NBA Draft Lottery 2012: 10 Prospects with the Highest Bust Potential

Grant Rindner@grantrindnerContributor IIIMay 30, 2012

NBA Draft Lottery 2012: 10 Prospects with the Highest Bust Potential

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    With the NBA draft lottery looming, every team is doing meticulous research, scouring video footage and watching for any apparent red flags as they try to figure out which available player will make the best addition to their ballclub.

    There is nothing worse than drafting a player whom teams feel confident can develop into a superstar or at least a valuable starter, only to watch as they struggle to adjust to the league.

    This draft class in particular seems to have a slew of players who are capable of floundering at the NBA level. Whether they do not possess the physical tools to be dominant, do not have the mindset nor work ethic to succeed or are simply not ready to be professional athletes, these college stars are certainly worth a thorough scouting job before a team makes a serious commitment to them.

    Blowing a first-round draft pick on a bust can set a franchise back for years, and it is a serious possibility for several teams looking to rebuild through the draft.

    Here, I've put together 10 players who have very high bust potential, both because of where they will likely be drafted and problems with their respective game. Though some of them could end up being the faces of the NBA's next generation, they could also end up as nothing more than role-players or benchwarmers when all is said and done.

Austin Rivers

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    Duke's Austin Rivers surprised many fans and analysts across the country by declaring for the NBA draft after just one season of college basketball. Though he had his share of impressive moments last season—particularly his buzzer-beating three-pointer against North Carolina—many believe he could end up as one of the biggest busts in this draft class.

    Rivers' numbers last season were solid, but not spectacular. He averaged 15.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists while primarily playing the shooting guard spot for the Blue Devils. However, he also averaged 2.3 turnovers per game; notching more TOs than assists is rarely a good sign for a guard.

    Rivers has a solid handle, but would sometimes make a flashy play instead of a smart one, which resulted in an unnecessary turnover.

    Defensively, he improved as the season went on, but Rivers still has major strides to make before becoming a solid NBA defender. He needs to add some bulk to his frame to guard NBA shooting guards, especially since he is a bit undersized at 6'4". He is quick enough to guard most point guards, but he has to keep his intensity level high and not just gamble for steals.

    Rivers has the capacity to be a solid defender, but that is contingent upon him working hard on the less glamorous end of the floor. 

    Offensively, he can take his man off the dribble pretty effectively and certainly has range out to the three-point line and beyond. However, Rivers sometimes did not know when to defer to a teammate instead of calling his own number, and while a 36.5 percent three-point clip is solid, it does not put him in the category of an elite shooter, or even that of Duke teammates Andre Dawkins (39.2 percent) and Ryan Kelly (40.8 percent). 

    Rivers needs to improve his ability to run an offense and make the smart play in order to be a success at the NBA level, as it is very unlikely he will be the first option next season. He has the heart and the talent to be a star, but he would have greatly benefited from another season in Durham and the chance to sharpen his teeth further against college opponents.

    Rivers remains a high-risk, high-reward pick heading into the draft. He could wind up as a major disappointment.

Harrison Barnes

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    What a difference a season makes.

    At the end of last year's NCAA tournament, North Carolina's Harrison Barnes was considered a potential first overall draft choice and a franchise-changing player. However, after deciding to return for the 2011-2012 season, significant questions were raised about whether or not Barnes could be a great player in the NBA.

    The main concern about Barnes is his lack of improvement from his freshman to sophomore year. His scoring increased from 15.7 points to 17.1 points per game, and his shooting was slightly more efficient, but many expected a bigger leap from the small forward who was drawing Michael Jordan comparisons a year ago.

    Barnes is still a solid scorer with a very smooth jump shot who could also finish well at the rim, but it seems that's all he is.

    Though Barnes is athletic, he settled too often for fade-aways and contested jumpers instead of taking the ball at the basket. He also is not a great passer, averaging barely more than an assist per game, something he must improve on as professional player. Barnes must be willing to dish the ball to an open teammate and make the extra pass in transition or to the perimeter instead of trying to score it himself.

    Barnes is not necessarily a selfish player or one with a bad attitude, but if he cannot improve on his decision-making, he could wind up being a bust at the next level. Barnes also could not always create his own shot, and he benefited from having a pure point guard in Kendall Marshall who could get him the ball where he wanted it.

    He has been accused of being one-dimensional and not using his length and 6'8" frame to assert himself on the glass. Barnes averaged 5.2 boards per game last season, which is respectable, but his shooting isn't consistent enough to not contribute in other ways on the basketball court.

