Prior to the NBA Draft, the 2012 class received mixed reviews from all the critics. The draft had a clear number one: Anthony Davis. It had a few potential star guards: Damian Lillard, Dion Waiters and Bradley Beal. It even had the athletic postmen, Andre Drummond and Thomas Robinson. But it seemed to lack real depth.
After watching this class play for over a season now, there are clear front runners for who may be the stars in the league for years to come. The GMs who picked these players are patting themselves on the back because they got it right. They were able to see the potential (and did a little guessing) and now we’re watching them develop into something special. These sophomores are proving why they were picked when they were, or why they should’ve been picked even higher.
Later today, we’ll drop our list of the five worst sophomores in the NBA, and considering it’d be stupid to hold a top-10 pick to the same standards as a second rounder, we’re sticking to lottery picks. We did the same here to keep it consistent… in other words, the only eligible players were ones picked in the lottery during 2012.
Here are the top five sophomores in the NBA this season.
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5. DION WAITERS
The number five choice was a challenging one. I chose Waiters over Harrison Barnes because I believe Waiters gets a bad rep for being on the wrong team. He is a guard who needs the ball in his hands to be effective and with Kyrie Irving having one of the highest usage rates in the NBA (30.2), Waiters won’t be as productive as he can be. But with all that being said he still manages to score 13.9 points a night.
Waiters probably shouldn’t have been taken at the four spot, but he is still valuable to his team, despite the bad fit. Another reason I chose Waiters over Barnes is not only for his ability to guard the guys Kyrie can’t, but his incredible knack to catch fire and light a team up for 20-30 points. So far this season, Waiters has six 20-point games and is shooting 41 percent from the field. He is a fast-paced type of player who may not be starter material, but can provide an explosive spark from the bench. While choosing Waiters at four might have been too high, especially for the Cavs to take him, he is turning into a solid NBA two-guard.
4. BRADLEY BEAL
Bradley Beal, as the No. 3 pick in the draft, was anything but a mistake for the Washington Wizards. They needed a strong shooting guard who was smart and could play along their star point guard, John Wall. In his rookie season, he showed some promise but you didn’t really see many praising him for his play. It’s a month and a half into his sophomore season and now many are starting to see his value and potential. Before Beal went down with an injury three weeks ago, he was showing the world his strong ability to score.
Beal is averaging 20.9 PPG and is shooting nearly 44 percent from behind the arc, proving why he is the best shooting guard of the sophomore class. Though Beal got off to a hot start, the Wizards did not, but most of the Eastern Conference hasn’t performed well either. This has left the door open for the Wizards to potentially sneak into the playoffs and have Beal’s abilities showcased on a national stage. I believe Beal will continue to develop, making him and Wall one of the best backcourts of the future. If he can stay healthy, Beal will be near the top of the next generation of great NBA two-guards.
3. ANDRE DRUMMOND
Andre Drummond was definitely the steal of the 2012 Draft. He was picked ninth overall, in part because of his awful free throw shooting in college but also because people questioned his work ethic and drive to be great. He’s made all the doubters look like complete fools.
During his rookie season, he came off the bench and played behind Greg Monroe. This season, he is now the starting center and is out-playing teammates Josh Smith and Monroe. He boasts a 22.96 PER, which is 14th best in the league. Drummond is incredibly efficient with the best field goal percentage in the association (62 percent), and is averaging 13.1 PPG and 12.7 RPG, which is fourth-best in the league. Drummond is balling.
There aren’t many centers in the NBA today who I would take over him right now. His free throw shooting is an abysmal 37 percent, but he makes up for it with every other part of his game. He moves well up and down the court and in the post. He rejects 1.4 shots a night and is emerging as a leader of this young and exciting Detroit Pistons team. The sky’s the limit for Drummond, who has potential to one day be the best center in the game. In the long run, considering Drummond turned 20 years old just before the start of this season, he’s undoubtedly an even better prospect than the next guy on this list.
2. DAMIAN LILLARD
It was hard deciding between Lillard and Drummond, but with the young point guard calling the shots for one of the best offenses in the NBA, he gets the nod over the others. Lillard is fearless. Taking almost 16 shots a game as a point guard, he is not willing to back down against anyone. He’s scoring over 20 points a night and making nearly three 3-pointers a contest.
A few critics were uncertain of how Lillard’s game would translate into the NBA considering he played in a weaker conference in college. But he has done everything to prove why he was the best point guard in his class, as well as why he’s a deserving reigning Rookie of the Year. He continued his success in his sophomore season, but this time his team his excelling and currently has the second-best record in the league. Lillard loves to attack defenses, especially since they are starting to step out more on his 3-point shots. He’s not afraid to launch it from deep or drop a floater over the opposing team’s center. Lillard has a killer instinct and with his team likely to make the playoffs this season, it will be magnified even more.
1. ANTHONY DAVIS
There really shouldn’t be any debate here as Anthony Davis is quickly making his way toward superstardom. He is a freak athletically and can handle the ball well for a big man. The only problem with Davis so far is his health. He missed a chunk of last season due to injuries and has been out for the last two weeks with a fracture in his left hand. But before Davis went down, he was showing everyone watching why he was the No. 1 pick.
He has the second-best PER in the league (28.29) behind only LeBron James. He is leading the league in blocks (3.63) and is averaging 18.8 PPG and 10.2 RPG. Davis is also shooting 49 percent from the floor and a stunning 84 percent from the free throw line. He is a monster on both ends of the court and will likely be challenging Kevin Love for the best power forward in the league soon. The scariest thing about Davis is he is still only 20 years old.
What do you think?
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