Published on April 12th, 2012 | by Bryant West, Columnist0
How Good Is The 2012 NBA Draft Class?
The great NBA Lockout of 2011 cost us many things. But while no fan would readily admit the Lockout did anything good, it has created one thing – one hell of a 2012 Draft Class.
Many of 2011’s highest rated prospects—Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones— all elected to return to school, and while none came out and said it, we all knew the prospect of a dragged out NBA Lockout played a significant role. At the expense of the 2011 class, the 2012 Draft is jammed packed with spread out talent. Scouts had been predicting this class would be one of the best in years.
But how good is it, really?
If there is one way to describe the 2012 NBA Draft class, think of Barry Bonds in his final year in San Francisco. In his final season as a Giant, Barry only cared about one thing—that dang home-run record. Of course, so did all the Giants fans, at least the ones who weren’t already erasing Barry from all the Giants history books.
Every time Bonds was at the plate, he wasn’t looking for a single, double, a RBI or any sort of strategic hit. He was swinging for the fences. He wanted that homerun, and if the opposing team struck him out in the process, oh well. Life goes on.
That is, in a nutshell, the basics of the 2012 NBA Draft Class. With nearly every lottery pick this season, teams will be swinging for the fences. Unlike most NBA Drafts, there aren’t any players who we can safely conclude we know how they’ll be in the NBA. Each player can be described with the sentence — “They can be a star, if only they fix _________. If they don’t, they won’t be anything special.”
This isn’t exactly an uncommon occurrence. What is uncommon is when nearly every one of the top prospects is a swing-for-the-fences type player.
Take likely number two overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. “He can be a star, if only he fixes….” His jump-shot. Everything else, he’s got. The body, the mental game, the intangibles. If he gets a jump-shot and consistent range, he becomes a home-run pick.
Then there is Kansas big man Thomas Robinson, a #2-#5 pick. Scouts say he’s just a hair too short to play, and his offensive game is anything but solid. That’s a pretty big weakness in a big man, no? But with his incredible motor and work ethic, if he gets good inside around the basket… home-run pick, baby, Out of the park.
Florida’s Bradley Beal? Hailed as the next Ray Allen, only in his lone year at Florida he was anything BUT Ray Allen in terms of scoring consistency. But he’s rocketing up the mock drafts, somewhere as high as #2. He’s got all the natural scoring talents, but inefficient shooting guards are a dime a dozen. If he develops a Ray Allen consistency to him… IT IS OUTTTA HERE!
Harrison Barnes has solid potential as a wing-man and a fantastic jump-shot, but no one knows how he’ll transition into the NBA game. Perry Jones III has top pick like potential, but he’s terribly inconsistent and consistently terrified. Kendall Marshall has Steve Nash like basketball IQ and passing skills, but no offensive game to speak of. Damian Lillard has great scoring instincts, but needs to prove himself as a point guard. John Henson has mountainous potential as a big man, if only he could pu on some weigh and become an actual “big man”. Terrence Jones has all the tools to be a star, but he comes with serious attitude concerns. And while Andre Drummond is a work ethic away from being Dwight Howard 2.0, he’d have to find that work ethic first.
Honestly, the only player who may be considered a “safe pick”, it’s Jared Sullinger, and that’s weird to say. Sullinger would have been the #4 pick last year—he could have paired up with Kyrie Irving in Cleveland and created a fandom revolution in Ohio. Now, he’s generally considered a #10 or later pick, because he’s just about tapped out his potential.
And is that really a bad thing? Sure, while Thomas Robinson may grow and become the next Karl Malone, he could also self-destruct and become the next Tyrus Thomas type player who couldn’t become more than a gifted leaper. Sullinger, meanwhile, has the floor of Glen Davis – he’s already there. Sure, he may have a ceiling of a slightly-better-Glen Davis. But hey, whoever gets Sullinger can at least take solace in the fact that, rather than gamble on potential, their team took a sure thing, even if that sure thing just isn’t all that good.
Yes, this class has the potential to be good. Really, really good. But even the most likable prospects (Thomas Robinson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) have significant red flags. Fans of teams in the lottery come June can’t celebrate when their squads pick is made. Because no one, outside of Anthony Davis, is a sure thing. The class of 2012 oozes potential, but it’ll take a longer time before we realize just how good they are. Or how good they aren’t all. Because that’s a problem with betting on potential—sometimes you lose. You get a home run, or an empty walk back to the dugout.