Regrading the Top 10 Picks from the 2012 NBA Draft

Max Minsker@@MaxMinskerCorrespondent IDecember 5, 2012

Regrading the Top 10 Picks from the 2012 NBA Draft

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    It's been a few months since the 2012 NBA draft, and we've finally gotten a chance to see the new rookies in action.

    I'll be handing out grades for each pick in the top 10. Some prospects have already hit it big, some have flashed potential in limited minutes, and some are quickly looking like busts. 

    I know it's early on and there's still plenty of time for development, but we've learned a lot in the first month of the NBA season. 

10. Austin Rivers, G, New Orleans Hornets: D+

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    Obviously, Austin Rivers has suffered from a severe NBA learning curve. The problem is, we're seeing all the same problems we saw while he was at Duke; they're just more magnified now because of better competition in the pro game. 

    He always struggled to create for others while playing for the Blue Devils, and at times, he even struggled to create for himself. His shooting splits were mediocre (43 percent field goal, 37 percent three-pointers, 66 percent free throw), and considering he only averaged two assists per game, it's hard to see why the Hornets thought he would be an effective point guard at the NBA level. 

    When Rivers got to college, everyone was bigger, faster and stronger, so he wasn't as effective. Now, in the NBA, we're seeing him attempt to make an even bigger jump, and the results have been disastrous. 

    So far, Rivers is averaging just six points, three assists and three rebounds per game in 27 minutes. These stats don't seem so bad for a rookie, until we realize he's sixth on the team in minutes per game and his shooting splits are 30/21/68. 

    This nightmarish per-minute production has drowned his player efficiency rating (PER), which currently sits at almost 5.7. To put that in perspective, that would have been the seventh-worst PER among qualified players last year, putting him between Shawne Williams and Matt Carroll. 

    When Rivers plays point guard, the position he was drafted to play, his production gets even worse. His PER as a point guard is 4.0, which would have put him last among qualified players last season.

    Rivers has also been a liability defensively. The Hornets are three points per possession worse defensively with Rivers on the floor. Considering his competition is Roger Mason Jr. and Brian Roberts, the bar is set pretty low. 

    Fortunately for Rivers, there's still time for him to pick it up. He has talent, and his competitive fire should kick in at some points. 

    I'm not writing off Rivers as a bust yet, but so far, there's not a lot of evidence going against that classification. 

9. Andre Drummond, F/C, Detroit Pistons: A-

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    Drummond has always been regarded as a player with enormous upside, but he never really got a chance to show off his potential last year on a dysfunctional UConn team. 

    So far, it's been an almost best-case scenario for Drummond and the Pistons. He's only averaging six points, six rebounds and 1.3 blocks, but he's putting up these numbers in merely 17 minutes a game. He's also shooting 55 percent from the field, though he is shooting a putrid 38 percent from the line.

    Drummond has had a huge impact on the Pistons offense thus far, as the team is averaging almost 10 points per game more with him on the floor than when he's on the bench. 

    Drummond has shown flashes of huge potential, and it's very possible he could develop into a franchise center. Good 7-footers are hard to come by in today's NBA, and great ones are even rarer.

    Drummond definitely has the athleticism to keep up with the faster pace the league is transitioning to, and it seems like a strong possibility that he could end up as the steal of the draft. 

8. Terrence Ross, SG, Toronto Raptors: C

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    I don't really know what to make of this pick. It seemed like a reach at the time, and what we're seeing from Ross only confirms that suspicion. 

    Ross had already played a few years at Washington before coming to the NBA, so one could argue that he's farther along in his development than other prospects in this class. 

    Coming into his rookie year, Ross was heralded as a long, athletic guard with great range. But to this point, he's averaging just six points per game while shooting 42 percent from the floor and just 30 percent from behind the arc.

    He's having a lot of trouble creating his own shot and significantly contributing in any statistical category, though he is doing a pretty good job defending his position.

    On the whole, he hasn't gotten a ton of playing time, and when he has played, he's been ineffective. 

    Ross has all the tools to be a starting-caliber player in the future, but right now, it remains to be seen whether he will be anything more than a bench piece. 

