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2012 NBA Mock Draft: Why All of Kentucky's First-Rounders Are Guaranteed Stars

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2012 NBA Mock Draft: Why All of Kentucky's First-Rounders Are Guaranteed Stars
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Following Kentucky's national championship, the draft stock for the Wildcats players entering the NBA is on the rise.

Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and their cohorts present some of the best options in this year's pool, and in the cases of Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist, they will pay huge dividends for whichever teams are lucky enough to select them in the lottery.

The Wildcats will have three or four players go in this year's first round, and here's a look at why they are all smart selections, as well as a look at the rest of the projected first-round moves.

 

1. Charlotte Bobcats: Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky

He should go No. 1 no matter who's picking after dominating in the NCAA this year. As the Naismith Player of the Year and a national championship winner, the 6'10" power forward with a 7'4" wingspan averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.4 steals and 4.7 blocks per game for the Wildcats in 2011-12.

Even when he can't score, Davis still has the ability to be an impact player. Against Kansas in the title game, he went 1-for-10 from the field but still had 16 rebounds, six blocks and five assists. His offense was there against Louisville in the national semifinals, when—against Gorgui Dieng, a spectacular shot-blocker—he went 7-of-8 from the floor.

Scouts are unsure about whether he'll play center or power forward in the NBA, but playing at the 4 would allow him to use his length against overmatched players.

2. Washington Wizards: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky

Though there are still concerns about how his size (6'7") will translate to the NBA, Kidd-Gilchrist's performance in the NCAA tournament helped his draft stock and will almost certainly make him the No. 2 overall selection.

Even when he isn't dominating offensively, he still has the toughness and energy to be a impact player.

Kidd-Gilchrist does need some work offensively, particularly on his perimeter game, but in the Final Four, he proved he could defend some of the best players at his level in Kansas' Tyshawn Taylor and Louisville's Peyton Siva.

Kidd-Gilchrist—like his teammate Davis—can push defenders around in the paint now, but in the NBA he will not be able to rely on his size for dominance. Still, he's a player who has done everything well at the college level—shooting, rebounding, boxing out and driving down the lane. And despite the fact that his perimeter shot needs improvement, Kidd-Gilchrist's ability to drive to the hoop makes him an offensive threat.

3. New Orleans Hornets: Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas

His size (6'9") and speed allow him to be dominant on both ends of the floor, and he's the kind of future star you can build a team around.

4. Portland Trail Blazers: Bradley Beal, SG, Florida

He increased his draft stock during Florida's longer-than-expected run in the NCAA tournament and proved that he's an excellent passer and a great shooter off the dribble.  

 

5. Toronto Raptors: Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina

The Raptors need a small forward, and despite struggling in the NCAA tournament, Barnes' defense and jump shot give him a lot of upside.

6. Detroit Pistons: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana

The Pistons need size, and Zeller has the body control to outrun most power forwards and the skill to score.

7. Sacramento Kings: Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State

He's shown limited speed and athleticism at power forward, but he makes up for it with rebounding and scoring effectiveness down low.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andre Drummond, PF, UConn

He's been a disappointment this year, which is why he could slide out of the top five picks, but he's still regarded as one of the biggest talents available in this year's draft, which the Cavs need. 

9. Utah Jazz: Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina

There aren't a lot of elite point guard prospects in this year's crop, but Utah needs one and could go with Marshall. He's a pure point guard and does a good job of involving his teammates.

10. Milwaukee Bucks: Perry Jones III, PF, Baylor

He may be one of the best players left on the board at this point, and based on pure talent, it would be hard to pass him up.

11.  Portland Trail Blazers: Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina

Portland has a hole to fill at center, and Zeller, a 6'11" senior, has had plenty of time to develop into an athletic big man who can run the floor.

12. New Orleans Hornets: Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State

With Marshall off the board, the Hornets will go for the next-best option in Lillard, who has the size and speed to start in the NBA.

