Buying or Selling Every 2012 1st-Round Pick as a Future NBA Star

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 14, 2012

Buying or Selling Every 2012 1st-Round Pick as a Future NBA Star

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    There can only be so many stars in the NBA, and these 30 first-round draft picks will be competing with LeBron James, Kevin Durant and the other established studs in the league for a chance to shine. 

    Some of them will flame out, while others will shine brightly enough to become household names around the world. 

    Remember, though, it's possible to be a valuable player in the Association even without being a star player. 

    With that in mind, let's see which players from the most recent draft class will become standouts and which will fall short of that distinction. 

Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets

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    Anthony Davis hasn't even played in his first NBA game yet, and he already has an Olympic gold medal to proudly display on his mantle. He may not have been a star on Team USA, but he was still on Team USA before his rookie season

    If there's any player who's guaranteed to become a star at the next level, it's The Unibrow. 

    Even if his offensive game develops at a glacial pace, Davis is already a sensational defensive player and rebounder, one who's capable of swatting away almost any shot lofted in his general direction. 

    Verdict: Strong Buy

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats

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    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is another special player, despite his unpolished offensive game. Let's not sugarcoat it; MKG simply doesn't have a consistent jumper by any stretch of the imagination right now. 

    He'll score a good number of points on an offensively challenged Charlotte Bobcats squad, especially when he gets out in transition. As a result, the No. 2 pick will promote the false perception that he improved drastically on the more glamorous end of the court during his rookie season. 

    Just like Davis, though, MKG is too good in other areas to fail. He's the prototypical glue guy and a great defender who's willing to do anything and everything that a coach asks of him. 

    Verdict: Strong Buy

Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

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    Even though Bradley Beal may need high heels or platform shoes to stand as tall as a typical NBA shooting guard, he plays far bigger than his frame would indicate. 

    Beal has a nice nose for rebounds and isn't afraid to go amongst the trees when crashing the glass. Still, rebounding is by no means the primary strength of his game. 

    The former Florida Gator is a smooth offensive player who can score from anywhere on the court. His stroke from downtown is quite pure, and he possesses the athleticism and creativity to finish at the basket on drives, cuts or transition plays. 

    Between his skills and John Wall's distribution skills, Beal will look great as a rookie. 

    Verdict: Strong Buy

Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Dion Waiters was one of the 2012 NBA draft's biggest risers in the festivities leading up to the main event, and many pundits are still trying to figure out why the Cleveland Cavaliers reached for him at No. 4. 

    Frankly, I just don't see it. 

    Waiters doesn't have much of a jumper to speak of, and he did most of his damage when slashing to the basket in transition. He's a great athlete and loves playing at or above the rim, but his motivation might always be a question mark. 

    This guard will earn playing time in Cleveland out of necessity, but I can't see him blossoming into anything more than an above-average starter. 

    Verdict: Sell

Thomas Robinson, Sacramento Kings

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    One of the most NBA-ready players in this draft class, Thomas Robinson is already prepared to grab 10 boards and put up 10 points on a nightly basis. He won't average a double-double during his first season with the Sacramento Kings, but he'll at least come close. 

    It was impossible to watch Robinson obliterate the opposition while at Kansas and not see a future NBA contributor. 

    However, Robinson doesn't have the same ceiling as other players at the top of this draft class. It's just hard to imagine him getting significantly better than he already is right now. 

    Robinson will be a solid player in the NBA for a long time, but I highly doubt that he ever makes an All-Star squad. 

    Verdict: Neutral

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Don't be fooled by the fact that Damian Lillard went to Weber State. You'll only get yourself in trouble if you allow small-school bias to be the deciding factor in your evaluation of the new Portland Trail Blazers point guard. 

    Lillard is the next big thing at point guard, thanks to his hidden athleticism and ability to light up the scoreboard while still involving his teammates. It's no fluke that he was the co-MVP of the summer league. 

    That success will carry over to the regular season, as Lillard starts a rookie campaign that will end with him being named Rookie of the Year. 

    Verdict: Strong Buy

Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors

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    Harrison Barnes and his silky smooth jumper are going to light up NBA scoreboards for years to come, especially if he stays with the Golden State Warriors for a long time and the resident injury imp doesn't control his life. 

    However, you need to do more than score to develop into a star. 

    Until Barnes learns how to consistently play elite defense or understands what the word "assist" means, he won't be able to qualify.

    Verdict: Sell

Terrence Ross, Toronto Raptors

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    The sooner the Toronto Raptors can rid themselves of the notion that DeMar DeRozan is a valuable player, the better off they'll be. Fortunately, Terrence Ross will help them forget about the man with four capital letters in his name.

