2012 NBA Mock Draft: Breaking Down Best Landing Spot for the Top 30 Prospects

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IJune 1, 2012

2012 NBA Mock Draft: Breaking Down Best Landing Spot for the Top 30 Prospects

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    Well, folks, it is that time of year again.  It is the month preceding the NBA draft, which means that I'm like a frat boy who drank six Red Bulls on a dare.  Translation: I'm in major excitement-mode and thinking of every possible scenario that could come to be on June 28th.

    Adding onto mine and many others' excitement is this year's draft class being laden with incredible players, including all five starters from the University of Kentucky's championship team.  At this point many people have Wildcat power forward Anthony Davis (pictured) being picked first.

    However, I have a big board of my own as well as my own idea as to which team would be the best fit for each of the top 30 players.  Thus, I give to you, my loyal readers, my first mock draft of the season, first-round edition.

No. 1: New Orleans Hornets, Anthony Davis, F, Kentucky

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    Let me start off by saying that whether he is picked first, second or even seventh, Davis is going to be a project player.  Though talented, he is still undersized at 6'10", 220 pounds, especially if he is going to be a power forward/center in the NBA.

    Still, New Orleans needs help at both positions, particularly if Chris Kaman leaves in free agency.  Davis's shot blocking ability and defensive skills in the paint will be welcome in the Big Easy.

    Sure, it is understandable why fans would feel uneasy about their team using the first pick on a player whose greatest skill is blocking shots, particularly after the way in which Greg Oden turned out to be a bust.  However, they should not fret.  Davis is a far better athlete than Oden and is sure to impress in some way, shape or form once he makes his NBA debut.

No. 2: Charlotte Bobcats, Thomas Robinson, F, Kansas

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    The Bobcats have gaping holes at both forward positions, but Robinson is who they need to pick if they want instant results.  He has an NBA body at 6'10", 237 pounds and has a great face-up jumper to go with some great rebounding abilities.

    Though Charlotte could not go wrong in picking him or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, I just think that Tyrus Thomas needs to be replaced, and fast.  This is a team that's going to be in the lottery for the next couple of years anyway, so they could use future picks to fill the need at the 3.

    This year, they take their first step forward with Robinson.

No. 3: Washington Wizards, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, F, Kentucky

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    The Wizards' greatest need is at power forward, but the way the draft lottery chips have fallen has forced them to reconsider their plan.  The way I see it, Kidd-Gilchrist is the best option for them.  Should he be picked at this position, the Wizards' coaching staff can simply move Chris Singleton to power forward.

    More importantly, Kidd-Gilchrist is ready for the NBA and his skills are such that he will almost definitely be a starter from the get-go.  On top of that, he has the opportunity to build a great on-court relationship with point guard John Wall.  Both have similar approaches to their game as the two both played for John Calipari at Kentucky, so this could finally be the start of the team harmony the Wizards so desperately need.

No. 4: Cleveland Cavaliers, Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut

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    Though he only has one college season under his belt, Drummond is a lot better than he may appear to be.  His 6'10", 270-pound frame is just what the Cavaliers need and him building a relationship with point guard Kyrie Irving could potentially turn Cleveland into the sequel to Lob City.

    His 2.7 blocks per contest will also allow Tristan Thompson to move back to his natural position at the 4, pushing the Cavs another step forward in the post-LeBron age.

No. 5: Sacramento Kings, Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina

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    Sacramento needs bench scoring, and Barnes can provide a lot of it.  As a starter for the Tar Heels last year, he averaged 17.4 points and shot 35 percent from beyond the arc.

    Sure, his defensive game practically does not exist, but that's not what the Kings need him for.  He is there to provide bench depth and maybe a start here and there.  Give him at least 20 minutes a game, and he will help Sacramento get closer to making the playoffs again.

No. 6: Portland Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State

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    Given how Portland went with Raymond Felton at the point last season, it is obvious what they were looking for: a point guard who can balance his scoring with his passing.  Though Felton probably will not be back next year, the team can make up for it in drafting Lillard.

    Yes, Weber State may not be a haven for top high school prospects, but this 6'3" point man is the real deal.  In his junior season, he 24.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and four assists per game.  He also flashed some pesky defense, putting up 1.5 steals.

