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NBA Draft 2012: Ranking Top Prospects at Every Position

Zach KruseSenior Analyst INovember 1, 2016

NBA Draft 2012: Ranking Top Prospects at Every Position

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    The University of Kentucky has most of the control over the 2012 NBA draft. 

    With two players that top their respective positions—Anthony Davis at power forward and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at the three—and several others scattered through the top of the rankings, the defending National Champions of college basketball will be at the forefront of what takes place during June's draft.

    But despite a class loaded with Wildcats, there is more to this draft that just the University of Kentucky. 

    In the following slides, we will attempt to break down the top five players at each position for the 2012 NBA draft. Kentucky will be prominently featured, but you'll find more substance than just the title holders.

    Bradley Beal of Florida leads an interesting group of shooting guards, and both the point guard and center position have names you should get to know prior to next month's draft. Let's start the show. 

Point Guards

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    1. Damian Lillard, Weber State

    Lillard leads a weak class of point guards in '12.

    While he was a big-time scorer at Weber State, Lillard isn't a point you'll expect to distribute the basketball at a high level. He can hit shots from any range and is fearless getting into the paint. But his offensive game is about getting himself a good shot, not others.

    His scoring will make him the first point off the board. 

    Projection: Top 15 pick


    2. Kendall Marshall, UNC

    Despite lacking the athleticism that scouts like to see at the point, Marshall was arguably the best passer in all of college basketball last season. He sees the floor well and will always look to make the extra pass to get a teammate a better shot.

    Marshall's size (6'4") is also attractive, but the quickness issues will drop him down boards.

    Projection: First-round pick 


    3. Marquis Teague, Kentucky

    Teague might be the most explosive point guard in the class. 

    Few will catch him from baseline-to-baseline, and he was never scared to use his tremendous first step to blow by a defender and push the basketball up floor. 

    Teague's outside shooting abilities will keep him from being picked in the lottery, but the talent and athleticism are all there. 

    Projection: First-round pick

    4. Tony Wroten, Jr., Washington

    If Wroten, Jr. can improve his perimeter game at the NBA level, he has a chance to be the best player in this class of point guards. 

    At 6'5", 210 pounds, Wroten, Jr. is a physically dominating player at the position, and he matches that size advantage with a solid understand of distribution from the point. He isn't afraid to finish at the basket, either. 

    The shooting prowess (44 percent shooter, 16 percent from three, 58 percent at the line) is certainly lacking for Wroten, Jr., however, so expect him to be picked outside the lottery. 

    Projection: First-round pick

    5. Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas

    An explosive athlete with good size at the point (6'3"), Taylor still lacks the ball-handling of a true lead guard. He's also not tall or strong enough to be an effective two, which leaves Taylor somewhat scrambled for a position. 

    However, the basketball IQ is high for Taylor and he can defend anyone at the point. He should find a home in the second round.

    Projection: Second-round pick

Shooting Guards

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    1. Bradley Beal, Florida

    At just 6'5", Beal is a little on the short side for NBA two guards. But when you can shoot it as well as Beal can, there's going to be a spot waiting at the next level. 

    Beal is also a terrific athlete that can handle the ball—which gives him the ability to play some at the point. He's one of the more complete packages in this draft.

    Projection: Top 5

    2. Jeremy Lamb, UConn

    Lamb stands just 6'5" but plays much bigger because of his seven foot wingspan. Despite being so lanky, Lamb displays plus athleticism that will translate well to the next level. 

    However, Lamb needs to add a lot of weight and strength to handle the NBA game, and his three-point shot needs work. There's a good player here that just needs work.

    Projection: Lottery pick

    3. Dion Waiters, Syracuse

    Like Beal, Waiters might have the ability to play some at the point at the next level. But even at the two, Waiters will find success because he's such a confident driver to the rim. And once he's there, he usually finishes. 

    There are still size issues (just 6'4") and he's not a great shooter, but Waiters has an attacking game that will fit in the right NBA system.

    Projection: First-round pick

    4. Austin Rivers, Duke

    I went back and forth on putting Rivers higher, but he's not an explosive athlete and his game may not translate as well to the NBA as many originally figured. 

    Still, Rivers is a confident leader who can make shots from anywhere on the floor. He's certainly not afraid to take those shots late in games either, as evidenced by his buzzer-beating three to knock off UNC during the regular season. 

    Given the ceiling he has, it's hard seeing Rivers escape the top-20 or 25. 

    Projection: First-round pick

    5. Terrance Ross, Washington

    Ross has the size (6'6"), the first step and the jumper to be an effective shooting guard at the next level. 

    He needs to put on some weight and become a better ball-handler and defender, but there's an NBA starter here that just needs some molding. 

    Projection: Late first-round pick

Small Forwards

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    1. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky

    Outside of a consistent outside game, Kidd-Gilchrist has everything you want in a top pick. He's an elite athlete and one of the best defenders in this draft, all while showing a willingness to attack the basket relentlessly. Some called him the LeBron James of the college ranks last year.

