Best players on 20-and-two draft board
5-on-5: The guys NBA execs should be eyeing if league adopts stricter age restrictions
While the NBA is still stuck in its lockout, excitement reigns in the amateur ranks, particularly when it comes to the star-studded freshman class that is set to descend upon college courts and campuses across the country.
And it's not just fans, either; pro scouts are simply salivating at some of the incoming talent. Eleven NCAA newbies can be found in the top 20 in ESPN.com's Big Board, which could lead to several bolting for the big league after just one season.
But what if it wasn't an option? What if the NBA did away with one-and-dones?
With talk swirling of increasing the age limit in the draft -- to 20 years old and at least two years removed from high school ball -- our panelists pick out the top prospects left of what could be the beginning of the two-and-through era.
1. Who's the fifth-best prospect on the board in a 20-and-two draft?
Patrick Hayes, PistonPowered: Jeremy Lamb. Lamb might not be considered a lottery-level talent just yet, but he is a good shooter and has the potential to be a lockdown perimeter defender. With no Kemba Walker, UConn will have a lot of shots to go around as it finds a new identity. If Lamb steps into that role successfully, he could have a Walker-like rise into the lottery.
Brendan Jackson, CelticsHub: John Henson. Henson found out the hard way that college players were bigger, stronger and just as good as he was. He followed up an underwhelming freshman season with a solid sophomore campaign. If he adds weight and continues to ascend this season, he could sneak into the top 5.
Danny Nowell, Magic Basketball: Terrence Jones. In a way, he is more talented than prospects I'm higher on, but despite his relatively complete offensive package, players with his history of erratic effort make me real nervous. Tim Thomas was a versatile offensive forward who could pass and dribble, too.
Timothy Varner, 48 Minutes of Hell: Thomas Robinson is on the edges of this conversation, but his draft stock will improve with increased playing time. In the end, he has decent size, has an increasingly dominant post game and shot 60 percent from the field last season.
2. Who's the fourth-best prospect on the board in a 20-and-two draft?
Chad Ford, ESPN.com: Thomas Robinson. Robinson didn't attract much attention last season thanks to the Morris twins, but if you watched him play you know he's a tough athlete who plays with fire and is one of the best rebounders in the country. He should have a monster year for Kansas.
Patrick Hayes, PistonPowered: John Henson. Most Henson critics will point to his light frame as a reason for not being sold on him, but he's an athletic shot-blocker who improved immensely from his freshman to sophomore season. If he can again be a rim-protecting force for UNC, he'll be one of the top picks in 2012.
Brendan Jackson, CelticsHub: Terrence Jones. It was a toss-up between Jones and Harrison Barnes for top small forward and I'm still not sure I picked the right one. Jones might have the better NBA body, but I don't trust any small forward that's played for John Calipari. I've been burned before.
Danny Nowell, Magic Basketball: John Henson. Though he has less polish and a more limited offensive skill set than Terrence Jones, I have Henson a little bit higher because his freakish stretch-Bambi physique, when combined with his motor, seems like a surer bet to be a difference-maker.
Timothy Varner, 48 Minutes of Hell: Harrison Barnes was all over the map last season. His shooting wasn't great, and some nights he just didn't perform like a player who was treated with national fanfare during recruitment. Still, there was that Clemson game. And that alone puts him back in this conversation.
3. Who's the third-best prospect on the board in a 20-and-two draft?
Chad Ford, ESPN.com: Perry Jones. On pure talent, he should go No. 1. Jones is essentially a 6-foot-11 wing with electric quickness and springs. But he's still figuring out where to play and how to play hard. If he figures it out, he could be the next Tracy McGrady. If he doesn't, he could be Anthony Randolph.
Patrick Hayes, PistonPowered: Jared Sullinger. Sullinger is the one big-name prospect I'm not completely sold on. I think his lack of athleticism will really hurt him in the NBA if he doesn't add more consistent perimeter elements to his game. Still, he's smart, strong and he rebounds well, so questions or not, those things are enough to make him a top-5 talent.
