NBA Draft: breaking down the lottery
This Friday morning at 9am AEST the 2012 NBA draft will take place in Newark, New Jersey. The 30 NBA teams will come together with varying outcomes in mind: new prospect, trade veteran talent, stay the course, or stockpile future assets.
The NBA draft tends to be a circus. Teams often wind up looking very different once the process is all said and done. With a new Collective Bargaining Agreement locked in and a deep, but star starved draft to pick apart, you can bet that this year won’t be any different.
So who are the prospects to look out for and where are they expected to end up? Outside of Anthony Davis going first overall to the New Orleans Hornets, it’s a guessing game. Rather than sit back and wait for it all to unfold, I’ve decided to break down each of the 14 sides picking in the lottery, and who I think is best suited to their specific needs.
1) New Orleans Hornets. Team Needs: Irrelevant. There’s only one name which is getting called out with pick one in the 2012 NBA Draft. Even if they already had 11 power forwards on the roster, the Hornets are taking Kentucky’s Anthony Davis.
In Davis, the Hornets will be acquiring more than just the finest unibrow in the history of pro-sports, they’ll be getting a franchise changing talent. The most accurate comparison without going overboard is Rasheed Wallace meets Marcus Camby. We’ve heard the Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan comparisons, but I’m not prepared to get that crazy on Davis, who struggled against college players with legitimate NBA size.
Yet, make no doubt about it, Anthony Davis is on his own island in terms of prospects in this draft. He is far and away the most talented player with the highest ceiling among the class of 2012.
2) Charlotte Bobcats: Team Needs: Everything. The Pick: Harrison Barnes (SF).
Without sounding too unprofessional but maintaining accuracy, this team stinks. The majority of their deficiencies are on the offensive end.
In Season 2011/12, the Bobcats ranked last in overall offense, last in 3-point percentage and last in field goals made. These are all areas in which Barnes contributes. Barnes may struggle with putting the ball on the floor and creating his own shot, but after seeing the majority of his college games this year, I’m sold on his game being more suited to the pros.
The Bobcats need a scorer just as much as they need a Mulligan on every lottery pick they’ve made in their eight year history.
The names Emeka Okafor, Raymond Felton, Sean May, Adam Morrison, Brandon Wright (traded for Jason Richardson), DJ Augustin, Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker don’t exactly knock your socks off.
Out of those lottery picks, only Henderson and Augustin have been solid, with the jury still out on Walker. Based on history there’s a 95% chance that owner Michael Jordan’s drafting curse will strike again, and instantly ruin the career of whoever is selected.
If Barnes is Jordan’s man, and I think he is, I don’t think the Bobcats pick him from the second spot. A trade with Cleveland for the #4 and #24 picks makes a lot of sense for both teams.
3) Washington Wizards: Team Needs: SG. The Pick: Bradley Beal (SG).
Provided the order stays the same, I believe Beal is a lock to go third overall. The recent trade of Rashad Lewis for cap crippling contracts in Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor means that the Wizards have $43 million committed through the 2013/14 season, so they can’t really afford to blow this pick.
GM Ernie Grunfeld wants to win now, so he’s stuck this team on an 8th seed at best treadmill for the next few years. The Wizards ranked 28th in 3-point percentage, 26th in free-throw percentage and 23rd in overall offense.
Bradley Beal is far and away the best shooting guard in this draft and is a perfect complement alongside point guard John Wall.
4) Cleveland Cavaliers: Team Needs: SG, SF. The Pick: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (SF). The Cavs only have six players committed to their payroll, so they can go a number of directions with this pick. Cleveland struggled on both offense (ranked 25th) and defense (ranked 26th) this season, so there isn’t a particular need which stands out more than the other. What Kidd-Gilchrist brings is a team oriented attitude, great work ethic and plenty of leadership.
Pairing MKG with last year’s rookie of the year Kyrie Irving will put this Franchise into the hands of two young winners with great heads on their shoulders that are more than capable of leading this team into the next phase.
