By Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog
There may not be any NBA basketball this season, but it’s never too early to look ahead to the 2012 NBA Draft (however it will play out) and the potential stars of the future.
With that in mind, here’s a look at how five projected top picks have done in the early part of the college season and how they are viewed by NBA scouts.
**Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky
Through his first two college games under John Calipari, the 6-foot-10 Davis is averaging 18.5 points, 8 rebounds and 6 blocks. Playing against No. 11 Kansas on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, Davis put up 14 points, 7 blocks and 6 rebounds. He has 22 blocks through four games, if you count the team’s two exhibitions.
“The ones that are truly shot-blockers … it was funny, Marcus Camby and I texted each other after the game,” Calipari said after the Kansas game. “I said, ‘Were you watching?’ He said, ‘I watch every one of your games.’ I said, ‘Does Davis remind you of a young Camby?’ He said, ‘Lots of laughter,’ and he says, ‘Yes, he does.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, but he shoots it better.’ ”
Most NBA scouts believe Davis should be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
“I think right now he’s the frontrunner, but it’s early,” one veteran NBA scout said. “He’s a great talent. His upside is tremendous. His skill set is good now and getting better every day. He’s a terrific prospect.”
**Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina
The 6-8 Barnes opted not to go pro after his freshman season under coach Roy Williams, and the move could pay huge dividends, especially since there’s no NBA ball now anyway. Playing for the No. 1 team in the nation, Barnes is averaging 17 points and 5 rebounds through two games.
He plays for a team loaded with future NBA picks in forwards Tyler Zeller and John Henson and point guard Kendall Marshall, but Barnes is the team’s most complete player.
“Harrison Barnes is the most complete player in the country,” the NBA scout said.
**Andre Drummond, C, UConn
After deciding to enroll at UConn instead of spending a postgraduate year at prep school, Drummond arrived on campus with huge expectations. He’s averaging 6.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks through three games for the defending NCAA champs. Despite playing with a face mask due to a broken nose suffered during practice, he’s shown a proclivity for shot-blocking and highlight-reel dunks. After going scoreless in his first college game, the 6-10 Drummond posted his best game yet on Thursday against Maine, going for 14 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks.
“Davis probably has a slight edge right now [for No. 1] from what the consensus seems to be, but we need to see what Drummond looks like with no face mask and a few months of college coaching underneath his belt,” said Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.net.
**Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State
Like Barnes, Sullinger chose to remain on campus for his sophomore season instead of going one-and-done. The 6-9 post player is averaging 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds through two games for the Buckeyes. After he put up 16 points and 6 rebounds Tuesday in an 81-74 victory over Florida, Gators sophomore center Patric Young broke out this analysis.
“His size is a really big advantage that he has,” Young said of Sullinger. “He has a really big butt. I’m just saying, it really helps. I’m serious, it really helps him. He gets really good position and if you’re not ready, once he ducks you in, you can’t get around him.”
**Perry Jones, PF, Baylor
Jones averaged 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds as a freshman with a slew of NBA scouts following his every move. Like Barnes and Sullinger, he, too, returned to campus.
But Jones has yet to suit up this season because the NCAA ruled that Jones’ mother, Terri, had accepted illegal loans from an AAU coach to help her make mortgage payments two years before Perry had enrolled at Baylor.
Now he must wait for the Bears to play fives games before he can get back on the court.
“Jones was a projected top-5 pick all year long last year,” Givony said. “NBA scouts are enamored with his outstanding physical attributes and skill-level. Many feel he has the potential to develop into an All-Star caliber power forward. They are drafting him for what he could develop into in the next 2-3 years, not necessarily what he is now, which isn’t always all that impressive.
“He was inconsistent last year and not as productive as you might hope, which is the reason he went from being considered a potential candidate for the #1 pick to a likely 3-5 selection had he entered. He’s still very much in that mix, even if the competition has stiffened somewhat for 2012.”