by Justin Cherot
For the past several months, we’ve listened to pundits gushing over how deep the 2012 NBA Draft was going to be, how one draft could single-handedly change the landscape of the league.
For months, I’ve been naive enough to believe it because, as I’ve indicated before, I’m not nearly into college basketball the way I used to be.
Contrary to popular belief, the “one-and-done” rule really hurts the collegiate product. Before, kids who didn’t want to go to school didn’t have to pretend they were interested in doing so. Except in rare cases, any kid who is halfway decent stays for a cup of coffee and then flees to the league. In fact, if you return for your sophomore year, it’s only because you showed so many glaring holes during your freshman year (cough, Harrison Barnes) that you had to come back. My point is that the intimacy of getting to know a player and watching them grow over four years ( a la Juan Dixon) is a thing of the past. College basketball has turned into a one-night stand, all because David Stern decided that abstaining from college was ruining his product… except for the fact three of the top five players in the league (LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Dwight Howard) didn’t go to school, and one of the players, Derrick Rose, allegedly had to have someone take his SATs to qualify for his one year at Memphis.
But, I’m doing it again, digressing from the larger point: evaluating the talent in this draft will be similar to navigating through a minefield. In layman’s terms, there seems to be a higher bust factor amongst the top players than there usually is.
Don’t worry, I’ll explain. Let’s just evaluate the consensus top 10 from Chad Ford and NBADraft.net , and we’ll add one bonus pick at the end. Keep in mind that the spot where a player is picked ultimately influences bust potential as much as a player’s overall skills. For instance, do you consider Kerry Kittles a bust? Not nearly as much as Joe Smith, although Smith probably had a better career.
1. Anthony Davis, Kentucky
I love the story about how he grew seven inches between his junior and senior seasons of high school. It means he has the quickness of a guard with the height of a big man… and yet his frame is the size of a guard, too. Against Baylor, on three seperate occasions I saw him go up with Cherot-like softness against their tall front line, helplessly flinging a shot to the rim that had absolutely no chance of going in. As athletic as he is, it doesn’t seem like he enjoys contact all that much. Granted, this seems like an easy fix once he acquires an NBA trainer at the next level, but aren’t we making a huge assumption that he’s going to get a lot tougher? For every Kevin Garnett, there’s an Anthony Randolph (not worry, Ant… there’s still time). As a GM you have to take him No.1 because the upside is tremendous and it seems like the work ethic to get better is there, but scouts calling him a surefire Hall of Famer need to slow their roll.
Bust Potential: 10%
2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky
I like K-G. He plays hard and does all those other cliche things that will keep him on an NBA roster for 12 years. But, for a No.2 guy in the draft–especially a guy on the wing–I would want him to have an elite skill. What is his? “Intensity” is an intangible. “Hitting open jumpers” and “being able to create your own shot” are skills. This is harsh, but to me K-G reminds me of a more skilled, less athletic version of Darius Miles. If that didn’t scare you as a GM, I don’t know what will.
Bust Potential: 50%
3. Thomas Robinson, Kansas
Great back story, and he has pretty much everything you want in an NBA power forward. Robinson may be the second surest thing in this draft (we’ll get there)… and yet he’s slightly undersized. His combination of build and agility should be able to combat that, and ultimately he projects more poor man’s Blake Griffin than Marcus Fizer.
Bust Potential- 10%
4. Andre Drummond, Connecticut
I’ve watched UConn play quite a bit this season, and although I like Drummond’s athleticism and touch around the rim, there are times when he just looks disengaged… or Lamar Odom-like (let me stop, they’re going to need him tonight). It’s not a good sign when I’m more impressed with Hasheem Thabeet‘s motor as a player. For him, it’s going to come down to fit. I wouldn’t want him to be the man starting out, but on the right team he could make a difference. Does that analysis seem fitting for a top five pick?
Bust Potential- 35%
5. Bradley Beal, Florida
A very strong showing in the NCAA tournament has him in the top five in most projections (well, except Draft.net). Lots to like about his game. Great build, great shooting stroke, good ability to finish in traffic. Two red flags come to mind, however. First, although he has good stroke and finishing ability, his ball-handling needs work as he will definitely come into the league as relatively below average in that department compared to other two guards. Second is his height. As a pure two guard, there are more instances of Shawn Respert and Randy Foye than there are of Joe Dumars.
Bust Potential- 30%
6. Harrison Barnes, North Carolina
(Stay positive, Justin. Stay positive.)
Well, he has the ideal build of a small forward. Barnes is also pretty good at catching and shooting with one or two dribbles. But someone should do a study of what happens after he dribbles a third time. I wonder how drastically his PER drops after that. Despite his obvious size advantage at the college level, it’s like he’s trying to show NBA scouts that he can hit tough shots from the perimeter and therefore he ends up settling. In his defense, he’s a recently coverted wing player, so maybe there’s time for him to grow. But, seeing that he lacks the ability at this point to create his own shot consistently and handle the ball, well… you can see where this is going.
Bust Potential: 65 %
7. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
In honor of this being a beautiful, lazy kind of day, simply transpose everything I said about Robinson, except for the fact that Sully lacks Robinson’s offensive versatility and that he doesn’t rebound quite as well as he should on the collegiate level. Come to think of it, that makes a big difference.
Bust Potential: 55%
8. Damian Lillard, Weber State
Heard this story before: smallish high-scoring guard masquerading as a point guard at the mid-major level but gets away with it because he handles the ball so well. Ford and Draft.net both have him around the top 10, which seems high for a shoot-first point guard. Even if he is more Stephen Curry than Antonio Daniels, it still seems early for a guy like him to go. The fact that this is a horrendous draft for point guards helps him immensely. That said, if you can consistently score in this league, there will always be a spot open.
Bust Potential: 40%
9. Perry Jones, III, Baylor
PJIII is extremely intriguing because he brings good versatility to the table, but what damns him in the eyes of scouts–more so than his lack of significant improvement from his freshman to sophomore year, of course–is his motor. Again, much like Drummond, his career could be shaped by fit. As far as likely busts go–and this isn’t me being harsh, there’s a bust or two in EVERY top ten–he’d be high on the list.
Bust Potential: 65%
10. Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut
In honor of Anchorman 2 coming out, “I love Lamb.” He’s has good height, and has proven to be an efficient guard who can get his shot off against anybody. In a draft with a ton of questions marks about upside, he’s one of the surest things in this year’s pool. The only thing I would question would be his tendency to disappear at times. We didn’t see it when Lamb played a secondary role to Kemba Walker last year on the way to the champinonship, but at times we saw it this season when it didn’t seem like he could patch a hole in UConn’s sinking ship. The good news is that the teams who would draft him to be the man probably won’t end up taking him.
Bust Potential: 10%
If you’re keeping track, I count three almost surefire picks that a GM probably won’t end up regretting. But you know what? I’ll throw in a bonus…
Austin Rivers, Duke
Someone is going to get a steal with Rivers in the mid-lottery. Does he turn people off with his smugness? Yes. Did non-Duke fans wish harm upon his wiry frame every time he went to the rim? Yes.
Can he score and get to the rim at will against anybody and does he have a high basketball IQ stemming from spending his entire life around the game of basketball? Yes.
If you pick him in the top five of the draft expecting him to be a savior, then yes, he would be a bust. But, with all the question marks in this draft pool, you absolutely know that Rivers can go out and get your team 15 a game RIGHT NOW. For a pick in the mid-lottery, that’s like finding gold.
Bust Potential: 5%