Looking Back At The 2012 NBA Draft: As the saying goes, you really never know how a draft class will shake out until several years down the road. With the 2011 NBA Draft class starting to receive long-term extensions, the 2012 draft class is in essence on deck for their first big paydays.
Getting drafted into a pro sports league is no guarantee of a career. The NBA’s modern history is littered with players who were drafted, played a few years and disappeared into lesser leagues or are out of the game entirely.
Since 2001, about 22 of the 60 players drafted each year have gone on to have something of a career in the NBA, meaning they have received more than one contract and in most cases played for a number of years in the NBA at some level.
Twenty three players from the 2001 NBA Draft had careers, while just 16 players from the 2002 NBA Draft played long enough to call it a career. 2003, which is generally thought of as a deep draft, especially considering it produced LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and a cast of other notable stars, produced 26 players with NBA careers. The 2004 NBA Draft produced 22 players with careers, which is what the 2005 NBA Draft produced as well.
Looking back on the 2012 NBA Draft, there could be as many as 21 players with “career” ability, several of which could be multi-time All-Stars. Here is a look at where some of these guys stand as they enter their third year in the NBA.
The Franchise Players
Anthony Davis (#1 – 2012 NBA Draft)
Without much question Pelicans forward Anthony Davis is an NBA star. He was the top overall pick and despite some early injuries in his career, he has put up monster numbers and already earned his first of what is likely many All-Star nods. The true test of a player’s “franchise” worthiness is “would you build a team around him?” In Davis’ case, that is a resounding yes.
Damian Lillard (#6 – 2012 NBA Draft)
Much like Davis, Lillard is a star. Drafted sixth overall, Lillard was one of the more experienced players coming in, but even he’ll admit his success so quickly in the NBA was a little unexpected. Lillard is without much debate one of the best players from the 2012 NBA Draft class, and is absolutely a cornerstone type player.
Andre Drummond (#9 – 2012 NBA Draft)
Comparatively, Drummond isn’t nearly the sure fire bet that Davis and Lillard are, but given the growth of Drummond over the last two years, there is little doubt that Drummond is a special talent. The debate on whether to include him on the “franchise” list boils down to “would you start a franchise around him” and in most cases the answer is likely yes. Although, admittedly Drummond might best be suited in the next tier, the truth of the matter is Drummond likely gets a max contract, which locks him in as a franchise player for the Pistons.
The Big Money Players
Bradley Beal (#3 – 2012 NBA Draft)
Like Drummond, it’s easy to make a case for Beal as a franchise type talent. The problem is as good as Beal is, would you build a franchise around him? The answer in most situations is likely no. That in no way is trying to diminish Brad’s value, impact or status as an elite player in the NBA, or that fact that he’ll have a long career in the league.
Dion Waiters (#4 – 2012 NBA Draft)
Waiters is a small step below the top four, in that few franchises would build a team around him, but he is far and away one of the best talents from the 2012 NBA Draft. As it stands, it looks like Waiters will be staying with the Cavs this season and looks to be the starter at the off-guard position. If Waiters continues to improve as he has his first two seasons, he could be in line for a significant payday next summer.
Terrence Ross (#8 – 2012 NBA Draft)
Ross, like Waiters, isn’t a cornerstone guy, but he has proven to be extremely versatile and explosive. Arguably one of the best young shooters in the game, he is also an elite level athlete. Ross may be a victim of a numbers crunch in Toronto, but it seems pretty clear that Ross has career potential and could play a bigger role if he comes into camp with a sense of urgency.
Jared Sullinger (#21 – 2012 NBA Draft)
Sullinger fell on draft night due to injury concerns, but having endured some rookie year struggles, he has put up solid numbers for Boston. Sullinger isn’t likely going to command the max-level money he might have been in line for had he gone in the top five, but it’s pretty clear Sullinger can play in the NBA and should get a hefty long-term deal either next summer as an early extension or in restricted free agency in 2016.
Jeremy Lamb (#12 – 2012 NBA Draft)
Lamb has a ton of potential, but it’s still a little unclear if he’ll be a full-time starter. Lamb played a much larger role last year and should see more time this year. If Lamb continues to progress, he should be a guy that gets a serious payday.
Miles Plumlee (#26 – 2012 NBA Draft)
Plumlee erupted last year after being traded to the Phoenix Suns. He had an equally strong summer league. If Plumlee continues where he left off going into his third year, he could be in line for a nice big man payday. Bigs that can play are always at a premium, and Plumlee looked the part of a big than could not only play, but could start for a number of teams.
Maurice Harkless (#15 – 2012 NBA Draft)
Harkless has shown flashes of brilliance, both as a defender and as an offensive player. This will be a big season for Harkless, especially considering the crowded roster at his position. Harkless has to separate himself this season in order for him to land that long-term deal. The good news for Mo is if Orlando doesn’t want him, several other teams would gladly take him off their hands. Harkless needs a strong season to cement his value, but his play to date likely locks him into another deal in the NBA.
John Henson (#14 – 2012 NBA Draft)
Like Harkless, Henson has really progressed nicely. They say injury creates opportunity and Henson has made the most of his. The Bucks have a lot of cash tied up in other players, so it will be important for Henson to come in assertive and aggressive. If he can continue to show the same level of progression he had last year, things should work out in his favor come contract time. Considering how raw Henson looked as a rookie, he has a lot more potential today than he did two seasons ago.