    Barnes was an average defender in college where his size and 6'11" wingspan could bother his opponents, but he lacks the strength and defensive sensibilities to be a high-level defender in the NBA.

    Although he could very well be a solid scorer at the NBA level, with how high he will likely be drafted and the expectations placed upon him, I believe Barnes has a high chance of being a bust.

Andre Drummond

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    UConn's Andre Drummond is considered to be the most likely bust in this draft, and with good reason. He possesses all the physical talents to succeed at the next level, but his game lacks the finesse and fundamental skills that many dominant big men gain from their time in college.

    Drummond relies very heavily on his sheer strength for scoring and could do so against weaker collegiate competition, but it will be far more difficult against the big men of the NBA.

    Drummond averaged just 10.2 points per game last season and showed he had a limited offensive repertoire beyond muscling inside for dunks or running the floor well. He lacks a go-to move and seemed rather ineffective when playing in the post against a good defender.

    With his size, Drummond does not need to develop a bevy of moves, but the fact that his offensive game is so raw is very troubling. Drummond also shot an anemic 29.5 percent from the free-throw line, meaning a team could simply foul him every time he makes a move toward the basket, as he can barely hit from the charity stripe.

    A big man as physically gifted as Drummond must be aggressive in calling for the ball and putting himself in position to make winning plays, but too often he seemed complacent on offense and not willing to attack his man. He could easily wear down his opponent due to his strength, but did not do so nearly enough as a Husky. 

    Drummond had several horrendous games during the season, including against Iowa State in the NCAA tournament, and at times he just seemed to check out and be completely unengaged from the action on the court. That is not the kind of demeanor you want from a franchise center and should certainly be a red flag for any team looking to select him.

    Even on the glass, Drummond was not always as assertive as he should have been; 7.6 rebounds per game is impressive, but someone of his size should have had more than nine double-doubles all year.

    No player in the draft is a bigger question mark than Andre Drummond, and any team taking him must be willing to work diligently to develop him, because as of right now, he is still a ways away from being a true impact-maker in the NBA.

Marquis Teague

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    Marquis Teague is another player I believe would have benefited tremendously from spending more time in college. Though the Kentucky point guard helped his team to a national title and had a few impressive games in the NCAA tournament, there are still enough issues with his game that teams should be wary when selecting him.

    Teague's decision-making and half-court execution must be improved dramatically before he is ready to log serious minutes as an NBA point guard. His speed and ability to finish at the rim made him a nightmare in transition, but if an opponent was able to slow him down he was significantly less effective.

    Teague was a solid passer in college, but it remains to be seen if he can really run an offense competently and make the right play every time down the court. He did average 4.8 assists per game, but his court vision could still use some improvement.

    In addition, his jump shot needs plenty of work before he can be considered a legitimate perimeter threat. He shot 32.5 percent from three last season, but too often teams were able to sag off him to try and prevent his drive to the rim. He averaged 10 points per game last season, but struggled when defenses did not allow him to penetrate and take the ball to the hole.

    Teague is not the passer fellow Kentucky point guard Rajon Rondo was, meaning he must be able to make defenses pay more consistently for playing off of him.

    He was not able to read a defense quite as naturally as some other point guards and often would make the wrong call about whether to dish the ball or call his own number on offense. This can obviously improve with more playing time, but he could've gotten that in Lexington while also improving the rest of his offensive game.

    Defensively, Teague was impressive, using his lateral quickness and speed to stay in front of his man. This is an attribute of his game that should carry over well, but there are still many issues surrounding the 19-year-old's adjustment to the NBA.

    A team that can stash him and work with him over a few seasons would be wise to grab him, but a team expecting a franchise point guard is in for a major disappointment.

Fab Melo

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    Syracuse center Fab Melo made major strides last season, as he became the anchor of the Orange's zone defense, but he still is a long way from being a dominant NBA player and lacks a lot of the skills necessary to make an impact from the 5 spot.

    Melo's overall raw game is only one concern, as he also has some serious question marks surrounding his commitment to the game and his team due to his pair of suspensions from Syracuse due to academic issues.

    Melo had a decent season for the Orange, averaging 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks while playing just 25.4 minutes per game. However, his offensive game is only a step or two above Andre Drummond's in terms of development.

    He does not have much he can do in the post and lacks the ability to hit a 15-foot jump shot with regularity enough to keep a defense honest. His 63.3 percentage clip from the free-throw line was passable for a big man, but he barely got there twice a game.

