Before getting into the fun stuff, it should be worthwhile to give some basic parameters for how I value prospects.
The basic rules:
1. An elite prospect at any position is a better selection than a non-elite prospect at any position. [NOTE: this rule does not necessarily apply to the tiers after the first two- positional value can trump after that juncture]
2. There are four groups that are more valuable within a group of similarly talented players: players who can be primary ballhandlers, #1 scorers, defend NBA centers, and/or elite defenders (either in a team or one-on-one capacity) for their position.
3. A non-elite big man who cannot guard NBA centers gets an immediate and significant downgrade.
4. Translation is key- certain players have a game that will work on the NBA level without a ton of necessary modification or development. Considering picks are an asset and underpaid on their rookie deals unless they completely bust, production in the first two to four seasons matters.
This is the order I would take the draft-eligible pool without any factors like system or current personnel considered. Of course, aspects such as versatility (position and/or system), athleticism, and skillset which go into those decisions play a major role in the rankings below. Several of the players listed below will be in future draft and not in the 2012 edition.
1. Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky- Amazingly enough, Davis is the only starter-quality player in the draft pool without a potentially fatal flaw. What makes Anthony so special is that he combines a defensive presence that will only improve with NBA training and conditioning with a skillset of a much smaller player which will allow him to contribute more than some expect on the offensive end. Pair Davis with a back-to-the-basket center with a little bit of defensive versatility and watch the sparks fly.
2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF/SG, Kentucky- I have one rule with swingmen prospects: If you are not a likely No. 1 scorer or lead defender, step aside. Fortunately, MKG has the athleticism, basketball intelligence, and most importantly the desire to be a high-level defender in the league. Kidd-Gilchrist should have a nice spot in the league even if his shot never turns up.
3. Bradley Beal, SG, Florida- In many ways, Beal is the superior talent and prospect compared to Kidd-Gilchrist. The reason he gets the three spot is that he is a little bit undersized for a SG who will rely on his jumper- being average height for one’s position does not usually help on shooters, especially when their athleticism for their position is not elite.
4. Cody Zeller, C/PF, Indiana- Big men who have the potential to start at center in the NBA trump nearly everything else and Zeller should be able to do that with his body, skill and smarts. He has a nice offensive game and has produced in every way necessary to show that he can become a starter at the most valuable position in the league.
5. Andre Drummond, C/PF, Connecticut- One of the hardest players I have ever had to rank in one of these because of his combination of physical attributes and mental makeup. Even if his head stays somewhat out of the game, Drummond’s ability to defend and rebound (even without full effort!) makes him a high-value asset in a class full of quality rotation players.
6. Austin Rivers, SG, Duke- Likely the most controversial ranking on this list, Rivers rises because of his potential as both a No. 1 scorer and as a primary ballhandler. Beyond his atypical skillset, Rivers benefits from having a better understanding of what it takes to be an elite player we have seen in quite some time and his swagger could allow him to blossom if he can be a smaller but powerful figure in a bigger pond. Incidentally, being underdrafted could help this by giving him better teammates.
7. Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina- What makes Harrison Barnes fun as a prospect is that he stands as one of the few players in this class who fits nicely into a positional mold. Barnes should be able to defend non-elite SF’s pretty well while also hitting open shots and being able to create for his teammates. He will likely never be the dominant swingman some hoped he would be, yet it’s worth remembering that the world needs Robins as well as Batmans.
8. James McAdoo, PF, North Carolina- The difference between McAdoo and Thomas Robinson as prospects relates more to ceiling than floor. While there is so much to love about each of them as potential NBA players, what makes McAdoo stand out is that he still has a reasonable shot to jump up a tier while I feel pretty confident in what Robinson will be at the next level. McAdoo’s jumper allows him to be a four offensively while his body could eventually add to his value by making him able to guard centers.
9. Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas- See Rule 3 above. Robinson should be a nice NBA player but suffers from being a good player at the least valuable position in the league, particularly for guys who are not dominant in any phase of the game. That said, he could thrive with good teammates and do many of the big and little things that lead to championships.
10. Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois- If you want to know how crazy valuable the C next to a player’s name is, look no further. I put Leonard here despite little belief that he will be a long-term starter at the position. The possibility plus the value of a high-energy rotation center necessitates a team taking Meyers and players like him here.
11. Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut- Like Austin Rivers, Lamb does not stand out athletically for the Shooting Guard position. What makes Lamb a potential stud is his combination of ability to create decent looks and his strong mechanics as a shooter. On top of that, his combination of length and lateral agility gives him defensive potential even though the intensity has not been as consistent as it should be for his level of talent. A classic good player on a great team.
