Aficionados huddle towards events; movie-buffs have the Oscars, sci-fi nerds have comic-con, grease monkeys have the Indy 500 and the entire state of New Hampshire on a Saturday. Whatever the occasion, people take their love of certain pastimes and concentrate it especially for certain occasions. It makes the indulgence of forgetting about the real world — bills, relationships, obligations and ethics — just that much sweeter.
I have the NBA draft.
That will sound strange to most people. It should sound strange to most people. I mean why not the Super Bowl, or the NBA finals? There’s about 20 different channels on any given cable outlet that host 24/7 sports coverage. What makes The NBA Draft superior to any time spent watching The Trick Pool World Championships (which is sick by the way) or Bass Hunters Live?
Those are the easy questions. Basketball is my favorite sport, first and foremost; to play and to watch. Despite the fact that the majority of New England hockey fans bloggers demonize how commercial, or “Hollywood” the NBA has become, it still hosts, in my opinion, the most impressive field of competitive athletes (strength, speed, endurance, etc.) the world has to offer. While professional football is a sport completely dominated by such athleticism, hockey and baseball are more skill-based. What professional basketball uniquely has to offer is that its athletes must possess both skill and extreme athleticism to survive at the top tier. It’s by far the smallest league out of the four majors (MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA), but still boasts the second highest ratings. People understand that NBA players, as over-dramatic and flamboyantly dressed as they come, are absolute freaks in a competitive atmosphere. That’s pure entertainment.
But still… the NBA draft?
That rant might not totally justify why the NBA draft itself is exciting. But it’s a start. That combination of athleticism and skill I emphasized — that’s what simply draws me to the sport of basketball. My interest in the draft (specifically this year) lies in two different places.
First, I should admit I’ve been a recruiting nerd since I was in middle school. Youtube pretty much completely changed the way recruit analysis works. People became free to access footage that once upon a time scouts would drool over. Recruiting websites began to sprout up in bunches: scout.com, rivals.com, Scouts Inc. Combine numbers, statistics, video footage, rankings of players for each high school class — now all within a computer’s reach.
One day, in the sixth grade, I stumbled upon one particularly impressive young basketball player. He was a skinny kid, but extremely long. He went to Montrose Christian, a small private school in Maryland. As tall as I’d ever seen a wing player, he had arms that looked like they could hang to the floor. I watched him hit three-pointers with a defender in his face. He sized up his man and drove to the basket, finishing with ease every time. He ran the fast break, could score with a little baby floater in the lane, and he had a certain demeanor about him that just oozed success. He had it all. I turned to my friend and said, “This guy will be the next great basketball player.”
That kid turned into Kevin Durant.
Ok… so maybe I said the same thing about Yi Jianlian. But the point is that from that moment on, I became infatuated with the idea of finding the next big star as early as possible. I realized there was a world of greatness out there I could either wait for, or go find myself. The NBA draft for me has sort of become the climax of that process. It’s the players I analyzed for so many years finally reaching the brink of their potential, becoming either the legends or obscure references of tomorrow.
This year, however, the draft’s appeal has taken an especially fortunate turn. It’s quite simple: THE FIELD IS LOADED. So, without further ado, let me put all that time I wasted in middle school to use by properly wasting even more time.
A Few Things
- Every scout, blogger, and their mother will write mock drafts that attempt to predict exactly where players will fall on the draft board, as opposed to where they personally think the best fits would be. This type of mock drafting, no matter what information someone claims to have, is completely speculative. The fact is that if Michael Jordan is going to draft Bismack Biyombo with the seventh overall pick, despite whether or not that appears to go against every piece of basic logic an owner might file through in that situation, you just can’t do anything about that. And that’s just gonna happen, because the truth of the matter is no one has access to the information an owner or GM has access to. So for the purpose of this blog I’m going to focus primarily on which players I think should go to which teams, as opposed to who will.
- For each player I’ll provide an NBA comparison.
- For word length’s sake I’m only mocking the lottery (picks 1-14) and then I’ll scout three players and three teams outside of the lottery to watch for
- For word length’s sake again I cut out the portion of each pick that predicted who I thought will actually be picked in that slot. Contact me if for some weird reason you actually want to read that.