    That all being said, chances are that Lillard will not put up similar numbers in the NBA.  Once in the pros, he will have to up his passing numbers.  Fortunately, Portland has some talented scorers to whom he can pass the rock.  It may take time, but he could soon be the best thing to ever happen to the Blazers since Brandon Roy.

No. 7: Golden State Warriors, Bradley Beal, SG, Florida

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    Now that Monta Ellis and his horrific contract have been traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State needs to find another scorer to plug in at the No. 2 spot.  In this case, they can replace one undersized shooting guard with another in drafting Beal.

    Beal only played one season for the Gators before declaring himself eligible for the draft, but he was impressive in averaging 14.6 points and 6.5 rebounds, the latter stat being quite impressive for someone just 6'3".

    Needless to say, Beal is a natural at scoring the ball and is a great athlete.  Given how the Warriors needed a shot of athleticism a couple of years ago, he is a perfect fit.

No. 8: Toronto Raptors, Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State

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    The Raptors have needed help at power forward since drafting Andrea Bargnani first overall back in 2006, as the Italian seven-footer is more of a small forward than he is a big man.  By taking Sullinger, the team will gain someone built to play power forward and already with an explosive presence in the paint.

    At the same time, Sullinger has to meet his end of the bargain if this match is to work out.  He needs to stay in shape and be committed to developing a game outside of the key.  Given how his strong work ethic led the Buckeyes to the Final Four this year, he is the man for the job north of the border.

No. 9: Detroit Pistons, Perry Jones III, PF, Baylor

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    I hate to say it, but Detroit using Charlie Villanueva and/or Jason Maxiell at power forward just is not working.  They need a strong inside presence at that position who will help take some of the pressure off of center Greg Monroe.

    Enter PJ3, who has an NBA body at 6'11", 235 pounds.  In his sophomore year with the Bears, he averaged 14 points and 7.7 rebounds while making 50 percent of his field goals.

    Yet, as is bound to be the case with players in every draft class, Jones' work ethic has some people questioning his potential.  Fortunately for him, he has a great coach waiting for him in Detroit, Lawrence Frank.  The former helmsman for the New Jersey Nets will turn Jones into a powerful power forward who scores as well as he plays defense, maybe even turning him into the next Rasheed Wallace.

    Only difference: Jones will have enough discipline to not rack up a gazillion technical fouls each season.

No. 10: New Orleans Hornets, Terrence Ross, SG, Washington

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    The Hornets have one priority in free agency this summer: re-sign Eric Gordon.  That is why they will use their second pick of the first round to draft insurance in case he walks.

    Enter Terrence Ross, a talented shooter out of the University of Washington.  He averaged 15.3 points and 6.5 rebounds last year, pretty impressive for someone just 6'6".  Ross also has a keen ability of nailing his three-pointers, having shot 37 percent from downtown this past season.

    That said, with the Hornets looking to rebuild from the ground up following the Chris Paul trade, the combination of Ross and Anthony Davis could prove to be a deadly tandem.

No. 11: Portland Trail Blazers, Tyler Zeller, PF/C, North Carolina

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    Portland really needs a center, as someone like Hasheem Thabeet or Kurt Thomas just will not do.  Enter Zeller, who spent most of the NCAA tournament doing his best Kevin Love impression, pulling down double-double after double-double.

    He has good size at 7'0", 250 pounds and averaged 16.5 points and 9.3 rebounds for the Tar Heels last year.  In Portland, once the point guard situation is figured out, he has the potential to become a star.

No. 12: Milwaukee Bucks, John Henson, PF, North Carolina

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    Drew Gooden is underachieving and Ersan Ilyasova is probably going to be on another team next year, leaving the Bucks with a major hole at power forward.  They don't necessarily need someone who can score, but definitely someone who plays tough defense and is a pesky presence in the low post.

    That means drafting Henson, who 10.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game last year kept the Tar Heels in the NCAA tournament following Kendall Marshall's injury.  He needs to spend some time in the weight room, as his 6'10", 220-pound frame is a bit small and fragile for the NBA, but he will become a valuable defensive player in time.

