If you don't mind, I'd like to begin with a random thought:
If the HBO series "Game of Thrones" was an NBA prospect, it would go No. 1 overall.
Why? Because "Game of Thrones" -- which concluded its first season with a rousing finale Sunday night -- has everything you want in a top prospect. The show has already proved itself with 11 episodes chock full of high production values, gutsy and multifaceted plot arcs and well-acted, brilliantly sketched characters. In other words, the value is already evident.
Even better? Thanks to the massive, game-changing cliff-hangers that closed Season 1, fans of the show -- even once-reluctant bandwagon hoppers such as myself -- know that this thing is only scratching the surface of what it may one day become. Spoiler alert, but those baby dragons had me salivating for Season 2 like an NBA scout watching a 6-foot-11 European forward with 3-point range.
Proven production and future potential? It's an NBA scout's dream.
That dynamic -- production versus potential -- is why, just more than a year ago, yours truly penned the first College Basketball Production-Only Mock Draft, or CBPOMD for short. Pronounced "Seebpomd" -- and yes, I still believe this to be the catchiest title of all time -- the column started as a winking look at how much different the NBA draft would be if NBA teams only drafted players based on how those players produced in college.
Twelve months later, the Seebpomd is a worldwide sensation. OK, so it actually isn't. At all. But it is fun to write, which is why we decided to update it just in time for Thursday's NBA draft -- a weak draft that may come to be defined by the sort of stolid, productive role players you often find in the absence of bona fide stars.
First, a reminder of the rules:
1. Production-only means production-only. Potential doesn't matter here. This is about the past, not the future.
2. To simplify the parameters, players are judged based on 2011 production first, with an emphasis on individual production as measured by Ken Pomeroy's efficiency metrics. That said, particularly impressive long-term careers are given some weight, as is team success, national titles and the like. That's why you'll rarely find a one-and-done on this list.
3. This only includes players currently in the 2011 draft pool. Players who stayed in school another year put their NBA dreams on hold, and with them, their chances of inclusion in the CBPOMD. I'm sure they're devastated.
4. Try not to take this too seriously. Cool? Cool.
And so, without further ado, with the No. 1 overall pick in the second annual Seebpomd, the Cleveland Cavaliers select
1. Kemba Walker, guard, Connecticut (Chad Ford mock draft position: No. 7): With apologies to Derrick Williams and the Duke duo (more on them in a moment), Connecticut's do-it-all guard -- the main reason Jim Calhoun captured a third national championship in 2011 -- gets the nod at the top spot. Maybe we're giving Walker a little added credit for that title run, but it's hard to argue with the sheer brilliance he displayed this past season. From Maui to Madison Square Garden to March Madness, Walker was the Huskies' dominant scorer, ball handler and on-ball perimeter defender. And despite monster minutes and a huge usage rate, he still managed to produce in efficient fashion. (The only exception was a brief midseason swoon in Big East play.) What's more, many of the things he did for his team -- clutch shots, leadership, reliability, versatility -- can't be measured in the box score. NBA scouts are so-so on Walker as a lottery pick; he's a bit undersized to play shooting guard, which is arguably his natural position. But as a collegiate star in 2010-11, Walker put up one of the finest wire-to-wire seasons we've seen in some time.
2. Derrick Williams, forward, Arizona (Ford mock draft position: No. 2): In last year's mock, we made Evan Turner, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins the first three picks, which coincidentally aligned nicely with their status in the real NBA draft. Derrick Williams follows in that rich tradition. Why is he so vaunted? Efficiency and versatility. Sure, those are vague buzzwords, but in Williams' case they deserve caps lock and boldface. Williams averaged 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. He shot 60 percent from inside the arc and -- get this -- 56.8 percent outside it. His true shooting and effective field goal percentages were the fourth and sixth best in the country, respectively. His offensive efficiency rating of 122.7 was second in the nation among players with his high usage rate. He was, in every sense of the word, a beast, and his 32-point, 13-rebound game against Duke in the Sweet 16 offered the rest of the nation a glimmer of what he had been doing to opponents all season long. If Williams goes No. 2 overall in the real NBA draft, you won't hear a peep from us.
3. Nolan Smith, guard, Duke (Ford mock draft position: mid-second round): Trivia time. In his final two years at Duke, Nolan Smith was:
A. A crucial piece on a national championship team
B. ACC Player of the Year
C. The most important player on a team that lost star point and likely No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving for much of the season
D. First-team All-American and National Player of the Year Award contender
E. All of the above
I hope you guessed "E." A year ago, it would've been hard to imagine Smith being considered as good of a pro prospect as Kyle Singler, but a senior season as dominant as the one Smith posted will do that for your draft stock. Still, there's a huge disparity between what Smith accomplished in 2010 and 2011 and where NBA teams rank him as a pro prospect. But if you're surprised by that, well, you just haven't been paying attention.
