2012 NBA Draft: 8 Under-the-Radar Players You Must See

Oliver Thomas@OliverBThomasContributor IJune 26, 2012

2012 NBA Draft: 8 Under-the-Radar Players You Must See

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    The 2012 NBA draft has more to offer than just young upstarts like Kentucky's Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Florida's Bradley Beal. In fact, there are many underrated prospects who will each forge a name for themselves in the NBA.

    The road to the professional circuit hasn't already been paved for most NBA hopefuls, yet that doesn't mean they won't succeed. Only one man will be selected No. 1 overall—the rest are to fight in the pack.

    Here are eight players who are soaring under the radar heading into the NBA draft.

Damian Lillard, Point Guard, Weber State

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    Damian Lillard may have attended a small-time basketball program at Weber State, but he is no small-time basketball player.

    The 21-year-old point guard has risen up the draft boards due to a standout season for the Wildcats in which he averaged 24.5 points, four assists, five rebounds and 1.5 steals.

    At 6'3", 195 pounds, Lillard fits the mold of a scoring guard who also knows how to get to the hoop.

    The fourth-year junior is proficient from beyond the arc at 40 percent. Not to mention he is also one of the best free-throw shooters in the draft—converting 228 of 257 foul shots during the 2011-2012 season.

    NBA Director of Scouting Ryan Blake explained to Kevin Massoth of USA Today why Lillard is a projected lottery pick come June 28:

    "When you have someone with good size, good strength, good speed and you have someone who can shoot the ball and play defense," Blake said, "that's just a great package."

    Just because Lillard didn't attend a basketball powerhouse doesn't mean he won't be a force in the NBA. If he lands in the right situation, there's no telling what he could do.

Terrence Ross, Small Forward, Washington

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    Washington's Terrence Ross is just a sophomore, but his outstanding play makes him a player to watch out for in the NBA.

    The 6'7", 197-pound small forward averaged 16.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game during last season. For a player far from his ceiling, Ross could skyrocket once he hits the big time.

    That said, he's thin framed for a man of his stature and must bulk up to withstand the blows of the NBA game.

    Regardless of weight, Ross possesses tremendous athletic ability and has a consistent jump shot. The combination of those two assets would make Ross a steal in the latter half of Round 1.

Royce White, Power Forward, Iowa State

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    Iowa State's Royce White isn't a flashy player, but he could pay dividends for an NBA franchise before too long.

    The 6'8, 260-pound power forward averaged 13.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and five assists during the 2011-2012 season with the Cyclones. He nailed 53 percent of his field goals and used his thick build to crash the boards.

    For a low-post player, White is an excellent passer and ball handler. Those facets will certainly bode well for him in the pros.

    However, the Minnesota transfer has some question marks.

    He's shorter than most NBA power forwards, he shot just 49 percent from the charity stripe, and has a troubled history. Those shortcomings will be tough to eliminate, but White may be able to avert his flaws.

    Swishscout.com analyzed the double-edged sword that is Royce White:

    Versatile point forward with a unique style of skilled play in getting to the rack, creating for teammates and rebounding the ball. White has copious red flags off-court, lacks a reliable jump shot and can be a defensive liability, but his talent is undeniable as a first round pick with high upside in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Andrew Nicholson, Power Forward/Center, St. Bonaventure

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    St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson has been the pride of the Bonnies since he joined the team in 2008.

    At 6'9", 240-pounds Nicholson can play both power forward and center. During his senior year, the Ontario native posted 18.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and two blocks per game. His stellar production carried St. Bonaventure to the NCAA tournament this March.

    For a big man, the 22-year-old showcases a polished offensive game. He's got an array of pivot moves and shoots well outside of the paint. 

    The level of competition Nicholson faced in the Atlantic 10 Conference wasn't the most rigid, but his standout play cannot go overlooked.

    According J.P. Butler of the Olean Times Herald, Nicholson "impressed" at the NBA draft combine with his perimeter stroke. From what Nicholson has shown throw his college career and draft workouts, he may very well hear his name called in the midst of Round 1.

Tony Wroten, Point Guard/Shooting Guard, Washington

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    Washington's Tony Wroten could be an over-sized point guard in the NBA. Yet, that's not a bad thing.

    The 6'6" combo guard averaged 16 points, 3.7 assists, five rebounds and 1.9 steals during his first and only college season. His all-around skills are what make him a crafty player who could surprise in the NBA scene.

    Joe Treutlein of Draftexpress.com had kind words to say about the Huskies' 19-year-old:

    Standing somewhere between 6-5 and 6-6 with a solid frame, good length, and very good overall athleticism, Tony Wroten has a great set of tools for the shooting guard position, and even better one for a combo or point guard. Wroten plays with a very aggressive mentality on the offensive end, taking full advantage of his physical attributes at this level.

    He's far from perfect, however. Wroten is raw when it comes to shooting from three-point range and at the free throw line. He made just 16 percent of his three-point attempts and 58 percent of his free throws.

    Nevertheless, Wroten is a talented prospect who will make an NBA organization very pleased in the future. He can drive to the basket and deliver crisp passes to teammates.

Kyle O'Quinn, Center, Norfolk State

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    Kyle O'Quinn from Norfolk State may not be a top-tier talent, but what he's done at a Mid-Major college warrants some attention.

    During his senior year, the 6'10" big man was a shot stopper and glass eater. O'Quinn averaged 15.9 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and 1.3 assists per contest.

    Due to his valiant efforts on the court, the 15th seeded Spartans upset No. 2 Missouri in the NCAA Tournament.

    O'Quinn isn't the greatest athlete and he wasn't didn't battle against the NCAA's elite every game. Yet, his size and innate abilities around the basket could thrust him up draft rankings.

Mike Scott, Power Forward, Virginia

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    For a power forward, Mike Scott is a pure shooter who can knock down the three ball when open.

    Last season with the Virginia Cavaliers, Scott averaged 18 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. He shot a steady 56 percent from the field, 30 percent from the three-point mark and 80 percent from the foul line.

    For a 6'9", 240-pound fifth-year senior, Scott plays with maturity and consistency. He's not going to tally up the assists or jump out of the gym blocking shots, but he remains a valuable commodity.

    The biggest knock on Scott is a left ankle injury that inevitably ended his 2010-2011 season after just 10 games. The ankle needed arthroscopic surgery in December of 2010, reports Steve Yanda of the Washington Post. As a result, the 23-year-old was granted a medical redshirt season and returned as a super senior this fall.

    If the experienced forward can stay healthy, he is shaping up to be a hidden gem in the draft's second round.

Scott Machado, Point Guard, Iona

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    Iona's Scott Machado is as true a point guard as there is in the 2012 NBA draft class.

    In his senior season with the Gaels, Machado averaged 9.9 assists per game along with 13.6 points and 4.9 rebounds.

    According to Kevin Dillion of WEEI.com, the 6'2" pass-first guard led Division I basketball last season in assists. That type of unselfish play would benefit any NBA team, however Machado is on the bottom end of draft boards.

    Based on NBA.com's scouting report, Machado is projected to be a second-round draft pick at best. Although, he's not a tremendous athlete, lacks typical size and played in the unheralded Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

    Ultimately, Machado's awareness and distribution skills will register a blip on the NBA radar. He may never be a starter, but every franchise could use a dependable backup at point guard.