NBA Draft 2012: 7 Non-Lottery Picks Who Can Be This Year's Kawhi Leonard
The rosters of NBA teams are littered with players who attended college at schools like UCLA, North Carolina, Kentucky and Connecticut.
The big schools get the big recruits who go on to become the big stars of the NBA.
Not always though. Sometimes a player comes from a lesser-known college program and outshines his big-name school peers.
When Kawhi Leonard was chosen 15th overall in the 2011 NBA draft, expectations were only so high for the star of upstart San Diego State.
Yet as the conference finals near their conclusion, only one other member of the 2011 draft class is getting any sort of playing time: Norris Cole of the Heat, who is averaging nine minutes a game during the playoffs.
Kawhi Leonard? He's averaging nearly three times that amount. A whopping 26 minutes per game for the San Antonio Spurs.
Leonard also was part of the NBA's All-Rookie first team.
Are there some Kawhi Leonard types of players lurking on the outskirts of the lottery in the 2012 NBA draft?
There might be.
Terrence Ross: 6'6" Shooting Guard, Washington
Washington is not a small school; they do produce NBA talent. They're not UCLA or North Carolina, though.
Terrence Ross is a very talented shooting guard who possesses a few key things that make him very appealing.
One is that Ross can shoot; the other is that he's not short. At 6'6", Ross can play the shooting guard position in the NBA. The trick for Ross will be latching onto a team that will give him the minutes to develop and then eventually shine.
Keep an eye on the Philadelphia 76ers, who happen to be picking at No. 15.
The 76ers, a team that had problems scoring last season, are preparing to lose the team's leading scorer, Lou Williams, to free agency. If that happens, then the 76ers will need offense, and if they find a player who can give it to them, they'd probably not hesitate to give him plenty of minutes to do so.
Give Ross minutes on a team that is hungry for points, alongside a rapidly improving point guard like Jrue Holiday, and he could be a big-time producer in 2012-2013.
John Jenkins: 6'4" Shooting Guard, Vanderbilt
John Jenkins isn't going to become one of the great all-around NBA players in league history.
He might just shoot his way into some serious minutes, though.
Jenkins is a dead-eye shooter who needs to be placed on a team where he's expected to do not much more than that. If he were to last into the late first round, then Jenkins would seem like the type of player that could flourish in Chicago.
The Bulls have been waiting for a player to make teams pay for double-teaming Derrick Rose and their inside players like Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. If Jenkins can hit open shots, he's likely to get chances on the Bulls.
Andrew Nicholson: 6'9" Power Forward, St. Bonaventure
Bob Lanier went to Saint Bonaventure, and he's in the Basketball Hall of Fame. The remaining names of St. Bonaventure alums who have played NBA basketball make up a brief and unimpressive list.
Andrew Nicholson would like to change that. He's got a shot to as well.
Nicholson is a player with a versatile game, an NBA body and above-average athleticism. He needs to go to a team that could use him. The Boston Celtics might be a solid fit. Nicholson could come off the bench to spell Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett (were he to re-sign) depending on the situation.
Nicholson would get good guidance from Hall of Fame-caliber veteran players. That's very similar to the circumstances surrounding Leonard in San Antonio.
Kyle O'Quinn: 6'10" Center, Norfolk State
O'Quinn is another player from a not-so-well-known school who could have an impact in the NBA next year.
In addition to being 6'10", he's got a 7'4" wingspan. He displayed an ability to play in the spotlight when Norfolk State shocked No. 2-seeded Missouri in the first round. O'Quinn had 26 points and 14 rebounds.
O'Quinn probably isn't cut out to be a front line go-to starting center in the NBA.
If he could get on a team with another low-post presence where he could focus on offensive rebounds, defense and blocked shots, he could probably stumble into nearly 10 rebounds a night.
Scott Machado: 6'2" Point Guard, Iona
Scott Machado might not fly under the radar, but that doesn't change the fact that he's a solid NBA prospect who played at a school not known as a factory for NBA basketball players.
Iona isn't on the same level as other Northeastern basketball factories like Georgetown, Syracuse or Connecticut. Iona might produce the best point guard chosen after the lottery in this year's draft, though.
Machado is a physically and mentally mature point guard whose only shortcoming may be the fact that's he's a bit "short."
In a league where players like Ty Lawson excel at the point guard position while standing only 5'11", Machado's 6'2" height won't be enough to keep him from making an impact.
Kevin Murphy: 6'7" Small Forward, Tennessee Tech
Kevin Murphy is not expected to go in the first round. According to Chad Ford of ESPN, he might not even be drafted. Of course, Ford also says he could be a second-round sleeper.
Wherever he goes or doesn't go, Murphy will eventually get at least a look from an NBA team or two. He has an NBA body and is a great athlete. Murphy will need to latch onto a team where he can grow and improve gradually.
If he does, then by the time the playoffs begin, Murphy could be finding his rhythm.
Orlando Johnson: 6'5" Shooting Guard, Cal-Santa Barbara
The last player to play in the NBA from Cal-Santa Barbara is current Indiana Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw. He was drafted in the first round back in 1988 by the Boston Celtics.
One might say that UCSB is due for another NBA presence.
Orlando Johnson might be the man. He certainly was "the man" while playing at UCSB for the past three seasons. Johnson averaged nearly 20 points per game.
Johnson is a physically imposing player who won't jump out of the gym. He's strong enough to handle the punishment NBA defenses will put on his body when he penetrates.
A recent ESPN Insider report suggests that Johnson has lost weight and was measured with a 6'11" wingspan. He may be a name to keep an eye on, as he could even sneak into the late first round.