The 2012 NBA draft is under two months away, and it is a draft widely considered deep with talent.
Yet while it’s going to be a deep draft, there are really only a few elite prospects on the board to be found. Those elite guys are the ones who will come into the NBA and make an immediate impact during their rookie seasons.
In my latest mock draft, I highlight those elite guys who will make a big impact as rookies.
The Charlotte Bobcats are on the clock.
1. Charlotte Bobcats: Anthony Davis, Kentucky
The Bobcats need impact in the worst way after a season in which they lost 23 consecutive games to close the season and set an all-time record for worst winning percentage in a season.
Davis is the top player on the board and has that rare ability to impact the game without ever touching the ball. That’s not saying he won’t impact the game offensively, though.
The Kentucky product can finish effectively around the rim and has a very soft touch, shooting 63 percent from the floor as a freshman.
But his real impact as a rookie will be rebounding and blocking shots. Davis has insane length and led the nation in blocks at 4.7 per game. Just his presence will change the way teams attack the Bobcats, as Davis will alter almost every shot attempt in the paint.
2. Washington Wizards: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky
The Wizards need a leader to go along with point guard John Wall, and Kidd-Gilchrist has natural leadership skills.
He’s a high-character guy with a tremendous work ethic and a motor that never quits running. He could be the best pure athlete in the draft and will be a great running mate for Wall. Kidd-Gilchrist can defend multiple positions and could make a living attacking the basket.
Finishing around the rim and his mid-range game are strengths right now, shooting 49 percent from the floor, and he’s also a very good rebounder, grabbing 7.6 boards per game on the season. The Wizards have some wing players, but it will be too hard to pass on Kidd-Gilchrist’s talents.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Bradley Beal, Florida
Cleveland could elect for size here, but the most pressing need is to get more athletic and add some backcourt scoring in the process.
Beal could turn into the best pure scorer in the draft after a season in which he averaged 14.8 PPG for the Gators. He can shoot the ball off the dribble, off screens or spotting up. More importantly, he has range on that jumper, knocking down 34 percent of his attempts from behind the arc.
He also is a tremendous rebounding guard, averaging 6.7 boards per game. Paired next to Kyrie Irving, the Cavs will have a great young backcourt for years to come.
4. New Orleans Hornets: Thomas Robinson, Kansas
Robinson is only 6’9”, but is NBA-ready and will produce for the Hornets, who can fill a need with a productive big man.
He’s very strong and is a great rebounder who attacks the glass, averaging 11.8 RPG on the season. Robinson also is a high-character guy and a leader, as he led a Kansas team average on talent to the title game this past season.
The impressive part about Robinson’s game is how far his offensive game has developed in a short time. Just over a year ago, he was looked as a guy who was purely a high riser and just a dunker. Now he’s more than comfortable facing up and also has the strength to play with his back to the basket.
Robinson averaged 17.9 PPG on the season and recorded 27 double-doubles. He’s a guy that can step in and have an impact immediately.
5. Sacramento Kings: Andre Drummond, Connecticut
Drummond has the size and the talent necessary to be an NBA star, but it may take some time for his game to come along at the NBA level.
He’s got a good feel for the game, but didn’t produce very well as a freshman. Within time, though, he could be a solid compliment to DeMarcus Cousins and give the Kings a potentially dominant frontcourt.
6. Portland Trail Blazers (via New Jersey Nets): Damian Lillard, Weber State
Portland could go big here, but with the top big men off the board already, they can fill that need later on in the first round.
Instead, they can target the best guard on the board and take Lillard, who’s a high-volume scorer that averaged 24.5 PPPG on the season.
7. Golden State Warriors: Harrison Barnes, North Carolina
If the lottery is kind to the Warriors, they get to keep this pick as long as it falls in the top seven. If they do, they get the productive small forward they need in Barnes.
Barnes has the talent to become a legitimate No. 1 scoring option in the NBA after averaging 17.7 PPG on the season for the Tar Heels.
