6 Most Polarizing Players in 2012 NBA Rookie Class

Maxwell Ogden@MaxwellOgdenCorrespondent IIISeptember 3, 2012

6 Most Polarizing Players in 2012 NBA Rookie Class

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    The 2012 NBA draft featured both stars in the making and overvalued prospects. Unfortunately, we will not know whose destiny will be fulfilled or who will fail to measure up to expectations until the season begins.

    With that being known, there are figures in this draft class who are of a polarizing nature. On one hand, these athletes could become the superstars of tomorrow. On the other hand, these very players could be the new faces of the term "draft bust."

    So who are the rookies with All-Star potential that may never be reached?

    The following slides will have the answers.

Perry Jones III, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Position: Power Forward

    Age: 20

    Drafted: First Round, Pick 28

    Despite popular belief, just because OKC can turn Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka into stars doesn't mean Perry Jones III is heading down the same path. PJ3 remains the same polarizing prospect as he was when some projected him as a top-10 selection.

    Even if he did nearly slip into the second round.

    Perry Jones III's upside is undeniable. At 6'11 with elite level athleticism, Jones is a matchup nightmare on both ends of the floor. He'll score off the dribble, finish in the paint or knock down a mid-range jumper. He'll also disrupt the passing lanes with his length and snag rebounds high above the rim.

    Unfortunately, Jones has a long history of disappearing when the game matters most. He also has a tendency to shy away from contact and underperform in terms of what his physical gifts would suggest.

    For these reasons, it has become perfectly clear why Jones is one of the most polarizing player in this class of rookies.

    PJ3 could be anything from an afterthought to a superstar. He could be the steal of the draft or prove why he fell down teams' draft boards. PJ3 will be remembered for one extreme or the other.

    2011-12 College Season Averages

    13.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.8 SPG

Meyers Leonard, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Position: Center

    Age: 20

    Drafted: First Round, Pick 11

    Meyers Leonard of the Portland Trail Blazers is an athletically gifted center with outstanding upper body strength. He attacks the basket forcefully, is sound defensively and rebounds well enough for the NBA level.

    Unfortunately, Leonard has all the makings of a role player whose minutes cap sits right around 20 for the duration of his career.

    While the former Illinois star could in fact be the starter in Portland, he'll face a steep learning curve to get there. Leonard is solid on both ends of the floor, but lacks the necessary fundamentals to suggest a lengthy and consistent career.

    Especially not when one of the biggest questions surrounding Leonard's game is his questionable motor.

    With that being said, Leonard could have a bright future ahead of him. If he works hard enough on the fundamentals, his athletic gifts and physicality in the paint could make him a premier big man. He finishes strong at the basket and times his shot-blocking better than most pure athletes.

    Best of all, Leonard will be playing alongside star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. The question is: Will he develop into the player his talent suggests? Or could we witness yet another lottery pick failing to live up to expectations?

    2011-12 College Season Averages

    13.6 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 58.4% FG

Austin Rivers, New Orleans Hornets

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    Position: Guard

    Age: 20

    Drafted: First Round, Pick 10

    This name should come as no surprise, as Austin Rivers has as many diehard followers as he does relentless critics. As is life for an incoming rookie with star power, top-tier talent and inconsistent production.

    For what it's worth, Rivers does have legitimate star potential. Not only is he a phenomenal ball handler, but he has the killer instinct that defines the superstars of the NBA. For that reason alone, there is reason to believe that Doc Rivers' son can make a serious splash at the professional level.

    There's also reason to believe that he will fall flat on his face and be nothing more than a glorified role player.

    At this point, the best player comparison for what should be expected of Rivers is Lou Williams of the Atlanta Hawks. While Williams is nothing to complain about, Rivers bears a closer resemblance to a younger version of the scoring guard.

    In that sense, Rivers is an untamed shooter who lacks a defined position and tends to play selfish ball.

    With such great upside and an equally devastating basement, Rivers epitomizes the term "polarizing." From the best player in this draft to the bust of the year, Rivers could be either one.

