You think you watch a lot of games? Finch watches games in his sleep. No, really -- his DirecTV feed is piped into his eyelids.
You think you travel a lot? Puh-leeze. Finch's frequent flyer miles have frequent flyer miles. When he walks into any hotel, the bellhops shout his name, like the bartenders used to do when Norm walked into Cheers.
Finch, you see, is an NBA scout. Only, he's not just one scout, he's several scouts rolled into one, an amalgam of conversations I've had with five NBA scouts over the last week to get their assessments of 56 college players who could be available in this year's NBA draft. Since NBA scouts are not permitted to be quoted talking about underclassmen, I granted my scouts anonymity so they could be candid. Then I combined their quotes together to sound like it came from one person, an invented character named Finch.
The name Finch is the creation of my highbrow colleague Alex Wolff, who affixed it to an anonymous NBA scout whom Alex followed several years ago for a story he wrote in SI. Alex called his scout Finch because that was Scout's surname in To Kill A Mockingbird. Like I said, Alex is a lot more sophisticated than you and me. Or Finch, for that matter.
I've done this exercise for several years now, but this year it was easier to develop a consensus. That reflects Finch's general opinion that this is a weak draft with respect to both the collegians and the European imports. Most of Finch's opinions boiled down to, "Yeah, I like him OK, but he's not gonna be our franchise player." So keep that in mind as you read through these reports.
(Incidentally, my weekly AP ballot plus follows the quotes from my scouts.)
Allow me, then, to present the Book of Finch (in alphabetical order). He really, really knows what he's talking about. Just ask him.
Harrison Barnes, 6-foot-8 freshman forward, North Carolina
I finally figured him out. People have been trying to say he's Marvin Williams, but I think he's Sean Elliott. He's not a star, but he's an all-around good player. If you're expecting a franchise player, you're going to be sadly mistaken, but he can definitely help. If he came out, I'm not sure he'd be a top-five pick, but if he slipped to eight or nine people would come up with reasons why they should take him instead of why they shouldn't.
Keith Benson, 6-11 senior center, Oakland
I like him. He's good, he's skilled, he has had numbers against good teams. He's almost a 10-rebounds-a-night guy but can face up and shoot, too. He reminds me of Horace Grant because he's a pretty good offensive rebounder and can step out a little.
Alec Burks, 6-6 sophomore guard, Colorado
Whoa, can he really score. If that guy gets stronger, it's over. He's a big-time talent. Not a great shooter, but a good shooter. He has a great skill set and I love his decision making. He tries to do too much and part of that is he doesn't have a good team. He gets to the foul line a ton, and NBA guys like that. He's first round for sure, maybe even in the lottery.
Norris Cole, 6-2 senior guard, Cleveland State
He's a pretty good player. I like his command of the team, command of the game. He really tries to play the game the right way.