In the 2012 NBA draft, some teams with lottery picks will have the opportunity to choose players who could make a huge impact on the team.
The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Denver Nuggets were among the teams to make difference-making picks in last year's draft. The Cavaliers took Kyrie Irving, who immediately emerged as a future All-Star point guard, showing a good all-around shooting ability and strong point-guard attributes.
The Nuggets picked up Kenneth Faried, who has started to blossom into a strong young frontcourt player who shoots accurately and rebounds very well.
The Cavaliers are again among the teams that can make an impact pick. They're ranked No. 3 in the draft lottery. Whether they jump to the top spot or drop a spot or two, the Cavaliers can take a player who could make a big difference for the franchise.
Also, Cleveland holds the No. 24 pick, which came from the Los Angeles Lakers. The Cavaliers are among five teams that have two first-round picks. The Golden State Warriors could join that group by locking up their top-seven pick.
Holding multiple first-round picks, especially multiple picks in the first 16 slots of the first round, as the New Orleans Hornets, Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets do, gives a team a good shot at making a good pick.
Here is a breakdown of some teams that could help themselves out tremendously with their picks in the draft.
The Charlotte Bobcats hardly have any pieces for the future. Their 2011 draft picks showed a bit of promise, but they’re far from being legitimate starters. Kemba Walker can score, but his 36.6 field-goal percentage was discouraging. Bismack Biyombo can rebound but will have to play a little more down the road to prove himself.
With the worst record in the NBA, the Bobcats have the best shot at getting the top spot in the draft. However, the worst team often doesn’t get the No. 1 pick.
Still, whether the Bobcats win the top spot or drop a couple of picks, they’ll be able to acquire a player who could help set them in the right direction.
They just can’t have Michael Jordan persuade general manager Rick Cho to take a player with great bust potential.
The new Hornets management—however it ends up—can’t screw this draft up. Like the Bobcats, the Hornets have several needs to fill in the draft.
The frontcourt needs help. Chris Kaman and Carl Landry are free agents, leaving a gaping hole at power forward. Depending on whether they jump to the first pick or stay between Nos. 3 and 5, they could get Anthony Davis or Thomas Robinson. Emeka Okafor won’t be around forever. Dropping a couple spots would allow the Hornets to take Jared Sullinger.
Also, the Hornets need a real scorer, especially if they’re unable to retain Eric Gordon. Bradley Beal would be a nice pick if they chose to take a scoring backcourt player with their first first-round pick.
That brings up possibilities for the Hornets’ second first-rounder, which could also end up in the top 10. If they make a pick for the frontcourt with their first pick, they could take someone for the backcourt, and vice versa.
New Orleans is a driven team that worked to get to 21 wins and could get close to .500 with the right pieces. This is an opportunity for the Hornets to make two picks that could help make them a playoff contender in the next two years.
The Trail Blazers are in a great position. They have some pieces that could help make them a playoff team.
Wesley Matthews is a good scorer but needs to get his head screwed on right. LaMarcus Aldridge is easily one of the three best players at his position. Also, Portland has a good shot at re-signing Nic Batum since they have his Larry Bird rules, according to the Portland Tribune.
The Trail Blazers just have holes in their starting lineup at center and point guard. Portland had two older players, Marcus Camby and Joel Przybilla, start at center. Their point guard, Ray Felton, won’t start long-term if they’re looking to regain contender status.
They could easily address those areas of need with their two picks, which are currently ranked sixth and 11th, respectively. The first pick gives them a good shot at picking Jared Sullinger. The second pick puts them in the neighborhood of two talented point guards, Damian Lillard and Kendall Marshall.
If the Trail Blazers are able to use both picks to shore up these positions, they could be equipped for another playoff run.
The Houston Rockets have several pretty good players, but they don’t have a core of talent that will carry them over. Luis Scola is on the decline. Kyle Lowry wants out, according to the Houston Chronicle. Samuel Dalembert is a solid defensive center but, presuming he’s back next year, is only effective for 20 to 25 minutes. Goran Dragic is good but is a free agent.
