With the NBA lottery order set, teams are beginning to decide which players to target when the draft commences in a few weeks. Every year there are a few players who seem to have All-Star potential, but this year in particular there are several kids available who could be perennial selections if they can live up to their potential and continue improving their games at the next level. From defensive stalwarts to high flying perimeter players and unique athletes, this class has plenty of talent available that could change the course of a woebegone franchise.
I've broken down the entire first round and paid special attention to some players I believe have a very good shot of making All-Star rosters during their time in the league. Without further ado let's take a look at the first round of the 2012 NBA draft and some players who could become the next generation of stars in this league.
Though the Warriors dealt for Andrew Bogut at the trade deadline and still have the versatile David Lee on the roster, the team could still use some more size. Ezeli had some very nice stretches for Vanderbilt last season and his 6'11" frame makes him an ideal candidate to play center at the NBA level.
He can be active on the glass and defensively, blocking shots and taking charges when necessary. His offensive game still can be improved, but he made some nice strides last season and he's excellent at running the floor and finishing at the rim.
He may never be a dominant big man in the NBA, but he could easily become a solid rotation player behind Bogut and help Golden State develop an inside presence they've been missing for years.
While it's entirely possible that the Bulls draft a point guard due to Derrick Rose's injury, it is more likely they opt to sign one in free agency and select someone like Vanderbilt shooting guard John Jenkins with the 29th pick.
Jenkins showed tremendous growth between his freshman and sophomore year, but plateaued a bit in his junior season. Still, the undersized two-guard averaged an impressive 19.9 points and 2.9 rebounds per game while shooting a blistering 43.9 percent from three-point range.
Jenkins can be a very efficient shooter at the next level and benefit from open looks created by his teammates. He can spot-up and wait for a pass but is also capable of moving without the ball and coming off picks in order to create an open shot. While he isn't a great passer the ball does not stick in his hands on offense and he would fit well with the Bulls, who are relying heavily on the oft-injured Rip Hamilton for production at the position.
He'll never be an elite defender, but in Tom Thibodeau's system accountability and effort are more important than individual defensive prowess. Just like with his Vanderbilt teammate Ezeli, Jenkins may never be a great NBA player but he is certainly a logical first round choice for Chicago.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have in place all the pieces of their championship core, but one improvement they could make is getting a quality backup for Kevin Durant. Michigan State's Draymond Green is coming off a stellar season in which he averaged 16.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists while being the Spartans' do-it-all player every night.
Though his ceiling is somewhat limited, Green has the versatile skill set to be an effective NBA player. He is an excellent rebounder for his size and can play very physically both on offense and defense. He also has a decent handle and is tremendously unselfish, always willing to make plays for his team and find open shooters. His jump shot has decent range, meaning he is a threat to score from anywhere on the floor.
Questions about what position he'll play in the NBA are understandable, but if he can manage to drop a few pounds and be a little quicker on his feet I think he should be able to cover small forwards on defense and score from the position on offense.
At the end of the first round a team is looking for someone who can fill a hole, play for the team and handle the pressure of an NBA season. Draymond Green has the kind of maturity and work ethic that would make him an ideal fit to come off the Thunder's bench behind Kevin Durant.
Although Dwyane Wade is playing at a very high level, his age and history of injuries make Lamb, a 6'4" shooting guard out of Kentucky, a very possible selection for the team in the first round. He has the ability to score from anywhere on the court and create his own shot while also playing within the flow of the offense.
Miami has sometimes struggled to get consistent point production outside of Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, but adding a scoring guard like Lamb to the roster would certainly help. He averaged 13.7 points for the Wildcats last season and shot a staggering 46.6 percent from three-point range. He would obviously work well as a spot-up shooter and be able to knock down the open looks that a defense would give him while collapsing on James or Wade in the paint.
His championship pedigree is also attractive. Lamb knows what it takes to win in big moments, as he shined in the National Championship game, where he dropped 22 points and shot 58 percent from the field.
He is a bit small at 6'4", but he has a solid enough handle that he can log a few minutes as a point guard and has shown a craftiness in getting to the free throw line that is essential at the next level. If Lamb can come off the bench for the Heat and keep the offense running smoothly with his handling and shooting then he would be a great addition for Miami.
The Indiana Pacers have their roster pretty much set as long as they can resign All-Star center Roy Hibbert, so it makes sense that they would take a flyer on a player with very high upside like Quincy Miller. Miller initially did not declare for the draft, but abruptly changed his mind and decided to throw his name into the ring.
At 6'9", Miller is a very gifted athlete whose rare combination of quickness and size can make for serious match-up issues against other small forwards. His jump shot has decent range, though it could stand some improvement, but he also has the ability to create his own shot and can drive the ball surprisingly well.
He needs to be more aggressive offensively and not settle for as many perimeter shots, but Miller has the tools to be a unique scorer and strong rebounder in the NBA. Indiana could store him behind Danny Granger and Paul George and work to develop Miller while not counting on too much production from him as he transitions to the pros.
Rumors have also swirled about the team trading Danny Granger, so having another small forward on the roster would be essential for that to happen. He has the talent to be a great NBA player, and would have a chance to bloom with a well-coached team like the Pacers.
