After last week’s NBA Draft, you are probably left wanting more, right? Well, with the NBA Summer League cancelled and the lockout looming, the next best thing we can analyze is the 2012 NBA Draft. With that, here is a list of the top 15 prospects that will hear their names called by David Stern next year.
Note: We know it is too early to predict next year’s draft. What we are analyzing is guys that are on pace to get drafted or could get drafted.
We have seen slight players like Kevin Garnett and Kevin Durant succeed in the past, and the next skinny star in line is Davis. Aside from his rail-thin frame, everything about Davis screams NBA ready. He can do it all on the court. He can shoot, dribble, pass, block shots, and rebound. At 6-11, it would not be an incredible shock if Davis logs a quadruple-double next year for Kentucky. One thing to watch out for about Davis is what position he will play. If he is forced to play center, which is likely, and shows improvement in his post moves, his stock may soar even higher.
Jones made an excellent decision by returning to Baylor. Not only will the 6-11 small forward/power forward have the opportunity to play for a top-20 team, but he will also have the chance to prove critics wrong. The biggest knock on Jones is his consistency. On a good day, he looks like an NBA franchise player because of his ability to go inside and outside. On a bad day, however, he looks like an uninterested borderline NBA player. With a better team around him next season, watch out for Jones to take his versatile game to another level.
Physical specimens like Young are hard to come by. His 6-9 frame and freakish athleticism, at times, is reminiscent of Dwight Howard. Now to say that Young is one-tenth of the player that Howard is would be absurd. He still has a long way to go in terms of productivity. With Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons gone next year, Young will be the featured post player. Hopefully, Florida’s guard-heavy attack will not prevent Young from getting touches.
Barnes could have very well been the No. 1 in this year’s draft, but he still felt like he had something to prove. After a disappointing start of the year, Barnes stepped up his game when Kendall Marshall took over the starting point guard duties. Barnes will now play a full season with Marshall at the point, and the rest of the team will return as well. Look for Barnes’ game to improve drastically, as it was a bit uncharacteristic of him to lose his confidence mid-year. A summer of hard work will fix that issue.
Kabongo has one of those games and personalities that everyone can gravitate towards. He is a lightning-quick floor general with a lot of flash to his game. Kabongo will be one of the nation’s only freshman to step onto the floor and be the man for his team from day one with Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton, and Cory Joseph all being drafted last Thursday. One thing that makes Kabongo special: he makes his teammates better around him. That is a quality that NBA teams salivate over.
After being the second option of an NCAA championship team, many thought Lamb was long gone. But he realized he was not physically ready and wanted experience as a go-to guy before making the jump. Not only will he be the go-to guy for Connecticut next year, but he is also going to lead the way for the U-19 USA World Championship team. His long and lanky frame will need to add bulk, but Lamb is a prototypical NBA shooting guard in the making.
Coming back from a season-ending knee injury is not easy for anyone. Miller might not be back to his old form right away, but when he is, watch out. At 6-10 with legitimate perimeter skills, Miller could be a special player if his rehabbing goes well. He needs to focus on improving on the defensive end of the floor for now.
Few young players have the leadership skills of Gilchrist. He is a player that only focuses on the next play and has somehow managed to stay humble throughout his outstanding high school career. It is hard to peg one thing that Gilchrist does well, but he is an athletic competitor that knows how to win. His outside shot will need to improve if he wants to be considered an upper-echelon prospect next year.
Similar to Gilchrist, Robinson is a fierce competitor. While a bit undersized for the power forward position in the NBA, Robinson makes up for it with length, athleticism and heart. He rebounds the ball at a high rate (6.4 rebounds per game while only averaging 14.6 minutes behind the Morris Twins), something that always translates to the league. After an early exit from the NCAA Tournament and the tragic loss of his mother, there is no doubt that Robinson is motivated to push Kansas out of its postseason slump next year.
Henson is a long and athletic defender in the mold of Andrei Kirilenko. He has great timing when it comes to blocking shots, even with his bone-thin frame. If he can develop a better perimeter shot and take over games more often, Henson will climb up the draft boards quickly. It is never a good thing when you shoot a worse free-throw percentage than Shaquille O’Neal.
Rivers will not be as lucky as Kyrie Irving was this past year. The 2012 NBA Draft class projects to be strong and the likelihood of Rivers becoming the first pick are slim. Unlike Irving, Rivers will play a more prominent role and will likely have the green light from Coach K. He needs to work on his left hand and his defense, but Rivers may already have an NBA-ready game. There is no doubt that Duke will prepare him well too.
For those who are fans of the movie Coach Carter, does anyone see Ty Crane in Jones’ game? Jones plays just like him; he just doesn’t have the LeBron-esque hype. The 6-8 lefty forward will be the man at Kentucky next year. He cannot afford to fall off like he did last year, though. If he does, Jones could have a prolific fall in this strong draft of combo forwards.
Sullinger is the fourth player on this list that passed up being picked in the top-5 for another year in college. Unlike the other three, Sullinger is ready for the NBA now, which is why his decision to stay may cost him. It is hard not to respect Sullinger for staying, but he will be competing with a much stronger crop of big men next year. If he can push Ohio State to a late-season run and slim down his frame, he might have made the right choice.
One thing is certain about Taylor: he has lottery pick talent. When you watch him, however, it is hard to determine whether he will ever put it all together. His body, skill set and athleticism are that of an NBA starting small forward, but his lack of feel for the game limits his potential. Hopefully, he can emulate his teammate John Jenkins, who is the polar opposite because of his hard-working ways.
When will VCU and Coach Shaka Smart get some credit? They have produced two NBA players in Eric Maynor and Larry Sanders. They reached the Final Four this past year. And yet somehow, they are not talked about as a top-20 team for next year. Remember this: do not sleep on VCU. Ever. Burgess has potential to be next year’s Jimmer Fredette. Okay, maybe he won’t have the same cult following, but from a basketball standpoint he could explode next year. He shoots the ball well and has some crafty moves when getting into the lane. He has the requisite athleticism and size to play the shooting guard position in the NBA. His teammates even called him “Big Shot Brad” during his freshman year because of his late-game heroics. Burgess is oozing with upside and not many people have noticed. Maybe it is because he lacks great consistency. If you look at his career at VCU, however, you will notice Burgess has improved year after year. He will only get better next season.
What do you think? Who are you excited for in college basketball next season?
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