With the 2012 NBA draft fast approaching, now is as good a time as any to start looking at which prospects are going to be the real deal in their rookie season.
Obviously, there are a handful of guys who can transform a team the minute they step on the court, but there are also going to be some under-the-rader players who find ways to contribute.
The biggest thing we need to look at here is which skills translate best to the NBA. On the surface, great defenders, shot-blockers and rebounders excel immediately. The same could be said for natural athletes and the speedsters. Some prospects, however, have other talents that take longer to develop.
In this updated mock draft, we will explore how soon the projected first-round picks will actually be able to contribute to the teams that drafts them, and how exactly they will accomplish this.
Anthony Davis hasn't put on a New Orleans Hornets uniform yet. He hasn't signed a contract yet, either. Hell, he hasn't even been drafted yet.
But that doesn't change the fact the he's already in contention to be one of the team's best players.
Davis is going to come in and immediately be the team's best rebounder, shot-blocker and post defender—if they decide to part ways with Emeka Okafor.
There's not another player who is going to do more for his team faster than Anthony Davis.
There will be a lot of debate over who the Bobcats should take with this pick, or if they should trade it away. No matter what they do, one thing is for sure: The second-most NBA-ready prospect in this draft is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
That's not to say that Kidd-Gilchrist is going to be quick to reach his peak, but rather that he's a guy who is going to contribute to his team from the get-go.
He may not produce the same stats that he did at Kentucky, but his hard work is infectious—a disease the Bobcats will welcome with open arms.
Thomas Robinson has three things going for him that are going to allow him to make an impact early on in his career—intensity, athleticism and rebounding.
There are always going to be struggles for big men adjusting their offense the NBA, as they are matched up with guys that are bigger, stronger and sometimes even faster. If Robinson can contribute in the aforementioned areas, the scoring should come in time.
Bradley Beal could have a bit of trouble adjusting to the NBA, but whichever team drafts him is going to see scoring in double figures.
The bigger issue here is the efficiency of his scoring. Beal is a bit undersized for an NBA shooting guard, and with longer, more athletic perimeter guards wrangling him, his jump shot won't fall as often as we have grown accustomed to.
He will get there eventually, but it will be a grind in the early going.
One thing that Harrison Barnes can rely on early and often is the fact that he is an incredible athlete. In addition, he already possesses the strength to attack the rim on NBA bigs.
Harrison Barnes could initially be the best wing player in this draft, but he needs to make sure not to sit back and rely on his physical gifts for the next few years, but rather take the time to try and work on the weaker parts of his game.
Andre Drummond was hyped as much as any college prospect when he showed up at UConn with a lanky frame, mature body and tremendous hops, but that only got him so far with the Huskies.
He might have the most potential out of anyone in this draft, but he needs to make sure not to get down on himself early, and be willing to work extensively with his coaches.
It will be a struggle initially, just as it was for Drummond in college, but he could be something special.
John Henson is one of many North Carolina players entering the draft this year known for intelligence and high character. Henson's basketball IQ is as high as any big man in this draft, and he has great length and speed for his size.
Henson should prove to be a quality defender from the get-go, and once he establishes a presence on defense, his offensive game should come along nicely.
Jeremy Lamb and Bradley Beal are the two best shooting guards coming out this year, and it should be pretty close as to who contributes more to his team this season.
Lamb is a bit taller than Beal, but that extra bit of height can make all the difference in the world on the offensive end. While he will probably start out faster than Beal, the UConn product will eventually be surpassed by his counterpart.
Out of all the big men in the draft who made big impacts for their teams in college, Jared Sullinger is going to have the toughest transition to the NBA.
What makes him so intriguing is his ability to score in the post, but with a 6'9" height in shoes, average-sized hands and mediocre vertical, he will have trouble going up against the league's best big men.
Sullinger is going to have to subscribe to the Chuck Hayes School of Little Big Men and be the fiercer, hungrier and smarter player on both ends of the floor.
Update: Sullinger's draft stock may have taken yet another hit, as it was reported Monday that he was medically red-flagged by some NBA doctors for back issues.
It's always tough to take on a center that is a project. There are usually plenty of guys on the bench who can fill in for smaller positions on an off-night, but not every team in the NBA has a pine full of bigs ready to fill in.
Meyers Leonard should be a good first big off the bench one day, perhaps even a starter. But right now, he is a bit on the skinny side, doesn't rebound well and has limited skills on the offensive end.
I'm always intrigued by guards coming out of mid-major colleges. They have a brash cockiness about them that makes you think there is no way they won't help their team at the next level.
If a guy from a lesser-known school is considered a lottery pick, he's usually either extremely athletic or extremely quick, and Damian Lillard has both of those things going for him.
While he won't going to be cobbling together as many double-doubles as you would like to see out of a point guard, he will have some explosive scoring efforts if he gets playing time.
Perry Jones is as big a project as anyone in the draft.
Jones can jump over the gym given the opportunity, but he has an extremely raw, undisciplined and unrefined game that's going to take special grooming to get him to succeed in the NBA.
It will be a huge struggle initially for Jones, but if he takes criticism and lets his coaches do their jobs, he could end up being a massive steal.
Dion Waiters is another guy who will be on the small end of 2-guards in the NBA, but he is much stronger than both Bradley Beal and Jeremy Lamb, which should allow him to abuse some of the second-unit players he will be going up against.