The middle of the first round doesn’t always have a breadth of talent, but this year’s allotment could prove helpful for the Rockets.
With their first pick, which is currently ranked 14th, the Rockets could grab Austin Rivers to ensure scoring help. Their second pick, which comes at No. 16, puts them in position to go after small forwards like Quincy Miller, Terrence Ross and Moe Harkless.
Armed with two picks, the Rockets should be able to help themselves get in position to return to the playoffs next season.
The Boston Celtics will be entering a nerve-wracking rebuilding period after this season. They have several expiring contracts, including those of stars like Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
With these big contracts expiring, the Celtics will have to look at reshaping the franchise around younger talent.
Fortunately, Boston has two first-round picks back-to-back at Nos. 21 and 22 to help with that. One of those could plug the hole up front. Meyers Leonard’s stock has fallen recently, and if he hangs around No. 20, the Celtics could scoop him up. Also, the Celtics will likely be looking at a couple of good backcourt options in Evan Fournier and Tony Wroten when they pick.
Those players who will likely be on the board when the Celtics pick could give them a good start on rebuilding.
The Cavaliers did well by picking up Irving with the first overall pick last year. Irving could set them on the right track for the future, but he’ll need support around him.
Fortunately, the Cavaliers will be able to find help for him with their first pick in the draft. While their pick is currently slotted third, they could jump to first in the lottery to get the coveted Anthony Davis. If they get the third or fourth pick, the Cavs could grab Bradley Beal for backcourt scoring or Thomas Robinson for inside help.
Either way, the Cavs would be able to pick up a player with their first pick to give Irving someone to throw the ball to.
Their second pick, which comes at No. 24, would give them a chance to grab a mid-level prospect, like Tony Wroten or Fab Melo, to help fortify the core.
Miami has been plagued with poor play and injuries in the frontcourt this season. Chris Bosh has been injured. The Heat centers have struggled tremendously. That LeBron James is the leading rebounder for the Heat isn’t a good sign.
Fortunately, the Heat will be able to find help up front in the first round of the draft. That part of the draft will see a few capable big men available. The Heat will likely be able to choose from Fab Melo, Andrew Nicholson and Festus Ezeli.
Picking a center like Melo or Nicholson who could help on the boards would be great for a Heat team that struggled to rebound at times against the Indiana Pacers in the conference semifinals.
The Milwaukee Bucks held tough with Andrew Bogut for six-plus seasons as he went through growing pains and struggled with injuries. Now that they’ve dealt him, they’ll have to find someone who can take his place at center.
Currently ranked 12th in the draft, the Bucks have a good shot at getting the man to replace Bogut. Tyler Zeller will be sitting right there for the Bucks to pick. Zeller is an excellent rebounder and can score proficiently.
The Bucks should be happy to be situated in the perfect position to take their center for the future.
The Phoenix Suns will soon have to come to the realization that there is life after Steve Nash. Nash has remarkably been able to remain effective into his mid-30s. However, he’ll eventually wear down, and they’ll have to groom a replacement.
That replacement could come in the draft. Currently ranked 13th in the draft, the Suns are in position to get Damian Lillard or Kendall Marshall, who will be available when the Suns pick.
Picking one of those point guard prospects should ready the Suns for the post-Nash era.
The 76ers were able to rush past the Chicago Bulls in the first round due to injuries to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. However, their lack of scoring did them in against the Boston Celtics in the second round.
Slotted to draft 15th, the 76ers should be in position to get a difference-making scorer in Damian Lillard. Teams ahead of them, such as the Suns and Rockets, should go after Lillard but likely won’t since he’s from a small school in Weber State.
Lillard’s a terrific scoring prospect who shouldn’t go unnoticed. With teams likely to pass on Lillard, the 76ers have a great chance to scoop up a scoring prospect for their future.