As this draft comes into better focus it is shaping up as a draft heavy on forwards and backup centers. Anthony Davis remains the top pick. He’s the only player who looks like he has a good shot at becoming an all-star. After Davis it is something of a mixed bag. Overall the quality is weak compared to drafts of the previous decade, but still an upgrade on 2011. What could hurt this draft is most of the best prospects are underclassmen and a lot of them seem destined to be headed back to college for 2013. Right now there are enough intriguing players and role players to make this draft interesting for at least the first round.
These rankings are for college players only, without regard to whether or not they’ll declare for the draft. It’s still early in the process so these rankings should be considered fluid and likely to change some by draft day. As flaky as this draft is shaping up, my guess is I’ll do a lot of flip-flopping on any player other than Anthony Davis before my final analyses. I’ll add the foreign players later, when I’ve had more of a chance to assess them..
1. Anthony Davis, PF Kentucky: Easy choice as the top guy right now. Anthony Davis will be the first pick in the 2012 draft unless he completely falls apart. Right now he projects as an all-star and possibly more. I can’t say that about any other player.
2. Tony Mitchell, PF North Texas: A top 20 prep prospect in 2010, Mitchell was recruited to Missouri a year ago. That didn’t work out, so he headed for North Texas to start his freshman season a year late. So far he’s been dominant. Is it crazy to rush him into the #2 spot? I don’t think so. The negative is this is for only 13 games in the Sun Belt Conference. The Sun Belt isn’t exactly the ACC, but it’s a decent mid-major. In a draft that’s painfully thin at the top, Mitchell is a better pick than anyone other than Davis at this point. Of course if the final month exposes some weaknesses, we’ll reassess.
3. Jared Sullinger, PF Ohio State: I’m always impressed by a player who identifies a problem and corrects it. This shows the type of intelligence that will help him succeed at the next level. Sullinger was a very good college freshman. But he still needed to improve to make himself a good prospect. He did that. He dropped some weight over the summer and got quicker. His defensive numbers have gone from poor to adequate (I know it doesn’t sound impressive, but this is a big deal considering how good a scorer he already is.) and his FG pct. went from adequate to good.
4. Andre Drummond C, Connecticut: This is a shaky endorsement. There’s very little in his numbers that suggest he’s a dominant player, but enough to keep me interested. Most troubling is he doesn’t get to the line very often.
5. Gorgui Dieng C, Louisville: He has better numbers than Drummond, but is 3 and-a-half years older and 40 lbs lighter.
6. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF Kentucky: He has had a strong start, but faded a little recently. All the numbers remain solid, but if the slump continues he could fall quite a bit. As it is, he’s a solid all-around player who came in as a freshman and did his job well as an important part of a power team.
7. Dion Waiters G, Syracuse: The best backcourt prospect in college right now. Like a lot of the prospects behind Davis, he’s a little hard to get a good read on. There are some signs of a dominant player, but also signs he’s a little too erratic. He also looks like he could play the point and might be a pretty good one. Because he’s on a crowded roster he doesn’t get the minutes a top prospect might at other schools. It’s hard to tell whether this helps or hinders his numbers. I get the feeling that Waiters might be a little over his head now and could fade. But I won’t factor that in until it happens.
8. John Henson PF, North Carolina: I doubt he’ll ever be much of a scorer at the next level, but he can rebound and defend. This makes him potentially a valuable energy player.
9. Jae Crowder SF, Marquette: Crowder has been very impressive so far. He has flashed a variety of skills with no weaknesses. He has put up numbers that put him with some of the best SFs ever. I’m still a tad wary though. He’s a senior and hasn’t been on the radar until this year. Because of that he seems like a candidate to fade badly down the stretch. This ranking is based on great stats so far this season, but more research is needed.
10. Mike Moser F, UNLV: He’s in the same class as Waiters. He shows some signs of being dominant, but also needs to fine tune some areas of him game.
11. Mason Plumlee PF, Duke: He’s in the same class as Henson, but has more potential on offense and less on defense. One concern I have with both Plumlees is there have been some strong performances against Duke by opposing bigs during the Plumlee era. This had been a problem for another recent Duke big, Shelden Wiliams who turned out to be something of a bust.
12. Will Barton SG, Memphis
13. Arsalan Kazemi, PF Rice: Interesting player. He really piles up the rebounds, steals and blocks. As a scorer he needs to improve, but is hitting over 62% this year. That and good passing skills make him a prospect in the mold of Kenneth Faried. He is somewhat undersized.
14. Harrison Barnes, SF North Carolina: There just isn’t a lot to like about Barnes as a prospect. The only skill that stands out is he’s a high volume scorer. His defensive and passing numbers are weak. He barely hits 50% of his 2-pointers, which raises questions about his ability to become more than just a gunner at the next level.
15. Thomas Robinson, PF Kansas: He’s a great rebounder, but the rest of his game looks ordinary. Numbers remind me of Jordan Hill from a few years back. I suspect the NBA career will also look something like Hill’s.
16. Tyler Zeller C, North Carolina: Has become a very good rebounder this year. His other skills are soft, but not so bad that he couldn’t have some sort of impact.
17. Perry Jones, PF Baylor: Jones is starting to show some signs of life, but is nowhere near the dominant player he needs to be and has been advertised as.
18. Moe Harkless SF, St John’s: Erratic, but promising freshman.
19. Bradley Beal SG, Florida: Beal does the important things pretty well. He has posted a 9+ RSB40 and a 2-point FG pct. over .500. He doesn’t score enough yet, but he is a freshman playing with a couple of vets on the perimeter who have never been shy about firing away.
20. Draymond Green F, Michigan State: Green isn’t much of a scorer, but he does everything else exceptionally well. He’s one of the better defenders in the nation, passes as well as some PGs, rebounds like a PF and has hit 3-pointers at a 36% clip for the last couple of seasons. That’s a player who should find a place in the NBA.