4. Jimmer Fredette, guard, Brigham Young (Ford mock draft position: No. 15): The crazy thing about The Jimmer's senior season -- you know, the one that earned him National Player of the Year honors, lifelong cult status and the most epic Facebook thread of all time -- is that arguably, it wasn't his finest season in a BYU uniform. As a junior, Fredette was noticeably more efficient, but his exploits didn't reach the same level of widespread acclaim. In 2011, the suspension of BYU forward Brandon Davies for a violation of the school's strict honor code will always cause college hoops fans to wonder "what if?" (What if Fredette had gotten past Florida in the Sweet 16? He's probably higher on this list, for one.) Still, despite the lack of a Final Four to his name, Fredette's legacy as a Cougar -- and as one of the most entertaining college hoops players yours truly can remember -- is forever secure.
5. Kyle Singler, forward, Duke (Ford mock draft position: No. 24): Singler didn't have his finest year in 2010-11, but it would be foolish to leave him lower on this list given the impressive depth and breadth of his career at Duke. Singler was an impact player in his freshman year, a star as a sophomore, the centerpiece of a national title team as a junior and a very good if occasionally drifty contributor as a senior. All that may not mean much come draft day -- Singler might have been better off leaving school last summer -- but if we're talking sheer college success, Singler's résumé stands alone.
6. Kenneth Faried, forward, Morehead State (Ford mock draft position: No. 21): Faried has been popping up higher and higher on draft boards in recent weeks. It seems NBA scouts are getting a chance to see what the college hoops world has been buzzing about for two-plus years: The man (and Faried is a capital-M Man) who broke Tim Duncan's record for the most rebounds in modern college hoops history. During his senior season, Faried led the nation in -- get this -- offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, and his combination of size, strength and intuition turned many of those offensive rebounds into easy putbacks. If there's a knock on him at No. 6 in the Seebpomd, it's that these numbers (17.3 ppg, 14.5 rpg) came mostly against mid-major competition in the Ohio Valley Conference. The proper response: Who cares? A total of 29 double-doubles in one season is too impressive to chalk up to competition. Besides, last season alone, Faried posted 20 and 18 at Florida, 15 and 12 at Ohio State and 12 and 17 in an NCAA tourney upset of Louisville.
7. Matt Howard, forward, Butler (Ford mock draft position: undrafted): When Matt Howard spent most of Butler's magical 2010 tournament run in foul trouble -- especially in key moments in the Bulldogs' oh-so-close national title loss to Duke -- it was easy to forget just how good he had been for his entire career at Butler. In 2011, Howard and the Bulldogs engineered another magical run, and we all got a very helpful reminder: This dude was good. His offensive ratings for each of his four years were (in order): 123.1, 121.3, 111.3 and 120.2. In his career, Howard was at various times the Horizon League freshman of the year, the Horizon League player of the year, a four-time Horizon League all-tournament selection and a two-time Final Four participant (but you already knew that).
Oh, and in case the whole student-athlete thing matters to you, Howard was also a three-time Academic All-American selection. In 2011 -- the same year his late tip-in versus Old Dominion and his late free throws against Pittsburgh propelled the Bulldogs to yet another incredibly unlikely Final Four run -- Howard was also the Academic All-American of the Year. He may not have high-jump hops or the lateral movement scouts love, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more impressive list of accomplishments than that. Plus, those socks! That mustache! Oh, Matt Howard. College hoops will miss you, bud.
8. E'Twaun Moore, guard, Purdue (Ford mock draft position: mid-second round): Here's a crazy statistic for you: In the history of the Big Ten, there have been only four players to notch at least 2,000 points, 500 rebounds and 250 assists in a career. They are Wisconsin's Michael Finley, Michigan State's Steve Smith, Penn State's Talor Battle (a fellow Seebpomd selection, as you'll read below) and, yes, Purdue's E'Twaun Moore. Moore was quietly, consistently brilliant in his four years at Purdue. Robbie Hummel's successive ACL injuries, while crippling to the Boilermakers' national title hopes in back-to-back NCAA tournaments, only highlighted that fact. But in 2010-11, Purdue and Moore were still very much a force even without their more heralded star.
