Grading Top 10 Picks from 2012 NBA Draft: Early-January Edition

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Grading Top 10 Picks from 2012 NBA Draft: Early-January Edition

2012 NBA Draft
Jerry Lai - USA Today Sports Images

In terms of grading rookies in their first NBA seasons, it’s important to analyze what the draft class looks like and what the expectations are for the prospects.

Coming into the 2012 NBA Draft, pretty much every team knew they weren’t going to be drafting an instant game-changer like a LeBron James in 2003 or a Kevin Durant in 2007. This year’s draft was more based on a deep talent-pool that had a great deal of potential.

When a team is picking in a draft like this past year’s, they are simply hoping that they get a guy who will be able to realize their potential sooner rather than later and become an asset to their franchise.

Grading these players in the context of past drafts and past top-10 picks is unfair. Every year is not created equal in terms of talent and depth. For instance, the top five picks in the 2003 NBA Draft were James, Darko Milicic, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Of those guys, only Milicic isn’t a bona fide superstar in the league today.

But then, in the 2006 NBA Draft, the top-five picks were Andrea Bargnani, LaMarcus Aldridge, Adam Morrison, Tyrus Thomas and Shelden Williams. Of those players, Aldridge is the only one even close to being called a superstar, and it’s probably a stretch to call him that.

Looking at the 2012 Draft, you can’t judge the players based on past lottery picks because that honestly doesn’t make sense. To grade them, you have to see how these individual players are affecting their team and how well they are adjusting to the pro game out of college.

Another factor that has to be considered is the value that a team was able to get with a pick. If a player was drafted at the bottom of the lottery, but is performing at a level that would have had them picked higher in the draft, that can’t be ignored.

All of these things being considered, the top-10 picks of the 2012 NBA Draft, for the most part, have proved that they were much closer to realizing their potential than many people thought coming into the draft.

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10. Austin Rivers

Austin Rivers
Chris Humphreys - USA Today Sports Images

The New Orleans Hornets used their second pick in the lottery to help bolster their backcourt of Greivis Vasquez and Eric Gordon by selecting Austin Rivers. Rivers played only one year in college, but was an effective scorer, averaging 15.5 points per game on 43.3 percent shooting and 36.5 percent three-point shooting.

Rivers struggled as a facilitator in college though, averaging only 2.1 assists per game and having an assist-to-turnover ratio below one.

As he’s ventured into the NBA, Rivers has continued to struggle as a passer, averaging only 2.6 assists per game. More importantly, his scoring ability has been somewhat stifled in the pros, averaging only 7.3 points per game and posting paltry shooting percentages of 34.3 percent from the field and 36.2 percent from beyond-the arc.

Watching Rivers, you can tell that Rivers mirrored his game after Kobe Bryant when he was developing. The problem is that he doesn’t have the size or strength to play that style of basketball in the NBA. That’s probably why he has posted a sub-par 6.26 Player Efficiency Rating thus far in his rookie season.

Rivers’ skills are undeniable, but he has to adjust his game more to the pros if he wants to live up to his potential.

Grade: D+

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9. Andre Drummond

Andre Drummond
Tim Fuller - USA Today Sports Images

When Andre Drummond unexpectedly fell to the Detroit Pistons with the ninth pick, it felt like a steal. The biggest criticism of Drummond coming into the draft was his lack of work-ethic and his tendency to no-show on occasion.

His skills however, were undeniable. Drummond has legitimate NBA-size and athletic ability. Thus far, those skills have translated very well to the league. Moreover, the concerns surrounding Drummond haven’t been much of an issue. He is averaging seven points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Those numbers are good enough for him to have an admirable 21.78 Player Efficiency Rating this season.

Drummond’s only two challenges this season have been his limited minutes and his free-throw shooting. He’s competing for playing-time in the Pistons front-court with budding-star Greg Monroe, veteran Jason Maxiell and the solid Jonas Jerebko. He’s taken advantage of the time that he’s been on the court, but is only averaging 19.5 minutes per night. That obviously is going to stifle the amount of production a player can contribute.

As far as his free-throw shooting, he’s shooting an abysmal 40.8 percent from the foul-stripe. The positive in that is he has been sound in avoiding the free-throw line, averaging only 2.1 attempts per game. So, he is avoiding one of his glaring weaknesses.

If Drummond sees more playing-time as the season progresses, there’s no reason to believe that he can’t develop into a stalwart for the Pistons.

Grade: B+

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8. Terrence Ross

Terrence Ross
Tom Szczerbowski - USA Today Sports Images

In his sophomore season in college, his last before entering the draft, Terrence Ross averaged 16.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while shooting 45.7 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from long-range. He also showed good defensive skills, averaging 1.3 steals per game.

Ross’ athletic style of play and sound-shooting were what attracted the Toronto Raptors to select him with the eighth-overall pick.