Brendan Jackson, CelticsHub: Perry Jones. Jones is a big dude who had some big hype coming in as a freshman. After failing to dominate the Big 12 like any future lottery pick should, Jones' sophomore season will be really important for his draft stock. In other words, Jones is going to have to pull down more than seven boards a game this season.
Danny Nowell, Magic Basketball: Jared Sullinger. I keep hearing comparisons to Paul Millsap, who is a terrific player. But isn't Sullinger doing more, against stouter competition, than Millsap ever did offensively? I'm not saying Sullinger is going to be Barkley, but I can see a 2006-08 David West if his face-up game improves.
Timothy Varner, 48 Minutes of Hell: Patric Young's inconsistency is similar to Harrison Barnes', but Young's brilliant moments come with an explosion of above-the-rim activity that suggests a perennial All-Star. If he can show he's more of a basketball player than an athlete, he'll go high in the draft.
4. Who's the second-best prospect on the board in a 20-and-two draft?
Chad Ford, ESPN.com: Jared Sullinger. Sullinger is ranked behind Perry Jones on our Big Board, but I think NBA teams will opt for a sure thing over the mercurial Jones. Sullinger is a beast in the paint, has a high basketball IQ and has a chance to be the most dominant low-post player in college. Think Kevin Love, redux.
Patrick Hayes, PistonPowered: Perry Jones. A potential-filled, 6-11 wing who has elite athleticism, the ability to score in multiple ways and plays unselfishly? Yes, please. Jones might not have the mentality to take over and dominate games on his own, but at worst he's a perfect complementary player and secondary scoring option.
Brendan Jackson, CelticsHub: Jared Sullinger. Sullinger was a man among boys last season, despite being among the youngest players in the NCAA. He may be a bit undersized for his position in the NBA, but this tough competitor flat-out produces. I can't wait to see Sullinger and DeMarcus Cousins battle it out for the next 10 years.
Danny Nowell, Magic Basketball: Perry Jones. If Jones figures out how to consistently plug in mentally, it will be laughable to call another player on this list a better prospect. I think his talent demands that he be drafted extremely high, but in my relatively limited time watching him, I have never seen a stretch during a game that he imposed his will on the other team.
Timothy Varner, 48 Minutes of Hell: The knock against Perry Jones is that he doesn't dominate games, but I think that has more to do with his teammates than him. If you get him the ball, he'll score. Very few players possess his combination of size, grace and talent, and that places him near the top of this list.
5. Who's the best prospect on the board in a 20-and-two draft?
Chad Ford, ESPN.com: Harrison Barnes. Barnes got off to a shaky start as a freshman but ended last season in a white-hot flourish. Not only is he ridiculously skilled, but he exudes confidence and is fearless in the clutch. Good teams have players who can put the team on their back when the game is on the line. With Kemba Walker now off to the NBA, no one in college hoops does that better than Barnes.
Patrick Hayes, PistonPowered: Harrison Barnes. Barnes bounced back nicely last season after falling short of lofty expectations early on and was one of the most polished wings in the country by season's end. He's immensely talented and he seems to have the mental toughness necessary to deal with the pressure that comes with being the No. 1 pick.
Brendan Jackson, CelticsHub: Harrison Barnes. When Barnes got to UNC, he looked like he wasn't ready to be the best player on a really high-profile college team. With an up-and-down freshman season behind him, look for Barnes to play like a savvy veteran and really establish himself as the best player in college basketball.
Danny Nowell, Magic Basketball: Harrison Barnes. Barnes may not have the highest ceiling here, but we already know that his floor is a big, defensively capable forward with elite shooting ability. If his reportedly improved ballhandling manifests itself such that he can consistently create shots for himself, I don't think the Paul Pierce comparisons are too off the mark.
Timothy Varner, 48 Minutes of Hell: Jared Sullinger is simply more productive than everyone else on this list. Sullinger fills up the box score every night and, when his back is to the basket, looks more like a bona fide NBA player than any of his peers.
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