21. TJ McConnell PG, Duquense: A player to watch. McConnell is just a soph, but does everything a PG needs to do and does it well. The only issue is he isn’t a high volume scorer, netting only 14 P40. Whether he’ll get more scoring opportunities as his star starts to rise and what he does with those opportunities will tell whether or not he moves into lottery territory. In this weak group of PGs, he’s my favorite.
22. TaShawn Thomas PF, Houston: A freshman who is off to a nice start. He’s on the small side for a PF, listed at 215 lb. With freshman it is assumed they’ll put on some weight. Just in case it might be a good move for him to develop some perimeter skills.
23. Quincy Miller SF, Baylor: A freshman of some promise. Right now he has shown enough that I can call him a first rounder. But he could go either way at this point.
24. Fab Melo C, Syracuse: Melo’s career has had a slow start but has been showing signs of improvement. He has always been a very good shot blocker and for a center that is a great place to start from.
25. Doug McDermott F, Creighton: McDermott has hit 50% of his 3-pointers and 65% of his 2-pointers while scoring over 30 P40. That’s very impressive, as is his 10.7 R40. But he has totaled only 2 blocks and 4 steals in almost 800 minutes this year. Normally that would knock him down quite a bit. But Ryan Anderson was the same type of player at Cal and he has become a very useful player in Orlando. McDermott isn’t PF size like Anderson, but I don’t think it’s out of the question that his offensive skills could get him a NBA rotation job somewhere.
26. Meyers Leonard C, Illinois: There are several decent center prospects out there this year. Leonard has an edge on most of them because he’s younger and is getting his first real action in this, his sophomore season. His numbers have been better than Melo’s overall, but I prefer Melo because he’s a shot blocker and such players generally have better upside.
27. Ken Horton SF, Central Connecticut: A solid player. Horton’s outside shot disappeared this year and that might hurt him. I’m assuming it’s a slump, because he was consistently over 35% for his first 3 seasons.
28. Kevin Jones PF, West Virginia: Having a very good senior year. Jones has flashed some rebounding skills that weren’t there his first 3 seasons. He has also improved defensively, but remains substandard. He has a nice outside shot in his arsenal and that makes him a potentially useful bench player.
29. Miles Plumlee PF, Duke: His per minute numbers are very good even though he plays less than half the time. A good candidate to become a low minute rebounding machine.
30. Marcus Denmon SG, Missouri: Solid college player who should have some success in the pros. Might even excel if he finds the right spot.
31. Glen Rice Jr. SG, Georgia Tech: A good, versatile player who needs to score more often and shoot the trey better if he’s going to have success at the next level. Strange considering his bloodlines.
32. Jeff Withey C, Kansas: Good shot blocker with so-so skills in other areas.
33. Jeffery Taylor SF, Vanderbilt: His outside shot is falling for the first time in his career and that makes him a pretty good scorer. Defense remains weak, but if the 48% 3-point pct. is the real level of his ability he has a chance to stick.
34. Jared Cunningham SG, Oregon State: Decent SG prospect. The problem is there are a lot of decent SG prospects out there, so there’s little reason to waste too high a draft choice on any but the most special.
35. Aaron Craft PG, Ohio State: Similar player to TJ McConnell, but not as good. He could move way up if he maintains the same efficiency when/if he gets more scoring opportunities.
36. Festus Ezeli C, Vanderbilt: Ezeli was a better prospect last year, but has been slowed by injury and suspension. He wasn’t very good when his season finally got going, but has started to show signs of his old self. This ranking is based on his performance last year and the expectation that he’ll have a strong finish to the season.
37. Robert Covington F, Tennessee State: There are several good, versatile SF prospects in the small college ranks this year. Covington is one of the better ones, because he can shoot the trey.
38. Kyle O’Quinn C, Norfolk State: One of the several center prospects who are worth a look. O’Quinn has consistently hit over 60% of his 2-pointer and has rebounded and blocked shots well.
39. Chase Tapley SG, San Diego State
40. Terrence Jones F, Kentucky: I’m having a hard time with Jones. He has the size of a PF, but is a poor rebounder and inside scorer. There are still enough defensive skills here that, along with his shooting ability, make him worth a 2nd round selection. His situation is complicated by the fact that he’s playing on a loaded roster. This is another case where I have to think the player would have done better for himself by going to a team that wasn’t so loaded with talent.
41. Austin Rivers SG, Duke
42. Scott Machado PG, Iona: The best passer in the nation.
43. Eli Holman C, Detroit
44. Bernard James C, Florida State: He’s 26 years old and that’s a pretty big negative. He has played well enough to be worth a look though.
45. Robbie Hummel SF, Purdue: I had Hummel rated as a late-lottery pick for most of his career. Past injuries have obviously hurt his play in his 5th-year senior season. I feel he’s worth a 2nd round look based on his play during his first 3 seasons and the idea that he’ll fully recover. He could even be something of a steal this late.
46. CJ McCollum SG, Lehigh
47. Lorenzo Brown PG, North Carolina State
48. Trevor Mbakwe PF, Minnesota
49. Jeremy Lamb SG, Connecticut
50. Herb Pope PF, Seton Hall
51. Cody Zeller C-PF, Indiana
52. Scoop Jardine PG, Syracuse
53. Drew Gordon PF, New Mexico
54. John Shurna SF, Northwestern
55. Steve Pledger SG, Oklahoma
56. Elias Harris F, Gonzaga
57. Jamelle Higgins PF, Delaware
58. Kendall Marshall PG, North Carolina
59. Patric Young PF, Florida
60. LaQuentin Miles SG-SF, Central Arkansas