2012 NBA Mock Draft: Surprising Selections Guaranteed to Impact NBA Next Year

Rich Kurtzman@@RichKurtzman Senior Analyst IMay 31, 2012

2012 NBA Mock Draft: Surprising Selections Guaranteed to Impact NBA Next Year

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    The NBA Draft Lottery is over and the 2012 draft order has now been determined.

    New Orleans, who had the fourth-best chance of winning, walked away with the No. 1 pick, and they'll almost certainly use it on center and National Champion Anthony Davis.

    Beyond that though, there could be some surprising selections throughout the first round.

    Let's take a look.

1. New Orleans Hornets: Anthony Davis

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    Again, Anthony Davis going No. 1 overall is no surprise.

    The 6'10" power forward/center is hands-down the best player in this draft, able to impact a team immediately, and Hornets fans hope he can help turn their team's poor fortunes around.

    And for the Hornets, he fits.

    Starting center Chris Kaman is an unrestricted free agent, and New Orleans can let him walk when they draft Davis.

    It opens up a starting spot to get Davis impactful minutes early and often, and if he seems unready, they can start Emeka Okafor at the center spot in the meantime.

    Davis' extremely long arms will be remarkable for blocking shots, just as he did so often at Kentucky last year, and he and Okafor would certainly be a formidable force inside defensively for New Orleans.

2. Charlotte Bobcats: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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    The Bobcats are a serious mess, and they missed out on the No. 1 overall pick.

    Michael Jordan must feel sick tonight, as sick as his fans must feel when they watch the Bobcats play.

    Charlotte was absolutely abhorrent last season, going 7-59 for an NBA record-worst .106 winning percentage.

    Simply stated, they need talent at every position, which is why the Bobcats will take the second best player available in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

    MKG enjoyed a great year for Kentucky and the 6'7" small forward is thought to be the hardest worker on that national champion Kentucky team—something he'll have to do to become a better shooter.

3. Washington Wizards: Jared Sullinger

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    Sullinger is a surprise here because many have Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson as the second-best PF behind Davis.

    No doubt, the Wizards will need frontcourt help, with a possibility of losing two key power forwards in Brian Cook and James Singleton to free agency, and Sullinger will be the man in Washington.

    At 6'9" 280 pounds, Sullinger is a beast, and while he's slightly too short to play center, he may be able to at times for the Wiz due to his huge size.

    He'll have to be a banger down low, just as he was at Ohio State, and many believe he has the ability to impact the league right away.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Thomas Robinson

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    The Wizards taking Sullinger opens the door for the Cavaliers to take Thomas Robinson.

    Cleveland is incredibly young, with their oldest player being power forward Antawn Jamison in his 13th year. But Jamison is a free agent, and if he leaves, they'll need a new big man to play along one of their picks last year—Tristan Thompson.

    Robinson averaged a double-double of 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds last year at Kansas, leading the team to the national championship along the way.

5. Sacramento Kings: Harrison Barnes

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    The Kings need scoring, and Barnes is a great catch-and-shooter.

    He's not all that athletic, some GMs say, and he won't be able to drive to the basket all that well. But Barnes has length, at 6'8", which will allow him to shoot over shorter defenders with ease, even at the next level.

    Of course, there are better players still available—guard Bradley Beal they don't need—which is why Barnes to the Kings here is a surprise.

6. Portland Trail Blazers: Bradley Beal

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    Portland started Wesley Matthews for most of the season at shooting guard, and while he's a serviceable player, he's likely not the future of the position for the Blazers.

    For Bradley Beal to fall out of the top five would be incredibly shocking according to almost every NBA scout, and he'd be a great addition to the Trail Blazers.

    Beal didn't shoot phenomenally last year, his freshman season, at 44 percent from the field and 32 percent from beyond the arc, but NBA evaluators of talent believe he will grow as a shooter at the next level.

7. Golden State Warriors: Damian Lillard

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    The Warriors are a talented group, and for them to fall down into the lottery was a bit confounding in its own right.

    Of course, losing Steph Curry for the second half of the season hurt, and if they lose Nate Robinson to free agency, Golden State will really need a point guard.

    That's why they'll take Lillard, which will be a bit of a reach at No. 7, partly because he played his college ball at Weber State.

    He was the second-leading scorer in college last season, at 24.5 points per game, and it may be better to move him to the two in the NBA.

8. Toronto Raptors: Andre Drummond

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    The Raptors are a small team, and they could lose three centers to free agency. Aaron Gray and Jamaal Magloire are unrestricted and Toronto needs to pick a center.

    Andre Drummond is their man.

    Drummond is a mammoth man, at 6'10" and 270 pounds, and he's only 18. Yes, he was incredibly inconsistent at times, and it's the arduous task of scouts to project these kids' potential.

