From the surface, it’s seems as if it’s only about Number One.
When the Hornets won the lottery for the rights to the first pick of the 2012 NBA Draft, the suspense was over even before it could begin. It wasn’t about who the number one pick was going to be, it was about who was going to get to pick that number one. With a near-perfect college year, skills that evoke some of the past greats of the league, and at the same time, point towards the league’s exciting future, Anthony Davis is sure to be the first name to shake hands with David Stern on June 28th. Davis was so sure to go ‘first’ that SLAM magazine had him wear a jersey of every team in the lottery just so they could use the photo with the team that wins the first pick for their latest cover.
Davis seems to be the sureshot first choice, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find a class full of talented, mature, experienced, versatile, and NBA-ready players. A striking difference between the 2012 draft class and that of the past years will be that most of the players coming in have already proven themselves at the NCAA college level – there are far fewer ‘risks’ of unscouted foreign players. NBA scouts seemed to have also learned their lessons from the past and aren’t overrating players with size anymore. A star could come from any size and any position, and this year, the best players will be picked regardless of where and how they play.
The real excitement in the draft will begin from the second pick. With a horde of different types of players to choose from, who will the Bobcats go for? And from then on, each team in the lottery will have the luxury of choosing between several different types of players to build their future upon. Not everyone picked in the lottery will be a star, but everyone in the lottery has the potential of being a crucial future contributor. It’s an exciting crop of players who have the promise to carry the future of the NBA in good hands.
1. New Orleans Hornets: Anthony Davis Surprise, surprise, surprise. Davis is going number one and there isn’t a damn thing anyone is going to do about it. Shades of Kevin Garnett with a mix of old-school Bill Russell backed up with a memorable first year in Kentucky, Davis is as ready for the league as they come. With players opting out of their contracts and little remaining talent on the board, the Hornets need help in every position. Davis will help them in more ways than one.
2. Charlotte Bobcats: Thomas Robinson Robinson’s Kansas finished second to Davis’ Kentucky in the national championship final, and it seems that the talented power forward will come second to Davis in the draft, too. That’s okay: 2nd place in a loaded draft isn’t a bad deal. Robinson improved his stock greatly in his three years in college with Kansas, and the 6 foot 9 rookie will bring a sense of maturity to a failing Charlotte franchise. He’s not short on confidence, and has made it clear that he deserves to go 1.
3. Washington Wizards: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Earning comparisons to everyone from Gerald Wallace to Metta World Peace (in a good way) and even the great Scottie Pippen, ‘MKG’ is a versatile small-forward with the heart of a champion and a team-first mentality. Davis’ teammate in the championship winning Kentucky squad, MKG is a defensive specialist who is already blessed with NBA-ready strength. The Wizards will add a crucial cog to their young squad to run besides John Wall.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Bradley Beal A great pure shooter – akin to Ray Allen – Beal will make a terrific backcourt mate to Kyrie Irving in Cleveland. There are ‘bigger’ (size-wise) talents on the board, but Beal’s shooting touch – now a rarity in the league – is too valuable to be ignored.
5. Sacramento Kings: Harrison Barnes A year ago, Barnes was a sure candidate for the first pick. He decided to skip the draft after the uncertainty of the lockout and stay in college another year. As a result, his stock fell way down, but as draft day approaches, that stock may be rising again. With several years of college experience and sound coaching under his belt, Barnes is perhaps the one player most ready to contribute at the highest level straight away – even if his potential may not be as high as those picked above him. The Kings need his maturity desperately, and they will round him up with an exciting nucleus of DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans (if he stays), and Jimmer Fredette. Just don’t expect them to play any defence.
6. Portland Trailblazers (via Nets): Andre Drummond You’ve heard this one before, haven’t you? Portland has picked the best Center in the draft before – it was Greg Oden back in 2007. Five years later, with Oden’s career flopping due to his injuries, I think that the Blazers will be brave enough to try again. Drummond is too good and too big (in a league full of not-so-talented-bigs-anymore) to fall any deeper. Portland will pair him up with LaMarcus Aldridge to make for an entertaining front court. Hopefully this one pans out.
7. Golden State Warriors: Damian Lillard I didn’t know much about Lillard till recently, but he has garnered hype at the right amount of time and raised his stock after the 2012 NBA Draft Combine. He is now considered to be the top point guard in the class. Sure, the backcourt may not really be the biggest need for the Warriors, but I feel that Golden State have had a certain affinity for high scoring small guys, and that they will continue that affinity by making Lillard the seventh pick.
8. Toronto Raptors: Austin Rivers The Raptors represent not just Toronto but all of Canada, and all of Canada has been suffering for too long not just with a mediocre roster but one that has struggled to excite their fanbase. Enter Rivers. The son of NBA coach Doc Rivers, Austin is a smart player who – despite his faults at being a pure PG – has the confidence to look the NBA’s best eye to eye and the skillset to make a difference in the league.
9. Detroit Pistons: Dion Waiters They call him the ‘mystery man’ of the NBA draft, with a high upside and a low downside. But the strong-bodied shooting guard, who has been called a poor man’s Dwyane Wade, can be a difference maker for the Pistons if they draft him at this spot (especially since they’ve given away Ben Gordon).
10. New Orleans Hornets (via Timberwolves) Jeremy Lamb Their future already guaranteed with Anthony Davis, the Hornets should add another winner and a strong forward Jeremy Lamb, who could be a steal at 10th place in this draft. Lamb can alternate between being the alpha dog and secondary player in any team, a skill that could help him with a successful career in the NBA.
11. Portland Trailblazers: Jared Sullinger Sullinger comes from the line of many players before him who were solid at college but their talent never really translated at the pro level. After garnering a lot of attention earlier in the year, Sullinger’s stock has plummeted so far that he wasn’t even invited to the NBA draft. Still, I feel that the big Ohio State sophomore will have enough in him to attract attention from Portland, who will make him another cog of their strong frontcourt.
12. Milwaukee Bucks: Tyler Zeller Zeller is a talented seven-footer, and talented seven-footers don’t usually drop too deep in the draft. So he’ll be taken here.
13. Phoenix Suns: Perry Jones III Probably the most athletic player in the lottery, Jones is also the least consistent. Still, he’s too much of a talent to fall any deeper, and the Suns could have a steal if Jones does live up to his potential one day.
14. Houston Rockets: Kendell Marshall Marshall is a true, pass-first point guard, compared to the likes of Andre Miller. He may not have too many outwardly skills, but he has the skill of being a pure point guard. And that is enough to be a lottery pick in the NBA.