NBA Draft 2012: Defensive Studs Who Will Help Teams Immediately

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistJune 7, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 31:  Russ Smith #2 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball between Michael Kidd-Gilchrist #14 and Anthony Davis #23 of the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half during the National Semifinal game of the 2012 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on March 31, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships. The best NBA teams understand this theory, and the 2012 draft is full of players to put it into practice. 

It often takes time for rookies to understand how to play within an offense or create their own shot against top players. However, great defenders can help their teams win right away.

These prospects could eventually be quality offensive forces, but there is no question they will have an impact on the defensive side of the ball.


Anthony Davis, Kentucky

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 17:  Anthony Davis #23 of the Kentucky Wildcats looks on in the second half against the Iowa State Cyclones during the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KFC YUM! Center on March 17, 2012 in Louisville, Kent
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The man expected to be the first overall pick of the draft could be the best defensive player to enter the draft in a number of years. 

Davis finished his only collegiate season with 10.4 rebounds per game and an NCAA-leading 4.6 blocks per game. This number does not include the extra shots that were altered by the center's presence in the lane.

New Orleans finished last season with the worst record in the Western Conference, but had a solid defense that held opponents to 93.4 points per game. With the addition of Davis, the Hornets could quickly become the best defensive team in the league. 


John Henson, North Carolina

ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 23:  Walter Offutt #3 of the Ohio Bobcats attempts a shot in the second half against John Henson #31 of the North Carolina Tar Heels uring the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Midwest Regional Semifinal at Edward Jones Dome on March 23, 20
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

North Carolina was hurt this postseason by the injury to point guard Kendall Marshall, but a left wrist sprain to Henson was almost as damaging. 

The power forward was the key to the team's defense with his ability to alter shots around the basket. 

Henson has great timing and waits for the opponent to make his move, which is apparent by the fact that he only fouled out once in his three-year career. 

Whichever team selects the power forward will get a solid offensive player who could be a difference-maker on defense.


Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 23:  Christian Watford #2 of the Indiana Hoosiers drives against Michael Kidd-Gilchrist #14 of the Kentucky Wildcats during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball South Regional Semifinal game at the Georgia Dome on March 23, 2012 in Atlanta,
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Kidd-Gilchrist might struggle in a half-court offense in the NBA, but his ability to shutdown opposing players will be invaluable at the next level.

He is very strong for his age, and his athleticism will allow him to stay with an player. With size and quickness, MKG has the ability to guard any spot from point guard to power forward.

The former Kentucky player has limited upside, but his intensity and other intangibles will force any coach to put him in the starting lineup.


Fab Melo, Syracuse

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 25:  Fab Melo #51 of the Syracuse Orange blocks a shot by Josh Huestis #24 of the Stanford Cardinal at the 2011 Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden on November 25, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Pat
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

It might take a few years for Melo to be a factor on offense, but as a defender he is ready for professional ball.

The Brazil native is legitimate seven-foot center that has plenty of athleticism to get rebounds and block shots.

Teams might be scared about the fact that Syracuse uses a 2-3 zone on defense, but not many players come around with this type of size. He allows teammates to make mistakes because opponents are deterred from coming too close to the basket. 

Melo's lack of offensive game will have him sliding down draft boards, but he will be worth the selection.