The 2012 NBA Draft is less than a month away and the order of selection in the lottery has finally been determined, so it's time for a recurring 2012 NBA Mock Draft Analysis feature. My NBA Draft feature last season evolved and eventually culminated with an evaluation of final mock drafts in comparison to the actual results (Draft Express won handily), but this year I plan on tracking the trends from lottery reactions to final draft day mocks for the big event on June 28.
The 2012 NBA Draft Combine in Chicago (June 6-10) and various team workouts are sure to upset the current order, but that's the whole point of this exercise. As a supplement to my ongoing 2012 NBA Draft Prospect Rankings project tracking the Big Board movement on Draft Express and ESPN, this series of posts will map the movement of draft picks to identify rising and falling prospects across seven different sites:
- Draft Express (Jonathan Givony)
- ESPN (Chad Ford)
- NBA.com (Scott Howard-Cooper)
- SB Nation (Tom Ziller)
- SI.com (Sam Amick)
- Swish Scout
From there I color-coded the prospects, mapped out each mock, listed the current range for every player projected in the lottery and set up composite scores based on an average value from the septet of sites (where non-lottery is simply marked as the No. 15 pick because not all sites mock beyond the lottery).
Here are the initial results, based on the first post-lottery 2012 NBA Mock Draft from each of the listed websites:
Anthony Davis Goes No. 1 Overall, And Then....
As you can see, the only player creating a clear consensus is Anthony Davis, the obvious No. 1 overall pick headed to the New Orleans Hornets. Interestingly, only five other players share top-10 status: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Thomas Robinson, Bradley Beal, Harrison Barnes and the enigmatic Andre Drummond. Barnes and Drummond show the highest volatility of the informal top-5 hopefuls, but there are very different reasons for the disparity.
Drummond rarely wowed with his production or his attitude during his freshman season at Connecticut, but he is certainly rare physical specimen. His size-to-speed ratio and elite quickness make him a prototypical pick-and-roll in the NBA, but he's basically a toolsy project with work ethic questions at this point. There is plenty of risk involved, but Drummond will surely impress someone with his raw athleticism in workouts.
As for Barnes, he played fairly well at North Carolina but couldn't ever measure up to his status as the nation's top recruit back in 2010. His shooting stroke holds great potential and he brings perfect size for an NBA small forward, but scouts are worried about his lack of a quick first step off the dribble. Can he effectively and efficiently create shots for himself and his teammates at the next level? That's the big question.
Six Solid Prospects Give Way To Chaos
After those six prospects, the draft becomes unpredictable. I tend to think of mock drafts as predictions of what teams will do and big board rankings as what teams should do, so under that paradigm there is plenty of confusion over which teams like which players at what spots in the lottery. UNC's wiry forward John Henson is projected to go anywhere from No. 6 overall (Portland Trail Blazers) to somewhere outside the lottery.
How about Syracuse combo guard Dion Waiters? He averaged just 6.6 ppg on 41.1 percent shooting during his freshman season, but he emerged as a sixth-man scorer in 2011-12 and even drew a comparison to Dwyane Wade from an anonymous GM in a story by ESPN's Chad Ford:
There are really only two potential superstars in this draft. One is a sure thing -- freshman Anthony Davis. The other one is Waiters. He can be an electric scorer in the NBA. There's some Dwyane Wade in him.
Ford has since moved Waiters up to No. 8 in his ESPN mock draft, but that's the high water mark. In contrast, Jonathan Givony of Draft Express called the Wade comparison "lazy and ridiculous" and he left the guard outside the top-14 picks. Waiters is only 6-foot-4, but Ford thinks he possesses the ball-handling skills to possibly play minutes at PG and says his skills will shine in workouts.
DX is lukewarm on Waiters because he has trouble performing in half-court situations and he struggled against high-end competition. He may not have a true go-to skill, and that could explain why his 12.6 ppg, 47.6% FG and 36.3% 3PT averages in 2011-12 dropped off in conference play -- during the 18-game Big East regular season, Waiters averaged just 11.6 ppg on 43.6% FG and 32.1% 3PT, which is a serious decrease in every category and more on-par with his freshman campaign.
Everyone seems to have issues with projecting Baylor forward Perry Jones III, but his upside is enough to keep him in the lottery across all seven sites (something no other prospect can say beyond the initial six mentioned above). Meanwhile, PG Damian Lillard and PF Jared Sullinger show up as high as No. 6 overall, but both fall off the map on at least one site. Draft Combine measurements might matter quite a bit for both players, so stay tuned.
Illinois Fighting Illini C Meyers Leonard is two years younger than UNC big man Tyler Zeller, and he has plenty of athleticism to set him apart as well, but Zeller holds the early edge based both on his projected range and the composite score. Leonard has spoken about his focus on workouts, so it will be interesting to see if he passes Tyler in the next few weeks. All things being equal, NBA teams would prefer the younger prospect in the lottery, right?
Be sure to check back after the NBA Draft Combine for the next round of mock drafts to find out how the stock of each player has shifted. In the meantime, happy mock draft hunting.