The Memphis Grizzlies desperately need a point guard to backup Mike Conley and former Kentucky star Marquis Teague would make a very logical pick for them in the late first round. Though his game still has a ways to develop in terms of decision making and outside shooting, Teague possesses the physical talents to be a successful NBA point guard in the future.
In his one season in Lexington Teague averaged 10 points and 4.8 assists while running the Wildcats' offense. He was a nightmare in transition and could finish well at the rim, but sometimes struggled to space the floor effectively and making the correct play each time down the court. These are the kinds of issues that dedication and maturation can improve, and Teague would be going to an organization that preaches accountability and team play.
His defensive intensity would fit well with Memphis. Teague's length and speed made him able to really bother opposing point guards and Lionel Hollins could use him well in a full-court press or as a change-of-pace defender for stretches in the game.
Teague may have benefited from staying in college another year, but there's no doubt he can find a role in the NBA. If he is still available when Memphis is picking they would be wise to grab the young point guard as both a project for down the road and an immediate contributor off the bench.
I'm hesitant to predict big success for Fab Melo at the NBA level due to his lack of polish and aggression on offense, but there's no doubting his athleticism and defensive presence. The Cavaliers have Anderson Varejao, but the team is still eager to add another big man to the roster and Syracuse's seven-footer would make sense with this pick.
He was the anchor of their often stifling zone defense and an extremely talented shot-blocker, averaging 2.9 per game. Melo was able to deter opponents from going into the paint and could recover very well as well as provide help to his teammates. He was a good, but not great rebounder, and that must be improved in the NBA when he will need to be grabbing seven or eight boards per game.
Because the team already has Varejao they don't need to throw Melo into the fire and can work to develop his game offensively, both in the midrange and the post as well as his overall defensive fundamentals. Melo will need some work on his man-to-man defense and on knowing when to contest a shot and not over-extend himself.
All that being said, Fab Melo has size that simply can't be taught and if he is willing to work hard he could become something special for the Cavs down the road. There are few big men who can run the floor like Melo, and adding him late in the first round is a low risk, high reward move for Cleveland.
Though Marvin Williams has been a solid NBA small forward, he hasn't exactly been a star in the NBA and the Atlanta Hawks are still looking for a long-term answer at the three. St. John's Moe Harkless is coming off a season where he was the bright spot for a disappointing Red Storm team and I believe possesses the talent and potential to be an All-Star player in this league.
He showed a versatile scoring repertoire, averaging 15.3 points per game thanks to his ability to slash to the basket, finish at the rim and hit shots from midrange. He needs to improve his perimeter jumper and work a little more on his post-up game, but Harkless was unguardable for stretches as his athleticism made him a nightmare to cover for opponents. As Joe Johnson ages the Hawks will need someone to pick up the slack and Harkless is more than capable of being that guy for Atlanta.
He is not merely a scorer though; the 6'8" Harkless averaged 8.6 boards per game along with 1.4 blocks and 1.6 steals, proving he could be a do-it-all player at times. He used his length and leaping ability to hit the glass and was willing to bang inside instead of merely staying out on the perimeter. He showed great timing with his shot-blocking and steals, as well as his willingness to commit to the defensive end of the court.
Harkless needs to add some bulk, but he has the kind of natural, effortless game that could translate very well into the NBA. He reminds me a bit of Josh Smith except that he is a better scorer and if he can either improve his jumper or stop settling as often he could easily average 20 points per game at the next level.
Harkless has not even touched his ceiling thus far and if the Hawks' staff can continue to develop the young forward he could certainly be an All-Star in the future and one of the biggest steals of the 2012 draft.
Although Avery Bradley has emerged as a potential answer at shooting guard, the impending free agency and likely departure of Ray Allen makes this position one that Boston must address with one of their two first-round draft picks. Syracuse's Dion Waiters is coming off of a season where he was one of the best sixth men in the country and showed a tremendous scoring ability while also being able to run his team's offense.
The Celtics struggled often throughout this season to create consistent offense, something Waiters would certainly provide to the team. He is a capable three-point shooter at 36.3 percent, but really thrives when driving to the rim and using his creativity to finish at the basket. The team needs more athletes who can get out in the open court and run with Rajon Rondo, something Waiters could do as he proved to be a great transition player.
Defensively he will need some work, but the 1.8 steals he notched per game show he at least puts in an effort and understands how to shoot the gap in passing lanes to come up with loose balls. Under a defensive coach like Doc Rivers and especially if the team keeps Kevin Garnett he could really improve as a defender should he wind up on the Celtics.
Waiters could also spell either Rondo or Bradley given his ability to be a scorer and a playmaker. He averaged 2.5 assists last season while primarily playing shooting guard, but he is a skilled passer and will be able to switch between the guard positions well at the NBA level.
The Celtics need backcourt depth and Dion Waiters would be an excellent pick in the mid-second round. As long as he accepts his role and does not chuck up too many shots, Waiters will make a great addition to the Boston bench.
Royce White is one of the most versatile players to enter the draft in a long time and I believe that his multi-faceted game could make him an All-Star as long as he continues to develop. No one else in the draft has his mix of skills, strength and size and he showed in his time at Iowa State that he can not only play multiple positions, but excel at them.
