NBA Draft 2012: The Race Is On
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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We are currently enduring some ugly times in the basketball world as the labor battle between the NBA players and owners has the entire 2011-2012 season endangered. The first month has already been scrapped and it looks like the cancellations are only going to keep coming.
That creates a void in basketball junkies’ lives across the world, but luckily there’s a quality replacement in college basketball that is in a completely opposite position than the NBA. This could potentially be one of the best and most exciting seasons ever. The talent level is through the roof and things finally get underway this week.
While the chase for conference championships and the national title will be extremely thrilling, the posturing for draft position should be just as good.
The 1996 and 2003 drafts are widely regarded as two of the best in the league’s history, but they occurred during a time when high schoolers were still eligible. Now they have to be at least one year removed from graduation, which has all of the premier prospects under the NCAA umbrella, something we didn’t have in ’96 or ’03.
The combination of the age limit along with many top freshmen being scared away from making the jump last year due to the aforementioned lockout has many predicting that the ’12 draft class could end up being ranked as one of the best ever as well. There are some quality international prospects, but the class will likely be compromised of mainly American-born players with some foreign-born players getting selected in the later portion of the first round and scattered throughout the second.
To understand just how deep this year’s class is you have to look no further than all of the potential number one picks. In past years there have only been a two, maybe three, players with the potential to take the top spot. This year there are five players in Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, Connecticut’s Andre Drummond, North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Baylor’s Perry Jones who are looked at as viable options for that honor. Then there are also several other players like Duke’s Austin Rivers, Florida’s Patric Young, North Carolina’s James McAdoo, Baylor’s Quincy Miller and Florida’s Bradley Beal, Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb, Texas’ Myck Kabongo and Kentucky’s Terrence Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrest and Marquis Teague who are ranked slightly lower but could quickly end up in that discussion as well.
This draft isn’t just about star power either. The drop off in talent further down the draft board is not that significant. There are plenty of guys outside of the lottery with the ability to help teams at the next level in a big way. As usual, they are the more experienced players because there still is, and probably always be, an advantage to being on the younger side when it comes to the NBA Draft.
So, while the 15 players mentioned above are all freshmen and sophomores, that doesn’t mean that the upperclassmen are lackluster by any means. Juniors John Henson (North Carolina), Thomas Robinson (Kansas), Mason Plumlee (Duke) and Mouphtaou Yarou (Villanova) are game-changing power forwards who have been on the NBA’s radar for years now. Robinson in particular really has the potential to shoot up the draft boards as he is finally in a featured role after playing reserve minutes behind the Morris twins, now with the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns, the last two years.
Two other junior power forwards also worth monitoring are Mississippi State’s Arnett Moultrie and Connecticut’s Alex Oriakhi. Moultrie is eligible again after transferring from UTEP, where he was once projected as a lottery pick. Oriakhi will now be playing his natural position of power forward thanks to the arrival of true center Drummond a year early.
Earlier this week we went over profiled five seniors, Tyler Zeller (North Carolina), Festus Ezeli (Vanderbilt), Darius Johnson-Odom (Marquette), Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure) and Tu Halloway (Xavier), who all have upside despite being four-year players.
Trevor Mbakwe (Minnesota), Kris Joseph (Syracuse), Jordan Taylor (Wisconsin), Robert Sacre (Gonzaga) and Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh) all made the list as honorable mentions as well, but even that list of ten doesn’t compromise all of the seniors who are viable future pros. Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates, Ohio State’s William Buford, Alabama’s JaMychal Green, Vanderbilt’s Jeffery Taylor and Kansas’ Tyshawn Taylor are also sure to be drafted and maybe even battle for first round consideration. Jeffery Taylor is already looked at as a first round pick by some.
Every year draft boards, much like team rankings, look much different at the end than they did at the beginning. With how many good players there are in college basketball this season that will inevitably be the case again. For months, though, we’ve just been able to analyze what prospects have done up to this point. Now with the season starting we’ll be able to see them perform in the most important setting and go head-to-head with each other. The start of the season couldn’t have come at a better time. While the NBA players and owners work on figuring things out on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the second best league in the world will be providing us with great games week in and week out for the next six months.
Five Games To Watch This Week:11/11: North Carolina vs. Michigan State (7PM EST), Belmont at Duke (9PM EST), Oregon at Vanderbilt (10 PM EST), 11/12: South Alabama at Mississippi State (TBA), 11/13: Washington State at Gonzaga (12 AM EST)
Senior NCAA and NBA analyst Yannis Koutroupis will be hosting his weekly chat on Friday November 11th at 11 am EST. You can get your questions into him here.