NBA Draft 2012: 5 Veterans Who Will Lose Their Starting Jobs to a Lottery Pick
The 2012 NBA Draft will infuse rosters with new blood, beginning one player's career while altering, diminishing or even finishing another's.
The basketball circle of life is about to begin spinning again.
This year's lottery has enough depth to ensure nearly all selections at that level get major minutes and/or a tangible role.
Yet, not every rookie can gain early traction. Even fewer can immediately mesh the needed physical AND mental development to their undeniable talent.
In many ways, getting drafted is the easy part. Veteran players know what's at stake. After all, they took somebody else's job to get where they are too.
Most are not about to give up their earnings so easily.
This article isn't about those newbies who will get a starting gig simply for lack of a better option. Rather, these are the lottery-bound rookies whose talent is overwhelming, whose drive will be undeniable or whose competition is weak enough.
They're going to eat the dog.
Emeka Okafor < Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis was going to upend just about anyone in front of him, no matter where he was drafted. I'm speaking in the past tense already because he's almost certainly heading to the New Orleans Hornets.
One would think that this Wildcat's arrival would simply mean free agent Carl Landry wouldn't be re-signed. Or maybe it would simply spell fewer opportunities for occasional starters like Jason Smith and Gustavo Ayon.
Instead, this will cause the end of Emeka Okafor's time in a Hornets uniform. In Oak's case, it's probably a welcome exit ticket.
With a contract well over $12.5 million dollars for each of the next two seasons, this veteran can't possibly fit into the rebuilding plans for New Orleans.
It's not just the money or his vested status. Okafor is an upper-tier defender and rebounder who is also a respectable offensive player.
Doesn't that basically sound like Anthony Davis? Roster redundancy is never a good thing, especially for a rebuilding team.
Going forward, the Hornets should flip Okafor for additional assets, maybe even before or during the 2012 NBA Draft. Building around the positionally interchangeable Davis, Ayon and Smith is both cost effective and promising for this young front line.
Corey Maggette < Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Yes, the Charlotte Bobcats are really bummed right now. In some ways however, landing the No. 2 pick behind the New Orleans Hornets could be serendipitous.
That leaves Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for the Bobcats, and boy do they need him.
Sure, it would have been nice with Davis turning the franchise around. However, Charlotte does already have SOME usable bodies on the front line with Bismack Biyombo, Byron Mullens and Tyrus Thomas.
Would any of those guys have instantaneously lost their job to Davis? Absolutely. Yet, at least the Bobcats can still hope to add something there in free agency.
Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson still have enough upside for this backcourt. This criminally under-talented roster actually has the most gaping hole smack dab at the small forward spot.
Corey Maggette is a statistic. Throughout his career, he's put up seemingly respectable numbers that don't mean a thing. He's not the only reason his teams have rarely made the playoffs, but he certainly hasn't helped.
As a veteran with an expiring, $10-plus million contract, he's an expendable trade chip. Or, he could just be a one-year return to the sixth-man spot, a role he's historically been more successful at.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is the explosive, two-way star in the making that this franchise so badly needs. He's no Anthony Davis, but maybe he doesn't have to be. He's no Corey Maggette, and the Bobcats entire roster would be better for having him.
Jordan Crawford < Bradley Beal
The Washington Wizards are like a lot of the current lottery teams. Not only do they have a clear need at a specific position or two, but they also have a lot of reasonable choices in the depth of this year's draft.
John Wall and Nene have the point guard and center positions locked up, respectively. Washington's not going to waste their No. 3 pick on backups for those spots.
Either of the forward positions could be possibilities, but there aren't any power forward prospects immediately better than the mercurial Andray Blatche or promising Kevin Seraphin.
Maybe the Wizards really like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist; he could win the starting small forward spot. Yet, this is unlikely: they have a ton of money tied up in Rashard Lewis and reasonably high expectations for Jan Vesely and James Singleton at that position.
That leaves shooting guard, where Jordan Crawford has done respectable spot duty over the past few seasons. Unfortunately, this is the classic case of a guy who COULD be a starter, but isn't your first choice if you can help it.
Adding Florida's Bradley Beal just makes way too much sense. He can stretch the floor, has explosiveness, plays enough defense and has the star-power potential that Crawford can't offer. Beal seems like a reasonable candidate to be the next Eric Gordon.
Washington's best bet is to let Beal get into the starting lineup as soon as possible, thereby moving Crawford to the combo-guard sixth-man spot he seems so perfect for.
Chuck Hayes < Andre Drummond
With Jason Thompson a free agent and likely to move on, Chuck Hayes might have had another real shot at starting for the Sacramento Kings.
He's one of those easy-to-root-for glue players who is a fantastic team defender. Unfortunately, his lack of size and shot-blocking ability doesn't pair well with DeMarcus Cousins and a first unit that already can't protect the basket.
Both Cousins and Hayes can play the center spot, but it's not their natural position. Since DeMarcus Cousins is the only clear building block this franchise has (sorry, Tyreke Evans), this year's draft must provide a player who meshes perfectly.
The Kings already have a lot of options in their backcourt. No one exactly knows how Evans, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Fredette, John Salmons and Francisco Garcia fit together, but it's still worth finding out.
Adding another log into that jam would be a wasted No. 5 draft pick this year.
Instead, UConn's Andre Drummond makes way too much sense. Here's a guy with a legitimate NBA center's body who loves to rebound and play defense. His shot-blocking ability would hide the fact that Cousins can't.
The major knock on Drummond? He doesn't always want the ball in his hands. That should mesh perfectly with DeMarcus Cousins' ball-dominating nature!
Chuck Hayes could hold onto this job for a little while, but Andre Drummond would make the change obvious and necessary sooner rather than later.
Brandon Jennings < Kendall Marshall
Brandon Jennings and the Milwaukee Bucks are growing apart.
The sprightly point guard has alternated between potential franchise savior and high-scoring question mark. Now that he's supposedly gazing over the fence at greener pastures, his job might be easier than expected to lose.
With recent arrival Monta Ellis providing similar quantity-scoring and lack-of-size problems, it already doesn't make sense for Brandon Jennings to remain with him long-term.
If Jennings is mentally packing his bags already, the Bucks should use this opportunity to acquire a distributing point guard with plenty of length and a propensity for passing.
North Carolina's Kendall Marshall is one of those low-buzz glue guys who could end up being better as a pro than he was in college. Pairing him with Monta Ellis makes a lot of sense: Monta wants the ball and Marshall is more than willing to distribute it.
In fact, Marshall could be a godsend for a Bucks roster that needs its shots created by someone else. Milwaukee needs a big man up front, but swapping Jennings for one makes more sense if he's so easily replaced by a real point guard.