- Chad Ford, ESPN Senior Writer
It took them a while, but the entire starting five of Kentucky's national title team will enter the 2012 NBA draft.
Head coach John Calipari has said repeatedly that he believes he has six first-round picks in the draft this year -- underclassmen Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague, and senior Darius Miller.
He might be right.
Big man Anthony Davis is a lock as the No. 1 pick in the draft. The college basketball player of the year is the rare prospect who has virtually everything you want in a player. He's got elite size, length and athleticism. He produced at a high level on the court (he led all NCAA players in PER this season) and still has tremendous upside going forward. He's a great kid and a hard worker.
Yes, he needs to get stronger and he'll need to continue to improve his offensive game, but at this point he's considered a can't-miss prospect by every NBA scout and executive I've spoken to.
Right behind Davis is wingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He doesn't have Davis' size or athletic ability (though he's a great athlete in his own right), but he brings all the intangibles of a winner. He has the highest motor of any player in the draft, can lock down players at three different positions, is one of the most efficient finishers in college basketball and is a leader on and off the court.
Kidd-Gilchrist isn't quite the sure thing that Davis is, however. He's a little undersized for his position and needs to get a more consistent jump shot. Some teams wonder if he'll be an aggressive enough scorer at the next level. But for the most part, the NBA talent evaluators are sold. We have Kidd-Gilchrist ranked No. 2 on our Big Board and have him going No. 2 overall to the Washington Wizards in our Lottery Mock Draft. If Washington decides to take Bradley Beal instead of Kidd-Gilchrist, we doubt MKG slides out of the top five.
Sixteen months ago, after a torrid start to his freshman year, forward Terrence Jones was being mentioned as a potential top-five pick as well. His stock has since dropped considerably, but his strong play in the NCAA tournament has piqued the interest of scouts again. Jones is one of the most well-rounded prospects in the draft, has all of the physical tools to succeed, and when he's on, he looks like a potential All-Star.
For Jones, the question marks are consistency and maturity. He can disappear for long stretches. Calipari has sometimes struggled to get him to play hard all of the time. Teams don't always like his body language on the court. All of those issues seem to have lessened over the course of the past month. If teams are convinced those issues are over, he could go even higher than we currently have him ranked. We have him at No. 8 on our Big Board and going No. 12 to the Milwaukee Bucks in our Lottery Mock Draft.
Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist and Jones are locks for the first round and it's likely all three will be taken in the lottery. But for Kentucky to get the other three players in, it's going to take a little luck.
Of the three players left, point guard Marquis Teague is the most likely to get drafted in the first round. He has lottery-type talent. He's super quick and can get to the basket whenever he needs to. His decision-making skills improved all season, but they are still not NBA-caliber. And his jump shot is still very much a work in progress as well. Based on what he produced this season, he's a bubble first-rounder. However, given the upside, I think he's probably a lock to go somewhere in the late teens to late 20s. We have Teague ranked No. 25 on our Big Board and have him going No. 25 to the Pacers in our Mock Draft v. 3.0.
Doron Lamb isn't the all-around talent that the other four are. However, he's one of the two or three best shooters in the draft. Later in the first round, teams often opt for specialists over upside and Lamb could prove valuable to a few veteran teams that really need a jump shooter. We have Lamb ranked No. 29 on our Big Board and have him going No. 30 to the Chicago Bulls in our Mock Draft v. 3.0.
If our Mock Draft played out the way we have it now, that would leave Kentucky with five first-round picks, with only Miller on the outside looking in.
However, Miller may be one of the two or three most interesting prospects in the draft.
On paper, I'm not even sure he's a second-rounder. He averaged just 9.9 ppg as a senior and came off the bench. But NBA scouts know that on virtually every other team in the nation, Miller would've been a starter and had the potential to even be another team's leading scorer. He has great size for his position, is a good athlete and can shoot the 3 with range. Most importantly, he understands the concept of team and isn't concerned with just coming in and playing his role. While we currently have other players ranked ahead of him, that combination could be enticing to a veteran team late in the first. We currently have Miller ranked No. 42 on our Big Board.