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Insider

Enes Kanter still a top prospect

The NCAA ruled Friday that Kentucky recruit Enes Kanter was permanently ineligible to play college basketball.

Kanter and Kentucky fans are clearly disappointed. He's been trying for two years to prove his eligibility and this setback basically cost him an entire year of playing organized basketball. Had he stayed in Turkey, he likely would've gotten more minutes and development.

But there's a bit of silver lining to all of this. I spoke with a number of NBA scouts and executives about Kanter over the past few weeks. All of them said that Kanter would likely be a top-five pick even if he didn't play another game before the draft. Why?

1. Scouts were very impressed with his play in high school. But Kanter also had a bit of a coming-out party against Team USA at the Nike Hoop Summit. Going head to head against players such as Jared Sullinger and Patric Young, Kanter was dominant. He also looked terrific in practices attended by scouts the week prior to the game. It's a small sample size, but scouts feel like they have a good handle on him as a prospect.

2. There just aren't that many big men in the draft. Perry Jones is ranked high, but he wants to play like a guard. Jared Sullinger has been great, but he's undersized for his position. Other international big men, such as Jonas Valanciunas, Jan Vesely and Donatas Montiejunas, aren't any more familiar. Patric Young is struggling at Florida. You get the picture. If a team really needs a center (and several of them in the lottery do) Kanter is the best prospect on the board.

3. Scouts believe Kanter is NBA-ready. His body is pretty mature. He's strong and isn't afraid to play physical basketball. And he's highly skilled for a big man. Scouts said they thought he was more NBA-ready than Greg Monroe, Ed Davis or Cole Aldrich ... all of whom went in the lottery in a stronger draft.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said he'll work with Kanter to prep him for the draft. There's no college coach that's better at doing it and scouts feel confident that when Kanter gets into workouts, he'll earn a top-five pick.