Enes Kanter tops SEC prospects

Enes Kanter's NCAA future is in peril. His draft status may not be though. AP Photo/James Crisp

In 2010, the Kentucky Wildcats were the only team in the SEC to produce a first-round pick. But Kentucky produced in a big, big way. The Wildcats placed five players in the first round. Three of them went in the lottery. John Wall went No. 1 overall.

In 2011, it should be a bit of deja vu. Kentucky won't manage to land another five players in the first round, but it has three prospects ranked in our top 15. This year a few other SEC teams such as Florida, Vanderbilt and Georgia should contribute, too.

I spoke with a number of NBA scouts to get a take on five players they'll be watching closely in the SEC this season. Here's the breakdown:

1. Enes Kanter, C, Fr., Kentucky

ESPN.com NBA draft ranking: 5

Kanter may be one of the most NBA-ready prospects in the country. He's big, tough and knows how to play.

The Turkish big man likes the physical play around the basket, but he's skilled enough to step away, showing range all the way out to the 3-point line. While he's not the most athletic big guy in the world, comparisons to Andrew Bogut aren't far fetched.

Kanter's biggest challenge at this point is the NCAA. He's currently under investigation concerning his amateur status. Kanter spent three years, from the ages of 14-16, playing for a professional team in Turkey. The NCAA is investigating whether he received benefits that would put his amateur status in question.

If Kanter can't play, it's a bigger blow to Kentucky than it will be to his draft status. NBA teams know him well, especially after he schooled a number of the top young players in college basketball at the Nike Hoop Summit last spring. Either way, he looks like a lock for a top-five pick.

2. Patric Young, C, Fr., Florida

ESPN.com NBA draft ranking: 9

His name may be Young, but Florida freshman Patric Young looks like a 27-year-old NBA player in his prime. He's an absolute physical specimen who has drawn comparisons to a young Dwight Howard.

Young isn't as tall or as talented as Howard, but he's already an elite defender and rebounder. What he lacks, much like Howard, is an offensive game. He'll put back a number of rebounds for dunks, but the rest of his game is limited. But that's not going to deter NBA GMs from taking him early.

"He's one kid who could step in right now and play for an NBA team because of his defensive ability," one NBA GM said. "Where he goes offensively really determines his ceiling, but his floor is already very high."

3. Brandon Knight, G, Fr., Kentucky

ESPN.com NBA draft ranking: 11

John Calipari has produced two straight NBA Rookie of the Year guards -- Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans -- and a No. 1 pick, Wall, in 2010.

Will Knight be able to live up to his three predecessors? Probably not. Knight is a talented scoring guard who uses his speed and quickness to get to the basket. He's a hard worker who rarely eases up on the court, but Knight is not the elite athlete that Rose and Wall were in college, nor does he have the same scoring prowess Evans had.

Scouts are unsure at what position he'd be best. While it's likely Calipari will play him at the 1, a number of scouts aren't sure that will be his NBA position. A big year for Knight will obviously help his cause, especially if he can prove to teams he can play the point.

4. Jeff Taylor, SF, Jr., Vanderbilt

ESPN.com NBA draft ranking: 16

Taylor has been on our radar screen for two years but has never quite lived up to the promise. On one hand, he's one of the best athletes in college basketball and uses those gifts on both ends of the floor.

On the other hand, Taylor's skill set hasn't come along as much as scouts would like. He's still an inconsistent shooter, at best, and his so-so handle limits his shot creation ability.

This will be the year we find out whether Taylor is not only a phenomenal athlete but a great basketball player, too. A big year for him and he goes very high. Another year like last year, and he could slip out of the first round.

5. Terrence Jones, F, Fr., Kentucky

ESPN.com NBA draft ranking: 15

A number of other freshmen have gotten considerably more hype, but a number of NBA scouts in the know feel strongly that Jones is the sleeper in the class.

Jones has a Lamar Odom-type skill set. He's got a huge wingspan, can handle the ball like a guard, plays multiple positions and can get his shot off from just about anywhere.

He'll play a featured role in Calipari's offense, which should help his stock. While Jones doesn't quite have the same killer instinct or desire to take over games the way some of the other elite freshmen do, there are few that can match his all-around game.