College Basketball Recruiting: NBA Counterparts for Top Players in Class of 2012
The NBA is the ultimate goal of every basketball player, and the recruits in the college basketball Class of 2012 are no different.
As these recently graduated high school seniors head to college, we can't help but compare their games to players who have already achieved the ultimate dream.
These 10 players will likely all enjoy successful NBA careers, but for now we can only compare them to current giants.
10. Gary Harris: Kobe Bryant
It's tough to compare the No. 10 prospect in a recruiting class to a future Hall of Famer, but I have to do it.
At 6'4" and 195 pounds, Gary Harris has almost the same vitals as Kobe Bryant, and could very easily be the same height and weight by the time he goes to the NBA.
Like Bryant, Harris is a great scorer with ice in his veins. He will be taking the final shot for his team in the future, and could be the go-to-guy as well.
While he has a good shot like Kobe, he excels when he drives through the lane and finishes close to the rim or with a pull-up jumper.
Remind you of anyone?
9. Cameron Ridley: Tristan Thompson
Tristan Thompson was a big man at Texas, too, and he was unstoppable with his back to the basket at the college level.
Thompson was taken No. 4 overall in last year's NBA Draft, and he will continue to improve at the next level. Right now, this comparison is made with the assumption that Thompson will improve and convert his game to NBA standards, but I think it will hold up.
Cameron Ridley is a big dude at 6'10" and 230 pounds, and he plays very well inside. He can play with his back to the basket with incredible skill, which is what reminds me so forcibly of Thompson.
It doesn't hurt that these two both chose Texas, but the reason I chose Thompson is because their styles of play are very similar.
8. Devonta Pollard: Luol Deng
Devonta Pollard is the most versatile player in the Class of 2012. He can do almost anything on the court, making him a great option at wing.
His NBA counterpart is Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls. One of the key players for Chicago, Deng is highly versatile, just like Pollard.
Averaging 15.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, Deng's number are similar to those that I expect Pollard to put up in the NBA, although perhaps slightly lower. Deng also plays good defense like Pollard does.
Deng is slightly bigger between the two, but their games are incredibly similar despite the size differences.
7. Steven Adams: Serge Ibaka
Steven Adams is arguably the best shot-blocker in the country, fighting with Christopher Obekpa and Nerlens Noel for that honor.
Adams doesn't even leave his feet until his opponent does, but because he elevates so quickly, he still gets ahead and can block the shot.
He's similar to Serge Ibaka in his shot-blocking ability. Ibaka led the NBA with 3.7 per game and intimidated almost every player in the NBA.
Adams can do the same thing.
The kid from New Zealand will be a shot-eraser in college and the NBA, and could be the second-coming of Serge I-block-ya.
6. Anthony Bennett: Kevin Love
This comparison is a bit of a stretch because Kevin Love plays better in the paint than Anthony Bennett, but their shooting abilities are incredible.
Love is the NBA's best rebounder and has a great all-around game, but he is also an incredible three-point shooter, despite being a power forward.
You may remember Love winning the three-point contest this year, and he showed off his stroke there. The next big man who can shoot like that will be Bennett, whose shot is silky smooth.
Bennett also plays well inside, and while he isn't as complete as Love is, he can sure shoot like him.
5. Kaleb Tarczewski: Meyers Leonard
An athletic 7-footer, Meyers Leonard was a lottery pick at No. 11 in this year's NBA draft, being taken by the Portland Trail Blazers.
For the teams who missed out on the big man out of Illinois, his doppelganger is future Arizona Wildcat Kaleb Tarczewski.
Tarc has an imposing stature at 7'0" and 240 pounds, and he will be able to add more muscle by the time the season starts. He also has a good inside game like Leonard, scoring with his jump-hook. However, both big men could improve a bit in the paint.
What really makes this comparison work is the fact that they are both very athletic and can get up and down the court faster than most big men and just about any seven-footer.
They are wicked in transition because no one with the size to stop them can beat them down the court, making it easy for them to rack up points on the fast break.
4. Isaiah Austin: Perry Jones III
As much as I hate to compare recruits with the players that they are replacing, this is the first of two times I will have to do so.
Perry Jones III was Baylor's center last season, and he will be replaced by one of the top recruits in the Class of 2012, Isaiah Austin.
Both players are tall, long, lanky big men with great athletic ability, but they are too skinny to play well inside.
At 7'0" and 210 pounds, Austin is freakishly thin. He does not have a big enough frame to play inside at the college level, let alone in the pros. He had a role as a guard at times in high school, but he must try to abandon that role as he plays at higher levels.
While he can still lead a team in transition, Austin must try to bulk up and put that 7-foot body to work inside, but that is a similar challenge to what Jones had in college as well, and one that he will now face in the NBA.
3. Kyle Anderson: Magic Johnson
There are no players like Kyle Anderson in the NBA today. The kid is simply a freak (in the best way possible), and the only historical comparison to him that I can make is to the great Magic Johnson.
At 6'9", you would expect this guy to be a forward, but he plays point guard.
Yeah, he's a 6'9" point guard.
Most point guards in college are 6'2" or shorter. This kid has a whopping seven inches on most point guards, which is why he can shoot over them.
He is also just as quick as they are (although he actually looks slow when playing), which makes it almost impossible for big men to keep up with him.
Anderson can score, rebound, distribute, play tight defense and lead the team.
Just like Magic.
Johnson had incredible height and played point guard as well. He and Anderson share physical attributes and play similar styles.
In all honesty, Anderson will probably leave a unique legacy that will be hard to compare to anyone. However, the closest comparison I can make is to Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.
2. Nerlens Noel: Anthony Davis
This is the second time that I will compare the recruit to the player that he is replacing, and it's not hard to see why here.
The similarities between National Player of the Year Anthony Davis and his successor, Nerlens Noel, are just uncanny.
Davis showed off that he has an impressive defensive game led by his shot-blocking ability, and Noel is almost as good at sending back shots. Davis played with a relatively incomplete offensive game, and Noel enters with a similar offensive role.
These two players have almost identical games, are coming in under very similar circumstances and committed to the same school—Kentucky.
Now you see why I had to make this comparison.
1. Shabazz Muhammad: LeBron James
There are so many comparisons that I could make to Shabazz Muhammad, including more than a few All-Stars and members of Team USA.
The one I'm picking is LeBron James.
This comparison works because both players love to slash through the lane and have good jumpers. With great defense and the ability to lead a team, they are both superstars.
But along with making a comparison that fits, I also wanted to make a statement: This kid is really, really, really good.
Muhammad is a stud. He is next to unstoppable in the lane like James. While he is smaller than The King, he is just as effective when slashing through the lane.
Muhammad has a bright future ahead of him. While he may not be quite as good as James, he'll be close and could easily make the 2016 Olympic Basketball team.