The 2012 NBA draft is one of the most talent-heavy drafts in recent memory.
Players who chose to come back to school last season like Jared Sullinger, Terrence Jones and Perry Jones III are all draft-bound this time around.
But while there are clear-cut gems throughout the draft, there are still a number of question marks as well.
Many players have all of the tools—athleticism, strength and sheer talent—to make them lottery picks. But there are still issues that surround their draft stock ranging from immaturity to sub-par performance.
Players with raw talent are always a risk, but it can pay off with high rewards. If the players can harness their talent, an NBA team could change their fortunes with just one draft pick.
But if the issues overcome athletic ability, a draft pick can turn into a bust very quickly.
Here are the rawest talents in the 2012 NBA draft.
The old adage holds true—you can’t teach height. But what you can teach are low post moves, how to defend without fouling and how to pass out of double times.
For many supremely tall big men in their first couple of years in college, such as the Illinois Fighting Illini’s Meyers Leonard, learning those practical skills is not as easy as it seems.
Leonard stands at an imposing seven feet tall, making him one of the tallest players in the draft by far. His height has virtually guaranteed him a high draft selection, but once he gets to the NBA, Leonard’s game will need some work.
He must polish his offensive skills and much of that will be helped by getting stronger. Leonard still struggles to establish position and score against bigger centers.
His jump in scoring from 2.1 points per game as a freshman to 13.6 as a sophomore is a good sign, but for a player of his size, he still disappears far too often.
Leonard’s seven points against a not-very-tall Purdue Boilermakers team and four points against the Michigan State Spartans show that the big man still needs some work.
The good news for NBA scouts is that Leonard is quick and agile for a center and a great defensive player. Learning post moves is something that every young center must go through at one point or another. Leonard is no different.
There may not be a more athletic player in the 2012 NBA draft than Perry Jones III.
But the question that has dogged Jones since he stepped foot on the Baylor Bears’ campus two years ago is whether or not he can convert that ridiculous athleticism into a complete basketball game.
Jones’ freshman season stats of 13.9 points per game, 7.2 rebounds and 0.9 blocks seemed to indicate that he had a bright future. When he decided to return to Baylor for his sophomore season, NBA scouts expected to be wowed by Jones’ development.
Instead, Jones put up virtually the same numbers. He would show flashes of his talent, running the break and finishing with a dunk, blocking shots right and left and blowing by his defender from the perimeter and on the block.
But Jones also tended to disappear from games. He scored just two points in the Bears’ near upset loss to the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. In a loss to the Missouri Tigers, Jones scored just eight points and had four rebounds.
For all the talent Jones has, if he is unable to harness it into consistent, solid play, he will be unable to carve out a space for himself in the NBA.
Scouts are in awe of Jones’ athleticism but are wary of his personality and ego.
Anthony Davis probably has the biggest upside of any of the players included in this list. Perhaps that’s the reason he is pegged to go No. 1 overall in the NBA draft.
Davis grew seven inches during his junior season of high school, catapulting him from a little-known guard into a do-everything 6’10” center.
The one drawback to Davis’ game is that he is clearly still figuring out how to play in the post. When he first started playing for the Kentucky Wildcats, Davis could only score on alley-oops or put-back baskets.
Davis had virtually no post moves to speak of.
But as the season went on, Davis showed flashes of his immense potential. He developed a turnaround half-hook shot, a jump shot and a nice scoop move.
Clearly, Davis still has a way to go. He needs to get stronger in order to hold his position down low and defend bigger players.
The positive, though, is that he has retained many of his skills from playing the guard position for the majority of his basketball career.
Davis is a great passer, can dribble down the floor and has a smooth shot. Greg Popovich won’t be able to use his Hack-a-Shaq technique on Davis.
Yes, Davis still must improve in a lot of areas. But unlike some players on this list, his attitude is not the question mark.
Quincy Miller might be receiving less flak for his decision to declare for the NBA draft if he had done it in a better way. When Miller told Baylor Bears fans that he would return to Waco for his sophomore season, pro scouts nodded in agreement.
