The class of 2012 is better than the class of 2011. Right now that’s about the best thing I can say about it. I’ll add that there are enough intriguing prospects out there that I expect an interesting enough class to develop by draft day. But I still see this as a slightly below-average class once all is said and done. As it stands now I see 1 player who stands out, Anthony Davis. After that there are 3 others in the next tier. Beyond those 4 I put the prospects in groups for now. The groups are listed in the order of the value typically assigned to such players.
Consider this a very rough draft of the ranking of the 2012 draft prospects. Because of this, I included more than the usual 60 prospects. As the season progresses and the real prospects separate themselves from the fast starters, I’ll refine the rankings to reflect as much. With that in mind, don’t take these too seriously. There remains a lot of basketball to be played and prospect analysis to be done.
Anthony Davis, PF Kentucky: Easy choice as the top guy right now. Unless he completely falls apart during the conference schedule and tournament, Anthony Davis will be the first pick in the 2012 draft.
Jared Sullinger, PF Ohio State: Impressive that he dropped some weight over the summer. This is a good sign for his future in the league. It shows he’s willing to work to improve. So far the work has paid off in better, but still barely adequate, defensive numbers and improved FG pct. The hard part will be keeping it going into the conference schedule.
Quincy Miller, SF Baylor
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF Kentucky: While neither have the eye-popping numbers of Davis, both have stepped into strong lineups as freshmen and put up solid numbers. Considering their status as top prospects coming in and the weakness at the top of this draft it’s enough to put them at 3-4 in this very early, very fluid ranking of the 2012 draft prospects.
The young Centers:
Andre Drummond, Connecticut
Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
Cody Zeller, Indiana
Meyers Leonard, Illinois
Patric Young, Florida: Centers deserve more attention than the other positions, because there are so few good ones out there. When one who looks like a decent prospect shows up, he deserves much more attention than a run-of-the-mill perimeter prospect. So far these guys look like OK, but not great prospects. All except Dieng are soft rebounders and that is a big problem for center prospects. Drummond, Young and Zeller are freshmen, Meyers and Dieng sophomores in their first season of getting extended action. I expect most, if not all of these players to slide as the rankings get a little more refined and the conference schedules send their already weak rebounding rates below double figures.
Top remaining PFs
Mason Plumlee, Duke
John Henson, North Carolina
Thomas Robinson, Kansas: Three good, solid inside players who should at the very least become valuable energy players. Players like this are always undervalued in the draft.
Top SFs who aren’t freshman:
Jae Crowder, Marquette
Mike Moser, UNLV
Jeff Taylor, Vanderbilt: If there is a player who could come out of nowhere into the top 10, it’s Jae Crowder. His terrific defensive numbers are similar to last year, as are his percentages. The only thing changed is he’s shooting more often. So far he’s handled the increased touches well. Marquette seems to crank out a player like this every year recently. That being a senior wing who has waited his turn and excels when he gets the chance. Taylor is listed this high because he’s hitting his outside shot for the first time in his career. His defensive numbers have also improved. I’m leery about his ability to keep it up, but he’s a pretty good prospect if he does. Moser has finally gotten a chance to play and has been very good.
Will Barton, Memphis
Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut
Dion Waiters, Syracuse
Marcus Denmon, Missouri
Bradley Beal, Florida
Terrence Ross, Washington: Based on history, pedigree and statistics so far this year, these 6 are above the rest. There are things I like about each, but I also have reservations. Ross is a particularly shaky addition to this group. Denmon is different from the rest in that he’s older and more of a more of a sure thing. As a senior he doesn’t have the upside of the others though. I’m hesitant to rank any SG too high. Decent, usable SGs are so plentiful that burning a lottery pick on a player who isn’t another Wade, Kobe or Jordan just doesn’t make sense.
Shabazz Napier, PG Connecticut: So far he looks pretty good taking over for Kemba Walker as the PG. Good enough that I feel he deserves his own spot separate from the field at PG. There are no other PGs who I would consider 1st round material at this point.
Freshmen who are hard to get a read on just yet
James McAdoo, PF North Carolina
Rakim Christmas, PF Syracuse: Both have been OK in limited minutes. They haven’t been great, but they also haven’t been the disappointments the next group has been. Right now I feel this is the best place for these two until I see a little bit more.
Terrence Jones, Kentucky
Harrison Barnes, SF North Carolina
Perry Jones, PF Baylor
Marquis Teague, PG Kentucky
Austin Rivers, G Duke: These 5 prospects get a ton of hype as prospects and have resided in the lottery or higher of most mocks around the nets. Based on their numbers none is a lottery pick, let alone a player who should be in the top 5 discussion. All are young and should improve, but in each case the numbers are just too weak to justify their lofty status in most mocks. Barnes probably has the most potential of the group, but like the rest he is far from looking like the star he’s being advertised as.
