An astute selection can reverse the fortunes of a struggling franchise or set a ballclub back for years. But evaluating talent in any given draft is tricky.
Executives have various degrees of information and game film to judge how a player's attributes will translate from college to the pros and there is not concrete formula to assure a successful selection. A great set of pre-draft workouts and a solid combine performance can have a significant effect on a players draft stock. Conversely, a bad workout can be damaging and could cost a prospect millions of dollars.
Some players have more to gain or lose in the weeks leading up to the 2012 NBA draft. Here are some of the players with the most on the line.
Current NBA Comparison: Mickael Pietrus
Somewhat of a sleeper, the super-athletic swingman out of Vanderbilt could make a huge leap with a quality showing at the NBA combine. And no one expects Taylor to disappoint physically.
He is a long, defensive-minded wingman who has developed nicely throughout his four seasons in the SEC.
What could boost his stock, however, is his ability to knock down shots from deep. Always an obvious weakness in his game, Taylor shot an impressive 42 percent this season with Vandy and impressed scouts at a recent workout in California with his improved stroke (via ESPN).
Taylor showed steady improvement throughout his college career and his experience should serve him well early on in his NBA career. He is not an “upside” guy, but could be a steal if he goes in the mid-20s as currently projected. With another quality shooting display, along with improved ball-handling and a great interview, Taylor could jump up to the late-teens.
Look for Dallas and Brooklyn to take a long look at 18 and 19, respectively.
Position: Power Forward
Current NBA Comparison: Al Horford
Thomas Robinson had a monster season in Lawrence this past season, guiding his Kansas Jayhawks to the NCAA title game before losing to Kentucky.
Solidly built and incredibly athletic, Robinson possesses perhaps the most easily transferable skill from college to the pros—the ability to rebound the basketball. He also has shown rugged defensive abilities and a consistent mid-range shooter. In addition, many see him as a leader with great intangibles on the next level.
The only real question mark with Robinson is his true height and that could cost him at the combine.
Robinson has been listed anywhere between 6’7” and 6’10”. Regardless of his measurement, Robinson had some difficulty when faced with lengthy defenders.
At 6’10”, teams could see him as Amar'e Stoudemire-like, while a 6’7” measurement could lead teams to believe he is more of a Paul Millsap clone.
With a great measurement, Robinson could go as high as No. 2 but does not figure to fall past fifth depending on the draft lottery results.
Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard
Current NBA Comparison: Rodney Stuckey
Wroten is one of the more interesting players in this draft.
Physically, he is everything you could ask for in a point guard. Tony is a quality athlete with great size and excellent strength. He also has great vision to go along with that height, giving him the ability to make truly spectacular plays.
With those positives, however, come many questions.
His decision-making is shaky at the lead guard position and his jumper in non-existent. He is also a horrific free-throw shooter, which is frightening for a point guard on any level.
The key is what teams view Wroten as in the NBA. Much like Stuckey, many teams would love to have that level of physicality running their ballclub but his warts may lead to a position change, greatly decreasing his stock.
He will benefit from a weak point guard class, but could really improve his draft stock with a few quality shooting performances and solid decision-making leading up to the draft.
The Orlando Magic could show interest as high as 19th, as they figure to lose Jameer Nelson in free agency after next season. Denver could also take a long look at 20, as could Memphis behind them at 25.
If those teams pass, Wroten could slip all the way to the bottom of the first round and possibly into the second.
Current NBA Comparison: Kendrick Perkins
Ezeli got off to a tough start this season, serving a suspension as well as dealing with a knee injury that sidelined him for six weeks. The 6’11” Nigerian was impressive when in action, however, flashing the gifts that put him on the draft radar in 2010.
Long arms and great quickness made Ezeli one of the best pure shot-blockers in the country.
While Syracuse center Fab Melo gets more notoriety, Ezeli’s shot-blocking rate is comparable without the inherent benefit of playing in the Orange's vaunted matchup zone defense. Additionally, Festus has quicker feet, is better on the offensive boards and has a marginally better offensive post game.
Festus was really hurt by his early season struggles, but he could really help himself with a quality showing in the workouts leading up to June’s draft.
Current NBA Comparison: Paul George
Easily the most polarizing talent in the draft, Perry Jones has the ability to help himself more than any player in this draft.
As far as ability and natural talent is concerned, Jones is off the charts. He is a smooth athlete who can run the floor like a guard, take bigger players off the bounce and shoot over smaller players with ease.
The mechanics on his jumper leads many to believe his shot will improve at the next level and his length, agility and leaping ability should enable him to be an adequate defender in the NBA.
Of course, Jones’ fortunes have never been a question of ability. It has been a question of motivation.
Jones has always put up great numbers, but has never seemed to take the proverbial “bull by the horns” and consistently dominate. Many point to Baylor’s inability to use him on the perimeter, which seems to be where he is more comfortable playing.
However, his lack of consistent aggressiveness cannot simply be explained away by a position switch.
Plain and simple, Jones needs to show he WANTS to be successful. Scouts will no doubt be seduced by his “measurables," but his level of effort will persuade executives that they are drafting the next Tracy McGrady as opposed to the next Charlie Villanueva.
Ping-pong balls will go a long way in determining where Jones goes, of course. With a strong showing at the small forward position, however, do not be surprised if he goes in the top five to the Cavaliers or Raptors, since both teams are looking to hit a home run in June.