Now that the 2012 NBA Draft deadline has passed for prospects to declare, we look at the best and worst moves as well as some of the draft's buzz with 2 months to go until the big night.
The Best: There's a handful of obvious ones like the Kentucky frontline of Anthony Davis (No. 1 on our Big Board), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (No. 2) and Terrence Jones (No. 14), prospects whose stock could only fall with another year in school. Add to mix any one with lottery potential, i.e. Bradley Beal, Thomas Robinson, Perry Jones III, Jared Sullinger, Damian Lillard, Jeremy Lamb, etc.
Kendall Marshall may have made the best decision to enter the 2012 NBA Draft. No, he's not the top talent, or even the Draft's best point guard (some feel that honor goes to Weber State's Lillard), but Marshall's impact on the game is undeniable. There are concerns like his lack of elite athleticism and his inconsistent and often woeful perimeter shooting, but his court vision, basketball IQ and ability to thread the pass in transition or in half court is by far and away the best of any college or international prospect at this point. While leading the country's second best scoring offense, Marshall accounted for 9.8 assists per game, where 44.6 percent of his possessions used ended up in the pass leading to a made basket. He combines that with an uncanny ability to penetrate into the defense, draw defenders and drop it off to a big man for a dunk or a wing spotting up for the jump shot; his assist-to-turnover ratio was a stellar 3.5-to-1.
Even though he made it two seasons in Chapel Hill, Marshall's biggest draft boost may have taken place when he was off the court; he missed UNC's Sweet 16 and Elite 8 action against Ohio and Kansas in the 2012 NCAA Tournament and the Tar Heels' offense was drastically different- just ask Harrison Barnes whose inability to create his own shot, something Marshall used to excel at in setting up Barnes, has hampered his ceiling for NBA scouts. North Carolina's wings struggled to get open and the bigs never got good looks at the basket in the paint or the dump-off dunks they were used to. Eventually, it led to their demise as the team managed to put forth their third-lowest scoring output of the season in the loss to Kansas.
The Worst: The two-way tie for the headscratching award of this draft goes to a pair of Villanova teammates, junior guards Maalik Wayns (No. 96 on our Big Board) and Dominic Cheek (unranked). Wayns is a slightly better prospect with more promise at a position lacking depth, but still is a long-shot to be draft. Cheek has even less of a shot of getting drafted after posting horrendous shooting numbers and going through long stretches of games going unnoticed. Even though Wayns isn't even an average perimeter shooter, he has very good quickness to penetrate into the lane and decent court vision. Both needed another year in school as Wayns could have showed he could lead a team by improving his decision-making and perimeter shooting and notching a few more wins along the way. Cheek needs to shoot better and become a more diverse scorer as well as contribute in other areas of the game.
More Surprising Change of Heart: This comes down to the reversal in decisions made by Baylor's Quincy Miller and Tony Mitchell of North Texas. After the season, both prospects announced their return to school for a sophomore season, great moves for each.
Most to Gain With 1+ Year in School: There were several prospects with border-line first-round grades at some point during the season that feel for various reasons, whether it was injuries, lack of production, consistency or other various reasons. Khris Middleton from Texas A&M was a wing that we really like- a point-forward wing with good size, smooth, but not explosive court vision. Middleton excelled as a sophomore from the foul line extended to 3-point line, knocking down mid-range jumpers with good consistency and finding bigs with room to operate in the post and wings spotting up on the outside. But as a junior with the Aggies, the first under Billy Kennedy as head coach, Middleton was hurt for most of the year and then his accuracy and range took a nasty fall from deep. If he is injury-free and back up to speed, he could be a second-round steal.