NBA Draft 2012: Underrated Freshmen Who Will Thrive in the League

Justin Welton@JustinWeltonAnalyst IIJune 13, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 06:  Moe Harkless #4 of the St. John's Red Storm in action against the Pittsburgh Panthers during their first round game of the 2012 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 6, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

For small-market NBA organizations to compete against the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and Miami Heats of the world, they must be able to excel in the NBA draft.

Look no further than the Oklahoma City Thunder, for example. 

Drafting freshmen takes the draft to another level of difficulty because of the unexpected. You really don't know how some of these guys will pan out, especially when you get into the middle of the first round.

But I'm here to help.

Here are some underrated freshman prospects who will thrive in the NBA if they land in the right position.


Moe Harkless

All Moe Harkless did in his freshman season at St. John's was average 15.3 points and 8.6 rebounds. There were only six games Harkless didn't reach double-digits in scoring. 

Harkless was as consistent as it gets for a freshman playing with several other freshmen. He even recorded 30 points twice this season, once against Duke. 

Scouts have Harkless being drafted in the middle of the first round, but he has top-five talent and he measures well. 

Aside from scoring 15 and averaging 8.6 rebounds per game, Harkless has a 7'0" wingspan and is very long and extremely athletic. His 6'9" size allows him to be successful rebounding the basketball, defending multiple positions and being able to dominate mismatches.

Harkless loves to attack off the dribble. With his length, size and athletic ability, he can get where he wants on the court; few people are capable of stopping him. Defenses know that he struggles to shoot from the perimeter, yet they can't stop him from attacking.

People have always said Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant needed to add strength to his frame. But the reality is, Durant is stronger now than in college, yet his body type is still very slim.

One of Harkless' biggest downfalls is his body type. Even though Harkless isn't even on the same planet as Durant when shooting from the perimeter, he can still dominate on the offensive end because a scorer will always be a scorer. 

Harkless will play a major role at the next level. His game translates well to today's up-and-down, fast-break NBA.


Austin Rivers

Austin Rivers received a ton of publicity for being Doc Rivers' kid, playing at Duke and being the only go-to star on the roster. 

But his draft stock isn't where you would think.

Most scouts have him slotted in the middle of the first round because they believe he is a "tweener." He's not a true point guard, and he's slightly undersized at the shooting guard position.

But what will make Rivers excel at the next level is his will to get better. He chose Duke to learn how to play with teammates to better himself for the next level. 

Nobody at Duke was able to create their own shot last year, and Rivers had to be the one to bail them out. Yes he forced shots, but that was because he had to. Nobody else was able to take people off the dribble.

Mix Rivers with NBA talent and he has a great opportunity to thrive in the league. He can get to the rim when he wants, his jumper is continuously getting better, and he has star quality.

Rivers has the tools and character to become an All-Star type of performer.


Tony Wroten Jr.

There are some that have their doubts about Tony Wroten Jr., and I don't blame them. He is one of those prospects who could be great but could also flop.

His skills, size and athletic ability at the point guard position are things that will make him very successful in today's NBA. Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose have changed the point guard position in the NBA, and Wroten will be the beneficiary. 

No longer are you expected to just be the setup man like Steve Nash. These guys are athletic, can drive to the rim and are dynamic in transition.

Sounds exactly like Wroten.

At 6'6" and 203 pounds, Wroten is a mammoth at the point guard position. His ability to to not only get to the rim but also finish strong will carry over into the NBA.

Rajon Rondo was known for being a horrendous shooting point guard when he entered the NBA. It has taken him a while to improve his shot, but it's developing.

Wroten is similar in that category. He shot a dismal 16.1 percent from behind the arc at college. Despite having horrible numbers, Wroten only took 1.6 three-point shots per game, so naturally, his numbers would be low.

Nevertheless, Wroten will need to take and make more outside shots to soften up the defense. If he can improve his jumper, we are looking at a potential All-Star with his vision, size and athleticism at the point guard position.  

It's up to him to see how far he can take his talents.