He can extend his game beyond the arc, shooting 36 percent from downtown on the season, but has a potentially devastating mid-range game. Concerns over his NCAA Tournament, in which Barnes shot only 33 percent from the floor, won’t prevent Golden State from taking him here, as Barnes played most of March with a badly sprained ankle.
8. Toronto Raptors: Perry Jones III, Baylor
The Raptors probably hope Barnes would have fallen to them, as they also need production from the wing, but rolling the dice on Jones is the next best thing.
He can also play the 4, which gives him some versatility, and if he ever lives up to his talents, Jones will be a multiple time All-Star. He’s the wild card in the draft, as Jones never really dominated at Baylor, averaging 13.5 PPG and 7.9 RPG, while his skill set suggests he is capable of so much more.
9. Detroit Pistons: Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State
I’m back and forth between Moultrie and North Carolina’s John Henson for the Pistons here, as Detroit really needs an athletic big to pair with Greg Monroe.
Both are tremendous athletes and great rebounders, and while Henson offers up more of a presence defensively with his shot-blocking abilities, I like the potential scoring that Moultrie can offer up just a little bit more.
He can play the 4 or the 5 and averaged 16.4 PPG with the ability to score from both the inside (.549 field goal percentage) or outside (.444 three-point percentage).
10. New Orleans Hornets (via Minnesota Timberwolves): Kendall Marshall, North Carolina
It could be a huge win for the rebuilding Hornets to nab both Robinson and Marshall in the same draft, as New Orleans also fills the need of their point guard of the future.
Marshall’s the best pure point guard in the draft. He has tremendous court vision and decision-making skills, averaging 9.8 PPG and 3.48 assist-to-turnover ratio on the season.
He has some work to do in other areas of his game, but Marshall is a guy who makes everyone around him better, and you can’t teach that trait.
11. Portland Trail Blazers: Tyler Zeller, North Carolina
Portland gets their big guy here. Zeller won’t be an All-Star, but he’s a legitimate center prospect and will be productive.
Zeller’s very good fundamentally and is a good athlete and excellent leaper. He may not average the 16.3 PPG and 9.6 RPG he did during his senior season at North Carolina, but he can finish around the rim (.555) and will do some good things in the NBA.
12. Milwaukee Bucks: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
Sullinger has a very solid post game and is coming off a season in which he averaged 17.6 PPG and 9.6 RPG while leading the Buckeyes to the Final Four.
He may not average that off the bat for the Bucks, as Sullinger will be playing against bigger and more athletic defenders, but he will find a way to be productive.
13. Phoenix Suns: Austin Rivers, Duke
If Steve Nash leaves Phoenix via free agency, they need a bit of everything, including star power.
Rivers isn’t the highest ranked 2-guard on the board, but he’s a natural scorer (15.5 PPG) and has the chance to become an NBA star before long.
14. Houston Rockets: Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut
I like Lamb’s all-around game much more than that of Rivers, and that’s good for Houston, who needs some backcourt depth.
He can become a No. 1 scoring option within time after averaging 17.7 PPG on the season and has a devastating mid-range game to go along with range on his jumper, shooting 34 percent from behind the arc.
Lamb could turn into the eventual replacement for Kevin Martin, who is signed only through next season.
15. Philadelphia 76ers: Terrence Ross, Washington
The Sixers can add depth to their frontcourt, but they also need a legitimate 2-guard who can shoot the perimeter shot.
Ross is a good fit here for Philadelphia. He’s got size at 6’6”, range on his jumper (37 percent from beyond the arc) and just an all-around smooth game.
16. Houston Rockets (via New York Knicks): John Henson, North Carolina
Henson can come in and contribute for the Rockets right away and fill the need for a productive big body.
His offensive game is raw, but he’s an explosive athlete who can come in and rebound and block shots, averaging 10.1 RPG and 2.9 BPG on the season.
17. Dallas Mavericks: Terrence Jones, Kentucky
Jones shot 50 percent from the floor on the season and gives Dallas a guy that can score at all three levels.