7. Harrison Barnes, SF, Golden State Warriors: B

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    So far, Harrison Barnes hasn't been great, but he hasn't been terrible either. As the Warriors' starting small forward, he's contributed effectively at times, but has disappeared in several games as well.  

    At 28 minutes a game, Barnes has definitely had opportunities to succeed. But statistically, he's been mediocre, averaging 10 points, five rebounds and 1.5 assists per game with 46/35/66 splits.

    Barnes has all the makings of a quality NBA player. He's a lengthy wing with elite athleticism and the potential to be one of the smoother shooting 3s in the league. He'll probably never be a star, but he should be able to remain a starter at best or a top bench option at worst. 

    I obviously think the Warriors would've been much better off taking Andre Drummond than filling a need with Barnes.

6. Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trail Blazers: A

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    Many scouts and fans alike were perplexed by Damian Lillard's swift rise to the top of draft boards. The little-known guard from Weber State was a huge question mark throughout the draft process, and although he excelled from the beginning in individual drills and workouts, no one knew exactly how effective he would be in the flow of an actual game.

    Well, the questions have been answered. 

    Damian Lillard is 11th in the NBA in scoring, and as long as Anthony Davis is out of the equation, he's the clear front-runner in the Rookie of the Year race. 

    Lillard is averaging 19 points, six assists and three rebounds per game with 43/39/83 shooting splits. While he's committing his fair share of turnovers (3.3 a game), that's to be expected from a rookie floor general.

    His impact on the Blazers defense has been negligible, but offensively, the Blazers are 8.5 points per 100 possessions better when Lillard is on the floor than when he's on the bench. 

    Lillard is extremely skilled at creating his own shot, as only 27 percent of his baskets are assisted. 

    While he may not have huge upside going forward, as he spent five years in college and is older than any other rookie, Lillard is already good enough to more than justify his draft position.

    It looks like the Blazers have found their point guard of the future. 

5. Thomas Robinson, PF, Sacramento Kings: C+

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    I wrote the following excerpt before the draft this summer, and it looks like I may have been right to some extent: 

    Beyond his age, Robinson's offensive game is still a work in progress. He settles for perimeter shots far too often and tries to take defenders off the dribble to score. That's fine in college, but he's probably going to have to abandon that strategy when he gets to the NBA.

    Unfortunately, his post game isn't necessarily elite either, so it's hard to project him as a great NBA scorer. He has struggled with length in the past, and although he measured well at the combine, he's still short of 6'9", and longer post defenders could give him a lot of trouble. 

    Being small for his position will also be a problem defensively. He's quick and strong, but he doesn't really have the requisite size and skill to defend the post especially well. He may not be a bad defender, but he won't be a good one either.

    One skill that should translate to the NBA is Robinson's rebounding prowess.

    He was a monster on the boards this past season at Kansas, and he should be able snatch up more than his fair share of rebounds in the pros. 

    Robinson has struggled to make his way into the Kings rotation so far, and it looks like he may not have what it takes to be an effective NBA player.

    Robinson is averaging just five points and four rebounds a game in 16 minutes.

    Digging a little deeper, Robinson has taken 48 percent of his shots outside the paint. The problem is that he isn't an effective shooter from mid-range, shooting an effective field-goal percentage of 38 percent outside the paint (stats per 

    Robinson seems very content to sit outside the paint and take jumpers, which won't serve him well in terms of his role on the team. He's not an effective NBA player on offense, meaning he may be destined to come off the bench.

    Overall, he has been disappointing for a top-five selection, especially considering Lillard was taken right after him.

4. Dion Waiters, G, Cleveland Cavaliers: B+

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    Dion Waiters was a surprising pick at No. 4 by the Cavs, but it looks like it may pay off. Waiters is starting at shooting guard and is tied for second on the team in scoring. 

    His 15-point, three-rebound and two-assist averages are solid, but his 36/36/78 splits need work. He's not a very efficient scorer, but he has proved he can get to the rim and has the potential to be a top scoring option in the future. 

    Waiters' 13 PER is decent, and he's not too bad defensively. He's a little undersized for a shooting guard, but alongside Kyrie Irving, the Cavs now boast a very explosive backcourt.