After not seeing much action at the start of the season, Ross’ role has grown as the year has progressed. He’s averaging only 7.4 points and 2.2 rebounds per game and has only a 12.50 Player Efficiency Rating for the season.

However, in his last 10 games where he’s averaged over 20 minutes per game, Ross has improved those numbers to 11.6 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. He’s also shot 47.8 percent from the field in that time, much better than his season average of 42.1 percent shooting.

Ross was never expected to be a superstar. He was meant to be complementary to the Raptors and give them more athleticism on the wings. He’s shown improvement as he’s been adapting and seeing more time on the floor. If he continues his development, he will most likely be exactly what the Raptors expected him to be.

Grade: C

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7. Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes
Tim Fuller - USA Today Sports Images

The Golden State Warriors picked Harrison Barnes hoping to add an athletic small-forward with scoring ability to complement their potent scoring attack of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and David Lee. Thus far, he has been exactly that.

In his two years at the college level, Barnes was called upon frequently to carry the scoring load. However, that’s not what his role was intended to be for the Warriors. His 11.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game averages are exactly what Golden State was asking of him.

He’s playing a significant amount of minutes, averaging 25.4 per game. That number in itself is indicative that he is playing the role that the team intended him to do.

The only knock on Barnes in this young season is his efficiency as a scorer. He’s shooting only 41.9 percent from the field. This is largely due to his ineffectiveness when finishing around the rim. That part of Barnes’ game was never exploited in college because less-sound defenders would bail him out with fouls. In the NBA, defenders, for the most part, are able to defend around the rim without fouling, thus forcing Barnes to struggle around the basket.

If Barnes really wants to be a tremendous asset to the Warriors, he has to develop that part of his game further. Other than that, he is well on his way.

Grade: B

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6. Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard
Anthony Gruppuso - USA Today Sports Images

There were several questions concerning Damian Lillard coming into the draft. He was obviously talented, but after playing four years at a mid-major college program, many wondered if his game would be able to translate to the pros.

Lillard has answered those questions over and over and made the Portland Trailblazers look like a smart bunch of guys.

He’s already been given a huge role for the Blazers, averaging a taxing 37.9 minutes per game. More to his credit though, he’s performing in those minutes, averaging 18.4 points, 6.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds and one steal per game.

His Player Efficiency Rating is only 16.87 thus far, but that’s largely due to his 42 percent shooting, a number that indicates how much Lillard is relied upon to carry the Blazers offense.

He has also provided plenty of highlights, including a couple of buzzer-beaters to secure victories. The fact that he’s getting the ball in those situations shows how much confidence that the Blazers have in him.

The only thing Lillard needs to work on is turning the ball over, as he’s averaging 3.1 per game. However, that’s not a terrible average, especially for a rookie and the team’s starting point guard. Lillard appears to be on his way to great things.

Grade: A+

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5. Thomas Robinson

Thomas Robinson
Jayne Kamin-Oncea - USA Today Sports Images

Thomas Robinson dominated in his last year in college, averaging 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds per game. That’s what the Sacramento Kings were hoping to add to their team to help back up DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson and Chuck Hayes.

However, after seeing a consistently decent amount of minutes early in the season, Robinson has been seeing the floor less as of late. The biggest reason for this is that he hasn’t been able to produce at the level that the Kings were hoping he would.

Robinson has posted only a 9.26 Player Efficiency Rating and is averaging a mere 4.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Those numbers are a far cry from the juggernaut that he was at the college level.

His problem is two-fold. First, he simply isn’t playing enough because his competition in the Sacramento front-court is stiff. Cousins and Thompson, in particular, are two of the league’s most consistent big men that Robinson would have to play out of his mind to compete with. He’s going to have to mature into the pro game before he is able to compete with those guys.

The other part of his issues is that his game hasn’t yet matured to the NBA style. In college, he was physically imposing enough that he could beat almost anyone with his combination of size and athleticism. In the Association though, there are entirely too many talented front-court players for that style to be effective. Robinson his going to have to develop into a smarter player if the Kings want to get returned value from their fifth-overall pick.

Grade: D

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4. Dion Waiters

Dion Waiters
Daniel Shirey - USA Today Sports Images

Looking at Dion Waiters' collegiate stats alone, it’s a bit perplexing as to how he could have been the fourth-overall pick in the 2012 Draft, going to the Cleveland Cavaliers. In his sophomore season last year, he averaged only 12.6 points, 2.5 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game. He also wasn’t even a starter, playing only 24.1 minutes per game.

However, Waiters has obvious talent. He plays aggressively and has great instincts on the court. That’s translated to some decent stats for him.

In 31.6 minutes per game, Waiters is averaging 14.4 points, 3.4 assists and 2.4 rebounds. He’s also averaging over one steal per game. Those numbers however, are misleading.