No. 13: Phoenix Suns, Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut

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    The Suns have identified as a fast-paced, high-scoring team for the past decade and should they want to continue that style of play, with or without Steve Nash, Jeremy Lamb is the best fit for them.  His 17.7 points last year stood out on an otherwise disappointing Connecticut Huskies team and with his ability to hit shots from any spot on the floor, he could become a star in Phoenix.

    Oh, and he is a pretty sick dunker too.

No. 14: Houston Rockets, Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina

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    As of now, all signs point to Kyle Lowry wanting out of Houston.  If so, that leaves the Rockets with a void at the point that would best be filled by Marshall.  He is not as talented a scorer as Lowry, but his pass-first mentality is every coach's dream.

    His 9.8 assists per game last year made up for his low scoring and on a team like Houston, featuring guys like Kevin Martin and Luis Scola, his ability to pass in traffic and find the open man will finally get the team back to the playoffs and beyond.

No. 15: Philadelphia 76ers, Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi State

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    Moultrie has good NBA size at 6'11", 230 pounds, and there is really just one reason the Sixers should draft him.  Elton Brand is getting old and is no longer the player he was 10 years ago, while Moultrie averaged 15.8 points and 10.6 boards last year.  Long story short, his athleticism and abilities on the inside are what Philly needs next year, particularly if Brand opts out in July.

No. 16: Houston Rockets, Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois

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    Another need that the Rockets have is at center, a spot which is currently occupied by Samuel Dalembert.  While a solid option, a younger and better scoring option is needed.

    Enter Leonard, a 7'1" center who wowed everyone in his first year as a starter last year.  In 32 minutes per game, he averaged 13.6 points and 8.2 boards to go with 1.9 blocks.

    Just how well he will do in Houston depends on a couple of factors: how well he will adjust to the NBA and who plays point guard for the team next year.  Should both of said factors fall in his favor, then Leonard could be on his way to a long and prosperous NBA career.

No. 17: Dallas Mavericks, SG, Austin Rivers, Duke

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    Potentially, Dallas will need help in terms of bench scoring if Jason Terry leaves via free agency.  At this point in the draft, Rivers and his 15.4 points per game last year will be the best available in that department.  On top of that, he will be a solid option at the 2 should 35-year-old Vince Carter go down with an injury.

No. 18: Minnesota Timberwolves, Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse

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    The Timberwolves would have made the playoffs last year, but Ricky Rubio's ACL had other ideas.  Still, once he is back, there will be little more than him and Kevin Love.  Drafting Waiters would give them some much needed help at shooting guard, as he averaged 12.6 points for the Orange last year and shot 36 percent from three-point land.

    Also, like a few others in this draft, he does work above the rim.

No. 19: Orlando Magic, Terrence Jones, SF, Kentucky

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    As most Orlando Magic fans know, starting Hedo Turkoglu at small forward is not going to make the team any better.  That is why the team must draft Jones, an explosive forward who averaged 12.5 points and seven rebounds for Kentucky last year.

    This young man is one of the most intense players in the draft and his defense is off the charts.  More importantly, he will win next year's Slam Dunk Contest.

No. 20: Denver Nuggets, Moe Harkless, SF, St. John's

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    The Nuggets could use a bench forward to help spell Danilo Gallinari, particularly one who plays a decent defensive game.  In this case, Harkless is the best option as he averaged 15.3 points and 8.6 rebounds in one season at St. John's.

    Besides being a better defender than Gallinari, Harkless can also hold his own in the scoring department.  He may not get many opportunities there in Denver, probably only 20 minutes a game, but he will hold his own.  A valuable defensive bench forward is hard to find, and the Nuggets will forgo their need at center to improve their depth off the bench.

No. 21: Boston Celtics, Royce White, F, Iowa State

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    The Celtics are getting old, so their mission in this year's draft will have one objective: draft the elder statesmen's potential replacements.  First on that list is White, who has phenomenal athletic size at 6'8", 270 pounds.  More importantly, he averaged close to a double-double for the Cyclones last year, 13.1 points and 9.2 rebounds.

    Once he gets into the weight room and tones up a bit and gets a feel for Doc Rivers' system, he could soon become the heir apparent to Kevin Garnett.

