Jun 26 2012 2:50PM

The 2012 NBA Draft NBAge Cheat Sheet


UK Athletics/Chet White (2); Ohio State Athletics
Anthony Davis, Jared Sullinger and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

I don't do mock drafts.

ESPN's Chad Ford, DraftExpress' Jonathan Givony and NBADraft.net do an awesome year-round job of forecasting that.

They provide incredible draft insight, not to mention a wealth of basketball information 365 days a year.

That said, at this time of year, I prefer predicting long-term end-results for the best players in a given NBA Draft.

My main method of evaluating players in this evolving quest is my NBAge Draft Rankings, where I group professional, collegiate and international players by the year they were born; evaluate them amongst their age peers; then re-rank them amongst their new NBA Draft peers.

I've been doing some form of this since 1995, when I wrote annual NBA Draft previews for Sport Magazine in the '90s.

It was there that I learned under the greatest player scout in NBA history, Ed Gregory.

He was one of the main men responsible for the Cavs' historic 1986 draft (Brad Daugherty, Ron Harper, Mark Price and Johnny Newman), along with helping the Warriors make so many great picks in the late '80s and '90s.

He taught me his Moneyball ways of finding All-Stars with picks outside the top 10 (Tim Hardaway at No. 14, Tyrone Hill at No. 11, Chris Gatling at No. 16, Latrell Sprewell at No. 24 in four straight drafts).

Those core principles are found in my NBAge Draft Rankings, which nowadays combines subjective analysis with advanced stats--something I now call Prospect Plus-Minus (which combines wonderful metrics from Hollinger's College Player Efficiency Ratings and Draft Rater, StatSheet's numbers and Jeremias Engelmann's Regularized Adjusted Plus Minus, among others).

I am most proud that NBAge Draft Rankings outperform the actual NBA Draft.

If you were to take the 2011 NBAge Draft Rankings and use it as your personal consultant for the 2011 NBA Draft, for instance, your NBA lottery team would have taken Kyrie Irving first (like the Cavs did), Derrick Williams second (like the T-Wolves did), while Kawhi Leonard--when using the NBAge cheat sheet as your guide--would have been your next pick, whether you were picking third, fourth, fifth, etc.

However, none of these NBA lottery teams used my guide last year and they all passed on Leonard, who would go on to lead all other rooks in PER and Win Shares as a key player on the Spurs.

I guarantee you if you ask teams 3-thru-14, "Would you trade your 2011 pick for 20-year-old Kawhi Leonard today?," the answer would be, "Yes!"

So with that introduction, i now present The 2012 NBAge Draft Rankings.

Part subjective. Part stats. Part peer-comparision.

My Top 14 picks are players I like to call NBA lifers.

On average, nearly 14 players in every NBA Draft will play 20,000-plus total minutes in their career.

The first 14 players on my list--the NBA lifers--have a good shot at being around a decade from now. That is why I spend so much time trying to figure out who the 14 lifers are.

The other players on this list have opportunities to succeed as well, potentially as NBA lifers or even as long-time reserves.

Enjoy ...

THE 2012 NBAge DRAFT RANKINGS

1. PF Anthony Davis, Kentucky, 19, 6-11, 22 ... +6.17 PPM ... Davis is the best 19-year-old defensive player I've seen since Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett in the '90s. I believe Davis will be a better shot-blocking rebounder than Dwight Howard one day. Offensively, I even see him measuring up to KG's standards, but I don't see him having the post-up game of Duncan. Nonetheless, Davis is a franchise player and a perennial lock on future All-NBA teams.

2. SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky, 18, 6-8, 233 ... +0.74 PPM ... This teenager is a winner. A future cornerstone for any team. He reminds me of Scottie Pippen with Michael Jordan's motor. Or to put it in today's terms--a Kawhi Leonard-type player. He may or may not average 20 points one day. But the impact he makes on all facets of the game will make Kidd-Gilchrist a perennial All-Star.

3. PF Jared Sullinger, Ohio State, 20, 6-9, 268 ... +3.23 PPM ... They say the NBA Draft is a risk and I am just waiting to see who rolls the dice on the sure-thing Sullinger. He is going to be a very good player. Doctors have red-flagged Sullinger, citing back problems. But this low-post offensive force is going to get his fair share of points when he is playing. Whether that's for one year or 15 years, well, that's the risk you take. Granted, I have not seen the doctor reports up close, so take this recommendation with a grain of salt. But from what I've read, I'd still take him third.

