NBA Draft 2012: 10 Late-Bloomers for Teams to Steal

Joe FitzhenryCorrespondent IIMay 27, 2012

NBA Draft 2012: 10 Late-Bloomers for Teams to Steal

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    Despite the fact that a large number of the top prospects available to teams in the 2012 NBA Draft are underclassmen who were stars in college, not all of the players likely to be drafted on June 28 were fabulous as freshmen. This article will talk about 10 late-bloomers that teams could steal in the second round of the draft. The players featured are guys coming out of college following their junior or senior season.

Tyler Zeller, North Carolina (7'0'', 250 Pounds)

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    At the beginning of the season, the thought of Tyler Zeller as a draft prospect was a total afterthought. Most tended to focus on his younger brother Cody, a rising sophomore at Indiana, as the better pro prospect in the family. However, Tyler managed to play his way into the draft, as his statistics improved during each of his four years in Chapel Hill.

    Last season, the North Carolina product averaged 16 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game for the Tar Heels. He isn't flashy in any sense of the word, but for a team that is searching for a center, Zeller could be that guy.

    An above-average athlete, he also has the ability to create his own shot. The former Tar Heel will likely never be a stud in the league, but he is certainly more than serviceable and worth taking a flier on in the second round. 

Kevin Jones, West Virginia (6'8", 260 Pounds)

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    Essentially a one-man wrecking crew for the Mountaineers in 2011-12, Kevin Jones exhibited the shooting touch and rebounding ability that scouts love. He averaged a double-double last season, with the numbers of 19.9 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. Jones is a very skilled player who has the size to play the 3 or 4 position in the NBA.

    Similar to Zeller, he possesses the ability to create shots on a consistent basis, but is not a great facilitator for others, as he averaged just 1.2 assists per game during his senior season.

    Overall, I believe Kevin Jones is a player who can help a team off the bench as a knock-down shooter or someone not afraid  to crash the boards. 

Jae Crowder, Marquette (6'6", 235 Pounds)

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    The picture in the inset may best describe what scouts and teams love most about Jae Crowder: energy and hustle. The small forward, who has the size to play linebacker, has a constant motor and one of the best work ethics of anybody in this year's draft class. That does not tell the whole story though, as Crowder also averaged 17.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game in 2011-12.

    Statistics and heart aside, the Marquette product remains very raw in the eyes of most scouts. With that being said, Crowder can be of assistance to a contending team that needs a spark plug off the bench, someone who will provide a 110 percent effort every night and a player with the ability to make his presence felt on both ends of the court. 

Scott Machado, Iona (6'1", 180 Pounds)

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    The nation's assists leader in 2011-12 may have been one of the best kept secrets. Scott Machado is a prospect who very few people knew about until just a few short months ago. Playing in a small, mid-major conference, such as the MAAC, makes for very little exposure on national television.

    Nonetheless, Machado is one of the best floor generals in this year's draft class, and could make a team very happy on draft night.

    Incredible court vision is possessed by precious few people, but this senior consistently makes pinpoint passes to teammates. For a team needing a reserve point guard, who can also double as a shooter, Machado could be quite the steal on draft night. 

Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt (6'11", 255 Pounds)

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    The Nigerian-born Ezeli is not someone whose numbers will jump off the page to you. After all, Ezeli averaged just 10.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game in 2011-12. To someone who focuses solely on statistics, the thought of Ezeli being drafted is almost laughable, but the Vanderbilt product makes up for his lack of eye-popping statistics.

    Let's not forget, the guy did play in an offense that also featured John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor. A fierce defender, who mostly needs to work on his offensive skill set, Ezeli could be a player flying under the radar on June 28. He is the perfect fit for a team looking to beef up their frontcourt. 

Yancy Gates, Cincinnati (6'9", 260 Pounds)

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    Like Ezeli, Yancy Gates does not stick out to the naked eye because his impact will not always show up on the stat sheet. Best known for his role in the brawl between Cincinnati and Xavier, Gates is also someone who can be a solid role player for an NBA team. He averaged 12.2 points and 8.9 rebounds in 2011-12 for the Bearcats.

    Gates's best trait is his toughness, which cannot be measured by numbers. Every team wants a guy who is not afraid to step in and stick up for his teammates following a hard foul, cheap shot or anything of the sort.

    Think of a cleaner version of Ron Artest; the true value for this senior may lie in the spunk that he shows on the court.

Darius Miller, Kentucky (6'8", 225 Pounds)

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    Most people paid no attention to Darius Miller, who was on a team full of blue-chip recruits that won the National Championship. Most casual observers wondered why they should care about a senior who was overshadowed by freshmen. From a pure numbers standpoint, that judgement is straight on, since Miller averaged more than 10 points just once in his career for the Wildcats.

    However, similar to Gates, the intangibles and leadership ability may be what gets this ruthlessly efficient player selected on draft night. While credit must be given to Coach Calipari, Miller was effectively the on-court coach for this year's version of Big Blue.

    Handling a team full of players who are used to being the centers of attention is hardly an easy task. Just look at what happened to the 2009-10 Kentucky squad. 

    Although he will be a rookie, Darius Miller can still be a leader for a number of NBA teams, given the maturity level of some players in the league today.

Kris Joseph, Syracuse (6'7", 215 Pounds)

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    Unlike the last few guys on this list, Kris Joseph has been one of the focal points of the Syracuse offense over the past two seasons. Joseph was one of the best slashers in the nation and has a great ability to draw the foul when being hounded by defenders. Averaging 13.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game on one of the deepest teams we'll ever see in college basketball will get you more than a passing glance on draft night.

    He is likely best suited as a secondary scoring option off the bench for a contending team.

    However, one habit that Joseph needs to ditch is his tendency to disappear in big games. His best shooting performance in the NCAA Tournament this year was a 3-8 effort against Ohio St. 

Henry Sims, Georgetown (6'10", 245 Pounds)

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    Henry Sims may actually be the biggest late-bloomer out of everybody on this list. Sims had never averaged more than 3.6 points until this season when he emerged as a formidable inside presence on a solid Georgetown team. In 2011-12, Sims got a chance to display his abilities, posting 11.6 points and six rebounds per game.

    For someone of his stature, Sims is a below-average rebounder, which could ultimately hinder his progress in the NBA, but he remains someone that teams could view as another scoring option in the post.

    The ceiling is not overly high on this Georgetown product, but expect a team to give him a chance to show whether he can put those inside scoring skills to use in the NBA.

Kyle O'Quinn, Norfolk St. (6'10", 240 Pounds)

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    Kyle O'Quinn had his coming out party against Missouri in the second round of this year's NCAA tournament, putting up 26 points and 14 rebounds. The game raised thousands of eyebrows across the country and made O'Quinn one of the more intriguing prospects in this year's draft.

    Certainly undersized for a center and likely destined to play the 4 position in the NBA, O'Quinn showed off his interior scoring and rebounding ability for the whole country to see.

    Similar to the role that Sims may play in the league, O'Quinn is a guy who will serve as a secondary scoring option off the bench for a contending team.