2012 NBA Draft: Why This Year's Draft Class Will Be the Best in Recent Memory

Steven Goldstein@@GoldsteinNUContributor IJune 22, 2012

Kentucky forward Anthony Davis leads one of the most promising Draft classes in years.
Kentucky forward Anthony Davis leads one of the most promising Draft classes in years.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Get ready. The 2012 NBA draft is going to be a good one.

Next week, a flock of promising youngsters will kick up their heels and break into the pros. Spearheaded by Kentucky big man Anthony Davis, the 2012 rookies have the potential to be the best draft class in perhaps a half-decade.

This is a draft where 2012 NABC National Player of the Year and consensus First-Team All-American Draymond Green will likely be relegated to the second round. This is a draft where ACC Player of the Year Tyler Zeller may plummet past the lottery picks. This is a draft stockpiled with future NBA stars and franchise cornerstones.

Chicago Bulls general manager Gar Forman says, via ESPN Chicago:

"We have spent a great deal of time not only the last month but the last couple of years preparing for this draft...we feel it's a pretty deep draft."

Through Sporting News, an unnamed GM adds:

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"This draft might have a handful of franchise players.” 

Mind you, this is a maddening antithesis to everything 21st century sports. There's a lack of definitive star power, highlighted by an unnamed NBA executive in the Chicago Tribune:

"It's a good draft, but there is just one star."

Depth doesn't sell in the sporting world. Well-built, robust rosters in Denver and Memphis don't garner even a sliver of the attention that Kobe Bryant's Lakers or Dwight Howard's Magic do. In an era where commodified and TM'd players command the media, Anthony Davis stands alone as the only true star in 2012's class.

Florida guard Bradley Beal could be a dynamic NBA scorer.
Florida guard Bradley Beal could be a dynamic NBA scorer.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

There's relatively little controversy surrounding this year's prospects too. In many ways, Thursday's draft is, well, a little boring.

But it's this class' depth that has hype reverberating through the basketball world. The first round of nearly every mock is loaded with potential studs from top to bottom, with a bevy of recognizable names awaiting in the second round too.

D'ing Up

One distinguishing characteristic of this draft class is its defensive prowess.

Using Sports Illustrated's latest mock, this year's projected top five picks (Kentucky's Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Florida's Bradley Beal, Kansas' Thomas Robinson and North Carolina's Harrison Barnes) averaged a mean 8.32 rebounds per game in college play, to go along with 1.52 blocked shots and 1.28 steals. By comparison, 2011's top five selections averaged just 5.5 boards, 1.06 blocks and .92 steals, factoring in 2011 EuroBasket statistics for international big men Enes Kanter and Jonas Valanciunas.

A whopping nine first-rounders in DraftExpress.com's latest mock averaged 1.5 blocks per contest or better in 2011-12. This is a pack of prospects who seem intent on upping the ante on the defensive end.

Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is "Ron Artest (without the baggage)," according to analyst Jeff Goodman.
Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is "Ron Artest (without the baggage)," according to analyst Jeff Goodman.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Mirror Images

Through a slew of analysts, the 2012 class has already drawn some favorable comparisons to current pro players.

CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman tags Anthony Davis as a concoction of Boston's Kevin Garnett, Houston's Marcus Camby and Miami's Chris Bosh. Elsewhere, he likens Bradley Beal to a mix between Boston's Ray Allen and New Orleans' Eric Gordon, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to Los Angeles' "Ron Artest (without the baggage)," Ohio State's Jared Sullinger to Philadelphia's Elton Brand, Duke's Austin Rivers to Golden State's Monta Ellis, Illinois' Meyers Leonard to New York's Tyson Chandler and Memphis' Will Barton to Chicago's Richard Hamilton.

If those names stuffed into one draft class don't have basketball buffs salivating, what will?

Easy Competition

Perhaps 2012's class stands a chance at being something special because of the relative weakness of prior drafts. The lottery picks (top 14 selections) from 2007's draft class have combined to average just 10.48 points per game through the 2011-12 season. 2008's class has faired better with a combined 13.46 per game, but 2009's lottery picks stand at just 11.32 points a night.

Recent drafts have lacked the prestige and accolades of classic classes like '84, '96 and '03. This year's impossibly deep class has writers like Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick musing over whether 2012 will go down as one of the best ever.

North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes will likely be a top-five pick in 2012.
North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes will likely be a top-five pick in 2012.Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

A Lasting Impact

The 2012 NBA draft is notable for the six teams that hold multiple first-round selections. Two teams, Portland and New Orleans, cling tight to multiple lottery picks. Woebegone squads like the Hornets suddenly have the opportunity to reshape two-fifths of their starting five.

Aside from the Boston Celtics, each team with more than one first-round pick failed to reach the postseason in 2011-12. Thursday's draft is the first step in an enticing new direction for so many clubs.

The Fountain of Youth

Four of the top six players on ESPN's Chad Ford's "big board" enter the draft as freshmen. The average age of the board's top ten talents is a mere 19.5 years old. 2011's first ten selections averaged an age of 19.8 years old, while 2010's averaged 20.1 years of age.

2012's draft figures to be one of the youngest in years, and should generate players with longer, more productive careers.

Syracuse center Fab Melo is just one of many strong defenders in Thursday's Draft pool.
Syracuse center Fab Melo is just one of many strong defenders in Thursday's Draft pool.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Bottom Line

This year's draft class has the potential to entirely re-sculpt professional basketball. The class has a distinctly unique character that should immediately influence NBA style of play, and boasts a long list of familiar faces that will make their way into the crevices of the sporting world.

Will we eventually see Bradley Beal or Weber State's Damian Lillard hoist an NBA scoring title? Will we eventually see Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Syracuse's Fab Melo on an NBA All-Defensive Team? Will we eventually remember the 2012 draft as the resuscitation of the Sacramento Kings, Charlotte Bobcats and New Orleans Hornets?

Time will tell. 

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