Can Memphis’ Will Barton sneak into 1st round of 2012 NBA Draft?

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A breakout sophomore season in which he averaged 18 points and 8 rebounds per game, Memphis Tigers‘ shooting guard/small forward Will Barton earned Conference USA Player of the Year honors.  As a result, the Baltimore native decided to leave school early and enter the 2012 NBA Draft.  Even with those accolades, he remains a borderline first round pick.

At the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, Barton said he’s been hearing his name discussed in the “17 to early second” round range.  Like most college players leaving school early, Barton has higher expectations than that.  “I feel like I’m a first rounder so that’s what I’m shooting for,” he stated.

One of the biggest concerns with Barton is his three-point shooting.  He did raise his long distance percentage from 26.5% as a freshman to 34.6% as a sophomore, partially because he cut down on his triple tries and tried to display his other offensive strengths including attacking the basket and his steady mid-range game.  “Staying consistent with my shot” is something Barton has been working to improve during this draft process.

When compared to other shooting guard pegged to be selected in the late first/early second round, Barton is at a major disadvantage in that area.  Guys like Kentucky’s Doron Lamb, John Jenkins of Vanderbilt, and France’s Evan Fournier have proven to all be better outside shooters than Barton.

The 6’6 swing player is also rail thin, weighing in at 174 pounds at the combine which was the lowest number of the 60 participants.  The fact that he couldn’t even bench press 185 pounds once while in Chicago only magnifies his lack of strength which many feel will hinder his transition to the next level.

Still, Barton is hoping his many strengths (pardon the pun) outweigh some of his weaknesses.  Barton is by far a better athlete than the three previously mentioned shooting guards and is much more capable of attacking defenders in one-on-one situations.  “My versatility, ability to defend, rebound, create for myself, and create for others” is what Barton listed as his strengths.  Because of that versatility, Barton compared his game to that of “Jamal Crawford, MarShon Brooks, and a young Larry Hughes.”

So far, Barton has been on a whirlwind tour, working out for Boston, Miami, Cleveland, Golden State, Chicago, Memphis, Indiana, Milwaukee, and Denver .  “I’m a competitive guy,” Barton said of the draft workout scenarios.  “I like to compete.  I like to get after it.  That’s what I do best.  I thrive with stuff like that.”  Thriving in those match-ups in the final days leading up to the draft is the best way Barton can prove to some team that he is worthy of being a first round pick.

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.

You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

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