I like to keep a roving eye on the future, especially when the current state of NBA teams will directly reflect on number one draft pick in the 2011 draft. Obviously, we are going to pretend to have a stony silence on that which shall not be mentioned (hint: seven letters, starts with an L, ends with a T, and could be goddamn annoying). So when David Stern climbs the podium to announce next year's top pick, the player I'm most expecting to be called up first is North Carolina small forward Harrison Barnes.
Barnes has been rated as the top prospect in the draft via several sources, including the one I respect the most, DraftExpress.com. The 6"8 forward is long, with a great wingspan, and is actually listed as a SG/SF on draft express. But what immediately attracted my attention towards him was Barnes' NBA comparison offered by NBADraft.net: Grant Hill.
Now, before the 38-year-old Hill became a model for geriatric basketball in the league, he was one of the most explosive all-round players in the league, way back in the 90s. In his prime, he was a poor man's, less explosive LeBron James, and was supposed to be the next Jordan before any of the other next Jordans.
Here's more information from NBADraft.net on Barnes:
Strengths: Athletic wing with long arms (7-foot wingspan), good muscle tone and excellent body balance ... Kid with a great attitude, work ethic and willingness to improve … Has a disciplined approach. Shows a good understanding of the game making positive decisions with the ball ... Has excellent form on his shot, and developing range … Can pull up off the dribble and hit shots … Does a good job of attacking the basket and creating contact and free throw shooting opportunities … Knocks down shots from the line at a good rate … Gives good effort on the defensive end getting low and using a proper defensive stance … Still shows a good deal of potential left in his game …
Weaknesses: Needs to work on improving his left hand and become equally adept at driving using either hand … Should look to improve his mid-range game and become a more consistent shooter from the perimeter …
As of now, the worst teams in the NBA are already on the 'Harrison Barnes' watch, because their position in the league will depend on their likelihood to get the first pick. The Clippers, Kings, Timberwolves, Nets, and 76ers are currently the league's five worst teams - all of them, except perhaps the 76ers, have a gaping hole in the small forward position and could use Barnes' services.
So while we pay attention to how this exciting season pans out, lets keep an eye on the future stars too... Barnes isn't the only one - players such as Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, and Perry Jones are also gathering respect from NBA scouts. Let's just hope we see them in action next season and avoid the dreaded L-word.
And by the way... These won't be the only rookies coming to the league. A certain Spanish point guard phenom will finally be making his way to the States. Ricky Rubio was drafted fifth by the Timberwolves last year but is yet to make an appearance in the league. Rubio is currently with FCB Barcelona in Spain, where he has been dominating. Whether or not he joins the T-Wolves next season is another question...
Here is my near-fiendish ode to Rubio.