Put on the watch list
Tony Mitchell, PF North Texas
TaShawn Thomas, F Houston
Chase Tapley, SG San Diego State
Anthony Raffa, SG Coastal Carolina
Jared Cunningham, SG Oregon State
Victor Olidago, G-F Indiana
Soloman Hill, SF Arizona
Chris Udofia, G-F Denver
Arsalan Kazemi, F Rice
Robert Covington, SF Tennessee State
Matt Staff, PF Texas State: So far these players have all caught my eye and I thought they were worth a mention. I don’t rank them too high just yet, either because I’m not certain where they’ll fit despite some impressive numbers or because I have serious doubts they can keep up the pace they’re on. Some could shoot into the top 10 by March, others will fall off the list completely.
The Backup Centers
Festus Ezeli, C Vanderbilt
Fab Melo, Syracuse
Jeff Withey, Kansas
Tyler Zeller, North Carolina
Reggie Johnson, C Miami
Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State
Bernard James, Florida State
Joshua Smith, UCLA: Players who will be vying for a backup job. All are decent college players, but come up a little short as prospects. The fact that they’re centers makes them all more intriguing prospects than 2nd-rounders at the other positions. It’s a supply and demand thing. The only thing separating this group from the 5 young centers I have in the lottery discussion is these guys have played themselves into the 2nd round. The 5 youngsters haven’t had the opportunity to do that yet.
Seniors and juniors who should be in 2nd round discussion
Herb Pope, PF Seton Hall
Robbie Hummel, SF Purdue
John Shurma, SF Northwestern
Draymond Green, F Michigan State
Miles Plumlee, PF Duke
Arnett Moultrie, PF Mississippi State
Scoop Jardine, PG Syracuse
Kevin Jones, PF West Virginia
Ken Horton, G-F Central Connecticut State
Tony Mitchell, SF Alabama
Kim English, SG Missouri
Noah Hartsock, F BYU
Trevor Mbawke, PF Minnesota
Elias Harris, F Gonzaga
JaMychal Green, PF Alabama
Drew Gordon, PF New Mexico
Dee Bost, PG Mississippi State
Mike Scott, PF Virginia
Cameron Moore, PF UAB: This is a group of prospects who have been around and played well, but just not well enough. They lack a key skill, have had some injury problems or are a few years older than the normal prospect. Any one of these guys could catch fire during the conference season or have an impressive pre-draft and push themselves into the late-lottery. All would be solid 2nd-round picks. The thing that jumps out is that there are a lot of PFs on the list. These guys, along with Davis and the others at the top make PF the strongest position in the 2012 draft.
Small College Scorers:
LaQuentin Miles, SG Central Arkansas
CJ McCullom, SG Lehigh
Damian Lillard, G Weber State
Nate Wolters, G South Dakota State
Alex Young, SG IUPUI
Javon McCrea, F Buffalo: These guys are lighting it up, at least on a per minute basis. Right now all of them look like they’re players who are too small to play their natural position in the NBA. But all are worth watching for now.
Good PGs who would be great prospects if they could score.
Aaron Craft, Ohio State
TJ McConnell, Duquense
DJ Cooper, Ohio
Tim Frazier, Penn State
Jesse Sanders, Liberty: This group has shown the necessary passing and defensive skills any PG prospect needs, but aren’t where they need to be as scorers. I like PGs like this better than say a Zach Rosen from Penn who is a decent scorer and passer, but lacks the defensive chops to move up a level. Scoring is an easier skill to develop than defense, so I feel all these players can be considered at the very least dark horses to be drafted and make some sort of impact. While I group them together, Craft and McConnell should be considered much better prospects than the other 3. Both are just sophs and neither has had the opportunity to shine as the top guy on his team.
Shooters with weak defensive numbers
Doug McDermott, F Creighton
John Jenkins, SG Vanderbilt
Doron Lamb, SG Kentucky: Sometime players like this find a place and makes an impact. Shooters are always in demand.
PGs with a 10+ A40:
Scott Machado, Iona
Kendall Marshall, North Carolina
Travon Woodall, Pitt: I don’t have a ton of confidence that any one of these three is more than a good college floor general, but 10+ assists per 40 minutes is very impressive. But I’m clearly going overboard on the subgroups at this point, making this a good time to wrap this very early, very fluid ranking of the 2012 NBA draft prospects.