College hoops fans already know the 2012 draft class is going to be a good one. That's what happens when players like Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones, Jared Sullinger and Terrence Jones -- all lottery picks and potential top-five talents -- all decide to stay in school in the same year. This year's draft would have been massively more exciting had any of that four, not to mention the host of other talented college hoopsters across the country, decided to leave this spring. Instead, those players are likely to wait until next year and, well, duh: Of course 2012's class is going to be good.
But just how good? ESPN Insider's Chad Ford has already been asking around -- the draft is over; long live the draft -- and found at least one NBA scout who believes the class of 2012 will be the best since 2003, when LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh (and, ahem, Darko Milicic) were all top-five picks.
Scouts are stoked for their chance to finally draft the aforementioned sophomores, of course, but the real reason the 2012 class looks so scary-good has more to do with all the talented freshman arriving on campus this fall. From Chad:
In 2012 we're projecting nine freshmen as potential lottery picks: Davis, Kentucky's Michael Gilchrist, Baylor's Quincy Miller, Florida's Bradley Beal, North Carolina's James McAdoo, Duke's Austin Rivers, Kentucky's Marquis Teague, Texas' Myck Kabongo and Memphis' Adonis Thomas. It's unlikely they all squeeze into the first 14 picks (if they decide to leave school), but the talent is there.
Of course, the lottery is only so big, and with the strong crop of veterans in line for NBA moves next season, there is sure to be plenty of crowding at the top of the draft board. Will that cause players to stay in school? Is the strong draft the new NBA lockout? The good news, as Ford writes, is there is a distinct lack of international prospects in 2012, so players won't have to worry as much about their draft spots being swallowed up by the sudden late surge of enticing international players like Enes Kanter, Jonas Valanciunas, Jan Vesely or Bismack Biyombo, all of whom were selected within the top seven picks Thursday night.
Fewer international prospects? A loaded draft from top to bottom? College veterans who stayed in school? Don't look now, but the 2012 draft sounds downright old school. Even better? Before we get to next year's draft, we get to watch all of these guys play college hoops. Win-win, kids. Win-win.