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Top 5 NBA prospects in Midwest Region

3/14/2012

The Midwest Region is the second-strongest region in the NCAA tournament in terms of NBA draft prospects thanks to the inclusion of North Carolina and Kansas.

I count as many as five lottery prospects and a handful of other first-rounders in the region.

ESPN.com has talked to multiple NBA scouts and GMs over the course of the season to give you a look at the top 5 NBA prospects they'll be watching in each NCAA region.

Midwest Region NBA Prospects

1. Thomas Robinson, PF, Jr., Kansas

The Good: Robinson plays like a man in the paint. He fights for every rebound that comes off the rim. He's not afraid to be physical inside. He's more skilled as a ball handler and as a perimeter player than you may think. He's an amazing athlete with explosive leaping ability and an NBA body. His motor runs on beast mode almost always.

The Bad: He looks like he may be an inch or so undersized for the NBA. He's still learning how to play against double- and triple-teams every night. Needs to continue to work on his perimeter game.

The Upside: Some laughed when we ranked Robinson as the best NBA prospect on the Jayhawks last year. This year? If he were an inch or two taller, he could've made a serious run at the No. 1 pick. He has willed Kansas to be much better than anyone expected it to be this season and many NBA GMs believe he can do the same thing at the next level.


2. Harrison Barnes, SF, So, North Carolina

The Good: One of the best pure scorers in college basketball. Barnes is a smooth player with a sick jumper. He has deep, deep range. He's fearless. He can miss five straight shots and will still be unafraid to take the next one. Can defend multiple positions. He's a great kid with a terrific basketball IQ.

The Bad: He's a bit one-dimensional. Barnes doesn't contribute rebounds or assists at the rate you'd expect from someone of his talent. He can be streaky. He's not an explosive athlete.

The Upside: Scouts have wanted Barnes to be the next great thing for two straight seasons and for both seasons he's come up just a little short of that. He'll be able to score at the next level, but superstars have to do more than just that.


3. Tyler Zeller, C, Sr., North Carolina


The Good:
Zeller runs the floor as well as any big man in the country. He's a very fluid player who can catch the ball in stride and finish around the basket. He has nice touch around the rim and has gotten better every year.

The Bad: Is he strong enough to play the 5 in the NBA? Does he do anything well enough to be a standout at the next level?

The Upside: Scouts say they love players who come back every year with more wrinkles to their game. Zeller has done that in spades. He has been, arguably, the best player on this Tar Heels team this season and has most scouts convinced he should be a mid-to-late lottery pick in June.


4. John Henson, F, Jr., North Carolina


The Good:
Henson is a crazy-long, athletic big man who seems to be everywhere on the floor at once. His shot-blocking abilities are ridiculous. He can guard three positions and play multiple positions on offense. He is developing the semblance of a perimeter game as a junior. He plays really hard all the time.

The Bad: What position is he? He looks way too thin to play the 4 in the pros, but he's still learning the game at the 3. He needs to either get a lot stronger or develop a much more solid jumper.

The Upside: Henson is a pretty unique player. He reminds some scouts of Andrei Kirilenko. If he's Andrei (and someone doesn't give him a max deal), he's probably ranked about five to 10 spots too low on our Big Board.


5. James Michael McAdoo, F, Fr., North Carolina

The Good: McAdoo is a fundamentally sound big man who plays an old-school sort of game. He plays with a great motor and isn't afraid to mix it up inside. He's a good athlete who can finish around the basket.

The Bad: He has played a supporting role at North Carolina this season and, at times, struggled to get things going in limited minutes.

The Upside: When Henson went down with a wrist injury in the ACC tournament, McAdoo responded with the best game of his career -- a 14-point, 8-rebound performance against Maryland. He played well against NC State the next night and suddenly scouts remembered that in July, he was ranked as a top 5 player on our Big Board. Should McAdoo get the chance to shine in the NCAA tournament, he'll rocket up our Board. If he doesn't, he'll start next season in the top 5 of our 2013 Top 100.


Sleeper: Doug McDermott, F, So., Creighton

The Good: McDermott is a coach's son with a high basketball IQ to show for it. He just knows how to play. He's an excellent shooter with NBA range on his jumper. He's a very good rebounder for someone his size. Tough.

The Bad: He's not an elite athlete and should struggle to guard players at his position at the next level.

The Upside: McDermott was one of the best scorers in college basketball and a top-five player in John Hollinger's College PER rankings. He also impressed this summer against better competition for Team USA. If he can do his thing against two pretty athletic clubs in Alabama and UNC in the first two games, a lot more scouts will get on the bandwagon.

Others to watch: Kendall Marshall, PG, So., North Carolina; C.J. Leslie, F, So., North Carolina State; Tyshawn Taylor, PG, Sr., Kansas; Jeff Withey, C, Jr., Kansas; Otto Porter, F, Fr., Georgetown; P.J. Hairston, SG, Fr., North Carolina; Tim Hardaway Jr., G, So., Michigan; JaMychal Green, F, Sr., Alabama; Trey Burke, PG, Fr., Michigan; Henry Sims, C, Sr., Georgetown; Reggie Bullock, G, So., North Carolina; Allen Crabbe, G, So., Cal; Tony Mitchell, SG, Jr., Alabama; Elijah Johnson, G, Jr., Kansas; Lorenzo Brown, G, So., North Carolina State; Hollis Thompson, F, Jr., Georgetown; Ray McCallum, PG, So., Detroit; Matthew Dellavedova, G, Jr., Saint Mary's; Robbie Hummel, F, Sr., Purdue