Evaluating the 2012 draft, Part II: High-risk, high-reward prospects
Let the NBA draft risk assessment continue.
Now we're really rolling the dice.
After focusing Wednesday on
This is the second of a three-part exercise offering a window into the world of the front-office types and scouts who are feverishly preparing for the June 28 draft. In an attempt to quantify the level of variance with the top prospects, I'm dividing 30 potential first-round picks into three risk-based categories and providing a brief breakdown of each player. Prospects are listed from top to bottom based on an inexact and subjective formula: perceived amount of risk coupled with talent and upside.
Here's a look at The Gambles:
Drummond's unexpected decision last August to attend UConn was seen as the sort of recruiting coup that could keep the Huskies near the top of college basketball despite the loss of star guard Kemba Walker to the NBA. Scout.com made Drummond the No. 2 recruit in the country as a senior at St. Thomas More High School in Oakdale, Conn., where he won a national prep title.
But the mix never worked, even as UConn returned a fellow pro prospect and a breakout player in its championship run, shooting guard Jeremy Lamb (more on him later). The Huskies were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament by Iowa State, finishing 20-14 overall and 8-10 in the Big East. Drummond had just two points and three rebounds in 26 minutes in that game, capping a season in which he averaged only 10 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and 28.4 minutes while shooting 53.8 percent from the field and an embarrassing 29.5 percent from the free-throw line.
"He's a project," one front-office man said.
Still, he's about as promising a project as there is in this draft. The combination of his size and elite athleticism has teams wondering if he could become a hybrid of the Lakers' Andrew Bynum and the Magic's Dwight Howard. Like both players, he is a force on defense at a young age but has a long way to go offensively.
Drummond can run the floor like a guard, he's a natural passer and he can step out for mid-range jumpers. But the inconsistency and his penchant for playing while in third gear have raised concerns. His playing time was inconsistent as well, though, with six games of fewer than 20 minutes, and his ability to be a dependable rebounder when he played big minutes could be revealing. Attacking the glass is often an indicator of a player's motor, and Drummond averaged 9.6 rebounds in his 16 games of 30-plus minutes.
"If you were going to define what a basketball player would look like, he'd probably be it," one front-office source said. "But there's a lot missing with him heart-wise. ... You just wonder if he's a soft kid."
Jones' scoring declined in his sophomore season (13.5 points from 13.9 as a freshman), and his unimpressive rebounding numbers increased a bit (7.2 to 7.6) in three more minutes per game. Even he has acknowledged his need to compete more consistently, and improvement in that vital area could -- doubts and all -- turn him into one of the most special players in this class.
Henson's offensive game improved steadily throughout his college career, and he averaged 13.7 points on 50 percent shooting last season while playing second fiddle down low to fellow frontcourt prospect Tyler Zeller (who will be featured in Friday's "Safe Bets" category). At his best, one personnel man said, Henson could be similar to Marcus Camby in terms of his defensive impact. Or, the talent evaluator cautioned, Henson could be Brandan Wright, a slender power forward from North Carolina who has played for three teams and averaged 13.7 minutes since being drafted eighth in 2007.
"He's going to be pretty good," one front-office source said. "He has big upside because he's a really good athlete and shooter. He just needs to work on his handle. He has the ability to be a really good defender if he just puts his effort into it."
"He's an undersized 'two' [shooting guard] who is a high-volume, low-percentage shooter," one front-office critic said. "Those guys don't do well in the NBA."
If he can find a way to be comfortable with the NBA lifestyle and the charter planes that come with it, the reward might be great for whichever team takes him. White is the rarest of all-around players in this crop, a playmaking big man who led the Cyclones in scoring (13.4 points), rebounds (9.3), assists (5.0), steals (1.2) and blocks (0.9). He flourished on the biggest stage, averaging 19 points (on 71.4 percent shooting) and 10.5 rebounds in Iowa State's two NCAA tournament games.