The 2012 NBA Draft went down last week in New Jersey (now without a team, oddly enough), and to nobody’s surprise, Kentucky phenom Anthony Davis went first overall to the New Orleans Hornets—a team that was owned by the NBA up until April of this year.
Was it a conspiracy? That is neither here nor there. All we care about is which players from the crop of 60 selected on draft day are the freakiest of super athletic freaks. Without further ado, here is a list of guys who will elicit oohs and aahs in NBA arenas, as well as constant rewinding on your DVR.
Anthony Davis (New Orleans Hornets) 1st pick overall
Weight: 222 lbs.
The consensus number 1 pick heading into the draft, Anthony Davis will instantly become the focal point of a rebuilding Hornets team, which already includes athletic shooting guard Eric Gordon. Davis has drawn comparisons to all-time greats like Kevin Garnett and Bill Russell, mainly due to his dominance on the defensive end. While he is still developing as an elite low-post scorer, Davis possesses a freakish wingspan (7’5″), which will allow him to create havoc on both ends of the floor.
Davis is a tremendous athlete who can finish plays above the rim, which is helped by having some of the softest hands ever seen for a big man. His ability to defend both the post and out on the perimeter makes him a candidate for multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards, as Davis has the potential to become the most prolific shot blocker in NBA history. Considering that there is still upside, as far as his offense and overall strength, the Hornets made a no-brainer.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte Bobcats) 2nd pick overall
Weight: 233 lbs.
The Kentucky Wildcats made it back-to-back top picks (first time in NBA history) when Charlotte selected Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the no. 2 pick of the draft. Coming off the worst season for a team in NBA history (albeit in a lockout-shortened year), the Bobcats needed help everywhere, and got a player who can do a little bit of everything. Kidd-Gilchrist is defined by his relentless play on the court, and for having a non-stop motor, garnering comparisons to Andre Iguodala, one of the NBA’s fiercest competitors.
Kidd-Gilchrist has unrivaled speed and strength in the open floor, somewhat similar to LeBron James’ freight train like ability to go coast to coast. Kidd-Gilchrist’s sprinting and vertical leap are two big attributes of his athletic style of play, coupled with the sheer strength to welcome contact as he goes to the rim. Kidd-Gilchrist still needs to work on his “broken” jumper (as some like to call it), but will surely be a valuable asset no matter what type of shooter he becomes. The Bobcats can certainly expect more wins with him on the floor.
Dion Waiters (Cleveland Cavaliers) 4th pick overall
Weight: 215 lbs.
Considered one of the biggest shockers on draft night, Dion Waiters went 4th overall to the Cavaliers, despite the fact that he came off the bench for two years at Syracuse. Nonetheless, Waiters possesses a polished offensive game, and gets to the basket at will thanks to some seriously quick feet. His coach at Syracuse, Jim Boeheim, went as far as comparing him to Dwyane Wade, in his ability to slash to the hoop and finish with either hand. How close Waiters actually comes to that lofty comparison is yet to be told.
Waiters doesn’t have great size for a shooting guard, and will likely have to make it as a combo-guard playing on a team that already has Kyrie Irving running the point. While that would leave Cleveland undersized in the backcourt if Waiters starts, the dude clearly plays bigger than his height, and has the strength to go head-to-head with other NBA “tweener” guards and come out on top. Waiters still needs to work on his decision making if he wants to play a vital part on an emerging Cavs squad.
Harrison Barnes (Golden State Warriors) 7th pick overall
College: North Carolina
Weight: 228 lbs.
While he’s constantly compared to silky smooth finesse scorer (and one-time Sarah Palin fling) Glen Rice, Harrison Barnes proved that he’s more than just a long-range shooter at this year’s Draft Combine. The Tarheel forward was a flat-out physical freak; he posted the highest standing vertical leap (38 inches), the fastest three-quarter court sprint time (3.16 seconds), and benched an impressive 15 reps of 185 pounds. The performance likely kept Barnes in the top 10, as he will be in the mix for a starting gig on the Warriors.
