NBA Draft 2012: The Top Ten
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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We are three months into the college basketball season, which has allowed draft boards to start taking shape more accurately than they did during the offseason. There is still a lot of basketball to be played in the NCAA and things can change a lot over the next three months, but as of right now there is a set group of players that have clearly established themselves worthy of being ranked in the top ten. Over the next few weeks we’ll be breaking down our rankings in depth, starting today with players 1-10:
1) Anthony Davis (Kentucky) – 6’10, 220 lbs. Power Forward
Davis possesses everything that is required of a number one overall pick. He’s young with a ridiculous amount of upside. His athleticism and speed are matched up perfectly with a ridiculous wingspan that he does a great job of making the most of. And, on top of all of that, he’s got a frame that will support the necessary strength that he needs to add in order to hang against the grown men that patrol the paint in the NBA.
As of right now, the top spot in the 2012 draft is Davis’ to lose. Either he gives it up, or one of the players ranked below him on this list blows up in a significant manner over the next three months to steal it away from him. That seems unlikely, but it is certainly possible.
Once he becomes a pro, Davis is going to have to work on expanding his offensive arsenal along with getting stronger. His free throw shooting (65%) can stand to improve as well. His youth and the fact that he has a good head on his shoulders have NBA teams believing that he’s a sure thing.
2) Andre Drummond (UConn) – 6’11, 275 lbs. Center
There are a lot of people who are somewhat confused as to why Drummond, whose statistics of nine points, six rebounds and two blocks a contest define mediocrity for someone who was so highly touted, is ranked so high. The simple answer is the word that has gotten so many general managers and scouts fired: potential.
Drummond has the combination of size, skill and athleticism that only a handful of NBA centers have right now. There are not a lot of great big five men in the league currently. There is going to be a coach picking in the top three who will believe he can unleash the beast that is asleep in Drummond.
We’ve actually seen that beast come out on a couple of different occasions this year. More times than not, however, we’ve seen him blend in like someone who is going to use their degree, not get drafted top five. Even if he continues to exemplify inconsistency, his potential will be too much for a team drafting very high to pass on.
3) Jeremy Lamb (UConn) – 6’5, 185 lbs. Shooting Guard
Coming off of a freshman year in which he exploded at the end of the season, Lamb came into this year with his stock on the rise and it has only continued to soar. Defenders go to sleep and have nightmares about his picture-perfect jump shot and explosive capabilities. Opposing coaches, especially those in the Big East, cannot wait for him to go pro; luckily for them it’s going to be hard for him to stay based on where he is projected to go right now.
Like all players, Lamb isn’t without flaws. His ball handling will have to improve at the next level as will his individual defense. Those are very fixable, which is why Lamb is the highest-ranked shooting guard on this list.
The rate at which he is developing is nothing short of spectacular. If he continues at the same pace in the league, he could have All-Star appearances in his future.
4) Jared Sullinger (Ohio State) – 6’9, 280 lbs. Power Forward
Say what you want about his lack of size and explosiveness, Sullinger’s production cannot be denied. He cannot be defended on the block one-on-one. Team’s have to change the way they play defensively entirely just to be able to contain him; shutting him down is out of the question on the collegiate level.
Sullinger has come into this year and shown no signs of complacency. He’s in better shape than he was last year and has improved offensively despite already dominating last year. He’s mindful of his deficiencies are and worked on them in the summer rather than letting his head get big with all the love and respect he earned after a fantastic freshmen campaign.
The only thing that is going to keep Sullinger from being a part of an NBA team’s regular rotation is if he doesn’t hold his own defensively. He’s rarely tested right now, but that will change once he makes the jump.
5) Perry Jones III (Baylor) – 6’11, 235 lbs. Power Forward
The hope was that Jones, who would have been a lottery selection in the 2011 NBA Draft had he decided to leave early, would come back a much more polished and dominant player. That hasn’t been the case as he has either regressed or stayed where he was at last year in most statistical categories. The team success has been there and cannot be argued with. The Bears are 14-0 with Jones playing a sizable role since returning from his five game suspension.
He’s still leaving everyone yearning for more like he did as a freshman and throughout high school, though. There isn’t a player in the country more athletic or versatile. He’s truly a rare breed; yet there are times where he has minimal impact.
