Only 16 teams will make the NBA playoffs, but every team in the league is making preparations for the June 28 draft. This year's class is thought to be one of the deepest in recent memory, and many lottery picks have the potential to put up strong numbers in their rookie seasons.
Kentucky's Anthony Davis and Michael-Kidd Gilchrist are the ones getting the lion's share of the publicity, but others such as Thomas Robinson, Bradley Beal and Tyler Zeller will also make their respective teams very happy come draft day.
Several factors will ultimately determine the types of numbers these players will put up in 2012-13 (including coaching staffs, playing time and teammates), but here are some projections for 10 top rookies next season.
Kentucky's Anthony Davis dominated the national championship game earlier this month, despite the fact that he only scored one basket. No one in college basketball disrupted opposing offenses this season more than Davis, who also boasts a solid offensive game that is often overlooked.
Barring a complete lapse in judgment by a team's entire front office, Davis will be the No. 1 pick in this summer's NBA draft.
There's little Davis can't do on the court—the only caveat is whether or not he'll be as effective once he adds another 20 pounds or so to his frame. If he is, 29 NBA head coaches will spend many sleepless nights over the next decade trying to figure out just how to neutralize Davis on both ends of the court.
From a physical standpoint, Thomas Robinson is more than ready to handle the rigors of the NBA. The 6'10", 237-pound power forward dominated the college basketball world this season, and his 18-point, 17-rebound performance in the national championship game was almost enough to lead Kansas to the title.
It will take a while before Robinson puts up numbers in the pros that are similar to the ones he posted during his junior season with the Jayhawks (17.7 PPG, 11.9 RPG), but in the right situation, he should be a very productive frontcourt option almost instantly.
Robinson was second in the NCAA in rebounds per 40 minutes last season, and his tenacity on the boards will lead to more than a few double-doubles during his rookie campaign.
Despite all of the accolades that Anthony Davis received this year, one of his teammates might be an even better pro prospect.
Very few rookies will work harder than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, whose "jack-of-all-trades" skill set helped lead Kentucky to the national title earlier this month. While his birth certificate says that he's only 18 years old, his athleticism and wingspan will help him fill the stat sheet as soon as he hits the league.
Like most players his age, he'll have to work on his mid-range game as he makes his transition into the NBA. That said, the 6'7", 232-pound small forward will be near the top of virtually every team's draft board come June 28.
This much we know: When Harrison Barnes has to create his own shot, he's less effective than he is in catch-and-shoot situations.
Other than that, opinions are varied on how well Barnes's game will translate to the NBA. The Association is devoid of shooters, so Barnes will always have a home somewhere. But on a team where he's required to be a No. 1 or No. 2 option (and therefore forced to create his own scoring opportunities), the 6'8" Barnes will struggle in the early going.
On a team with a very good point guard, Barnes could average 14-15 points per game as a rookie. But since it's unlikely that he'll be paired with an elite-level playmaker, 10-11 PPG is a more realistic estimate.
Duke's Austin Rivers may have been the more highly-regarded shooting guard coming out of high school, but fellow freshman Bradley Beal quietly put together a more impressive season down in Florida.
Beal will turn 19 years old on draft day, but the team that selects him will be the ones getting the gift. The 6'4" Beal is a good shooter and a strong defender who should be able to start in the NBA sooner rather than later.
His best skill, however, may be his work on the glass: Beal was one of the best rebounding guards in all of college basketball last season, and his athleticism should help make up for his slightly undersized frame.
Consistency is the only thing missing from Beal's game, but his potential is such that it's highly unlikely that the Florida guard will fall any farther than the No. 7 pick this June.
Andre Drummond won't be a high draft pick strictly based on the numbers he put up at UConn this season (10.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG)—his potential is what sets him apart from every other big man in this draft class whose name isn't Anthony Davis.
At this stage in his career, Drummond's skill set and body type are reminiscent of Derrick Favors, the Utah Jazz forward who was originally drafted with the No. 3 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets.
But Drummond is far less developed than Favors was when he left Georgia Tech—the Huskies center will need a few years (and a solid big man coach) before he makes an indelible mark on the league.
It's important to note that Drummond is only 18 years old—four years from now, he should be a markedly different player than the one who'll be drafted this June.
Jared Sullinger is one of those rare players whose decision to stay in college for an additional year actually hurt his draft stock. A consensus top-five pick a season ago, Sullinger will be fortunate to land in the top 10 in this June's NBA draft.
Despite dropping about 15 pounds before his sophomore season, Sullinger failed to show NBA scouts the athleticism they expected to see out of the 6'9", 265-pound power forward. As such, Sullinger is often likened to Chicago Bulls star Carlos Boozer: a below-the-rim bruiser who won't appear on any highlight reels anytime soon.
The NBA draft values potential more than anything, and many talent evaluators feel that Sullinger has already maxed out his abilities at only 20 years of age. But even if the Ohio State power forward is already close to his ceiling, he'll still be a very effective NBA player for the next decade or so.
Tyler Zeller may not produce many jaw-dropping plays, but he's a legitimate center prospect who should find his name called in the lottery on June 28.
The Tar Heels center averaged 16.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game this season and nearly led North Carolina to the Final Four even after the team lost Kendall Marshall to an injury.
Zeller's lack of strength is going to be a problem (at least initially) on the next level, but he's a very athletic big who has good hands and a decent low-post game.
While players who stay in college all four years are usually picked apart by the time they graduate, Zeller remains a very intriguing prospect who will be a solid rotation player in the NBA for the foreseeable future.
The buzz surrounding Jeremy Lamb began during his freshman season when he helped lead the Connecticut Huskies to a national championship.
It was thought that after Kemba Walker took his talents to the pros last summer, Lamb would take his game to the next level, but it didn't quite turn out that way.
Lamb didn't do much to hurt his draft stock this year, but he didn't define himself as a top-three prospect, either. His shot selection can be called into question: For some reason, Lamb shoots an inordinate amount of three-pointers (6.2 attempts per game), even though he converted nearly 60 percent of his two-point field goal attempts this season.
His preference for the perimeter may be due to the fact that he lacks the bulk to absorb contact at the rim—expect most of his points during his rookie season to come outside of the paint. Regardless, he'll still need to add 20 pounds to his 6'5", 180-pound frame in order to be effective at the 2-guard position in the NBA.
There may be five more athletic players in the college game than Perry Jones, but even that number might be a bit too high.
The 6'11" Jones runs the floor like a gazelle and is far more fluid than any other player his size.
But with those gifts come a curse: Jones' athleticism means than many aspects of the game come easy to him, leading many to wonder if he has the work ethic needed to thrive in the NBA.
Jones didn't dominate during his two seasons with the Bears, but in his defense, he was part of a loaded Baylor team that boasted no fewer than three potential first-round picks. It's highly unlikely that Jones won't have an immediate impact in the league thanks to his speed and agility, but whether or not he'll have a lasting impact is another question entirely.