If Conference USA was really the 7th best conference in the country, you would think that the player of the year from that league would be among the top 15 draft prospects.
But the player of the year was Will Barton, and while he led the conference in scoring, and pulled in 8.0 rebounds a game from a wing position, he isn't. Perhaps it is because the sophomore (although a 21-year-old sophomore) is rail thin.
Or perhaps too much of his game comes in transition.
But there has to be more than that right? Barton was productive and made Memphis into a team that looked like a contender in the NCAA Tournament, until Saint Louis changed that.
We take a closer look at Will Barton in our continuing series of mid-major NBA Draft prospects.
School: Memphis (Memphis, Tenn. | Conference USA)
Hometown: Baltimore, Md.
Position: SF (SG in NBA)
Accolades: 2011 All-Freshman team, 3rd team CUSA All-conference, 2012 Conference USA Player of the Year.
Team Record: 51-19
Will Barton, we have a problem. Much like Machado, scouts are mixed on where the Memphis sophomore really fits in the draft.
There are guys that love Barton, and then there are guys that feel he should have stayed in school and that he is destined for the D-League.
It is somewhat hard to see the second point. He led the conference in scoring, was among the leaders in almost every other category. Plus he rebounded like a nut, one of the best on the boards at the guard position. As one scout quoted by David Aldridge said:
Real thin body. And yet, man, he rebounds. He's like a cobra, the way he springs into action around the ball.
If teams are looking for a player who could provide a spark, this is the candidate.
Final Season Averages:
18.0 pts... 2.9 asts...8.0 rebs...1.4 steals...2.1 turnovers...35.3 mins...50.9% FG...34.6% 3PT...74.9% FT
Will Barton lived on the floor for Memphis, the only player on the team to average more than 27 minutes for the Tigers. It was well that he did, as the most valuable player, both figuratively and by the numbers.
Barton dominated on the defensive boards, and then dominated at the offensive end too.
Not that Memphis was a slouch team either. They may have been under-seeded in the NCAA Tournament, but the Tigers finished the regular season as the No. 6 team in the country according to the MRI. So, being the stud player on that team goes a long way, especially when it comes to helping make you look good for the draft.
Value-wise Barton again came up big. He saved 15.9 points per 100 minutes, mostly due to his rebounding acumen.
And then there was HOOPWAR. Barton scored an 8.22 which should place him among the best prospects in the draft class...
So why isn't he?
BEYOND THE NUMBERS
Barton has the energy to succeed in the NBA, and getting his body type to succeed in the league is going to take all of the energy he can muster. Plus he is a scorer, and no matter his size, that is going to be a draw for teams.
His speed and length will come in handy when he ends up as a shooting guard at the pro level, and his ability to control the ball and limit turnovers should be an asset.
Barton was only a sophomore, and hadn't really grown into his longer frame. He is lacking in some of the strength he is going to need to contend with bigger guards and forwards in the league, and he is going to get hammered when he tries to go inside.
His energy level is a plus, but right now he is a star on a good team. When he is coming off the bench in the pros, will the energy level still be there, especially if he ends up on a poor team, as is likely with his high second round projections right now.
While Barton has the range to hit from 3, he also isn't very efficient shooting from behind the arc. Some have questioned his shot selection from deep.
Barton has a chance to move into the first round on Draft Day. The Sporting News has him as a fringe first round pick. If some team is looking for a prolific defensive wing player, they could do worse that reaching for the Memphis star.
He had a bigger impact on his team's success than a number of players who are slated to go above him, but he will also have to develop physically and work harder on improving his overall game than some of those same players.
You could see him going anywhere from No. 29 (to the Bulls, which would free them to make other roster changes as they wait for Derrick Rose to return in 2013) down to the No. 40 pick by Portland. As many as seven different teams could be in the mix (Charlotte, Washington, Cleveland, Golden State, Denver, Chicago, Portland) based on positional projections.
Barton could guarantee himself some money if he can make strides over the next few weeks. Showing some basketball knowledge beyond his two years at Memphis (where you can bet he thought he would be one and done) will go a long way to making that happen.
NBA Combine: June 7-8