With the NBA Finals finally crowning King Lebron James, basketball fans must now turn to a new crop of talent and look forward to seeing Summer League basketball.
The 2012 NBA Draft is exceptionally deep with few superstar prospects. It looks like many rotational players will emerge, but few stars. Here's a look at the five best players in the draft, and how their talents may translate to the NBA.
1. Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis is rare in that he possesses a truly transcendent and game-changing ability with his shot blocking. It would be a shock if he was not taken first overall, and he is being compared to legendary Boston Celtics center Bill Russell in his ability to stop opponents' offenses while sparking his own team's transitional play. In his first and only year of college ball, he set the SEC and freshman college records for blocked shots on the way to being named Player of the Year and winning a national championship.
In the title game, Davis had one more block than the entire Kansas team and led his team with 16 rebounds. He is 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, and can dominate the block, despite weighing only 10 more pounds than veteran guard Chauncey Billups. However, like all No. 1 draft picks, his future is still in question. Is he like Michael Olowokandi, or more like Hakeem Olajuwon? Or could he be better than both?
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2. Thomas Robinson
Davis' opponent in the national championship game thinks that he deserves to be the No. 1 pick, and has good reason to after a dominating performance in his junior year with Kansas. The 6-foot-8 power forward outweighs Davis and out-rebounded him in the title game.
Robinson is a high energy player and an explosive athlete who's skill-set on the court has been consistently improving. He ranked second in Division-I play in rebounds per-48 minutes, according to draftexpress.com, and shot over 50% from the field last year. His postgame is more refined than Davis' and he has the muscle to survive against the older big men in the NBA. He will be a big contributor on both ends of the floor to whatever team drafts him.
3. Bradley Beal
Beal is considered by many to be the best guard in the draft. It took just one year with the Florida Gators for his talents to be recognized nationwide. Beal has been compared to Celtics guard Ray Allen due to similarities in their delivery, despite Beal's struggles to hit jump shots consistently this season. He finished second on his team with 14.8 points per game, but one stat that stands out is his 6.7 rebounds per game.
Beal is not known for his athleticism or size, but he is a fluid athlete and his high rebound total showcases his basketball I.Q. and work ethic. In his final five games, he shot well over 50%, including going 8-10 in a win against Marquette and 6-12 in his last game with Florida against Louisville. The ceiling is high for this young shooting guard, and if he proves to be as good a shooter as the comparisons say, he is going to have a stellar career.
4. Harrison Barnes
The latest in self-branding athletes, 20-year-old Harrison Barnes created his Black Falcon logo earlier this year and has been painted by the media as an overhyped jump-shooter that is too concerned with off-the-court matters. If you look past the hype though, there is a talented player that deserved a spot on Roy Williams's North Carolina team.
Barnes averaged 17 points per game in 29 minutes for the Tar Heels last season, raising his point total from last season on fewer minutes and increasing his field goal percentage. His performances in the NCAA Tournament left much to be desired, but Barnes' mid-range game is unquestionably among the top of his class. He also has the potential to be a lock-down defender, but has failed to live up to the lofty expectations he created for himself coming out of high school as the No. 1 prospect.
5. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Challenging Barnes for the title of best wing player in the draft is national champion Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. While Barnes thrives on the half-court game, Kidd-Gilchrist is the opposite, finding opportunities in transition and taking far less shots for a better percentage than the Black Falcon. He was able to convert 71% of his field goal attempts on the fast break, according to Synergy Sports Technology, the best among all draft prospects.
This 6-foot-7 forward makes up for his offensive sheepishness in other ways, pulling down 7.4 rebounds per game last season and being described by coach John Calipari as the hardest working member of the national championship team. This season he started a much publicized Breakfast Club of players that he encouraged to show up to the gym at 6:30 a.m. for weightlifting and shooting sessions.
Kidd-Gilchrist simply finds ways to contribute to any situation. If he keeps this up, he could be a leader on any NBA team and a player that contributes more than what the numbers say. A great fit for any of the lottery teams.