What happened to the 'great' 2012 draft?

Updated: February 24, 2012, 12:44 PM ET
By Chad Ford

In July, NBA scouts and executives were projecting the 2012 NBA draft to be one of the best in a decade.

With a potential lockout and other factors in play, an unusually high number of prominent college players passed on their opportunities to jump to the NBA in 2011. North Carolina's Harrison Barnes, Baylor's Perry Jones, Kansas' Thomas Robinson, Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, Kentucky's Terrence Jones, Florida's Patric Young, UConn's Jeremy Lamb, North Carolina's John Henson, Duke's Mason Plumlee and UNC's Tyler Zeller all were considered potential lottery picks in 2011. Another year in school was supposed to give them even more appeal.

We were also projecting as many as 10 freshmen as potential lottery picks: Kentucky's Anthony Davis, UConn's Andre Drummond, Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Baylor's Quincy Miller, Florida's Bradley Beal, North Carolina's James Michael McAdoo, Duke's Austin Rivers, Kentucky's Marquis Teague, Texas' Myck Kabongo and Memphis' Adonis Thomas.

That's 20 players for 14 lottery spots. That's what you call a stacked draft.

But as we enter the last week of February, NBA executives are rushing to downgrade the draft.

"Everyone talks about how great this draft is," one NBA GM told ESPN.com. "On paper in July, it really looked that way. On the ground in February, I'm not that impressed. Anthony Davis is great. But after that, there are a lot of question marks and a surprising lack of depth. I'm not sure that the 2012 draft will be better than the 2011 one."

What's causing the pessimism?