With Tristan Thompson’s continued development and Anderson Varejao holding down the middle (Cleveland ranks 14th in rebounds), they can afford to pass on potential and take the safer prospect in Kidd-Gilchrist.
5) Sacramento Kings: Team Needs: SF, PF. The Pick: Thomas Robinson (PF). If things play out as above, this becomes a no-brainer pick for the Kings. A front-court pairing of Robinson and DeMarcus Cousins will give opposition bigmen fits for years. Robinson is a tough athletic defender and arguably the most NBA ready prospect in the draft.
Although slightly undersized and prone to falling in love with the perimeter game, Robinson is a gym rat with an almost possessive attitude to continually get better. The Kings ranked last in defense and 24th in defensive rebounds, two areas that Robinson can help to sure up from the get go.
6) Portland Trailblazers: Team Needs: PG, C. The Pick: Andre Drummond (C). Portland landed this pick because Brooklyn Nets GM Billy King was drunk during the trade deadline and wound up making one of the worst moves in NBA history.
That’s not entirely true (the drunk part), but it would add valid reasoning as to why King virtually gave away a lottery pick with only top three protection, which is what actually happened. The Blazers will take Drummond here without a second thought and walk away laughing as it only cost them a 3 month rental of Gerald Wallace, who has since opted out of his Nets contract. With a desperate need to find a defensive presence to fit alongside All-Star forward LeMarcus Aldridge, Drummond possesses all of the attributes required. The Blazers ranked 25th in rebounds, 22nd in defensive rebounds and 18th in blocks.
Drummond’s explosive leap and length combined with his rebounding and shot blocking ability makes this a perfect marriage. Provided he can remain consistent and overcome his proneness of drifting out of games, Drummond could very well be the steal of the draft.
7) Golden State Warriors: SF. The Pick: Damian Lillard (PG). Despite tanking their butts off to keep this pick there’s no real standout prospect that fits the Warriors needs. Accurately pinpointing what the Warriors do here is on par with throwing darts at a draft board whilst blindfolded.
They’d love Harrison Barnes or Andre Drummond to fall into their laps which is highly unlikely, thus I have them taking the best player available as insurance for Steph Curry’s glass ankles. All of the Warriors woes point to the defensive end; they ranked 28th in defense and 28th in rebounds.
This year’s trade deadline acquisition of Andrew Bogut will instantly improve those areas, so the W’s can afford to get a little cute with this pick. Steph Curry only suited up for 26 games this year and Lillard is the best point guard available. The Warriors don’t exactly need improvement in the areas that Lillard excels, as they ranked 2nd in 3-point percentage, 3rd in 3-pointers made, 9th in assists and 12th in offense, but if Curry goes down, he’ll be an invaluable resource to fall back on.
Personally I think Lillard has become the most overrated player in this year’s draft, and I see him as nothing more than a clone of Jerryd Bayliss. Still, that won’t stop someone from taking him inside the top 10.
8) Toronto Raptors: Team Needs: PG, SF. The Pick: Dion Waiters (SG). The Raptors already have a top 10 defense. I’m serious; I looked it up on fourteen different websites just to make sure.
On the offensive side of the floor Toronto ranked 23rd in field goal percentage, 27th in field goals made and 28th in offense. What this squad needs is scoring and Waiters can provide that better than anybody else left on the board. Although undersized for his position, Waiters fearlessly attacks the rim for the majority of his points.
Waiters is also capable of playing some relief point guard and possesses the alpha dog confidence that the Raptors currently lack. With last years lottery pick in Valanciunas likely to come over and Bargnani reportedly over his injury woes, the Raptors need help in the backcourt. With Lillard off the board Waiters makes the most sense here.
9) Detroit Pistons: Team Needs: PF, SF, and GM. The Pick: John Henson (PF). General Manager Joe Dumars is a front office Santa Clause for crappy middle of the road free agents. If you play a position that the Pistons already have filled, you can bank on Joe Dumars showing up and throwing 50 million dollars at you to suck on his bench for half a decade.