Just like Drummond, he’s going to get drafted very high based on what he can be rather than what he is right now. He’s either going to earn a general manager an extension or pink slip. It’s all up to how hard he plays and works moving forward. A strong showing in Big 12 play and the NCAA Tournament could move him up this list.
6) Harrison Barnes (North Carolina) – 6’8, 215 lbs. Small Forward
There are very few safe bets when it comes to the draft, but Barnes should be classified as one because you know what you are going to get with him. He’s a hard worker with the characteristics of a natural-born leader. There isn’t a locker room that he wouldn’t fit in. Older veterans will immediately respect him due to his approach to the game and adept skill set. Barnes relies heavily on him jump shot right now, but has the ability to get into the paint as well.
Barnes isn’t perceived to have the same kind of ceiling that he did coming out of high school. That isn’t to say that he won’t get better because he will, it’s just that he’s not looked at as a future franchise player anymore. He could be a great second or third option, but it’s doubtful that any team will bring him in as the savior he was built up to be going into college.
7) Thomas Robinson (Kansas) – 6’9, 237 lbs. Power Forward
There’s a lot to be said for a player like Robinson, who was a reserve his first two years at Kansas, stepping up and having a career-year when the entire team was dependant on his success. Few players in the country are more valuable to their team right now than Robinson, who is putting up 17 points and 12 rebounds a game.
Kansas head coach Bill Self’s faith in Robinson has been rewarded and as a result the Jayhawks are much better than everyone was expecting. Meanwhile, Robinson has shot up the draft boards and is ranked up with the likes of Sullinger, Jones, Davis and Drummond after only playing 14 minutes a night last year.
Robinson will be a hustle, energy guy early on in his NBA career until his growing offensive repertoire becomes more reliable. As a classic late bloomer, there’s plenty of reason to justify taking him in the top ten.
8) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky) – 6’7, 232 lbs. Small Forward
Frequently drawing public praise from current pros thanks to the intensity and effort that he displays on a nightly basis, Kidd-Gilchrist has shot past all but one small forward ranked ahead of him. He’s someone who a coach will never have to worry about playing hard because he’s not wired to play any other way. He’s much like Indiana Pacer Tyler Hansbrough in the sense that as soon as he steps on the floor you’re getting 100% and nothing less.
Kidd-Gilchrist had the best game of his career to close out 2011, putting up 24 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks against fourth-ranked Louisville.
When he first gets into the league he’ll be best suited to play for an up tempo team that allows him to utilize his incredible athleticism in transition. In time, though, he should improve his lackluster jump shot and be a great fit with any team.
9) Brad Beal (Florida) – 6’3, 207 lbs. Shooting Guard
Any concern that Beal was going to have trouble getting big minutes in a crowded Florida backcourt have been dismissed. He’s playing 33 minutes a night as Gators head coach Billy Donovan simply cannot keep him off of the floor. The freshman plays well beyond his age, displaying advanced offensive game with a jump shot that rivals Lamb’s in terms of beauty. He’s not hitting at the same rate that Lamb is, making just 32% from deep, but he’s a much better three-point shooter than his percentage indicates.
In a lot of people’s eyes Beal has a case to be selected ahead of Lamb because he may be the better player all-around. His lack of size negates that somewhat, though, as the undersized Beal is going to have to prove in the NBA that he can defend the shooting guard position good enough to play it.
10) Terrence Jones (Kentucky) – 6’9, 252 lbs. Power Forward
To say that this year hasn’t gone expected for Jones would be an understatement. He’s found out the hard way why a lot of Kentucky head coach John Calipari’s former players left early. It wasn’t just because they were projected to get selected highly. It was also because he always brings in a top-ranked recruiting class capable of taking minutes and shots away from them. He was kidding himself if he thought they were going to rely on him primarily offensively.
Jones isn’t playing or producing as much as he was last year because this year’s team is more talented overall. What got him into the top ten is his improved efficiency offensively.
Despite the fact that he isn’t blowing up statistically, Jones still has the making of a solid pro. He’s an inside-outside threat whose best days are ahead of him.
Make sure to check back Sunday morning to see who is currently ranked 11-20!