2011 NBA Draft: 10 Underclassmen Who'd Be Lottery Picks If They Declared
Looking at our league today, it's not too difficult for us to discern who the present talent of the NBA is. Players like Kevin Durant, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin and LeBron James are currently setting the bar for what it means to be a superstar in the National Basketball Association.
These players are still well within their prime and have many years ahead of them to compete at peaking performance levels. But even with how exciting this league gets, one can't help but look toward the future every now and then.
There are many budding future-stars in college who are getting ready for March Madness as we speak, and many of these players are about to show us a little bit of what the future holds for the NBA.
There are scorers who are lighting the nets on fire, rebounders who are crashing the glass like never before, shot blockers who bring a whole new meaning to paint defense, and guards who are dropping more dimes than the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
While they may not be NBA ready just yet, many of these future-stars are getting close to their NBA debut. Some of them may even declare for the draft after this, their last tournament.
They way they perform in the coming month could feasibly make-or-brake their chances of being a top pick, and eventually earning that lucrative contract.
The sky is the limit for these young talents at the moment, and now they will all have their own chance to shine.
This is a presentation of 10 very intriguing individuals who would most certainly be lottery picks if they were to declare for the NBA draft.
As he is the second leading scorer in College Basketball, one would be remiss not to mention guard Marshon Brooks.
At 22 years of age, Brooks has blossomed into one of the best scorers in non-pro ball this year alone. He possesses a deadly jump-shot, but is sometimes bogged down by poor decision making.
He jacks up too many contested three-pointers to always be effective, and needs to learn how to make contributions without dominating the ball.
He is also not an elite athlete to most observers, but his quick first step allows him to create space from his man for long enough to find a good look at the basket.
While most didn't consider him to be lottery bound before this year, his progress in becoming a well rounded scoring presence is making him hard to ignore.
All eyes will be on Jimmer Fredette come draft day, but Marshon Brooks could end up being quite a steal for a team that needs a little extra firepower.
At 6'8, Jarred Sullinger is proving as of late, that he could be a dangerous partner with a dynamic guard in place. Sullinger uses his low center of gravity to bully his way into the lane, and gobble up rebounds and points at a ferocious rate.
Once inside the paint, he has an array of spins, flip up's, and drop steps, to finesse his way into an easy bucket.
One of the biggest changes to Sullinger that he continues to work on, is his body. He continues to shed unwanted weight, and work towards his peak shape as time goes on.
Even though he is a tad undersized at 6'8, some hard work and determination could turn him into an extremely mobile force to be reckoned with in the paint.
Sullinger appears to have some work left to do on his fundamentals and shot-blocking ability, but at 18 he still has a lot to learn.
In terms of future big men, Perry Jones is currently considered the College player with the most possible upside. That being said, he has quite a bit to work on before being a finished product.
On the upside, Jones possesses a great frame at 6'11. He rebounds on the offensive glass fairly well, and can shoot almost 60 percent from inside the arc.
In that light, he seems to be a very promising young power forward. It also seems as if the more his teammates and coaches use him, the more he will continue to expand his game in a positive way.
The flip side of the coin however, is that he lacks a few basketball instincts that every player should have. Both his toughness, and hustle have been called into question before. Add that to the fact that he has been known to shy away from contact in the paint, and you've got trouble.
While he can continue to bulk up his solid frame, it's hard to teach someone to put their heart into what they do.
It's still very possible that he snaps out of his mindset before it's too set in stone, but it's something he will need to work on extensively if he wants to live up to his potential.
All things considered, when Perry Jones decides to declare for the draft, those in need of big men will take a strong look to see where he's at in his progression.
Touted by many to be the most productive player in college basketball, Derrick Williams is certainly giving the scouts something to chew on this season.
With solid basketball fundamentals, and a sky-high I.Q. for the game, it's no surprise that Williams is continuing to improve in every facet of his game.
He's shooting lights-out from long range (in limited attempts) and doing a great job with shot selection. He rarely forces up bad looks, and his superior footwork allows him to earn a clear shot when one may not have been previously in the cards.
While his free throw performance was a bit shaky before (68 percent), Williams has made an effort to improve that weakness, already taking his percentage up to 76 percent.
His weaknesses come out around the basket at times, as is is undersized for a power forward. At 6'8", he does tend to get his shot blocked from time to time, but it sure hasn't discouraged him from bouncing back up to get his own rebound.
The largest upside with Derrick Williams is the mind set of his game. His body and experience will continue to improve his abilities as a player, but it's the maturity and basketball I.Q. that is so hard to come by these days.
When listing future NBA level point guards, make sure you don't forget Connecticut's Kemba Walker.
Although undersized at merely six feet tall, Walker is unlikely to have this affect him in a serious way due to his amazing arsenal of moves.