9. JaJuan Johnson, forward, Purdue (Ford mock draft position: early second round): Johnson, like Moore above him, didn't receive the same kind of plaudits when Hummel was in Purdue's lineup. The duo would have happily shared the attention they received had Hummel been able to play last season, of course, but either way, it was good to see Johnson -- a first-team All-American in 2011 -- post his finest season when his team needed it most. Johnson expanded his game as a senior, but he had already been among the nation's best interior defenders and shot-blockers as a junior. The what-ifs will always linger for Purdue fans, but this was a quality career any way you slice it.
10. Talor Battle, guard, Penn State (Ford mock draft position: undrafted): Close observers of the Big Ten got used to seeing Battle dominate his team's box score in ways few 6-foot guards ever should. But Battle was that multitalented. Like Moore above him, he is one of four players in Big Ten history to record at least 2,000 points, 500 rebounds and 250 assists in a career. Unlike Moore, Battle often did so with few offensive options at his side. As a result, his only NCAA tournament appearance came this March, when Penn State was unceremoniously sent home in the first round by a dagger from Temple guard Juan Fernandez. Battle's career won't necessarily be remembered for PSU's team success, but anyone who watched him play -- or looks at his school and conference records -- will remember how crucially productive he was as an individual.
11. Jacob Pullen, guard, Kansas State (Ford mock draft position: undrafted): If you've noticed, many of the biggest disparities between production and NBA potential come from guards scouts see as too undersized to make an impact on the NBA level. In the future, we might have to start calling this the Jacob Pullen Factor. General managers might not want to take more than a flier on Pullen, but if we're drafting a college team, there are few players we'd take before him. The Kansas State guard sprang into the national consciousness as a junior, when he propelled K-State to national relevance and an appearance in the Elite Eight. Last season, Pullen and his team started shakily and he missed time thanks to NCAA violations. But by sheer force of will -- for proof, see the tape of Kansas State's season-changing win over Kansas on Feb. 14 -- he willed his team back from the collective abyss and into the NCAA tournament for another season. If KSU remains a national program in the coming years, Wildcats fans will remember Pullen (and not uber-recruit Michael Beasley) as the biggest reason.
12. Marcus Morris, forward, Kansas (Ford mock draft position: No. 9): Marcus Morris and brother Markieff have been drawing attention for their, ahem, confidence in the run-up to the draft, but we shouldn't let a little rhetorical exuberance overshadow the fact that Marcus was an awfully productive college player in his three years at Kansas. His sophomore and junior seasons were especially impressive, and while Morris wasn't the focal point of his team's offense as frequently as he may have warranted, he was hyper-efficient when he touched the ball and added rebounding and sterling defense the last two seasons, when the Jayhawks combined to win 68 games and notch two No. 1 seeds in two straight NCAA tournaments. Those teams ultimately disappointed, but Morris' entire body of work is noteworthy.
13. Charles Jenkins, guard, Hofstra (Ford mock draft position: early second round): In case you needed proof that NBA scouts will see you no matter where you play, may I present potential first-round pick Charles Jenkins. It's not that Jenkins isn't worthy of that projection. He is. It's just that, thanks to Hofstra's low profile and its failure to make an NCAA tournament in the past four years, even most college hoops fans have rarely seen Jenkins in action. That's a shame, because last season Jenkins was the most efficient player in college hoops among players with a plus-28 percent usage rate. In other words, he played a ton of minutes, took a ton of his team's shots and his ability to make those shots didn't suffer as a result. He has an intriguing game to offer NBA teams, especially those looking for an aggressive guard who can score the ball in countless ways (he averaged 22.6 ppg as a senior). And if they like Chuck Norris jokes, well, all the better.
14. Jon Leuer, forward, Wisconsin (Ford mock draft position: mid-second round): Rounding out the second annual Seebpomd is Wisconsin forward Jon Leuer, who in 2010-11 waged a months-long war of attrition with Arizona forward Derrick Williams for the title of "Most efficient yet mysteriously unheralded player in the nation." Leuer never quite got the dap he deserved for two reasons. One, Wisconsin's brutally slow pace kept his averages down. Two, by the time most people figured out how good Leuer was, backcourt mate Jordan Taylor was proving himself even better. The good news? NBA scouts aren't so easily fooled. Leuer appears a lock to be drafted, which is something we couldn't say just a few months ago.
Maybe Leuer, like some of the players listed above, will go on to better and brighter things. Maybe his college days will be his most productive. Whatever happens, one thing's for sure: He'll always have the College Basketball Production-Only Mock Draft. And what could possibly be better than that?
Eamonn Brennan covers college basketball for ESPN.com. You can see his work every Monday through Friday in the College Basketball Nation blog. To contact Eamonn, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him on Twitter (@eamonnbrennan).