SI.com evaluates the top prospects in the 2012 NBA Draft

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Sam Amick of SI.com recently set out on a mission to evaluate all of the top prospects in the 2012 NBA draft and group them into three risk categories. If you want, you can check out the whole article here, which includes breakdowns on Thomas Robinson (who cares) and Bradley Beal (who?).

Otherwise, here are the good parts.

First, Amick’s description of the three risk categories.

1. Hitting The Jackpot (four players): The talent is immense and the upside is as trustworthy as there is in the draft. See below for an evaluation of Davis and the other three players in this group.

2. The Gambles: (15 players): In short, this is where the risk gets weighed against the reward. The unanswered questions about these players’ games might give NBA decision makers cause for pause, but getting it right could result in a major payoff too. This story will run on Thursday.

3. The Safe Play: (11 players): These players might not make any All-Star teams, but talent evaluators say they’re the easiest to project. So if you like the skill set and don’t want your bosses to be surprised, you feel comfortable picking from this pool. This story will run on Friday.

Not surprisingly, Amick puts Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist into the Hitting The Jackpot group. Smart man.

Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis, Kentucky, freshman power forward (6-foot-10, 220 pounds): As if his top-dog status hasn’t been established already, I spoke with another general manager to inquire about Davis’ incredible potential. To review, my May 1 report had executives comparing Davis not only to Blake Griffin but also to future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett. Sure enough, the consensus continues.

“He could be every bit as good as KG,” the GM said. “KG, [Tim] Duncan — that’s this guy’s upside. There’s no telling how good this guy is going to be.”

Whereas most No. 1 picks have already showcased most of their skills by this stage, the fact that Davis didn’t become a big man until a growth spurt during his junior year in high school likely means the evolution is just getting started. His defensive presence has been well-chronicled (he led the nation with 4.6 blocks), but the GM sees plenty of offensive potential as well.

“He’ll start doing things in a couple of years, and you’ll be like, ‘Wow,’ ” he said.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky, freshman small forward (6-7, 210): He was Robin to Davis’ Batman at Kentucky, in large part because of his commitment to playing both ends of the floor (he was only fourth on the team in scoring at 11.9 points). It’s unclear whether he can evolve into playing a lead role, but he has no shortage of casting calls because of his versatility and the leadership he showed during the Wildcats’ championship run.

For all of the attention paid to Davis as Kentucky’s top talent, Kidd-Gilchrist was regarded as the team’s glue. Coach John Calipari routinely praised him for being the emotional leader, and Kidd-Gilchrist was the captain of the Wildcats’ 8:30 a.m. workouts before scheduled practices.

It’s hard to tell how good he can be offensively because of the deep surrounding talent at Kentucky, but he has been compared to New Jersey’s Gerald Wallace in terms of his athleticism and attacking mentality. Kidd-Gilchrist had two of his best offensive games in the NCAA tournament, scoring 24 points on 7-of-15 shooting against Indiana in the Sweet 16 and 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting against Baylor in the Elite Eight.

He might have the best motor in the draft, and nothing makes scouts happier than a player who never stops. Kidd-Gilchrist is also a tenacious defender with a 6-10 wingspan. His inconsistent perimeter game is a concern, but his work ethic and approach have NBA teams drooling.

“He has all the intangibles,” one assistant general manager said. “And he plays extremely hard.”

NBA Lottery is May 30th.

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