Watching Waiters, his intangibles are apparent. His biggest problem though is how inefficient he has been offensively. Last season in college, Waiters shot 47.6 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from deep. If those were the percentages he was posting for Cavs this year, he would probably be averaging closer to 20 points per contest.

Instead, Waiters is struggling with his percentages, shooting 36.6 percent from the field and 32.2 percent from three-point land. That’s the main reason why his Player Efficiency Rating of 11.67, a number well below average.

For a team that has a hard time scoring consistently outside of Kyrie Irving, Cleveland needs Waiters to develop into a second scoring option. He has the ability. He just has to become more effective scoring the basketball for that to happen. If he doesn’t develop that part of his game, Waiters really isn’t helping his team.

Grade: C

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3. Bradley Beal

Bradley Beal
Daniel Shirey - USA Today Sports Images

In drafting Bradley Beal, the Washington Wizards were hoping to add a perimeter scoring threat that would be complementary to the slashing style of John Wall. Wall has yet to play this season though, which makes grading Beal much harder.

Beal has produced decent looking stats, averaging 12.5 points, 2.5 assists and 3.5 points per game. The obvious flaw in the play of Beal has been his percentages. He is shooting just 35.9 percent from the field and an awful 29.4 percent from beyond the arc.

The main problem with Beal though, is not on an individual basis, but rather with his team. The Wizards’ offensive scheme begins and ends with Wall. He takes the majority of shots when he’s on the floor and facilitates almost everything that happens for them offensively.

With Wall’s absence the Wizards are obviously out of sync on offense and don’t seem to have an answer. They don’t really have anyone on their roster that has the ability to take the place of Wall.

Because of all of this, Beal’s game has struggled. His role on this team was supposed to be knocking down open shots and giving Wall assists. Without Wall, Beal is being forced to create his own shot more often than not, which isn’t one of his strengths.

Until Wall returns, it’s almost impossible to judge Beal’s contribution to the Wizards. If he continues to struggle with Wall, then he will definitely be on his way to being called a bust. But there’s a chance that Wall’s return could also turn things around for Beal. We shall see.

Grade: Incomplete

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2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Derick Hingle - USA Today Sports Images

The Charlotte Bobcats’ expectations when they drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were simple; they wanted him to play smart basketball, play with high-energy and not try to do too much. Thus far, Kidd-Gilchrist has met all of those expectations.

Kidd-Gilchrist has posted solid numbers this season, averaging 10.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.8 assists per game. He’s also been efficient on offense, shooting 50.6 percent from the field. Those numbers are why he has a 17.18 Player Efficiency Rating this year.

More important than his stats though, are what Kidd-Gilchrist gives to the Bobcats outside of the Bobcats.

Last season, Charlotte struggled to play intelligently and within themselves. They tried to do things they were unable to do, which is one of the reasons that they finished with a historically bad record. Another reason is that they also played lethargically at times and didn’t seem to care.

In regards to changing those negatives for the Bobcats, Kidd-Gilchrist has been an integral part of that. He plays every possession that he’s on the floor with a noticeable intensity that is contagious for his teammates. He also plays smartly and doesn’t try to do things outside of his ability.

In doing these things, as well as giving the Bobcats quality production, Kidd-Gilchrist is a major part in changing the culture in Charlotte. He isn’t an offensive genius or a supernatural talent, but he is doing exactly what his team needs him to do.

Grade: A-

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1. Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis
Derick Hingle - USA Today Sports Images

There’s a reason that Anthony Davis was regarded as the unanimous choice to be the number one pick in the 2012 NBA Draft—he has the most to offer. The Hornets had to feel like they were taking a “can’t-miss” prospect when they selected Davis.

Davis has delivered on much of the hype. He’s averaging 14.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, two blocks and one steal per game. Davis also is third on the Hornets in Player Efficiency Rating, posting a 19.4 so far this season. He’s shown that he can translate his superb length and athleticism to the pro game.

One thing that has been surprising is how sound Davis has been offensively. There was potential that his abilities offensively would develop over time, but not many expected him to make an immediate impact with his scoring. People thought he would be able to grab rebounds effectively and cause problems with his defense, but not be able to shoot 48.4 percent from the field and average over 14 points per game.

Davis is clearly on his way to becoming a superstar in the NBA. His production and obvious physical skills make that apparent. The only concern with Davis thus far is his ability to stay healthy.

In this young NBA season, he’s already missed 13 of the Hornets’ 32 games. Normally, that wouldn’t be anything to dwell on. However, considering one of the criticisms of Davis is his lanky frame and need to bulk-up, his injury risk is a factor in how he is assessed. His injuries this season could end up being unimportant. But for now, they’re something that has to be watched.

Overall though, Davis has looked like the budding franchise player that everyone expected he would be. If he continues to grow as a player, it’s scary to think of how dominant he could be in this league.

Grade: A

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