- That’s about it. Rebut it. Respect it. Responses are always welcome. Enjoy!
NBA Draft Lottery 2012 – Mock Draft
Pick 1 – New Orleans Hornets – Anthony Davis – PF/C – 6-10, 220 lbs. – University of Kentucky
NBA Comparison – The lowest the ceiling gets for Davis is Marcus Camby. He’s proven an ability to dominate on defense at an elite level. His upside could range to Kevin Garnett and beyond if he developed an 18-foot jump shot and a few post moves.
Why? – The latest phenomenon in draft speculation has been to make a case for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as the real best fit for the Hornets. There’s a valid point to that theory. The Hornets were a middle of the pack rebounding and defending team but were exposed to be one of the worst offenses in the league without Eric Gordon for the majority of the season. Don’t really care. Davis is by far the best bet in this draft even if his offense doesn’t develop accordingly, which it most likely will. In perhaps the deepest draft since the new millennium, he is the star player.
Pick 2 – Charlotte Bobcats – Andre Drummond – PF/C – 6-11, 270 lbs. – University of Connecticut
NBA Comparison – High risk/high reward. DeAndre Jordan/Greg Munroe/Amar’e Stoudemire
Why? – Big Dre was my biggest disappointment this past season. The kid that held the consensus spot atop this draft since the end of his junior year in high school put up dismal numbers on an underachieving Connecticut team. He’s definitely a project on offense, and his passion for the game has been questioned. But the fact is that he’s everything you want from an athletics stand point; size, strength, quickness. If he developed mentally there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t get coached up on offense. Kidd-Gilchrist is the consensus pick here but Drummond has the chance to be just as good as Anthony Davis if not better if he develops properly. Not to mention it wouldn’t hurt to upgrade from BJ Mullens at center.
Pick 3 – Washington Wizards – Bradley Beal – Shooting Guard – 6-4, 207 lbs. – University of Florida
NBA Comparison – Pure shooter who should get even better. JR Smith/Eric Gordon
Why? – Shot defense was one of the few bright spots for what seems to be the NBA’s new equivalent to the Cincinnati Bengals. They were fifth in the league in blocks, but still struggled to rebound and defend. Where they proved to be one of the worst in the league, however, is shooting outside the paint. That’s where Beal comes in. He’s the best jump shooter in this draft and could legitimately end up the best scorer of the bunch once he polishes his game. An argument could just as well be made for Gilchrist at this spot since he could provide a much-needed boost on the defensive perimeter as well as in the assist department. But Brad Beal with John Wall is just too tasty of a fantasy for me to pass up.
Pick 4 – Cleveland Cavaliers – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – Small Forward – 6-6, 216 lbs. – University of Kentucky
NBA Comparison – Think defense and athleticism. Shawn Marion/Andre Iguodola
Why? – This is about as much of a no-brainer as you’ll find in this draft lottery. Cleveland filled major long term needs in last year’s draft by drafting at the point guard and center position. Not only would Cleveland pick up possibly the best all-around player in this draft at the fourth pick, but he’d be a perfect compliment to what they’ve been building. He’d immediately be the best perimeter defender on last year’s 26th ranked defense, and the kid’s offensive skills in my opinion are underrated. He’s a phenomenal ball handler who will be able to use his freak athleticism to get to the basket and distribute like a point-forward at the next level. If he develops a consistent jump shot his potential is as high as anyone in this draft.