12. Damian Lillard, PG/SG, Weber State- Despite not being fully convinced that Lillard should be a starting primary ballhandler on an NBA team, he provides strong value for whatever team drafts him because of his skills and attitude. What keeps Lillard’s value high is that he should be able to defend his position at the next level as well, giving him a total package below that of elite talent in previous years and above that of his draft-eligible competitors.
13. Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky- Similar to Damian Lillard, there is a decent chance that this Teague cannot stick as a lead guard starter. What makes Teague special is that he carries impressive athleticism for the PG position even at the NBA level and has the tools to eventually be able to do what the position requires despite not having the total package yet. The eternal value of players who force defenses on their toes as lead guards while also being able to defend their position makes Teague worth a hearty amount of patience and coaching much like his brother years ago.
14. Terrence Ross, SG/SF, Washington- The right kind of combo swingman since he can defend non-elite players at either position while having the type of game that fits well with a variety of different talents. Let’s be clear: Terrence Ross is not likely to be a lead scorer or a primary defender as a starter in the NBA. That said, his ability to shoot and defend diligently while also possessing the ability to generate looks without the ball make him a valuable commodity in a league still looking for versatile high-rotation swingmen.
15. John Henson, PF, North Carolina- Steve von Horn of Brew Hoops’s hilarious and largely accurate piece aside, John Henson stands out from the other long skinny bigs because he has been able to translate his gifts into quality rebounding performance in college. Being a shot-changer on defense, rebounder on both ends, and a raw, non-broken jumper allows Henson to have value at a less in need position.
16. Fab Melo, C, Syracuse- As was the case with Meyers Leonard earlier, Fab Melo shows the value of true centers in the league even as the power forward position evolves. Melo’s off the court troubles speak for themselves, though I doubt he will have to qualify academically to play in NBA games. By improving defensively in terms of both production and foul avoidance, Fab showed the ability to grow his game without compromising the essence that made him fascinating as a prospect. A more developed offensive game could take him from rotational difference-maker to legitimate starter.
17. Tony Wroten, PG/SG, Washington- Incidentally, it takes a former UW player to make me wish even harder that Brandon Roy could still play at his former level. Wroten inspires that reaction because he has such an amazing physical profile to decimate opposing PG’s on defense yet lacks the handles to be a primary ballhandler for a while. If he can fix the flaws in his jumper, Wroten could be an impact combo guard on both sides of the ball since he already has nice vision and passing ability on his side. Likely limited to role player status in the league, albeit at a niche always needed in the pros.
18. Moe Harkless, SF, St. John’s- Despite often being compared to Trevor Ariza, Harkless needs to be able to shoot the ball consistently to become a long-time starter in the NBA. His athletic profile fits perfectly with most SF defensive stoppers and he should be able to do enough offensively to allow teams to give him enough rope to develop into a meaningful contributor.
19. Jeff Taylor, SF/SG, Vanderbilt- Few in this class will benefit more from the overall talent increase than Jeff Taylor because of how desperately he needs to play with a shot-creator. Taylor developed into a nice shooter in college after an abysmal start yet still needs someone else to generate the looks he can capitalize on. On the defensive end, Taylor is a potent and tenacious defender that can defend a vast majority of SG/SF’s at a high level. Being a little older (23) and with those pronounced flaws keeps him down the list a little despite being a likely long-time rotation player in the NBA.
20. Will Barton, SF/SG, Memphis- Barton intrigues because he is one of a select few players who can succeed offensively both in transition and in a halfcourt offense. While much of his improvement in shooting numbers derives from better shot selection, his mechanics do seem better than they were early on. Barton has good athleticism and defensive potential but has not had the results on that end to warrant a bump in stock from it.
21. BJ Young, SG/PG, Arkansas- One of my absolute favorites because he can fly and score. Young can score in transition and in the halfcourt while flashing some lead guard potential. He should be able to thrive in a scoring sixth man role whenever he declares for the Draft.
22. Quincy Miller, SF, Baylor- Unlike his Baylor compatriots, Quincy Miller actually has an NBA position: Small Forward. Miller has the size and speed to stick at the position defensively, though he does not project to be outstanding there, and he should be productive offensively despite needing a few tweaks. It could even be possible for Miller to get some minutes at PF if he adds strength in his first few seasons while also potentially settling down there after his body starts to slow down later in his career.
23. Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas- As a huge fan of physical potential, guys like Tony Mitchell (the North Texas version) will continue to intrigue. What makes Mitchell special is that he combines strong shot-blocking for his position with strong rebounding and a legit physical profile. Unfortunately, issues off the court could prevent him from getting the experience and exposure he needs to get a proper shot.
24. Miles Plumlee, C, Duke- If a prospect can guard centers and rebound without being a huge detriment in any other part of the game, he should have a long future in the league and be worthy of a late first-round selection.
25. Reggie Bullock, SF/SG, North Carolina- Though he still could end up being a little bit of the bad kind of tweener athletically, Reggie Bullock has the type of game that will stick in the league for a long while- he can defend, hit shots, and create open looks that he can make. As long as that can translate to the next level, he can have a productive career either as a starter or a high rotation player.
26. Myck Kabongo, PG, Texas- Kabongo has a little bit of Matt Leinart Syndome in him. What that means is that he has been hyped for a little while longer than some guys which has given people like me a reason to look more at what he brings to the table. Kabongo has so many of the tools a high-level PG needs yet does not play with the urgency and drive to become the impact player he should be. It may not be fair, but that’s the way it is.
27. Jared Sullinger, PF/C, Ohio State- This year’s king of translation issues. Sullinger did many things well in college but I am wholly concerned that playing against bigger and/or faster players will make the things he succeeds at substantially more difficult. People compare him to Kevin Love, which is a less positive comparison than some may think because of how few players like him thrive in the NBA. Sullinger needs to develop a jumper and become more of a rebounding beast than he already was to become a cohesive NBA player.
28. Arnett Moultrie, PF/C, Mississippi State- I like Moultrie because he should be more effective as a power forward than a center despite the general lack of a strong jumper (even though 78% on FT’s means it could come). Moultrie does better when he has physical advantages on the person guarding him and can contribute as a defender on face-up bigs that are becoming trendier by the day. If he can keep his rebounding together and grow his offensive game, Moultrie should be a strong first big off the bench with the potential to be even more than that.
29. Dion Waiters, SG/PG, Syracuse- I cannot make heads or tails of Waiters as an NBA player. Defensively, he seems like more of a bad tweener since he does not have the speed to guard the new breed of PG’s or the length to battle most SG’s. Offensively, he cannot be a primary ballhandler and does not have the range to be a strong off-the-ball scorer in today’s NBA. That said, he is strong enough in every capacity to make a living for himself while he tries to make at least one of those weaknesses into something more passable.
30. Andre Roberson, SF, Colorado- Roberson could end up being a rich man’s Jeff Taylor but needs to show me that his defense of SF’s and PF’s in college can translate to SF’s and SG’s at the next level. What could make Roberson a rich man’s Taylor is that he should be much better at creating looks for himself and others than Taylor ever will. The problem is that Roberson does not have Taylor’s jumper yet and still needs to show it on the defensive end. Don’t be surprised if Roberson ends up as a buzzy top-10 pick in 2013.
31. Festus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt- If Festus could rebound, he would be pretty close to Fab Melo in these rankins. I like Ezeli as an NBA player regardless because he should be good at defending center pick and rolls at the next level while also getting buckets at the offensive end. He likely will never be more than a role player and that’s just fine for a player who can play center.
32. Kyle O’Quinn, C/PF, Norfolk State- I was so happy to see O’Quinn have a nice tournament at Portsmouth since he should end up catching the right kind of eyes and landing somewhere in the late first/early second range. His wingspan and production should help keep him around even if he does not have the perimeter game to be a modern power forward. He works as a combo big man because his defense should translate and his interior offensive game projects as long as he gets the coaching to develop it.
33. Ognjen Kuzmic, C, Bosnia- Some people have compared other Euros to Omer Asik, yet Kuzmic stands out as the legitimate contender for that title. He was the leading shotblocker in LEB Gold this season and also rebounds while keeping his energy level good. His value would skyrocket if his post offense could match his defense, yet the lack of production there keeps him as a good value down in this range.
34. Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke- If Mason can show up physically in the same way his brother Miles did at the scouting combine, he could end up being a legitimate lottery pick because he has much more talent as a face-up scorer. Mason’s ability to rebound on both sides combines with his athletic profile to indicate that he may even be able to be a more potent and versatile defender worthy of heavy rotation minutes in the NBA at both interior positions.
35. John Jenkins, SG, Vanderbilt- Likely the best shooter in the 2012 Draft, Jenkins needs to show what else he can do even though his shooting will keep him in the league a long time. His handle and defense are not there and likely never will be but acknowledgement of his limitations could help keep whatever team drafts him even happier.