    The perimeter shooting needs work, but Kidd-Gilchrist is as solid a player as the NBA will find in this draft.

    Projection: Top 3 pick

    2. Harrison Barnes, UNC

    The term "smooth" is hard to define in basketball words, but Barnes' game embodies that thought. He can score from anywhere on the floor and he usually looks natural doing it. 

    However, Barnes isn't an elite level athlete and his ability to create his own shot has been questioned. He'll still be a top pick, but there are question marks. 

    Projection: Top 12 pick

    3. Royce White, Iowa State

    Most of the basketball attributes are pluses for White, who is big enough to play some at the four spot and skilled enough to also help at the two. But he has suffered from anxiety problems, went through a transfer and is now old compared to the rest of the 2012 class. 

    The basketball skill set won't let him get out of the first round, but the off-court issues have hurt his stock. 

    Projection: First-round pick


    4. Jeff Taylor, Vanderbilt

    Taylor is somewhat older for this class, too, but he has an NBA ready skill package.

    He can defend the position with true athleticism and can score from any point on the floor. His perimeter game in particular has improved immensely over his four years at Vanderbilt. 

    Projection: First-round pick

    5. Moe Harkless, St. Johns

    Long, athletic freaks of nature like Harkless are difficult to find, so there's a chance he could go much higher than expected next month. But for how explosive Harkless is on both ends of the floor, his game needs polish, especially as a shooter. 

    Projection: First-round pick

Power Forwards

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    1. Anthony Davis, Kentucky

    Davis is the consensus No. 1 player in this draft.

    He's long and athletic at 6'10", which makes him an imposing defender at the rim. Davis also works harder than most college players at that end of the floor, so there are few concerns about what kind of impact he can have defensively in the NBA. 

    He still needs work on the offensive end, but there's no more questioning that Davis should be the top pick next month. 

    Projection: No. 1 overall pick

    2. Thomas Robinson, Kansas

    Robinson is one of the draft's best rebounders and defenders despite standing just 6'9". Those traits should translate to the next level well despite the size. 

    The offensive game has exploded over the last 12 or so months, so there's also reason to expect Robinson can become a volume scorer in the NBA. He should be a top 5 pick.

    Projection: Top 5 pick

    3. Perry Jones, Baylor

    For a player that has the kind of skill set Jones possesses, most would expect a dominant college player. He wasn't always that guy at Baylor. 

    However, Jones will enter the NBA as one of the more athletic players at the four, and his transition game would fit a number of high-paced teams at the next level. The ceiling is high for Jones. 

    Projection: Top 12


    4. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State

    Despite being one of the more productive players in the Big Ten recently, Sullinger is a touch undersized for the NBA game and he doesn't have the explosiveness near the rim to make up for the size. 

    However, he as smart as it gets at the four and he's going to be a big-time rebounder at the next level. For those contributions alone, Sullinger is worth a lottery pick.

    Projection: Lottery pick

    5. John Henson, UNC

    I debated putting Kentucky's Terrence Jones here, but Henson may have the higher NBA ceiling. 

    After growing half-a-foot during his senior year of high school, Henson struggled somewhat to adjust to his changing body. But if he puts on weight to his lanky but super athletic frame, Henson can become an NBA starter. 

    Projection: First-round pick


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    1. Andre Drummond, UConn

    Drummond has the look of a starting NBA center. At 6'11", 280 pounds—with a long wingspan and explosive leaping ability—there's no mistaking him in the paint. 

    He'll need to work on being a more complete player on the offensive end, but there's a lot to like on both ends of the floor already. He's also just 18 years old, which bodes well for his long-term development.

    Drummond should be a top pick.  

    Projection: Top 5 pick

    2. Tyler Zeller, UNC

    Zeller fits the model of a big man that can move and play on the perimeter. He knocks down shots with ease, and his game reminds some of a young Pau Gasol. 

    However, Zeller needs to get a lot stronger to bang around in the post with NBA centers. Given how skilled he is overall otherwise, Zeller should hear his name called in the top 15. 

    Projection: Lottery pick

    3. Meyers Leonard, Illinois

    Leonard is far from a complete player offensively, but his skill set might have the highest ceiling of any center outside of Drummond in this class. 

    He can run the floor, defend and rebound with anyone in the class. Whether he finds a calling on the offensive end of the floor will decide how good Leonard can eventually be. 

    Projection: Lottery pick

    4. Fab Melo, Syracuse

    Melo will need a lot of development on the offensive side of the ball as he transitions into the NBA game. In fact, he may never be much of a factor on that end of the floor. 

    However, Melo can defend the rim and is more athletic than most give him credit for. As a center running with the second unit, Melo has promise. 

    Projection: Late first-round, early second-round pick


    5. Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt

    Complete with a strong frame and a 7'4" wingspan, Ezeli has all the physical tools NBA teams are looking for in a center. Ezeli should be an impact defender early in his NBA career.

    However, the offensive game is still a work-in-progress, and his rebounding overall could be much better. He's a project guy that may never be anything more than a second-stringer.

    Projection: Early second-round pick

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