4. PG Marquis Teague, Kentucky, 19, 6-2, 180 ... +1.39 PPM ... Because Sullinger was downgraded due to injury--he was a top-half lottery pick before the bad report--Teague is my true sleeper pick of the 2012 NBA Draft. Yes, Teague is my Kawhi at No. 3 pick in 2011 or my Jrue Holiday at No. 3 pick in 2009. None of the aforementioned mock drafters have Teague listed in their lottery predictions, but I truly believe the 19 year old is the best point guard in this whole draft. His Flash-like speed and point guard skills will inject life into any lottery team's offense.

5. SG Bradley Beal, Florida, 18, 6-5, 202 ... -1.73 PPM ... Beal has a little Rock to his game like Mitch Richmond. The muscular shooting guard one day may become a 20-points per game scorer, ala Richmond. Beal is a good safe pick because he is smart and has tremendous upside. You can't go wrong picking him in the Top 5.

6. PF Thomas Robinson, Kansas, 21, 6-9, 244 ... -0.45 PPM ... Robinson is the safe pick in the lottery. I see him becoming a 15-8 power forward right away in the NBA. Unlike the others in my Top 5, I just don't see the upside to Robinson's game. He may be a better offensive player than my Top 5 picks right now--except Sullinger--but I do believe my picks will develop better overall games by the times their rookie contracts run out. However, I do see the point in teams considering him in the 2-thru-5 slots. Talent-wise, Robinson is already on their tier.

7. C John Henson, North Carolina, 21, 6-10, 216 ... -0.80 PPM ... Henson is a personal favorite of mine. He is such an outstanding defensive player, and I am especially partial to defensive big men. They can impact a game just as much as an offense-creating point guard. I see Henson developing like Ekpe Udoh did in the league. Most NBA folks haven't noticed, but Udoh--who was taken sixth two years ago--has developed into an impact player, despite averaging only 21 minutes per game. Henson will do the same.

8. SF Harrison Barnes, North Carolina, 20, 6-8, 228 ... -0.60 PPM ... I have always thought Barnes as an overrated talent, especially when mock drafts at times had him going No. 1 the past couple years. But there is no denying Barnes has big game, albeit, developing slowly. I think he's worth a Top 10 pick because he can score and every team needs somebody who can put the ball in the basket. I really think his ideal role is as a sixth or seventh man. That's how I'd bring him along anyway in the beginning.

9. PF Terrence Jones, Kentucky, 20, 6-10, 252 ... +1.24 PPM ... I've contemplated ranking Jones higher because I do believe he will succeed in the NBA. Like all players in my Top 14, I think Jones will be an NBA lifer. The mock drafts all have him going anywhere from 12-thru-22. Jones is such a talent that if he gets with the right team and stays focused, he can become another steal-of-the-draft. I like the big lefty. Reminds me of a bigger Thaddeus Young.

10. PG Kendall Marshall, North Carolina, 20, 6-4, 198 ... +0.87 PPM ... Marshall is a can't-miss point guard. Good attitude, good basketball IQ, good heart, good game. He doesn't have the tremendous athleticism of most of my Top 10 picks, but he knows how to play basketball, which is a rare thing for a 20 year old.

11. C Andre Drummond, Connecticut, 18, 7-0, 279 ... -4.93 PPM ... About 180 degrees from Marshall is big-man prospect Drummond, who has a world of potential. But he also is a risk as a top-half lottery pick--all the mock drafts have him going at No. 6. Drummond has, what the scouts call, All-Star potential, with his Andrew Bynum-like size and athleticism. But Drummond didn't show a powerful presence last year on the NCAA level, so he's still a three-to-four-year project at best in the NBA. If you can afford the risk and have big men to teach him, he may pay off big one day.

12. SG Dion Waiters, Syracuse, 20, 6-4, 221 ... +0.01 PPM ... Waiters made himself a lottery selection this year by becoming a good scorer at the collegiate level. If he continues to develop his versatile offensive repertoire, he'll have a good, long career. I see him becoming a good combo guard in the mold of a Louis Williams or Jamal Crawford.