Pick 5 – Sacramento Kings – Thomas Robinson – Power Forward – 6-8, 240 lbs. – University of Kansas
NBA Comparison – Robinson is literally one giant block of muscle. He’ll be short at the NBA four position, but by all means has the pure strength and athleticism to succeed. He’s a natural born re bounder… think Patrick Patterson/Derrick Favors
Why? – The Kings are the single most frustrating team to watch in the NBA. Their roster is chalk full of college superstars and freak athletes. On paper they truly do have a middle-of-the-pack starting five (supposed to be a compliment), but it’s the numbers that emphasize their true needs. They took more shots than anybody in the league, but were 26th in field goal percentage. They were 2nd in offensive rebounding, but 24th in defensive rebounding. They were top five in the league in steals, but 26th in assists. So what does any of that mean? Well, at first glance, draft a point guard who can add some organization to this transition-based chuck-it-up offense. That doesn’t exist at the fifth pick since point guard is the weakest position in this draft, which is why this pick would be shopped around under the circumstances. T-Rob won’t do wonders to the league’s worst defense, but he’ll certainly help as his skills progress. He can run the floor with the Kings, but will definitely be an incentive to slow things down as well.
Pick 6 – Portland Trail Blazers – Harrison Barnes – Small Forward – 6-8, 223 lbs. – University of North Carolina
NBA Comparison – He’s the prototype NBA scorer. Great jump shot, uncapped potential; but needs improvement on his dribble penetration skills and defense. Michael Finley/Luol Deng
Why? – The trail Blazers need defense, rebounding, and efficiency. Harrison Barnes provides none of that right off the bat, but he has the potential to be a super star one day. There’s simply not a big man worth drafting with T-Rob and Drummond off the board at the sixth pick. John Henson would be a huge reach in my mind, so you go with the best available. The only legitimate threat at small forward the Blazers have is Nicolas Batum, so Barnes would make them as deep at the 1-3 spots as any team in the league.
Pick 7 – Golden State Warriors – John Henson – Power Forward – 6-10, 220 lbs. – University of North Carolina
NBA Comparison – Length and defense but needs polishing at the offensive end… Brendan Wright/Anthony Randolph
Why? – I know I just said he’d be a reach at the sixth pick; and he’d still be at seven. But it’s really the only option for a team that lacks any kind of defensive rhythm. The Warriors were bottom three in the league on defense and on the boards, and John Henson’s the epitome of a player who would counterbalance that. I know the comparisons won’t get anyone excited, but if he puts on muscle and develops more skills in the paint on offense he could easily surpass both of those players. The point is that the Warriors will never start to fulfill their potential until they focus more on rebounding and defense.
Pick 8 – Toronto Raptors – Jeremy Lamb – Shooting Guard – 6-5, 185 lbs. – University of Connecticut
NBA Comparison – He’s a pure shooter off screens and off the dribble. Best-case scenario he could become a Kevin Martin-type of scorer but this past season weighs down his prospects. I’ve seen comparisons that range as low as Rashaad McCants but that’s pretty harsh. He’s too skilled… Rip Hamilton/Kevin Martin but his arms are scary long and he’s more athletic.
Why? – Atypical for a young, bad team, the Raptors’ problems lay on the offensive side of the ball. Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless distributed the ball well, but they really had no one to pass to. The best threat they have on the wing is DeMar DeRozan and that doesn’t cope well for a team’s future prospects. Lamb is an option they can set plays for with off-ball screens and has the ability to instantly produce offense; an easy pick under the circumstances.
Pick 9 – Detroit Pistons – Terrence Ross – Shooting Guard – 6-6, 197 lbs. – University of Washington
NBA Comparison – Underrated and can literally do it all. Dangerously confident with the game on the line but still has a lot to prove… Wesley Johnson/Eddie Jones with the intangibles of Paul Pierce
Why? – The Pistons need help. They can’t rebound on defense, they can’t score, they turn the ball over, and despite drafting at the point guard position last year they still ranked bottom three in the NBA for assists. But despite all of the painfully obvious flaws the Pistons possess, they play defense. And that won them just enough games to earn a draft pick far lower than what their stats say they deserve. That can be credited to coach Lawrence Frank and the emergence of Greg Munroe at the center position. Terrence Ross is the sleeper of this draft in my book, with a do-it-all skill set and a winner’s mentality. An absolute steal if he falls outside the top ten.