    2011-12 College Season Averages

    15.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.0 SPG

Jared Sullinger, Boston Celtics

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    Position: Power Forward

    Age: 20

    Drafted: First Round, Pick 21

    Jared Sullinger is far less of a polarizing force than most would like to believe. Sullinger is an incredibly hard worker with an excellent motor and a coach for a father. He's fundamentally sound, one of the best rebounders of this draft class and a superior defender than he's given credit for.

    The issue for Sullinger, however, is that he's somewhere between 6'8" and 6'9" while possessing mediocre athletic ability. This is why Sullinger could be anything from a Tony Battie to a Paul Millsap.

    What Sullinger has over a majority of the power forwards in the NBA is he's a true back-to-the-basket player. His footwork, positioning and post moves are easily the best among all players in this draft class, while his mid-range jump shot helps to diversify his attack.

    With such a large wingspan and elite box out skills, Sullinger should have no problem being a force on the glass. The question is, will his dominant lower body strength that was unmatched in his college career translate to the NBA level?

    Or will Sullinger find himself the victim of an inability to adjust to the NBA size and pace? These questions remain unanswered, thus making the former Ohio State Buckeye a polarizing prospect.

    2011-12 College Season Averages

    17.5 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.1 BPG

Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Position: Shooting Guard

    Age: 20

    Drafted: First Round, Pick 4

    Not only is Dion Waiters one of the most polarizing prospects in this draft class, but he is widely considered to have been the greatest reach as well. Considering most analysts had Dion Waiters struggling to crack the top 10 and he went fourth overall, that's a label that fits well.

    The question is: Does the fact that the Cleveland Cavaliers reached for Waiters mean he won't be the star his draft placement suggests?

    There is good reason to believe he won't live up to the hype. Waiters averaged just 24.1 minutes per game during this past college season, suggesting that he may not be capable of playing starter's minutes in the NBA.

    Even if he can, is it fair to assume that the production will be consistent through 30-plus minutes of action? Or have the Cleveland Cavaliers simply landed their sixth man of the future, thus leaving themselves without a legitimate starting 2?

    While that possibility exists, there is an equally great chance that Waiters ends up a star. The Syracuse alum bears a strong resemblance to a rookie Dwyane Wade, as he too was a phenomenal ball handler who has no trouble penetrating off of the dribble when he was drafted out of Marquette.

    Throw in elite finishing skills around the basket, sound passing abilities and a knack for stepping into passing lanes for steals, and you now have the makings of the second coming of D-Wade.

    Unfortunately, there is an equal chance that Waiters fails to live up to such expectations.

    2011-12 College Season Averages

    24.1 MPG, 12.6 PPG, 2.5 APG, 2.3 RPG, 1.8 SPG

Royce White, Iowa State Cyclones

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    Position: Forward

    Age: 21

    Drafted: First Round, Pick 16

    Does any player have a higher ceiling yet lower basement than Royce White of the Houston Rockets? That answer can be summed up in one simple word: no.

    Austin Rivers may be polarizing, but nothing can compare to what type of well-rounded upside White possesses. White could be anything from Terrence Williams to Hedo Turkoglu to a poor man's LeBron James.

    It all depends on where the former Iowa State Cyclone is mentally.

    His averages of 13.4 points and 9.3 rebounds were met by 5.0 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.9 blocks.

    Each one of those numbers speaks to what White is capable of.

    White can score the ball at an efficient rate, which includes both low-post and perimeter shooting abilities. He can also defend in both areas and dominate the offensive and defensive glass. Throw in his elite facilitating talent, and you have a superstar in the making.

    You also have a player stricken by severe anxiety, a fear of flight and an otherwise frail mentality entering the NBA. White could find himself with multiple All-Star appearances or the label of the forgotten.

    White could be the most fragile player to emerge from this draft class or the absolute strongest. Polarizing indeed.

    2011-12 College Season Averages

    13.4 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.9 BPG