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July 28, 2011
Top 100
The Aftermath

Basketball Prospectus

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John Gasaway: Greetings, everyone, and welcome to our Prospectus roundtable discussion on Drew Cannon's list of the top 100 players in Division I. I'm here with the man himself, along with Kevin Pelton, and the newest member of our Prospectus dream team, Todd Dybas. Gentlemen, start your subjectivity! I'll get the ball rolling with a question for Drew. What pick(s) has (have) earned you the most praise/condemnation? OK, being realistic, condemnation?

Drew Cannon: Weirdly I haven't drawn that much condemnation, but I'm sure that's due to a lack of fame rather than the list's perfection. I have heard about leaving off Peyton Siva (who somewhat unfathomably I didn't even name in the honorable mention section) and Aaron Craft. And while I ranked guys like Orlando Johnson and C.J. McCollum higher than most people would, it's tougher to argue against someone you've never heard of.

Dave Telep made fun of me for ranking Quincy Miller at 75. I drew him this graph:

Basically freshmen are like the bottom curve -- really, anything can happen. Once someone's already been in college we have a pretty good handle on what they'll be like, so juniors and seniors are like the other four curves. Let's say everything above .75 on the "success bar" is a top-10 player. Miller (the bottom curve) is way more likely to be a top-10 player next year than Keith Clanton, Harper Kamp, Michael Dixon, or Casper Ware (the other four curves). He's just also way more likely to not be a top-100 player. Dave either understood or claimed that he did just so I'd shut up.

Now, my question to the group is whether or not anyone wants to come to the defense of the brand spanking new Pac-12. Was I too harsh when I said the league needs a talent infusion "soon"?

Kevin Pelton: No, not really. The Pac-10/12 just can't seem to keep its talent around long enough to blossom. This year while surefire top-five picks were choosing to return to school in the ACC, Big East, and Big Ten, second-round types from the Pac-10 like Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt were jumping to the pros. I can't think of anyone who had a decision to make of any kind who returned in the conference. That's going to be very difficult to overcome. I think I'm higher on Allen Crabbe than you, Drew, which is balanced by my skepticism that Joshua Smith can stay on the floor long enough to justify a top-20 ranking.

Todd Dybas: Here's a blind taste test:

Player A: 13.4 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 44.6 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3.
Player B: 15.7 ppg., 5.8 rpg., 42.3 percent from field, 34.4 percent from 3.

Player A is Crabbe. Player B is Harrison Barnes (my clear overall No. 1, incidentally). Crabbe is not Barnes, obviously. But I don't think there's a 100-player gap between the two.

In regard to the Pac-12, I'm assuming the same low-talent gripe would have been before last year. Then Pelton or I would give the usual (and correct) defense that the conference produced more draft picks in recent years than any other. But since it's this year I'll also mention three Pac-10 players were taken in the top 17 of the 2011 draft. Only the Big 12 had more, and that's because Mother Nature made dual Morris men. As was recently pointed out by Ben Howland in between timeouts, Kevin Love led the NBA in rebounding in what would have been his senior year at UCLA. Nowhere is the what-if game more prevalent than in the Pac-12.

This year does appear to be one that will lag in individual stardom in the conference. So, I'll agree with Drew here. But we've heard this premise before, and the results have told something different.

Drew: In the past three recruiting classes the teams of the Pac-12 have suited up exactly one top-10 freshman: No. 10 Abdul Gaddy in 2009. Kentucky alone has signed eight top-10 players in the last three years.

The conference has inked 32 top-100 talents since 2009, barely one per school. The ACC has signed 61 in the same time frame, including six top-5 players. Recruiting-wise that's the worst three-year stretch any major conference has had in the last ten years (although the Big East may have had a similar run if it weren't for the influx of Louisville, Marquette, and Cincinnati to upgrade its 2006 class after consecutive weak ones).

Anyway, Kevin may be dead right about Joshua Smith. I hate cutting guys down for inability to stay on the floor because I feel like that can be such an easy fix. Pushing Smith back a few spots for that is entirely reasonable, though -- especially because it sounds like he's putting on weight this summer rather than losing it.

John: Drew, who's your No. 101?

Drew: At the time I was putting this together it probably would have been Damier Pitts....

John: Wow, really? The guy who hosts "Destroyed in Seconds"?

Drew: I couldn't quite convince myself to kick out any of the guys at the back of the top 100 for him, but I really wanted to. But as I said, that was then. If I were doing this again today it would be Scoop Jardine. I want to keep Pierre Jackson at 100 to have a JC guy, then I'd slide in Siva at 99. Pelton emailed me about Siva...

Kevin: Show him the love! A 54 percent two-point percentage and top-40 assist and steal rates as a sophomore in the nation's toughest conference!

Drew: Right, that email. Anyway I started writing a reply pushing Scoop. Then I realized that, while I could make the argument for Jardine, I'd really rather have Siva if I'm starting a team for 2012. My reasons for this being the other way around on list-making day now escape me. Also, I didn't factor in Elias Harris's injury well enough. He should be on the list somewhere. So I guess he replaces teammate Robert Sacre at 98, but he probably deserves to be 20 or so spots higher. If Harris is really totally healthy, maybe he sneaks up to 60 or so. I refused to give him extra credit for his performance while injured, but I've since realized that that was dumb.

