NBA Draft 2012: The Next Ten (11-20)
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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Whereas in our top ten, which were released earlier this week and can be read here, were fairly clear cut, there’s a lot more room for debate in the rankings of players 11-20. That’s because of how talented they are as individuals and how loaded the 2012 draft is poised to be. You’ll notice that this list is really heavy with frontcourt players, the strength of this draft class:
11) John Henson (North Carolina) – 6’11, 220 lbs. Power Forward
Throughout the last three years Henson has steadily developed into the fine player he is today. While it’s happened slower than expected (many thought Henson would be gone as a freshman and definitely by his second year) it’s hard to not be impressed with who he is today.
The additional time at North Carolina will pay off significantly for Henson as a pro. He simply hasn’t been ready to make the jump until now and there’s no telling what leaving too early would have done to his career.
Henson still needs to put on some muscle, but the addition of a jump shot to his offensive game has made him a major factor, which he wasn’t early on his career. Defense will always be his calling card. He’s very active on that end and a terror protecting the rim.
12) Meyers Leonard (Illinois) – 7’1, 245 lbs. Center
For Leonard this season will always go down as the year of his arrival. A highly-touted recruit coming out of high school believed to be capable of dominating, Leonard was virtually invisible as a freshman. It took a toll on him mentally, but the Illinois’ coaching staff deserves a lot of credit for keeping him on the right track and helping him develop into the standout that he is now just a year later. Playing for the Team USA U19 squad, which he did at the encouragement of his coaches despite thinking he wouldn’t make the team, also did a great deal to help his once-wavering confidence.
When Leonard steps on the floor now, he does so with the intention to make a big impact on the game. On most nights he does, although he’s still inconsistent, which is understandable for a young player like himself.
While it may have seemed out of the question before the start of the season, it’s looking more and more likely that this will be Leonard’s last season at Illinois. His stock has skyrocketed and a team in the lottery is going to select him with hopes that his biggest strides have yet to be made.
13) Quincy Miller (Baylor) – 6’9, 210 lbs. Small Forward
Previously going through a little freshman slump, Miller has picked back up his aggressiveness over the last three games. He’s looking more like the standout that he did at the beginning of the season prior to the return of teammate and fellow top-ranked prospect Perry Jones III. Even during the time of his slump, though, Miller’s stock only dropped off slightly as there’s a lot to like about the athletic and versatile 6’9 forward.
Miller has the ability to impact the game no matter where he is on the floor. He’s still finding his way on a talented Bears team, though. Had he been on a team that wasn’t as loaded from top to bottom, he’d probably be putting up bigger numbers night in and night out.
More important than anything, Miller has shown that he’s fully recovered from the ACL surgery that kept him out for his entire senior season in high school.
14) Austin Rivers (Duke) – 6’4, 200 lbs. Guard
Billed by many as the top high school player in the nation last year, Rivers hasn’t blown anyone away with what he’s done as a freshman but has been impressive nonetheless. The fact that he is such a younger player often gets overlooked due to the hype that he came into the year with and his last name being Rivers.
When it comes to getting into the lane, few do so better than Rivers. His ball handling skills are adept; staying in front of him is a taunting task. His decision-making skills once he gets in there leave a little bit to be desired, but that will come in time.
The major issue at the next level will be what position Rivers plays. He’s always going to be a scorer first and foremost, a gifted one at that. Whether or not he can consistently defend the shooting guard position is up in the air, though.
15) Arnett Moultrie (Mississippi State) – 6’11, 230 lbs. Power Forward
Letting his emotions get the best of him after the O.J. Mayo scandal, UTEP Miners head coach Tim Floyd cleared house of players with NBA aspirations his first day in El Paso, Texas. Moultrie was the first casualty. Now Floyd is watching him lead the 16th-ranked Bulldogs while he struggles to stay .500 and win in Conference USA.
Playing in a better conference after a year away from the game due to NCAA transfer rules, Moultrie has established himself as one of the best power forwards in the country. He’s putting up 16 points and 11 rebounds a night, making up for lost time.
Everything happens for a reason and Moultrie is undoubtedly in the best place for himself right now. At UTEP the level of competition he was playing against would have always been a question. Now he’s proving himself against the best and more than holding his own.