Last season White averaged 13.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists for the Cyclones along with a block and a steal per game. These numbers are a testament to just how many roles White was asked to fill on the court; White ran the offense as a point-forward, drove the ball inside and worked in the post, and was a tenacious rebounder and defender.
The Celtics will likely be looking for the best available players as they begin to revamp their roster, and adding someone with White's skill set would be a major step in the right direction. He could come off the bench behind Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass or Kevin Garnett and be able to keep the offense flowing and use his passing skills to create open looks for teammates.
He isn't the most athletic big man prospect on the board, but he is easily one of the most talented and he can still improve his game on both ends of the court. White has the strength to be dominant in the post and while he has some nice go-to moves he could stand to continue developing them along with a more reliable shot from the perimeter.
As long as his past personality and anxiety issues don't derail his transition to the NBA, I believe White's unique game could make him an All-Star in a few seasons. As Boston rebuilds around Rajon Rondo they would be wise to add a player like Royce White who is incredibly unselfish and willing to make plays for the good of his team. White could very well be the next Paul Pierce if he can improve his outside stroke because the rebounding, passing and interior presences he provides are already stellar.
Considered by many to be one of the big boom-or-bust players in this draft, Washington's Tony Wroten has a mix of size, athleticism and upside that should make him a mid-first round selection. Denver will take a close look at the 6'5" point guard due to their need for a reserve guard because of Andre Miller's likely departure.
Thanks to his size and speed Wroten can play both guard spots effectively, meaning he would be able to both backup Ty Lawson and play alongside him if the team wanted to really push the tempo of a game and get out in the open court. He is excellent at driving to the rim and attacking the basket, and doesn't mind absorbing contact.
Wroten's jump shot needs serious work though, as the young point guard shot just 16.1 percent from three-point range and really struggled when opposing defenses sagged off of him to prevent him from blowing by them. To avoid teams staying inside and packing the paint, Wroten must be able to hit his outside shots with some consistency. His free throw shooting, at 58.3 percent, is an area of concern as well for a guard who gets to the line as frequently as he does.
He had some very nice moments as a passer this season and showed that he could be a primary playmaker for his team, despite issues with turnovers. He sees the floor well and understands when to get the ball to teammates and capitalize on a defense collapsing on him when he takes the ball inside.
Defensively his length and speed allow him to cover both guard positions well and his 1.9 steals per game show that he was able to read passing lanes and capitalize on his opponent's mistakes. Wroten has great size and quickness for an NBA point guard, and if he can improve the obvious problems with his game he could be a great guard coming off the bench for a Denver team that loves to speed up its games.
With all of the controversy and turmoil surrounding Orlando this offseason, it makes sense that they pick a very NBA-ready player who can be a solid contributor in his rookie season. Vanderbilt small forward Jeffery Taylor will definitely be available at this point in the draft and is the kind of player who can make an immediate impact on a roster that is fairly thin at the three position. Hedo Turkoglu and Quentin Richardson didn't have great seasons in 2011-2012 and both are in decline.
While the offense will likely change with a new coach, as long as Dwight Howard is in Orlando three-point shooting will be a huge part of their offensive schemes. Taylor has improved dramatically from distance in his career and shot a career-high 42.3 percent during his senior year of college. He would be another player who could space the floor effectively and allow the team's big men ample room to work inside. He is not only a spot-up shooter though and can also attack the basket when his shot isn't falling.
For his position Taylor is a very active rebounder, averaging 5.6 boards per game last year and its always good to have players who can contribute on the glass at every position on the court. Defensively, he would be a real asset for a team that lacks lockdown perimeter defenders. At 6'7" he has the perfect size for a small forward and is both physical and quick on his feet. Taylor could grow to be one of the Magic's best perimeter defenders in a few seasons and defense is something that would keep him on the court in his rookie season.
Taylor simply doesn't make many mistakes on the basketball court and is capable of doing many things on offense and defense. Though the Magic could go for a home run selection, it may be smarter to make a safer pick with Jeffery Taylor.
After a disappointing first year at Washington, shooting guard Terrence Ross made significant improvement in his sophomore season and is one of the better two-guard prospects available in the draft. With Wesley Johnson not exactly living up to expectations in Minnesota, the Timberwolves are still looking for an answer at shooting guard and Ross has the potential to be that answer.
A very athletic 6'6", Ross has the perfect body to be a shooting guard at the NBA level. He has the speed to guard the position and the quickness on offense to get by his defender. He does not need the ball in his hands to be an offensive contributor as he can work off of picks as well as be a threat in the catch-and-shoot game.
He averaged 16.4 points per game last season while shooting 37.1 percent from three and also hitting the boards to the tune of 6.4 rebounds per game. He had several impressive showings in the NIT tournament, including dropping 32 points and eight boards on Northwestern, proving he was not afraid of the big moment.
Ross would make an excellent compliment to point guard Ricky Rubio, too. Rubio's unselfishness and ability to get his teammates the ball would mesh well with Ross' shooting and ability to free himself up on the floor. Minnesota has been searching for a quality shooting guard for years and Terrence Ross could very well be their man in the middle of the first round.