Speaking of dumb, did I have too many freshmen?

Kevin: Being the cautious sort, I probably would have ranked fewer freshmen. I basically feel the same way about Tony Wroten that you do about Quincy Miller -- small shot of transcendent success, but also the possibility he barely helps at all as a freshman.

Todd: I have no problem with the presence of so many freshmen on your list, Drew. It's the absence of a certain sophomore that concerns me. I'll second the motion raised by those folks you've already heard from and ask where's Aaron Craft?

Drew: Right, 30 words on why Craft is awesome but doesn't make the list. If he plays for James Madison last year you don't hear his name once. Craft's a fantastic role player but he completes your team rather than forcing you into relevance.

Todd: Hey, if Craft plays for JMU he probably gets a few more shots than he did playing alongside Jared Sullinger and William Buford on the best regular-season team in the nation. If he's in the Colonial with more on his plate he would be more of a star. Instead he was in the Big Ten. Now, how many freshman point guards have an almost one-to-one turnover/steal ratio? At my own peril I'll quote Bobby Knight: "Smart wins!" That's Craft. He's smart. He's good. He wins. He should be on the list.

Kevin: Alright, now that we've shown Drew the indisputable error of his Siva- and Craft-omitting ways...

Drew: "Indisputable"?

Kevin: I want to salute this top 100 list.

John: Hear, hear! Not only the quality of its analysis but also the bracing taxonomic audacity behind it.

Kevin: After you get past the first handful of elite players, it's really about tiers more than actually determining whether Player A is better than Player B. That's true even in the NBA where there's just 500 players to sort out, much less in Division I where there's over 4,000. Plus in the pros we don't have to fret about comparing vastly differing strengths of schedule. Ranking NCAA players is exponentially different.

John: Yeah, yeah. Drew's list is great. Let's keep the focus on me. Drew, wouldn't you agree that I really started this whole "a MAC reserve named Javon McCrea is the new Jimmer" thing?

Todd: Um, before we get to John's very intriguing and vitally important question, I want to go on the record as having Tyler Zeller in my top 10 and taking JaMychal Green out. Carolina's offense is designed to have bigs leak out (something that skews Zeller's rebounding numbers), depending on their position when the shot goes up. And for his size Zeller has very good wheels. He can score in the halfcourt, off offensive rebounds, or in a run out. At a legit seven feet, he deserves defensive deterrent points on top of everything else. He's also competent in hedging pick-and-rolls, a challenge for any seven-footer. Not sure what he doesn't do.

Kevin: Yeah, and as long as we're interrupting John I want a word on Nate Wolters. I'd be lying if I said I was particularly familiar with his game, but seeing him in the top 50 was still a surprise. I'd consider myself a bit skeptical of anyone who shot 46 percent on twos against such a weak schedule.

Drew: One of my friends played high school ball with Wolters, so he had me on the bandwagon early. He's still only a junior, he's an elite passer and shooter, and that 46 percent two-point percentage came on 346 shots. That'll improve with a year's experience. If not it'll be because Wolters is carrying a Jimmer-like load for South Dakota State.

Oh, and as for the uncanny Lincoln-Kennedy-type similarities between Jimmer and Javon, yes, Gasaway started it all. No question.

John: Well, I'm talked out. Anyone else want to salute me?

Drew: Project C.J. Leslie's career through 2025. Anyone?

Kevin: He does just enough this year to be a first-round pick, then bounces from team to team as someone tries to figure out how to get him to shoot a reasonable percentage from the field.

Drew: Leslie could be anything. I'll name Zach Randolph's career path (though in no way his game) as my guess. Overlapping chaos and success. Or he could be Evan Burns. I don't know.

John: Wow, way to go out on a limb guys. OK, I'll be the specific one. Leslie will be drafted with the 22nd pick next summer by Orlando. As a rookie he'll shoot 48.7 percent on his twos while averaging 16.3 minutes a game. On October 7, 2013, he'll buy an Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog and name it Lord Palmerston.

Todd: May I have a closing quibble? I say never mind the kudos for Washington's Terrence Ross and his low-low turnover rate. If you never pass or dribble, I don't expect turnovers. He just shoots. Fortunately for him, he's quite good at that. But he had numerous off-kilter pulls last year that essentially were turnovers, just not recorded that way. That beings said, when Ross gets a bit stronger and figures out how to play, look out.

Drew: Hey, just because someone plays a style that limits turnovers doesn't mean that limiting turnovers is less valuable. Besides, missed shots are charted too.

John: OK, men, the baseball guys are kicking us out of the break room. Something about a "regular season" that's "going on now." Drew, on behalf of the group I want to say thanks for giving us 13,000 words to pick at. It's been fun. Feel free to make it an annual gig.

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Premium Article Boeheim's Zone (07/27)
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Premium Article Taking the Next Step (07/29)

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