NBA Draft 2012: Kentucky’s fab five of underclassmen all positioned to be elite pros

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From Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News…

Anthony Davis

Projected position: power forward.

Probability of filing: 100 percent.

Mock draft consensus: No. 1.

The team that wins the lottery will have great cause to celebrate—like the Knicks did when they won Patrick Ewing, like the Cavaliers did when they won LeBron James or the Trail Blazers did when they … OK, we won’t go there.

As the amateur analysts compare Davis to Marcus Camby—a solid pro, but never a great one—actual basketball people recognize there are elements to Davis’ game never before seen in a player his size.

He does not have the same bounce, step or rage in his game that Kevin Garnett brought to the NBA, but Davis is a more polished offensive player at the same stage and a more sophisticated defender.

Davis can face the basket and make plays from a triple-threat position and block 3-pointers as well as layups. How many power forwards his size do either? And while the year in college helped in that regard, forcing Davis to test his talents under game pressure, some of what makes him special is innate.

Davis’ intelligence and ability to learn aren’t appreciated properly because his shyness and humility masked some of that to the public.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Projected position: small forward.

Probability of filing: 99 percent.

Mock draft consensus: 3.

The defensive play Kidd-Gilchrist made to seal the national title win over Kansas is a perfect illustration of why NBA scouts are wild about him. He was beaten on a back-door cut by KU’s Tyshawn Taylor with the Jayhawks owning a chance to cut UK’s lead to four points with a minute left.

Hey, stuff happens. What rarely happens, though, is a young defender attempting to recover rather than hang his head for such a devastating mistake. What almost can’t happen is that the defender gets back into the play and blocks what had been presumed to be a wide-open layup. And that is what MKG did.

Terrence Jones

Projected position: power forward/small forward.

Probability of filing: 100 percent.

Mock draft consensus: 14.

The wealth of offensive weapons in the Kentucky rotation removed some of the impetus for Jones to push his development as a perimeter scorer, and that might cost him a draft spot or two. That would be a mistake by NBA teams, because the dramatic improvement Jones demonstrated as a player during his sophomore season made him a far more attractive prospect.

Jones rediscovered the passing ability that made him an effective point forward in AAU ball in UK’s Elite Eight victory over Baylor, stinging the Bears with six first-half assists.

He continued to rebound at a high level despite losing some numbers to teammates Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist. Most important was that he became a more efficient, less self-interested player. A coach who handles Jones well will get much in return.

Marquis Teague

Projected position: point guard.

Probability of filing: 95 percent.

Mock draft consensus: 21.

Teague improved considerably over the course of his freshman year, from being derided for failing to play at the Rose/Evans/Wall level early in the season to averaging 13.8 points and 4.8 assists in the Wildcats’ six NCAA Tournament victories.

Teague became spoiled as a collegian by the number of opponents who refused to offer help when he drove the ball—all of them fearing Teague would throw dunkable lobs to Davis or Jones—and that stunted both Teague’s assist numbers and his development as a passer. He must be more aware of possibilities as a pro; he won’t see as many gaping holes that lead to the rim.

He does have great vision, though, and he improved his sense of how to manage the game this season. His brother, Jeff, was content with a draft position in the high teens. Marquis is more ready now than Jeff was after two years at Wake Forest.

Doron Lamb

Projected position: shooting guard.

Probability of filing: 85 percent.

Mock draft consensus: 24.

Lamb obviously will want to leave because returning to UK would mean being stuck with all new teammates and because he has wanted to be a pro from the jump. His decision is trickier than most, however, because Lamb could be the most undervalued of all the Wildcats.

The three mock drafts we used in our consensus—Sporting News, DraftExpress, NBADraft.net—vary widely on Lamb. He needs greater strength and to prove he can defend at the NBA level. But we’re talking about a guy who shoots nearly 50 percent from the college 3-point line on a fairly high volume of attempts, and who has done that under championship pressure.

Lamb made 52.2 percent of his 3s in the title run, including two game-breakers against Kansas. Lamb also functioned as Kentucky’s second point guard and could play there in the pros.

The National Kentucky Basketball Association. #NKBA

(source: here)

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