36. Marshall Plumlee, C, Duke- Yes, there is ANOTHER Plumlee brother at Duke. From the limited amount I have seen thus far of Marshall, he seems closer to Miles than Mason since his face-up game does not measure up as of now. Luckily for him, Marshall already has the size to defend centers and the Plumlee gene for rebounding. Scary to think there could be three brothers in NBA rotations a few years from now.
37. Terrence Jones, PF, Kentucky- I call this trio of players the Nowhere Men because I like each of them as players despite their apparent inability to have a clear-cut position at the next level. Jones gets the highest rating because he has the highest possibility of sticking at power forward. His physical toolbox makes PF a natural position even though he does not have it down offensively. Luckily, Jones should be able to make enough points in transition to keep himself on the floor. If he can develop at least a little ballhandling or back to the basket game, Jones could end up being a respectable starter in the league.
38. Royce White, PF/SF, Iowa State- I want to love Royce White. Really, I do. His anxiety issues make him interesting and he has a certain je ne sais quoi to his game that makes me intrigued with his potential in the NBA. At the very least, he’ll be interesting. What drives me crazy is that he absolutely cannot defend NBA small forwards and likely will not have the length to defend most power forwards either. His handle is fun yet he does not possess the jumper to make up for his lack of interior offense. White has the tools to become successful in a few different ways and has instincts that make you think he will make it work somehow.
39. Perry Jones III, PF/SF, Baylor- It is really nice that Perry Jones has been saying the right things during the interview process. However, I care substantially more about how he played and how his physical ability projects at the next level. His broken jumper likely takes him out of the conversation for small forward on the offensive end even though he could end up defending most of them due to his length and quickness. At power forward, he could end up getting early separation on some defenders yet still does not have the handle or back to the basket game to force teams to acknowledge him in half-court situations. His complete lack of juice rebounding and defending absolutely terrifies me since that plays such an integral role as the athleticism and talent of opponents rises prodigiously in the professional ranks.
40. Tyshawn Taylor, PG, Kansas- Tyshawn Taylor reads like a mind puzzle: what is a PG without PG skills? Taylor should be able to defend the position at a solid level in the NBA and actually had a pretty nice stroke from three last season. It would be so much fun to get to see him play with a non-PG that can handle the ball while he deepens his game to earn a more cohesive role.
41. Doron Lamb, SG, Kentucky- Interestingly, many of the development in Lamb’s game that helped Kentucky win the championship should not play a major role in the NBA, though it clearly will not hurt. As a clear-cut off the ball player, Lamb will not need to distribute at the next level though it is nice to know that he can better than most at the position. His diligence and effort on defense make him passable despite suboptimal physical tools while his jumper will keep him in the league for years to come.
42. Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina- As was the case with Royce White, I really want to love Kendall Marshall as a prospect. His passing and size makes him scintillating in college while his lack of athleticism will keep him from thriving on either offense or defense at the next level. Ten years ago, Marshall could have made a nice career for himself but the rise of Westbrook, Rose, and the rest will make the NBA a much more challenging place unless his jumper gets a whole lot better over the next few seasons.
43. Darius Miller, SF, Kentucky- My favorite thing about Darius Miller is that he already had to embrace being a role player during his collegiate career so he will have no delusions of grandeur that would cause him problems in the pros. His jumper has been coming along over his time in college but he will have lots of trouble defending professional offensive talent. Would love to see him on a team that has most things figured out and needs a guy who can fill different needs at various points during games.
44. Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure- The question with Nicholson has been an all too common one for draftniks: Can what worked for him at a small school still work after a huge upgrade in opposing talent? His jumper seems functional enough to keep defenses honest and he has the physical tools to keep his head above water defensively. Unfortunately, his motor has not been fantastic, as evidenced by his slightly better than horrific rebounding numbers. Despite those flaws, his volume of production offensively and the efficiency with which it was done bodes well for his ability to stick in the NBA.
45. Joshua Smith, C, UCLA- Joshua is sort of like a mobile home, which makes sense because one would weigh slightly less. The parallel is that once rolling they can get very hard to stop. The difference? Smith needs to get in gear and become the player he can be. Amazingly enough, Joshua has the athleticism to actually be a capable player on both sides of the ball if he could unround into shape. He also has the ability to be effective on the offensive end both in terms of scoring and rebounding, skills that always have a value in the league at the center spot.
46. Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina- Other people see a ton more to like in Zeller and I’m happy for them (and for him since he’s going to get a much nicer rookie deal than this). As is the case for Jared Sullinger, Zeller should struggle with the players around him taking away his entire athletic advantage and making it much harder for him to play both offense and defense. He should be able to stick in the league because of his ability to score in transition and the fact that he will not take a ton off the table, but I am scared that he will never be much more than that.
47. Ray McCallum, PG, Detroit- While there is already plenty to like about McCallum, he needs to develop into a more all-around player to grow beyond the backup PG he would be right now. His feistiness on defense and sparkling success in transition bodes well for these changes coming in time.
48. Kim English, SG, Missouri- Every year, there are some guys who just seem like they will make it work professionally even when you cannot see it all the time. For me, Kim English is one of those guys this year. His biggest positive in college was his strong spot-up jumpshot (one of the best in the draft) and he has shown better instincts and defensive intensity over the last year than he had before. English will always have trouble guarding certain players but his performance at Portsmouth and in workouts has shown that he can make it work as a role player.
49. Trey Burke, PG, Michigan- Right now, he seems like more of a jack of all trades/master of none, which is nice yet less valuable at PG in today’s NBA since nearly everyone is the master of something. If he can penetrate as well in the pros as he has in college, he could end up being a potent backup even if his defense never kicks in as much as it should.
50. Kevin Murphy, SG/SF, Tennessee Tech- Projecting prolific non-BCS scorers to the NBA always has its challenges. Luckily, Kevin Murphy has the physical tools to not be murdered in the pros even though he will not thrive. The problem for Murphy is that his incredible aggressiveness will not translate to the NBA since he simply will not have the opportunity to handle the ball that much. His defense should be fine and his performance at the PIT should quell some of the doubters.
51. Orlando Johnson, SG, UC Santa Barbara- Maybe the biggest revelation physically from the scouting combine (vert and wingspan, specifically), especially considering his production at UCSB. His jumpshooting should transition nicely while his surprising interior production likely will not. What keeps Johnson from rising in my rankings is his quickness since SG is the second-hardest position to try and stop speed with length alone.
52. Jae Crowder, SF/PF, Marquette- Crowder’s development into a force to be reckoned with in college deserves praise yet it has not gone all the way to making him a potent NBA prospect. While his basketball IQ and aggressiveness could help him stick in the league, his lack of ballhandling skills and lateral quickness will drastically effect his transition into the NBA. That said, he should be able to become a valued contributor for the things he does well in the NBA or become a non-scoring star in Europe if he so chooses.
53. Adonis Thomas, SF, Memphis- We still have not seen the Adonis Thomas in college that played so well in high school, though the components are still there to make an impact player. Possessing length, athleticism, and the natural ability to play the game will keep Thomas on the draftnik radar.
54. Elijah Johnson, PG/SG, Kansas- Thanks to the importance of ceilings for NBA players, Johnson gets some pub here even though he has not produced at the same level as some of the players behind him in these rankings. Like his teammate Tyshawn Taylor, Johnson needs to spend some quality time on his ballhandling in order to be a quality rotation player. Unlike Taylor, I see more moments in Elijah where it seems like he can put the misplaced pieces together even though his jumper still needs a ton of work. We will see what he can do running the show full-time in 12-13.
55. Scott Machado, PG, Iona- My personal favorite of the non-starting PG’s in this draft, Machado brought both the statistical production at Iona and the panache necessary to make the transition from the MAAC to the best league in the world. What holds him back are question marks about his defensive aptitude and limited effectiveness in running half-court offenses with his size and athleticism. Players with Machado’s tools need the right opportunity and often age well as other kinds of talents fall by the wayside.
56. Evan Fournier, SG/SF, France- If he can fix the holes in his game, Evan Fournier could end up being an NBA starter. He has done a solid enough job creating looks for himself in Europe despite having tons of room to grow as a shooter. Defensively, he is fine but unspectacular and will have problems as the intensity and talent ratchets up on both sides of the ball. Most players in this range have unfixable holes they need to work around- Fournier has fixable problems and a big adjustment to make in terms of adapting to a new world of opponents.
57. Henry Sims, C, Georgetown- Unlike many of the big men in this class, the biggest questions surrounding Henry Sims center on how his skills fit with the positions and roles he could have to fill. While not a special athlete, he passes very well for a player his size and has more of a perimeter game than most centers. He balances this offensive game with a lack of lower body strength that makes defending both big man positions a challenge. On top of that, he has lots of trouble rebounding the ball, which is problematic as well. A flawed yet interesting player who could thrive in the right system.