    Will he be able to play at the NBA level? Some team will take a flier on him and Toronto could be that team.

9. Detroit Pistons: Tyler Zeller

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    The Pistons need a big man too as a defensive stopper in the paint, and with Davis and Drummond gone, they'll grab Zeller.

    It'll be a bit of a reach, and again, it's extremely difficult to judge center prospects leading up to the draft.

    Zeller is an athletic big man, at 7' and 250 pounds; he runs the floor as well as any big man in college basketball. That should translate well to the NBA, as will his high basketball IQ, though, he'll have to certainly work to become a presence inside on defense.

10. New Orleans Hornets: Jeremy Lamb

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    After taking Davis No. 1 overall, the Hornets will look to add a shooting guard, in case Marco Belinelli leaves the team in free agency, and they can get a solid player in Jeremy Lamb.

    He's lanky, and at 6'5", he's decently tall for a two-guard in the NBA. Lamb is a good to great shooter, at 47 percent from the field and 37 from three-point land, and he prides himself on his defense as well.

    Lamb is a two-way player and could be a piece to a rebuilding puzzle in New Orleans.

11. Portland Trail Blazers: Fab Melo

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    With two centers and a power forward on the unrestricted free-agency list, the Blazers need a big.

    That's not astounding, but drafting Fab Melo would be.

    Many draft experts have Meyers Leonard ahead of Melo, but Portland will go for the bigger name and reach for him.

    Melo's not a bad player, though, he should be the best shot-blocker in the draft this year, and he averaged 2.93 blocks per contest last season—11th-best in the nation.

    He prides himself on defense, is a tough worker on the glass and is game-ready right now, which is another reason the Trail Blazers will go after him at No. 11.

12. Milwaukee Bucks: Perry Jones III

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    If the Bucks lose Ersan Ilyasova to free agency, they'll need a power forward; Perry Jones III will go to them.

    Jones III is the fourth-best power forward available at this point, and he's an iffy prospect.

    Most believe he can play at the NBA level, but no one knows whether he'll be a role player or a star as a professional.

    He only blocked 0.6 shots per game last year, and some scouts think he doesn't know how to score. He'll have to work to play, for sure.

13. Phoenix Suns: Dion Waiters

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    Simply, the Suns need a shooting guard.

    They'll certainly take Dion Waiters if he slips to them at 13, which would be pretty shocking.

    Waiters is great at handling the ball and could be used as a point guard at times too because he's a strong passer.

    He would bring some much-needed athleticism to Phoenix and give them a player who can penetrate the lane to score at the hoop.

14. Houston Rockets: Kendall Marshall

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    Getting Marshall at 14 would be a reach, certainly, but Houston will need a point guard and now.

    Marshall has an incredible basketball IQ, which led to his high turnover to assist ratio and his 9.8 dimes per contest.

    And at 6'4", he's got great height for the point guard position, which likely leads to that superb court vision.

15. Philadelphia 76ers: Meyers Leonard

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    At 15, Philadelphia is another team in need of a center, and they'll startlingly reach for Meyers Leonard.

    Leonard has the size, at 7'1", 240 pounds, to play center in the NBA at a potentially high level.

    He plays defense dominantly, blocking 1.9 shots per game last season, while he knows how to score around the rim (13.6) and rebound (8.2) the ball.

16. Houston Rockets: Terrence Jones

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    After taking a point guard, the Rockets will take a power forward to give them some size.

    Jones, at 6'8", 244 pounds, is the type of 4 they like down in Houston, and he could help replace Carl Landry as a mean and nasty interior player.

    Jones actually regressed in points per game and rebounds to 12.3 and 7.2 in his sophomore season, but it could be a sign he understands how to play his role as his Wildcats won the championship.

17. Dallas Mavericks: Austin Rivers

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    The Mavericks have six unrestricted free agents, and they have a ton of decisions to make.

    One thing is clear, though, they need to gain athleticism.

    Austin Rivers can be that guy. He's a shooter who can knock down outside Js, and he's also skilled at penetrating to the hoop and finishing at the rim.

18. Minnesota Timberwolves: Festus Ezeli

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    The T'Wolves are actually a decently talented team, despite missing the playoffs.

    Minnesota sports Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio (when he returns from injury), Michael Beasley and Jose Barea.

    What they need is a center.

    With four already gone, the Timberwolves will perplexingly reach for Ezeli, who is projected to go in the early second round.

19. Orlando Magic: Scott Machado

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    If Jameer Nelson decides to terminate his contract, the Magic will be in definite need of a point guard.

    That's where Scott Machado steps in.

    Machado, who played all four years at Iona, led the nation in assists per game last season at 9.9 per, which helped them score a highest in the country 83 points per.