He needs to settle for fewer jump shots and give consistent defensive effort, but Ross could very well be the player that pushes the Timberwolves back into playoff contention for the first time in years.
The Dallas Mavericks have a slew of needs they must address this offseason, but with the team still targeting Deron Williams it will likely be their frontcourt that they look to improve through the draft. Ian Mahinmi is a free agent, Dirk Nowitzki isn't getting any younger and Brendan Haywood hasn't lived up to expectations, so the team could very well target Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie.
In his first year since transferring from the University of Texas at El Paso, Moultrie proved to be an extremely versatile big man who can contribute in many ways on the floor. He shot the ball well from the outside while also proving he could play well in the low and high post. His face-up game was impressive and for someone his size he showed an uncommon ability to drive to the basket.
Moultrie averaged 16.4 points and 10.5 rebounds for the Bulldogs while shooting a stellar 54.9 percent from the floor. He was able to bang inside both on the offensive and defensive glass, showing great second effort and persistence while in the paint. Defensively his length and speed were instrumental in guarding smaller players and disrupting forwards and centers his size as well.
He has a solid understanding of the game that will serve well on a veteran team like the Mavericks, and he would be going to a ball club that has a phenomenal coaching staff to help him further develop his natural talents.
Though there are other players Dallas could go with at this spot, grabbing an athletic big guy to play alongside Nowitzki and run the floor hard every possession would help the Mavs quickly retool after a disappointing season. If Moultrie can add some more strength to his frame his mix of size and finesse could make him a very effective forward or center at the next level.
Despite signing Samuel Dalembert last offseason and trading for Marcus Camby at the deadline, Houston is still looking to add a franchise big man who can patrol the paint for years to come. Illinois' Meyers Leonard is coming off a season where he showed he could be a dominant center and one of the most athletic bigs in the country. His mix of athleticism and size is rare, and a team like the Rockets would love a shot at developing him as an NBA player.
Leonard averaged 13.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and nearly two blocks per game for the Illini after coming off a season where he barely played. His post scoring and footwork could use some work but both have been improving and could continue to be developed as a professional. What's most impressive about him is his ability to run and use his length defensively. He was excellent at coming over to block or contest shots if one of his teammates was beat on defense.
Leonard needs to add muscle, as he can still be bullied around in the post, but his physical talents are hard to deny. He showed some nice persistence on the boards and was willing to make plays to keep possessions alive. His face up game is passable. The same goes for his free throw shooting, which would force opposing centers to guard him away from the lane.
Though he still has work to do as far staying locked in defensively and improving his fundamentals, he is a team player who can pass out of the post and beat other players his size down the court. Houston is trying to build a young, athletic team with players like Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin, so it would make plenty of sense that they take a chance and draft Meyers Leonard here in the mid-first round.
With Spencer Hawes being a free agent and rumors swirling that the team may amnesty Elton Brand, Philadelphia desperately needs to add some size and defense at the four and five positions. North Carolina's John Henson is coming off a season in which he was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and an absolute beast in the paint.
Henson averaged 13.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per contest for UNC last season while deterring opponents from entering the paint and forcing teams out to the perimeter. He has absurd length to alter shots and hit the glass, making it nearly impossible to rebound over him. The combination of Henson and Tyler Zeller made the Tar Heels' frontline one of the most intimidating in the league and the duo were able to stifle opposing team's forwards.
The 76ers have Thaddeus Young waiting in the wings to become the starting power forward, but adding a young, athletic big man like Henson would be a major boost for them. He has excellent timing when blocking shots and is a terrific help defender to boot. Offensively he has a solid set of post moves, although he needs to be more aggressive sometimes and not be pushed off the block.
Henson needs to add more muscle to his frame as there are a number of NBA players he simply would not be able to cover at his position, but if he can do that he has all the instincts and skills to be an impactful player on both ends of the court. Philadelphia has established a nice young nucleus and if they can add some more size with a player like John Henson they would be one step closer to being a perennial playoff contender in the Eastern Conference.
He has the size and the defensive intensity to be an All-Star for his performance in the paint and as long as he continues to grow and progress there's no reason to think Henson can't wind up on his share of All-Star rosters.
Terrence Jones' numbers regressed slightly in his second season with Kentucky, but that was because of the influx of talent on the Wildcats' roster. He still possesses tremendous upside and has the ability to play both forward spots well at the NBA level. Jones is built like a prototypical NBA forward and has an attractive mix of athleticism and strength that make him very dangerous around the rim and in transition.
He is also versatile and can make an impact on multiple facets of the game. He averaged 12.3 points last season to go with 7.2 rebounds and nearly two blocks and a steal per game. Jones has excellent timing and poise defensively, something that should translate well to the NBA. He has the strength and quickness to stay at home on his man as well as come over as a help defender and contest shots.
Though he only shot 32.7 percent from three he has the ability to make teams respect him from distance and open up the floor for his team. Houston is undoubtedly looking to add athleticism and talent to the roster, and Jones will likely be one of the best players available. He needs to become a bit of a better team player, but that will come if he goes to a quality coaching staff like Houston has with Kevin McHale.
