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NBA Draft 2012: 10 Players Who Will Have the Most Impact as Rookies

Will OsgoodAnalyst IMay 7, 2012

NBA Draft 2012: 10 Players Who Will Have the Most Impact as Rookies

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    The 2012 NBA draft is considered by many experts to be a pretty strong draft class. With any strong draft class, it is expected to produce a number of productive players.

    And many of those expected productive guys are players who have not even left their teenage years. But there are at least 10 who will make a positive impact on the court in the NBA in 2012-13. 

    Here they are:

Florida Guard Bradley Beal

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    Rare is the young guard in college basketball who doesn't play for John Calipari but comes in and largely dominates his competition in his inaugural college campaign. In 2012, Bradley Beal dominated. 

    With great size, scoring ability and intelligence, Beal possesses most of the essential traits to become an above-average NBA player. 

    Most of the players Billy Donovan has sent to the NBA have been frontcourt players. And most of them have had much success. Beal promises to become the most successful guard out of Florida in the Donovan era. 

    And he has a chance to excel early on because of his makeup and pedigree. 

North Carolina Guard Kendall Marshall

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    When you watch Kendall Marshall play, the first thing that stands out is his amazing court vision. He sees things happen two to three seconds before they develop. Most players are lucky if they can see things happen while they are happening. 

    That amazing court vision allows Marshall to pass like he's Drew Brees. He can fit the ball into tight spots and can put the ball in the shooting pocket and/or the perfect location on the break. 

    As is true with all the point guards who have come out of Carolina since Roy Williams has coached there, Marshall will have the most success at the pro level in an up-tempo system. That said, he is the most ready to play in the halfcourt in the screen-and-roll game and with penetration.  

    He is an impact leader who will make his team better. But even more to the point, his halfcourt presence will instantly improve his team's halfcourt offense. For that reason, he'd be a great fit for a team such as New Orleans, who struggles in the halfcourt offensively. 

Duke Guard Austin Rivers

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    Austin Rivers, it is well documented, is the son of a coach. His father, Doc, just led his Boston Celtics to a 3-1 series lead over the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the NBA's Eastern Conference Playoffs. Some have speculated that the father/son Rivers duo could become an NBA thing next season. 

    Like his father, Austin has that "It" factor every scout looks for in a player. He's got that cockiness that he believes he cannot be stopped. It doesn't matter what has happened previously in the game, Austin always believes he can get the job done. 

    He wants ball in pressure situations. Whether you hearken back to his buzzer-beater three at North Carolina or his insistence on taking the game-deciding shot against Florida State in the ACC Tournament, Rivers does not shy away from the last shot, no matter the situation. 

    Guys like that generally are the type who can make their way as a rookie in the league simply based on their confidence. 

North Carolina Center Tyler Zeller

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    Tyler Zeller was a four-year player at North Carolina. That factor lends itself to great experience in Zeller's favor. He of course followed Wooden Award winner Tyler Hansbrough, who became a first-round draft pick of the Indiana Pacers and is now a key contributor on that surprising squad. 

    Zeller is more NBA-ready than Hansbrough was at this point in their NBA journey. Zeller can hit from 20 feet routinely. He runs the floor as well as Hansbrough. Like his predecessor, he is tough and physical. But his game is much more refined than the man he took over for under Roy Williams. 

    Zeller has wonderful interior post moves and a natural ability to finish around the rim. His moves around the rim are smooth and natural. And unlike Hansbrough, Zeller doesn't rely on throwing the ball up and hoping to get fouled. Zeller instead expects to put the ball in the basket whether he is fouled or not. 

    Those factors, and several others, make Zeller a prominent draft prospect. 

North Carolina Forward John Henson

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    Most people who watched any college basketball know John Henson was a great college shot blocker. With tremendous length and athleticism, that trait came to him quite naturally, though the timing and instincts were practiced and perfected throughout his career. 

    But his length also aided Henson in making him an above-average rebounder and a player Carolina could count on down low. 

    Though Henson began his college career as little more than the electric shot blocker and strong post presence, the reason he has a chance to be a dynamic NBA player is his improving offensive skills and post game.  

    If he continues his natural improvement with NBA coaching, his play as a rookie will almost assuredly aide his team and excite the city he plays in. 