58. Jared Cunningham, SG, Oregon State- Like Dion Waiters, Jared Cunningham has just enough ballhandling skills to intrigue but not enough to be able to handle the heavy load of running an offense for a meaningful period of time. He played very good defense at Oregon State despite his small stature for his position and needs to have a good enough jumper to force opponents to pay attention to him at all times in order to thrive, especially since he is already adept at moving without the ball thanks to OSU’s offense. If he puts his head down and figures out a way to stand out as a role player, Cunningham could thrive in the US. Otherwise, he will shine elsewhere.
59. Bernard James, C, Florida State- Another one of my favorites and not only because he and I are the same age (27) and he still has not played a minute of professional basketball. If James can make a career for himself in the pros, it will be through his excellent motor and solid defensive skill. His intangibles and story (the reason he is entering the draft at 27 is because he did three tours of duty with the Air Force, including time in Iraq and Afghanistan) fit together with his skills and size to make him a role player worth watching and rooting for.
60. Wayne Blackshear, SG/SF, Louisville- Blackshear projects to be a defensive force nearly immediately at the next level thanks to his strong frame, quality quickness, and effort. He also has a projectable jumpshot and a ton of growing to do as an all-around player after his injury. Could be one to watch if he can make it all the way back.
61. Hollis Thompson, SF, Georgetown- Thompson has been on my radar since his time as a high schooler in Los Angeles years ago. He has pretty good size for a small forward and a silky smooth jumper that he used well in college. Why is he down here? Thompson did not show versatility and depth to his game that any swingman needs in today’s NBA. Bringing more effort on defense to use his length and help cover up his underwhelming athleticism could go a long way to showing he can be more than a one-dimensional shooter.
62. CJ McCollum, PG/SG, Lehigh- The last of my favorites, we all will have the chance to see CJ in college for another season. Part of what makes McCollum fun is that he has the speed to work in transition while also having interesting skills like defensive rebounding and a mid-range jumper. The key question for him to answer is what positions he can defend as a professional. If that number is at least one, he could be in the Association for a long time.
63. Furkan Aldemir, C, Turkey- Even in this class, Aldemir stands out as a player who would have benefitted from coming into the league 10-20 years ago. Both his offense and his defense scream center in the NBA despite him being a little too small to play the position now. On the plus side, his gaudy rebounding stats show a tool that usually crosses the pond and he can develop more of a patchwork game to fill a useful role in the Association.
64. Drew Gordon, PF, New Mexico- I’ve been following Gordon for a long time since he started out at my alma mater years ago. He still has the body professional teams are looking for out of a power forward because of his athleticism more than his size. On top of that, he turned into an excellent rebounder at New Mexico and works hard enough on defense to keep most opponents at bay. His offensive game needs development inside and out and he has the ability to make that jump even if the results were not there in college. His inability to defend the bigger players at his position and lack of scoring ability at this time will limit his chances, but Gordon stands out as a guy who could make it with the right opportunity.
65. Tornike Shengelia, PF, Georgia- A clear-cut and dynamic power forward in Europe, Shengelia’s game would work as a shifty PF in the NBA should he be able to defend the improved athletes at the position here. His offense and rebounding will likely translate better than expected since he has produced against high-level European competition even if he lacks the lateral quickness to be the SF many had hoped he would become.
66. Eric Griffin, PF, Campbell- Despite being a little on the small side for PF’s today, Griffin plays larger than his listed height because of his wingspan and prodigious athleticism. His ability to run and jump at a near-elite level allows him to get easy buckets in transition and generate looks on certain opponents in half-court situations. Unsurprisingly, Eric has turned those physical gifts into shot-blocking on the defensive end even though the jump from the Campbell Camels to the NBA could take the wind out of those sails.
67. Mike Scott, PF, Virginia- What I love about Mike Scott (other than his name) is that his growth as a player at UVA has worked in ways that make him a more viable NBA player. Adding a reliable but unspectacular jumper combines with his respectable defense and underappreciated rebounding to make a guy who will turn few heads while also doing enough to earn a place in the low end of a rotation.
68. Mitchell Watt, PF, Buffalo- Unlike most of the other fringe PF prospects, Watt actually has the jumper and offensive game to make it work as an NBA rotation player. He has a decent shot and a post game that should work as well. The talent jump and his disappointing rebounding success make him more of a question mark than a sure thing even though his defense was fine enough to work in college.