13. PF Draymond Green, Michigan State, 22, 6-8, 236 ... +0.67 PPM ... Every draft has an old head or two who pays dividends in the late first or early second round, and I believe Green is that veteran dude. The mocks have him going 27-thru-33, but he has enough game now to make him a 20 minutes-per-game player in the NBA today. He's smart. He can score, inside and out. He sets teammates up. Reminds me of Boris Diaw.

14. SG Austin Rivers, Duke, 19, 6-5, 203 ... -2.98 PPM ... I definitely think Rivers will be an NBA lifer. I just see a lot of rocky bumps in his road ahead, despite his NBA pedigree (dad is Doc Rivers). It's just--when I see teen-age Rivers' game--certain aspects seem very Harrison Barnes-like. The out-of-control, create-my-own offense. Tendencies toward Hero ball. I wouldn't want to temper his confidence any because I am sure it is the secret to his success. But he needs a strong coach like his father to guide him down the right NBA path--better shot selection, better teamwork. I believe he'll develop into an NBA lifer and a player I love. But he disappointed me in college. I'm hoping I like the NBA version better.

15. SG Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut, 20, 6-5, 179 ... -3.70 PPM

16. SF Quincy Miller, Baylor, 19, 6-10, 219 ... -2.28 PPM

17. SG Will Barton, Memphis, 21, 6-6, 174 ... -0.45 PPM

18. PG Tony Wroten Jr., Washington, 19, 6-6, 203 ... -4.35 PPM

19. C Tyler Zeller, North Carolina, 22, 7-0, 247 ... -2.99 PPM

20. SF Moe Harkless, St. John's, 19, 6-9, 207... -6.93 PPM

21. PF Royce White, Iowa State, 21, 6-8, 261 ... -3.37 PPM

22. PG Damian Lillard, Weber State, 21, 6-3, 189 ... -4.33 PPM

23. C Meyers Leonard, Illinois, 20, 7-1, 250 ... -8.44 PPM

24. PG Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas, 22, 6-4, 177... -2.21 PPM

25. C Fab Melo, Syracuse, 22, 7-0, 255... -3.99 PPM

26. PF Perry Jones, Baylor, 21, 6-11, 234 ... -4.27 PPM

27. SG Terrence Ross, Washington, 21, 6-7, 197 ... -4.44 PPM

28. SF Jeff Taylor, Vanderbilt, 23, 6-7, 212 ... -3.66 PPM

29. SG Evan Fournier, France, 19, 6-7, 206

30. PF Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure, 22, 6-10, 234 ... -4.89 PPM

31. PF Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State, 21, 6-11, 233 ... -7.39 PPM

NBAge BIRTHYEAR RANKINGS

1989

1. Blake Griffin

2. James Harden

3. Serge Ibaka

4. Isaiah Thomas

5. Kenneth Faried

6. Brandon Jennings

7. Eric Bledsoe

8. Kosta Koufos

9. Anthony Randolph

10. Tyreke Evans

11. Lavoy Allen

12. Josh Harrellson

13. Kevin Seraphin

14. DeJuan Blair

1990

1. Ricky Rubio

2. Paul George

3. DeMarcus Cousins

4. Greg Monroe

5. John Wall

6. John Henson

7. Gordon Hayward

8. Jrue Holiday

9. Avery Bradley

10. Klay Thompson

11. Draymond Green

12. Nikola Vucevic

13. Jordan Williams

14. Al-Farouq Aminu

1991

1. Kawhi Leonard

2. Derrick Favors

3. Thomas Robinson

4. Derrick Williams

5. Tristan Thompson

6. Kendall Marshall

7. Nikola Mirotic

8. Dion Waiters

9. Will Barton

10. Alec Burks

11. Brandon Knight

12. Jeremy Tyler

13. Xavier Henry

14. Greg Smith

1992

1. Kyrie Irving

2. Jared Sullinger

3. Enes Kanter

4. Jonas Valanciunas

5. Harrison Barnes

6. Terrence Jones

8. Tobias Harris

9. Austin Rivers

10. Jeremy Lamb

11. Quincy Miller

1993

1. Anthony Davis

2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

3. Marquis Teague

4. Bradley Beal

5. Andre Drummond

10. Tony Wroten Jr.

11. Moe Harkless

Note: Players in boldface are in the 2012 NBA Draft; players not listed by name in above rankings are collegiate players and international players whose rights aren't owned by NBA teams.