The team has some decent players at the forward spots in Patrick Patterson, Chandler Parsons and Luis Scola, but adding a high intensity, high energy player like Jones is hardly a bad move. Offensively he needs to improve his scoring in the post, but he has the strength and physicality to establish good position against his defender.
Jones should be a valuable player off of the Houston bench and could potentially be a starter by the middle of the season.
With Steve Nash's future in Phoenix very much up in the air, the Suns will be looking to add a promising young point guard and should select Weber State's Damian Lillard in the late lottery. Lillard is a scoring guard, averaging an impressive 24.5 points per game last season, but can also be a facilitator, notching four assists per contest as well.
He has the ability to score in a myriad of ways, as he is a solid outside shooter, connecting on 40.9 percent of his three-point attempts. Lillard can also drive and finish well at the rim. He showed the ability to absorb contact in the paint and get himself to the line with regularity. Lillard has good size and speed for a point guard, so if he can improve his intensity on defense he could be a very dangerous all-around player.
Although Lillard is not the playmaker Steve Nash is in terms of passing and setting up teammates, he can score the basketball and keep a defense honest while opening up the floor for other players. He will thrive in Phoenix's offense where he can push the pace and get out in transition. Though Lillard is decent in halfcourt sets he is at his best when he can attack the basket quickly and not wait for plays to develop.
He needs to improve how he plays without the ball in his hands, but Lillard could be a starting point guard sooner rather than later. Phoenix needs to add youth to its roster and inject some athleticism at the point guard position, two things Lillard can easily provide the team with. Though there will be some struggle as he adjusts to a much higher level of competition, Lillard is an intriguing prospect and one that should be a logical choice for the Suns.
After trading former franchise center Andrew Bogut for gifted shooting guard Monta Ellis, the Milwaukee Bucks desperately need to add some size through the draft. Tyler Zeller is a mature, very skilled player who should naturally fit with the team and provide them some size, rebounding and inside presence. The big man can be a factor on both ends of the court and while he may not have as high a ceiling as some other players on the court, Zeller should be an immediate impact player for Milwaukee.
In his senior season for the Tar Heels Zeller averaged 16.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game along with 1.5 blocks and 55.3 percent shooting from the floor. Offensively he can function well in the post, with a nice mix of moves that he can use to score over opposing big men. He has a decent touch on his midrange shot, which would make him dangerous in the pick-and-pop game with a guard like Brandon Jennings.
He has a knack for knowing where the ball is going, which allows him to get good position for rebounds. Zeller's length and good hands allow him to snatch the ball in traffic and he is a presence on both the offensive and defensive boards. Drew Gooden played well for the Bucks and Ekpe Udoh still has plenty of promise, but Zeller has proven his worth as a frontline player during his time at UNC.
He needs to add some strength to his frame and be more willing to absorb contact in the far more physical NBA, but Zeller should be a solid presence in the paint. He runs the floor well and is a very coachable player, something essential for Scott Skiles and Milwaukee. He will likely never make an All-Star appearance but could have a long and productive career in the frontcourt of a team like the Bucks.
The Trail Blazers desperately need a franchise point guard after their year with Raymond Felton having been a colossal failure. The team will look to draft another gifted North Carolina point guard with the first of its pair of lottery draft choices.
Kendall Marshall may not be much of a scorer or defensive presence, but he is a tremendous passer with the best floor vision of anyone available in the class. He can effectively run an offense both on the break and in the halfcourt and make all of his teammates better at the same time.
The Blazers have pieces in place with LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews, but they need a pure point guard who can set up each of these players in their offensive spots. Marshall played with a wealth of talent at UNC and knew how to get each player the ball to maximize their effectiveness. He averaged 9.8 assists, second in the country and could make the kind of plays that no one else could.
He is incredibly unselfish and will always pass up a good shot for a great shot. He looks for the best offense available every time down the court and makes few mistakes with the basketball. Unlike Tony Wroten, he knows when to make the fundamental play as opposed to the flashy play. Marshall has an excellent handle, rarely turning the basketball over, and can get into the lane and kick the ball out or get to his spots on the court.
Marshall only averaged 8.1 points last season, but he had some nice offensive games towards the end of the year where he showed confidence in his jump shot and his ability to score at the rim. The 6'4" point guard has nice size and strength, so if he can develop some post moves he should be effective at backing his man down and getting near the basket.
Marshall is the only player in the draft who could potentially average a points-assists double-double and I believe he will in the future. If he can improve defensively he could become a Rajon Rondo-type playmaker and dish his way into an All-Star game or two.
With the first overall pick also in tow, New Orleans can take a risk and add a player with a lot of upside who can help them out on the perimeter. Austin Rivers' stock has skyrocketed over the past few weeks and he could become a very solid guard for the Hornets if he can continue to develop once he leaves school. Rivers has a well-rounded offensive game, highlighted by a range-less jump shot and a very solid driving ability.
The Hornets have Eric Gordon, but he's a restricted free agent and not a lock to return to the team. Marco Belinelli, a valuable contributor off the bench, is also a free agent and the team could use another player who can score and space the floor, which Rivers can certainly do. He shot a solid 36.5 percent from three-point range and forced his man to stay with him at all times on the court. Though he spent a lot of time with the ball in his hands he showed in spurts he could be effective moving without the ball and coming off picks for open shots.
