2011 NBA Draft: Top 10 Prospects Who Won't Make the NCAA Tournament
Chris Bosh, Rodney Stuckey, George Hill, Eric Maynor, Stephen Curry, J.J. Hickson. What do these six all have in common? None of them played in the NCAA tournament the season before they entered the NBA Draft. Not a bad list.
While major college stars are typically able to take their teams to the NCAA tournament, it doesn't always happen. In Bosh and Hickson's situations, they were one-and-dones whose teams underachieved.
For the others, they were by far the best players on their respective teams, and one man shows don't always make it through conference tournaments especially when their resumes aren't top notch.
These 10 players, as of the games played through February 28th, are currently on teams not projected to make the tournament, or are injured and are unlikely to make an appearance. I've elected not to mention international players simply because I know nothing about them and have never seen them play nor have I read about them.
10. Jordan Williams, Maryland
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6'10" 260 pound sophomore forward
2010-11 season: 17 ppg, 12 rpg, 55% FG, 58% FT
Following a pretty impressive freshman campaign that went largely unnoticed (10 ppg, 9 rpg), Williams has exploded this season like many thought he would. He's been the stud for the Terrapins who are currently fighting their way to get onto the right side of the bubble.
Williams is a big body that projects as a power forward or undersized center. He's a traditional low post player and a tremendous rebounder. Most scouts believe that the one stat that translates from the college level to the pros is rebounding.
Considering Williams has grabbed 10 or more rebounds in 23 of the team's 29 games, I say he'd at least be a bench player at the NBA level who would provide a physical presence down low especially off missed field goals.
9. Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure
6'9" 225 pound junior forward
2010-11 season: 20 ppg, 7 rpg, 56% FG, 70% FT
One of the more unknown NBA prospects in the country, scouts have been looking at Nicholson for some time. Unfortunately, because his team isn't that good or in a big conference, few fans know about him.
Nicholson is one of the most athletic players in the country, similar to Tyrus Thomas when he was at LSU but not as highly regarded. He's currently projected as a small forward, but if he's able to add some weight and strength could serve as an undersized power forward.
His game is more geared inside 15 feet, though his jumper is improving.
He should probably stay another year and improve, but whenever he comes out, he'll definitely get an opportunity because as Jay Bilas constantly points out during the NBA Draft, scouts LOVE athleticism. Well, this kid has plenty of that.
8. Klay Thompson, Washington State
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6'6" 200 pound junior guard
2010-11 season: 21 ppg, 5 rpg, 4 apg, 45% FG, 42% 3PT, 82% FT
Meet the lesser-known version of J.J. Redick, Klay Thompson. Sure, Klay hasn't had anywhere near the kind of career Mr. Redick had at Duke, but from an NBA perspective, they're quite similar.
Thompson is one of the best shooters in the country and possesses serious range while excelling against top competition (even if the Pac 10 has been down). He has the size to be a shooting guard at the next level which will allow him to run off screens instead of focusing on distributing the ball to teammates.
Like Redick was at this stage, his athleticism is a question along with his ball handling, but having one elite skill (long range shooting) like Klay has will be enough for him to get serious looks when he elects to come out.
The one thing that really concerns me with Thompson is that once conference play began the last two years, his production has tapered off. While that's most likely due to him being the Cougars' best player, it certainly sends up caution flags as to how he'll do against the best players in the world.
I'm not sure if Klay's NBA career will be similar to Redick's (bench warmer at first before finally getting serious minutes and becoming a successful role player), but it wouldn't shock me.
7. Charles Jenkins, Hofstra
6'3" 220 pound senior guard
2010-11: 23 ppg, 5 apg, 3 rpg, 53% FG, 41% 3PT, 82% FT
Charles Jenkins is one of the best scorers in the country no one knows about. In his four years he has averaged around 20 points per game. The guy can flat out put the ball in the basket with the best of them.
Looking at his measures, he's a tank for a guy his size. This could allow for him to matchup with taller guards simply because it would be hard for them to back him down on the block.
The problem with Jenkins is his height. He's too small to play shooting guard and not athletic enough to defend the numerous quick point guards that currently inhabit the NBA. He kind of fits the Allen Iverson mold: great scorer, too small to play off the ball, but not a point guard.
Jenkins will definitely get an opportunity on some team, though I don't see him as a first round pick, to be a bench player that can spark a run because of his incredible offensive capabilities. I see him as a bigger version of Eddie House or Daniel Gibson (when he's not forced to start because his team is horrendous).
6. Norris Cole, Cleveland State
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6'1" 175 pound senior guard
2010-11 season: 22 ppg, 6 rpg, 6 apg, 2 spg, 45% FG, 36% 3PT, 84% FT
Cole is similar to Jenkins in terms of his offensive capabilities. He can definitely score (not as well from the outside), but Cole is more versatile (as evidenced by his recent 40 point-20 rebound performance).
He's also viewed as a true point guard at the next level because of his athleticism and that he has demonstrated that he can be effective when acting as a distributor. Remember when Cleveland State upset Wake Forest a couple years ago in the NCAA Tournament? Cole was the starting point guard for that team and was not the first option.
Cole's biggest problem is that he doesn't have that elite skill guys like Thompson or Williams have. The guy is a very good player, but he's not one of the best in any one thing.
I don't see him ever being a consistent starter, but he could have a career similar to that of Eric Maynor with Oklahoma City Thunder.