69. Dmitry Kulagin, PG/SG, Russia- Kulagin is a rarity- a combo guard with the size to actually play either position. His ballhandling is encouraging and his size should work in the NBA but his quickness could limit him to SG’s defensively while his discipline on that end could continue to cause problems. Dmitry’s unusual skillset could get him a spot on a good team with a PG that has off-guard game, which bodes well for him considering how many of those are out in the league today.
70. Kevin Jones, PF, West Virginia- One of the legion of undersized power forwards looking to make the jump, Jones has the potential to actually fill the role of a backup PF offensively while improving his rebounding and defense to the point where he could keep a team interested long enough to have him make the squad. If he can continue to improve the way he has the last few years, Jones could thrive professionally either here or abroad.
71. CJ Leslie, PF/SF, NC State- One of the all-time SF/PF tweeners, which says something considering the wealth of players that have fit that description. I am fascinated by Leslie because he has the athleticism to do something at the next level and has been an impact player at NC State (as he will be next season), yet his inconsistent motor and lackluster D make his position and ability to pin down a roster spot more of an open question.
72. Patric Young, PF, Florida- When you watch Patric Young on a good day, it’s hard to imagine how he is not a lottery pick. His athleticism combined with a good motor on defense would make him a legit force at any level, yet the motor has not been there and his offensive game might still be rawer than DeAndre Jordan’s was before coming into the Draft, which says a ton about a college sophomore with one of the best coaches around. Even with all that, players with his athleticism get all the chances they need to make it in the league.
73. Tu Holloway, PG, Xavier- The newest in the legion of productive and enjoyable college points that will have all the trouble in the world if he wants to play in the NBA. Holloway worked as a college player because his energy got him over gaps in athleticism, a winning strategy with his demeanor at Xavier which simply cannot fly in the best league in the world. I would love for him to make it in America but a lucrative and long career in Europe stands as the most likely outcome.
74. Aaron Craft, PG, Ohio State- One of the best defenders for his position in college, Aaron Craft should be able to be good but not great at that level once the opposing talent gets a whole hell of a lot more athletic whenever he makes the leap to the pros. That said, he passes well enough to work as a PG despite still needing some shooting skill.
75. Leon Radosevic, PF, Croatia- A man without a position in the NBA since he does not have the physical profile to defend either big man slot in the big leagues. That said, he could end up doing an OK job scoring to eventually work as a draft and stash.
76. Alex Oriakhi, PF, Missouri- The fun question with Oriakhi is if he can develop any semblance of offense after his transfer to Mizzou after some disappointing years (on a personal level) at Connecticut. Alex has the body to stick at PF and can rebound reasonably well while also battling and succeeding on the defensive end. If he can add anything in terms of scoring, he could be a nice asset and potentially even a starter.
77. John Shurna, PF/SF, Northwestern- While his shooting will be his calling card in whatever league he ends up in, Shurna actually has more game than that and could do enough other things to make it happen in the NBA despite not having the athleticism to defend either SF’s or PF’s very well.
78. Kris Joseph, SF, Syracuse- His offensive game has the potential to translate even though his defense could cause problems since we have so few answers in terms of his effectiveness on that end (thanks to Syracuse’s zone). Joseph could end up surprising and outperforming this slot.
79. Draymond Green, PF/SF, Michigan State- One of the all-time “I want this guy to succeed” players in a draft. Green has been a phenomenal leader and productive player for one of the best programs in all of college hoops for the last few seasons. The problem is that I have absolutely no idea who he will defend in the pros and how he will succeed offensively. Even with all that, I refuse to write him off.
80. Michael Snaer, SG, Florida State- Snaer should be a useful defender and hit open shots, which could be enough to have him stick in the NBA whenever he declares.
81. William Buford, SG, Ohio State- If Buford can get his shot up against professional competition, he will be able to make a living wherever he likes. Buford needs to up the defense in case his scoring does not transition as well as hoped.
82. Darius Johnson-Odom, SG, Marquette- Likely limited to being a shooter in the NBA due to his lack of size for the position, Darius needs to bring something else to the table in order to make it work in America.
83. Phil Pressey, PG, Missouri- A nice, quick guard who would be rated much higher if he had the size and jumper necessary to run an offense or make defenses pay.
84. Kostas Papinikolau, SF/PF, Greece- One of those players who works better in European systems but could try to make it work in the NBA with mixed success. If he can get his jumper to fall more consistently, Kostas could work on both shores.
85. Tomas Satoransky, SG, Czech Republic- As a champion of tall lead guards for years now, I gave Tomas all the chances in the world to sell me as a PG in the NBA. Unfortunately, his game will only work as an off-guard in the United States. Luckily for him, he has enough ability to make that work even though it reduces his value since he no longer has the size advantage that helped make him as successful as he was for Sevilla last year.