Detroit will dish out a combined $20 million dollars for the services of Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Tayshaun Prince next season. Yikes. As for their on-court weaknesses, the Pistons ranked 26th in blocks, 27th in rebounds and 29th in defensive rebounds; they desperately need to find a shot blocking big to play alongside centre Greg Monroe.
North Carolinas John Henson averaged 4.29 blocks per 40 minutes at the collegiate level last year at a foul rate of just 2.45 per game. He’s a perfect fit. I can’t wait to see Dumars flip this pick for the rights to pay Drew Gooden $20 million through the 2015 season.
10) New Orleans Hornets: Team Needs: SF, C. The Pick: Austin Rivers (SG). New Orleans could draft a big here and either reach for Tyler Zeller or Meyers Leonard, or simply just take the best player available. Rivers is definitely the most confident player in the draft which can often lead to selfish game play and questionable shot selection.
What Rivers does possess in a positive sense is a strong handle and the ability to score both inside and outside. With no word on Eric Gordon’s future, Rivers fits the mold as added insurance. If things play out according to this mock, I’d expect New Orleans to trade out of this spot.
11) Portland Trailblazers: Team Needs: PG, C. The Pick: Kendall Marshall (PG). I’m not in love with this pick and with plenty of flexibility the Blazers could simply draft the best player available and ignore need. Marshall has a high basketball IQ and see’s the floor like it’s twice as wide.
Unfortunately what Marshall lacks is quickness and athletic ability, which is a staple of the new generation point guard class currently dominating the NBA landscape. Marshall reminds me of a 35-year-old Jason Kidd (in terms of production), and in the right system could carve out an Andre Miller like career.
12) Milwaukee Bucks: Team Needs: SF, PF, C. The Pick: Meyers Leonard (C). With Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings fighting each other to an inefficient death on the offensive end, the Bucks will look to go defensive minded with this pick.
Milwaukee ranked 20th in defensive rebounds and 22nd in defense this year which are the two areas that the 7’1” Leonard excels in. He’ll take some time and needs to hit the weight room, and he may never pan out, but we can say that about the majority of picks outside the top 5.
13) Phoenix Suns: Team Needs: PG, SG. The Pick: Jeremy Lamb (SG). With the impending departure of Steve Nash, the Suns are in desperate need of a point guard. Rather than reach for a Tony Wroten Jr or Marquis Teague (neither are ready to start on an NBA team) the Suns can strengthen the other position in their backcourt with an athletic wing in Lamb.
A better athlete than he is a shooter; Lamb tends to drift in and out of games as often as I have during this month’s Euro 2012 Tournament. Lamb has plenty of talent but his basketball IQ is on par with a wet towel. He looks the part, but plays passive. For Lamb, it’s all about figuring out his consistency problems at the next level.
14) Houston Rockets: Team Needs: PG, C. The Pick: Tyler Zeller (C). First and foremost the Rockets need to figure out which direction they’re going to go in terms of point guard play. Kyle Lowry is still contracted for a further two years but has been in numerous trade rumors since free agent Goran Dragic had a breakout stretch in Lowry’s injury ridden absence. With Marcus Camby likely to leave, the Rockets are left with just Samuel Dalembert filling the middle. Houston ranked below average in defensive rebounds (17th) and blocks (20th). Zeller needs some work in the weight room, but is already an elite rebounder (9.6 per game) and can hit the jumper at a nice clip out to 18 feet.
Best Pro: Anthony Davis and it’s not even close.
Most Likely Bust: Perry Jones – A mental midget, Baylor fans are all too familiar with Jones coasting through games. For a player of his impressive stature and physique, it’s often easy to forget that Jones is even on the floor. Jones has marketed himself as a Small Forward leading up to the draft, a good move in theory but a nightmare in practice.