Waiters has good speed and athleticism, and his ability to get to the rim will be his greatest asset early on.
Austin Rivers is as streaky as they come.
When he's on, he can fill it up in a hurry. But on a cold shooting night, Rivers needs to set up his teammates instead of settling for jumpers.
Whether he's on or off, Rivers is too good at getting to the rim to stay grounded on the perimeter. The amount of success he has will depend on how willing he is to play within himself.
Terrence Jones is probably going to be one of the better grabs in the mid-first round of the draft, as he was a bit overshadowed in his sophomore year by Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Jones grabbed just over seven boards a game with the Wildcats this year, but if he didn't have to compete with his teammates for boards, he probably could have averaged close to a double-double. He is great at using his size and strength to pluck rebounds over opposing players, and he has a knack for grabbing loose balls.
If he gets minutes, he will at the very least contribute in the rebounding and hustle categories.
Terrence Ross is going to be an interesting player to watch in the first year of his career. He is a huge shooting guard, should he play at the 2, but he can also slide over to the small forward spot.
The best part about Ross is his confidence. From the minute he took the court as a freshman at Washington, he was fearless in his approach no matter the opponent or defender he was going up against.
That kind of swagger can either drive a kid out of the league or get him in good with a team. We will just have to wait and see.
Kendall Marshall is the best true point guard in this draft class, and that alone is going to get him some playing time early on should his team need a backup distributor.
Marshall is essentially a young Andre Miller. If his decision-making skills are properly nurtured, he will be good, and good early.
Quincy Miller brings a lot to the table, but he is also extremely raw, which could lead to some struggles early in his career.
On the plus side, Miller has serious length at small forward at 6'10" and a pretty darn good jumper to go with it. But Miller is also skinny, a bit slow and somewhat unsure of himself on the defensive end. With these deficiencies, Miller could find himself riding the bench for quite sometime.
Tyler Zeller could end up being a solid center in the NBA, or he could just be another Patrick O'Bryant.
Zeller is a true seven-footer who can keep up with any big man in the NBA with his speed, but it will take awhile to find out whether or not his offensive game is up to snuff.
Moe Harkless will likely struggle early on in the NBA.
He plays too small to be a power forward, but he is too slow to slide in at the 3. I don't want to call him a tweener, but he doesn't really have the skill set for either position just yet.
Arnett Moultrie is basically everything you would ever want in a guy with a bunch of potential in the latter third of the first round. He is huge for a power forward (6'11"), has a silky jumper for a big man, is pretty quick and can rebound well.
However, he is not very strong for a guy his size. Moultrie must fill out his body with a few more pounds of muscle and develop better decision-making on defense. These factors will hinder his minutes, and production, early on.
Royce White is the best passing big man I have seen in ages, and he can rebound well too. Although he is a small school player, White led his Iowa State squad in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. What's not to like?
Well, at 6'8", White lacks a true position. In addition, he has no range on his jump shot and can be forgetful on the defensive end. Then there's his well-documented fear of flying.
Still, White can come in with any second unit and spread the floor with his passing.
The big Brazilian has almost no offensive game, but nobody's expecting him to come in and put up a lot of points.
With that in mind, there's every possibility of Fab coming in next season, trolling around the paint with his big body and being a force down low.
Get your Reggie Evans on, big man.
Evan Fournier is the top international player in this year's class, and it doesn't hurt that he models his game after one Manu Ginobili.
There's nothing that Fournier is particularly bad at, but there's nothing he really excels at either. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, he's going to have to put in a lot of work on his overall game before he sees meaningful playing time.
Jeffery Taylor can hold his own against anyone on defense, no matter their level of quickness or strength, and his basketball IQ is a big part of that.
Taylor should struggle initially to become a contributing member on the offensive end, but he's definitely got a hint of Thabo Sefolosha in his bones.
Teague has good size for a point guard, and his speed and athleticism alone should help him stay on the floor.
With a very inconsistent jumper and questionable defense, however, Teague has a long way to go before he can be relied on as a floor general.
The big man from St. Bonaventure has the potential to really contribute down the road, but he is going to need some time to develop his game before he makes a huge impact.
The most intriguing part of Nicholson's game is the fact that he can score so efficiently, shooting 57 percent from the field and 43 percent from three last season.
There is going to be a big learning curve for the young fella, but he should be able to get over it within a year or so.
Tony Wroten is nowhere near ready to take on any kind of role in the NBA, but he is still a great pickup for any team this late in the draft.
While he has good size for a 2-guard, Wroten can't pick up his dribble or shoot very well, and he is prone to forcing the action.
His redeeming quality may be his defense, which should allow him to see a little action early.
Draymond Green is the typical undersized power forward coming into the NBA who is considered too small and too slow to make it in the league, but ends up proving everyone wrong.
Green will excel in the locker room because he is extremely likable and knows the game very well.
While he is not going to do much next season, he is eventually going to be one of the league's best glue guys, not to mention a fan favorite.
Will Barton is exactly the type of player that should be taken with the last pick in the first round. He's probably the biggest project of anyone left who isn't an international guy, but he also has the most upside.
Barton can shoot the ball, but he weighs almost nothing and will be abused by stronger guards down low. However, his body is going to mature over the next few years, leading me to believe he will have success down the road.
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