NBA Draft Prospects Teams Would Be Lucky to Land in 2012
The word "potential" will be uttered by GMs and media pundits hundreds of times Thursday night, when the NBA draft takes center stage.
Anthony Davis will bring his brow to the Bayou, Michael Jordan likely will make another draft-day mistake and teams like the Houston Rockets will shop draft picks in hopes of landing Dwight Howard or another bona-fide NBA star.
As the subplots heat up, several prospects are being lost in the draft-day shuffle. Whether they lack elite athleticism or sexy name across their chest, they aren't exactly flashy picks.
As history has shown us, GMs often capitalize on the mistakes of their peers blinded by the hype—see Kevin Durant.
Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
Let's take a look at seven players who will exceed expectations and leave NBA teams feeling lucky Thursday night.
Kim English, G/F, Missouri
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Projected Landing Spot: Early Second Round
NBA Skill: Shooting
English played in a Mizzou system that preached up-tempo basketball and limited 1-on-1 opportunities. That might be why the 6'6" English isn't considered to be a first-round talent.
A rugged player by Big 12 standards, English showed flashes of being a solid defender and rebounder. He will never be an asset defensively, but his size and athletic ability won't make him a liability.
It's on the offensive end where English will really make an impact.
Known as a slasher when he arrived in Columbia, English's dramatic improvement on his jump shot will earn him a paycheck for years to come. He shot nearly 46 percent from three-point range in his senior campaign.
English would be a valuable bench player to a team lacking punch off the bench. Any NBA team with creative point guards would be wise to nab English, even late in the first round.
NBA Comparison: Wesley Matthews
Chris Johnson, G, Dayton
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Projected Landing Spot: Mid-to-late Second Round
NBA Skill: 1-on-1 Defense
Not many players on the draft board have more pure talent than Johnson, who has length and athleticism of a lottery pick.
If only he had the results to go along with those measurables.
During his four years at Dayton, Johnson showed flashes, but was plagued by inconsistency. Despite having more game than most of his opponents, he never averaged more than 12 points a game for the Flyers.
Johnson’s true value lies on the defensive end, where his long arms will pester offensive players.
With more upside than many likely first-round picks, Johnson could be a real steal in Round 2.
Pro Comparison: Courtney Lee
Jeffery Taylor, G, Vanderbilt
Projected Landing Spot: Late First Round
NBA Skill: Shooting
Vanderbilt is likely to have three players drafted Thursday night, and Jeffery Taylor will be the best of the bunch.
The 6'7" Australian native is long, athletic and has range to stretch defenses.
Despite a wealth of talent, Taylor never dominated in what was a fairly meek SEC in terms of NBA talent during his Commodores career.
That lack of assertiveness might be enough to scare some NBA GMs away, but Taylor would benefit from having playmakers around him to create easy shots.
Take note, Miami Heat.
NBA Comparison: JR Smith without the attitude and incredible swag.
Drew Gordon, F, New Mexico
Projected Landing Spot: Mid Second Round
NBA Skill: Rebounding
Few players in college basketball were more productive than Gordon last year.
The UCLA transfer showed maturity and consistency for Steve Alford’s Lobos, and his prowess on the glass is going to get him paid. Underrated athletically, Gordon won’t be overwhelmed at the next level.
Gordon won’t be a big scorer in the NBA, but he has the look of a solid role player. There’s no potential for a bust here.
NBA Comparison: Drew Gooden with better shot selection.
Andrew Nicholson, F, St. Bonaventure
Likely Landing Spot: Mid-1st Round
NBA Skill: Scoring
Andrew Nicholson will go down as the best recruit to ever play for the Bonnies, and when his NBA career wraps up, likely as the best pro player from St. Bonaventure not named Bob Lanier.
Not impressed? His size and skills will make you a believer.
At 6'10", Nicholson has a great touch and understanding of how to score without forgetting about his teammates.
His rebounding numbers are impressive, but difficult to measure against inferior competition.
Even if he isn’t great defensively or on the glass, Nicholson will be a solid scorer and have a long NBA career.
Pro Comparison: David West
Quincy Miller, F, Baylor
Likely Landing Spot: Late First Round
NBA Skill: Versatile Scoring
Recovering from a torn ACL sustained as a high school season limited Miller’s explosiveness early in his freshman campaign. In the meantime, the 6'10" Chicago native learned how to play the game without relying solely on athletic ability.
Once the explosiveness returned, Miller arguably became a better pro prospect than enigmatic teammate Perry Jones III.
Miller’s lanky frame lacks strength and refinement, but a season or two on the bench could produce a real star at the NBA level.
His impact will felt mostly on the offensive end. Shots were hard to come by at Baylor, but he found ways to score without demanding the ball.
If Miller mixes his quirky offensive game with an improved outside shot, he will be a very solid starter in the NBA for many years.
Pro Comparison: Danny Granger without the misguided shot selection.
Dion Waiters, G, Syracuse
Likely Landing Spot: Top-10 pick
NBA Skill: Slashing and scoring
What a difference a couple inches can make. At 6'4", Dion Waiters is an inch or two away from being a top-three pick.
While Fab Melo and Kris Joseph hogged most of the headlines for the Orange early in the season, a dominant Big East tournament boosted Waiters’ stock.
A powerful athlete, Waiters is a natural slasher with an improved jump shot. He is accustomed to moving without the ball, a lost art in today’s NBA.
Bradley Beal is widely regarded as the best guard in the 2012 draft, but Waiters has a much more impressive body of work.
The Bobcats or Wizards would regret passing on Waiters, who will be a consistent 20-ppg scorer for years to come.
Pro Comparison: Vintage Mitch Richmond