Super-talented Kentucky forward Terrence Jones has watched his stock fall considerably after making the decision to return to school for his sophomore season last year.
One year later, after winning a national championship with the Wildcats in 2012, Jones is ready to enter the NBA draft in hopes of becoming a star at the next level, and he'll do just that as an under-the-radar steal in this June's first round.
Terrence Jones is not alone, though. Take a look at my latest first-round mock to see which players will turn out to be the biggest steals of 2012. Enjoy.
*2012 NBA draft order courtesy of NBA.com.
1. New Orleans Hornets: Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Kentucky's Anthony Davis is on everyone's radar coming into this summer's NBA draft.
2. Charlotte Bobcats: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist lacks the franchise-altering talent that Anthony Davis has, but he can still become an All-Star if he continues to attack the rim with no fear at the next level.
3. Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal, Florida
Bradley Beal is a strong shooting guard who can penetrate or shoot the ball with deadly accuracy from outside. He would team up with Washington's John Wall quite nicely.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Thomas Robinson, Kansas
Thomas Robinson may be tied with Anthony Davis for the best motor of any player available this summer. The 6'9" power forward attacks the rim consistently and will become a star in no time if he continues to play with that college passion.
5. Sacramento Kings: Andre Drummond, Connecticut
There are many concerns about Connecticut's Andre Drummond. The first one being that he shot 29.5 percent from the foul line last season with the Huskies. Still, a solid 7'0" pure center is tough to come by in the NBA.
6. Portland Trail Blazers (via Brooklyn Nets): Damian Lillard, Weber State
Unless the Portland Trail Blazers can lure Steve Nash to Rip City or transform a struggling Raymond Felton into a franchise floor general, they will need to eye a point guard in this summer's draft. Weber State stud Damian Lillard is the best PG available, hands down.
7. Golden State Warriors: Harrison Barnes, North Carolina
Although some, including myself, see Harrison Barnes as a potential risk in the lottery, he has great size for an NBA small forward and the ability to shoot it from deep, which scouts love.
8. Toronto Raptors: Dion Waiters, Syracuse
Syracuse's Dion Waiters boosted his stock with some intense play during the 2012 NCAA Tournament, so the lottery is looking more and more likely for the Orange's sophomore shooting guard.
9. Detroit Pistons: John Henson, North Carolina
The Detroit Pistons will love John Henson's length at No. 9—the 6'10" power forward has a 7'5" wingspan.
10. New Orleans Hornets (via Minnesota Timberwolves): Kendall Marshall, North Carolina
Kendall Marshall was the brain of North Carolina's offensive attack last season, making all of the right decisions and moves, helping the Tar Heels to a No. 1 seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament before injuring his wrist in the second round.
11. Portland Trail Blazers: Terrence Jones, Kentucky
Terrence Jones averaged 15.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game last season with Kentucky after averaging just 12.3 points and 7.2 rebounds as a freshman, yet somehow his stock has fallen.
Regardless of whatever weaknesses experts perceive in Jones' statistics, his potential as a 6'10" forward with a 7'2" wingspan and a 9'10" standing reach make him a worthy lottery pick. That being said, I like the Blazers to make a run at him with their second lottery pick in 2012.
12. Milwaukee Bucks: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
Jared Sullinger has a plethora of low post moves and is a phenomenal rebounder with a frame that is flat out difficult to move.
13. Phoenix Suns: Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut
Jeremy Lamb is a super long shooting guard who has star potential at the next level. A team like Phoenix will fall in love with him because of his shooting and perimeter defense.
14. Houston Rockets: Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State
Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie has a nice inside and outside game for a 6'11" power forward. His 7'2" wingspan will also help on the defensive end as well as on the glass. He rounds out the lottery in my opinion.
15. Philadelphia 76ers: Tyler Zeller, North Carolina
Tyler Zeller will be a valuable big man for whatever team drafts him in the first round, as he can run the floor with speed and agility, not easy for a seven-footer.
16. Houston Rockets (via New York Knicks): Terrence Ross, Washington
Washington's Terrence Ross has seen his draft stock improve since the college basketball season ended, and he could even be headed for the lottery.
