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Top prospects are starting slow

12/13/2011

We're now roughly 10 games into the college season for everyone and we continue to be treated to huge game after huge game nearly every week.

NBA draftniks can breathe a huge sigh of relief after the NBA and NBPA worked out the new CBA. There will be no change to the draft eligibility rules at the moment -- meaning everyone playing college basketball will be eligible for the draft in 2012. That may change down the road -- the league and players' association are forming a committee to explore a higher age limit -- but for now everyone's in.

Here's a quick look around the world based on notes I've collected from NBA GMs and scouts:

Does anyone want to be No. 1?

Kentucky's Anthony Davis (Top 100 Rank: 1) is still the consensus No. 1 pick in the draft, but he's struggled in two straight big games versus North Carolina and Indiana. In each case Davis couldn't really get anything going offensively. Defensively he's been his dominant self (with the exception of some foul trouble against the Hoosiers). So can a guy who has some serious limitations on the offensive end really go No. 1? Let's just put it this way: I polled a number of top NBA execs over the weekend after the Indiana game, and Davis was still No. 1 on all of their boards.

Davis isn't the only top prospect that's struggling. North Carolina's Harrison Barnes (Rank: 2) is scoring the basketball -- but he's doing it all through jump shots. He lacks buckets at the rim, doesn't trust his handle, has a horrendous assist ratio (just 5 percent of Barnes' possessions end in an assist) and isn't rebounding (just 6.9 percent of missed shots). Those factors are all causing some alarm. If Barnes is just a jump shooter ... is he really worth a pick this high? A few GMs have Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb and even Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ranked higher. We're not moving him off No. 2 yet, but he's in a tenuous position.

UConn's Andre Drummond (Rank: 3) is off to an even slower start. While he shows flashes of athleticism and an ability to dominate the game on both ends, he also displays bouts of serious mediocrity -- like his one-point, one-rebound performance against Arkansas. If Davis or Barnes had done that, everyone would be squawking.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, that creates a big opening for Baylor's Jones (Rank: 4). Jones has played very well in his two games back for the Bears. He hasn't really been tested yet, but if he can show the type of aggressiveness he showed in his first two outings, the talent is easily there to justify the No. 2 pick.

Stock Check

• For the first few months of the season we've had two freshmen -- Kentucky's Marquis Teague (Rank: 22) and Texas' Myck Kabongo (Rank: 23) -- as our top two ranked point guards in the country. That's about to change.

A number of NBA scouts and GMs now feel like Washington's Tony Wroten (Rank: 19) might be the best NBA point guard prospect in college basketball. He's not putting up the scoring numbers of Damian Lillard (Rank: 60) or Casper Ware (Rank: 99). Nor can he match the assist totals of Scott Machado (Rank: 34) or Kendall Marshall (Rank: 31).

But Wroten is the real deal. He's tall, has eyes in the back of his head, can get to the basket at will and, when he's focused, he can take over a game. His second-half performance against Duke on Saturday was, at times, special. He's still wild and tries to do too much, but it's rare to find a player with his size doing the things he does. Said one top NBA scout, "He's the second coming of Gary Payton." If that's true, then we have him about 15 spots too low on our Big Board.

• NBA scouts have loved Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie (Rank: 32) for years. But a transfer from New Mexico to Mississippi State set his draft stock back quite a bit. Now that he's playing again, the love affair is quick renewing. Moultrie has the size and athletic ability to be an excellent NBA power forward. For the past few years, he's gotten by mostly on potential. But this season he's been absolutely dominant, averaging 17 ppg, 11.3 rpg and shooting 55 percent from the field. If this keeps up all season and Mississippi State keeps winning, he's going to not only be a first-round pick, but he may end up as a late lottery pick.

• Missouri's Marcus Denmon (Rank: 55) is having a breakout senior season. He's an undersized 2-guard, but he can really stroke the basketball and keep turnovers to a minimum, and he is also proving to be an exceptionally good rebounder for his size. Before the season Denmon was considered a marginal NBA prospect. Now? Some teams are projecting him as a possible late first-round pick.

• Keep an eye on Arkansas freshman guard B.J. Young (Rank: 49). Young didn't get the hype of some of the other elite freshmen in the country, but he's quietly putting together a huge season for the Razorbacks. This super-quick combo guard can get to the basket at will, but it's been his stellar shooting that is turning teams' heads.

Uh Oh

• St. John's combo guard Nurideen Lindsey (Rank: 108) has decided to transfer. Lindsey got some publicity last year after a number of NBA scouts started tracking him. He's been solid at St. John's but has struggled to live up to his reputation. He'll have to sit out college games until the middle of next season. That should wreak havoc on his draft stock.

• Wisconsin point guard Jordan Taylor (Rank: 64) was a potential college player of the year candidate coming into his senior season. So far he's struggling to live up the hype. He's shooting 36 percent from the field, 30 percent from 3-point range and went 0-for-10 against UNLV over the weekend. The good news is that Taylor is a winner and Wisconsin still is winning games. However, his NBA stock, what little of it that existed, is evaporating.

Sleeper

• Seton Hall's Herb Pope (Rank: 84) is having an amazing season. He's a beast in the paint, a relentless rebounder and a super-tough kid. But his improvement on the offensive end has been a major eye-opener. He's a bit undersized for his position, but he's relentless and NBA teams love that.