Though he settles for jump shots a bit too much, Rivers has the athleticism and creativity to finish at the rim and when he was locked in could use his explosiveness and first step to get by his opponent. The Hornets could use some more scoring and that is something Rivers, who averaged 15.4 points in his freshman season, should be able to provide the team with.
He could also potentially log some minutes as a point guard due to his quickness and ability to handle the ball. Rivers averaged 2.5 assists last season, and while that's not a staggering number there were long stretches where Duke ran their offense solely through him. If he can work on his passing and when to shoot versus dish the basketball then he could certainly spend some time as New Orleans' main playmaker.
This may be a reach spot for Rivers, but the Hornets have the luxury of being able to take a risk with this selection and as long as Rivers is willing to work hard he could become a very successful NBA player. He plays with as much heart and passion as anyone available in the draft and as long as that can translate to the NBA there's no reason to think he won't be a solid pick in the mid lottery.
The Detroit Pistons are still searching for another big man to pair with emerging center Greg Monroe, and Jared Sullinger, whose stuck has fallen after a second college season, would be a perfect selection for the team with the ninth overall pick. Sullinger did not show the kind of growth expected of him as a sophomore, but he still has the skills and strength to be a very solid power forward in the NBA.
Few players in the draft can score inside like Sullinger can, thanks to his bevy of post moves and ability to establish position against any opponent. He has the strength of a prototypical NBA power forward and has a great touch around the basket that allows him to finish strong in the paint. Sullinger averaged 17.5 points per game this season while showing improved range on his jumper that could make him lethal in pick-and-pop situations down the road.
Though he lacks the athleticism of some of the other power forward prospects, Sullinger is persistent and relentless on the glass, notching 9.2 boards per game this season. He loves to take contact and bang in the paint, frequently snatching tough rebounds in traffic and going up strong for putbacks. He has nice length for a four man that offsets his lack of hops, which also allows him to be effective defensively.
Sullinger needs to improve his conditioning and intensity on man-to-man defense, but these are things that he can continue to work on as time goes by. In a time where many big guys are more comfortable playing on the perimeter than in the paint, having someone like Sullinger who thrives close to the basket would be a real luxury for Detroit.
As the Pistons try to develop a positive culture they need team players who are able to play their role to perfection, and Sullinger, as I've said before, is a perfect guy to have manning the paint. His game still has room to develop but there's a reason he's been one of college basketball's most unstoppable players for the past two seasons and if he can continue to grow as an NBA player he should be the Pistons' starting four for the next decade.
Last season the Toronto Raptors made very impressive strides on the defensive end under first year head coach Dwane Casey, but at times they seriously struggled to put points on the board. Though the team already has DeMar DeRozan at the shooting guard spot Jeremy Lamb is a very attractive talent and one who could both spell DeRozan and play alongside him.
The 6'5" Lamb was UConn's go-to scorer last season, averaging 17.7 points per game while shooting 47.8 percent from the field. He improved his offensive versatility, demonstrating a decent outside shot while also having the handle and body control to bring the ball into the paint and drive to the basket. He could act as a catch-and-shoot player or work off of picks to get open as well as be the team's playmaker with the ball in hands at the top of the key.
He is a great finisher in transition and would fit well with a young and athletic Toronto team that could use some help with its perimeter point production. He could thrive alongside a pure point guard like Jose Calderon who would know when to feed him the ball while also being a main scoring option off the bench and running the second unit's offense for stretches of time. Lamb averaged just 1.7 assists last year, but had good control over the ball and could grow as a facilitator in the future.
He averaged 4.9 rebounds per game, an impressive feat for a shooting guard, showing he was willing to be active around the basket and that he could use his hops and athletic ability to battle larger players. He isn't great defensively, but with an excellent defensive coach like Dwane Casey as long as Lamb is willing to work hard and learn he could improve significantly over the next few years.
Toronto may not be the perfect spot for Lamb to grow as a player because of DeRozan's presence, but I believe that the team would still be wise to pick him for his versatile scoring and hope he can become a game-changing sixth man during his time with the Raptors.
Perry Jones III was poised to be a top three selection in the 2011 draft, but after returning to school and essentially making no improvement, Jones has fallen down to the seventh spot and a selection by the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are trying to rebuild around Stephen Curry and whether or not the team keeps Dorell Wright it would be hard to pass up a player with as much upside as Jones has.
Though his lack of development from freshman to sophomore year is disheartening, he still has the talent and physical tools to be a very good NBA player. PJ3 averaged 13.5 points and 7.6 rebounds last season for Baylor while showing a very rare mix of athleticism, size and finesse skills that are uncommon for a 6'11" forward.
Despite his height Jones could guard smaller players because of his quickness and could then use his length to shoot over them or back them down inside. He has an excellent handle for a near seven-footer and could frequently be seen bringing the ball up the court or taking it coast-to-coast.
Although he was not a great shot blocker in college, Jones' length allowed him to bother opponents at the three and four spots, an asset that would undoubtedly translate well to the NBA. He needs to keep his defensive intensity high, but there's no reason he couldn't be a very good defender as a pro. Jones' lack of focus at times was one of the main concerns about him heading into the draft, as someone of his talent level simply should never be taking possessions off on either end of the court.
