Assessing The Rising NBA Draft Prospects Who Could Land In First Round

Posted by EJacoby on June 27th, 2012

As part of our NBA Draft series, we have been breaking down in full scouting reports all the top prospects who could hear their names called in the first round on Thursday. Included in our profiles are the 35 top prospects as consensus-ranked back in mid-May. But now we’re a day away from the draft, and there’s been plenty of movement around the bottom end of those consensus rankings. Teams have gotten to see the prospects go through measurements, tests, and interviews at the Chicago Combine as well as individual and group workouts in private practice settings. As always, there are some guys moving up at the last minute who weren’t in the mix six weeks ago but could find their way into the first round. Who will become this year’s Norris Cole, the guard from Cleveland State who shot up draft boards late in the process last year and got selected #28 overall? We’ll detail these rising prospects who didn’t make our original cut and we didn’t get a chance to break down in full.

Athletic guard Jared Cunningham is gaining some first round buzz (Pac-12 photo)

Some of the players we detailed back in May who were fringe first-rounders at the time are now falling as likely second-rounders. Scott Machado, Kevin Jones, and Darius Miller, especially, are all projected outside of the top 35 by Draft Express and at this time. That doesn’t mean these guys won’t get selected in the first round, but the buzz simply isn’t as strong leading up to draft night as some other prospects that we overlooked. Three names – excluding foreign players – who are now rising above these players in terms of consensus rankings heading into draft night are Jared Cunningham, Kim English, and Miles Plumlee. We’ll detail each prospect with a quick and dirty breakdown, including what has caused each player to rise in the past few weeks.

  • Jared Cunningham, Oregon State. Cunningham wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school and hasn’t gotten a ton of exposure over the past few years playing on a mediocre Oregon State team. But he improved dramatically in his three seasons as a Beaver, most recently finishing second the Pac-12 at 17.9 points per game in 2011-12. He also led the conference in steals at 2.5 per game, as well as total free throws made (199 makes in 36 games). Cunningham has explosive athleticism and a quick first step that allows him to beat defenders off the dribble and attack the rim, where he flourished in getting to the free throw line. But he also has good mechanics on his deep jumper to keep defenses honest, though he shot just 33.8% from long range last season. Cunningham is rising thanks to a strong Combine, measuring 6’5″ in shoes and displaying a minuscule 3.6% body fat percentage, confirming his terrific NBA body. While he’s still a combo guard without a defined role going forward, teams love his athleticism and the potential to guard the perimeter, projecting as something like an Avery Bradley.
  • Kim English. English had a phenomenal four-year career at Missouri and certainly didn’t lack exposure. Perhaps the most entertaining collegiate baller on Twitter, English is a bright basketball mind who shows impressive in-game IQ in addition to his offensive skills. He’s turned into a knockdown long distance shooter, hitting a Big 12-best 45.9% of his 170 three-point field goal attempts last season. He also finished second in the conference in true shooting percentage (65.8%) while averaging a solid 14.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. English is also a steady defender and showed great endurance playing in the up-tempo Tigers style the past few seasons. While he’s a limited athlete and playmaker, English is a skilled player with solid size (6’5.5″) and smarts for a potential rotational wing player. The NBA needs more shooters that understand the game and how to get open.
  • Miles Plumlee. Plumlee has kind of come out of nowhere in the draft mix. Always overlooked by his younger brother Mason while at Duke, Miles has burst onto the scene thanks to his outstanding athletic traits that have manifested themselves in the workout setting. The eldest Plumlee averaged the seventh-most minutes on Duke last year as a senior and was the sixth-leading scorer for the Blue Devils. But he  showed an occasional propensity to throw down some crazy dunks thanks to ridiculous hops for his seven-foot frame. His Combine numbers were eye-popping, as Plumlee jumped 34″ flat-footed and led all prospects with his 12’2″ max vertical reach. Yes, that means he could dunk on a 12-foot hoop with room to spare, something only Perry Jones can also do in this draft class. NBA teams are always looking for athletic bigs, and Plumlee fits that mold as a legitimate seven-footer, even if he currently has a very limited skill set.

These are just three fast risers over the past few weeks, but there are even other players that could make the first round whom we didn’t profile in full. Look out for Orlando Johnson, Khris Middleton, and Bernard James as some other potential sleepers in the draft. Stay tuned for the selections come Thursday night on ESPN, and be sure to once again check out our final list of complete draft profiles for every top prospect.

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him on Twitter @evanjacoby.

EJacoby (198 Posts)

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