Quick question: can you name the No. 22 and No. 25 ranked prospects from the 2011 NBA Draft? How about for the 2010 Draft? Although I never formally asked Jonathan Givony of Draft Express, he has been kind enough to provide his answer to that question for the 2012 NBA Draft, and the opinion of the DX staff might surprise you. It definitely made me think twice about a few players heading into the big event on Thursday, June 28.
I've been tracking Top-100 prospect rankings on Draft Express and ESPN since the end of the draft lottery, and the most recent trends for Jeremy Lamb and Meyers Leonard have me a bit worried about what the Milwaukee Bucks might do with the No. 12 overall pick. I love DX as an NBA Draft resource, so maybe this is an overreaction on my part, but Leonard has quietly dropped from No. 15 to No. 25 on the Top-100 and Jeremy Lamb has plummeted from No. 10 to No. 22 overall.
If you have only been looking at mock drafts (which I consider predictions of what teams are likely to do, not what they should do), the downward trend for both players would have gone completely unnoticed. Lamb is currently slated to go No. 10 to the New Orleans Hornets, while Leonard lands with the Houston Rockets at No. 14. To amplify the undertones of the disparity between the mock and the Top-100, think about it like this: the Draft Express staff is essentially saying two lottery teams will make these mistakes on draft night. Could one of those teams be the Milwaukee Bucks?
As a caveat to this line of thinking, it is important to note that Chad Ford of ESPN still has Lamb at No. 9 and Leonard at No. 10 on his Top-100, but in most cases the movement on Ford's Big Board tracks with the changes in his mock draft (check below for proof, including Dion Waiters' rise, Jared Sullinger's fall, Terrence Jones' drop, and Leonard's ascent) -- which at least partially undermines the assumed difference between the two exercises in my mind.
As a secondary caveat to this line of thinking, I readily admit I I have no idea what I'm talking about. However, the sudden drop in draft stock for Leonard and Lamb on DX is undeniable, even if ultimately inconclusive or unconvincing to you. After studying the 2012 class for months and sometimes years, the DX crew has found new reasons to doubt a successful transition to the NBA for Jeremy Lamb and Meyers Leonard. With such a pronounced divergence in the assessments of player value, somebody will eventually be proven wrong. That's the fun of NBA Draft projections and picks, right?
What's fascinating to me is that Ford and Givony have developed different impressions of Leonard's performance during workouts. Ford has offered up rave reviews regarding the former Illini big man on ESPN, which helps explain the jump from outside the top-20 in May to No. 10 overall after the NBA Combine. Leonard is a clear riser on ESPN. Over at Draft Express, a No. 15 pre-combine ranking transformed into a less-impressive No. 25 mark. Safe to say the guys at these sites aren't talking to the same sources.
The list of higher-ranked players on DX is often intriguing and sometimes scary. Terrence Jones, John Henson, Austin Rivers and Terrence Ross are all listed as better values than either Lamb or Leonard, but so are less sexy prospects like Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller. The waters are quite murky in the mid-to-late lottery, folks. Heck you can even add Kendall Marshall and Dion Waiters to the list of players generating buzz as both a steal and a mistake.
At this point in the year there are voices saying just about anything you want to hear, so it all comes down to who you want to listen to going into the draft. Good luck coming away with any certainty regarding the players the Bucks will likely find available at No. 12 overall.
Here is the Top-100 Ranking breakdown I've been citing;
For the final summary chart, you need to know the following things: (1) Overall High/Low Rankings are derived from all possible prospect rankings across each version of the top-100 on both sites (all nine iterations charted above),(2) Draft Stock Change DX/ESPN represent the spread between the initial pre-combine rankings (May 12 version) and the most recent hierarchy for each outlet, (3) Avg Current Ranking is merely the average between the most recent prospect rankings for DX and ESPN, and (4) Mock Draft Composite Rankings are the average draft position from the seven different mocks I recently analyzed in my Meta-Mock Draft Analysis feature.