Jan 10, 2012; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini center Myers Leonard (12) reacts during the last minute of the 79-74 Illini victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes. at Assembly Hall. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-US PRESSWIRE

2012 NBA Draft: Athletic measurements, updated mock drafts and Meyers Leonard's stock

I’ve taken the liberty and created a composite mock draft that consists of Chad Ford (Insider) and Scott Howard-Cooper’s respective vantage points on the draft. I decided to just include the top 10 only. (Disclaimer: This composite ranking does not factor in need and actual value hence Golden State selecting Drummond despite being well-stocked at the center position.)

1. New Orleans – Anthony Davis
2. Charlotte – Thomas Robinson
3. Washington – Beal/Kidd-Gilchrist
4. Cleveland – Beal/Kidd-Gilchrist
5. Sacramento – Barnes/Lillard
6. Portland – Barnes/Lillard
7. Golden State – Andre Drummond
8. Toronto – Dion Waiters
9. Detroit – Henson/Jones III/Marshall/Sullinger
10. New Orleans – Henson/Jones III/Marshall/Sullinger

— I wrote about my love for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist a couple of days ago. If I was Charlotte, I’d select MKG without blinking. I realize that his ceiling isn’t nearly as high as Thomas Robinson but I’ve fallen for his work ethic. I usually don’t buy into the “winner” description prior to the Draft, but I just can’t help myself. I’m a huge believer in a 19-year-old who handles himself with maturity. He’s already a consummate professional.

— Harrison Barnes was deemed a little below-average athletically prior to the NBA’s athletic testing, especially in the strength and explosive departments. He silenced his critics after he posted rather impressive numbers across the board. Barnes posted the highest time in the three-quarter-court sprints with 3.16 seconds, lifted an 185-pound bar 15 consecutive times in addition to a 39″ max vertical. He’s now entrenched into the 4-7 range.

— Scouts were worried about his size but that was rendered mute when Sullinger measured 6’9″ in shoes with a 7’1″ wingspan, numbers similar to Kevin Love. Now … Jared Sullinger’s stock dropped a bit. Ford noted that Sullinger had an awful showing during the athletic events, finishing last in both the lane agility and three-quarter-court drills. Sullinger possesses a high basketball IQ and a very polished offensive game but his complete lack of athleticism might be his downfall. Ford had New Orleans selecting Sullinger with the No. 10 overall pick in his most recent mock. That could slip incrementally in the coming week.

— If you are interested a full list of athletic measurements can be found here (Insider).

***

I’d like to address the phenomena that is Meyers Leonard. Prior to the collegitate season, Leonard was regarded as a limited, albeit potential laden big man with ideal size and speed for the NBA. He didn’t get any opportunity as a freshman, averaging 8.2 minutes, 2.1 points and 1.2 rebounds per game. Still, Leonard was ranked pretty high (20th on Ford’s Big Board on Dec. 20) and given ample playing time in his sophomore campaign, Leonard seemed poise to be selected in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft.

Remember: Scouts salivate over big men with prototypical length and athleticism. They are willing to overlook their deficiencies — Leonard’s are his “mechanical” low post game and his strength, both physically and mentally — because the potential of something long-lasting and worthwhile is too good to pass up. Hence, the Sam Bowie and Greg Oden picks despite the fact that they were both inherently flawed players (Note: I am in no way condoning these draft decisions. They were incredibly shortsighted and they set back the Portland Trail Blazer franchise for multiple years.)

Leonard isn’t quite the athlete or defensive force as Bowie or Oden but Leonard is a solid rebounder, totaling 16.3% of Illinois’ rebounds this season. Leonard is agile, he runs the floor well and his developing mid-range game could make him an asset as a pick-and-pop player. Given the NBA’s propensity to run the pick-and-roll, Leonard can fill in a comfortable niche in just about any offense. Leonard also happens to a pretty difficult defender in the post which only increases his value. Ford lists his comparasions as DeAndre Jordan and Joel Pryzbilla.

Now I felt the need to discuss Leonard because of a trend that I find a little disconcerting in the NBA. As I mentioned before, scouts tend to overvalue one-dimensional big men. Their tantalizing length seems to offset the apparent shortcomings in their game. I’m not knocking Leonard’s credentials but I find it difficult to differentiate between him and Tyler Zeller.

Both Howard-Cooper and Ford believe the Houston Rockets will take him if he’s available at the No. 14 overall pick. Zeller doesn’t have nearly the same upside nor does he project to do anything remarkably well at the professional level. But, there’s something to be said for sample size. Zeller played four seasons in college — another reason why his upside is lower — and he improved each season. In his senior season, Zeller improved his shooting efficiency, rebounding percentage and assist percentage. The only mark on his resume would appear to be his turnover rate, which sat at 12.6%.

Athletically, they appear to be a wash. Leonard bested Zeller in the bench press but Zeller posted better marks in the lane agility, three-quarter-court sprint and max vertical drills, though the advantages were pretty minimal. Leonard was measured as the tallest player in the draft. Zeller measured 0.75 inches shorter (with shoes). Not exactly a legitimate differential. Yet, why is Leonard lauded for playing one good season and Zeller is criticized for “lack of upside” despite playing four years in a legitimate basketball program? Shouldn’t sample size matter a little bit when it comes to drafting players? I know I’d feel more comfortable siding with the more proven player as long as the difference in talent is negligible. Leonard and Zeller are not that different in talent.

So … what’s the deal?

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