No. 22: Boston Celtics, Andrew Nicholson, F, St. Bonaventure

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    Next on Boston's radar will be Nicholson, who I like to think of as a hybrid of Garnett and Paul Pierce.  He balances his scoring and rebounding well, putting up 18.4 points and 8.5 rebounds for the Bonnies last year.

    Like most players taken at this point in the draft, Nicholson is someone who will spend a year or two on the bench before getting an opportunity to play regularly.  Still, with his overall athleticism and willingness to learn, he could find himself at the forefront of another Celtics dynasty if everything works out.

No. 23: Atlanta Hawks, Kevin Jones, F, West Virginia

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    At 6'8", 260 pounds, Jones has the potential to be a great NBA forward.  He can play both small and power forwards, so it is just a question of which team he fits on best.  By my calculations, that team is the Atlanta Hawks.

    The way I see it, Atlanta will move Al Horford to center and Joe Johnson back to shooting guard,  That leaves Josh Smith at power forward (assuming he is not traded) and the extremely athletic Jones at small forward.  He averaged 20.1 points and 11.1 rebounds with the Mountaineers last year and on top of his incredible statistics, he proved himself to be a great leader.

    In Atlanta, the lack of that is probably keeping the team from advancing further in the race for a championship.

No. 24: Cleveland Cavaliers, Doron Lamb, SG, Kentucky

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    Cleveland needs to get younger at shooting guard, what with Anthony Parker being both a free agent and 36 years old.  Thus, why not bring in Lamb, who averaged 13.2 points for Kentucky last year and made 46 percent of his shots from long range.

    At this point, I would like to cue Dan Gilbert saying, "Why, yes I will!"

No. 25: Memphis Grizzlies, John Jenkins, SG, Vanderbilt

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    O.J. Mayo is a restricted free agent this summer and in case he walks, Memphis needs to draft a shooting guard who can put up consistent scoring numbers both from the wing and beyond the arc.  Jenkins fits that role perfectly, as he averaged 19.9 points last year and made 44 percent of his threes.

    In terms of pure scorers in the draft class, there may not be anyone better than Jenkins.

No. 26: Indiana Pacers, Festus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt

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    The Pacers could very well lose Roy Hibbert to free agency in July, as he will probably have his pick of offers.  That said, Larry Bird would be wise to draft some insurance in case he loses his prized big man.

    Fortunately for Indiana and their fans, Ezeli has great size at 6'11", 255 pounds and proved to be a dynamic shot blocker at Vanderbilt.

No. 27: Miami Heat, Fab Melo, C, Syracuse

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    Long story short, the Heat need a center who can give them regular minutes and play hard consistently.  This Brazilian seven-footer may not provide much in terms of scoring, but his low-post defense is commendable.

    He may have only averaged 5.8 rebounds last year, but his 2.9 blocks per contest will give LeBron & Company some much-needed help in the middle.

No. 28: Oklahoma City Thunder, Quincy Miller, F, Baylor

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    The Thunder are already a talented team and if there is anything they need, it is just some toughness off the bench that is not named Nazr Mohammed.  That said, they would be wise to look at the 6'9", 210 pound Miller.

    The freshman from Chicago averaged 11 points and five rebounds for the Bears last year and his toughness on the defensive end was sometimes eye-popping.  On top of his athleticism, he too is a fine dunker.

No. 29: Chicago Bulls, Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky

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    The Bulls may very well be without Derrick Rose for the start of next season as he recovers from a torn ACL and if you ask me, they would do well to find someone to run the point besides C.J. Watson.  This is where Teague comes in, as his championship experience will only help the team despite the fact that he may only receive limited minutes down the stretch.

    Still, it is hard to argue against drafting a dunker this good.

No. 30: Golden State Warriors, Khris Middleton, SF, Texas A&M

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    One of Golden State's greatest bug-a-boos is their lack of bench depth, particularly at small forward.  Yes, they have Richard Jefferson on the team, but he does not do much more besides shoot three-pointers.

    In taking Middleton, GM Bob Myers would set the tone for a commitment to defense in the future.  The 6'7" Middleton averaged 13.2 points and five rebounds for the Aggies last year and while he may seem a bit small, his toughness is unquestionable.

    Put him in a Warriors uniform and give him regular minutes off the bench, and the team's defense will improve tenfold.