St. Bonaventure Forward/Center Andrew Nicholson

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    Andrew Nicholson had great college production in his four years at St. Bonaventure. As a senior, he led his team to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since God knows when. 

    His production came as a rebounder, shot blocker and interior post player. In each of those areas, Nicholson was beyond dominant. Even in the NCAA tournament, Nicholson showed off these traits against the ACC's third-best team in the regular season, Florida State. 

    Nicholson can hit from 20 feet, making him the ideal power forward candidate. He can play that position in the NBA because he is at least 6'9" with girth and strength.

    While he doesn't have the experience against quality competition that may be desirable, that hasn't hurt NBA rookie big men from more obscure schools such as Kenneth Faried and Paul Millsap in the past few years. 

West Virginia Forward Kevin Jones

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    West Virginia small forward Kevin Jones has wing skills combined with a post game. At 6'7" (being cautious), Jones can post up smaller players in mismatches, or step out and shoot against bigger defenders. 

    As a very productive college player, Jones will come into the NBA brimming with confidence. And with lots of playing time on a bad team, he will be able to produce statistics right away while the team is still learning how to play and win as a team. 

    Some mock drafts have Jones going to Charlotte with the first pick in the second round, which would fit into the assumptions we have put in place already. His ability to perform as such depends on where he ends up. He must end up on a bad team to get stats early. And I'm assuming that he will. 

Michigan State Forward Draymond Green

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    Draymond Green is another guy who will benefit from lots of minutes on a bad team. That isn't to say he couldn't contribute on a playoff contender in 2012-13. It is only to say that playing on a bad team will give him more time to shine brightly right away. 

    Though undersized, Green combines power and grit to create space in the paint. Think of DeJuan Blair or Glen Davis, except Green is a more diverse player. He can already step and shoot from 20 feet. And he can dribble in traffic and get to the basket. 

    He can also dribble and penetrate or pass out of double teams, making him a tweener power forward/point forward. There's little doubt though, that with his ability to score, pass and rebound, Green will find a home somewhere in the league. 

New Mexico Forward Drew Gordon

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    Though slightly undersized, Drew Gordon is a good interior player with power, quickness and excellent footwork. This combination allowed him to excel in different settings throughout his college career. At UCLA, he was able to use his quickness to get around bigger guys, even around the rim. 

    At New Mexico, he was able to use his power and girth to overpower the smaller post players he was going against on a fairly regular basis. 

    At any level and against any competition, Gordon proved to be a good rebounder and scorer. He has the ability to hit the offensive glass with great intensity. And he has the ability to step out and hit a mid-range jumper to add diversity to his offensive game. 

    All that said, Gordon is as fine a prospect as the Mountain West Conference has had in quite some time. 

Gonzaga Forward Robert Sacre

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    Robert Sacre was the West Coast Conference's Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 in part because he could stay with smaller guards in the open floor, despite his 6'11", 260 lbs. frame. 

    That ability will come in handy in the NBA, where he will often be called out in screen-and-roll situations. If he has to switch onto a point guard and can keep that player from getting around him, it will obviously improve the team's overall defense. 

    It may even keep the opposing offense from running the screen-and-roll as often as it would like to. 

    And believe me, if a rookie is able to contribute to that degree on defense, he will get run one way or another, even if he contributes little else. 

Bonus: Kentucky Forward/Center Anthony Davis

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    Few players have the natural gifts of Anthony Davis. Whether it be the length which allows him to block shots and get an unusual number of tip-in baskets, his point-guard background which gives him unusual vision and passing ability for a big man, or his highly developed shot-making ability, Anthony Davis is not only the most talented player in this draft, but also the most NBA-ready. 

    Whether it's Charlotte, Washington, New Orleans, Sacramento or another lucky lottery team who acquires his services, that team will be ecstatic about the potential and immediate production of their franchise player. 

    You didn't think I'd leave a player of Davis' caliber off this list did you? Well I almost did, not because I didn't think he deserved to be on here, but because he almost seemed too obvious to bother listing.

    But I realized in advance that just wasn't a good idea. So there you go, you actually got 11 players most likely to produce immediately in the NBA. 

     

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