5. Marshon Brooks, Providence
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6'5" 190 pound senior guard
2010-11 season: 25 ppg, 7 rpg, 2 apg, 2 spg, 49% FG, 33% 3PT, 76% FT
Brooks has come out of obscurity at Providence to become one of the most prolific scorers in the country this season. He's had two games in which he scored 40 or more points. It's just unfortunate that his team isn't good.
At his height, Brooks will be a shooting guard at the next level and I don't think he'll have a problem fulfilling the first part of that position. The guy can score from anywhere on the court whether it's shooting from behind the arc or driving into the paint.
His rebounding numbers also aren't a fluke as he has good instincts and should be a quality rebounder at the next level for a guy his size.
Brooks' biggest problem is his decision-making. His assist/turnover ratio is 2.2/3.1, meaning he turns the ball over more than he makes shots easier for his teammates. At the next level, not being able to get teammates involved will be a problem, especially playing on the perimeter.
Brooks will get an opportunity and has the offensive tools to start in the NBA at some point, but he'll need to become a better team player and decision maker before he makes an NBA roster, let alone start.
4. Alec Burks, Colorado
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6'6" 185 pound sophomore guard
2010-11 season: 20 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 apg, 45% FG, 82% FT
Entering into projected first round picks, we have Alec Burks, a guy who recently made a name for himself in leading the Buffaloes to a huge victory over Texas last weekend.
Aside from having an awesome first name, he's athletic enough to survive at the next level. He has a good feel for the game in that he doesn't force shots often.
When he does decide to score, it can be in a variety of ways, the most effective of which is his driving ability. His athleticism allows for him to get above the rim and finish in the sea of big men in the paint.
Burks has the typical body of a shooting guard, but could use another 15 pounds on his frame to withstand the 82 game grind. His long range shot could use some work, but that can be developed later. Just ask Derrick Rose.
As a sophomore, Burks is one of the younger players on the list. It wouldn't hurt if he stayed another year.
3. C.J. Leslie, North Carolina State
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6'8" 205 pound freshman forward
2010-11 season: 11 ppg, 7 rpg, 44% FG, 54% FT
The numbers look pedestrian, right? Despite that, Leslie has the two things NBA scouts love above all else: crazy athleticism and huge potential.
Leslie is easily the most athletic player on this list, and is one of the most athletic players in the country. At 6'8", he runs and has the quickness of a guard. His jumping ability is off the charts, allowing him to block shots at a solid rate and throw down dunks with the best in the world.
The potential is there primarily due to his frame, or lack thereof. Leslie clearly needs to put on weight, which could be a big reason he elects to come back for another year, as his body is not ready for a full NBA season. Right now, he's a small forward in the mold of a smaller Chris Bosh.
If he taps into his potential, he could end up being better than the third fiddle in Miami.
2. Kenneth Faried, Morehead State
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6'8" 230 pound senior forward
2010-11 season: 18 ppg, 14 rpg, 2 bpg, 2 spg, 64% FG, 57% FT
I've read on multiple sites that Faried could be the next Dennis Rodman—no, not the Rodman who dressed as a woman and dated Madonna and Carmen Electra, but the Rodman who is regarded as one of the greatest rebounders in the history of the NBA.
Normally, those comparisons would be ridiculous. In this situation, the comparison makes sense.
Faried is widely viewed as the best rebounder in the country and one of the best in years. He grabs rebounds at an astounding rate thanks to his leaping ability and long arms. He currently has 25 double doubles (three 20-20 games), including four games in which he amassed more than 20 boards.
Playing at the unknown Morehead State, Faried goes hard for every minute he's on the court. He has to for them to win.
Offensively, he could use some work and it would be a shocker if he ever averaged more than 10 points at the next level. As a power forward, he's slightly undersized, but so are other effective rebounders like DeJuan Blair and Carl Landry.
Despite these negatives, Faried should still be a mid-first round pick for a club in need of some rebounding (listening, Knick fans?). A rebounder like Faried doesn't come around every year.
1. Kyrie Irving, Duke
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6'2" 180 pound freshman guard
2010-11 season: 17 ppg, 5 apg, 4 rpg, 2 spg, 53% FG, 45% 3PT, 89% FT (appeared in eight games)
Until I get solid proof Kyrie Irving will be returning to action from his broken toe, I don't anticipate seeing him during the NCAA Tournament.
For those who don't pay attention to the first month of the season, you missed someone special.
Irving lived up to the hype of being the next Jay Williams and would currently be challenging OSU big man Jared Sullinger for Freshman of the Year, and maybe even Player of the Year, honors if he were healthy.
Offensively, Kyrie is multi-dimensional in that he can slash to the basket or shoot a solid jumper (something neither John Wall or Derrick Rose could do consistently when they were drafted). He's in the mold of yet another top tier guard that are beginning to dominate the NBA.
Defensively, Irving used his top notch quickness to shut down elite senior guards Jacob Pullen and Kalin Lucas during his short time in a Duke uniform.
The only real knock on Irving is he isn't a top level athlete. It's not like he's a stiff, but he doesn't have that elite athleticism Rose or Wall possess.
Regardless, the Cleveland Cavaliers have made it known that Irving is currently their top target. Most good teams in the league have an elite guard at their disposal (Kobe Bryant, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker).
Irving is the next one in line, and it would be foolish for a team without an elite guard to pass on him.