    Machado makes players around him better, no doubt, and many scouts think it will translate to the NBA level immediately.

20. Denver Nuggets: John Jenkins

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    The Nuggets led the league in scoring, so to see them select a shooting guard would be stunning.

    But with the status of Rudy Fernandez in question following back surgery, the Nuggets could go for a backup shooting guard.

    John Jenkins, which some draft experts call the best shooter in the draft, hitting 43 percent from beyond the arc and 83 percent from the charity stripe, could be that man.

    Scary, though, is some scouts saying he's challenged athletically and can't defend, which Denver really needs.

21. Boston Celtics: Arnett Moultrie

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    There's no two ways about it, Kevin Garnett is aging, and the Celtics should look to find a young replacement for the future.

    Arnett Moultrie is a player with very similar size to Garnett at 6'11", 225 pounds, and he could learn a ton from the crafty veteran.

    Moultrie averaged a double-double of 16.4 points and 10.5 rebounds last year as a sophomore with Mississippi State, and he possesses a solid outside shot along with strong interior rebounding.

22. Boston Celtics: Moe Harkless

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    While the Celtics are trying to replace Garnett, they can do the same with Paul Pierce by drafting Moe Harkless.

    Well, Harkless may not be exactly like Pierce; he can drive the rim like the veteran NBA baller, but he only made 20 percent of his three-pointers last season.

    He'll have to work on shooting no matter where he lands and who better to learn from than Pierce and one of the best shooters of all time in Ray Allen.

23. Atlanta Hawks: Terrence Ross

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    The Hawks have eight unrestricted free agents this offseason—three of them play the shooting guard position and were key pieces to the team.

    Yes, Atlanta has Joe Johnson, which may make this seem like a perplexing pick, but they will need depth behind him too.

    Ross, who played at Washington, was named first team Pac-12 last season for his strong play. He's athletic and can run the floor, though his shooting is somewhat inconsistent. Something special about him is he played at his best when his team need him most, during the NIT tournament.

    He understands the big stage and plays up to that level.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jae Crowder

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    At No. 24, the Cavaliers select small forward Jae Crowder.

    Cleveland has Anthony Parker as their starter at the 3 position currently, and he's decent but not great.

    Crowder would at least add depth to the position—and possibly challenge Parker right away.

    He played power forward in college and will have to transition to small forward to make it in the NBA, but his ability to shoot the rock from range and handle the ball well means he should be able to do just that.

25. Memphis Grizzlies: Marquis Teague

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    Teague is one of the lesser-known Kentucky players, though, he was just as instrumental in their championship as the others.

    He's a remarkable athlete, no one questions that, but they do question his leadership abilities, and he has to learn how to go to his right.

    For a point guard, being able to go both directions is essential, as is making the right directions, which he will have to learn at the next level.

26. Indiana Pacers: Jared Cunningham

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    Cunningham is looking to play point guard in the NBA, but most GMs and scouts think he'll play shooting guard in the pros.

    He's a slasher, able to get to the line with an explosive first step, but he will have to work on his shooting and court vision to earn big-time minutes.

27. Miami Heat: Royce White

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    The Heat are proving they don't have too many weaknesses, besides maybe depth at the power forward position.

    Drafting a four makes sense for them, and Royce White could fit.

    White is a strong, skilled and athletic forward, despite being a bit undersized for the position. Although, his well-documented fear of flying could ground his hopes of being drafted in the first round.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tyshawn Taylor

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    Some scouts actually compare Taylor's play to Russell Westbrook's, with the first step that can blow by any would-be defender and a knowledge of how to score at the rim.

    Of course, he's not nearly as polished a player overall, or a shooter, where he will have to work to improve like many other draft prospects.

    Taylor possesses a body and skill set that will allow him to play both guard positions in the NBA, making him a valuable asset.

29. Chicago Bulls: Andrew Nicholson

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    Nicholson really grew as a player in his senior season say scouts.

    He went from a player who hated contact to one who could bang down low and position himself for boards. He's strong, but he can also shoot the rock despite his 6'9" frame.

    The 4 improved shooting from range dramatically in his senior season, leading St. Bonaventure to their first NCAA tournament in a dozen years.

30. Golden State Warriors: Justin Hamilton

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    Hamilton is a huge body, at 7', 260 pounds and actually possesses some touch and a solid shot.

    He also knows how to play with his back to the basket and continues to develop his mid-post game.

    Though, he will have to work on his defensive game to make a living in the NBA, as true big men are expected to block shots and rebound relentlessly.

    Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist. You can follow him on Facebook and/or Twitter for links to articles, interesting retweets, breaking news and need-to-know Colorado sports info.