    Despite being 7'0", Melo was not nearly as dominant on the boards as he should have been. As Syracuse's main interior presence, he did not average even six rebounds per game and could be neutralized on the glass by a team with size.

    He was a very skilled shot-blocker, but lacked some fundamental defensive principles and it is unclear if he can succeed playing man-to-man defense at the NBA level. As with a lot of dominant college centers, Melo felt he could challenge every shot and as a result was prone to foul trouble and goaltending.

    Syracuse's zone defense employed was effective, but is not run by a lot of NBA teams and he must improve his individual defense and where to choose his spots. He needs to gain a better understanding of what helps his team before he can be an elite big man in the pros.

    Fab Melo is not the kind of player a team drafts looking to make an immediate impact but instead to play spot minutes and develop down the road. Unfortunately, due to the issues with his personality and academic performance, as well as the obvious deficiencies in his game, Melo must put in serious work or he will likely be another draft bust.

Tony Wroten

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    To many, Tony Wroten embodies everything wrong with the one-and-done system. He showed some serious promise in his one year at Washington but also some serious problems with his game that would benefit greatly from another year in college.

    However, because of his decision to leave school early, a team will be taking a massive risk by picking the 19-year-old point guard.

    Wroten is very skilled at getting to the rim and finishing creatively. He has elite athleticism and can get into the lane as well as any point guard in the class, but his offensive game could still use some significant work.

    His jump shot is very far from where it needs to be for him to spread the floor effectively. Wroten shot just 16.1 percent from three and a dismal 58.3 percent from the foul line. He doesn't need to put up Steve Nash percentages, but if his shooting does not improve dramatically, teams will simply pack the paint and dare him to hit from outside.

    He showed he could be a decent playmaker while with the Huskies, averaging 16 points and 3.7 assists, but he would often try to make the highlight play instead of the better basketball play. Wroten has a flair for the game that's hard to find, but if that does not come with a willingness to make the simple, fundamental passes when they're available, then that becomes detrimental to his team's success.

    Defensively Wroten has the size and length at 6'5" to seriously bother opposing point guards. He is fast enough to bother his opponents and can be a pest when he wants to be, but the problem is he doesn't always put in consistent effort on the defensive end.

    An athlete like Wroten should be a nightmare on defense, but too often he was beaten to the basket by players he should have been able to take.

    Wroten's problems are clear and it is not out of the question that he improves enough to be a very successful NBA player, but as of right now he is not much more than a hyper-athletic guard with good size and a solid handle.

    He needs to develop the other facets of his game, and if he fails to, he will be just another athlete stuck on the end of an NBA bench.

Perry Jones III

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    Much like Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones III drastically hurt his draft stock by returning to college for another year and showing little improvement. Jones was always considered an elite athlete with excellent size, but due to his lack of growth from freshman to sophomore year, it appears that he could be little more than that once he is drafted.

    Although he is a very unique prospect, Jones's overall game is still lacking in several important areas that he must improve upon as soon as possible.

    For a guy of his size, the 6'11" Jones has a fantastic handle and could be seen several times this season running Baylor's offense and taking the ball to the basket. However, his lack of strength and a consistent outside shot hindered his offensive development.

    Jones can be neutralized in the post by a strong defender, of which there are plenty in the NBA, and considering he only converted 30.3 percent of his shots from downtown, his jumper still has a ways to go. He must work to polish his post play and take advantage of his superior length and athletic ability.

    The biggest issue with Jones was his lack of focus. Jones would go long stretches of games without making any kind of impact—something that simply cannot happen at the NBA level. He's as naturally gifted as any draft prospect, but for him to simply drift through games is simply inexcusable.

    His 13.5 points and 7.6 rebounds were solid, but a far cry from what a player with his talent could do.

    His lack of focus was also evident on defense, where a player like Jones should be able to guard both forward spots and even some smaller centers, but too often he showed a lack of fundamental knowledge and discipline that made him more of a liability than an asset at times.

    If he can put it all together, Perry Jones III could become a true multi-tool and a franchise changer at the next level, but that's a big "if." As of right now, there's a great chance he ends up as nothing more than another immensely talented player whose heart just wasn't in it.

Meyers Leonard

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    After a disappointing first season at Illinois, where he barely received minutes, Meyers Leonard stepped up in a major way to become the man in the middle for the Illini. He averaged 13.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks while playing nearly 32 minutes a night, but he could not help Illinois make the NCAA tournament, as the team wilted down the stretch.