    Toronto desperately needs perimeter scoring, and that's exactly what this Washington product will give them. Ross is big and uses picture-perfect form to drill shot after shot from any and all locations on the court. 

    Plus, he's a remarkable athlete.

    Verdict: Strong Buy

Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

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    Personally, I like to actually see some production out of players before calling them future stars. I haven't seen that from Andre Drummond, with the exception of a few brief stretches during his short-lived career under Jim Calhoun. 

    Drummond is about as raw as they come. If you ordered a steak Drummond-style in a restaurant owned by an NBA general manager, you'd get a bloody one delivered to your table. 

    He has the potential to be a standout player on both ends of the court—especially the defensive one—but he has too many weaknesses to justify much playing time at all during his first few seasons in the league. 

    Drummond should at least be able to get into proper rebounding position by now.

    Verdict: Strong Sell

Austin Rivers, New Orleans Hornets

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    There isn't anyone in the world who believes in Austin Rivers more than Austin Rivers does. That's a great first step, but now he must make sure that he can back up what some might perceive as cockiness. 

    Rivers has the talent to become a great player in this league, but he'll have to control himself and remember that his teammates with the New Orleans Hornets are quite talented. 

    The one-and-done Duke Blue Devil can get into the lane at will, showing off great body control and yo-yo handles, but his above-the-neck game still needs some work. 

    Verdict: Hesitant Buy

Meyers Leonard, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Meyers Leonard might not be as raw as Andre Drummond, but he's not too much more developed than his fellow rookie center. 

    This former Illinois standout won't make much of an impact as a first-year player, but Portland Trail Blazers fans will at least be able to enjoy watching Damian Lillard strut his stuff. 

    Leonard could develop into a two-way contributor, but he has a lot of work to do on his game. Right now, he's an elite athlete with elite size and not too many polished basketball skills. Plenty of players in the NBA are great athletes, though.

    Verdict: Sell

Jeremy Lamb, Houston Rockets

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    Even though Jeremy Lamb finds himself stuck on a roster with way too many talented players—yes, believe it or not, that can become a problem—he's too talented to waste away on the bench for the duration of his first season in the Association. 

    Between his nearly 7' wingspan, 6'5" frame and unbelievable athleticism, Lamb is a physical specimen to behold on the basketball court. 

    He's a terrific perimeter defender and can shoot the lights out, especially when he's pulling up for a jumper off his own dribble. 

    I've been sold on Lamb for quite some time now, and not even his occasional motivational slip-ups have changed that.

    Verdict: Strong Buy

Kendall Marshall, Phoenix Suns

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    Kendall Marshall is an incredible passer. It isn't possible to watch him play and deny that. 

    His court vision is nearly unmatched, and his left hand is fully capable of getting the ball into even the tiniest of passing lanes. 

    Here's where a certain Game of Thrones quote comes into play, though. In the words of Benjen Stark: "You know, my brother once told me that nothing someone says before the word 'but' really counts."

    Marshall is a great facilitator, but he's going to be unable to make an impact in the NBA if he can't learn how to play defense and score more effectively. Right now, he's a sieve on defense, and opponents can sag off him far too much when the ball is in his hands.

    Verdict: Strong Sell

John Henson, Milwaukee Bucks

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    John Henson is the only player in this draft class capable of immediately challenging Anthony Davis for the rookie blocks title, but he's not nearly the complete defender that the man with the unibrow has become. 

    The former North Carolina Tar Heel must add weight to his frame if he's going to be able to bang down low with bigger professional-basketball players. He is able to compensate with his length and instincts, and he can guard players on the perimeter, but that won't be enough. 

    Henson also has a developing offensive game, but he won't be able to make much of an impact on that end quite yet.

    Verdict: Sell

Maurice Harkless, Orlando Magic

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    Maurice Harkless was one of the crucial pieces sent from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Orlando Magic during the Dwight Howard mega-trade. Well, he was crucial for the Magic and expendable to the Sixers. 

    A tremendous athlete with great hands on defense and a knack for transition, Harkless has the tools to become a good player in the future. However, after just one season at St. John's and a surprisingly early entry into the NBA, it's going to take some time for him to reach his potential. 

    It's hard to see Harkless earning much playing time as a rookie, even on the lowly Magic. Hopefully, that won't hinder his development too much. 

    As he currently stands, expect him to become a starting swingman, but not much more.

    Verdict: Sell

Royce White, Houston Rockets

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    Versatility is the name of the game for Royce White, who sports one of the most unique looks in the NBA with his John Lennon-honoring facial hair. 