One thing to add at the outset: Part of how I rate prospects is on a tier system. Players are put into tiers based on what I see as their most likely NBA niche in their prime. Here’s how I draw the lines:
Tier 1- Superstars: Guys who you expect to make the All-Star game more often than not. [Examples: LeBron James, Derrick Rose]
Tier 2- Great starters: #2 scoring options, solid bigs, and the like. Typically the #2-#4 players on high level teams. [Examples: Paul Millsap, Luol Deng]
Tier 3- Good to very good starters (or great 6th men):. Guys who you are happy with starting for the team, but front offices would still look for improvements. [Examples: James Harden, David Lee]
Tier 4- High-level rotation players: Players who would be better off coming off the bench, though many of them start due to depth issues. [Examples: Arron Afflalo, Mo Williams]
Tier 5- Rotation players. Guys who come off the bench but clearly have a spot in the NBA. [Examples: JJ Redick, CJ Watson]
Here is how the draft-eligible players fit into tiers right now:
Tier One: None
Tier Two: None
Tier Three: None
Tier Four: Damian Lillard, Marquis Teague, Tony Wroten, Myck Kabongo
Tier Five: Tyshawn Taylor, Kendall Marshall, Trey Burke, Ray McCallum, Dion Waiters, Eijah Johnson, Tu Holloway, Scott Machado, Aaron Craft, J’Covan Brown, BJ Young, Phil Pressey, Dmitry Kulagin, CJ McCollum, Austin Rivers, Peyton Siva, Jordan Taylor, Josiah Turner, Abdul Gaddy, Lorenzo Brown, Michael Carter Williams, Kenny Boynton
Tier One: None
Tier Two: None
Tier Three: Bradley Beal, Austin Rivers, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Tier Four: Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Ross, Dion Waiters, Jeff Taylor, BJ Young, Tony Wroten
Tier Five: John Jenkins, Doron Lamb, Kevin Murphy, Orlando Johnson, Will Barton, Jared Cunningham, Kim English, CJ McCollum, Evan Fournier, Wayne Blackshear, Damian Lillard, Michael Snaer, Darius Johnson-Odom, William Buford, Tomas Satoransky, Dmitry Kulagin, Darius Miller, Elijah Johnson, J’Covan Brown, PJ Hariston, Allen Crabbe, Brandon Paul, Tim Hardaway Jr, Marquis Teague, Lorenzo Brown, Michael Carter Williams, Dexter Strickland
Tier One: None
Tier Two: None
Tier Three: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Harrison Barnes
Tier Four: Moe Harkless, Reggie Bullock, Quincy Miller, Jeff Taylor
Tier Five: Terrence Ross, Will Barton, Andre Roberson, Darius Miller, Jae Crowder, Adonis Thomas, Terrence Jones, CJ Leslie, Evan Fournier, Hollis Thompson, Kevin Murphy, Kris Joseph, Draymond Green, Royce White, Kostas Papnikolaou, Perry Jones III, Sergey Karasev, Branden Dawson, Tony Mitchell, Mike Moser, LeBryan Nash, PJ Hariston, John Shurna
Tier One: None
Tier Two: Anthony Davis
Tier Three: Thomas Robinson, James McAdoo
Tier Four: John Henson, Tony Mitchell, Jared Sullinger, Andre Drummond, Arnett Moultrie, Mason Plumlee, Royce White, Terrence Jones, Quincy Miller, Perry Jones III, Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O’Quinn
Tier Five: Drew Gordon, Kevin Jones, CJ Leslie, Eric Griffin, Mike Scott, Tornike Shengelia, Patric Young, Mitchell Watt, Leon Radosevic, Alex Oriakhi, Draymond Green, Jae Crowder, John Shurna, Renardo Sidney, JaMychal Green, Yancy Gates, Richard Howell, Ricardo Ratliffe, Mike Moser, Kostas Papanikolaou, Doug McDermott, Tarik Black
Tier One: None
Tier Two: Anthony Davis,
Tier Three: Cody Zeller, Andre Drummond
Tier Four: Meyers Leonard, Fab Melo
Tier Five: Miles Plumlee, Festus Ezeli, Kyle O’Quinn, Arnett Moultrie, Ognjen Kuzmic, Marshall Plumlee, Joshua Smith, Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller, Henry Sims, Bernard James, Furkan Aldemir, Mason Plumlee, Jeff Withey, Reggie Johnson, DeWayne Dedmon, Yancy Gates