1. Thomas Robinson, Kansas: His work ethic and intensity has catapaulted him to lock top-five status, as does a demeanor that suggests he’ll keep fighting through the ups and downs. I flirted with placing the guy below in this spot since this is a projection game, but I’d find it foolish to take a gamble when you have a sure thing like this kid if I was running a team. He’ll defend, bang and board with a lunch pail mentality that’s easy to appreciate.
2. Perry Jones III, Baylor: Speaking of easy to appreciate, some of the names below may be further along at the moment, but it’s hard to imagine anyone with more upside. Questions about his motor and desire should be answered positively if he wants to get paid beyond his rookie deal, so expect that he’ll turn up the intensity and capitalize on his immense physical gifts.
3. Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State: He’s never been in a great situation, from a free-wheeling style at UTEP that relied more on his physical gifts to a situation at MSU that wasn’t ideal. Considering how much work he’s put into his game thus far and the growth that should come from coaching and approaching this as a job, I like his chances of earning consistent minutes in a frontcourt near you within two years.
4. John Henson, North Carolina: Has a shot to be a difference-maker for the same reason Joakim Noah is as a defender, awkwardly agile and disruptive. Still, it will take him time for him to develop into a full-time asset. His lack of strength is also an issue, but he’s gotten to where he’s occasionally watchable offensively, so there’s been progress.
5. Royce White, Iowa State: I’m done doubting this kid. He’s overcome an awful lot of turmoil, some brought on himself, and has anxiety issues regarding travel that must be cleared up. On the floor, his feel for the game is too much to ignore, so given the versatile virtuoso effort he pulled off against Kentucky in one of the NCAA Tournament’s most impressive individual efforts, I like his chances of adjusting to the speed of the pros and finding his niche.
6. Yancy Gates, Cincinnati: His strength will be an asset, especially since his long arms will allow him todefend fours and fives. The fact his weight has fluctuated and topped out at 287 at Portsmouth raised eyebrows, but he’ll get himself in shape and is too good a dual option to pass up considering his steal potential if he ever locks in.
7. Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure: He’s done tremendous work over the past few years, making Adrian Wojnarowski and his alma mater happy campers and ending an 11-year run in between NCAA appearances on the way out. He spent his career as the focus of every opposing defensive game plan and will now get an opportunity to play to his strengths, keep hitting the weights and see what more he’s capable of.
8. Mitchell Watt, Buffalo: A run on kids who plied their trade in upstate NY for four years continues with this sleeper. A late bloomer who finished the MAC Tournament with a 32-point game that showed off a sweet stroke on his jumper, he helped himself at the PIT, too.
9. JaMychal Green, Alabama: Love his athleticism and how tenacious he can, but he’s going to have to fight the tweener label. That’s not good since his perimeter game is a work in progress and he measured in at small forward size despite his future lying as a way to make an impact at this position.
10. Drew Gordon, New Mexico: Has a strong motor, decent wingspan and is accustomed to scoring around the basket with his good explosion. That gives him an opportunity to stick as an energy guy who will work to expand his game by rebounding and being active.
Others: Kevin Jones, West Virginia; Leon Radosevic, Croatia; Mike Scott, Virginia; Furkan Aldemir, Turkey; Josh Owens, Stanford.