Now that the 2011-12 NBA season is over, there is only one thing left to do. Time to gear up for the next year. The Miami Heat will still be celebrating their NBA Championship for another couple of weeks. The Oklahoma City Thunder will still be thinking what if for the next week or so. The other 28 teams are more focused on this Thursday night: The 2012 NBA Draft. There is good reason to be focused on this draft because of the depth of talent.
There might not be the star power of the 2003 NBA Draft, with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Darko Milicic. (I just had to mention him because how the hell did he go number 2 overall, good job Detroit.)
The 1996 NBA Draft provided the likes of Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Stephon Marbury, Steve Nash, Marcus Camby, Jermaine O'Neal, Peja Stojakovic, and Moochie Norris. (I had to throw Mooch in here because he rocked the best afro the NBA has ever witnessed.)
The 1984 NBA Draft had four of the best players to ever play the game. Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton. This draft also included Sam Perkins, Otis Thorpe, Kevin Willis, Jerome Kersey, and Sam Bowie. (Good job Portland for selecting Sam Bowie over the best player to ever lace them up.)
These are arguably the three best draft classes in NBA history. Now let's take a look at what the 2012 NBA Draft provides us with. There is definitely not the star power in this class, but when you talk about depth, this could be the best draft providing the league with a ton of talent for years to come.
THE TOP OF THE CLASS
Anthony Davis is the best player entering the 2012 NBA Draft. The guy is a shot blocking and rebounding machine. He broke the SEC record for most blocks in a season and had more blocks than any other freshmen in NCAA D-1 history. He led Kentucky to an NCAA Championship, and finally got John Calipari his first Championship. He was named the 2012 NCAA Tournament's Most Outstanding Player. He was named the National Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Freshman of the Year, and on Thursday will be the first overall pick. No one else can say they accomplished all of these feats.
Davis averaged a remarkable 14.3 points/game, 10 rebounds/game, and nearly five blocks/game. as a 19-year-old kid. The best thing that happened to Davis was his growth spurt he had between his junior and senior years. He was not heavily recruited at all after his junior season. Once he hit his growth spurt he was on everybody's radar. Davis has excellent ball handling skills for a big guy. He can knock down the open perimeter jumper. This is all because he was a guard for his high-school team before he grew nearly a foot. He is a can't miss guy in this draft. He still needs to improve on his offensive game, mainly inside the paint. He also needs to add some muscle because he has a pretty lean figure. His defensive game is already NBA ready. His offensive game needs some work, but he is the type of player to impact the New Orleans Hornets franchise right away. His game is very reminiscent to Kevin Garnett.
Thomas Robinson is an absolute monster. You have to love the energy this guy plays with. You want to talk about battling adversity, this is the guy to bring up. No one should ever have to go through what Thomas Robinson went through during his sophomore season at Kansas. During a span of three weeks Robinson lost his grandfather, grandmother, and his mother. That is something a 19-year old kid should never have to deal with but it made him stronger and more mature on and off the court. He had to become a man a lot sooner than he expected.
Robinson took the responsibility of taking care of his little sister because his father was not around much. Entering his junior season he had one thing on his mind: become the leader of Kansas. He did more than that. He averaged 18 and 11 last season and led the Jayhawks to the NCAA Championship game. Nobody had Kansas as a serious contender before the season. Robinson put the team on his back and left it all out on the floor last season. Expect him to be able to help out a franchise right away. He will be a top-five pick and a lot of experts see him going second overall, if the Charlotte Bobcats hold onto their selection. If you drew a line between Josh Smith and Paul Millsap's game, Thomas Robinson is what you would find.
Bradley Beal is an absolute stud. He started off slow for the Florida Gators as a true freshmen, but once conference play began, he was absolute money. Beal was eventually named to the SEC All-Freshmen team and was a first-team All-SEC selection. The kid can ball. He has unlimited range with very good ball handling skills. He can create his own shot off the dribble and whoever selects Beal will be thrilled. His all around game is underrated. He averaged 15 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.5 steals per/game last season as a true freshman. It is looking like Beal will go third overall to the Washington Wizards, if the Cleveland Cavaliers don't trade up to the number two pick to steal him from the Wiz. He reminds me of a mixture of Eric Gordon and Ray Allen. He can shoot like Allen and has the same type of body as Eric Gordon. He could end up being the best pro in this class.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might have the best overall game out of all the guys in this draft. His offensive game can be inconsistent at times but he knows how to score the rock. This guy is an absolute beast on the defensive end. If you look at Kentucky's 2012 Championship team, I think he was their most important player. He did whatever John Calipari needed. If Coach Cal needed him to score 20, he'd score 20. If he needed him to lock down the opposition's best player, he locked him down. The guy is a coach's dream. He does whatever is best for the team, and can care less about his individual statistics. As a true freshmen, MKG averaged 11.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, two assists,one steal, and one block per game.
