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Debating Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Harrison Barnes

North Carolina's Barnes battles pressure from Kentucky's Kidd-Gilchrist during the first half of play in their NCAA basketball game at Rupp Arena in Lexington

University of North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes (L) battles pressure from University of Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist during the first half of play in their NCAA basketball game at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky, December 3, 2011. REUTERS/John Sommers II (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)


The NBA Draft is still more than a month away, which means that it is still in the back of the mind of most basketball fans. That’s what happens when you have Kevin Durant out-dueling Kobe Bryant while LeBron James and Dwyane Wade try and show up on a nightly basis.

But that doesn’t mean that the coverage hasn’t started to roll out on the topic.

On Monday, Jeff Goodman of released his list of the top 20 prospects at each position and, for the most part, I agree with his picks.

There is one glaring omission, however, and it comes at the top of the small forwards: Goodman ranks Harrison Barnes as the best small forward prospect in the draft, one spot ahead of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Me? I couldn’t possibly disagree more.

That’s not meant as a shot at Harrison Barnes, either. I think that his struggles in the NCAA tournament once Kendall Marshall went down will make people forget that he was an all-american. That said, Barnes’ upside is limited, in my opinion. He’s a 6-foot-8 jump-shooter that lacks explosion, has issues creating his own shot and struggles to get all the way to the rim. He’ll have success in the league because of his size, his fluidity, his shooting stroke and his work ethic, but there’s a ceiling. I don’t see Barnes becoming an all-star.

But I do see that happening for Kidd-Gilchrist.

I’ll be the first to tell you that MKG has a long way to go to develop his skills to the point that he’ll be an elite NBA player. He needs to tighten up his handle, he needs to become a more consistent jump-shooter and he would do well to continue to improve his passing ability. That will come with time. What I love about MKG as a prospect -- beyond the fact that he’s got the size (6-foot-7), the athleticism and the length of an NBA wing -- is the mentality that he brings to the game: he’s humble and he’s hard-working. He’s a junkyard dog that will be a nightmare to deal with as a defender and a rebounder once he adds an NBA physique.

Maybe it’s just me, but I would rather take the player with the tools and the tenacity to be an NBA star and teach him to shoot the ball than take a player that can shoot and try to make him tougher and more athletic.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.