10 Former Lottery Picks Who Must Prove Their Worth in 2012-13

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2012

10 Former Lottery Picks Who Must Prove Their Worth in 2012-13

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    The 2012-13 NBA season will be a chance for the 2012 NBA draft lottery picks to showcase their talent on basketball's biggest stage.

    But there are some former lottery picks who are on the brink of make-or-break seasons.

    Despite the hype, draft slot and subsequent millions that these players entered the league with, they have failed to dominate the league the way that league executives thought (or hoped) they could.

    Some of these players have been bigger disappointments than others, but none have reached anything approaching their potential.

    Their careers may not quite be on the line, but any All-Star dreams are certainly fading.

10. Cole Aldrich

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    Before Aldrich worries about elevating his game, he'll need to find it first.

    The only thing keeping him from earning the dreaded label of "bust" is that no one has crossed the "t" yet.

    The 11th pick in the 2010 draft has appeared in just 44 career games, posting a paltry 1.7 points and 1.9 rebounds per game along the way.

    While his Thunder teammates have enjoyed a successful stretch over those two seasons, it hasn't been because of a stockpile of talented bigs.

    Aldrich has managed fewer minutes than frontline teammates (former and current) like Nazr Mohammed, D.J. White and Nick Collison.

    Aldrich never really dominated the college game, although he did display shot-blocking prowess shown by averaging 2.3 per game in his three-year career at Kansas. Without an impressive college resume, his lack of NBA success isn't the biggest shock.

9. Hasheem Thabeet

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    The second choice in the 2009 draft, Thabeet's "best" season came during his rookie year in Memphis, when he tallied 3.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 68 games.

    Recently, Thabeet managed to draw interest from three NBA teams (first Houston, then Portland and lastly Oklahoma City, which signed him) despite failing to mach those numbers in the two seasons since.

    His best asset coming out of Connecticut was his 7'3" frame, and that remains his biggest strength.

    Some players are victims of circumstance in that their play style is a horrible match for their team or they fail to see eye-to-eye with their head coach.

    As for Thabeet, it's hard to make that argument considering all of the fresh starts he's been given.

    The two-year deal he secured in July may be his last chance in the NBA unless he can manage significant improvement.

8. Terrence Williams

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    Williams was the only free agent on this list until the Pistons signed him recently. He has dazzled fans with his highlight finishes, but failed to impress league execs with a brief career marred by inconsistency and immaturity.

    He has still largely used his other-worldly athleticism to compensate for a perceived lack of focus, but athleticism is something that 19- and 20-year-olds can sell to potential employers, not 25-year-olds.

    The 18 games that he logged with the Kings to close out the 2011-12 season showcased some of the most inspired play of his career, but it wasn't quite enough to convince Sacramento to keep him in the fold.

    He has the talent to enjoy a lengthy career in the league, but red flags go up anytime a player with this skill level has played for three NBA teams in three seasons.

7. Wesley Johnson

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    The fourth pick in the 2010 draft, Johnson arrives in Phoenix with a slate wiped clean of the disappointments of two forgettable seasons.

    The 2009-10 Big East Player of the Year and a first-team All-American, Johnson looked as NBA-ready as any draft prospect in his class.

    But during his tenure with the Timberwolves, Johnson failed to find his niche despite starting 127 of his 144 games there.

    The source of his struggles has been a bit surprising. Despite shooting over 50 percent from the field (and 41.5 percent from three), he's finished below 40 percent on field goals in each of his two seasons.

    With a decision looming on his $5.4 million team option for 2013-14 and a lack of talented wing players on the Suns roster, Johnson could be poised for a breakout season.

    At least he better hope it is, because he may have a hard time generating any interest if he's thrust into the loaded 2013 free-agent class.

6. Jordan Hill

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    The eighth pick in the 2009 draft, Hill seemed to be destined to the legacy as the player that the Los Angeles Lakers traded away Derek Fisher for.

    But after recovering from a sprained right MCL, Hill showed Lakers coach Mike Brown and his new teammates that he's more than the "consolation prize" that New York Knicks fans loathed when the Golden State Warriors selected Stephen Curry at No. 7.

    His game finally reached a mainstream audience thanks to a solid postseason performance, but the media (as they have a tendency to do) has overblown his Laker accomplishments a bit.

    He showed the ability to bring energy off the bench, but he reached double-digits in points just twice and double-digit rebounds four times in 19 games as a Laker.

    Hill deserved the two-year contract he signed with L.A., but now he needs to show why he was a lottery pick just a few years ago.

5. Anthony Randolph

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    Despite four frustrating seasons (spread across three different NBA cities), Randolph remains one of the league's more intriguing players.

    At 6'11", Randolph has all of the physical tools to become the highly coveted point-forward that has increasingly dominated the NBA landscape.

    He could still stand to add some bulk to his 225-pound frame, but his shot-blocking ability can key fast breaks (that is, when he doesn't grab rebounds and start the break himself).