Pick 10 – New Orleans Hornets – Perry Jones III – Small Forward – 6-11, 235 lbs. – Baylor University
NBA Comparison – Eerily similar scenario to Andre Drummond. His commitment to the game has been questioned to the point that I’ve heard Tim Thomas comparisons. He has the body to do anything really, which is what makes his ceiling so high. Dorrell Wright/Kevin Durant
Why? – The first time I saw Perry Jones play basketball I was in a state of bliss. I thought I’d just found the next Kevin Durant, again. To say the least that forecast hasn’t exactly panned out. Durant put up 30 points and 12 rebounds a game his freshman year at Texas; Perry put up half those numbers at Baylor. Anyone who’s familiar with this kids story will be rooting for him, as I’m sure his personal life’s hurdles have played a major part in his skill development. I can’t stomach penciling him in outside the top ten, and the fact is that if the Hornets drafted Anthony Davis and Perry Jones within the same hour their roster would jump hurdles in the Western Conference. Jarrett Jack, Eric Gordon, Xavier Henry, Trevor Ariza, Carl Landry, Al-Farouq Aminu, Emeka Okafor, Chris Kaman, along with two of the most impressive young prospects in this draft class; they’d be at least 10 deep in quality young talent.
Pick 11 – Portland Trail Blazers – Austin Rivers – Shooting Guard – 6-4, 203 lbs. – Duke University
NBA Comparison – Dead-eye shooter with solid intangibles. Needs to mature but the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree… Doc Rivers/OJ Mayo
Why? – Just like the Hornets, the Trail Blazers picked a good year to land two lottery picks. At this point in my draft they’re in a situation where the center position still hasn’t been addressed. While most might say this is the time to fulfill that need, Austin Rivers is literally staring me right in the face. And I can’t help but think that leaving the lottery with Harrison Barnes AND Austin Rivers is about as good as it gets.
Pick 12 – Milwaukee Bucks – Meyers Leonard – Center – 7-0, 245 lbs. – University of Illinois
NBA Comparison – Not a lot of real post moves on offense but he’s a big body with tremendous defensive upside. Robin Lopez/Tyson Chandler
Why? – The bucks are like a slightly less mediocre version of the Warriors (but still pretty mediocre). They’ll run up and down the court all day long, scoring at will, but won’t convert that energy onto the defensive end. Ekpe Udoh is a good defensive prospect they brought in through trade, and Ersan Ilyasova was a spectacular surprise on both ends of the floor for the Bucks last year. But without Andrew Bogut in the middle, their defense has been sporadic to say the least. Leonard has the most upside out of the Center-Forward prospects available and he has the size to fill Bogut’s void on defense.
Pick 13 – Phoenix Suns – Damian Lillard – Point Guard – 6-2, 190 lbs. – Weber State
NBA Comparison – Score-first point guard with a wide range of possible fates. Needs to work on becoming a better true point guard if he plans on playing that position in the NBA… Jerryd Bayless/Russell Westbrook (not as athletic)
Why? – You can pretty much throw the draft rulebook out the window when it comes to Phoenix’s situation. The reality is that Steve Nash probably won’t be back next year, and that means the entire future of their team will be steered by this off-season, either in the right direction or the wrong one. So forget that the Suns were 27th in steals; forget they played spotty defense and didn’t rebound well. This draft for them is about finding Steve Nash’s replacement, and more importantly finding someone to replace his offensive output. Lillard may not yet have the play making ability he needs to compensate for Steve Nash, but his scoring will help. It’s uncertain whether or not he has what it takes to play point guard in this league, but he has the physical tools and should be a scoring threat regardless. If he ever fell this low he’d be a steal in most GM’s eyes.
Pick 14 – Houston Rockets – Kendall Marshall – Point Guard – 6-4, 197 lbs. – University of North Carolina
NBA Comparison – Just a pure point guard. As good of a play-maker as they come and he’s been that good since he was a sophomore in high school. A surefire future starter in my mind… Mark Jackson sounds about right
Why? – The combination of Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry was huge for the Rockets this year as they hovered around .500. They’ve made serious strides in recent years, slowly acquiring young talent like Patrick Patterson, Chandler Parsons and Kevin Martin. It’s much more realistic in my eyes for Marshall to fill Dragic’s role in Houston than Nash’s role Phoenix, which is why this pick makes so much sense to me. Here Marshall has the ability to embrace his play-making ability. In Phoenix, he’d be forced into a role he really isn’t ready for yet and would be pressured to score points. He’s proved his importance to any team through his absence from March Madness, but he’ll struggle to score at the NBA level.
