All this week at CBT, we’ll be spotlighting the top players at each position for the 2012 NBA draft. Monday featured the top point guards; Tuesday was the shooting guards. Today? The small forwards.
1. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky
Despite not being the focal point of Kentucky’s national championship team, Kidd-Gilchrist is another example of Calipari’s ability to turn high-level prospects into lottery picks.
Some analysts, considering the possible ceiling on his development, have questioned whether he would be worth a Top 5 pick, but, were Anthony Davis not Kidd-Gilchrist’s teammate this past season, perhaps his NBA potential would have been better highlighted.
Expect him to go somewhere in the Top 5.
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2. Harrison Barnes, North Carolina
Expectations were sky-high for Barnes coming out of high school, and though he may not have lived up to every last label stuck on him before his time at North Carolina, he had a solid career as a Tar Heel, averaging 17.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game this past season.
Ultimately, Barnes is strongest as a scorer with an NBA-ready frame. He is 6-8 with length, but still needs to work on his ability to create for others. He will be selected somewhere in the Top 10, with many pointing to Golden State at No. 7.
3. Moe Harkless, St. John’s
Harkless was praised for his two days at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago this past week, as an athletic specimen with great potential for growth.
During the second half of his freshman season at St. John’s, Harkless began to show an aggressiveness and leadership quality that appeals to pro teams. He averaged 15.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game this past season.
His measurements at the Draft Combine were also impressive. Add that to his mature personality and willingness to learn (he went from a Top 50 recruit from the Class of 2011 to a one-and-done with late-lottery potential) and Harkless has a lot to offer to a team that is looking to invest in him and develop him over time.
4. Jeff Taylor, Vanderbilt
The biggest critique that pro scouts had of Taylor, prior to his senior season, was whether he had an outside jumpshot that could translate to the professional level. This past season, he proved that he could extend his game to the perimeter, shooting over 42% from distance.
Taylor is an elite-level defender, which we have seen teams value in the second half of the first round (see: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics). Look for him to be a first round selection.
5. Quincy Miller, Baylor
Miller initially announced that he would be returning to Baylor for his sophomore season, but instead decided to jump to the draft.
Out of high school, Miller was thought to be a lottery pick, and probably would have been, had he stayed another year at Baylor. Now, at a lanky 6-9 and continuing to show that he has recovered from a knee injury in high school, Miller must settle into an NBA position, either at small or power forward.
6. Darius Miller, Kentucky
Miller was, at times, underrated in Kentucky’s pursuit of a national championship, but could play a similar role at the professional level as he did in college: fill in the gaps with production on a quality team.
He averaged 9.9 points and 2.8 rebounds per game last season for the Wildcats and measured nearly 6-8 with shoes in the pre-draft workout.
7. Evan Fournier, France
Fournier is a first-round prospect in a draft that is very dry on international prospects.
He is a guard/forward hybrid and, at 6-7, could contribute to a team that selects him near the end of the first round as a dribble penetrator and scorer. He is only 19 years old, so he will have much room to grow.
8. Jae Crowder, Marquette
Crowder won the Big East Player of Year award this past season, but the biggest question for him, heading into the NBA draft, is his size and what position would suit him best at the professional level.
He is undoubtedly a competitor, and some have drawn a comparison to Denver Nugget Kenneth Faried, in terms of an undersized player who could have great value to the team who selects him.
He is likely to be chose in the second round.
9. Kevin Murphy, Tennessee Tech
Murphy had a strong showing at the 2012 Portsmouth Invitational, which helped his draft stock. Draft Express sees Murphy as an early second-round pick, mostly because of his ability to score the basketball, which he showed he could do with over 20 points per game last season.
10. Kris Joseph, Syracuse
As players progress through college, potential typically decreases, while criticisms usually rise. Joseph just turned 23, meaning, compared with a younger player, GMs may not see as much while. On the other side of the coin, though, Joseph can be an experienced and mature player who is looking to contribute to a contender.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_