Harrison Barnes (#7 – 2012 NBA Draft)
Barnes was amazing as a rookie, however his performance dropped off considerably last season. If Barnes doesn’t rebound to form this season, things could start to get shaky regarding his future. There is no doubting Barnes’ potential as a player, but his stock is headed in the wrong direction. He needs a strong season this year to cement his future. They say the third year is when you define yourself as a player. Barnes needs to look more like a starter than a bench guy to get the career-securing contract.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (#2 – 2012 NBA Draft)
Kidd-Gilchrist has a similar problem to Barnes, he was far from impressive as a rookie, but made a lot of progress last year. If he can continue to trend upwards, that could bode well. As things stand, it’s hard to imagine a team investing a ton into Kidd-Gilchrist based on his play up to this point, so he too needs a strong season to cement his future.
Jae Crowder (#34 – 2012 NBA Draft)
Crowder isn’t likely a huge money guy, but given the role he’s played for the Mavericks and the big minutes he has shouldered, its clear Crowder will have a career in the NBA if he remains healthy. For a second round pick, he has beaten the odds on a lot of fronts, and given what he means to Dallas he might get a big payday next summer as a restricted free agent.
Will Barton (#40 – 2012 NBA Draft)
Like Crowder, Barton has likely played himself in a nice multi-year deal. His progression in Portland has been nothing short of impressive. Barton’s role this season should be increased and his teammates often label him the most underrated player on the team. If Barton continues what he has done over the last two seasons, he should be in really good shape next summer.
Kendall Marshall (#13 – 2012 NBA Draft)
It seemed like Marshall was going to be an NBA Draft bust after failing to receiving the third year on his rookie scale contract. However, after a brief stop in the D-League and a strong run with the Lakers, Marshall is back on the radar. Marshall is no longer on his rookie deal, so he won’t be getting an extension, but there is a chance with just this season left on his deal that a strong showing in Milwaukee could turn into a multi-year deal next summer.
Terrence Jones (#18 – 2012 NBA Draft)
Jones really cemented himself last season and should be the starting power forward for the Rockets this season. If he continues to show improvement with the new responsibilities and a chance to really shine, he could find himself in a good place next summer. The problem for Jones is that Houston doesn’t do a lot of early extensions, so he may have to wait until 2016 before he can lock in that long-term security and given where Houston wants to be, Jones may or may not be in the same situation in 2016. Jones has proven he can play, and given the kinds of contracts players like Patrick Patterson got this summer, Jones should be in pretty good shape.
Draymond Green (#35 – 2012 NBA Draft)
Green is a favorite among the Warriors front office so that bodes well for his future and given how well he plays with the group in the Bay Area, it is far more likely that Green gets a new deal from the Warriors this summer. As a second rounder Green is not eligible for a rookie scale extension, but he looks to be a restricted free agent this summer and he’s likely to land a significant new contract.
Mike Scott (#43 – 2012 NBA Draft)
Given that Mike Scott already received a multi-year deal this summer, he is arguably the first player from 20102 to lock in a future. His three-year, $10 million contract has two guaranteed years and a team option for a third, so while he’s not completely locked in, he does have a much longer window to see what he’ll be in the long-term.
Still Not Sure
Andrew Nicholson (#19 – 2012 NBA Draft)
Nicholson has been something of an enigma. He can really play, but struggles to play extended minutes and has worn down in his first two season in the NBA. Nicholson could very easily be out of the league in two years or sign a multi-year deal at a lower dollar. All sides of the Nicholson equation need him to have a defining season, both improving and cementing his place or falling backwards. Historically the 19th pick hasn’t produce a lot of longevity, it’s been very hit and miss and Nicholson could easily fall into either category. He needs to a strong season to cement his future.
Kyle O’Quinn (#49 – 2012 NBA Draft)
O’Quinn has beat the odds at every step, and while he’s put some quality minutes on tape, he still has more to do to cement a long-term career. Considering what similar skilled players like DeJuan Blair have gotten in free agency, O’Quinn needs a stand out this season to lock in the potential for a multi-year deal next summer. Considering the 49th pick has yielded roughly three players with long-term NBA careers, O’Quinn is facing stiff odds, but if he can improve on his play last season he could be one of the ones that gets a chance to make it.
Robert Sacre (#60 – 2012 NBA Draft)
For the 60th pick, the fact that Sacre has lasted this long is impressive. It’s extremely rare for the 60th pick to amount to much and given that Sacre is already on his second NBA contract bodes well for his potential going forward. Like O’Quinn, Sacre needs to show significant improvement this season. He has one more fully guaranteed year on his deal and a team option next season. The Lakers can decline the option and restrict Sacre’s free agency, which might make landing a long-term deal a little difficult, but if he plays well this season there is a premium for bigs than can play and Sacre could beat the odds again.
They say the third season is where a player defines their career, so for most of the players on this list, this is a huge season for them. It’s unlikely more than a small handful get an early Rookie Scale extension next summer, but given where the salary cap projects to be in July of 2016, some teams may opt to sign guys early to try and get the price lower, rather than facing unrestricted free agency in a year when the cap could go up an unprecedented amount after the NBA inks its new national TV deals. There really is a lot on the line for many of these players.
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