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NBA Draft 2012: The Pac-12's 5 Best Prospects

Casey CroweFeatured Columnist ISeptember 1, 2016

NBA Draft 2012: The Pac-12's 5 Best Prospects

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    The Pac-12 will be in the "Green Room" during in the 2012 NBA Draft.

    According to CBSSports.com, Washington shooting guard Terrence Ross was one of 14 players invited to that oversized mens' zone inside of Newark's Prudential Center, where the top picks will hug it out—David Stern's means of hinting at who the NBA believes will be picked in the lottery.

    A main beneficiary of Jared Sullinger's sudden decline, if Ross is not selected among the first 14, that will be a rarity for the conference.

    The last time the Pac-12/Pac-10 went without a lottery pick was 2010, when Washington's Quincy Pondexter was the highest selection, going 26th to Oklahoma City. Before that, the conference had at least one player selected in the top 14 every year since 1997 (Basketball-Reference.com).

    In 2011, Arizona's Derrick Williams went No. 2, Wazzu's Klay Thompson went No. 11 and USC's Nikola Vukevic went No. 16.

    But the talent pool was drained after the 2011 campaign, and the Pac-12 paid for it by not beating a single Top 25 team in the non-conference.

    That's not to say there aren't players capable of making an impact—although probably not immediately—who played out their eligibility on the West Coast in the Pac-12.

    There were several stars in an otherwise down season.

    Check out the conference's top five NBA prospects inside:

     

    *All statistics by way of ESPN.com

Kyle Fogg, G, Arizona

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    Height: 6'3"

    Weight: 188

    2012 stats: 13.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 steals

    This is the biggest reach of any of the five listed, though not completely out of the question.

    According to the Arizona Daily Star, Fogg has worked out for several NBA teams—including the in-state Phoenix Suns—in the last few weeks.

    And for the middle portion of the season, Fogg floated around the bottom of the second round of several major draft projections.

    As Arizona's season went wayward—resulting in missing the NCAA tourney followed by a first-round NIT ouster—so did Fogg's draft stock.

    Still, for an unheralded recruit who came during a tumultuous time in Arizona's evolution, Fogg developed into a very productive guard, finishing with the most games played in school history.

    But if he's going to play in the NBA, he's probably going to have to go the long way before getting that shot.

    The outsider's guess here is that Fogg will likely end up overseas, where his defensive prowess and refined jump shot (he took 40,000 last offseason) will lead to a career. Best case: The reputation enhancement over there leads to a future NBA look.

    Prediction: Undrafted

Jorge Gutierrez, G, California

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    Height: 6'3"

    Weight: 195

    2012 stats: 13.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.2 steals, 44-percent field-goal shooting

    In need of instant, reckless energy—perhaps a man to annoy a shakable shooting guard—that's what Cal's Jorge Gutierrez will provide.

    Gutierrez raged his way to becoming the Pac-12 Player of the Year, his intensity key to a winning season and an NCAA tourney berth for the Golden Bears in 2011-12.

    As an on-ball defender with a physical style, Gutierrez was a difference maker at the college level.

    But he'll need to purify his jump shot, especially from long range, and overhaul his ballhandling to ever make an NBA roster.

    He isn't on anyone's draft radar at the moment and, like Fogg, a career overseas seems more likely, at least for his initial jump into the pro ranks.

    Given the difficult route he took to get to Berkeley, it won't be a shock if Gutierrez fights his way onto an NBA bench at some point.

    Prediction: Undrafted

Jared Cunningham, G, Oregon State

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    Height: 6'5"

    Weight: 188

    2012 stats: 17.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.9 steals, 2.8 assists, 45-percent field-goal shooting

    In the post-Gary Payton days at Oregon State, Jared Cunningham is in the conversation of the program's best pro prospects.

    It's not a lengthy list filled with star-caliber names, but it's still several decades of players that he surpassed before deciding to leave early. Brent Barry and Corey Benjamin are the only ones with an edge in the last 20 years.

    Cunningham's decision to exit Corvallis was a blow to the Beavers' NCAA tourney chances. By declaring for the draft before playing out his senior season, a year in which OSU figured to be in the conference's top five, they'll struggle to stay above .500 in the conference.

    While not the words Oregon State fans want to read, it speaks of Cunningham's value and productivity on the court.

    Besides owning long arms and quick feet that lead to plenty of steals, Cunningham's trademark is his ability to rise.

    He'll provide entertainment value if nothing else.

    Prediction: Picked somewhere between 35-45

Tony Wroten, G, Washington

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    Height: 6'5"

    Weight: 203

    2012 stats: 16 points, 5.0 rebound, 3.7 assists, 1.9 steals, 44-percent field-goal shooting

    Tony Wroten's last moment of Pac-12 action was agonizing, missing four free throws in the final 19 seconds as Washington fell in the first round of the conference tourney and locked themselves out of the NCAA tourney in the process.

    It's easy to forget that he scored 29 in that game.

    Wroten redeemed himself in the NIT quarterfinals, scoring 22 to oust Oregon and move on to that tourney's final four, before deciding to bolt after just one season.

    If he stuck around for another year with Lorenzo Romar, he'd be in the mix to be the Pac-12's best player and a member of a near-certain NCAA tourney squad.

    But that's not the route he chose, and he'll have to battle his way into NBA action from the end of the first round.

    Still, of all of the prospects listed here, Wroten owns the highest ceiling, a combination of smooth ball-handling, unusual length/height for a point guard and exceptional court vision.

    On the negative tilt, he was turnover prone (3.8 per game) and a terrible three-point (16 percent) and free-throw (58 percent) shooter. His jump shot needs an overhaul.

    Prediction: Picked between 20-30

Terrence Ross, G/F, Washington

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    Height: 6'7"

    Weight: 197

    2012 stats: 16.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.3 steals

    Watch him for this 3:16 and the skills are apparent.

    The issue with Ross is in immeasurables—like level of intensity, over-deferment to teammates, ability to carry teams to wins—which is somewhat unfair to the Huskies' sophomore.

    For all of the hype he garnered when he decided to play in Seattle (rather than Kansas or Kentucky), he left with exactly one NCAA tournament victory, missing the field altogether in what was supposed to be the year he took over.

    However, Ross is a complete guard: explosive near the basket, a sharp shooter in stretches, an effective defender, never out of control.

    But he rarely displayed the willingness to take over games at the D-I level (the 32-point Northwestern game an exception), a trait could keep him out of the lottery.

    Of this year's Pac-12 crop, Ross will be the highest selection.

    He's a versatile 6'7" swingman with the potential to develop into the draft's late-or-non-lotto sleeper.

    Prediction: Picked between 10-20

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