NBA Draft 2012: Predicting the Order in Which ACC Studs Will Be Selected

Sam DrakeCorrespondent IMarch 1, 2012

NBA Draft 2012: Predicting the Order in Which ACC Studs Will Be Selected

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    The second half of the NBA season is underway, and some teams are already gearing up for their lottery pick in the 2012 NBA draft in April.

    Scouts are going to pay close attention to the ACC in the upcoming weeks, as its regular season winds down and the conference tournament begins.

    This year, the ACC has a ton of NBA-ready talent. Duke and North Carolina, as usual, have several players entering the draft. 

    Most of UNC's starting lineup could go in the first round as well as Duke's phenomenal freshmen. 

    There are also some people who might not play for the big two schools in the ACC but have the talent to become forces in the NBA.

    These eight ACC players will all become big factors for the teams that draft them.

    *You may notice that most of the players listed are either from UNC or Duke. That is because they will likely have the most players entering the draft. Players like Terrell Stoglin, C.J. Harris and Lorenzo Brown are speculated to stay at school for at least another year.

Harrison Barnes: North Carolina

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    Harrison Barnes is the best player in the ACC.

    He is second in the ACC in scoring at 18.2 points per game and 18th in rebounding with 5.6 per game. Barnes is shooting 46 percent from the field and has improved his three-point shooting from 34 percent last year to just under 40 percent this year.

    Barnes has a high basketball IQ, although he is not extremely quick. He does not get rattled easily and is not afraid to take the last shot.

    Barnes was ready for the NBA last year, but he decided to return for his sophomore season along with John Henson and Tyler Zeller to create the NCAA's version of the "Big Three."

    Prediction: Lottery Pick

Tyler Zeller: North Carolina

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    Right now, the Zeller that most people are talking about is Cody of Indiana. However, his older brother Tyler is having quite a year.

    Tyler Zeller is the fourth-leading scorer in the ACC with 17.6 points per game and the second leading rebounder with 9.8 per game. He has the highest field-goal percentage in the league and is shooting 82 percent from the charity stripe. He ranks near the top in every ACC category this year except three-point shooting and assists.

    What sets him apart from other centers is that he can run the floor in transition. He has drawn comparisons to Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol.

    He needs to add some strength in order to be successful at the NBA level, though.

    Prediction: Lottery Pick

John Henson: North Carolina

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    John Henson is the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

    He uses his length and leaping ability to block shots and make things extremely difficult for shooters.

    He has developed a solid 10'-15' jumper and has the ability to get to the basket. 

    In order for Henson to become a force in the NBA, he is going to have to add a lot of strength in the offseason, but his upside is very appealing for a lot of NBA teams.

    Prediction: First Round

Austin Rivers: Duke

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    If Austin Rivers does decide to enter the NBA draft, he will be sought after. Even though he has not lived up to the extremely high expectations fans and scouts placed on him, he is still a very good basketball player.

    When he has the ball in his hand, he can be deadly. He has an NBA-ready shot and is accurate from deep. He sees the court very well for only being a freshman. His high basketball IQ is something that all NBA teams want.

    He struggles at times with turnovers and can be selfish with the basketball, but Rivers is not afraid to take the last shot. He has already shown that he can be clutch. See his game-winning three over Tyler Zeller and North Carolina.

    Prediction: First-Second Round

Kendall Marshall: North Carolina

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    People have already started to compare Kendall Marshall to NBA rookie Ricky Rubio. That is mostly because he has amazing passing skills while not being very a proficient scorer.

    Marshall averages 9.7 assists this year to only seven points per game. He has been the main ball-handler for the Tar Heels after Dexter Strickland went out for the season with a torn ACL.

    He has the ability to become a great point guard for an NBA team because of his high basketball IQ and his stellar court vision.

    He is going to need to work on his shooting ability—currently he shoots 31 percent from deep—and he must prevent his mental slips on the defensive side of the ball in order to be a high draft pick.

    Prediction: First-Second Round

C.J. Leslie: North Carolina State

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    After deciding to return to school after his freshmen season, C.J. Leslie has picked up where he left off.

    This year he is averaging 14 points, and his great jumping ability has allowed him to pull down seven rebounds and block 1.7 shots per game.

    Leslie is shooting 50 percent from the field, but if he is going to play power forward in the NBA, he has to add some strength and weight to his 206-pound frame.

    He is only a sophomore and has to learn some of the finer points of the game, but he has the ability to be effective at the next level.

    Prediction: Second Round to Undrafted

Mason Plumlee: Duke

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    Mason Plumlee is most likely going to enter the NBA draft even though he has another year of eligibility. 

    He has always had the size and athletic ability to be a good post player, but up until this year, he has yet to show it. He is averaging close to a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds per game. Of Plumlee's nine rebounds, 2.7 of them are on the offensive end. He also averages 1.3 blocked shots per game.

    He has seen increases in his points, rebounds, assists and free-throw percentage each year he has been at Duke.

    Plumlee is going to have to work on his low-post game if he is going to be effective at the next level.

    Prediction: Second Round to Undrafted

Mike Scott: Virginia

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    Mike Scott is having another good year for the Virginia Cavilers.

    He is averaging 17 points and eight rebounds per game in 30 minutes of work. He is shooting a high percentage from the floor (57 percent) as well as from the free-throw line (82 percent).

    He is a senior this year but has yet to prove he can dominate a game like a senior is supposed to. He will be 24 once his NBA rookie season begins, and few players that old are drafted.

    He is going to have to prove that he has the ability to be a difference maker. If the Cavs make a deep run in the ACC tournament and win one or two games in the NCAA tournament, then NBA scouts will take a closer look.

    Prediction: Second Round to Undrafted