He also helps Dallas get younger and more athletic in the process.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Utah Jazz): Dion Waiters, Syracuse
Memphis needs a shooter here or depth in their frontcourt, but with the top ones off the board, already taking the talented Waiters makes a lot of sense.
He shot 36 percent from behind the arc on the season, so he’s not a terrible shooter, but his strength are speed and getting into the paint. He’s going to be a good NBA combo-guard and adds depth to the Timberwolves backcourt.
19. Orlando Magic: Meyers Leonard, Illinois
Orlando might as well look for some Dwight Howard insurance, as who knows how much longer Howard will be in a Magic uniform.
Leonard won’t be great right away, but has a lot of skill and could turn into a productive big man within time.
20. Denver Nuggets: Quincy Miller, Baylor
Denver doesn’t have a pressing need at the moment, so they can afford to take a chance on Miller and wait for him.
Miller’s a tremendous athlete who has tremendous scoring ability once he’s able to put everything together.
21. Boston Celtics: Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure
Boston needs young big bodies for the future, and Nicholson could turn out to become one of the steals of this draft before long.
He’s a quiet but productive player who not only averaged 18.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG and 2.0 BPG, but did so shooting 57 percent from the floor and 43 percent from behind the arc. This guy is a player.
22. Boston Celtics (via Los Angeles Clippers): Royce White, Iowa State
Boston stays big here and adds a potentially productive small forward in White, who, down the road, could become the eventual replacement for Paul Pierce.
White is a productive scorer and rebounder, but also has the vision and playmaking ability of a guard, averaging 5.1 assists on the season, leading the Iowa State team.
23. Atlanta Hawks: Doron Lamb, Kentucky
The Hawks can add a potentially productive 2-guard in Lamb so they don’t have to start the likes of a Kirk Hinrich there anymore.
Lamb is a lethal shooter who knocked down 47 percent of his three-point attempts while averaging 13.9 PPG on the season.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Los Angeles Lakers): Moe Harkless, St. John's
Harkless has tremendous upside and has the ability to turn into a legitimate NBA scorer and shutdown defender on the perimeter.
The Cavs haven’t had a productive small forward since you-know-who and need a guy with a bright future like Harkless.
25. Memphis Grizzlies: Tony Wroten, Washington
Memphis has the fortune of being able to look towards the future with Wroten.
He’s got the talent to become possibly the best point guard in the draft, but has a ton of developing to do. While he has turnover issues (3.8 per game) and needs to develop a perimeter shot (16 percent), you can’t ignore his overall talents.
26. Indiana Pacers: Marquis Teague, Kentucky
Indiana can look best available here, and taking a point guard of the future isn’t necessarily a bad thing even though they have the rights to both Darren Collison and George Hill (RFA).
Teague is explosive and evolving as a player. He may need to develop some still, but he has a world of upside.
27. Miami Heat: Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt
Miami could use a big body here with a chance to be productive, and Ezeli could be a solid fit.
His offensive game is raw, but he’s got talent, averaging 10.0 PPG while shooting 60 percent from the floor. He also averaged 2.0 BPG, so Miami should feel comfortable with Ezeli at both ends of the floor.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jeff Taylor, Vanderbilt
Taylor is an outstanding athlete with the chance to be a very good perimeter defender.
He’s got scoring ability and added a perimeter shot (.423 from behind the arc) and will be a nice bench piece for the talented Thunder.
29. Chicago Bulls: John Jenkins, Vanderbilt
The Bulls need a second scoring option to go along side Derrick Rose and adding the best shooter in college basketball makes sense.
Jenkins has a quick release and unlimited range, shooting 44 percent from behind the arc and could turn into the eventual replacement for Richard Hamilton.
30. Golden State Warriors (via San Antonio Spurs): Fab Melo, Syracuse
If they keep their lottery pick and fill their need for a small forward, they can add frontcourt depth here with Melo.
He’s a project and is very raw offensively, but he’s a big body that can rebound and block shots (2.9 BPG), and down the road, could become a productive center.