Dec 16, 2010, 11:33 PM EDT
If you had asked “Who is going No. 1 in the 2011 NBA draft?” before the college basketball season started, the consensus was North Carolina’s freshman Harrison Barnes.
Except Barnes is shooting 38.2 percent this season and 29.3 percent from three. He has not lived up to the hype and is sliding down the boards (although not far, DraftExpress has him at No.3).
Replacing him in the consensus top spot was Kyrie Irving of Duke, the freshman handling the decisions for the nation’s number one team. He is shooting 45.2 percent from three and 58.7 percent inside the arc. He looks like the kind of point guard that can run an NBA team.
Except Coach Mike Krzyzewski announced on his “Basketball and Beyond with Coach K” show on XM Radio this week that Irving may out for the season with a toe injury. Which is likely to hurt his draft stock.
So who is No. 1?
(Yes, there will be a draft even if there is a lockout. The draft at the end of June comes before the expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. However, no draft pick can be signed until after July 1 — when the lockout will happen — so they will live in a bit of limbo.)
Predicting now is a bit of guesswork, this was always a pretty wide-open class and recent performances have made it more so. The smart money now is on Perry Jones of Baylor. The power forward has long been considered maybe the best long-term prospect in the class because GMs always love bigs. He has been good but not “nobody is taking the top spot from me” good so far.
So guys like Kentucky’s newest greatest freshman Terrence Jones or overseas players such as Jonas Valenciunas or almost-Kentucky player (except he played as a pro already) Enes Kanter have a shot.
Basically, it’s wide open. This season the draft has quality but not the clear-cut, John Wall type of “this guy is No. 1 no question” type of guy.
Which has positives for us fans — this season, the games (and post-season workouts) will matter more than ever. Just don’t be too sure about who is the top pick.