightly contributions to an NBA team. He would add a rebounding and shot blocking dimension to any team that drafts him, not to mention the length to protect an 11 foot high rim.
With Andris Biedrins consistently showing inconsistencies, the Warriors should look for a big man to develop, particularly one that will impact the defensive side of the ball.
Thompkins is a skilled big man with an inside/outside dimension to his game that makes him an intriguing prospect. He does a solid job of finishing around the basket, utilizing his sizable body to effectively position himself deep in the post.
Thompkins has struggled shooting the three ball so far this season, but we've seen what he is capable of with his smooth, clean release on his jumper. Where he lacks explosiveness he makes up with talent, and if he can continue to improve his consistency on his shot he'll be a threat from multiple spots on the floor.
Philadelphia has a log jam at the 2 and 3 positions with Iguadala, Turner and Young, and with Speights' inconsistencies and Brand's aging body, Thompkins could be a good fit on the interior for the 76ers.
Alec Burks surprised us as a freshman, and continues to impress as a sophomore. He has all the physical tools that are required of an NBA shooting guard, showing good size at 6'6 and excellent athleticism, length and explosiveness.
He's a natural scorer, however questions swirl around his up and down outside shooting stroke. His form is there, however the numbers are not.
Still, Burks can beat his defender off the dribble and either get to the rim or pull up from from the outside. As a rookie in the NBA, Burks could be most effective as a slasher off the ball. As his jump shot improves over the next few years, so will the overall effectiveness of this former Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year.
Singleton is an athletic 6'9 forward who can guard multiple position on the floor due to his quickness and explosiveness. Offensively he's still a work in progress with too many inconsistencies to be looked at as a reliable offensive weapon. Still, he's averaging 14 points, 7.4 rebounds and almost 2 blocks per game for the Seminoles while maintaining the role of stopper on the defensive side of the ball.
He's incredibly agile for a man his size, and could be able to help a team right away considering his physical tools. He's also shown promise as an outside threat, shooting a respectable 35% from downtown as a 6'9 college power forward or center.
Singleton can run the floor like a guard and can finish in transition, an attribute that is often highly coveted by NBA scouts and coaches. He can help a pro team out right now without ever handling the ball.
From what I'm told, "The Jimmer" doesn't need David Stern- he decides what pick he wants to go and where he wants to play, and announces it himself on stage.
Well not quite, but his performance in his last two seasons at the college level have made him God-like to some fans and scouts. Some believe he's the next Steph Curry, some call him a bubble first rounder. I like him somewhere in the mid first round, being that he's 6'2, lacking both the size to guard an NBA shooting guard and the lateral quickness to guard an NBA point guard.
However, his range and consistency will be his most coveted attribute, and if he can show coaches and scouts he can handle the ball and make plays as the quarterback, his value will receive a boost.
The Jimmer is used to the ball in his hands for the majority of the game, so it should be interesting to see him adjust as a role player. I see him as a scoring punch off the bench for a team who lacks depth at the guard position. His ability to stretch the floor will allow the better one on one players, such as Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph, to work in space.
Another former McDonald's All American, Knight has great size for an NBA point guard, only he's not truly a point guard. He has advanced ball handling skills and can shoot it from anywhere on the floor, proving to be a dynomite scorer when he's got the hot hand. His quick first step makes him a tough guard for anyone, with a size advantage over most point guards and quicker feet than most shooting guards.
Knight is an intelligent kid who plays hard and works hard, he just hasn't shown he can be a true point guard at the next level. Even if his audition as a playmaker doesn't go as well as planned, he's still a valuable asset as a scoring guard who can handle the ball.
Marcus Morris is a safe bet to be a career 20-25 minute reliable role player off the bench. He's an excellent rebounder, just a little undersized at 6'8. Morris is comfortable shooting the ball from the perimeter, making him a likely candidate to be an effective pick and pop player at the next level.
A team like the Knicks who lack depth in the front court could use an extra body that can make an impact right away. With Morris' high basketball IQ and efficient play, he'd be a great fit for a team with an established front court in need of an extra big body off the bench.
Tobias is a versatile forward who can play both the small and power forward positions. Measuring at 6'8, Harris is an above average ball handler who can beat his defender off the dribble or use his size and soft touch to score inside.
A McDonald's All American just one year ago, Harris is an 18 year old kid with so much room to grow. What's been impressive about his freshman season is his ability to produce on a nightly basis, scoring in double figures in all but two games this season.
If Harris enters his name in the draft, look for a team to snag him that lacks youth and versatility from the 3 and 4 position.
Kawhi Leonard is averaging 15 and 10 as a small forward on one of the better teams in the nation. He has ideal size and length for an NBA small forward, bringing a wave of high flying, board-crashing energy to the floor.
Though his outside game isn't one that should be glorified, his offensive skills seem to be improving. Still, his constant motor and excellent leaping abilities make him a pain in the ass for the opposing bigger forwards who "think" they're boxing out.
Thompson's production has really increased as of late, and his draft stock is rising because of it. A strong, energetic 6'8 forward with a reported 7'2 wingspan, Thompson is averaging over 2 blocks per game making his presence known in the paint on both sides of the ball.