Biggest Steal: Andrew Nicholson – There’s one every year, that one guy who somehow slides to the end of the 2nd round. Nicholson led his Bonnies squad to the sweet sixteen in the NCAA Tournament. He can shoot the ball, plays great defense and has a huge motor, all areas that transition well to the NBA.
He’s a little old by Draft standards (22) which should scare the crap out of 99% of teams. I’m assuming Nicholson will fall to a smart organisation like the Spurs, and have us all wondering why he was taken so late for the next decade. This happens every year.
Biggest Sleeper: Royce White – Probably my favorite player in this draft. Royce reminds me of a smoother, more athletic version of Anthony Mason. Simply put, Royce White is a do it all point forward with an NBA ready body.
The huge red flag on White is that he has anxiety disorder and a fear of flying, so he’s kind of prone to flipping out which isn’t ideal. Bottom line, Royce is a lottery level talent. If he can manage to overcome his on and off the court attitude issues, and manage his mental problems adequately, he will be the steal of this draft.
Best Draft Spot: Sacramento Kings – At Pick 5 the Kings are going to land a player of need regardless of who is taken before them. Sacramento is in the best position to grab one of Thomas Robinson, Harris Barnes, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Bradley Beal, whichever one falls in their laps.
Worst Draft Spot: Charlotte Bobcats – They missed the one guy who could instantly wash off the losing stink in Anthony Davis. This is like having your next pick lined up in a Fantasy Sports draft, only the person picking directly before you selects the one player you had your heart set on. You then spend the next 2 minutes of the countdown clock frantically trying to save face, only to desperately take whoever the hell is ranked highest on the board. That player then becomes your least favorite athlete in sports and you can’t trade him for anything of need. That one pick becomes a year-long reminder of regret. Despite having four weeks to prepare, this will be the Bobcats on draft night.
Biggest disappointment: Damian Lillard – Point Guards are valuable in this league, there aren’t any elite ones in this draft. Let’s just throw the best one in the top 10 for the hell of it, even if he did play against watered down competition all year. Makes sense, no?
Best International Prospect: Evan Fournier – The International boom looks to be over. During the early 2000’s, we’d see players being selected from Countries I didn’t even know existed. Now you’re lucky to find three International prospects on the bubble of the first round.
For a shooting guard, Fournier lacks consistency on his outside shot and is a streaky defender at best. At 19 years of age there’s a chance Fournier could fall out of the first round and be stashed in Europe for a few years in order to improve his game.
Smartest Player: Tyler Zeller – The UNC seven footer received this year’s Capital One Academic All-American Award. Zeller, now a two-time Academic All-American, carries a GPA of 3.62 in Business Administration.
Dumbest Player: Fab Melo – Suspended from the NCAA Tournament for bad grades, Melo ultimately derailed the Nations #1 ranked Orange squad from any Championship ambitions.
Most Likely to Hit the Buffet: Renardo Sidney – Although likely to go undrafted, Sidney was once a Top 5 recruit coming out of high school. The 6’8” Sidney has since fallen off the wagon, ballooning to 304 pounds and an impressive 22.4% body fat. Way to go, Renardo.
Most In Need of a Weight Room: Will Barton – The Memphis shooting guard stands 6’6” and weighs just 174 pounds with a 4.1% body fat to boot. A bubble first round pick who could go anywhere from pick 18-35, Barton is this year’s string bean.
Best Name in the Draft: Furkan Aldemir – Drawing comparisons to the Bulls Omer Asik the big Turk simply eats rebounds. A likely mid-to-late 2nd rounder, Furkan possesses the pace of a prime Todd McColough. Furkan led the 2012 Under 20 Championships with 15.8 rebounds per game and has the second highest rebounding rate per minute in the Euroleague. For the sake of Marv Albert\’s existence I hope he carves out a niche in the league somewhere.
Let the Furkan Aldemir era begin.
If you have any questions regarding any draft prospects not mentioned in this article, or would like my thoughts on what your team should do with their pick, feel free to leave a comment below.
The Roar will be live blogging the NBA Draft from Friday morning, with Scotty Barby leading the charge.
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