17. Dallas Mavericks: Quincy Miller, Baylor
The theme has been consistent for the Mavs all offseason long, get younger and more athletic. Dallas needs to do both if they are to challenge the likes of Oklahoma City in the playoffs next season.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Utah Jazz): Austin Rivers, Duke
Austin Rivers wouldn't have to play point guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who already have a franchise guy in Ricky Rubio. Rivers would be free to fire and use his quickness to score first with Minnesota.
19. Orlando Magic: Meyers Leonard, Illinois
Meyers Leonard's stock is rising fast and some mocks around the nation have him going in the late lottery. Based on the iffy future of Dwight Howard in Orlando the Magic would be wise to draft the 7'1" center.
20. Denver Nuggets: Perry Jones III, Baylor
Like Kentucky's Terrence Jones, Baylor's Perry Jones is watching his stock fall right before the draft. Jones disappeared for stretches at times in two season with the Bears.
21. Boston Celtics: Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure
With the likelihood of Kevin Garnett leaving in free agency this offseason very high, the Boston Celtics will need to shore up their frontcourt with a talented, young power forward.
22. Boston Celtics (via Los Angeles Clippers): Royce White, Iowa State
Although Boston may want to trade one or both of their consecutive first-round picks this summer, they wouldn't be wrong to use both and No. 22 on Iowa State's Royce White, a player flying under the radar this June thanks to some off-the-court concerns.
White is a beast on the basketball court, but suffers from anxiety and has trouble traveling via airplane, which could be a problem playing in the non-stop world of the NBA. Still, as I've said time and again, if any coach can get the best out of White, it's Doc Rivers.
23. Atlanta Hawks: Tony Wroten Jr., Washington
A 6'6" point guard with excellent athleticism, Washington's Tony Wroten Jr. is an ideal change of pace point guard for the Atlanta Hawks, who can afford to take a slight risk at No. 23.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Los Angeles Lakers): Moe Harkless, St. John's
What's not to love about St. John's small forward Moe Harkless? Harkless is 6'9" with a 7'0" wingspan and a remarkable 9'8" standing reach. The freshman averaged 15.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game last season, and surprisingly is somewhat under the radar heading into June 28's draft.
Although he has room to improve from the foul line and beyond the arc, Harkless' rebounding prowess and athleticism in the open floor make him a can't-miss prospect this summer.
25. Memphis Grizzlies: Doron Lamb, Kentucky
Kentucky's Doron Lamb was a lights-out shooter from deep in college, hitting nearly 47 percent of his three-point attempts last season during the Wildcats' national championship season.
26. Indiana Pacers: Evan Fournier, France
Many consider France's Evan Fournier the best European prospect in this year's draft, which may be true. Either way, he will likely call Europe home all of next season, making him a project pick for the Pacers at No. 26.
27. Miami Heat: Fab Melo, Syracuse
Fab Melo is as raw as they come offensively, but his size and leaping ability will make him one of the league's most feared shot-blockers next season.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Draymond Green, Michigan State
Draymond Green is one under-the-radar prospect who will turn out to be a first-round steal as he can do just about everything out on the basketball court. Although Green lacks superior athleticism, his basketball IQ and team-first mentality are invaluable attributes.
I would compare Green's game to that of NBA veteran Boris Diaw, a point-forward who can score, rebound and get others involved on a consistent basis.
29. Chicago Bulls: John Jenkins, Vanderbilt
Most mock drafts have Vanderbilt sharpshooter John Jenkins going No. 29 to the Chicago Bulls and I have to agree with them. Jenkins would bring exceptional knock-down shooting to a team that thrives off Derrick Rose's penetration.
30. Golden State Warriors (via San Antonio Spurs): Scott Machado, Iona
Arguably the biggest under-the-radar first-round steal of the 2012 NBA draft will be Iona point guard Scott Machado. In a league that values solid point guard play, Machado's supreme passing talents will shine through.
The Iona floor general averaged nearly 10 assists per game last season, while shooting better than 40 percent from the three-point line at the same time. Second-year head coach Mark Jackson and the Warriors would love to replace the traded Monta Ellis with a great passing point guard, freeing up Stephen Curry to shoot the ball more often.
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