He's a deceptively mobile athlete who uses his length to convert offensively and contest shots defensively. At just 20 years old, Thompson is still developing as an offensive player and could be someone for the Hornets to keep an eye on if retaining David West is not in the game plan.
Not exactly a household name, Lucas Nogueira is a true 7 footer who brings athleticism and a shot blocking element to the front line.
During the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship tournament, Nogueira literally came out of nowhere, dropping a line of 22 points, 14 rebound and 3 blocks in the championship game against USA.
Still completely raw with a limited offensive repertoire, Nogueira is a project who will need time to develop.
This might seem early for a true project, but he I believe he fits a need for the Hawks. Atlanta could really benefit from adding an athletic 7 footer, especially since it could allow Al Horford to play more minutes at the 4, his true position.
Quite possibly the most explosive athlete in college basketball, Leslie finds it easier to score by dunking rather than shooting. He's got hops that will make your toupee slide off, skying over anyone that attempts to deny him an appearance on the highlights.
At 6'4, Leslie averages a ridiculous 7 rebounds per game, illustrating his strength and ability to rise above the rim. His outside game could use some work though, lacking range on his jumper that only converts at a 21% clip from behind the arch.
Despite his lack of skill on the offensive side of the ball, his outrageous athleticism is too rare to go overlooked. He has the physical tools you can't teach, with the offensive weakness that can be improved.
Selby was ruled ineligible for the first nine games of the season, but made an early impact soon after as a scoring and attacking guard in Jayhawks backcourt.
However over the past month or so Selby's game has cooled off, and now scouts are wondering where he fits into the big picture as a NBA prospect. A 6'3 combo guard with size and strength, he has all the physical tools one needs to be successful at the next level. He's got to do a better job of finishing plays, which he should probably work on in a return to Kansas as a sophomore.
NBA teams who love his potential however might advise him otherwise.
I got a chance to see C.J. Leslie play at the Jordan Brand Classic in New York City, and besides Sullinger, Irving and Barnes, I came away being most impressed with Leslie.
Leslie is a freak athlete who plays most of the game above the rim. Tips, putbacks dunks, blocked shots you name it, any time the ball is bouncing around the cylinder, so was C.J. Leslie.
From a skill standpoint, he doesn't have all the offensive tools to be a relied upon scorer. He's got the mold of a Tyrus Thomas or Anthony Randolph- he's not someone you give the ball to but he's someone who goes and gets it. For any team lacking athleticism and energy up front, C.J. Leslie could be a an excellent fit.
One of my favorite players in the draft pool, Brooks has emerged as one of the top scorers in the country, improving his scoring average 10 points from his junior to senior year. Brooks has ideal shooting guard size at 6'5, and possesses the versatility and athleticism one needs to handle the position without any limitations.
Brooks has had 12 games where he's scored 25 points or more this season. Some games he beats you from the perimeter, some games he beats you at the foul line. His length and versatility are his biggest weapons, showing a high activity level around the basket that helps contribute to an average of 7.5 rebounds per game, good for 5th in the Big East despite being an off guard.
I see Brooks having a long and successful career in this league, even if it's coming off the bench to provide energy to a stagnant lineup.
Feels like Singler is a 26 year old, seven year Senior at Duke University. As an NBA prospect, he doesn't have much upside but he's a safe play no matter where you take him.
At 6'9, Singler could play the stretch 4, making good decisions and knocking down shots from the perimeter. The biggest question mark regarding Singler is whether or not he's laterally quick enough to guard NBA small forwards, and if he's strong enough to guard NBA power forwards.
Nonetheless, Singler is a mature, smart and competitive kid who most certainly will be a first rounder based on his shot making ability and his experience on the big stage playing for Coach K at the prestigious Duke University. I can already picture him nailing a big three in the corner for the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
Is he a point guard or shooting guard?
Who cares. Smith is a basketball player, and at 6'4 with length he could play both on and off the ball at the next level. He's proving to be comfortable handling the point guard position this season, boosting his value as a facilitator and maximizing his services on the floor.
Another Dukie who's played on the biggest stage in college sports, Smith could be a target for a Miami Heat team who needs a mature point guard that can put the ball in the hands of the right people. Smith will need to continue improving on his consistency from the outside, but his excellent ball handling and heady decision making should help find him a home as one of the better combo guards in the draft.
After losing Wesley Johnson and Andy Rautins to the draft, Joseph's role would expand in his junior season at Syracuse. This athletic, lengthy swingman has had the opportunity to shine as the go-to option for the Orange, despite the fact that his game projects more towards a Trevor Ariza type role player.
His outside shot is slowly coming along, which should be his number one priority if he wants to be serviceable for a pro team. He's not the best shot creator, but his athleticism and defensive potential could be a valuable addition to a team lacking depth at the 3 position.
A preseason All American, Johnson is having an excellent senior year averaging 20 points, 8 rebounds and over 2 blocks per contest. He came into the season with 15 extra pounds of muscle, and it's paid off in more ways than one.
He's also added a three point shot to his arsenal, making him more of a threat on the offensive side of the ball. His post game still could use some work, and his decision making could certainly improve.
Johnson still has room to grow both physically and fundamentally, but with Kendrick Perkins banged up and both O'Neals creeping up in age, the Celtics might want to think about adding a younger, lengthier body under the boards.