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Scott Howard-Cooper

Talent evaluators adjust their view on class of 2012 class


Posted Mar 31 2012 5:55PM

After months of a league-wide sugar rush cawing that this will be the best Draft class in years, many NBA teams are settling on the conclusion that the talent level has been oversold.

It still projects as a good group. Certainly much better than the 2011 field that turned particularly disappointing once Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones, John Henson and Terrence Jones stayed in school. But as the NCAA tournament opens, an increasing number of executives are conceding this may not become a Draft of historic proportions after all.

It helps that Kentucky's Anthony Davis, the consensus No. 1 pick for the June 28 Draft, has started to show glimpses of an offense to go with a ferocious defensive presence. But many of the prospects next in line are either agonizingly inconsistent (Andre Drummond, Jones) or one dimensional (Harrison Barnes with offense, Henson with defense).

Perceptions will continue to evolve as the postseason progresses and individual workouts are held. If Drummond, the biggest tease of all because of the combination of size and athleticism, flashes enough good moments, the quality of the Draft will be bumped up. But for now, personnel departments are coming down from their initial buzz.

More Draft-related notes as the NCAA tournament begins the process that will lead -- just a guess here -- to Kentucky beating North Carolina on April 2 in New Orleans:

Six executives or scouts were asked if they believe Drummond's January statement that he is definitely returning to Connecticut for his sophomore season. Five said no, the other said he wasn't sure. Even less than a year after Sullinger passed on the chance to go in the top five, and maybe even the top three, the NBA takes the Drummond claim lightly.

One good tournament burst and a lot of people will be in his ear about being the No. 2 pick, even after looking every bit the freshman on a tough learning curve for most of 2011-12. He has true-center size at 6-foot-11 and 270 pounds, plus the kind of athleticism that has earned comparisons to a pre-injury Amar'e Stoudemire. Teams want to fall back in love with him.

On the other hand: Two general managers said they can see Drummond dropping out of the top five if he stays in the Draft, a notion that would have been laughed off at the start of the season. His play has been that underwhelming and his focus -- he is a freshman -- is that much of a concern. The likes of Barnes, Sullinger, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Thomas Robinson may not have the same upside, but they're safer picks at this stage.

Perspective on what the tournament really means in scouting: Kyrie Irving played hurt in March 2011 in his one and only college season and was still the clear No. 1 pick. Enes Kanter missed all 2010-11 for Kentucky after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA, didn't get close to the postseason, and went No. 3. This is a valuable evaluation component, but a small component in the end.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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