    White was an absolute star at Iowa State and should mature into a lesser star with the Houston Rockets. He can simply do everything you want from a player on the basketball court. 

    Operating at point-forward with the Cyclones, White was a constant triple-double threat. It wouldn't shock me if he put up one of those elusive statistical achievements during his rookie season. 

    White will have to adjust to playing off the ball in the NBA, and he must reduce the number of times that he coughs up the ball to the opponent, but it's hard to bet—or root—against this young man.

    Verdict: Buy

Tyler Zeller, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    There is no doubt in my mind that Tyler Zeller will become a solid NBA player. 

    His all-around game is tremendous, and he can contribute in virtually every possible way. However, he doesn't excel in any one area. 

    Zeller is a good rebounder, a good defender, a good athlete and a good offensive player. You might notice that there are four "goods" and no "greats" in that previous sentence. 

    For that reason, Zeller won't ever become a star. It simply isn't in his nature. 

    This isn't an indictment against him as a basketball player, just one of his superstar potential.

    Verdict: Strong Sell

Terrence Jones, Houston Rockets

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    It's hard to see Terrence Jones getting much playing time during his rookie season on a Houston Rockets squad that's absolutely loaded with talent. Unfortunately, that doesn't bode well for this mercurial forward out of Kentucky who has developed a reputation as a less-than-stellar mental player. 

    Jones has all the physical tools you could ask for and is clearly one of the most talented players in this draft class. He has court vision more commonly found in players six inches shorter and balances that with otherworldly athleticism. 

    Between his defensive instincts and deadliness when driving to the left, Jones has all the potential in the world. If the Rockets see that soon enough, perhaps the potential will be realized. 

    Won over by the other young talents on the roster, Kevin McHale might not notice it quickly enough.

    Verdict: Neutral

Andrew Nicholson, Orlando Magic

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    If you're looking for the biggest steal of this draft class, look no further. Andrew Nicholson is going to be an absolute stud in the NBA. 

    Between his smooth touch from the outside and his occasionally dazzling footwork on the blocks, he's reminded me of Hakeem Olajuwon on offense quite a few times. It's a shame so few people got to see him play at St. Bonaventure. 

    Don't be surprised when Nicholson spends a lot of time on the bench as a rookie, learning the tricks of the trade from Glen Davis and Al Harrington as he bides his time and waits for an opportunity with the Orlando Magic. 

    With some patience, that opportunity will result in some inspired play.

    Verdict: Buy

Evan Fournier, Denver Nuggets

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    When you watch Evan Fournier play, you can't help but notice the fluidity in his game. Despite his constant drives to the basket and athletic plays around the rim, the French guard never seems to play outside the flow of the offense. 

    His elite ball-handling skills and size only benefit him. 

    However, two major factors are working against Fournier. 

    First, he can't shoot. At all. Until he develops some semblance of a jumper, the NBA's above-average perimeter defenders are going to shut him down. 

    Additionally, there isn't a spot for Fournier with the Denver Nuggets right now. He's competing for playing time with Corey Brewer, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Andre Iguodala, among others.

    Verdict: Sell

Jared Sullinger, Boston Celtics

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    Medical red flags dropped Jared Sullinger down draft boards, but he couldn't fall past the Boston Celtics, who now lay claim to one of the biggest steals of the 2012 NBA draft. 

    An old-school player with toughness and a polished back-to-the-basket game, Sullinger is going to be effective for the C's as long as he can stay healthy. We don't know yet if that will be for two seasons or 10, but he'll produce whenever he's on the court at full strength. 

    Sullinger struggled against length in college, and the NBA won't make that any easier on him. However, he's skilled and physical enough that he'll be able to score a respectable amount of points on a nightly basis. 

    Much like Tyler Zeller, this power forward is too good to flop in the NBA, but he doesn't have a high-enough ceiling to qualify for star status.

    Verdict: Sell

Fab Melo, Boston Celtics

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    When was the last time that a defensive specialist with no offensive game was considered a star? 

    Stardom at least requires competence on the offensive end of the court, and Fab Melo can't do much more than finish alley-oops and pick up trash on the glass to get his points. 

    Plus, we don't even know if his defense is going to translate to the NBA or if he was a product of the famed zone defense employed by Syracuse.

    Verdict: Strong Sell

John Jenkins, Atlanta Hawks

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    I was left scratching my head over the Atlanta Hawks' pick at No. 23, but after a night of consideration, I came around. 

    Now, I'm fully convinced that John Jenkins is a perfect fit for the system, especially following the departure of Joe Johnson and the creation of a perimeter-scoring void that needs to be filled. 

