NBA Draft 2012: 5 Surprise Names Who Will Sneak into First Round

Kenny DeJohnAnalyst IIIJune 19, 2012

NBA Draft 2012: 5 Surprise Names Who Will Sneak into First Round

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    There are several bubble players—like Tyler Zeller—who could potentially be late first round picks in the 2012 NBA Draft. These players have not had their names hyped up much as of late, and there's a feeling around the league that many of them are not first round material.

    There are five players that fit this mold. These bubble players are first round material. These guys deserve to be taken in the first round of the draft and they more than likely will sneak in.

    Each individual player has a great set of skills and the potential to become a viable NBA player. These skills are certainly enough to warrant first-round selection, and teams would be wise to think long and hard before passing up on these guys.

    It's highly unlikely that these guys will sneak into the lottery picks, or even within the top 20 for that matter, but there's a very good chance that we'll hear their names called as soon as the latter third of the first round begins.

Tyler Zeller, PF/C, University of North Carolina

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    Tyler Zeller is the most likely of all bubble players to hear his name called in the first round.

    A true seven-foot PF/C prospect, Zeller scored 16.3 points per game during his senior season at the University of North Carolina. He is a fantastic athlete and has pretty good speed for a guy his size.

    He has a very fluid jump shot for a seven-footer—he can consistently hit from 18 feet out—and already utilizes a strong right hook shot as his go-to move in the low post.

    He could be great with a team that likes to utilize the pick and roll. His jump shot allows him to get free to shoot, while his athleticism, speed and strong leaping ability make him a great candidate to finish at the rim.

    Zeller weighs just 247 pounds, so he may need to fill out a bit before we can really call him a center. He's just not strong enough right now to compete with the likes of Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum.

    That shouldn't hurt his draft stock too much, though.

    There's a good chance that we'll see Zeller going in the mid-to-late first round next Thursday. The Minnesota Timberwolves pick at No. 18, while the Boston Celtics pick at both 21 and 22.

    I see the Celtics as the best fit, however. Zeller would flourish with Rajon Rondo orchestrating the offense.

Tyshawn Taylor, PG/SG, Kansas University

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    Why people aren't talking about Tyshawn Taylor as a first-rounder simply baffles me. He has all the tools to be either a successful point guard or shooting guard in the NBA.

    Taylor broke out as a senior at Kansas last season, scoring 16.6 points per game while leading the Jayhawks to the NCAA Championship game.

    At 6' 3", Taylor possesses great size for a point guard. He is also great with the ball in his hands. That combined with his great speed and aggressive style of play make him very difficult to stay in front of. He attacks the rim with great effectiveness and is very good at getting to the charity stripe—he averaged 5.1 attempts per game from the free-throw line in his senior season.

    His solid passing ability makes him a great candidate to be one of the better point guards to come from this draft.

    His improved jump shooting ability makes him a great candidate to play at the 2-guard position in the future, though.

    He shot 38.2 percent from beyond the arc during his senior season, showing range well beyond the college three-point line. He also shows great confidence in creating space off the dribble and creating shots for himself, making him a great candidate to be an effective scorer.

    The Memphis Grizzlies at No. 25, Miami Heat at No. 27 and Chicago Bulls at No. 29 could all have interest in Taylor. I see the Bulls as the best fit. Richard Hamilton won't be around for much longer, and Ronnie Brewer really can't be relied upon as a starting shooting guard.

    Having Taylor learn from Hamilton before he retires could work out very well for the Bulls.

Evan Fournier, SG, International Prospect

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    At just 19 years old, Evan Fournier has a bright future ahead of him in the NBA, regardless of when he gets drafted.

    Fournier scored 14 points per game in his second professional season in the French first division this past season, and possesses all the tools to be an above-average scorer in the NBA.

    His first step gives him the ability to beat opponents off of the dribble, and he is great at finishing at the rim. Going to the basket is just one of his many talents on offense. He is a crafty player with the ball in his hands, making him very difficult to guard.

    He can shoot from distance, attack the rim or spot up and shoot—all with great effectiveness.

    Being a clutch performer is his trademark at this point in his career, and we all know how important that is in the game today.

    Work ethic is a big thing with Fournier. He is committed to capitalizing on every ounce of potential that he owns. This should be a great sign for teams interested in him on draft day.

    The Boston Celtics at either No. 21 or No. 22 would be a nice fit, while the Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 28 could also be a match.

    Imagine if the Celtics pick Zeller at 21 and then follow that up with Fournier at 22. That has the potential to be a lethal combination for them in the future.

Draymond Green, SF/PF, Michigan State

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    Draymond Green is a bit undersized to picture as a prototypical power forward—he's just 6' 7"—but his skill set suggests otherwise.

    Green is simply a solid all-around player that is able to contribute wherever he is needed. Strength is important to Green, as banging underneath with bigger bodies for rebounds or to make a move at the basket is an essential part of his game.

    When he takes the time to set his feet, Green has a very solid jump shot. He must catch and release in rhythm, however, otherwise he can be a little erratic.

    What sets him apart from other forwards is his ability to pass and see the court out of the low post. Defenders have a difficult time keeping an eye on their defender and the ball at the same time while Green is in the post as a result.

    Soft hands and an aggressive mentality make him a terrific rebounder and a high basketball IQ gives him the potential to be a leader on and off the court in the future.

    The Chicago Bulls at No. 29 present Green with the best opportunity to crack the first round, as not many other teams will be willing to take the risk of drafting an undersized power forward so early.

    The Bulls already have two undersized power forwards in Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson, so they could teach Green how to succeed in the NBA as a smaller power forward.

    Then, when Green is ready to move into a more prominent role a few years down the line, either Boozer or Gibson could be flipped for other areas of need.

William Buford, SG, Ohio State

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    William Buford profiles as your prototypical NBA shooting guard—he has solid strength and length, he's a solid athlete and he has good leaping ability.

    The trademark to his game is the jump shot. He is an above-average mid-range shooter, and the pull-up elbow jumper is the favorite move in his arsenal.

    He also possesses NBA range on his shot and solid fundamentals with his stroke.

    Buford is an unselfish player when the ball is in his hands, making it very easy for him to play within an NBA offense. When he does have the ball, he plays a smooth and controlled game.

    He has a high basketball IQ and always likes to make things easy for himself and his teammates.

    As far as intangibles go, Buford was a four-year starter for some pretty good Ohio State teams. Simply put, he knows how to win.

    The Cleveland Cavaliers at No. 24 and the Golden State Warriors at No. 30 could both be likely destinations for Buford. The Cavs may present him with the best shot at playing time, but there are other players that could be had before Buford with that pick.

    The Warriors could look to select Buford to close out the first round.