2012 NBA Draft: Ten Players with the Most Buzz Heading into Thursday Night

Steven Goldstein@@GoldsteinNUContributor IJune 22, 2012

2012 NBA Draft: Ten Players with the Most Buzz Heading into Thursday Night

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    As the hardwood spotlight continues to the focus on this year's installment of the NBA Draft, a few prospects have already emerged as the targets for storylines and speculation.

    The 2012 Draft is widely considered to be one of the deepest ever, and with such praise comes a slew of hyped players ready to crack their way into the pros.

    After being "medically flagged by NBA doctors," how far will Ohio State forward and two-time All-American Jared Sullinger fall? Where does Kansas forward Thomas Robinson stand after making intrepid comments about Kentucky forward and consensus first-pick Anthony Davis?

    Here are the top ten players with the most buzz heading into Draft night.

Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas

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    Thomas Robinson isn't buying the Anthony Davis hype.

    After Davis was spotted at the NBA Draft combine wearing a shirt that read "check my stats," the Kansas junior struck back and offered a dissident opinion.

    Through Sports Illustrated, Robinson said:

    "If you wanted to check the stats, then I'd be the No. 1 pick easily -- if that's what you want to do...I should get one of those shirts. I'll get a shirt that says, 'Numbers don't lie.'"

    Mind you, Robinson's Jayhawks were trumped by Davis' Kentucky Wildcats in the NCAA Men's Tournament finals last April. Robinson dropped 18 points and 17 boards in the title game, while Davis notched six points, six blocks and 16 rebounds.

    DraftExpress.com has Robinson going second overall come Draft night, while Sam Amick's Sports Illustrated has him at the third pick. Buzz over his pro landing spot will continue to pick up as Thursday approaches.

    Robinson is also generating attention over his tragic past, which includes the loss of three immediate family members in a 25-day span. His story continues to run through the sporting world. 

Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky

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    Well, what about the targeted Anthony Davis? When you "check his stats," it's tough to hold back your applause.

    Davis averaged a stunning 4.7 stuffs per night as a freshman. Now, he tops nearly every big board and mock Draft in the country.

    The touted defender has already posed for pictures in New Orleans home whites. All eyes will be on Davis to lead the Big Easy back to big-time contention.

Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois

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    Meyers Leonard's elephantine 7'3" wingspan mirrors his colossal buzz.

    Leonard was one of the Big Ten's best bigs in 2011-12, and his stock is soaring in unbridled fashion. The Illinois sophomore has climbed his way through the first round of consensus mocks, and now cracks his way into the top ten of ESPN analyst Chad Ford's big board.

    The Detroit Pistons have reportedly shown a high interest in Leonard, and he appears all but locked in as a lottery pick.

    Stories have also surfaced about Leonard's mother, a victim of chronic back pain who couldn't afford required surgery. Leonard reportedly plans on sectioning off a chunk of his NBA salary for her.

Fab Melo, C, Syracuse

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    Fab Melo's defensive prowess has propelled him to the first round of consensus mocks. His off-court issues, however, are the propellants to his national prominence.

    Melo made news last March when he was declared academically ineligible from the NCAA Tournament. Before the loss of their sublime center, 'Cuse was picked by many to win it all.

    On Wednesday, Melo addressed long-standing questions about the issue.

    Fans are still curious as to whether Melo can fully harness his huge frame and translate his skills to the pro level. He'll continue to trend as Thursday approaches.

Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut

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    UConn center Andre Drummond finds himself at sixth overall in SI's updated mock. He's been making headlines lately, squaring off against Thomas Robinson in a Cleveland workout on Wednesday and preparing to have at it again in Charlotte on Friday, the Detroit Free Press reported.

    Drummond was tagged as a "mystery man" by SI's Draft liason Sam Amick. Buzz continues to circulate over where he'll end up as well as his bust potential.

    Drummond was the number-two recruit in the nation a year ago, and reportedly had to take time off from a Thursday workout with the Kings due to vision impairment.

Austin Rivers, SG, Duke

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    Austin Rivers is the latest NBA edition of style vs. substance.

    According to SI's mock, some teams are weary of Rivers' braggadocious persona, while others find his swagger impressive. Regardless, Rivers "won't apologize for confidence." 

    Slam Online has also raised concerns over his decision to enter the Draft as just a freshman, noting that his offensive game could have used an extra year of development.

    Rivers has also been making headlines as the son of revered Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. He garnered attention for not fully participating in the NBA Draft Combine earlier this month, and now reports are surfacing of an unspecified lottery team guaranteeing an early selection for the freshman.

    As Draft night approaches, Rivers' showtime attitude will continue to find its way into the papers.

Bradley Beal, SG, Florida

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    Bradley Beal continues to shoot up in mock drafts and is currently vying for the second overall pick.

    Beal and another top prospect, Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, worked out together in Charlotte earlier this week. Beal also told the Washington Post that his agent didn't schedule any workouts for teams slated past the fourth overall pick.

    Beal's what's hot right now, plain and simple. Washington and Cleveland have both shown overt interest in the Gator.

Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina

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    Harrison Barnes returned to the Tar Heel State this week for a workout with Charlotte, ready to challenge Michael Jordan himself to a shooting contest.

    Barnes continues to hover around the consensus top-five picks, and the 'Cats seemed impressed with what they saw, claiming through Twitter that he knocked down "over 80% of his mid-range jumpers."

    And despite playing for archrival UNC, former Duke standout and Cleveland Cavalier point guard Kyrie Irving is a huge proponent of Barnes in Cavs' wine and gold.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky

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    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been fully immersed in workouts and top-five talk.

    A player capable of dominating a game's tempo on either end of the court, Kidd-Gilchrist is reported to go third overall to Washington, should Bradley Beal be snatched at no. 2.

    As mentioned before, Beal and Kidd-Gilchrist have been busy showcasing their talents simultaneously. Kidd-Gilchrist will continue to buzz and his landing spot will continue to remain a mystery, at least until Beal's standing becomes clearer.

Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State

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    Just a few days ago, Jared Sullinger was a sure-thing lottery pick. Now, his status as a top selection is in murky waters, while his status in the media becomes ubiquitous.

    Sullinger was red flagged by unnamed NBA doctors, and while his two years in Columbus highlighted immense upside, his stock has been free-falling of late. Sullinger will work out with the Pistons on Monday.

    The All-American big man still lingers around the first round in most mocks, but he's a definite risk in a very talented and deep draft pool.