    Leonard's declaration for the draft came as a surprise, and it seemed like he was capitalizing on the NBA's need for young big men and his reputation as a true seven-footer with uncommon athleticism. However, Leonard is not yet ready for the league despite his improvement and could have certainly continued to improve had he stayed in college.

    Although he is 7'1" and has shown that he can be a capable defensive center, Leonard needs to add significant bulk and strength before he can be an impact defender in the NBA. He can still be bullied by more physical players and his individual defense could still use some work.

    Leonard was effective on the glass, but still not the kind of banger that he needs to be in order to have success at the next level.

    He runs the floor well and can finish at the rim, but as with many players in this slideshow, his focus and determination are in question. Leonard has yet to develop a few reliable post moves, although he has a decent hook shot. His footwork in the paint could use improving, and though he has a decent shot from the foul line and mid-range, it does not offset his difficulty sometimes at scoring inside.

    Leonard could become a solid NBA big man, but he has much to improve upon before he reaches that level—if he ever does. Another year of college basketball would have benefited him greatly, and if he is forced to play heavy minutes as a rookie that could seriously stunt his development.

    Teams should be hesitant in picking him too high in the lottery and not waiting to develop the young center.

Jared Sullinger

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    Just like with Perry Jones and Harrison Barnes, Ohio State's Jared Sullinger is another player whose draft stock took a hit because he stayed in school. Sullinger was considered a sure-fire top three pick in the 2011 draft, but chose to stay in college and did not make the kind of significant improvements many were expecting from him.

    Though he proved he was still one of the best bangers and interior scorers in the nation, there were a number of holes in his game exposed that have many questioning whether he can succeed at the next level.

    Though Sullinger's scoring improved from 17.2 points per game to 17.5, his field-goal percentage dipped slightly and he just wasn't the same dominant player as he was in his freshman season.

    His post game is still one of the best in the draft class, but his lack of explosiveness and athleticism was evident this season. Several times during the year, his conditioning was questioned, something that is essential for a power forward playing through a grueling NBA schedule.

    Sullinger's inability to utilize quickness against a defender could be a major issue going forward, as it is difficult to see how he will score against a physical seven-footer who can push him out of the box. Sullinger's face-up game improved this season, but if he is going to play some stretch 4, it will have to continue to develop during his time in the league.

    In addition, Sullinger was far from a great shot-blocker. He averaged 1.1 per game last season, but his timing was far from excellent and his lack of leaping ability made it difficult for him to alter shots.

    Though this was passable at the college level, it is often difficult for a big who can't really block shots to make a defensive impact at the NBA level. He can be taken off the dribble by quicker forwards and will need to improve his lateral speed and defensive instincts once he gets to the league.

    He is significantly less effective if he is drawn away from the basket, which must change, as the NBA is becoming a game based on outside shooting and not pounding the ball inside.

    Sullinger could become a very solid role player, but for a team looking for a franchise power forward, he may wind up being a big bust.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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    This may not be a popular belief, but I don't think that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is necessarily going to live up to the hype he has going in to the draft.

    People point to his motor and his defense as signs that he will be a surefire success when he gets to the NBA, but his reliance on transition scoring and lack of a reliable jumper is something to be concerned over.

    At 6'7", Kidd-Gilchrist cannot really play the 4 spot as he did in college and will spend the brunt of his time at the 3. Unlike many of the small forwards in the league, MKG does not have a reliable outside shot to go to keep the defense honest and relies on his slashing ability to score points. He shot just 35.5 percent from three-point range last season and though he is undoubtedly a gritty player, his game is still lacking some serious polish.

    The NBA game is much different than college, not to mention more physical, and Kidd-Gilchrist won't merely be able to bully his way to the rim at will. It was easy for him to score in the open court, but those opportunities won't be as prevalent in the NBA when defenders can stop him and match up physically.

    The game can go much slower or faster than he is used to, which could disrupt the rhythm a player like MKG needs to play well.

    He averaged 11.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, most of which was due to sheer will and athleticism than actual basketball skill. He can assert himself on the glass when necessary, but he is also capable of having a poor game where he has very little impact.

    Kidd-Gilchrist will undoubtedly be a good player at the NBA level, but his lack of skills necessary for playing his position means that there is bust potential for the Kentucky forward. He has the potential to be a bust if asked to do much in his first season, and while he could very well be a starter by the year's end, Kidd-Gilchrist is another player who should have stayed in school for one more season and come out more developed.