    Jenkins' stroke is unbelievably smooth and—coupled with his quick release—makes him an immediate threat to knock down at least a couple of three-pointers per game. 

    But what's even more impressive about Jenkins' game is his ability to work off-ball screens to create space between himself and his defender. Ive said it before, and I'll say it again; he reminds me a lot of Ray Allen, minus the athleticism that Allen possessed at the beginning of his career.

    Verdict: Buy

Jared Cunningham, Dallas Mavericks

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    Now that free agency is all but over, it turns out that Jared Cunningham was drafted into a great situation with the Dallas Mavericks, even though it may not seem so on the surface. 

    The swingman won't see much playing time behind Vince Carter, O.J. Mayo and Dahntay Jones during his rookie season, but that will allow him to focus on hitting the weight room and adding some bulk and strength to his ridiculously skinny frame. 

    As soon as he can take the beating that goes hand-in-hand with the NBA schedule, Cunningham will be able to utilize his ball-handling skills and ability to get to the rim in transition and the half-court set alike.

    Verdict: Buy

Tony Wroten, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Tony Wroten is a sensational defender and capable of lighting up the scoreboard without even attempting a jumper. He's that good with the ball in his hands, especially when driving to the hoop with a full head of steam. 

    While the former Washington point guard doesn't have anything that even resembles a jump shot, he does have form that is most aptly described as "completely broken." That enables him to abandon his mechanics and start from scratch, offering him some hope of a perimeter game in the future. 

    If Wroten is willing to work hard and scrap the attitude that sometimes earned him the dreaded "selfish" label, then he'll be a standout floor general in the Association for years to come.

    Verdict: Hesitant Buy

Miles Plumlee, Indiana Pacers

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    There are quite a few players who went undrafted that I'd want on my team before I signed Miles Plumlee. I, along with many other draft analysts, was absolutely shocked when the Indiana Pacers reached for the Duke Blue Devil this early in the proceedings. 

    Nothing about Plumlee says "star." 

    This is a guy who averaged 6.6 points per game as a senior and wasn't a standout defender. Need I say more?

    Verdict: Strong Sell

Arnett Moultrie, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Arnett Moultrie is one of the more intriguing prospects in the latter half of the first round. 

    He's a lottery-level talent blessed with finesse, power, size and athleticism, but his head can often keep him from dominating a contest to the full extent of his capabilities. 

    He's also a poor shot-blocker, despite having all of those tools. 

    From a developmental standpoint, Moultrie is being thrown into a terrific situation now that Andrew Bynum is the starting center for the Philadelphia 76ers. He'll be able to learn defense and post moves from Bynum while working on his perimeter exploits with Spencer Hawes. 

    I'm not ready to buy into Moultrie as a star yet, but I won't give up on his chances this early, either.

    Verdict: Neutral

Perry Jones III, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Things working in Perry Jones III's favor: an unfair size advantage, ridiculous athleticism, great tools on the inside and outside, a vote of confidence from the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

    Things working against Jones: health, consistency, attitude. 

    If you think that Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka will let this top-five talent succumb to a bad attitude, then you haven't watched enough Thunder basketball. With the attitude will come the consistency. 

    Jones' health is the biggest risk, and we won't know about that until we've seen him play over an extended period of time. 

    Betting on Sam Presti's draft picks is usually a good idea as well.

    Verdict: Buy

Marquis Teague, Chicago Bulls

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    Marquis Teague has the upside necessary to become a starting point guard in the NBA, but he doesn't have the talent to become much more than an average one. He'll never be, say, Derrick Rose

    Speaking of Rose, Teague won't earn much playing time at all when the former MVP returns from his ACL injury. It's hard to see the ex-Kentucky Wildcat carving out much of a spot for himself at all. 

    Teague improved throughout his one season under John Calipari, although he still had a lot of work left to do even while holding up the championship trophy at the end of the year. His mental game must continue to improve as he looks to assert himself on offense. 

    Verdict: Sell

Festus Ezeli, Golden State Warriors

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    While Festus Ezeli gives the Golden State Warriors a nice interior defender to play with, he doesn't bring anything even remotely resembling star power to the table. 

    Ezeli isn't a glamorous player at all. He's only exciting when he throws down a powerful dunk after an offensive rebound. That's it. 

    He'll be gritty, determined and hard-working throughout his tenure with the Dubs, but you won't ever find him near the top of an All-Star ballot. Ezeli just doesn't work that way. 

    As I've said with a few other players, this isn't a knock on Ezeli as a player, but rather a statement that he won't be a star player.

    Verdict: Strong Sell