    The Cavs offense has seen a shocking bump with Waiters on the floor as opposed to on the bench. The team is an astounding 15 points per 100 possessions better offensively when Waiters is in the game. 

    It was a risky move taking the Syracuse sixth man so early on draft night, but it looks like Cleveland's risk has been rewarded.

3. Bradley Beal, SG, Washington Wizards: B-

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    I don't know what to think about Bradley Beal. I really thought he'd be a good pro, but so far, he's been mostly ineffective. He has a reputation as a dead-eye shooter with solid athleticism, but he hasn't put either of these skills on display in Washington thus far.

    The team is an absolute mess, but he probably should be playing better than he is. 

    His 11-point, three-rebound and two-assist averages in 28 minutes are bad enough before you look at his 34/34/86 splits.

    He hasn't really shown anything on either end of the floor that would lead me to believe he's going to be a great player someday. Hopefully, when John Wall comes back and the team starts to take form, he'll improve, but for now, he's simply not playing well. 

    The team is worse on both sides when he's on the floor, especially defensively, where the Wizards give up six more points per 100 possessions when Beal is playing.

    I think it may be too soon to make a final judgement on Beal. He played better toward the end of his freshman season at Florida, and I think he'll continue to adjust and develop with time.

    The Ray Allen comparisons may not be so accurate for Bradley Beal, but he doesn't have to be that good to be worth this pick.

    The jury is still out on Beal, and I think it'll be a few years before we can adequately judge what lies ahead for this talented player. 

2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Charlotte Bobcats: A-

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    The Bobcats needed a star, but after Anthony Davis, it looked as if that opportunity wasn't on the table. You don't want to "settle" with the No. 2 pick in the draft, but Charlotte did, and it looks like it was the right call.

    Thus far, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has not disappointed.

    He's no star, but he's playing well on both sides of the ball. His 11-point, six-rebound and two-assist averages in 27 minutes per game are more than respectable, especially considering his 1.4 blocks, 1.1 steals and the fact that he's shooting 46 percent from the field and 77 percent from the line. 

    His PER of 17 is well above average, and his motor on the floor is consistent. The Bobcats are substantially better statistically with MKG on the floor on both sides of the ball, resulting in a net benefit of plus-8.6 points per 100 possessions while he's playing. 

    MKG is a great all-around player whom the Bobcats can start to build around moving forward.

    At this point, however, there is one major flaw in his game: outside shooting.

    Kidd-Gilchrist is a great finisher around the basket, and he has the stats to prove it (65 percent effective field-goal percentage inside the paint). But outside the paint, it's a completely different story. 

    He takes 44 percent of his shots from outside the paint, which yields disastrous results. His effective field-goal percentage outside the paint is just 21 percent ( It doesn't get much worse than that, especially at his position.

    Although he does have that huge hole in his game, he has found a way to play well despite it, which is more than what can be said about many of the other top-10 picks. 

1. Anthony Davis, F/C, New Orleans Hornets: A+

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    I realize we've only seen six games from Anthony Davis, but in those six games, he's been the franchise player everyone thought he would be. He averaged 16 points and eight rebounds with two blocks in those games despite playing only 14 minutes against the Utah Jazz due to an injury. 

    He's shooting 49 percent from the floor and 84 percent from the line. There is one thing that worries me, though; he's settling for way too many jump shots. 

    Sixty-one percent of his shots have come from outside the paint, and although he's making a pretty good amount of them, he should be staying closer to the basket. When he shoots in the restricted area, he's getting blocked 20 percent of the time.

    While this isn't that unusual for a young player, Davis needs to be stronger and more effective close to the rim. Hopefully, that will come with time. 

    One other concern about Davis is his health. There was no reason to believe Davis was injury-prone before this season, but after sustaining multiple injuries so far this year while playing in just six games, the question is at least on the table.

    I'm not suggesting Davis is injury-prone at all, but if this starts to become a pattern, it will be a problem. Hopefully, he doesn't have any more issues. 

    The Hornets struck gold in this year's lottery, and there's no question that, so far, they are the winners of the 2012 draft.