NBA Draft 2012: 3 Final Four Prospects That Could Carry the Torch from Kobe

Ben Shapiro@benshapironyc1 Analyst IIIMarch 29, 2012

NBA Draft 2012: 3 Final Four Prospects That Could Carry the Torch from Kobe

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    As usual, this year's Final Four is comprised of talented college basketball teams and those four teams—Kentucky, Louisville, Kansas and Ohio State—are all loaded with potential future NBA players. 

    How good will the NBA players from these teams be? Starters? Stars? Superstars? Icons? Are there any future NBA icons playing in New Orleans this weekend?

    The odds are that there aren't. The reason guys like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan are such iconic players is because there aren't players like that on display at every Final Four or even every other Final Four. 

    Guys like Kobe are rare. However, there are three players who will be on display this weekend who can become true NBA superstars. Will they be as talented as Bryant? Probably not, but if you had to pick some guys with a slight chance to enter that unique level of play then these three guys would be the ones you would pick.   

The Big Man: Anthony Davis, Kentucky

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    "I found another you...but he can shoot." John Calipari to Marcus Camby regarding Anthony Davis. 

    He's the best freshman in the country, the best defensive big man and possibly the best player in the nation.

    How good will the projected No. 1 overall draft pick be in the pros?

    He could be very, very good.

    That comparison that Calipari made of Davis to Camby is somewhat accurate. Both players started as guards in high school because they weren't extremely tall. Both players experienced late high school growth spurts that transformed them from solid guards into unique big men. When Camby first came to UMass, he was considered far too skinny. Davis has the same type of slight build. 

    That whole "shooting" thing is, as Calipari pointed out, a key difference. Davis as a freshman is averaging more rebounds, more blocks and shooting a higher field-goal percentage than Camby did at anytime in his three-year UMass career. Davis' 14.3 points per game are more than Camby averaged until his junior season.

    Davis might just be a combination of Camby's defensive skills mixed with a little more of Tim Duncan's offensive prowess. However, that could make Davis one of the NBA's premier big men for the next decade and beyond.

    He is only 19 years old. He won't be an instant first team All-NBA player or MVP candidate. Of course, even if it takes him three or four seasons to gain physical strength and refine his skills, he'd still be only 23 years old when he reaches his full potential.

    How high can that potential take him? The sky's the limit. His shot blocking will make him an instant impact player defensively. That will give him the minutes to learn the rest on the court. But can he become a "Kobe Bryant" type of player?

    It's tough to tell. Kobe has become a mature player who easily defuses situations that many other NBA players don't always handle as well. Davis is only 19 and it took Kobe years to fully mature. How long will it take Davis and what will Davis as an adult be like? Those will be the final pieces and they're the toughest ones to gauge.

    His ability presents as much potential as anyone playing in the Final Four this weekend.  

The Do-It-All Forward: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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    The issue with Kidd-Gilchrist isn't how good he is, it's how good he could be. 

    Kidd-Gilchrist already has the athletic ability to be considered "elite" in a league of elite athletes. He can get to the basket and finish alongside almost any basketball player in the nation. 

    The problem is that he hasn't developed a good enough jump shot yet. That lack of a solid outside shot will allow NBA defenders to play off of him and negate some of that explosive to-the-basket aggressiveness.

    He'll still get there, though. He'll have a number of spectacular highlights in his rookie season, you can count on that.

    When Bryant first entered the NBA, he didn't have that deadly turnaround jump shot that he has now and he didn't possess the versatile inside-outside game that he has displayed for the better part of 16 seasons.

    Bryant had to learn that and Kidd-Gilchrist will have to as well. If Kidd-Gilchrist can develop a solid enough outside game, he can be a major force in the NBA. He could score 25 or more points per game and still grab over six boards a game, too.

    At Kentucky, Kidd-Gilchrist has demonstrated an ability to play an intense style of defense. He's not the polished all-around offensive player that Carmelo Anthony or Paul Pierce were when they left college, but he has superior athleticism and a great work ethic.

    Could Kidd-Gilchrist become as polished as Anthony or Pierce on offense? If he did then he'd become a truly dominant player. A player with athletic ability and a willingness to play defense that lies somewhere between that of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James combined with the prolific offense of Carmelo or Pierce would be a for-the-ages type of player.

    It's a long road, though. However, Kidd-Gilchrist won't be 19 until this September. He's got time to become that player, but it's a bit tough to see him traversing that long path.  

The Power Forward: Thomas Robinson

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    When you watch Thomas Robinson play, one current NBA player comes to mind: Blake Griffin. 

    Robinson is a massive power forward who plays with a reckless abandon in the low post. He can throw down powerful dunks and intimidate opponents. Robinson might not be quite as high a leaper as Griffin, but he's got a slightly better looking jump shot.

    Unfortunately, he also has a similar stroke from the free-throw line. He's only shooting 68 percent on the season and his size and style of play should earn him plenty of trips to the free-throw line in the NBA. 

    Robinson can and should be a dominant power forward in the NBA for years to come. He's not as young (21 years old) as some of he other top projected draft picks, so his learning curve won't be as steep with his maturity level.

    His game should be similar to those of other top power forwards. Robinson should score in excess of 20 points per game and pull down over 10 rebounds per game.

    Can he be an iconic player in the mold of Kobe Bryant? In all likelihood no, but that's not to say he can't become a perennial All-Star.