A lot of people considered this year’s draft to be among the weakest in recent memory. And the lockout had something to do with it. Some big name college players pulled out of the draft to shield themselves from the league’s uncertain future. That enabled some players to climb up the draft board — like, say Bismack Biyombo or Tristan Thompson.
There are some very very good players that will be available in the 2012 NBA Draft. You can hear David Kahn salivating already… and then immediately trading that desire for a tweener forward who should be playing power forward but wants to play small forward.
Who are these players that will warm the hearts of such perennial lottery teams like the Clippers, Timberwolves, Kings, Bobcats, Wizards and Raptors? Time to begin scouting and figure out who the NBA stars of tomorrow are. Sam Amico of FoxSportsOhio, NBADraft.net, DraftExpress and Chad Ford have gotten a head start on analyzing the top players eligible for the 2012 Draft.
A few things you will notice… lots of freshmen are high on scout’s draft boards early in the process and there are few international prospects or upperclassmen. As the season goes on though, expect more international players and upperclassmen to climb draft boards as their play merits them a closer look. This is just a sampling of the top players eligible for the 2012 Draft.
Jared Sullinger, Soph. Ohio State: Sullinger was the presumptive number one pick after taking Ohio State by storm as a freshman. He seemed to be the most complete player (especially as a freshman) with huge upside. He still has a pretty rudimentary post game and needs to improve his rebounding. But this is exactly the type of nitpicking Sullinger is going to suffer through his sophomore year and that might cause him to drop a few spots on draft boards. Sullinger is going to take on an even bigger role at Ohio State next year with a bevy of seniors graduating. That will put the spotlight squarely on him and we will see how he performs.
Harrison Barnes, Soph. North Carolina: Barnes was the presumptive number one pick entering the season and had an up-and-down year at North Carolina. He was very underwhelming in his initial games at Chapel Hill and the hype seemed to die down. Then he picked his game up, averaging 21.5 points per game in his final 10 games, never dipping below 15 points in that stretch and dropping 40 points in a game against Clemson. Barnes is going to have to show more consistency his sophomore year, but he is definitely in the running for the top pick of 2012.
Anthony Davis, Fresh. Kentucky: Just about every early early mock draft has this incoming freshman as the top player on their draft boards. The 6-foot-10 power forward from Chicago is surely going to be a terror in the SEC and you can already see scouts projecting him out to be something incredible. He is athletic and big and those two things always drive NBA teams crazy. Of course, like Barnes, you do not want to get too far ahead of yourself. He has to prove himself at the next level … or just enough like Kyrie Irving did.
Austin Rivers, Fresh. Duke: Doc Rivers’ son is projected to go somewhere in the lottery after wowing a lot of the country with his play throughout high school. He is going to be playing point guard at Duke which should mean he will still be learning the finer points of the game when Mike Krzyzewski gets his hands on him. It is really hard to project what kind of player Rivers is going to be and he likely has the most to gain or lose from his college play entering the 2012 Draft. With his height and athleticism though, you know somebody is going to end up taking him if he decides to go the one-and-done route.
James McAdoo, Fresh. North Carolina: The nephew of Bob McAdoo, one of the NBA’s greatest scorers, is not too shabby himself. The 6-foot-9 forward was the MVP of the McDonald’s All-America Game and the Jordan Brand Classic and is a bundle of raw potential. Of course with most 6-foot-9 forwards, NBA scouts will not exactly know where to put him. He should be able to score around the basket and use his athleticism to get a bunch of points in college. But Roy Williams may very well decide his future development. What forward position will Williams use him at? How quickly can McAdoo adjust to being either a post or perimeter player could determine how high he ends up going.
Jeremy Lamb, Soph. Connecticut: The defending champions lost first round pick Kemba Walker so it figures to be Jeremy Lamb’s team now. Lamb averaged 11.1 points per game but that included an 11-game stretch during the Big East and NCAA Tournament where he scored in double figures. He posted an efficient 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting and seven rebounds in the national championship game. He was very much the second fiddle behind Kemba Walker. He has athleticism, talent and a solid NBA frame. But can he take the next step now and lead his team?
Perry Jones, Soph. Baylor: Jones is one of the better center prospects eligible for the 2012 draft after averaging 13.9 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game as a freshman at Baylor. Jones has to improve his rebound rate, which was just 15.5 percent, to get a closer look from NBA scouts. But his size at 6-feet-11 and athleticism have some draft sites calling him more of a 3/4 hybrid rather than a true post player. That means he is going to have to develop his jump-shooting game a lot more to make good on his potential’s promise.
Rudy Gobert, France: Gobert is probably the top international prospect in the early going — although there is plenty of time for a Bismack Biyombo to take the world by storm and climb into the lottery. Gobert pulled out of the 2011 Draft and is thought of as a mid- to late-first round pick at the moment. His defense is well ahead of his offense and like most European players, he still has to fill out and get stronger.
Maalik Wayns, Jr. Villanova: Villanova’s point guard is one of the leaders of the upperclassmen this far in advance. With many draft boards filling up with the bursting potential of underclassmen and freshmen, guys like Wayns who have put in a lot of time in college do not seem to have much of a chance. Again, someone could develop and play bonkers as things finally click in during the season, changing up who gets drafted where. Wayns averaged 13.8 points per game and 4.5 assists per game last year for the Wildcats. He has to improve his shooting and show himself to be more of a leader to be that breakthrough star of the college season.
Photos via DayLife.com.