13. Phoenix Suns: John Henson, PF, North Carolina

The 6'10" junior has a 7'4" wingspan and is one of the best shot-blockers in the nation behind Anthony Davis.

14. Houston Rockets: Jeremy Lamb, SG, UConn

He's an explosive swingman with a good jump shot, as well as an excellent wingspan (7'1").

15. Houston Rockets: Terrence Jones, PF, Kentucky

Jones is good enough to go higher, but he could fall out of the lottery because of his unorthodox shot and inconsistency. Kentucky's long journey in this year's NCAA tournament also gave him a chance to remind scouts of his abilities.

For the Wildcats this year, Jones had 12.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.8 blocks, and though his points and rebounds totals are down from last year (a given, with the arrival of Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist), his defense and scoring abilities are there and will provide enough incentive for Denver to take a crack at him. The Nuggets need someone with the versatility to play small forward or power forward.

Going into this year's tournament, Jones had the opportunity to really help his draft stock soar, but inconsistency continued to hurt him, which is the reason he falls this low.

16. Denver Nuggets: Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi State

He's taking a little bit longer to develop, but could pay off because of his size (6'10") and athleticism. If there are two things Boston needs right now, they are youth and size.

17. Minnesota Timberwolves: Austin Rivers, SG, Duke

There have been murmurs that the Celtics are hoping Rivers is off the board by the time their selection rolls around, just to avoid an uncomfortable decision, and they could get their wish if Minnesota takes a chance on someone who's gotten a bad rap because of an iffy attitude. Playing with Ricky Rubio will prevent him from feeling like he has to take over the game. 

18. Boston Celtics: Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois

He can provide Boston with the size in the middle it needs.

19. Philadelphia 76ers: Terrence Ross, SG, Washington

Philly needs a shooter. Ross needs a little bit of seasoning, but he's athletic and has a natural shooting ability.

20. Memphis Grizzlies: Tony Mitchell, SF/PF, North Texas

He's quick, athletic and runs the court well for a big man. He is a combo forward who can give Memphis more youth and versatility up front.

21. Houston Rockets: Royce White, SF, Iowa State

His anxiety disorder could scare away some teams, but the 6'8" sophomore played well enough in the weeks leading up to the NCAA tournament to justify a first-round selection.

22. Boston Celtics: Jeffery Taylor, SF, Vanderbilt

In terms of a defensive presence in the frontcourt, Taylor may be the best option left. At 6'7", he can rack up steals and deflections.

23. Atlanta Hawks: Tony Wroten Jr., PG, Washington

Wroten is one of the most talented guards in the draft and also is an excellent passer with great body control. He could finally fulfill the Hawks' need for a point guard.

24. Indiana Pacers: Moe Harkless, SF, St. John's

With Taylor off the board, Harkless could jump up a few spots. He's worth taking a chance on because of his scoring ability, even though his jumper needs some work.

25. Cleveland Cavaliers: C.J. Leslie, PF, NC State

He needed a long run in the NCAA tournament to increase his draft stock, and by carrying the Wolfpack to the Sweet 16, he has done enough to get himself into the first round.

26. Orlando Magic: Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure

He won't be the biggest guy on the court at 6'9", but his high basketball IQ and inside scoring presence are big pluses.

27. Golden State Warriors: Draymond Green, SF, Michigan State

He has the leadership and basketball IQ to succeed in the NBA, and he's had plenty of time to extend his shooting range throughout his four years under Tom Izzo. He offers the Warriors the help they need at the 3.

28. Miami Heat: Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke

He offers the Thunder a lot of value at this point in the draft. He's a big guy with a solid jump shot and decent shot-blocking ability.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tony Mitchell, SF, North Texas

He's a great rebounder with above-average speed and quickness. He needs to get stronger and improve his jump shot, so spending a year on OKC's bench could do him some good as he gets acclimated.

30. Chicago Bulls: John Jenkins, SG, Vanderbilt

He'll still be a threat behind the NBA three-point line and in general is an excellent perimeter shooter.

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