His overall game is very impressive. In my opinion, I think he is going to be the best player from the 2012 NBA Draft. Of course, I could be wrong (I usually never am... (sarcasm).)
He reminds me of Ron Artest, not Metta World Peace. We are talking about the old Ron Artest here, the one who was ballin' for the Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers. The only difference between the two is Kidd-Gilchrist has his head on straight and won't be changing his name anytime soon. If he reaches his full potential he could very well end up being the next Scottie Pippen-type player.
Harrison Barnes ranks right there with Kidd-Gilchrist as the best wing player entering this draft. Barnes is more of a pure scorer than Kidd-Gilchrist, but his overall game is not on the same level as Kidd-Gilchrist. Last year, as a true sophomore, Barnes averaged 17 and 5 for North Carolina. The issue a lot of people had with Barnes last season was he didn't improve much after his freshmen season. Furthermore, when starting point guard Kendall Marshall went down with a wrist injury in the second round of the NCAA Tournament it put more pressure on Barnes to step up.
He didn't and North Carolina lost to Kansas in the Elite 8. His stock could have rose if he led Carolina without their starting point guard, but he struggled in the two games. Barnes went 8-30 from the field and scored 25 points combined in these two games. Barnes still has tremendous upside for any NBA franchise that selects him on Thursday night. The 20-year old is 6'8" and has a lengthy frame to present problems for the opposition. He has shown he can be one of the best scorers in the country, but sometimes he lacks the confidence in his shot. If he can find some more confidence and become tougher mentally the rest of the league better watch out for the kid from Aimes, Iowa. His game reminds me of Danny Granger and Rudy Gay.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Jeremy Lamb has all the talent in the world to be a good player in this league. The issue with him is consistency. When Kemba Walker led Connecticut to the 2011 National Championship, Jeremy Lamb was a huge contributor. Last year, it was suppose to be Jeremy Lamb's team, but UConn never met their potential. Lamb averaged 17 and 5 for UConn last season, but never took charge of becoming the team leader. Head Coach Jim Calhoun missed sometime because of health issues, so in Lamb's defense, this was a main reason why UConn never met their potential. I feel this guy is one of the biggest hit or miss guys in the draft. He has all the talent in the world to be a star in this league, but he also has a chance to be a bust.
Andre Drummond was one of Lamb's teammates on UConn last season. He never met his full potential as a true freshman for the Huskies. He had glimpses when he played like Patrick Ewing, but at times looked like Kwame Brown. Drummond averaged 10.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and nearly 3 BPG. A lot of NBA experts are saying Drummond will be a top-ten pick. Whoever selects Drummond will have to wait a couple of years before he matures into the player he is capable of being. He is a high-risk pick for any franchise that selects him. He could end up being like Andrew Bynum or Kwame Brown. The Lakers were smart with Bynum and allowed him to develop before giving him big time minutes. Whoever selects Drummond would be wise to do the same or else we could see another Kwame Brown or Sam Bowie.
Austin Rivers is going to be a steal in this draft. He is going to be a top-15 pick, but he could end up being one of the top three players in the draft. His work ethic is off the charts. Yeah, you can thank his father, Doc Rivers, for that. As a true freshman at Duke, he averaged 15.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. Rivers also became the second freshmen to become the unanimous choice as the All-ACC Freshman of the Year. (Tyler Hansbrough is the other.) This guy does not play like an 18-year old kid. We all remember the shot he hit in Chapel Hill at the buzzer. In the biggest rivalry in college basketball he wanted the rock at the end and he buried a three to give Duke an 85-84 victory. The guy has all the attributes to be a great player in the NBA.
Damian Lillard is flying up the charts on NBA draft boards. His workouts have been outstanding. The Oakland native was one of the best players in D-1 last season as a junior at Weber State. He went under the radar most of the season because he played in the Big Sky Conference. He averaged 24.5 points, 5.1 boards, 4 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He was second in the nation last season in points/game, but his all around game is what NBA executives are drooling about. He has a good knack for the game and understands how to run the point. Before his pre-draft workouts he was projected to be a mid-to-late first round selection. After his workouts he has skyrocketed to becoming a likely lottery pick.
Dion Waiters is another guy to pay attention to down the road. This guy has a great all-around game. He can score the rock and his defensive game is off the charts. After a rocky freshman season, Waiters bounced back and had a stellar sophomore season. He was Syracuse's best all-around player and help lead the Orange to a number-one seed in the NCAA Tournament. He does stuff that does not get on the stat sheet. His all-around game makes him NBA ready to receive a lot of playing time as a rookie heading into the 2012-13 NBA season.