3 teams to watch for
- Portland Trail Blazers – They’re as safe a bet as any to make a move with one of their lottery picks. While I have them making out pretty good in my mock they’re constantly looking for a big man to fortify their front line with LaMarcus Aldridge. Don’t be surprised to see them package a deal with both picks to bring in a veteran who can fulfill their front court needs.
- Boston Celtics – In an off-season where the Celtics will more than likely let go of at least one of the big three’s expiring contracts (Ray Allen most likely), major changes are in the forefront for the Celtics. They’re sitting pretty in a deep draft at both the 21 and 22 spots, where still a plethora of talent will be available. Their needs on defense will have to be met if Kevin Garnett doesn’t re-sign, but that will likely be taken care of in free agency considering the options their looking at late in the first round at center (Fab Melo? No thanks). The Celtics like versatility, defense, experience, and they need some depth in the back court desperately. Terrence Jones and Moe Harkless are very attractive options with upside, but they could be gone by that point. Royce White, Doron Lamb, and Marquis Teague will all get looks from Boston in the early 20s. Trade talk will be in the air, but it will be hard to bargain for considering all of the value still on the board at number 21.
- Cleveland Cavaliers – By the end of this draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be light years away from where they were two years ago after “The Decision”. If I’m them, I keep both of my first round picks and use them wisely. Kidd-Gilchrist is the ideal pick at four and would be considered a steal, but regardless they’ll be left with a top quality prospect at the fourth pick. At least one of the Kentucky guards will be available at 24, but prospects still range from Quincy Miller, to Fab Melo to really whoever’s the best available. They’ll have at least five roster spots dedicated to solid young talent which is all that Cleveland fans can really hope for.
3 players to watch for outside the lottery
- Jared Sullinger PF, Ohio State – Last fall it would be hard to find a mock draft that had Sullinger’s name outside of its top five. He had a spectacular freshman season, and if he decided to enter the draft last year he would have gone top 10 for sure. One year, several foot injuries, and what seems like hundreds of Big Mac’s later, he’s fallen to the mid-late first round. He’s as skilled of a post player as they come out of college but just completely lacks the athleticism the elite forwards of this class possess.
- Tony Wroten PG/SG, Washington – Entering my freshman year of high school, I was curious as to who the best players in my own class would be. Tony Wroten’s name sat atop that list, which featured names like Kendall Marshall, Michael Gilchrist, and Jeremy Tyler. The problem is that his game just hasn’t matured much since then. He still has all the features we once drooled over: a big body, point guard skills, elite athleticism. But he makes frightening decisions if you watch his film for long enough and really hasn’t improved his jump shot. He’ll be a major project and likely a second round pick, but definitely worth it. The kid turned 19 a month ago, so it’s safe to say there’s time to fulfill at least some of his potential if he lands in the right place. I don’t see him becoming the Tony Wroten we once envisioned, but he can still become a good defender and a solid role player if he matures mentally.
- Fab Melo Center, Syracuse – I didn’t want to, but I just couldn’t resist. Where do you even start with good old Flab? Is it the fact that he couldn’t produce grades decent enough to be eligible for the NCAA tournament – despite the fact that it seems almost every other player seemed to manage just fine? Or do you start with the fact that his absence largely cost his team a title shot, and he couldn’t seem to care less about that? OR do you simply look beyond that, and take into account that once upon a time Fab Melo was a McDonald’s All-American with a world of upside in front of him. Take it how you wish; Fab’s a big enough piece of man to be a late first round pick, and could go even higher than projected if teams become desperate enough for a big man. He’ll pretty much always be your fifth option on offense, but his absence from Syracuse proved that he can be a major piece in the middle of any zone.
Questions, comments, or arguments? Leave a comment or contact me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Most importantly, tune in to the NBA Draft on Thursday, June 28th at 7:30 pm on ESPN
Pierce Arrow Editorials Editor