2011 NBA Draft

Who are this season’s likely one-and-done college stars?

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For all the hype about one-and-done players and the impact on the college game, there aren’t that many of them. Last season there were just three taken in the first round (Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight and Tristan Thompson). The year before that had four, the season before that two. That’s nine in the past three years, for those scoring at home.

But the 2012 NBA Draft (in whatever form it takes) could be different. This is a very deep, very talented freshman class around the nation and a number of players could jump to the NBA after one season.

Chad Ford put together a top 10 at ESPN, and we compared that to the Draft Express 2012 mock draft (yes, it’s way too early but it’s a ranking) to come up with a list of nine guys to watch. All guys that could go in the first round next year.

Not all of these guys will make the jump, and the big board of prospects will shift as the college season starts, but these are the guys to keep an eye on. (The order is based on the DraftExpress prospect rankings, the reviews come from several sources but particularly DraftExpress.)

Anthony Davis, Kentucky: Scouts get excited when a legitimate big man prospect comes through, and that is what you have with Davis. He is 6’10”, with a 7’4” wingspan at 220 pounds. He can defend and rebound well. He needs offensive polish, but scouts think the fundamentals are there. Right now he’s the No. 1 pick if he comes out.

Andre Drummond, Connecticut: He is a real NBA center at 6’11” and weighing more than 250 pounds, plus he is wildly athletic for his size. He has the most potential of anyone in the draft, but there are questions about his passion and aggressiveness. That gives scouts pause, but if he can really tap that potential he could go to the top slot. He’s top 3 on everyone’s board right now.

Quincy Miller, Baylor: Everybody watches Baylor to see Perry Jones (with good reason), but Miller is the other forward and a balance to him. Miller is more a big (6’9”) small forward with an outside touch. He is coming off a torn ACL last year, so people will be watching to see how that impacts him.

James McAdoo, North Carolina: Very polished forward (6’8”) with a very high basketball IQ. He is likely going to be a good NBA 4 for a number of years.

Michael Gilchrist, Kentucky: A swingman/forward (6’7″) who can drive and fishish, a guy who you’ll enjoy watching because he plays with a lot of flair and energy. He’ll be all over sports center. What he needs is a jump shot to go with everything else.

Bradley Beal, Florida: He’s a two-guard who can flat out shoot — from the three, the midrange, and he can create his own shot doing it (think Eric Gordon). If he can prove he can do this consistently in college he will go in the first round because everybody needs a shooter.

Austin Rivers, Duke: He plays like a coaches son (Doc, of the Celtics) — he’s a point guard who is plays with a high IQ and does everything well. He’s not going to blow people away in workouts with his athleticism, but he is smart and steady and that can get you a long way in the NBA.

Adonis Thomas, Memphis: He’s smart and athletic, but at 6’7” he’s not really an NBA four even though that’s more his style of game. If he can develop a consistent midrange jumper and some handles, he becomes more valuable. Even with that, he’s still a likely first round guy because of his high hoops IQ.

Marquis Teague, Kentucky: He’s the younger (and most think better) brother of Jeff Teague, the PG the Hawks don’t play enough. Marquis is very fast and will have the chance to really impress scouts on a loaded Kentucky team, but like his brother he needs a more consistent jumper.

Kevin Hart, Draymond Green get in All-Star Saturday three-point shootout

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TORONTO — This is going to come up in the Golden State locker room.

Right before Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry put on a three-point shooting exhibition, actor/comedian/self-promotor Kevin Hart came out and challenged Draymond Green to a shooting contest. Green was ready to go. They did the three-point shooting contest, and Green put up a total of 12 (which would have been dead last in the actual three-point contest, for the record).

Then Hart stepped up — and tied him with 12 points.

Steve Kerr, if you’re ever looking for a lineup to go REALLY small….

Other All-Stars pay tribute to Kobe Bryant’s legacy

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TORONTO — This is Kobe Bryant‘s weekend.

In what will be his final All-Star Game, he has been an absolute rock star in Toronto — huge ovations, huge crowds (of fans and media), and cameras trained on him everywhere he goes. The weekend has been a celebration of one of the game’s all-time greats and a storied career.

