The 2012 NBA draft class has been consistently touted as having one of the most talented groups in recent years. From picks one through sixty, the draft is full of guys who have clear-cut potential to be either immediate impact players or who could blossom to become legitimate contributors. And while there are only a limited number of no-brainer, sure thing superstars in this year's draft class, there are a bunch of players who might have more value to teams, for various reasons, than many think. That being said, here are five guys who I believe have attributes that will translate into significant floor-time early in their NBA careers.
1.) Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure; Projected 22nd Overall)
I personally believe that Nicholson could end up being the biggest steal of the first round. Standing at 6’10 with a 7’1 wing span, the St. Bonaventure alum is one of the more versatile players in this year's draft class. Despite beginning his career as a somewhat one-dimensional post presence known for his shot blocking ability, rebounding, and crafty inside game, Nicholson has transformed himself into a legitimate pick and pop threat, shooting 43% from beyond the arc in his last season as a Bonnie. Like the majority of bigs in this years class, Nicholson must undoubtedly improve his upper body strength to consistently battle inside and establish low post position in the Pros. But the fact that the 6’10 power forward will likely be selected by a playoff contending team—as of late he is predicted to go to the Celtics—makes him that much more intriguing, especially if he is to play in a system that utilizes their bigs in pick and pop situations.
2.) Moe Harkless (St. Johns; Projected 20th Overall)
Coming off Rookie of the Year honors in the Big East, Harkless was undoubtedly St. Johns' best player throughout the season. The supremely gifted 19 year-old is a small forward in a power forward’s body, standing at 6’8 with a 7’2 wing span. Although Harkless shot only 20% from beyond the arc in 80 attempts during his freshman season, the athletic wing does have great shooting mechanics, and his experience playing down low gives him the ability play both inside and out. But what really intrigues me about Harkless is his defensive prowess. He has the length and the quickness to defend positions 1 through 4 at the NBA level and aggressively plays the passing lanes. Without a doubt, Harkless is a work in progress, but the potential upside on this guy is through the roof. Hopefully he ends up in an organization, unlike the Washington Wizards per say, that efficiently develops their young guns.
3.) Will Barton (Memphis; Projected 31st Overall)
In a league that is in desperate need of groomed shooting guards, the wiry 6’6 two-man has the potential to be a long-time contributor for many teams. Offensively, Barton can score the rock in virtually every way imaginable; he possesses a lethal mid-range game reminiscent to that of Rip Hamilton, has unlimited range and shoots the three at a high percentage; he can score off unconventional angles, pin-downs, and floaters, and has excellent body control around the rim. From my standpoint, he appears to be one of, if not the only, two-guard in the draft who would not have trouble handling the role of point guard if called upon to do so. He plays with a new-found patience and is extremely adept at probing the defense off the dribble and seeking high quality looks for himself and his teammates. But what separates Barton from other guards in this years draft class is his premiere rebounding ability both on the offensive and defensive glass—Barton averaged 8.0 rebounds per game last season as a sophomore. Because of his ability to rebound at a high volume, Barton is able to create easy scoring opportunities for himself in transition and off of putbacks. And while many NBA scouts assess his thin frame—he only weights 174 lbs—and lack of physical strength as a severe weakness that will plague his effectiveness and limit his potential at the next level, overlooking his skill set due to this deficiency would be a considerable mistake.
4.) Quincy Acy (Baylor; Projected 51st Overall)
As a senior forward at Baylor, Acy proved to be one of the most explosive athletes in all of college basketball. A virtual dunk machine (dunks accounted for almost 40% of his field goals), Acy can hammer the rock in nearly every which way; off the vert, off the drop step, over multiple defenders, you name it. He plays extremely well off of his teammates and understands how to seal his opponent in the post to create opportunities for simple entry passes off of pick and roll situations. Although undersized, his huge wingspan and high motor allow him to play bigger than he actually is. And while Acy undoubtedly has a number of things to work on (as do a majority of this year's draft class) the Baylor senior has the potential to join the league’s exclusive club of unconventional power forwards (i.e. Brandon Bass, Glen Davis, Dejuan Blair, Chuck Hayes). Let's just say CoachUp is one of, if not the, biggest fan of Quincy Acy!
5.) Henry Sims (Georgetown; Projected 43rd Overall)
Georgetown has sent any number of big men to the pros over the last 30 years, from Patrick Ewing to recent all-star Roy Hibbert, and it's likely that senior center Henry Sims will be next on the list. Sims is a GM’s dream when it comes to filling the slot of an impact backup center. Although Sims lacks ideal athleticism, his basketball IQ is what makes him such a viable prospect. Averaging nearly four assists in Georgetown’s Princeton style offense, Sims proved to be an extremely adept passer with the ability to orchestrate the offense from the high post. And while Sims is slightly too undersized to play the pivot regularly, he possesses an intelligence and basketball IQ that will keep him in the league for years to come. Obviously, Sims will have to bulk up to compete against NBA caliber centers, but his unique ability to pass the ball as well as his exceptional character make him a prospect worth investing in.