He still must develop his jump shot, add some muscle and work to be aggressive through an entire basketball game, but Jones has the upside to be a very good player and a long-term piece on Golden State's roster. I'm hesitant to call him a potential All-Star because he hasn't shown the ability to dominate games consistently, but this is one prediction where I wouldn't be surprised if I was wrong and he becomes a player capable of scoring 20 points per game, doling out a few assists and notching eight or nine rebounds, as well as sneaking into a few All-Star games.
As a Trail Blazers fan I'm praying that the team doesn't select Drummond due to his extremely high bust potential, but I know that the team will likely end up taking the hyper-athletic center with the sixth overall pick. I'm not nearly as high on Drummond as many are, but he could very well be a dominant center at the next level.
Andre Drummond had an erratic year for UConn, but for the most part showed the kind of physicality and unstoppable motor that made him such a coveted recruit out of high school. He was a force inside, using his unparalleled strength and 6'10" frame to overpower defenders and finish at the rim. He averaged 10 points per game for the Huskies despite having little to no offensive moves in the post thanks to his athleticism and ability to rim run.
Drummond's game could be helped tremendously by developing a few go-to options in the post, whether it be a reliable hook shot or a drop-step to get his defender off guard. Still, there are few centers in the NBA that could outrun him and he would certainly be able to score his share of points in transition and by beating his man down the court.
Defensively, Drummond was UConn's anchor as he averaged 7.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks last year. He was willing to bang in the paint and give multiple efforts on the glass while showing good timing and an understanding of when to come over and block shots. He was a solid help defender, rotating over to alter a shot or pick up a man in the paint when necessary.
Though there are many facets of his game he must improve including his dreadful foul shooting, Drummond has all the physical tools to be an All-Star center at the NBA level. He must be willing to work very hard once he turns pro, because if he does not improve he will be nothing more than a bench big man, but if he can improve on his obvious deficiencies there's a chance Drummond could be that franchise center Portland has been clamoring for for years.
The Sacramento Kings could use a power forward to pair with mercurial but extremely talented center DeMarcus Cousins, and Kansas' Thomas Robinson would be a perfect compliment. Robinson had a breakout season for the Jayhawks last year replacing the Morris twins and brought the school all the way to the NCAA Championship game.
In his first year playing major minutes Robinson averaged 17.9 points and a 11.8 rebounds per game. He was the team's go-to offensive player and an absolute nightmare to handle in the paint. Robinson has the strength to back his opponent into the post while he also has nice footwork and the ability to finish at the rim. He is one of the most athletic frontcourt prospects available in the draft as he consistently outran opposing big men and was able to finish strong in transition.
Robinson is not merely a bully in the post, as he has an improving face-up game and can handle the ball decently for a power forward. He averaged nearly two assists per game, showing he could pass the ball and knew how to react to the defensive attention that was paid to him. Robinson did not force the issue too often and showed great poise on the offensive end of the court.
Defensively he used his leaping ability and strength to absolutely dominate on the boards, while also showing that he could be a capable man-to-man defender. He wasn't a great shot blocker, but the 6'9" Robinson could not be pushed around in the paint and had the quickness to guard college basketball's faster power forwards and even some small forwards. He could play his man well in the post, staying on his feet and not giving up good position often.
Robinson may not have as high a ceiling as Anthony Davis, but I believe he has the physical tools and highlight play ability that he could find his way into a couple All-Star games as long as the Kings' dysfunctional culture doesn't stunt his growth like it did with Jason Thompson and JJ Hickson.
Though Cleveland is undoubtedly disappointed after coming away with the fourth overall pick, Harrison Barnes still looks like a nice addition to an improving roster that could use some help at the three spot. Barnes is a born scorer with an incredibly smooth jump shot who should still be able to fill it up at the NBA level. Although I don't think he'll necessarily be an All-Star in the future, Barnes should certainly be a starting caliber player for the Cavs.
Barnes, like Sullinger and Jones, did not show much growth in his second collegiate season and that resulted in a hit to his draft stock. Still, Barnes averaged 17.4 points per game while showing off a lethal jumper and connecting on 35.8 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. He plays the game effortlessly, never seeming too rushed on the court, and always seemed to get to where he needed to go. The Cavaliers need a player besides Kyrie Irving to generate offense, and Barnes could very well be that second option for Cleveland.
A good athlete, Barnes can also run the floor well and finish in transition. Cleveland is trying to build its identity as a young, speedy team and adding someone like Barnes would help to cultivate that sort of offensive persona. He has the strength to finish at the rim and always seems to make the right decision on the break.
The only problem with the 6'8" Barnes is whether he can impact the game in ways other than scoring. He averaged 5.2 rebounds per game, but he was not as aggressive on the glass as someone with his size and length should usually be. He must add some muscle and be willing to play more aggressively on the block and in the paint in order to be more than just a scorer for the Cavaliers. He has a solid handle, but too often would force the issue and not defer to his teammates.
