This is the third in a three part series in which I analyze the 2012 NBA Draft by position. As a source I used DraftExpress's mock draft and for statistics I used both DraftExpress and Sports-Reference. All statistics used are for the prior college basketball season. Because of the lack of advanced statistic information and difference in playstyle, I have only included NCAA players in this analysis. For information such as player position, school, height, etc. please click on the player's name and it will take you to their DraftExpress page with all that information.
This draft class is considered by many to be relatively weak, but if there's one area where it has both quantity and quality, it is in big men. Sacramento has some quality big men of their own, including their best player, DeMarcus Cousins. Jason Thompson and Chuck Hayes are the only big men locked up with longer term deals, and Patrick Patterson will be a free agent in a year.
If there is one glaring weakness of Sacramento's big man corps it's the lack of shotblocking and defense. Chuck Hayes is easily the best defender, but does not have the height to block shots, and is a bit of an offensive liability. DeMarcus Cousins has the tools to be a great defender but rarely puts forth a consistent effort on that end.
Sacramento also was one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the NBA last season despite having one of the best defensive rebounders in the NBA in DeMarcus Cousins. Hayes and Thompson are only average rebounders, and Patrick Patterson is below average.
Fortunately, there are options available that can help shore up both these areas of need for the Kings in this year's draft.
Of the three groups of players we've studied over the last few days, this is by far the most intriguing list. We have big men who are great at rebounding, great at scoring, great at blocking shots, great at shooting, and some who are good at a little bit of everything.
There isn't really a consensus #1 pick in this year's draft, but perhaps the closest is Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel. Noel had his season cut short after suffering a torn ACL about two-thirds the way through. Still, Noel showed enough goods and potential to warrant a top pick. Noel was one of the best shot blockers in the NCAA, nearly as good as last year's #1 pick Anthony Davis. Noel reminds me a little bit of Davis, as both have a similar frame and weight. Unlike Davis, Noel's offensive game needs a lot more polish. Noel doesn't have much of a jumper at all, and his Free Throw Percentage is barely above 50%. Still, there is a lot to like here.
Anthony Bennett is almost the opposite kind of player as Noel. He's only about 6'7 but is incredibly athletic and very talented as a scorer, both inside and out. He's not much of a defender though, and his size makes his position a problem. There's some talk about him playing SF in the NBA, but he plays more like a big man and I don't see that changing just because he's a few inches undersized (see Thomas, Kenny and Brand, Elton). He'll need to be paired with a defensive stopper, so he might not be the best option for Sacramento.
Alex Len is another big man with potential who will likely go in the lottery. He really improved from his Freshman year at Maryland, improving his post scoring and his defense. Len isn't the best defensive rebounder, but he's a very good offensive rebounder, and there's some belief he was held back by Maryland's guards.
Cody Zeller really helped his cause with a good combine where he measured very well athletically. He's got good size and he took advantage of all his physical gifts in college. He's perhaps the most skilled big man scorer in the draft and kind of reminds me of a shorter Brook Lopez, right down to the mediocre rebounding.
Louisville's Gorgui Dieng isn't considered a lottery pick now, but I think he'll have a very long and successful career in the NBA. He has a relentless motor, is a great defender, rebounder and shotblocker. Most surprising to me is his passing and the development of a mid-range jumper. A couple of other good options in terms of finding a shotblocker are Jeff Withey (the best shotblocker in the draft) and Steven Adams.
One player that I think could be one of the biggest sleepers in the draft is Bucknell's Mike Muscala. Muscala did play for a smaller school against inferior competition but he put up some ridiculous numbers. Muscala has the highest defensive rebounding rate of all bigs. He's also got the highest Assist Rate and the lowest turnover rate. Muscala was the entire focus of his offense and he managed to score a bunch, assist a bunch and not turnover the ball much. That screams "smart and talented" basketball player to me. He's also a decent shotblocker. He's currently projected as a second-rounder and if he's still on the board by the time the 36th pick comes up, I think it'd be a no-brainer to snatch him up.