The 2012 NBA Draft is shaping up to be one of the deepest classes in recent memory. Many top prospects have boosted their draft stock during the NCAA Tournament, and others (Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson, Jared Sullinger) are still in the process of solidifying their spots as potential top-five selections.
With the Final Four now set, a number of underclassmen will soon announce whether or not they'll test the NBA waters by formally declaring for the draft. But for some of these players, their decision appears to be a foregone conclusion—the opportunity to be a lottery pick is too much for many of them to pass up.
With NBA front offices furiously arranging and re-arranging their draft boards, let's take a look at eight no-brainer selections for the June 28 draft.
Anthony Davis has put up very respectable offensive numbers during his freshman season (14.3 PPG, 10.1 RPG), but his complete and utter dominance on the defensive end of the court is what has solidified his spot as the No. 1 overall pick in the June 28 NBA draft.
Davis' ability to handle the ball like a guard, run the floor like a wing and control the post like a big is a unique blend of skills that hasn't been seen in the college game in quite some time. It would be an absolute travesty if the Kentucky freshman didn't sweep all of the major postseason awards (Naismith Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, National Freshman of the Year).
With his 6'10", 220-pound frame, Davis is best suited to the power forward position at the professional level, provided that he gains 20 pounds or so. But it shouldn't take him long at all to be an imposing force in the paint shortly after he arrives in the NBA.
The 6'7", 232-pound Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a prototypical small forward. Very few on the college level can match his speed and athleticism, and his willingness to play lockdown defense is the stuff that coaches dream about.
As a freshman on a loaded Kentucky team, Gilchrist instantly carved out a spot in the starting lineup and averaged 12.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game for the Wildcats. While he's only fourth on the team in scoring, some would argue that he's the most valuable player for a UK squad that's currently 36-2.
In terms of his development, he'd probably be better served by staying in Lexington for another year to work on his questionable jump shot. But, the allure of being a top-5 pick in the draft is extremely tempting, so don't be surprised if he continues the Kentucky tradition of "one-and-done" NBA prospects.
With all of the hype surrounding Andre Drummond, one would have thought he'd have an impact similar to the one Shaquille O'Neal had in his first season at LSU.
Instead, Drummond's freshman campaign was...just OK. He averaged 10.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game for the Huskies this year, but didn't dominate on the college level as many projected he would.
But the NBA Draft is all about potential, and on that particular grading scale, Drummond is at the head of the class. The 6'10", 270-pound center compares favorably to Andrew Bynum and Derrick Favors, and will likely be a top-five pick three months from now.
With the proper coaching, Drummond can be a terror on both ends of the court in extremely short order.
It seems like Harrison Barnes has been around forever, yet he's only finishing up his second season down in Chapel Hill.
Barnes is good—very good—but is missing the athleticism needed to take over games on a consistent basis. His numbers are great (17.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG) considering the league in which he plays, but after watching him for a few games, it's hard not to expect more from someone who is head-and-shoulders better than his competition.
Barnes—who at 6'8" and 223 pounds has great size for a small forward—struggles quite a bit when forced to put the ball on the deck. Fortunately, his jump shot is pretty good for a small forward, so he'll always find a way to be productive at the next level.
With the exception of Kentucky's Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson is the one player that will undoubtedly have an immediate impact on the next level.
Lost in the shuffle behind current pros Markieff and Marcus Morris last year, the 6'10", 237-pound Robinson finally got a chance to assert himself as a junior, and has put up absolutely phenomenal numbers this season (17.7 PPG, 11.8 RPG).
Robinson doesn't just look the part; he runs the floor, he blocks shots, and he plays with an intensity and energy that is hard to match. It would be an absolute travesty if he slips out of the top-five, and he isn't that far away from becoming a perennial NBA All-Star.
Florida's Brad Beal shares a lot of similarities with current New Orleans Hornets guard Eric Gordon. If Beal's NBA career takes the same path, then expect to see him on more than a few All-Star teams before all is said and done.
Like Gordon, Beal is a decent-sized shooting guard with a very solid stroke from the outside. The Florida freshman rarely plays out of control, and at 6'3", he rebounds better than virtually every guard in the collegiate level (Beal led the Gators in rebounding this year with 6.7 RPG).
If he can extend his jumper out to 20-plus feet, Beal will be one of the best shooting guards in the NBA, given the minutes and the right situation. He's far and away the best guard of any sort in this draft class, and shouldn't have to wait long to hear his name called this June.
Talent evaluators are split on Jared Sullinger's NBA prospects, but it's hard not to see the 6'9", 265-pound Buckeye make some sort of statement at the next level.
The knock on Sullinger is that he plays "below the rim" (translation—he's not terribly athletic). But there's a place in the NBA for a solidly-built power forward who can work the glass and provide an imposing presence on the defensive end (see Boozer, Carlos; Millsap, Paul).
Sullinger doesn't have the same physical gifts as Kansas' Thomas Robinson, but for what it's worth, his outside game is extremely refined for a player of his size. So while he may not be the one that blows teams away in pre-draft workouts, Sullinger might just be the most productive player in the entire class five years from now.
It's not the sexiest thing to say, but Kendall Marshall's best quality is that he does everything right.
He won't blow you away with his speed or athleticism, nor will his jump shot remind you of Ray Allen. Marshall is simply a natural-born leader who always seems to be two or three moves ahead of everyone else on the court.
North Carolina's struggles in the NCAA Tournament last weekend only served to highlight Marshall's importance to the Tar Heels—the sophomore point guard might have moved up a few spots on most teams' draft boards even as he sat out two games with an injured wrist.
While Andre Miller is a reasonable NBA comparison, Marshall probably owes a debt of gratitude to both Rajon Rondo and Ricky Rubio—two point guards with mediocre perimeter games—for boosting his draft stock.