I don't foresee Barnes as an All-Star player in the future, though he could maybe sneak into a game if he has a very efficient shooting season. Still, I feel that Barnes would be a solid addition for Cleveland at the small forward position. The team needs someone who can consistently generate offense, which Barnes will be able to do when called upon, and anything else they can get from the former Tar Heel would be a bonus.
After an extremely disappointing season, it seems the only position the Washington Wizards have truly locked up for the future is point guard thanks to the continued brilliance of John Wall. The Wizards have the third overall pick and could look to solidify an elite backcourt by taking Florida freshman Bradley Beal. Beal had a very nice year for the Gators and would be a great fit alongside Wall, helping to bring Washington back to NBA relevance.
Beal is a true scoring two-guard, with excellent range on his jump shot. He averaged 14.6 points per game and was the number one option on his team's offense. Though he shot just 33.9 percent from three, that was in Florida's perimeter heavy offense where he was jacking up five shots a game. In a more controlled NBA offense Beal will be able to better choose his spots and be much more efficient while spacing the floor. The 6'3" guard is more than just a standstill shooter and showed excellent finishing ability at the basket.
Another nice aspect of Beal's game is his ability to make plays without the ball in his hands. He moves constantly without the basketball waiting for a play to develop and will often be able to free himself up for an open shot. He can also work in the catch-and-shoot game and stroke shots from midrange to boot. The Wizards have Jordan Crawford, but Beal is a better shooter and will likely end up a much more skilled and versatile offensive player than Crawford is currently.
In addition to his scoring, Beal can hit the glass extremely well for a guard, averaging 6.7 rebounds and proving that he could make his impact felt despite being undersized. He is also willing to dish the ball, dropping 2.2 dimes per game and showing he could run Florida's offense for stretches of time. Despite being a natural scorer he knows when not to force the issue and truly plays for his team.
He showed he is a capable defender on the perimeter, though his lack of size is somewhat of a concern. Still, Beal appears to be the total package and is the kind of high character player a dysfunctional team like the Wizards desperately needs. With the dearth of quality shooting guards in the NBA Washington could soon be sending its backcourt to the All-Star game as a pair.
The Charlotte Bobcats may not be getting Anthony Davis, but they will land another Kentucky Wildcat star who will be a tremendous help to them next season. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has a ton of upside and is still developing an all-around game, but showed he could make a huge impact defensively and in transition for John Calipari last season.
MKG averaged 11.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and a pair of assists for Kentucky last season while being the heart and soul of the team. Few players in college basketball matched his level of energy and aggression on both ends of the court. Though he is not yet as skilled as many NBA small forwards he has the quickness to play the position and has a decent handle for being 6'7". Though he's slightly undersized at the four he has the strength to guard a power forward and can bully his way to the basket.
The Bobcats need whatever help they can get on the court, and Kidd-Gilchrist brings to the team an elite defensive presence on the perimeter as well as a dangerous player on offense who can slash and cut to the rim. He is an incredibly hard worker who will no doubt look to keep improving his game as he becomes one of the go-to players for Charlotte in the future.
There is always the chance that his jump shot doesn't develop as much as one would hope, but he still has the athletic tools to be an impact player on both ends of the floor. For someone his size he can handle contact very well and has shown an uncommon willingness to play in the paint and compete against larger players for rebounds.
Kidd-Gilchrist is the kind of player who can change a franchise, and as long as he doesn't become complacent he should find his way to All-Star ballots sooner rather than later. With a young core of MKG, Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo in place Charlotte can look to a bright future after a dismal 2011-2012 season.
This one's a no-brainer. Davis was college basketball's undisputed best player and the NCAA tournament's Most Outstanding Player. For New Orleans to take anyone else would simply be ludicrous. Davis has not yet reached his ceiling offensively and if he can be the kind of defender at the NBA level that he was in college New Orleans will have one of the best defensive frontlines in the league with Davis and center Emeka Okafor.
Davis averaged a staggering 4.7 blocks per game last season, and proved to be an absolutely unstoppable force in the paint for Kentucky. He had excellent timing and poise, knowing when and when not to come over and block a shot. He could cover for his teammates when they were beat and was solid as both a man-to-man and help defender. His length, leaping ability and aggression allowed the power forward to average 10 rebounds per game and that will be key for a Hornets team looking to add some serious size.
New Orleans lost power forward David West after the 2010-2011 season and could see his replacement Carl Landry also depart in free agency, leaving a hole at the four spot that Davis should be able to plug immediately. He has an excellent feel for the game and should only become better offensively as he develops and matures. Davis scored 14.3 points per game last season and had a decent offensive skill set, but if he can develop a few more moves to score with he would become a devastating two way player for the Hornets.
Davis has solid passing instincts and a respectable handle for someone of his stature. He reacted well to double teams in college, always willing to pass the ball to an open teammate and use the defensive attention paid to him to create better offense. This unselfishness is huge and a sign of the high character Davis will be bringing to the NBA.
Even if his game doesn't continue to improve as much as expected Davis will be an impact defender who can deter opponents from going to the basket and help New Orleans usher in a new era of basketball. However if he continues to work hard his unique mix of size and skill will make him a lock for All-Star rosters for as long as he plays professional basketball.