Over the course of the weekend, nearly every other All-Star has been asked about Kobe and the impact he’s had both on the game and on the players, personally. For many of them, this is personal, the younger NBA players grew up idolizing him. Here are a sampling of their responses.

James Harden (Houston Rockets):
“He’s been my idol growing up, my basketball idol. Like I said, just watching him play meant everything to me. So this is his last year, and he’s going to retire, and there’s going to be no more Kobe Bryant playing basketball, it’s kind of sad. It’s kind of sad about that, but at some point he had to go.”

Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors):
“He’s the Michael Jordan of our era. He’s the most competitive player we’ve played against, and the thing he’s done throughout his career and the things he’s done to change the game, to motivate the players is unbelievable.”

Chris Bosh (Miami Heat):
“Kobe, this is his weekend. I know he probably would never say that or admit that, but, yeah, he’s one of the iconic players of this — greatest iconic players this league has ever had. He’s had such an imprint on our childhood. I know he had an imprint on my childhood. And then I was in that mix where I was a kid, and then I was trying to figure it out in the NBA, and next thing you know you’re competing against him. So, it’s been crazy.”

DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors):
“I grew up watching the Lakers. I grew up watching him his whole career and getting a chance to have a relationship with him and kind of, you know, patterned my game after him so to speak, so definitely speaks volumes.”

Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder):
“Me growing up in Los Angeles and being able to see Kobe, obviously he’s one of the greatest players to play the game. It was a true honor to be able to learn from him. It’s a great experience to be able to learn different things from him, not just on the floor but off the floor as well and very different experiences.”

Tyrone Lue (Coach, Cleveland Cavaliers):
“When I first got there (playing for the Lakers) he was still young. He was Kobe, but he hadn’t been a starter yet. And that third year of his career, that was my first year, Rick Fox went down, and he stepped in and took a starting role. But just seeing the film he watched all the time, the players he was talking about, the Oscar Robertsons, Michael Jordans, the Magics, he knew from day one who he wanted to be like. He knew that to be the best, you had to work hard. That’s what he did every single day. Not one day did I see him take off.”

Paul George (Indiana Pacers):
“He was just fearless. He’s a champion. To get to where you want to get to, you have to put the work in. His work ethic is one thing that he has. That’s the reason why he’s so great.”

Paul Millsap (Atlanta Hawks):
“The only thing I can remember is him always beating us when I was at Utah in the playoffs. We always had to try to overcome the Lakers and Kobe Bryant and just could never do it.”

John Wall (Washington Wizards):
“Basically, the Michael Jordan of our era is what I see with all of his dedication to the game, his competitive drive. He’s one of those guys that always wants the ball in a tough situation. No matter the circumstances, he believes in himself, no matter what.”

Aaron Gordon (Orlando Magic):
“I watched Kobe growing up and watched him in the All-Star Game. The impact he’s had on my basketball game and in my life and so many other people, it’s really big. It’s astronomical. That’s Kobe. That’s the man.”

Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors):
“He’s meant so much to the game. Growing up in the era that I did, Kobe was that guy. So to play in an All-Star Game with him, I mean, that’s special. I grew up a Kobe fan, so it’s something that’s really special.”

C.J. McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers):
“He’s had a huge impact (on me). Obviously for us, he was the Michael Jordan of our era, a guy we watched. He emulated Michael. He had a lot of the same fadeaways, sticking out his tongue, winning championships. Just a sense of self to understand exactly what it takes to be successful. So for us, he was a guy I looked up to. His work ethic, his understanding and he knew how to bounce back from losses and shooting air balls in the playoffs as a rookie to hitting game winners.”

Watch it again: Epic dunk contest duel between Zach LaVine, Aaron Gordon

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TORONTO — I am always hesitant to say a player/team/situation is one of the best of ever because the history of the NBA is filled with greats. We tend to overstate how good something current can be.  That said…

That was one of the best dunk contests ever.

Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon put on a show for the ages. Gordon had the best dunks of the night (in my opinion), but LaVine is consistently amazing, every dunk he does is flat out ridiculous.

Officially, LaVine won. In reality, we all won. Enjoy watching it one more time.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.