NBA Draft 2012: Which Players Will End Up in the Top 5?
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With a lot of college basketball left to play in 2012, including the drama of conference tournaments and March Madness, players will continue to state their cases for a top-five selection.
A lot can happen between now and the draft: injuries, players withdrawing, stocks rising and stocks falling.
There are always those Kemba Walkers, Gordon Heywards, Russell Westbrooks and Corey Brewers; players who may not have been talked about early on, but use late-season surges or legendary NCAA tournament runs to land themselves in the lottery.
But that isn't the situation here. Since signing their letters of intents, these players have been linked to the lottery since the day they stepped on campus. These guys are surefire lottery picks.
I believe these five players have cemented themselves amongst the rest of the pack fighting for a high lottery pick.
In no particular order we begin with...
Kentucky PF Anthony Davis (Freshman)
Future Lottery Pick Anthony Davis
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Kentucky Wildcats Power Forward Anthony Davis - 6'10", 220 pounds, 18 years old
The first of five Kentucky Wildcat players who could see themselves selected in the first round of the 2012 NBA draft, Anthony Davis is a special one.
The Chicago native leads the No. 1 team in the country in points per game (14), rebounds per game (10), steals per game (1.5), field goal percentage (66%) and blocks per game (4.8).
His blocks per game are good for first in the country while his field-goal percentage has him in the top five.
The former Scout.com No. 1 player in the country owns an all-around game that could make him the first player taken in the upcoming NBA draft.
He has tremendous hands and passing ability. His continuous hustle up and down the court allows him to lead his team in all the categories named above.
His presence on defense is a game changer.
The monstrous 7'4" wingspan of Davis lets him completely dominate both sides of the court.
Every aspect of his game screams NBA except for his strength. He must muscle up in order to survive down the road.
If this Wildcat continues his play through the end of the season into conference and NCAA tourney time, there is no reason Anthony Davis shouldn't be selected No. 1 overall in the 2012 NBA draft.
NBA Comparison: Kevin Garnett
UConn C Andre Drummond (Freshman)
UConn Center Andre Drummond
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UConn Huskies Center Andre Drummond - 6'11", 275 pounds, 18 years old
Once the "center" of controversy over whether he would spend a post-graduate year in high school, Drummond made the decision to attend college instead.
Picking UConn over the likes of Louisville, Georgetown and West Virgina, the freshman from Mount Vernon N.Y., owns tremendous upside.
For an 18-year-old he has the physical traits of an NBA-ready player; he is a man playing against boys.
His build and body shape should allow him to dominate underneath the boards consistently. That isn't the case...yet. Maybe it's too soon for this young man, but if he can somehow develop a killer instinct, he's going to be one scary presence whether it's for UConn or an NBA unit.
Drummond needs to work on his free-throwing shooting and develop a solid post-up game.
NBA Comparison: DeMarcus Cousins
North Carolina SF Harrison Barnes (Sophomore)
UNC SF Harrison Barnes
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North Carolina Tar Heels Small Forward Harrison Barnes - 6'8", 210 pounds, 19 years old
Harrison Barnes could have very well bolted last season for the 2011 NBA draft and been a top three selection, but he decided to come back to a loaded UNC squad and make a run for the national championship.
The first word that comes to my mind when I watch Harrison Barnes play is: smoothness. From his ball-handing to his stroke/release to his swagger on the court, everything about him on the hardwood screams smooth. During his freshman season he didn't always look or perform like this, but that changed this season.
Great hands and instincts with the ball for his height and length. Muscular build. Extremely quick to the basket. Takes it to the hoop with authority. Great finisher. Solid free-throw shooter. Could be an extraordinary talent at the next level if he improves on defense.
NBA Comparison: Danny Granger
Baylor PF Perry Jones III (Sophomore)
Baylor PF Perry Jones III
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Baylor Bears Power Forward Perry Jones III - 6'11", 235 pounds, 20 years old
Baylor, currently No. 6 in the nation with a record of 21-2, wouldn't be that successful without the play of power forward "PJ3."
Suspended for the first five games of the season after receiving improper benefits, Jones III leads the Bears in multiple statistical categories.
His athleticism and quickness for a player his size gives him an advantage at his position, whichever it may be at the next level.
Defense, strength and post-up skills are all categories he will need to improve upon. For a player with his height he should be blocking more shots. That category may be diminished because "PJ3" doesn't spend all of his time underneath the basket. He is on the move constantly.
His repertoire includes a solid stroke from behind the three-point line.
With a great run through March Madness, combined with his potential that have scouts raving, Jones III should see himself drafted in the top five of the upcoming NBA draft.
NBA Comparison: Lamar Odom
Kentucky SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Freshman)
Kentucky Freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
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Kentucky Wildcats Small Forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - 6'7", 232 pounds, 18 years old
The second Wildcat on this list, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist seems to always come up big in high-profile games.
In wins against Kansas (12 points, nine rebounds), UNC (17 points, 11 rebounds), Louisville (24 points, 19 rebounds) and Florida (13 points, 13 rebounds), Kidd-Gilchrist manages to dominate the stat categories and guide his team to victory.
Praised for his work ethic and character, the small forward from Elizabeth, N.J. is admired on and off the court.
Kidd-Gilchrist doesn't dominate in any one aspect of his game. He's a great rebounder for his position, but his shot isn't the best and he needs to work on his outside stroke. His leadership, athleticism and defense, however, are the traits that make him so good.
If he performs in the NCAA tournament like he has in the regular season against big-name teams, Kentucky has a great chance of being the last squad standing and Kidd-Gilchrist will more than likely guarantee himself a high lottery selection.
NBA Comparison: Rudy Gay
Other Players Who May Slip Their Way into the Top 5
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Jared Sullinger (Ohio State Buckeyes) - Tremendous post skills and strength have this 6'10" power forward from Columbus, Ohio ready to make the leap.
Meyers Leonard (Illinois Fighting Illini) - The former guard (who grew six inches between his freshman and sophomore year of high school) is the go-to-guy for the Fighting Illini and has the height (7'1"), length, defensive ability and potential to survive in the NBA. The only knack on Leonard is his head. Can he mentally handle it?
Thomas Robinson (Kansas Jayhawks) - Built like a warrior, Thomas Robinson has the strength and build to battle underneath with other power forwards. Blowing up onto the scene this season, Robinson fits the mold of a hardworker and great athlete.
Jeremy Lamb (UConn Huskies) - For a shooting guard, his height and crazy huge wingspan (seven-feet plus) gives him an advantage over other players at the position. His excellent jump shot, leaping ability, intangibles and a Kemba Walker-like run through the Big East and NCAA tourney will have him shooting up draft boards.