16) Kendall Marshall (North Carolina) – 6’4, 195 lbs. Point Guard
There are few things in basketball better than watching a pure, natural-born point guard like Marshall facilitate an offense. His 10 assists per game are second only to Iona’s Scott Machado, who edges him just slightly with 10.3 a night. Marshall’s 5:1.2 assist-to-turnover ratio is what really sets him apart from every other point guard in the country, though. Yes, he is living a point guard’s dream as he’s surrounded by several future first-round picks, but that type of efficiency is rare to see regardless of how good the supporting cast is.
Marshall almost never looks to score, averaging only five points a night. That’s largely because of his pass-first mentality; he seldom looks for his own shot. When he does shoot, the results aren’t great. He’s not much of a threat from beyond the arc and struggles to finish in the paint due to subpar athleticism.
He does a great job of disguising his weaknesses in college, but that’ll have to change in the NBA. At 6’4, he’d be wise to add some post moves to his game as he should have a size advantage against opposing guards on most nights.
17) Mason Plumlee (Duke) – 6’10, 235 lbs. Power Forward
Up to this point Plumlee has put together a very solid junior campaign that warrants moving him up a few spots on the draft board. However, after the way that he disappeared for the vast majority of his sophomore year, which also started off strongly, he’s going to have to keep it up throughout the duration of the season in order to stay here.
There’s a lot to like about Plumlee. He’s improved every single season, is a ridiculous athlete for his size and has really put on some strength during his time at Duke. The big question is whether or not he’s going to put everything together and become a great player, or struggle to do so and just be mediocre.
Trying to project how good Plumlee will be five years from now is a surefire way to get a headache, but he’s too promising to not invest in.
18) Tyler Zeller (North Carolina) – 7’0, 250 lbs. Center
The first senior to crack the top 20, Zeller has steadily developed over the last four years into someone who has the makings of a very serviceable center in the NBA. There’s nothing flashy or overwhelming about his game, he just goes about his job the right way and works extremely hard at it.
Zeller runs the floor like few other big men in college basketball do. He’s often the first big up the floor and is the recipient of easy buckets because of it. In the low post he’s got a nice set of moves he can go to as well.
Having the prototypical size of a NBA five man helps negate some of the negativity that comes with being a four-year player in the draft. Yes, Zeller may be one of the oldest prospects, but he’s also NBA ready.
19) Terrence Ross (Washington) – 6’6, 195 lbs. Shooting Guard
This season has contained a lot of growth for the product of Portland, Oregon. Blessed with the ideal size and athleticism for an NBA shooting guard, Ross has upped his averages significantly as he’s now scoring 14 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out nearly two assists a game. While his Huskies may be disappointing as a team overall, he’s developed at the necessary rate to get into the top 20.
Ross’ shot selection is not a strength, which will have to change at the next level where he won’t have the kind of freedom that he does now. He’s also not the most reliable three-point shooter considering how much he likes to shoot from beyond the arc. However, he often makes up for a ill-advised attempt on the defensive end, where he thrives.
Not in the same class as Florida’s Brad Beal or UConn’s Jeremy Lamb, Ross still deserves to be mentioned as one of the more attractive options the draft has to offer at the two spot when you consider everything he offers on both ends of the floor.
20) Patric Young (Florida) – 6’9, 245 lbs. Power Forward
A teammate of Leonard’s on the U19 team this summer, Young’s story almost mirrors his. Last year he was stuck watching for the majority of games behind a veteran-laden frontline. Young, projected to be an impact player in year one, used that as motivation during the summer and has come back a completely different looking player.
Young’s now the featured big man inside for the 14th-ranked Gators, putting up 12 points, six rebounds and a block a contest. He does the dirty work in the paint for the perimeter-oriented Gators and his production is going to be as critical to their postseason success as it has been so far.
Playing the draft’s most-talented position, Young can move up or down a few spots based on a team’s preferences. One thing is for sure, though, he’s firmly positioned himself to be taken somewhere in the early-to-middle portion of the first round.
Make sure to check back later this week when we wrap up our analysis of potential first round picks with a look at players 21-30!