Barnes has great size for a small forward, coupled with his seven-foot wingspan. His long arms and sky-high release equate for a nearly unguardable mid-range jumper, which should make for a reliable move in transition (a la Kevin Durant), thanks to Barnes’ elite speed. His faults are glaring (lacks playmaking ability as a ball-handler and passer), but Barnes should serve as a potent wing player with Stephen Curry dishing out the love.
Terrence Ross (Toronto Raptors) 8th pick overall
Weight: 197 lbs.
Another pick that took some draft experts off-guard, Ross is a project as a complete NBA player. The selling point for Toronto was probably the high upside Ross possesses, as one of the most athletically gifted players in the draft. Ross is a guy who can go up and get it; he constantly plays above the rim and is quick to the basket on lob plays. He will surely be a highlight reel candidate during his rookie season, and thanks to his three-point stroke, has been compared to other athletic shooters like Nick Young and J.R. Smith.
Ross has the makings of a specialist right now, due to his ability to run the floor on breaks, and either spot up for a three or finish on a lob to the basket. He joins a team that has another athletic wing in DeMar DeRozan, but has the chance to supplant him as a starter due to his edge as a shooter. While Ross excels in certain areas, he is not yet an option as a go-to player, due to his inability to create shots and use his speed as a ball handler.
Jeremy Lamb (Houston Rockets) 12th pick overall
Weight: 180 lbs.
One of the more freakish athletes in this year’s draft, Lamb is a lanky, scoring assassin who has a wingspan of roughly seven feet, despite only standing 6-5. He possesses a great vertical leap and speed (38-inch max vert and 3.25 sprint time at Combine), and can score at will thanks to ridiculous shooting range and explosive ability as a slasher. The Rockets stockpiled on talent this draft (three picks in the top 18) and Lamb could serve as a possible replacement for shooting guard Kevin Martin, who he is often compared to.
Lamb has an ability to break down defenders off the dribble, but moves pretty nicely without the ball as well. He is also known to throw down some impressive dunks, due to his long frame, and has all the makings of a viable NBA scorer, with very little downside in that department. For all his positive physical attributes, Lamb’s biggest problem is his strength and toughness. He is awfully thin at 180 pounds, and often avoids contact in the lane. He’ll likely need to bulk up to survive in the physical climate of the NBA.
Perry Jones III (Oklahoma City Thunder) 28th pick overall
Weight: 234 lbs.
Where Dion Waiters and Terrence Ross are considered two of the biggest draft climbers this year, Perry Jones III has to be the biggest dropper—a one-time lock for the top 10, he fell all the way to pick 28. His fall was mainly due to a knee injury concern, but the Thunder happily scooped up the high risk/high reward prospect. At nearly seven feet, Jones is a physical specimen (7-2 wingspan) and as good of an athlete as you can get for someone of his size.
Like Harrison Barnes, Jones was also a rock star at the Combine, posting a max vert of 38.5 inches, and recording an impressive sprint time for a big man of 3.19 seconds. As far as talent and potential, many pegged Jones as the best pure prospect after Anthony Davis, however, his knee issue, as well as problems with consistency and toughness, caused his precipitous drop. If his health turns out to be a non-issue, and Barnes can improve on his immense raw talent, the Thunder will run away with the biggest steal of the draft.
Marquis Teague (Chicago Bulls) 29th pick overall
Weight: 189 lbs.
The Chicago Bulls may be without former MVP Derrick Rose for all of next season, and wisely grabbed a point guard with their first round pick. Marquis Teague was the fourth Kentucky Wildcat taken in the first round, and the third member of the National Champs on this list alone. Clearly the team was loaded with athletic talent, which was not spared at the expense of their point guard. Teague was one the fastest players in college hoops (fourth highest sprint time at Combine, 3.19 seconds), and also possesses tremendous leaping ability (second highest max vert, 40.5 inches). As such, he has all the makings of a dynamic point guard.
While filling D-Rose’s kicks will be no easy task, Teague brings a lot to the table, and will push the offense with tenacity similar to his brother, Jeff Teague, starting point guard of the Atlanta Hawks. The younger Teague is extremely quick bringing the ball up court, and agile in driving to the hoop. With his turbo-style of play, however, comes many turnovers, and Teague will also need to develop an NBA-caliber jump shot to complete his game.