But then Miller reversed course and abruptly entered his name in the draft.
After initially choosing to return to college and improve his game, it is harder to get on board with his decision to take his game to the next level.
First and foremost, Miller looked as if he was still feeling some ill effects from the torn ACL he suffered at the end of his high school career. Much of his talent was overshadowed by his continued recovery.
At times, Miller struggled to get his shot when playing with fellow star Perry Jones III. It took almost the entire season for Miller to figure out how to assert himself offensively.
Miller needs to learn how to polish his offensive game and stop relying on his jump shot so often. Also, as many freshmen do, Miller must get stronger.
Miller showed many times last season, such as his 29-point game against the Missouri Tigers or a 20-point, seven-rebound game also against Missouri, that he has all the tools to be a great player.
It still remains to be seen if he can harness them.
Andre Drummond is leaving college virtually as he entered it—as a question mark with sky-high potential.
When Drummond committed to the Connecticut Huskies, many thought he would be the last piece that would push the team back to the national championship-caliber one it was last season.
We all know how that turned out.
UConn ended up on the verge of missing the tournament entirely, and Drummond never quite became the dominant inside presence he was billed to be.
Drummond averaged just 10 points and 7.6 rebounds per game for the Huskies. He and fellow big man Alex Oriakhi struggled to coexist as Drummond did not appear to have the offensive skill-set to assert himself.
For instance, Drummond scored just one point and grabbed one measly rebound against the severely undersized Arkansas Razorbacks.
Despite shooting 29.5 percent from the free throw line (yes, you read that right. Not even 30 percent. Greg Popovich, did you hear that?), Drummond often took jump shots instead of taking the ball inside where he had a size advantage over just about anyone.
Drummond did not even take advantage of his size on the boards, often letting smaller players out-muscle and out-work him for rebounds.
His body is NBA-ready, and if Drummond can figure out how to harness his talent, he will become the player scouts are drooling over.
It is hard to fault Fab Melo for his decision to enter the 2012 NBA draft. After being hounded by eligibility questions for his entire sophomore season, Melo was finally suspended indefinitely by the Syracuse Orange.
Under Jim Boeheim’s tutelage, it is hard to tell how much Melo might have improved in his college career. Boeheim is famous for doing more with less, but at this point we will never know.
Melo averaged just 7.8 points in his sophomore season at Syracuse. His offensive struggles were his biggest problem as Melo was never able to establish an arsenal of post moves to go with his NBA-ready body.
Furthermore, Melo only averaged 5.8 rebounds per game, failing to assert himself on the boards despite often towering over his competition.
His 2.9 blocks per game showcased what Melo can do when his talent shines through. His 11-point, seven-rebound game against the Georgetown Hoyas garnered the interest of NBA scouts.
But when he follows that performance up with an uninspiring eight points and three rebounds, it is hard to anticipate what kind of player Melo will become.
Certainly, one NBA team will be willing to take a flier on a seven-foot center. The only question is whether they will be rewarded for their choice.
Moe Harkless is one of the most well rounded raw talents in the draft. Confused yet?
Harkless’ offensive game is eons ahead of many of the players on this list. He can slash through defenders from the perimeter and get to the basket against almost anyone.
His 8.6 rebounds per game are great for a small forward, and if he can keep that up in the NBA, Harkless will earn himself a spot on any team.
The one knock on his game is Harkless’ shooting ability. He is a very streaky shooter who can rely on his jump shot far too often, especially considering his driving ability.
Harkless also encountered somewhat of a mid-season slump in which he let defenses frustrate him. One more year of college basketball might have helped his consistency and confidence throughout a season.
In an 82-game NBA season, though, Harkless cannot afford to have a similar slump.
One other thing Harkless struggled with was playing hard at all times. Sometimes he loafed on defense.
Granted, he did almost everything for a not-great St. John’s Red Storm. But depending on the NBA team he lands on, Harkless might have a similar task ahead of him.
Harkless is one of the least risky prospects on this list, but there are still certain considerations that NBA teams must think about before calling his name on draft night.