He possesses superior ball control while on the move, and makes it nearly impossible for the opposing defender to stay in front of him.
His scoring numbers have gone way up this year, but it's not due to an unwillingness to pass. Connecticut needs Walker to score in bunches in order to stay competitive, and he has taken this need seriously as his numbers indicate.
This ability to score efficiently is also a recent development, as Kemba was not always known as a shooter.
His greatly improved shooting mechanics, and ability to hit the long ball consistently have allowed him to be the go-to guy Connecticut needs down the stretch.
The best part about Walker's game, is that he's proven time and time again that he will adjust to the role that his team needs him to fill, in order to win.
This is such a rare quality, that it alone will have everyone in need of a guard consider him to fill the void.
Any NBA franchise looking to quickly add to their defensive presence should look forward to drafting Chris Singleton.
Singleton's game benefits greatly from his size and athleticism, allowing him to be a beast in the painted area. His ability to create extra possessions for his squad via blocks, rebounds, and steals, is unmatched at his position.
While his offensive game remains far from polished, he is forcing fewer shots these days, and converting on more looks because of it.
The main causes for concern with Singleton, are free throws and shooting percentage. While he would be drafted as a defensive presence, Chris is going to need to keep up an incredible work ethic to get his offensive game up to an NBA level.
If he really wants to go far at the professional level, he will have to work tirelessly at putting the ball in the hoop.
Another wing man who's all but ready to go in the NBA next year is Terrence Jones.
His strengths include having great size for the small forward position, already having an NBA-ready body, a high basketball I.Q., and a game that is mature beyond its years.
He plays a bit too much of a finesse game at times, but has been known to throw down dunks in traffic when he gets a nice head full of steam.
He gains much of his advantage from his explosive first step, and the ability to change directions and shift into another gear to grab a clear shot.
Another perk with Jones, is that you gain a multifaceted scorer. He can put up points in the paint, and can also step out to slightly beyond the college three-point line for a jumper.
While Terrence may not be the best in any category on the court, there also isn't an area of basketball that he is not at least efficient at.
To be highly successful in the NBA, this jack of all trades will eventually need to become the master of at least one.
Once thought to be the future No. 1 pick of 2011, Harrison Barnes has slipped a little in the projections. Not that this will affect if he gets picked up, as that seems to be a certainty.
He has great size for his position, and once he adds the proper weight needed for the NBA level, he'll be a force both inside and outside of the paint.
Harrison looks to fill the role now occupied by the Rudy Gays of the NBA with his deadly wing attacks, and ability to shoot off the dribble.
While he clearly is not as athletic as Gay, his silky smooth jumper separates him from other small forwards who tend to rely more on their hops.
Add this to a great work ethic on and off the court, and you have a forward who could do some damage at the professional level.
When talking about top possible lottery picks, Kyrie Irving virtually SCREAMS look at me.
In his first season of college ball, Irving is already one of the top distributing point guards in the league. He plays with great confidence, a sense of maturity, and an undeniable swagger in his step.
He's not like the top speed guards to graduate to the NBA level recently (Rose, Westbrook, Jennings), but instead he uses his unpredictability to get to the rim at will.
Also unlike many of the other top guards of today, Irving already has a very nice jump shot.
He doesn't tend to dominate the ball on the scoring end of things, but has shown that he can be the go-to-guy when big time shots need to be made.
What is possibly most central to his success, however, is his solid understanding of the game's fundamentals.
One position that teams always seem to need improvement on is the 1-guard, and Kyrie Irving would be an improvement for most teams right out of the gate should he declare to go to the next level.
By far the most impressive prospect on this list, is none other than BYU's Jimmer Fredette.
Jimmer Fredette is a virtual clinic of scoring points, and he can do so in so many ways it could make your head spin. He already has an NBA-level jump shot, great shot selection, and great handles while moving with the ball.
He was moved to the point guard position due to a lack of elite size, but this has only seemed to help his game flourish, as he's developed into an above-average playmaker in the process.
He keeps the defense constantly guessing with his unlimited (yes, I mean it) range, or the ever looming threat of his devastating crossover. It's really a pick your poison game with this kid, but either way he's going to torch you on most nights.
He's already shown that he can burn the house down on any given night with his long list of 40+ point games, and even when he struggles he manages to stay effective dropping dimes (9 assists in poor shooting effort just days ago).
His weaknesses include a lack of elite size as I mentioned above, and also a lack of pure athleticism.
Some fear that he will be broken down by more athletic guards at the NBA level, but I would be more inclined to believe that he can carve out a scoring niche all his own with that beautiful jump shot.
Jimmer is currently a senior at BYU, and will undoubtedly declare himself for the draft upon the tournament's completion.
I won't go as far to say he'll be the No. 1 pick, but he will be the first pick of any team looking to add offense.