    He's as versatile as any big man in the NBA, but he's failed to find the right system to channel that versatility on a consistent basis.

    Denver coach George Karl is a far cry from noted rookie-killer Don Nelson (who coached Randolph during his first two seasons with Golden State), and Karl's track record suggests that he'll have the patience (and foresight) to develop Randolph's game.

    With JaVale McGee, Kenneth Faried, Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos competing for playing time in Karl's frontcourt, Randolph faces an uphill battle.

    But 2012-13 may mark the first season in which Randolph is granted a true chance at finding NBA success.

4. Michael Beasley

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    Beasley has enjoyed a relatively productive four-year career in the NBA, but he's still a far cry from being the player at Kansas State whose dominance earned him the second overall selection in 2008.

    Some of his struggles can be attributed to the fact that he can't physically overwhelm his opponents like he could in college.

    As a Wildcat, Beasley was a punishing force around the basket who could occasionally step away from the basket.

    But since his NBA arrival, Beasley has become a player who still hits the occasional triple (35.5 percent for his career), but too often settles for contested jumpers outside of the paint.

    In 2010-11, Beasley amassed 19.2 points per game in his inaugural season in Minneapolis. But a year later, that number dropped to just 11.5 points thanks largely due to a minutes crunch that cost him nearly a third of his playing time.

    He has the talent to not only start for his new team (Phoenix), but could emerge as its first option if he enters training camp with the right mental state and a level of focus he has yet to display as an NBA player.

3. Evan Turner

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    Turner's stock was on the uptick after a sophomore season in which he improved in nearly every major statistical category, but an inconsistent playoff performance could mean Turner's days in Philadelphia are numbered.

    At the very least, he'll be facing expectations unlike anything remotely close to what the former second overall pick (2010) has already endured.

    With Andre Iguodala now donning Denver Nuggets blue, Turner will be tasked with becoming the 76ers' new do-it-all player.

    He has the talent to initiate the offense (something he featured in his three seasons at Ohio State) and rebounds well for his stature (6'7", 205 pounds).

    There were grumblings out of Philadelphia that Iguodala's ball dominance was stunting the development of both Turner and Jrue Holiday, so the two will likely not find much sympathy should they struggle on the court.

    Turner has battled turnover issues during his two seasons (with an unsightly 2.31 turnovers in the 2011-12 postseason despite being the team's third or fourth ball-handler) and his shooting needs work (38 percent from the field in 18 playoff games), but he has the talent level to be a 2012-13 breakout candidate.

2. O.J. Mayo

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    The Memphis Grizzlies looked wise after investing the third pick in the 2008 draft in Mayo, who averaged better than 17 points and started all 164 games in his first two seasons.

    But a failed experiment to move Mayo to the sixth man role led to drops not only in his scoring, but in his shooting percentages as well.

    A financial squeeze from Memphis sent Mayo to the free-agent market, where Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was happy reel him in on a low-risk, one-year, $4 million contract (with a team option for 2013-14).

    Cuban believes Dallas coach Rick Carlisle can find and develop Mayo's star potential, and former Carlisle prodigy Chauncey Billups thinks so, too.

    There's plenty of reasons for this optimism.

    Mayo no longer has to deal with the pressures of being a top-five pick, as Dallas invested nothing more than that budget contract for his services.

    And though he wasn't the only free agent the Mavericks added, he's certainly the most likely candidate to replace now-Boston Celtic Jason Terry (Dallas' second-leading scorer in 2011-12).

1. The 2009 Point Guard Class

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    Despite the buzz that this crop of point guards has generated in the years since, so far, the numbers have failed to meet the hype for these former top-10 draft picks.

    The fourth overall pick, Tyreke Evans, impressed during a rookie campaign that netted him Rookie of the Year honors and earned him a place alongside LeBron James, Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan as the only players to average at least 20 points, five assists and five rebounds in their rookie seasons.

    Since then, however, Evans has changed positions (twice) and appeared on his way out of Sacramento as his name traveled the rumor mill in the days leading up to the 2012 NBA draft.

    The sixth pick, Jonny Flynn, showed flashes during his rookie campaign (13.5 points and 4.4 assists), but a hip injury that necessitated offseason surgery following the 2009-10 campaign has continued to plague a career that has spanned three cities in as many seasons.

    The seventh pick, Stephen Curry, also appeared destined for stardom after finishing second to Evans in the R.O.Y. voting and improving his numbers in his sophomore season.

    But a troublesome right ankle has necessitated surgery in each of the past two offseasons, and the Warriors' lack of confidence level in that ankle is evident by their decision not to give him a contract extension to this point.

    As for the 10th pick, Brandon Jennings, he chose the tortoise's approach for his career.

    His three-year career has seen slow (but steady) improvement in his numbers across the board, but he's not quite a can't-miss star.

    His career shooting percentage remains below 40 percent (39.3), and he's now tasked to adapt to playing alongside Curry's former backcourt mate, Monta Ellis.