Jared Sullinger is falling down NBA draft boards fast despite a stellar collegiate career. Reports indicated that Sullinger has back problems that will affect his NBA career. However, by judging what he did during his two-year career at Ohio State, that was not the case. Sullinger averaged nearly 18 and 10 last year for the Buckeyes as a true sophomore. Once Sullinger arrived at Ohio State they became one of the best teams in the nation. He led Ohio State to the Final Four last season. A lot of people are not sold on Sullinger's game, but I think he is going to be a good NBA player. His back problems should not be an issue for NBA executives to worry about. He was a double-double machine during his two-year career at Ohio State. He had 35 double-doubles in 74 games for the Buckeyes. If his representatives are telling the truth about his back issues not being a problem, his game could be reminiscent to Kevin Love.
John Henson: A monster on the defensive side of the floor. He needs to improve on his offensive game. He was a huge part of North Carolina's success over the last two seasons. He averaged 13.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks per game last season as a junior.
Meyers Leonard: A 7'1 big man who could become a good NBA pro down the road. He is still maturing and had a solid freshman campaign at Illinois last season. He put up 13.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.9 rejections last year. If he can polish his game he could be a solid pro in the NBA for quite sometime.
Perry Jones III: This kid has the talent to become a very good player down the road. The problem with Jones is that he plays passively and is not aggressive enough. If he can become a confident player he could be a steal for any team that selects him in the first round. He is a high-risk player in this draft. The 6'11" big man averaged 14 and 8 for Baylor last season as a sophomore. The problem with Jones was he would disappear in big games during his career at Baylor and we will have to wait and see if he thrives or crawls into a corner when he starts playing with the big boys. Entering his pro career is reminiscent of a young Rudy Gay, who also had a knack for disappearing into the background during his two-year career at UConn despite being an elite athlete.
Terrance Jones: He has all the attributes to become a good player on the next level. His game reminds me of Lamar Odom. The 6'9" forward from Kentucky was a vital piece in Kentucky's Championship run. He averaged 12.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game last year, which were down from his freshman numbers. He has Kidd Gilchrist and Davis to thank for that. Jones has shown glimpses of being immature at times but the hope is that he matures, he could wind up being a solid NBA player.
Kendall Marshall: If you want a guy who is NBA ready to run the point, he is your guy. Kendall Marshall is the biggest reason why North Carolina got back to level of basketball we expect from the Tar Heels. Once he was put into the starting lineup as the point guard for the Heels they became a team to wrecking with. His court vision is off the charts. He reminds me of Rajon Rondo and his offensive game is way better than when Rajon Rondo came into the league out of Kentucky.
10 NAMES TO REMEMBER
Arnett Moultrie: 6'11" junior, Texas A&M. Averaged 15.8 points and 10.6 rebounds last season.
Terrence Ross: 6'7" sophomore, Washington. Averaged 15.3 points and 6.5 rebounds last season.
Royce White: 6'8" sophomore, Iowa State. Averaged 13.1 points, 9.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.2 steals, one block last season. He led Iowa State in all five of these categories.
Tyler Zeller: 7-foot senior, North Carolina. Averaged 16.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocks. ACC Player of the Year last season.
Moe Harkless: 6'8" freshman, St. Johns. Averaged 15.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, and 1.6 steals last season.
Tony Wroten: 6'6" freshman, Washington. Averaged 16.7 points, five rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.9 steals last season.
Andrew Nicholson: 6'10" senior, St. Bonaventure. Averaged 18.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2 blocks last season.
John Jenkins: 6'4" junior, Vanderbilt. Averaged 19.9 points, 3 rebounds, and 44 percent three point shooting last season.
Will Barton: 6'6" sophomore, Memphis. Averaged 18.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, and three assists last season.
Marquis Teague: 6'2" freshman, Kentucky. Averaged 9.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists last season.
The 2012 NBA draft class is full of talent. It might not be the same as the 1984, 1996, and 2003 NBA draft class because it is lacking the big name stars that these three draft classes presented. However, the one area that this draft class presents is a ton of depth. This might not be the best draft down the road presenting us with superstars like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James, but it could very well end up being the best draft that provides us with the most talent in one draft. NBA executives have been looking forward to this draft for years, and now it is finally almost time for them to make their selections. We won't find out for another 10-15 years if this draft class ranks among the best, but it sure looks like it will be one that gets mentioned alongside the 84', 96', and 03' draft classes in the future.